Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween: A Women's Issue

I am going to be honest: I have never in my life dressed up in a costume to celebrate Halloween. It’s not that I don’t think dressing up in costumes is fun. I actually do! However, I never really liked the options at the stores where I could afford to buy a costume and never had a strong incentive to be creative and make my own. 

My sudden interest to write about Halloween costumes is not simply an outcome of the fact that today is Halloween. The idea about this post formed a week or so ago when I came across a campaign against a costume retailer, Spirit Halloween, that evidently was relying on using stereotypical and highly sexualized verbiage to market its costumes to young teen girls. 

Similar to every other aspect of our lives lately, holidays seem to spark a controversy in some way related to women’s issues. The battle for more appropriate Halloween costumes for girls is the latest addition to the fight against gender stereotypes and the regular objectification and sexualization of girls, teens, and women. I guess if the word “sexy” is not in some way added to the costume, Halloween can’t be fun? 

For the record, four of my friends at University of Denver dressed up like the four ladies from Golden Girls and I was both thrilled to see them and jealous I was not one of them. Don’t have to be a sexy kitten or sexy nurse or sexy BigBird or sexy anything really to enjoy the holiday. Some of the alternative suggestions for costumes posted by women on the MissRepresentation page include Rosie the Riveter, women who changed the world, and Daria. 

Happy Halloween! Let the candy-eating begin, or continue as the case might be:)

-      Krasi

Monday, October 29, 2012

Religion, Culture, Democracy

As I have mentioned previously, one important positive aspect of living and interning in Washington, DC is the easy access to a variety of presentations, seminars, and workshops on a plethora of issues stemming from the human rights field. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I attended a panel discussion on the role of religion and culture in the development of democracy in post-conflict areas. The subject of discussion fits perfectly the theme of the African Conflicts class I am currently enrolled in and I thought it is a wonderful idea to attend. The panel consisted of James Patton, Marc Gopin, and Mohammed Abu-Nimer and all three panelists offered valuable insight on the topic and made some great observations and conclusions. 

First, religion and culture are very important and must be taken in consideration before any attempts at assisting a transition to a democratic state in a post-conflict area, whether that area is in Southeast Asia, Africa, or South America. Religion and culture must not be ignored or dismissed as inferior if the ultimate goal is to reduce the suffering in the conflict-ridden area.

However, a human rights activist must be careful not to assume that established religious institutions in a particular area will necessarily support the transition to democracy. As Patton emphasized, there are inherent contradictions between the ideas of religion and democracy. He stated that while democracy is about agency, religion is often about the lack of agency in people and the need to rely on an outside power for support. As an example, he highlighted that often the Catholic Church has supported dictatorial regimes in South America. Similarly, Gopin pointed out that historically, religious institutions were associated with torture and violence and that this was one of the main reasons for the creation of the democratic state. 

Next, Abu-Nimer discussed the role of peacebuilding and warned against the danger of wanting to introduce what Westerners consider democratic values into cultures in which most of the beliefs contradict these values. Instead of helping an already ravaged area, this is a sure way to cause more damage and exacerbate the problem. I agree with his conclusion as I know from personal experience that arrogance and imposing beliefs on completely different cultures often bring more misery. 

There were a couple of particularly interesting ideas mentioned and discussed that I am going to have to think about and perhaps expand into individual posts in the future. The first idea was that it is important for us to recognize that democracy does not necessarily equal no violence. Peacebuilding and humanitarian efforts should be clear and realistic about the desired outcomes of their efforts and be prepared to adapt as needed. 

The second idea was that democracy itself is an ideology, similar to any religion, set of beliefs, or way of life. As Gopin emphasized, religion and secularism are not the problem; it is the abuse of those two by people for their own selfish aspirations that often leads to suffering. 

Definitely a lot of interesting ideas to think about and consider. Especially by those interested in peacebuilding, humanitarian aid, and development. 

