Monday, May 28, 2012

The War on Women

An important article from Forbes about the media's obsession with celebrities post baby bodies.

As part of my ever increasing awareness of the subtleties with which media convey the current mores (and in the case of tabloids, bash you over the head), I've started to notice every time someone is fat shaming another person, typically a woman. The current incarnation of this obsession with thinness is the obsession with post baby weight loss. The article says it well:
"State governments cutting funding to women’s health organizations like Planned Parenthood,  the legislature that would’ve made mandatory an invasive vaginal ultrasound for women seeking abortions, Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a slut for advocating for accessible birth control — these are all obvious moments in the War on Women, obvious attempts at oppression.  But the US Weekly article and every paparazzi photo taken of a recently-postpartumed star absolutely exist on that spectrum, as well.   Scrutinizing these women, praising them for rapid weight loss, stalking them in the weeks after their babies are born (or, in the case of poor Jessica Simpson, stalking her every outing up ’til and including her arrival at the hospital this morning to give birth to daughter Maxwell), it all sends the message that a) their bodies are objects for public consumption and judgement b) that sort of weight loss is an option for every woman and c) that it’s something to aspire to. That, three weeks after having a baby, when most of us are still learning how to breastfeed, and some of us still can’t move around without assistance, we should be aspiring to weight loss." (source)
The thing is though, the media is wrong but we are all complicit in this! In my opinion, at a certain point, standing by and saying nothing is approaching active participation. Strong words, I know and they're not said with judgment but with the knowledge that while the simple act of reading articles about how to lose post baby weight may seem innocuous, its not. Every hit that article gets is sending that magazine/newspaper/television station a message: people are watching it, we're making money so we'll keep doing it!

Lastly, who the heck wants to have it shoved in their face everywhere they go that so and so lost her weight after the baby and on and on. I haven't had a baby but I have the common sense to realize that weight gain is normal, healthy and expected. It should be celebrated; after all, we bring new life into the world! Now while I may know this logically, do you think I would still feel a little badly if I was walking by one of these covers? Or had someone compare me to someone in these magazines? Yes, because I'm human! So if someone with the logic to realize its wrong can feel bad, how on earth does someone who doesn't have that same outlook feel? People like children, teenagers, etc.

My point? I feel we need to go beyond 'I know better' to doing better meaning sending a message to the media.

What do you all think? Is the media being ridiculous? What can we do to inhibit this obsession with women's bodies?

- A

Saturday, May 26, 2012

May 24

On May 24, Bulgaria celebrated, as it does every year on that day, brothers Kiril and Methodiy, the creators of the Cyrillic alphabet. This is also the day of the Bulgarian education, culture, and Slavic Literature. When I was growing up, this was one of the most valued holidays and every school participated in a grand parade in appreciation of the event. After all, it is a special day for students and teachers and highlights the importance of language, education, and literature for the identity of a people. 

Personally, I think that each country should celebrate education, literacy, and language, maybe not on one particular day, but every day. Somehow we have reached a period in time when education is devalued, misunderstood, or taken for granted. Having access to an avalanche of information is considered sufficient for the attainment of education. The quality of the sources and the information itself, however, is often a significant blow on anyone’s opportunity to learn something valuable. 

Further, according to UNICEF, "Nearly a billion people will enter the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names and two thirds of them are women." The problem with that number is that these are not always people from underdeveloped nations who have no access to schools or educational materials. In addition, the ability to physically be able to look at a written segment and pronounce the words out loud is not what I consider being able to read. Many people not included in the UNICEF statistic cited above are indeed able to read the words, whether on paper or on a computer screen, but the skill to analyze, interpret, and evaluate is often missing. 

Additional sources on the fight against illiteracy and on critical thinking:


And before I sign off, here is the alphabet that is the reason for the May 24 holiday in Bulgaria.

-       Krasi

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Reflections on the Issue of Human Trafficking

I am not sure if it is the fact that I just recently saw In the Land of Blood and Honey or if it is the rainy and gloomy weather outside, but I feel the need to add a post on a subject I am particularly interested in: the traffic in human beings.

The truth is that I grew up with awareness about the issue of young girls and women, as well as men, finding themselves in horrific conditions being abused and exploited. At that time, of course, I had no idea of the real dimensions and impact of human trafficking or that the practice would be referred to as human trafficking. Living in an Eastern European country, following the dismantling of the Soviet Union, it was not that hard to hear of many young girls and women being transferred to wealthier Western nations as domestic servants or prostitutes. This was not a topic discussed on the news, however; one found about it through casual conversations between neighbors. Invariably, I would remain under the impression that ‘these women and girls’ deserved what happened to them and had to resort to such fate as they were not qualified for a different vocation.

These still widespread societal beliefs that trafficked women, and men, choose to become what they have become definitely contribute to the continued suffering of survivors. It is, therefore, important to emphasize that trafficked people do not become so voluntarily, and do not inherently possess characteristics that make them only suitable for prostitution, or hard labor, or domestic service. To be successful at assisting survivors, service providers and law enforcement must move away from the idea that “it is their fault” and “they had the choice to do something different.” A major goal of human rights advocates, therefore, is to educate service providers and law enforcement as they are usually the ones that human trafficking survivors encounter first and if those supposed to help them treat them as if they are criminals, survivors will not be able to see the difference between a life of abuse and the “free” life.

