Be Inspired: Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

To say that I love Maya Angelou is an understatement. She was the epitome of a strong woman. She knew herself and was unapologetic about who she was or what she believed in. Her poems inspire me not to be bewildered by my circumstances, but to rise above them and be the best person that I can be.

Here is…Caged Bird…

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill 
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom. 

Is it Ever Okay to Objectify a Woman?

The term objectify, defined by Dictionary.com means ‘to present as an object, especially of sight, touch, or other physical sense’. To objectify a person means to reduce them to mere objects, often, objects of sex and/or physical gratification. From my vantage point, there are varying degrees of objectification; there is the misogynist objectification, the male chauvinist objectification, societal objectification and self objectification.

Misogynist objectification is the complete reduction of women to mere objects with no regard for her dignity, rights or feelings. The woman is treated to the extent of which she is needed, to pleasure the man and to bear his children. The Male chauvinist objectification regards women as not being worthy or deserving of any other treatment but that of an object. The chauvinist treats her as if she is made to be treated as the play thing of the man. Societal objectification is where the woman’s body is used as a tool, a means to an end, whether it is to increase a company’s bottom line, to improve its visibility or brand or to make it more appealing to the consuming public.  Societal objectification influences the masses to believe that women should be sexualized and their bodies perpetually put on full display. Women as a result believe that they should be sexualized and objectified, and in turn objectify themselves. They understand that appearance is important to both society and the opposite sex; as a result, some women reduce themselves to mere boobs, butt, and thighs.

The issue of female objectification is an age old topic; women have be objectified and sexualized since the dawn of time, so much so, that women have fought tirelessly to be viewed by society and men not as the bearer of children and pleasurer of men but as smart, intelligent, capable human beings who are equal to all men. It is ironic though, that the fight for women’s rights and equality have been sullied, women now no longer wait for men to objectify them, they do it themselves.

Many women objectify themselves without even knowing it while others do it, simply because it is expected. We have become so consumed by sex and sexuality that we cannot exist, identify ourselves or operate in a world without it. Sex has become an integral part of our daily lives, it is in the magazines, on the news, in music videos, on advertisements, and just about everywhere you look. We are living in a sexualized era, sex and sexuality is no longer taboo.

Some women as part of their identity, have embraced and celebrated their own sexuality, they put it out there for the world to see, objectifying themselves on their own terms, beating society to the punch. Society frown on these women for being too sexual, they frown upon them for doing the same thing that is being done to them.

I am a woman, as such, I am a sexual being, I want to feel sexy, I want to feel wanted and desired. I, like most women, in some instances, want to be admired for how good we look. We want to be told that we look wonderful, ravishing all those good stuff. We do not want the fact that we look fabulous in our bikinis to be all that matters. We want to our bodies to be celebrated not objectified!

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Women of the East

There are so many things that I have achieved and want to achieve – I want to own my own business, travel the world and earn a PhD etc. My dreams are very possible. If I work hard and make the right financial decisions, I can accomplish them. I know I can because I have seen other women do it; the facilities/wherewithal is in place to help me accomplish my dreams, whatever they may be. This privilege is shared by almost every woman in the ‘west’, we can do whatever we want, we can move mountains if we so desire, albeit difficult, it can be done. For most women in the east, this privilege that ‘western’ women take for granted is only a dream, a dream that will never come through in their live time…

Before I go any further, let me clarify the term ‘east/west’. Historically, the “Western culture/civilization/lifestyle, refers to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems that have some origin or association with Europe. The term has come to apply to countries whose history is strongly marked by European immigration or influence. Since the 4th century, Western culture has been heavily influenced and shaped by Christianity”.