-      Krasi

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

HT News

Your most recent dose of human trafficking news coming right up!

Anyone familiar with the crime of human trafficking is aware of the challenges that arise in attempts to prosecute a person on such a charge. Every now and then, however, a report comes out about a case and even though the majority seem to focus on the issue of sex trafficking, it is still good to know that cases are happening. Here is a recent one from West Palm Beach, Florida

One of the most interesting initiatives I learned about earlier this year is Truckers against Trafficking. If you know of friends or family members who are truck drivers or know truck drivers, I strongly recommend that you share this resource with them. It is no secret that truck stops are the perfect locations for young girls and boys to be sold and bought as merchandise, and this is why stories like this one give me hope that the situation can certainly change as long as we have more people aware and dedicated to bring change. To read the entire story, please click here.  

And just because I miss Denver, here is a news blurb from the Denver Post. If nothing else grabs your attention, please note the number of years the traffickers were sentenced to. You think that’s an appropriate punishment?


Saturday, October 20, 2012

To Women

Considering the theme of my previous post, it was so great to come across Karen Walrond's video On Real Beauty this morning. With the constant media bombardment with "beautiful", pore-less, and airbrushed faces, it is refreshing to see what real women look like. I certainly felt better after watching the video and hope all other females out there appreciate the video just as much. I am all about being different and unique and enjoying it!

 - Krasi

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Objectification of Women

Two recent events encouraged me to write this post today and voice my outrage at the continued systematic disrespect toward young girls and women, even in countries in which gender equality is believed to have long been achieved. Or perhaps the reason the two events are so enraging is because they are happening in a country in which women enjoy far more rights than in many other nations. 

The first is the recently launched by Elizabeth Hurley Bikini Line for Young Girls. I heard about this case through the weekly MissRepresentation newsletter and I am just not sure how to react. At a first glance, the initiative seems as a fun idea and that is what is truly troubling. In a popular culture in which sexualizing and objectifying women is the norm, this line is just one more symptom of a condition, which if not treated will simply become even more widespread and persistent.

The second event came in the form of a debate, or something like it, between a female acquaintance and me on the topic of PETA’s use of women who appear abused and beaten in some of their ads targeting men. What was even more disturbing that the ad itself is my friend’s reaction to the ads. As a fervent supporter of animal rights, she firmly believes that first, any means necessary should be used to convince people to become vegans, and second, the ad does not really promote violence against women and definitely does not encourage men to rape women. Well now that’s just dandy! Since when did fighting for animal rights turn into a crusade against meat-eaters?

Unfortunately, she is not alone in holding such views. The truth is, the problem with PETA’s ad is not that it encourages men to go out and rape women; the problem is that the ad itself objectifies and sexualizes women. As I told my acquaintance, pornography is not the only way to objectify women; PETA’s ads do just that. If we truly care about the rights of all living organisms, then we should not ever agree to the idea of "any means" necessary to stress a point.

-      Krasi 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

HT News

Newsflash: human trafficking is certainly the issue of the day and suddenly it is no longer that hard to find tidbits of information on any major, and minor, news site. Not all entries really contribute to the further understanding of the issue and some actually reinforce myths about it! Here are some of the more interesting reports from the last week or so. 

1. "Washington nurse observes teen patients for signs of sex trafficking." To view the entire article, click here.    

2. "Lawmakers demand action from former Village Voice executives." This one is of a particular interest to me since one of the major concerns Courtney's House has is the role Backpage plays in the facilitation of domestic minor sex trafficking. To access the entire article, click here.  

3. "Assemblywoman Huttle wants tougher trafficking laws." What grabbed my attention in the case of this piece of news is the fact that people are starting to pay attention to big sporting events and the role they play in the continued exploitation of thousands of men and women, and I don't mean the athletes. I have mentioned the topic in a previous post, but I do not think much is currently being done to address the problem. To read the article, click here

4. Lastly, international news: Qatar Legal Clinic Opened. 

 - Krasi