Now that I have become involved in this battle, I can certainly easily feel discouraged by the overall apathy of many in our communities and in the larger society, but I am also constantly inspired by the continuous dedication of many modern-day abolitionists who while keeping the global goal in mind, patiently target the problem one small step at a time. I believe that a societal shift is necessary for the success of the mission to eradicate human trafficking and know that this shift will not, and cannot, happen in a day. As such, I see every member of a community as a potential proponent of human rights for all but realize that not everyone is at the same level of engagement. An advocate’s approach toward diverse members of a community, therefore, should be different and outcomes should be expected at different times. In my opinion, while it is important to keep the ultimate goal of complete elimination of forced labor in mind, in order to not be easily discouraged, other advocates and I must focus on one incremental change at a time. Modern-day slavery will not be done with overnight and expecting that could only lead to a feeling of disappointment among advocates.

- Krasi

Saturday, May 12, 2012


When I was eight or nine (cannot really remember as it all happened in the last century), I was at school one day and noticed that all the boys in my class decided to entertain themselves by jumping through the classroom window. Before anyone starts gasping in horror, I just want to note that the school was a one-story building and the window was not anywhere near as high as some of the trees we climbed and jumped from at that time. Anyway, upon witnessing the boys having so much fun, I decided to join in on the excitement. I did jump but only to find out that the teachers were not so appreciative of my wish to have fun as they have been in regards to the boys. As a result, I was “disciplined” for exhibiting unbecoming of a girl behavior. None of the boys received even a warning. The explanation? It is acceptable for a young boy to play around and jump from windows, but it is most certainly not so for a young girl.

The reasons I am once again transported back to the past are the experience with this week readings for Torture class and with seeing MissRepresentation, all in the matter of a couple of days. That women and men are treated, viewed, and acknowledged differently is a secret to no one. The fact that everyone, not just a few men, are complicit into the continued disparity, however, does not often enter the discussion. One of the main points of MissRepresentation is that the ability to view and treat women and men differently is so ingrained in all of us, thanks to the impact of popular media, that without stopping to think twice we automatically judge women in politics, for example, on their appearance which incidentally has nothing to do with their ability to do their job. Or at least it shouldn’t. Therefore, instead of lamenting the reprehensible behavior of many men toward women, we need to target the system which allows such behavior to occur, and specifically the popular media that fuels it, and fight for a complete and transformative cultural change. Unfortunately, people have been proven to be quite resistant to change so persistence and consistency will be the main tools in this fight. 

Demanding equal treatment and the inclusion of women in all spheres of life should not overshadow the fact that women are not necessarily better than men if by achieving equality, they begin to behave the same way men do. In the “Feminism’s Assumptions Upended,” Barbara Ehrenreich analyzes the degrading acts of women in the military and emphasizes the dangers of believing that women are in some way “morally superior” and that they just cannot be as dangerous as their male counterparts. Further, Ehrenreich highlights that feminism should not be happy that women are indeed equal to men when it comes to cruelty because this is certainly not the equality we seek. I do feel, however, that one of the reasons women in the military participate in acts that humiliate other human beings is to somehow prove that they deserve to be there along with the men. How come the only way to prove that a woman is just as strong and brave as a man is to show cruelty toward fellow human beings? It again comes down to a cultural shift and a redefinition of the concepts of bravery and cowardice.

As far as I am concerned, it is much easier to pull the trigger, to kick, to punch, to punish, to laugh at, and to humiliate than it is to not do all of the above. I guess I would rather be a coward than a brave “hero” exerting my power over defenseless fellow humans.

-       Krasi

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Shop Til You Drop!

All right everyone, I'm giving you permission to shop til you long as its fair trade!


May 12th is World Fair Trade Day! Fair trade retailers like Ten Thousand Villages are organizing special events. Find more information about these events (happening all over the world!) at the World Fair Trade Day website.

- A

Monday, May 7, 2012


It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I consider the Harry Potter series one of the greatest reads I have ever come across. As such, I am forever thankful to being bored one day and deciding to stroll through the children's section in the library only to find the first book in the series. Needless to say, school assignments were placed aside and I spend every minute I could to go through this first of seven installments.

Now, following on a previous post by A., I decided to add my own take on inspiration and where to find it and am including a video of a commencement speech offered by J.K. Rowling. Truth be told, I often search for commencement speeches by people I know of to see if they have anything of value to offer. Of course, the purpose of commencement speeches is to provide graduates with pearls of wisdom and wish them well on a journey to the new frontiers of real life. Many times, however, those addressing the graduating class follow a familiar train of thought and repeat trivial statements about going out in the world and making a difference. Nothing wrong with that, but it is certainly refreshing to hear a different perspective.


- Krasi

Friday, May 4, 2012


I am amazed by Tavi Gevinson. She is a feminist, activist and magazine editor....and a sophomore in high school, NBD. In a TED talk, she speaks to how women are given messages that certain characteristics are exclusive; you can't be both a feminist and into fashion, for example (note: I get that one a lot).


The truth is, we are all a "bundle of contradictions" as she puts it. I know I certainly am. I remember having a discussion earlier this year at a conference presentation that I gave on Muslim students. The topic that came up was feminism; is feminism about making women feel bad if they cover up (i.e. head scarf) or is it giving people the space to do as they please, i.e. having a choice. I described this little gem of a cartoon to the folks in my presentation:

Unfortunately, I feel that we may have shifted from one type of oppression to another. Forcing our beliefs or ideals about something, whether it be oppression or freedom, is oppressive. In other words, ideas like feminism and freedom are subjective, multi-faceted and constantly in flux. Let's step away from the 'shaming' mindset and focus on what we can do to foster an environment of support for however we each choose to exercise our freedom.

- A