Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Plea of Justice for Mankind, Womankind, and Everyone Else

I like to think I am a feminist. I have seen women being pushed into the dirt by the heels of oppressive men. I have witnessed segregation, discrimination, and violence towards women because of their gender. And have I only seen it in Saudi Arabia? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I see it everywhere, almost every day. Hell, I see it on the internet all the time, and also in movies, on TV, and in video games.

lara croft Lara Croft Street
Hello, I'm Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider series. I'm more than just smart, hot and capable of doing awesome, acrobatic things you'll never be able to do - I am objectified by the people who design me AND those who are my fans!

Does this therefore mean that I hate men? Do I sit around, shaking my fist and cursing the male sex and gender for their crimes against my beloved womankind? Never. And I, the Burdened Mary of this honest, humble blog, will never stoop so low as to look down upon the "opposite*" sex or gender and all genders in between. I know very well that we ALL have it rough.

Those who hate women are my enemies - but so are those who hate men. These people-haters have no business in high positions of power or even in the lower positions. They are committing a crime against humanity by separating the sexes to a crazy, more-than-biological extent and creating stupid, unobtainable standards that don't make any sense in real life.

arnold schwarzenegger conan
Look at me! I'm Conan the BARBARIAN! Guys are supposed to want to be like me and envy me for my massive...sword.

Who are these people? What right do they have to undermine our personal preferences and personalities and elevate their ideas of man/womanhood over our likes or dislikes? I don't know the people "in control" personally, but if I knew even one, I'd punch them in the face and spit on them. They have done more harm and injustice to men and women than we could ever imagine. Is there a prison fit for these jerks? I don't think there is. I don't know what they deserve, but if fair judgment is passed upon them, in my eyes the punishment they receive should be severe.

What is even worse for us males, females, and gender-benders is that there are so many people who buy into these ideas of masculinity and femininity. They even feel that they have the right to make us feel guilty for being any different than what they imagine! These people end up becoming our teachers, presidents, colleagues or, even worse, our family members. Misguided and dominating brothers, sisters, parents, and extended family members have had the right to say "You are my daughter/wife/sister and you have no right to go out dressed like that" or "You are a boy, you can't play with those toys."

These are people who we are supposed to trust and love, and most of the time, they love us back. Sometimes, family is out to hurt and abuse you, I know that this can happen. But what is just as painful to me is that there are some family members who are genuinely concerned about these strange ideas that have been pressed into their minds!

However, it is people in the position of power who screw things up just as badly, if not even worse. These are people who do not think about the people they love but only about their selfish ideals. These are people who do not want to see women have any power and they are the same people who will curse and beat down men who agree with ideas of equality.

These people are not your family, but if they are, that creates even more pressure on you - I'm sorry. And these people deal only in pressure and guilt! They can be political figures, important people in your society, or religious figures. They are men and women and they stick solemnly and faithfully to their prescribed gender role. They do not bend for anyone because appearance is more important than true emotions or reason.

I have seen this all over the world. There are religious groups who say that women will go to Hell for cutting their hair short, and that men are sinners for hugging or holding hands with their friends. There are political AND religious groups that forbid women from driving or men from asking an attractive person out for coffee. I have met people who will not let their daughters wear trousers nor their sons wear purple or rainbow motifs.

What kind of world do we live in? These people are twisting religion, morality, and values all in the name of those very respective things. They are doing it for their own gain or for the gain of their group. I am tired of this, but I cannot escape it. It will be so long before the incorrect and evil idea of human-created gender roles will break down that I probably will die before I see greater change.

This is not a question of Saudis or Americans or Mauritians or anyone else. This is a problem for the world. And no, no country has it worse than anywhere else. Men who wear earrings are looked at funny in certain places and, in the same way, women who do not cover their faces are looked down upon in others. Every country has its ideas of what men and women should do and how they should behave. The one thing that is always insisted upon is that they are separated and put into groups. I am not talking about the segregation that exists here in many parts of Saudi Arabia, like in malls or restaurants. I am talking about the idea that men and women are so different from each other biologically, that every single thing about them must be different.

No, I cannot agree. Men and women biologically have their differences and this definitely stems out into some behavioural patterns. This does not mean that they are meant to be kept apart and scrutinised in different ways; that they cannot interact with one another or share certain goals, dreams, or preferences. All of this is petty and fabricated by people who have nothing but their own gain or archaic, unfounded traditions in mind. 

