24 October 2014

Stories From India: Introduction 1

Dear everyone,

This is going to be a brand new article series from a personal experience by Ilze from IHBG team who spent 6 months in different parts of India to do voluntary work! It will be an amazing adventure and possibility to sneak into the reality of an Indian society*. To see a different perspectives what it means to be a woman in more global picture and compare it with what we know and share our opinions in comments below!

In these stories we are going to live through personal and global stereotype breaking points together, learning lessons and maybe changing our opinions on topic of sexuality and gender equality together. Funny moments and the beauty of cultural shocks that entangles with seriousness and harsh reality. This is going to be a reflection of a crazy, life changing adventure and here you can become part of it!


*All of the article are subjective and it does not cover 100% the situation Indian society. These stories are coming from a rural area, the reality of a village person seen by European ayes and filtered with mindfulness and ♥ of BEING A GIRL


STAY TUNED! First story coming on Sunday,  26/10/2014

23 October 2014

Linda from the Fitness World

Hi, My name is Linda, I am 21 years-old and I love sweets...some people say that smile looks good on me!

I am a studying in Latvian Academy for Sport and Education as fitness trainer/pedagogue of physical education. Why this choice? Simply, since I started to walk sport was my passion! I've tried out different kind of sports like badminton, volleyball, football but currently my heart belongs to the gym. On 11th of November in Latvia we are celebrating important national day but this will be double celebration for me because exactly one year ago good friend of mine took me to the first training in the gym for a weight lifting.
This year have been life changing for my body and mind.  I am only halfway to my target but it feels fantastic already. I am absolutely grateful for everyone who was with me during this year because they are also the reason why I am who I have become. Support is the best motivation!

In our society and culture I've faced so many stereotypes and negativity for women who lift weights and are keen on to train their muscles. Many people have said to me that my lifestyle will make my feminine side to disappear and I will become more of a male than female. Also, there are thousands of prejudices about the diet I am following because of my physical workout intensity.
At the beginning it really pushed on my feelings and made me angry but actually I've understood that I shouldn't bother myself with negative emotions, I also have things what I like and understand and what I don't, just like the other people has.
I just enjoy doing what I like. Some people might like to do jogging, some people like painting but I love weightlifting. And weight lifting isn't just taking the heaviest barbell and pushing it up and down till I feel broken, it is mixture of knowledge about human body, what is good for it and what damages it. We are the masters of our own body and we make a choice how we want to see it. I've made my choice that makes me happy on daily basis, why should I exchange my happiness for some stereotypes?




Balanced diet is one of the main keys for healthy muscle development. Most of the people doesn't have any clue of this part and it creates a lot of myths. I suggest people to read more literature about this - what is allowed and what is not, about the protein cocktails and mixtures, why balanced diet is so importand and why eating plain grass and drinking only water won't work on anyone. In fitness diet doesn't mean starving yourself or taking food away, it's about making the best choice for your own good.
You know, fitness haven't changed only my body. During this year I have become another person. I am not anymore up in clouds, I am standing on ground with my both feet. I know what I want and how to reach my goals with a lot of work.

I have all my respect for people who are doing any sport. For me it doesn't matter if you are underweight or overweight, you have any disabilities or difficulties. Sport is for everyone and every single human being needs physical activities to be healthy in body and mind. I respect every single person who respects their body because our body is our temple and we have to take care of it.
For everyone who wishes to put themselves into the fitness (or any other type of sport), I wish dedications and to not give up! There will be difficulties and ups/downs, just like in any other niche of life. Usually the first difficulties are the strongest ones but you have to learn to deal with them! Later on it will become more easy. The only obstacle is you. Work, time, sweat and tears are worth it. After the first goals that you will reach you will get the addiction from the taste of success! And don't be afraid to fall and make mistakes, get up and work for your goal! If we stop because of fear to fall, we won't grow anymore.


I have not reached my goal but yet I am closer than I was yesterday!

Thank your time to read this!

10 October 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Harold and Maude (1971)

#inspirationalmovies


From the writer and director of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), here you have an even weirder piece on sentimental (and sexual) liberation: Harold and Maude (1971, Hal Ashby), a love story and life lesson neatly packed in total eccentricity! You are welcome!

While Harold's coming of age is the linchpin of the movie, he does that through his experience of meeting and getting to know Maude. Oh, Ruth Gordon, oh! At last, an inversion of the empowerment-through-romance-with-men we have seen so much (as in here, here, or here).

The special pluses:

+ Life is long and people can enjoy it at all ages!

+ And we are sexual, sensual beings at all ages!