The main Values of Western culture have been derived from political thought, widespread employment of rational argument favoring free thought, assimilation of human rights, the need for equality, and democracy. To put it simply, ‘westerners’ believe that each person has a right, a basic human right to do, be or be involved in whatever they want. Christianity teaches love, respect and acceptance for every living thing, a society heavily shaped by this religion would therefore, share the same sentiments. It is obvious that the cultivation/development of social norms and accepted behavior is heavily influenced by religion. The west is influenced by Christianity while some parts of the east is influenced/ shaped by the Islamic religion.

The Islamic religion is a religion that believes that there is only one God, that “God is Exalted and far removed from every imperfection. Muslims believe that God has given human beings freewill.  This means that they can choose right or wrong and that they are responsible for their choices”. “In Islam it is prohibited to drink alcohol, use drugs, and all immoral conducts. It is also prohibited to eat the meat of pork, predators (animals and birds) and all dead animals”. Islam looks at the woman as an equal, mature and capable partner of a man, without whom a family cannot exist and teaches that men and women are all the creation of Allah, existing on a level of equal worth and value. In some societies women are treated according to “ancestral customs” and “tribal tradition”.

The East…Geographically

 

The term ‘eastern world’ is defined by Wikipedia as “cultures of social structures and philosophical systems of Asia” Geographically, The east consists of:

  • Far East (Japan, Hong Kong, Mongolia, China etc)
  • East Asia (Taiwan)
  • South Asia (includes countries from the Indian Subcontinent e.g. Afghanistan, Bhutan, India etc.).
  • South East Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines Brunei etc.)
  • West Asia or Middle East (Includes United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Armenia, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Oman etc.)
  • Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan)
  • North Asia (aka Serbia)

Due to the expansion of the Islamic religion, the southern shores of the Mediterranean i.e. North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, and Sudan) is also regarded as ‘eastern’. Contrastingly, Asian nations with significant historical imprint and influence of European populations and tradition such as Philippines, Israel, Cyprus (EU member since 2004) Armenia and Turkey, may be considered in part, as “western”

 The East…Ideologically

The east, in part is shaped by a religion that sees both men and women being equal, it, based on its tenets and basics beliefs is a religion that reveres God, prayer and self discipline. A religion that prohibits the consumption of drugs, and praise self discipline, is a religion I would want to be a part of. However, the treatment of women in some Islamic countries leaves much to be desired as women are treated according to “ancestral customs” and “tribal tradition”, traditional customs that praise and endorses misogyny – “the hatred or dislike of women and girls”.

Misogyny is a word that was not originated in the east. It is believed that western philosophers were misogynistic. It is manifested as sexual discrimination, denigration of women and violence against women. Misogyny is a term I didn’t know existed before now, I couldn’t fathom the idea that a term of such nature existed, regardless of my previous ignorance, misogyny in its most extreme form is alive and well and is the reality of countless women in the east esp. in Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

I get it that men are egotistic creatures esp. Islamic men, who need to feel powerful and important, but what I don’t get is why the exertion of that power and the need to feel important would lead to the mistreatment and degradation of the gender that their own religion defines as being “equal”!

Women in the east have to encounter discrimination on a daily basis. As recent as February 2014, reports surfaced that a nine month pregnant teenager (she is 19 with 3 kids already) was raped by seven men in Sudan. She was charged with adultery and prostitution and accused of having HIV, simply because she didn’t report the crime when it took place. Who could blame her for not reporting it, she knew exactly what would happen if she did, she would be re-victimized and blamed for something I’m sure she wished never happened…Acts similar to this, as heinous as they are, are everyday occurrences for women in the east…here is a breakdown of the countries most afflicted by misogyny…

Women in Sudan

In Sudan (both Arab and African), the suffering of women is not just done socially, but enforced and supported by law. Article 152 of the Sudanese penal code implemented in 1991, states “that any conduct or clothing in violation of public decency be punished with 40 lashes”. The law targets women and is not specific as to what constitutes clothing violations, as such, the Public Order Police, is free to interpret and execute the law as they see fit.

