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Archive for the ‘Sexuality’ Category

Transcript: Emma Watson’s HeForShe Speech

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Today we are launching a campaign called HeForShe. I am reaching out to you because we need your help. We want to end gender inequality and to do this, we need everyone involved. This is the first campaign of its kind at the UN. We want to try and galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for change. And we don’t just want to talk about it. We want to try and make sure that it’s tangible.

I was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women six months ago and the more I’ve spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop. For the record, feminism, by definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.

I started questioning gender-based assumptions a long time ago. When I was 8, I was confused about being called “bossy” because I wanted to direct the plays that we would put on for our parents, but the boys were not. When at 14, I started to be sexualized by certain elements of the media, when at 15, my girlfriends started dropping out of their beloved sports teams, because they didn’t want to appear “muscle-y,” when at 18, my male friends were unable to express their feelings, I decided that I was a feminist. And this seems uncomplicated to me, but my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word.

Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men, unattractive, even. Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one?

I am from Britain and I think it is right that I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think [applause break] … I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and the decisions that will affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.

But sadly, I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights. No country in the world can yet say that they have achieved gender equality. These rights, I consider to be human rights, but I am one of the lucky ones. My life is a sheer privilege because my parents didn’t love me less because I was born a daughter. My school did not limit me because I was a girl. My mentors didn’t assume that I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day. These influencers were the gender equality ambassadors that made me who I am today.

They may not know it, but they are the inadvertent feminists who are changing the world today. We need more of those. And if you still hate the word, it is not the word that is important. It’s the idea and the ambition behind it. Because not all women have received the same rights that I have. In fact, statistically, very few have been.

In 1997, Hillary Clinton made a famous speech in Beijing about women’s rights. Sadly, many of the things that she wanted to change are still true today. But what stood out for me the most was that less than 30 percent of the audience were male. How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcomed to participate in the conversation?

Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. [applause break] …Gender equality is your issue too. Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence, as a child, as much as my mother’s. I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help, for fear it would make them less of a men—or less of a man. In fact, in the U.K., suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20 to 49, eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality, either.

We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are. And that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong.

It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals. [applause break] …If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by who we are, we can all be freer, and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom. I want men to take up this mantle so that their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice, but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human, too; reclaim those parts of themselves that they abandoned and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves.

You might be thinking, “Who is this Harry Potter girl? And what is she doing speaking at the U.N.?” And it’s a really good question—I’ve been asking myself the same thing. All I know is that I care about this problem and I want to make it better. And having seen what I’ve seen and given the chance, I feel it is my responsibility to say something. Statesman Edmund Burke said “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.”

In my nervousness for this speech and in my moments of doubt, I’ve told myself firmly, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” If you have similar doubts when opportunities are presented to you, I hope that those words will be helpful because the reality is, that if we do nothing, it will take 75 years, or for me, to be nearly 100, before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work—15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children and at current rates, it won’t be until 2086 before all rural African girls can have a secondary education.

If you believe in equality, you might be one of those inadvertent feminists that I spoke of earlier and for this, I applaud you. We are struggling for a uniting word but the good news is that we have a uniting movement. It is called HeForShe. I am inviting you to step forward to be seen and to ask yourself, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” Thank you very, very much.

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Obsession

I’ve finally come to identify
with the devious man who raped me
and his pathetic attempt to possess
my love, beauty, purity

Countless years in the making
my master lesson learned
transformed immense hatred and rage
into tolerance and compassion

For I too have used, confused
wanting you
with wanting me to be more like
the aspects of you I was desperately lacking

Are you free? Wish it was me
Wicked wit? I’ll have some of that
Strength, beauty, passion, devotion
Mine Mine Mine Mine

Obviously my tactics
were far from criminal
But I’m one to aspire higher
and loath to dismiss my psychic transgressions

Unhealthy attractions, self destructive distractions
from personal growth and advancement
They’ll pacify the mind ’til it believes
what it needs exists outside of your self

Now the first hint of clamor and despair over us as a pair
Is my clue, cue to delve deep into my soul
to find you’re merely the mirror
of what I am able, capable of self-actualizing

Because only in the absence of possession and lust
Rather, in the presence of friendship and trust
Can you reach me, teach me
And thus quench my obsession

How might our lives have been different
Had he, we, been told, taught
You can’t find happiness in another woman or man
And the Sacred Union we seek…exists WITHIN

Viral ‘Sexual Assault Prevention Tips’ Poster

My first impression of the Sexual Assault Prevention Tips poster confused me. I read it quickly, in extreme discomfort and distaste, then unconsciously pondered why this message appealed to the beloved friend who posted it. I’m forgiving to a fault, if such a thing exists, so I dismissed it from memory. (Perhaps I’m not forgiving at all – rather, forgetful to a fault.)