Hey, guys. I'm Ganesh, a Hindu deity, but a lot of other religions worship and respect me. Students usually pray to me to get my blessings and do well on exams. I'm cool like that.

If you want to bring God into this issue, let me say this: no God said that women should not work. No God said that they cannot wear trousers or cut their hair short. No God said that men need to look like Jake Gyllenhaal in the Prince of Persia movie or enjoy only horror or action films. Yes, there are rules in different holy books about what women and men should do, and I certainly do not agree with some of them. I understand that some of these things come from a distinct and specific historical context, while others I just can't wrap my head around. But, in the end, most of these things are decided - by - people.

See those links? What religion makes it okay to make women's lives difficult? I am sorry I couldn't find anything in particular about the treatment of men, but I think that is just as important. What happens to men is just as bad, but it is damn hard to find information about it in a Google search. That, to me, is just deplorable**. Talk to anybody and they can tell you - men do not have it easy. The fact that they barely have a voice about their issues of gender is testament to that - if they complain, are they taken seriously? Probably by some other men, but not everybody. And don't even mention people who do not necessarily identify with their gender or sex - they have it even worse, and their voice is even smaller. I had to go to college to understand only a few of the issues that they face, and I am still learning.

I understand the situation of women more than I do that of men or those of other genders/sexes. I cannot be their voice; it wouldn't be right. In spite of this, I am on the side of people - not only men or women - who want to see equity and the diminishment of gender roles. I know I am not alone in this. The people who create these absurd roles need to be spoken out against - even if we are not sure who they are, or who is at the root of it all. In case even one of them is listening, or reading, all of the fighting that you are willing to devote is worth it.

* The term "opposite sex" is so weird and wrong to me, but it's commonplace. It's extremely problematic.

** Unless I searched for the wrong thing...if anyone has good links to issues of men and masculinity that are easy to reach, PLEASE inform me. A lot of stuff I found was, to say the least, very sexist.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Airplanes, Airports, and Anecdotes

Because of my extensive travels, I love hearing about interesting travel stories that other people have to share. Everyone who has been on an airplane knows that some of the most hilarious and infuriating experiences can happen on a plane, or in an airport. Today, I shall share with you a few stories that I can remember from way back when. Some details are shaky, and therefore some stories are blurred. Forgive me!

1. Camel Milk

Once, when my family and I were travelling from Saudi to...well, somewhere else, the crew on board a Saudia flight brought me, little Khadeja of about 5-6 years old, a glass of milk at the beginning of the flight. It was to me to richest, creamiest milk I had ever tasted. For some reason, I thought it could not possibly be cow's milk as I normally drank it. My little girl's mind came to an amazing conclusion: this is a Saudia flight, so MUST be camel milk! Saudis drink camel milk, right? Note: Some of them do, I guess, but what a strange stereotype. I swear I don't know where I got that information as a kid.

So, wanting more, I pressed the call button to get a flight attendant to bring me yet more of this wonderful new thing which tasted only like what water must have felt like to a dog in the desert - heavenly. After many buzzes, a flight attendant came to my mother and asked her in a warm, kind tone to stop her silly child (i.e. me) from pressing buttons. She thought I was just like any other kid who finds joy in touching things in a random, careless way. In my tiny voice, I said, "No, no, ma'am, I just wanted milk!" Shocked at my ability to press a button for a reason and not just for fun, she laughed heartily and said she'd bring it by in just a minute.

When she brought it, I thanked her and gulped the glass down with pure contentment. To this day, I really don't know if it was extra creamy cow's milk or actual camel milk. I had quite the imagination back then.

2. the Aristocats

On one long Emirates flight (again, I do not remember my destination but it might have been to somewhere in the US) a flight attendant took a shine to little me, with my big alien eyes. I was maybe about 7 years old. At that age, Disney was the best thing in the world and I had seen many of their animated masterpieces (and some of their weird movies like That Darn Cat!).

The nice young lady, who I remember was Asian from the Far East, asked me if I wanted to watch a movie. Those were the days when they used to play films on a big screen as in-flight entertainment; those small individual screens didn't really exist yet. I told her that the only Disney movie I hadn't seen was the Aristocats and I really wanted to see it because cats were my favourite animal. The woman told me to wait just a moment, and that she would get the film to play for me. I didn't understand what she meant.