Countless women have been arrested and publicly lashed for violating this code; the most prominent of them is Lubna Hussein. Hussein along with 13 other women were arrested and sentenced to ten lashes in July 2009 for wearing trousers. Hussein fought the sentenced; she was eventually granted a presidential pardon but refused it, pushing for the removal of the article from law instead. Another popular case was that of Safia Ishaq. Safia Ishaq was gang raped by 3 men in February 2012 for participating in a protest on January 2011. She was detained and beaten unconsciously when one of the officers tried removing her skirt and she tried to stop him. Her hands were tied with her scarf and she was raped. After her release she spoke up about her incident, becoming the first Sudanese woman to do so, she was stigmatized and eventually had to leave Sudan.

Hussien and Ishaq are one of the few women who spoke up about being wrongfully treated, many cases similar to this – having to do with harassment, lashing and rape go unreported as women fear for their lives and fear being stigmatized and rejected by their community and families.

Article 152 is a repressive and discriminative law that turns my stomach, and I thought, it couldn’t get worst, but it does…due to female mutilation. Female genital mutilation is defined by WHO as  “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.  Genital mutilation is done by 90% of women in North Sudan and a small percent in the South. The act of Female mutilation has been done as rituals for thousands of years. There is a lot of pressure from society and older women for young women to undergo the procedure. However, many women who undergo the procedure said it was done to “satisfy their husbands”.

There are three types of female gender mutilation, Type I – the removal of the clitoral hood, Type II (clitoridectomy) – the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the prepuce and Type III (infibulations) – is the removal of all external genitalia and the fusing of the wound, leaving a small hole (2–3 mm) for the passage of urine and menstrual blood.

The act is barbaric, to say the least. The consequence of this practice leaves women with little or no ability to enjoy sex. The medical consequence of this practice is insurmountable, some of which include: fatal bleeding, acute urinary retention, urinary infection, wound infection, septicemia, tetanus, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and the list goes on. Regardless of the consequences, 125 million women worldwide have undergone the procedure.

Women in Saudi Arabia

Customs and practices in Saudi Arabia are governed by the principles of Sunni arm of the Islamic religion. The main tenets see the separation of women and men and include Namus (honor). Saudi Arabia is located in the Arabian Peninsula where patriarchy reigns supreme. Saudi laws are different from most; it is the only country in the world that prevents women from driving and voting (King Abdullah changed the law, making it possible for women to vote in 2015).

Saudi law is one of the most repressive in the world. The law “states that all females must have a male guardian”, be it a brother, husband, father, uncle or even a son. Females are prevented from travelling, conducting official business, get married/divorce, be employed, get an education and undergo medical procedures without the permission of a male guardian. The male guardian has control over the civic and daily lives of the woman.

The idea of male guardianship derives from Namus meaning honor. It is a characteristic of most patriarchal societies, Namus connotates modesty and respect. The Namus of a male includes the protection of females in his family, in turn; the woman’s honor reflects on him, as such, he is expected to control the woman’s behavior, to protect his honor. If the woman’s honor is lost, he has lost control of her. If a man loses his honor because of a woman, he will want to cleanse his honor by punishing her. This punishment may be anything he deem suitable to restore his honor, even death. In 2007, a young woman was murdered by her father for chatting with a man on Facebook. Conservatives believed it was justified and called for the government to ban facebook because it encouraged gender mingling (facebook indeed kills).

The Saudi government declared that there is no law of guardianship. The world, looking in would say that women enjoy the same rights and privileges as men do, but that’s not the case, the repeal of the guardianship clause is just for show. Women are still prohibited from driving and are still the property and subordinate of the man. As late as July 2013, a hospital postponed amputating a critically injured woman’s hand because she had no legal male guardian to authorize the procedure.

