I blog for Change…

As I attempt to orient the windy and often treacherous roads that encapsulate life, here are some of my thoughts on the successes, failures and ultimately the hope and positivity in which I strive for a better world. I also hope that I can use this blog as a platform to elevate the social justice issues that are somewhat forgotten in the modern discourse of staying silent on issues that challenge.


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I am a Woman who unreservedly deserves your respect.

As I stood in the city waiting to meet a friend for some Friday night drinks I couldn’t help but think about the connotations of what a young woman standing on a street corner would signify to passers by. It seems like an absurd thing to ponder over or even be anxious about but being in this situation in the past for me has been associated with a whole load of negative memories. When I was younger and living in Colombo I used to have to wait outside my workplace to get a lift home from my cousin. Due to colossal after work traffic jams, this often meant that I had to wait around on the street dawdling until my lift arrived. On almost every occasion that this occurred, mind you this was each and every day for a good 3 months, I would either be propositioned, mistaken for a prostitute or catcalled. Not because I was eliciting this type of behaviour but quite simply because I happened to be a woman standing on the side of the road. In this existence that we live in today this one act somehow justified fair game to any man who passed thus inviting their foul mouthed commentary.

The reason I bring this up is that it happened again on Friday night when a group of passing men felt it appropriate to quite loudly and deliberately jeer in my direction. Considering that they were in a pack and were less than a foot away from me it made me feel quite vulnerable. I often have conversations with male friends where I’ve attempted to explain what these actions invoke in women to limited success. I’m often met by the response of ‘as if you didn’t get a kick out of that’ and the equally as misunderstood implication referring to how it would stroke my ego or was meant as a compliment. To be honest for myself and I am sure for most women, the feelings invoked are anything but that. It left me feeling somehow dirty or tainted and had me subconsciously questioning if I had somehow warranted that behaviour. Until I realised that no, I had not, I just simply happened to be a woman, wearing my Friday night best standing on my own outside of a bar.

This behaviour is unfortunately far from uncommon and represents the ideal that if a woman is seen outside of those ‘purest, demure, housewife-like’ settings then it’s absolutely fair game to comment on her body, her appearance and verbally harass her in the middle of the street. Well it really IS NOT OK. I do not consider this type of behaviour a compliment. Instead every time this type of incident happens it makes me feel beyond vulnerable, defenceless and susceptible to unwarranted harassment. Because let’s be honest, catcalling and inappropriate advances are a type of harassment. I and no other woman like me deserves to be violated in this way just simply because someone else deems it appropriate to speak to us in such a vile and degrading manner. I deserve your respect even if in your warped mind my appearance makes you question my ‘purity’. I am not asking for it, I do not ‘get off’ on your comments and I am not a piece of meat which is up for the taking.

I am a human being who just like you, wants to enjoy a catch up with some friends on a Friday night without the fear of being verbally harassed on my way there.

Sx


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Draw on Hope.

It feels like the past 10-12 months have been dominated by unfair, biased and inhumane policies, decisions and reforms on the global stage. It’s been one blow after another and I myself have found that the continuity of these choices have impacted how I view the world around me. I’ve felt so disheartened at the state of where we are today and the fact that such discriminatory and bigoted discourse has become the norm.

In recent times the never ending cuts to global aid and development have left myself and many others around me questioning the underlying element of humanity itself. Reductions to UN peacekeeping missions, cuts to assistance to alleviate famine conditions in Yemen and Somalia and declining commitments to women’s sexual and reproductive healthcare worldwide have devastated the development sector and continue to put millions of lives at risk.

The dominant discourse of the Western world since before the time of colonialism has been that our version of democratic society makes us the prevailing force of justice on this planet. Our governments tend to criticise corruption, discrimination and a general lack of accountability by their developing counterparts and yet consistently back peddle when needing to then take responsibility for the morally superior role they have attributed themselves. So called ‘first world’ nations have consistently claimed to be forces of good but continue to fail to meet basic commitments to development spending set by universal bodies and committed to by all member nations, themselves included.

