Friday, December 11, 2015

Watch Words: keep the girls strong

I've just finished my semester in Cultural Anthropology which ends with discussions of gender and social inequality and films on acid violence and social and religious restrictions of women's rights. With that in mind, I find my class lectures everywhere, in 'living color,' so to speak.

This week, Canada's new Prime Minister Trudeau announced he would launch an inquiry into murdered aboriginal women. In Papua New Guinea, violence against women is epidemic and women face horrific abuse from their domestic partners. It is estimated that in their lifetime, 70% of women will be raped or assaulted. In Brazil, violence against women, particularly women of color, "is staggeringly high." In the US, three women die every day as a result of domestic violence.

In these instances, and many more reports around the world, this everyday violence occurs in an environment of ignorance, male privilege, and often but not always, poverty. This study from the Lancet examined attitudes of males about rape in six countries, Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Sri Lanka. In their research interviews, the word 'rape' was never mentioned. The majority of men who forced sex on women started in their teens, were unmarried, had low levels of education, were victimized as children, and were raised without a father present. These men gave as their primary reason for rape a "sense of entitlement" (73%), followed by a search for "entertainment" (58%). 

In every girl's life she'll often hear messages, sometime subtle, that promote weakness and silence, words that praise her for being pretty and companionable instead of smart and strong. This kind of socialization can mean that some girls learn to be silent, to internalize guilt and see things that hurt them as their fault. In this kind of environment, some boys learn to be privileged, entitled and to use their physical and verbal strength to silence girls. Let's be conscious of our words and actions and flip the script.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Not to be "he' or "she"

Gender identification, the social construction of masculinity and femininity. In traditional societies, your gender would shape your work role in life and was not limited to male and female only, but included, and still includes, hijra (South Asia), khanith (Oman), fa'afafine (Polynesia), and kathoey (Thailand), to name just a few of the hundreds of gender categories found worldwide. In Nepal, Pakistan and India, hijras are a recognized third gender. Thailand is considering doing the same for kathoey. In the West, your role in society is less tied to your gender identification, which allows to people to use hundreds of creative expressions to identify their gender role and sexual orientation. Or to not identify (see below). Even the toy retailer, Toys "R" Us, has gone gender neutral online, doing away with categories labeled 'boys' and 'girls.'

BBC News has an interesting article looking into the linguistic challenges to gender and sexual non-identification. The full article is pasted below or you can read the original by clicking Beyond 'he' and 'she': The rise of non-binary pronouns.