Having my right to education, employment and a driver’s license is a privilege and right I enjoy as a western woman and a member of a democratic society. I am very independent and cannot imagine those necessities being left to anyone, man or woman. I have come to know and enjoy civil liberties, of which some Saudi women have not. Some Saudi women believe that having a male guardian is their right, that it is an act of love and protection and their guardians know what is best for them, they frown on the idea of men and women being equals and demand that women activist demanding gender equality be punished….now, I’m no expert, but if you ask me, that belief is taking the submissive woman to a whole new level.

Not all Saudi women believe and are comfortable being “a piece of merchandise” for the man. Many such as Wajeha Al-Huwaider and Manal Al-Sharif are fighting for women to be treated with respect and as equals. The Women’s Right to Drive Campaign is a product of their beliefs.

Having a male guardian to do just about anything can be restrictive, to say the least, but there is more,…Saudi Arabia is a country that enforces gender (sex) segregation. Sexual/gender segregation keeps women from contact with men outside her family; it is originated from extreme concern for female purity and family honor. Social events are segregated, women who are seen socializing with a man, not in her family, can be harassed or even charged with adultery, fornication or prostitution. Most Saudi homes have two entrances, one for the man and the other for the woman. Traditional homes have high walls, and curtains etc., to protect the women from the public. Restaurants are especially segregated as women have to remove their veils to eat, a woman is not supposed to be in public and seen by a man without her hijab (head covering), abaya (full black cloak) a niqab(face-veil). In 2008, a 75 year old woman was sentenced to 40 lashes and imprisoned for allowing a man to deliver bread directly to her in her home.

I can go on and on, about the atrocities that befall women in the east. The evils that women endure makes my heart break, just preparing this post was extremely emotional, I had to take breaks because just reading about some of the things that men to do women bring me to tears. I am just an outsider reading, those women are living it every day, and most people just go on with their lives as if nothing is happening. I cannot do much for those women, I cannot change their customs of which some subject themselves, I cannot, although I wish I could, prevent them from getting hurt. What I can do however, is write about it with the hope that someone somewhere is reading and the life of even one woman is positively impacted.

Slavery lasted for over 400 years, blacks were deemed less than whites, it was the law to treat blacks as animals, but because there were some people who refused to accept this, black people are free and enjoy rights and privileges that all human beings should. If someone somewhere doesn’t do something, this freedom will not come to women in the east. They will forever be victimized and treated as properties for egotistic men and their dehumanizing customs and traditions.

It will take some time to change but we will get there by taking on step at a time. You’re your part by supporting the following:

  1. Donate to or get involved with Women for Women Internationalhttp://www.womenforwomen.org/global-initiatives-helping-women/worldwide-initiatives-helping-women.php
  2. Join the US-Middle East Partnership Initiativehttp://mepi.state.gov/mepi/english-mepi/what-we-do/empowering-wome.html
  3. Support the My Body, My Rights Campaign by Amnesty International – https://campaigns.amnesty.org/campaigns/my-body-my-rights
  4. Support Glowork – http://www.glowork.net/ and help Saudi women find employment
  5. Support Ruwwardhttp://www.ruwwad.jo/en/Default.aspx  and help women in disadvantaged communities
  6. Support How Women Work – http://hwwqatar.com/  and help women in Qatar.
  7. Support women in Beirut at Women in Technology – http://www.wamda.com/2010/06/women-in-information-technology-wit-works-to-empower-women
  8. Support Give A Heart to Africa and help displaced women http://www.giveahearttoafrica.org/
  9. 9.      Support Women for Women in Africa and help Africa’s forgotten people www.womenforwomeninafrica.org.au/
  10. 10.  Support Heal Africa and help women affected by rape and HIV – www.healafrica.org

 

We all can make a change, it only start with one step. 🙂


References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_culture http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misogyny http://www.islamicbulletin.org/newsletters/issue_24/beliefs.aspx
http://www.islam-guide.com/ch3-2.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_world
http://thinkafricapress.com/sudan/violence-against-women-and-sudans-article-152
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_rights_in_Saudi_Arabia
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/
 

Inconvenient Love

Valentine’s Day recently passed, its arrival and sudden departure, got me thinking about love, what it means to love, to be loved and what it really means to give yourself completely to another person. It also got me thinking about what Carrie said when she was breaking up with Aleksandr, – “I am someone who is looking for love, real love, ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love”.