+ Intergenerational love exists. And is also sexual.

+ The movie is a cult classic with very peculiar and most awesome esthetics. Rookie even suggests ways how to bring Maude in your warderobe.

07 October 2014

I ♥ Being a Girl people, Marie


Hello lovely people,

My name is Marie Matyas and being a girl :) 

Things I enjoy doing (besides working in the field of SRHR):
  • sing and dance
  • work with my musical-theater youth group
  • travel
I am a psychology student from Austria and I started to work in the field of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), because I would like to change a lot of things. Especially I am passionate about the issues comprehensive sexual education (CSE), gender equality, women's and LGBTQI's rights.

About three years ago I joined the organisation achtung°liebe (in english: “attention love”). It is a non-profit, volunteering project from the Austrian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA). Students do workshops in high schools and talk about issues concerning sexuality, relationships and love with the teenagers. Nowadays young people are confronted with sexuality at every turn and they often get contradictory or wrong information, especially from the internet. For me it is important to give them the opportunity to ask questions, without feeling ashamed, without prejudices and without avoiding topics, so that they can make responsible decisions. I really enjoy the work with young people.
One year ago I became youth board member of the Austrian Familyplanning Association. In February 2014 I got elected as Steering Committee member of YSAFE.

The world would be a better place if we would:
  • have a positive mind without discriminating and negative thoughts 
  • have more appreciation 
  • laugh more
  • help each other more

Before I’m 80 I want to have children, write a song, be very good in my job, do my best to make the people around me happy, do my PhD, travel a lot, establish CSE in austrian schools, never stop learning new things, get to know many different cultures, sing and dance a lot, climb a really high mountain and of course plant a tree :) 





03 October 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Dinner at Eight (1933)

#herstory


This one is educational instead of inspirational, be warned. Dinner at Eight (1933, George Cukor) is a manners comedy/drama and - despite having a marvelous ensemble of expressive actresses - not a feminist masterpiece. Nevertheless, it very clearly depicts the role of soft power that women have been relegated to in many times and places throughout the history, especially when separating her power inside the family and the expected persona of a sweet and demure wifey in public.

The cast does the job perfectly and - when everybody meets at the dinner table at eight, perfectly dressed and perfumed - almost none of the scheming and moving is visible.
Even more, the anxiety of the wives to influence and assure success (social and/or economic) is also to be understood in light of the realization that the husbands and their luck in business is all they have. Because, yes, you guessed right: it was believed to be unwomanly to work for a wage if that was avoidable. Think of the stress of being completely dependent and - supposedly - with no voting rights regarding the family finances! That's why Dinner at Eight ladies do their little secret planning and negotiations.

+ You get the adorable Jean Harlow as a very ambitious social climber! Power to her!

To remind that the ethos of scheming behind the partner's back in the family still hasn't died even in postindustrial societies, see, for example, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002):

02 October 2014

The Poetry Bit: Venessa Marco - "Patriarchy" (WoWPS 2014)

#empowerment #smashthepatriarchy


For those days when everybody on the planet seem to have conspired against you and you gender (when not your sex even), here you have a bit of poetry from Vanessa Marco.

More inspirational word art can be found under our tag "poetry". You are most welcome!

26 September 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Turn Left at the End of the World (2004)

#inspirationalmovies


Somehow I've got the impression that there are more coming-of-age stories about boys than girls... and that's why the effort here is to pay attention to the ones telling the stories of girls, and preferably not only those made in USA. As a result of that, here you have Turn Left at the End of the World (2004, Avi Nesher).

The plot is that of an encounter of two girls - both immigrants in 1960's Israel - and forging a friendship while sailing the troubled waters of deciding futures, bending cultural restrictions, falling in love, discovering that people might not be the ones you believed them to be... the usual growing up stuff that hurts so much at the moment.

The most similar of our past suggestions is Towelhead (2007). Turn Left... is a much milder version of the cultural and sexual tensions, though. Sara and Nicole - the central characters of Turn Left... - are almost grown-ups themselves and in position to negotiate their lives with much more agency than little Jasira, despite the fact that the time and place depicted is supposedly so much more conservative.

Plus points are gained with:
- Scene of female masturbation (still too rare in movies).
- Depiction of a close friendship that's intense and sensual but does not enter the territory of a full-blown romance. Romance is good (see Show Me Love (1998) for that, by the way), of course. Nevertheless, there's a whole vast area of attractions and intimacies that happen in friendships that balance on becoming a love affair but never get there, and it's nice to see them depicted in cinema.