(scroll past poster)

Next day, there it is again, posted by yet another brilliant, beautiful woman. O.k. What am I missing? Again, quick to dismiss.

A sleepless night
riddled with disturbing dreams
A too early morning
pervaded by this f***ing poster

Now I suck at forgiving AND forgetting. And I remember – as long as I can remember – the sexual assault prevention tips I grew up with:

  1. You are responsible for not letting anyone drug your drink. Never let it out of your sight. Cue horror stories.
  2. Strangers are NOT to be trusted. Translate “I need directions” to “I’m going to assault you (if you LET me).” Cue horror stories.
  3. Keep your vehicle in excellent maintenance. If you’re ever stranded, the person who offers to help might hurt you. Cue horror stories.
  4. Keep your doors locked. Not locking them is as good as inviting in villains. Cue horror stories.
  5. Elevator etiquette: This is no time be friendly. No eye contact. It’s awkward. They’re either friendlies or not. What can you do but cue horror stories.
  6. It isn’t safe to be alone, outside at night. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM. If you don’t, you’re just asking for it. Cue horror stories.
  7. Acquaintances and dates can’t be trusted. They just can’t help themselves to raping you. Cue horror stories.
  8. If you drink to excess and pass out, people will help themselves to your body. Cue horror stories.
  9. Arm yourself (like a girl) with a whistle. They scare away the bad guys.

And I remember. Not believing, not heeding, breaking rule #7. Living the horror that the stories didn’t do justice.

Imagine unimaginable pain
of the physical
and emotional
variety

Some of it lasts
a year
Some of it lasts
forever

Oh, there’s always a temporary forgiving
A temporary forgetting
Until someone posts a f***ing poster
And I have to forgive and forget all over again

How to effect
a lasting forgiving?
How to reject
a lasting forgetting?

In the end
and every beginning
I only know how to pray
and advocate for education

Out of my shadow, out of hiding
Out of shame, out of fear
Into my light, into exposure
Into honor, into love

So this poster is absurd, no doubt – as absurd as the rules girls grow up with. Women’s sexual assault prevention tips are the western world’s burkas. How presumptuous, how primitive, how pot calling the burka black are we? These men’s sexual assault prevention tips are the light on our collective shadow, exposing our hidden secrets, honoring women’s shame, loving the hell OUT of fear.

Burning Man: True Story

First, a prelude: A couple of months ago, I saw a friend’s photos of an event called Burning Man. “Cool,” I thought.
Fast forward to the week preceding this year’s Summer Solstice and me searching in vain for a worthy event to mark the occasion.
Fast forward again to the bookstore last night where my favorite section was crowded, so I went to my second favorite section to wait for a book to fly off the shelf and hit me. When it did, I read a woman’s short story about celebrating the Summer Solstice at an event in the desert called Burning Man. Sadly, it doesn’t mark the Solstice any more, but I didn’t “know” that at the time my true story happened…

It’s the middle of the night and I’m awake:

“I’m sorry” I said to the part of me who thinks she knows everything.
“You think you’re so smart” she said.
“That’s the difference between you and me.
You think. I know.”
“But you didn’t know!”
“I did, my love. I willed it so.”
Then I slipped into sleep and my dream self awoke.
As she traveled to Burning Man, she thought to herself:
“That’s funny. The story said it would be dry and dusty out here,
but I’m wet and moist as an oasis.
No dust. It’s all love and primal lust…”
Then my lucid dreamer intervened and spoke:
“Lest you forget, your dreams speak Symbology,
show you below the dusty surface to your soul.
Go to Burning Man, and your waking Solstice dream,
the one you knew about before you learned about it will come true.
And just under your skin, you’ll come alive –
that’s the moist and juicy part that is you.”

Then, I was suspended in my favorite place.
“Am I awake or asleep?” one of me wondered.
Then my mind broke the spell and tried to take credit.
“Ugh!” I say. If you only KNEW.