“Inconvenient, consuming love”, what does it really mean? Does it mean that you put the person you love before yourself? That you give your love even if it is not convenient to do so? That everything else is insignificant compared to the person that you love? That your life is meaningless without the person you love? If that is the case, then it is A LOT! I want ridiculous, inconvenient love, as so passionately put by Carrie, but am I in a position to give it? Am I able to give what I so desperately crave? …Idk!

Passionate, unconditional love, (the love that can be rephrased as ridiculous, inconvenient love – in my opinion) is defined as “the characterization of intense emotions, sexual attraction, anxiety, and affection.” and “that type of love which has no bounds and is unchanging, comparable to true love”, respectively. So, to rephrase Carrie’s statement, she wants true love, with the underpinnings of intense, passionate love.

Having true intense love is what almost everyone wishes for. We all want to feel that feeling, the feeling you feel when you look your love in the eye, and absolutely nothing else matters, the feeling that when you are down, he/she is there to pick you up, to help you to be the very best version of yourself. Everyone wants to want/need that one person so badly, that it causes your body to be on fire! We all want to be completely overcome by that type of passion and desire that makes us nothing like ourselves until we get it…awww…sounds magical just thinking about it!…ok, back to earth :)… in the words of Rihanna, “we all want love”, true love.

Thinking about true love and comparing it with what I know and have experienced, I can say this – when you find true love or anything close to it, DO NOT LET IT GO! Hang on to it for dear life! According to a survey conducted by Siemens, about 27% of people actually find true love, so having it, or just a fragment of it, means that you are darn lucky.

Whatever true, inconvenient, consuming love means to you, whatever it is that you want from a partner or relationship, whatever it is that your heart aches for, never EVER stop searching until you find it…because life, is just not worth living without it!

Hope you enjoyed 🙂

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passionate_love
http://psychology.about.com/od/loveandattraction/a/theoriesoflove.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconditional_love
http://www.counselheal.com/articles/6434/20130820/survey-reveals-many-people-end-up-true-love.htm

Reflection: 2013 – The Year That Was

Good-bye-bye-2013-wallpaper

We are on the eve of a new year, as we get prepared  to say goodbye to 2013 and say hello to 2014 , lets pause and take a look back at the year that was, the very difficult 2013. As they say the number thirteen is not a lucky number, and the year was not a lucky one either. It has been, personally speaking, one of the most challenging years of my life, it was filled with many lows and very few highs, but thank God I lived through it, I came out a stronger more grounded, experienced woman.  Things I experienced in 2013, I have never experienced before, it took a toll, and at the time I was heartbroken, depressed and sad, at the time I so wished it wasn’t happening, but they say your experiences and your struggles make you the person you are, whether stronger or weaker.  I can say that I am a better person for having gone through what I did in 2013.

The year that was, was a difficult one for many, some people lost loved ones, many suffered, many experienced and lived through natural disasters, many, like me lived through a bad economy. Many significant and life changing people said their goodbyes to us, Nelson Mandela, Paul Walker, Lee Thompson Young, Margaret Thatcher, three young students of the Holmwood Technical High School and Lou Myers among many others…death is certain for everyone, but saying goodbye to someone you love and have known all your life is not easy, to those who passed on, may your souls rest in peace…2013 is a year I hope will never be replicated.