25 September 2014

Thinking bit: the Empowering Advertisement, the oxymoron


Depending on where you live and what media you consume, you may have seen more or less of this rather confusing genre of advertisement. But they are all over the social media the next day causing a debate among allies over their pros and cons...

Below you can find three examples that came out quite recently and can serve as good enough illustrations to the puzzle that they are.

+ They call attention on a topic - how gendering character traits, hobbies, and professions hurt people (and knowledge driven societies) - to audiences that never venture to read the latest outrage in the feminist blogosphere. Therefore, much good may be had if viewing such an ad would lead to a reconsideration of the behavior of parents, teachers, etc.

- They serve to sell the products, obviously. And even in this very small sample the relevance of the products varies greatly. All menstrual hygiene products  - no matter the brand, the type, or even if they are industrially made (see this great practice from Nepal) - are crucial for women to be able to get out of the house and lead an active and participatory life (google "dignity packs" for this).
Still, it's mostly Always toying with what it means to be girly without ever linking it to the product. Then the shampoo and shiny hair would still actually playing into the "be (even more) perfect (with our product) (because people may discriminate you less if your hair is shiny)" dynamics. And then Verizon who tries to get you to buy their wireless because they are concerned about the proportion of women in STEM. Slightly confusing. I'm all for corporate responsibility, but I don't need corporations telling me the status quo of the structural discrimination of women.
The action - apart from better perception of the products - that they offer are "inspire more kids to get involved with STEM" and "ban bossy [from your vocabulary as an adult qualifying the behavior of girls]". Nice, but far from revolutionary. And nothing for the already grown-up shampoo users, from what I gather.

- If they invert the traditional, discriminatory narrative, telling us - once again - that all the stakes are against them, the this is a stereotype ridden world where you will be called either girly or bossy, pushy, vain, and pretty over smart or brilliant. Much more emphasis put on that instead of alternatives. Not fun. At all.

- There are accuracy gaps. The truth is not all rosy, of course, but there are ways how - without inventing stuff - all these ads could've been made using a positive narrative of different femininities, different ideas of success (including interest for science, leadership roles, and careers in STEM for those passionate in that direction) instead of clashing traditional feminine with traditional masculine, insisting that the traditional masculine is much more valuable and perceived as more valuable... and promising an eternal fight (and frustration) for equality. Thank you very much, I already get that from the news!

+ On the other hand, provided that we live bombarded by advertisments, most of them extremely toxic and sexist, I much prefer any of the below than any disgusting Snickers BS on the "natural" sexism of a well eaten builder.



 

19 September 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

#inspirationalmovies


You can, of course, analyze the classical piece that The Witches of Eastwick (1987, George Miller) is as a tale of seduction and revenge. But that's by far to easy... there's so much nuance in this + the perfect ending.

As I've claimed before, love interest, romance and passionate affairs can be - and often are, especially in cinema - the vehicles of empowerment and emancipation. This narrative can be rather predictable and slightly overused, but, hey, if the authors know how to show that it's not the man that has to be central to one's life in order to transform but an relationship offering an alternative mode of doing things that has a capacity to change people. Can be friendships. And can be romance. See examples here, here, here among many more. 
Yes, it is a heteropatriarchal way of constructing female emancipation. But better this than none, provided that the protagonists know what they are doing!

And The Witches... offer much more than just emancipation via Jack Nicholson.
You get the friendship that's prior to scandal and that remains afterwards. You get sexual emancipation based in pleasure and indulgence in bodies. You get creativity and playfulness. And you get the healthy realization that some things have gone too far and have to be gotten rid of.
It's a John Updike novel after all.

17 September 2014

A Tribute To African Women


Antonio Sacristan is 29 years old volunteer from Madrid, Spain who spent 6 months of his life in Zambia, Mongu village. During his stay he was doing community development work. Together with his colleagues they saw that many woman are harassed and abused on the streets, so they decided to create a workshop for a men, women, teenagers and children to talk about feminism, gender roles and sexism.

The workshop was even more difficult than expected. Woman role in the Zambian society is very important because she is doing everything from household and childcare to earning money for the family. In many cases the money that is earned by the men is spent firstly on his needs and entertainment and after for the well-being of the family. Suddenly this model of living was questioned by three men from Europe. It created a lot of thinking and was taken serious but it didn't create any solutions.

The main feeling after the workshops was that people can be informed but not changed in six months. People must be educated daily and it has to start from the childhood, then the situation can be improved. The system must be developed in order to improve women's health and possibilities from the big cities to African villages.

Before the experience in Africa Antonio was interested in gender equality, now he is loud enthusiast. Fighting for women rights and educating other people to have a better tomorrow for the whole world.