Monday, November 16, 2009

To Wear or Not to Wear?: The Debate Surrounding Niqabs and Burkas

There is an interesting debate going on in Canada about whether to ban the wearing of burkas and niqabs.

According to, the Muslim Canadian Congress is lobbying to end the wearing of these garments because members feel it is a tradition meant to oppress women and can be a security risk as women must conceal their identity.

However, this article also explains that many of the wearers like to wear the modest apparel and feel that it allows them to avoid being looked as sexual objects by men. Jennifer Gilbert, 26, is quoted: “The very idea of knowing that no matter what part of my body shows it creates disgusting things in men's heads made me that much more sure of my decision.”

Many also argue that Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows for religious expression in such ways.

This is definitely a tricky situation. On the one hand, it is important for a democratic society to allow individuals to freely express their beliefs. On the other hand, it is evident that concealing most of one’s face could become a security risk and the question of whether a woman is being forced to wear a niqab or a burka also lingers.

The first step may be to question the reasoning behind wearing these garments. It is problematic for some women, like Jennifer Gilbert, to think that all men look at all women in sexual ways. Certainly, this is not always the case.

Still, if a woman wants to dress in a certain way, who is to hold her back? The real questions are does this woman really want to dress this way and does she face punishment if she doesn’t?

This might just be an area that the law cannot touch unless these garments are considered security risks. Just as one may argue that these garments oppress women, another may argue that these garments allow women to exercise their freedom of expression.

The one thing that is for sure is that it will be interesting to see how this all unfolds.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill: The Modern Great Purge

Although I had heard from a friend last week about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that Uganda is currently considering, it was not until just now that I really read up on it.

According to the news post on IPS, this bill would not only make homosexuality illegal, it would make homosexuality punishable by death in some cases and life sentences in all others, punish homosexual supporters, and force family members, friends, teachers, and all other people to report suspicion of homosexuality (sounds like a repeat of Stalin’s Great Purge to me—how does one prove homosexuality?). This bill also criminalizes any help given to homosexuals (medically and educationally), therefore, it refuses homosexuals basic human rights.

What is additionally upsetting to me, as an American, is that this bill began as a result of a group of U.S. fundamentalist Christians berating homosexuality as a “threat to ‘family values’” at an event in Kampala. I do hope that these groups understand the effects their words will have on many, many lives; I also personally hold these individuals partially guilty for what is going to happen (mass murders of homosexuals and heterosexuals who are “turned in to” authorities). I cannot imagine this group had no idea what their claims would result in.

What is further terrifying is that this bill crosses country lines as Ugandans anywhere can face punishment.

While this started as a result of a concern for family values (apparently homosexuals cannot have children and therefore, the family ideal is destroyed), the bill in itself is a threat to families everywhere. First of all, forcing family members to oust each other to authorities for homosexual behavior (excuse me, suspicion of homosexual behavior) doesn’t necessarily promote a healthy family dynamic. Secondly, as in America and elsewhere, there are numerous examples of healthy families that include homosexual individuals—both homosexual parents and parents parenting homosexuals (and why do we need examples anyway? Shouldn’t this be common sense by now?). A bill such as this then does not protect families but, rather, is a threat to Ugandan families. In this way, it is a threat to all families everywhere and to all homosexuals everywhere (this destructive mentality is as contagious as H1N1).

Please check in for updates. It is important to remain knowledgeable and to lend support when and where possible.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cosmetics and Science: Connecting Women and Animals

The way women are treated and the way animals are treated are intricately connected. It seems that in order to better the position of women, it is also important to consider the treatment of other and all beings as well.

After reading Lori Gruens article, “Dismantling Oppressions: An Analysis of the Connection Between Women and Animals,” I realized just how closely the treatment of women and animals are linked.

One major way that this connection is perpetuated in our society is in the dressing up of women. Through magazines, movies, and television, women are told how to act and look. This can frequently invole women covering their bodies in products that cause harm to animals.

For example, women are often told via advertising and other media that they must wear makeup. Many of these marketed cosmetics are tested on animals and as a result, force animals to undergo very harmful procedures. After the animals bodies have been used and abused during tests often performed by white men, they are killed and tossed away.

Where the real connection between animals and women comes in is that women are told to wear makeup because it pleases men. Therefore, the pain that animals undergo for cosmetics and the conditioning of women to wear the cosmetics are costs that are made to please men.

Furthermore, the fact that men own most corporations that market women’s products and that science is mainly driven by men drives the connection forward. In order to change the way women are treated and judged, it is necessary to also understand the effects hierarchies have on other facets (animals and nature) of life as well.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

“Dirty laundry keeps women busy”; The Corporate Cold Wash

On the inside label of enjoi shirts, even before the washing directons, there says: “Dirty laundry keeps women busy.” Although this message is harmful to any and everyone who reads it, the fact that these shirts are targeted for adolescent and young adult boys is particularly frightening.

These messages that enforce traditional and damaging gender roles can be found anywhere; one needs only to turn on TV and watch for 30 seconds to prove this. Perhaps the new Reebok commercial will flash on in which the focus of the commercial (and the camera) is the buttocks of a woman. Is this really necessary? Will beer only sell if it objectifies women and conditions men to treat them in this way? And even so, is it okay for corporations to become morally bankrupt just to increase sales?