Lo and behold, the screen came down and, true to her word, the Aristocats played on the screen. I was absolutely delighted. I really don't know how she could have gotten that to happen. They plan these things in advance, don't they? I know that it was not a dream, and that it really happened, though. It's one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.

3. Eating Oysters

On another trip, when I was a bit older (I think) we travelled on Air France. Due to the long transit time in Paris, we were given a hotel room and a free lunch (wasn't that nice of them?). This was a long, French style lunch at the hotel's large dining room. I was amazed that we could eat anything we wanted, and for free! If I could have that right now, I'd be very pleased.

Many funny things happened during that dinner, mostly, involving our waiter who was a snotty jerk, but the funniest that happened to me was my experience with oysters. Now, I must have been around 10 years old, and oysters were the most interesting and exotic thing that I found on the menu and I needed to try them. I ordered them proudly (to the raised eyebrows of my parents) but then realised, once they were in front of me, that I had no idea how to eat these weird, slimy, foreign things.

I was given a basket of bread, butter, lemon slices, and a big plate of oysters. I looked at them and...well, I froze! I hadn't a clue about how I was supposed to combine these ingredients. The American in me thought, well, I might as well just put them all together and see what happens! I say the American in me because...well, have you seen what Americans eat or how they make their sandwiches? Seriously. It's like an all-you-can-eat buffet, but on bread.

Anyway, I put the lemon on the flesh within the shell (that part I got kind of right) and then scooped out the meat, put it on the slice of buttered french bread, and took a bite. The waiter, who was standing there the whole time sneering, exclaimed "No!" and finally explained to the confused child in front of him what I was supposed to do. I put the lemon first, then I slurp out the flesh, then I bite into the buttered bread. I got some of it right!

They were pretty nasty, but my pride made me swallow as many as I could. I had mussels in Chicago this year that were absolutely awesome, though, so I am glad I didn't lose hope completely.

4. "Business Class, DUH!"

Now I really do remember this flight and where I was going! I was 16 years old and travelling from Mauritius to Dubai on a connecting flight with Vienna as my final destination. I was on my way to a young leader's conference with a friend, but we were sitting in different classes (my Dad refused to let me travel Economy class). I decided to ask my Mauritian flight attendant, who was very friendly throughout the flight, which class got off the plane first.

I had been on many flights before, but I never noticed if the classes all got off the plane at the same time. Now that I think about it, it was kind of a stupid question, but I just wanted to make sure so I could wait for my friend and get off of the plane with her. We wanted to hang out in Dubai airport together and not get lost.

So, the conversation went like this:

Me: Excuse me, dude... [yeah I called him dude, I thought I was so cool]
Flight Attendant: Yeah?
Me: Who gets off the flight first, Business class or Economy?
F.A.: [giving me attitude] Who do you think?
F.A.: Well, yeah, not just you princess but Business class does, of course! Why is it important anyway?
Me: I just wanna meet up with my friend in Economy class, okay? How was I supposed to know?!
F.A.: [laughing] I thought you were smart. I guess you're not!
Me: Oi! [yeah I used to say Oi! Wow, I was weird]
F.A.: Well, if you were smart you would have told me you had a friend in Economy class and she could have sat next to you in the empty seat! [yes, I was sitting on my the window...] I would have brought her up here, no problem!
Me: [bashful] Oh...I didn't know you could do that.
F.A.: Well, don't feel so bad, princess. I'm not really supposed to do that!

Laughing, he walked away and I just sat there with a pretty dumb look on my face. If you think he was rude, don't worry - it was all playful in nature. This is the way Mauritian people act towards each other. If you didn't know it, you'd think we were constantly fighting. It's just the way we are, either in English or in Kreol. In any case, I do wish I could have brought my friend up to Business class if it was really possible to do so. It was still nice to know that the flight attendant would have tried to informally upgrade her. I know he would have done it, too.

So there you are, some stories from a few of my many journeys! I have been on so many flights that I don't remember half the details of, but I always remember the important (or funny) parts. Whether they were pleasant or not, all of these snippets of my life are looked on with fondness. No matter what, I'm glad I have my stories to share.