2013 was a year where some, (however few) good things happened, unemployment rate has gone down by a 1% in my country (small but at lease its going down), Usain Bolt retained his 100 and 200 m title at the World Championships, Beyonce released her long awaited Album entitled “Beyonce”, ….Wow that is it, I can’t think of any other…as I said, not a lot of good things happened in 2013, from my vantage point at least…

The New Year is upon us, I so hope and pray that it is a good year filled with love, milestones reached, less people dying and an improvement in the lives of many, both spiritually and economically. The number fourteen is a significant number, biblically, it signifies a lot including the figure of the Christ immolated the fourteenth day of the moon, and at similar day the children of Israel had command to celebrate the Passover, that is to say the passage of the Red Sea and The fourteen generations of Abraham to David, just as of David to the deportation of Babylon, and the deportation of Babylon to the Christ, among many others. Generally speaking, the number 14 symbolizes goodness and charity.

From a numerological perspective, 2014 should be a good year…fingers crossed that it actually turns out to be good…

I have my resolution ready, I have my mind ready to accept even greater things and I am ready to take on the challenges of the New Year. Are you ready, are you ready to make 2014 better than 2013? Are you ready for 2014?….whether you are ready or not, it is coming,..So, brace yourselves and see you in 2014!

  God Speed 🙂

Tis Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas!

It is officially December, so that means, no work for some days, fruit cake, Christmas decorations, merry making, wine drinking and family loving! I love this season, it is by far, the best season of the year. I am not a serial merry maker, you know like those people who start playing carols from October (Oneka!) and go over the top with decorations and gift giving etc… I can’t stand those people, like chill already, we all love Christmas…relax!….

When the season begins, you feel it in the air, the time just changes, it looks prettier and for some reason, you feel happier with a heightened sense of community and kindness. People start painting their houses, bushes and shrubs get fresh pruning, commercial buildings become overrun with lights and garlands, it’s like they went to the store, bought all the decorations they had and hung all of them at once!…it’s ridiculous!…People become overzealous and start shopping like crazy, stores become cunning and hike their prices, people suddenly realize that they must buy everything they lay their eyes on!

In Jamaica, Christmas is the best. We make Sorrel, the most delicious drink you could have; fruit cake that is laced with wine, one slice equates to a glass of wine (at least my fruit cake 🙂 ); Grand Market which is the day before Christmas. Grand Market is a big shopping, wears pedaling, and fun-having day. Town centers are blocked off to all traffic, people dress to the nine, stay out till wee hours of the morning, walk up and down buying food and trinkets for kids. It’s a day to chill and have fun with your friends and family.

…As crazy and over the top as is all sounds, without the fuss and overindulgence, Christmas would be just as lame as Easter (not taking away from the meaning), it wouldn’t  be as magical, special and exciting as it is…

…So what are your plans for Christmas?

😀

What’s Wrong with Looking Young?

I am petite, I am 5ft 3 inches, I am small, I look much younger than I actually am, that is something good in my opinion, especially in the young obsessed culture that we live in…but over the past week, I have been bombarded with, are you 17? You look so young!…looking young/younger than you actually are is a good thing, everywhere…except your place of employment.

The young obsessed culture has not yet reached the workplace. People in most professions prefer to see an older more “mature” looking person handling their affairs. People equate inexperience and inadequacy to young and experience and know- how to older more “mature” people…this pisses me off!

For heaven sake, don’t judge based on how I look judge me based on the quality of work I produce. If I don’t do a good job, then by all means crucify me, but don’t assume that I am inexperience and have no idea what I am doing simply because I look “younger”!…There have being conversations about the issues women already have in the workplace, the struggles we have and how hard we have to work to prove ourselves, even harder than our male counterpart. Conversations have been around about race discrimination and breaking the glass ceiling, but enough is not being said about age discrimination.

Age discrimination in the workplace is a reality and affects so many, myself included. I have been passed over for a promotions of which I posses the right qualification and experience just because I look too young. Young professionals have to struggle to get ahead and get the jobs we want and are qualified for, but do not get, we have to wait until we are much older because we do not look the part…So now the challenges I face in the workplace are doubled,… I am a woman and I am young!…

Sound off, what is your opinion on this issue? Have you been affected by age discrimination?