The close connection between marketing and objectifying women while hyper sexualizing men is a larger problem than many want to acknowledge or admit. Because this connection is evidently marketed to very young individuals, there holds little hope for the future as far as the freedoms and treatment of women and men.

In the instance of the enjoi labels, the narrowing down of women to the domestic sphere is completely unnecessary; I would imagine this to be true even for their sales. Since the label is inside of the shirt and away from the visibility of the buyer, it certainly doesn’t seem like it would affect sales either way. However, what it does affect is the many women who are continuously being pressured to perform in particular ways because of these messages.

Furthermore, if people are buying these shirts and supporting the companies—despite whether he or she knows about the label on the inside of the shirt—it is unlikely that these messages will change. For big corporations, little else matters other than sales. It is important to know what we are buying and to make sure we agree with any and ALL the messages the companies sends out. If the sales are not affected, these harmful messages will continue.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Domestic Violence Increase with Packers' Loss

I am particularly worried about the Packer vs. Viking games that is on right now. While I tend to take on a disinterested attitude towards sports all together, a connection between the Packers and domestic violence that I recently found has forced my interest in this game.

Although the correlation between domestic violence increases and the Packers losing football games has been mentioned briefly on a few websites such as flyertalk and jsonline (it has been noted that the increase is at a 50% rate) no official statistic has been reported. In an effort to verify this connection, I called the local police who confirmed a connection but had no specific stat to offer.

I can’t help but wonder if the efforts that the Packers have made in the last few years to combat domestic abuse is a confirmation of this connection. On a Packers blog, I found that Verizon Wireless and the Packers first teamed up in 2001 to fundraise for domestic abuse organizations. In another blog, I found that the combined efforts will continue until 2013.

I think that these efforts are very important; by supporting domestic abuse efforts to stop violence and publicly talking about it (like the three hour discussion about Hopeline that took place on Lambeau field today before the games started), Wisconsin’s increasing domestic abuse will hopefully come to a halt and begin to decrease.

Still, it is important for everyone to take responsibility for domestic violence, not just major corporations like Verizon and the Packers. We must continue to talk about these issues and support victims and shelters.

As the Viking vs. Packer game is coming to an end, please remember the connection between domestic violence and lost packers games. We must all be advocates for those who may be in an abusive relationship.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Seventeen Magazine: Linking Transgendered to the Perverse

In the October issue of Seventeen Magazine, one of the cover stories portrays transgendered individuals very negatively. Although Seventeen is not necessarily known for positively representing the queer community, the way this article is edited is especially upsetting

In this article, Sheri shares the story of her first love in which she found out that her boyfriend “Derek” was actually a biological female. The story as told by her is somewhat neutral. While she does explain that she was upset when she found out she had been lied to for their entire relationship (and who wouldn’t be initially upset?), she does say that if he had just told her the truth, she would have stayed with him.

The way that the story was edited, however, both misrepresents and degrades the transgendered community. First, on the cover of the magazine, the headline reads “True Life Drama: ‘My Boyfriend Turned Out to Be a GIRL!” Although this Derek may be biologically female, this does not make him a girl. In the actual article, Sheri explains that Derek identifies as a man. By labeling in this way, Seventeen ignores the fact that gender is different from sex.

Also, at the bottom of the article, Seventeen provided other instances of “Total Betrayal.” These experiences include a “pervert” and a “druggie.” The way the article and this blurb are set up together, it is evident that Seventeen is relating transgendered individuals with these negative concepts.

In dramatizing this story in a way that gives transgendered people a negative depiction, Seventeen changes the meaning of this individual’s story. Rather than emphasize the unequal and unfair lives of a transgendered person, Seventeen adds to the hurt that this community undergoes on a daily basis. Also, since the audience of Seventeen is young women, stories like this negatively influence the way the readers will perceive transgendered people.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rethinking the Menstrual Burden: Ugandan Girls' Menstrual Cycles

If you think menstruation is a burden on the typical American woman, think about the burden it puts on young Ugandan girls.

In an IPS article titled “UGANDA: Lifting Silence on Menstruation to Keep Girls in School,” Joshua Kyalimpa exposes the over-complicated situation surrounding Ugandan girls and their menstrual cycles.

This article explains that there may be a correlation between the Ugandan girls’ menstrual cycles and school dropout rates. Many young girls in Uganda lack the emotional, physical, and financial support to deal with their menstrual cycles.

Sanitary pads prove to be too expensive for many of these girls, and the fact that the beginning of their menstrual cycles is an indication of their readiness for marriage leave the girls little help from members of their families and community. Thus, it is believed that many of these girls must drop out of school after they begin menstruating because they must find money to buy sanitary pads or are being forced to marry.

It is disturbing that menstruation for many of these girls means the end of their adolescence and education. While there are current tax waivers for sanitary pads, the stress this puts on these young girls is not enough.

The Forum of African Women Educationalists (FAWE) is working to ends the silence surrounding these issues. They have already helped lower the prices of sanitary pads and now want the government to pay for sanity pads for females in primary schools.

Until the decision is made to help pay for these Ugandan girls’ needs, it is important to support these girls. After doing some research, I found that you can make a 5 dollar donation to Afri-Pads; this organization sends menstrual kits to Ugandan girls in need.

You can also help by following the stories surrounding these issues on websites like IPS, AllAfrica, and FAWE’s homepage.