Adding to the lack of commitment to poverty reduction is the now normalised method of fear mongering and racism which far right parties worldwide openly brand as ‘necessary’ in the global fight on ‘Islamic terrorism’ or on the US’ part ‘the incursion of Mexican criminals and gangbangers’. As if blaming an entire religion, nationality or ethnicity for the actions of a minute segment of their population is justified, and rationalised even if this incites violence, harassment and hate crime.

It’s easy to continue to feel demoralised in this era where normalcy of hate filled xenophobic discourse has fuelled bigotry and a general sense of apathy. But now is exactly the time to mobilise, to come together and focus on the element that binds us, not that hate or fear, but of love, tolerance and understanding. Let’s take a collective deep breath, acknowledge that something is grievously wrong but then refocus to take up the fight.

I urge you to not be desensitised to the abhorrent and rising levels of hate which are being spurted by many far right political candidates across the world. And no, this isn’t about protection against terror, it’s a repulsive sense of institutionalised racism. Remain clear minded, drawing on hope, diversity and inclusivity in the face of detestable mud-slinging and goat scaping. Continue to stand together to hold our leaders to account in promoting justice. In investing in poverty reduction mechanisms for the world’s most marginalised and for raising the standard on eradicating intolerant, narrow minded and prejudiced dialogue around diversity.

Let’s brand this line of messaging for what it is unacceptable; and more so, let us all go one step further to stand up against this divisive line, in the hope that we can claw back what is left of our devastated and ravaged sense of humanity. I beg of you, to draw on Hope.

Sx


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Identity, Intersectionality & Oppression.

I’ve penned a few pieces before about feminism and what it means to me but I was encouraged to think more about this element when attempting to explain intersectionality and the need for it within this movement and many others. Whenever we think about a marginalised group we tend to wrongly associate homogeny with this entire collection of people. Somehow affirming the idea that everyone’s level of suffering and oppression is not only felt in the same way, but that the method to dispel this subjugation is one size fits all in its nature.

Well, I’m here today to tell you that this just is not the case. We in the development sphere will often refer to multiple burdens or compounding oppressions. Basically meaning that belonging to more than one subjugated group will equate to a compounded level of discrimination. The best way I can explain this is to point to the circumstance of a white able bodied woman in her fight for equality. Yes she is marginalised based on her gender however her experience of discrimination is not the same as say a woman of colour who has also happens to have a disability. For this particular woman her experience of discrimination is threefold: based on her gender, her ethnicity and her disability.

Drawing from the parallel experience of the Black Lives Matter movement and the criticism it has drawn from those who do not ‘belong’ to this category of people it’s easy to see how one can justify a sense of tunnel vision. It is blatantly obvious that the lens we draw on in which to view subjugation is often skewed to whatever identity it is that we as individuals choose to ascribe to. We are often blind to the elements that contribute to an entrenched and systematic oppression if we are not being personally subjected to that element. The example of Kate Upton berating Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the American National Anthem last year is the ultimate example of this. She criticised his ‘horrific’ behaviour and proclaimed that ‘everyone is blessed’ to be an American citizen. Thus demonstrating an inherent inability to see that the America in which she can exercise her citizenship rights in is the exact opposite to the one Kaepernick and many African Americans live in every day. Their experience of this so called ‘American identity’ is instead based on a backdrop of fear, racial profiling and police brutality. A concept that Upton will never understand as she will never have to experience this simply based on the virtue of her skin colour.

What I am attempting to showcase here is that as human beings we naturally tend to assimilate into groups, whether that be of a nation, of an ideology or of a movement. However, the very nature of our humanness means that diversity is inherent. How one person experiences being a member of a group, whether that be of feminists, of Americans or anything else will be fundamentally different than that of another. Thus meaning that we cannot push out the intersectional elements that form the core of outlying voices; these are imperative to understanding the human condition. More so, they are the key to finding a way towards a society that is truly inclusive, free and that promotes access, opportunities and justice in an equal and indiscriminate way.

Sx