Tag Archives: west

Covering the Hijab at the Rio Olympics

Past weeks have seen the internet come to blows over pictures from a women’s volleyball game between Germany and Egypt. This picture:

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Now where most sane folks would see a simple game of beach volleyball, the denizens of the interwebs have managed to read in some fantasy about a clash of cultures- “the free and civilized West against the superstitious, primitive savages of the East.” Comment sections have been flooded with everything from sarcastic half-jokes…

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…to open propaganda.

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“Because I, from the comfort of my armchair, know this athlete’s situation better than she does.” -Idiot Commentor

There’s been snide comment after comment directed not at Doaa Elghobashy’s performance in the game, not towards her assertion that what she wears is her own damn business, not towards her teammate (Nada Meawad) who doesn’t wear a hijab…

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And I think it’s because people aren’t actually angry about any of that.

For all the sanctimony, the issue at hand seems not to be with mandates or even just pressure to wear the hijab. It has nothing to do with standing up for women- on the contrary. I do think that the extreme contrast between Elghobashy and her German counterparts hit a nerve that most people didn’t realize they had. I think it does forced folks to ask themselves some truly uncomfortable questions about why they actually watch the sport.

I’m talking about this:

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Now I seriously debated putting that picture up, but as cringingly uncomfortable as it is, I think it speaks volumes about our culture. Continue reading

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3 Reasons Why the Paris Attack Feels like 9/11 and 1 Reason Why It Demands A Different Response

Since the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, I encountered several articles that criticize the way the Western world responded to the tragic loss of life in Paris. While each of these articles bemoans the loss of 132 innocent lives, they also highlight similar atrocities that happened before the Paris attack and were almost completely overlooked.

In a lot of ways this event, and its media response, reminded me of the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. While the media response to this tragedy has been a little more self-aware, our international reaction has been similar to how it was last time this kind of tragedy affected a Western nation. Rather than discuss the way we responded to these attacks, I wanted to examine why we reacted the way we did.

1) It felt close to home

I remember waking up the morning of 9/11, walking into the living room to see my mom crying. My dad turned to me and told me the world had changed overnight. Hearing about the attacks on Paris gave me the same shiver of fear that I felt that day. I don’t think it’s hard to dissect what motivates that feeling. These particular attacks were frightening because they happened to Western nations, and we in the West are very accustomed to feeling in control. We took control over much of the world during an age of imperialism, colonization, and slavery. Today we continue to control much of the world through unfair aid practices and political manipulation. These kind of attacks are terrifying because they make us feel like we don’t have as much control as we think we do.

Even though last Thursday 45 innocent victims lost their lives to a terrorist attack in Beirut and, 6 months ago a similar attack in Kenya killed 147 innocent people, many of us heard little to nothing about those attacks until their news coverage was compared to what occurred in Paris. In our effort to show solidarity with Paris, the Western world made it apparent that certain tragedies frighten us more than others.

As Elie Fares explained in his blog comparing the media response to the Paris and Beirut attack,

“When my people died, they did not send the world in mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.”

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Mad Max has a Feminist Hero for (Almost) Everyone

I know. Pretty well every woman with a computer has written about how great Mad Max: Fury Road was. I actually meant to write about it last week, but then I decided that I needed to address the news about the Duggars instead.

Not only am I late to the Mad Max conversation, but when I went to write about this post I came across the video I’ve included below, which succinctly summarizes many of the points I was hoping to make.

Even though Rowan Ellis beat me to the punch with several of her points, I loved this movie too much not to add my two cents. I also wanted to dig deeper into some of the feminist identities offered in the film and how they impacted me as a female viewer. Spoilers, obviously.

Furiosa: The Tough, Capable Woman

Furiosa is, of course, the first person anyone is going to think of when I say “strong female character”. She is a brave, intelligent, and capable character. I also love that she isn’t sexualized by the camera angles, and that we aren’t forced to view her through the male gaze.

As much as I absolutely love Furiosa, she doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. We’ve already had hardcore, confident female leaders like Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley since the 80’s. And as much as I want to be like Furiosa, I don’t always feel myself reflected in these kind of figures. Sometimes that’s okay, sometimes all I want is to escape into the kind of fantasy where I can imagine myself kicking ass and taking names. However, it can be discouraging when movies only have one type of “strong female character”  to offer. While I absolutely love female heroes like Furiosa, I really loved having less capable heroines in Mad Max as well. Heroines who were well-rounded and brave in spite of their weaknesses and fears. Continue reading

Why Palestine Can’t Use Nonviolence

I’m sticking with this topic because I was asked, somewhat indirectly, to cover the tactics Hamas has been using. I don’t think I can do that without sounding like an apologist for Hamas- which I’m not a fan of, in spite of my constant proclamations of solidarity with the struggle of Gaza. Still, I wanted to deliver on some level, and the more I thought about it, the more I found myself returning to a quote of JFK’s- that “those who make peaceful protest impossible make violent protest inevitable.”

Whenever any conflict flares up enough in Palestine for the West to take notice, we’re inevitably going to encounter the idea that the Palestinians are to be blamed for not using “peaceful protest”. Such comments usually come from folks who can’t deny the plight of Palestinians but who can’t yet bring themselves to actually take a stand for them- but we’ll get to that in a minute.

At times like these, we tend to cite our own “peaceful protests”, conveniently only talking about the white-washed portions of it. We’ll talk about MLK Jr. all day long, and forget that even such “nonviolent” civil rights luminaries as Fannie Lou Hamer kept herself armed to the teeth. Heck, Hamer herself declared “I keep a shotgun in every corner of my bedroom and the first cracker even look like he wants to throw some dynamite on my porch won’t write his mama again.”

Yes indeed. And only one of many such examples within the “non-violent” movements of the 50s and 60s.

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Gordon Brown Fixes Education (In A Single Post)

I’ve brought up the subject of education a few times now. I’ve never explored the subject on a grand scale, but I intend to rectify that today. Here’s some of the key issues our society seems to have with education, and what I think we could do to fix it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to say right here and now that I was homeschooled and can’t speak with first-hand experience on a lot of what I’m going to be talking about. A less arrogant man would take this as a sign that he should probably just shut his ignorant mouth about it, but I’m going to forge recklessly ahead. I do have some cursory teaching experience (though that’s to an adult population), I’ve helped kids with school in a professional capacity, and what with this culture’s frankly creepy obsession with high school (which oughta be a post in and of itself), I feel I’ve got at least a grip on what we’re dealing with.

Let’s begin. Continue reading

Evan and Gordon Talk: TCKs and Other Cultural Stuff

GORDON: Well people, we did, at long last and after many a tearful plea, get suggestions for this week’s topic.

It was all of a whoppin’ two, but hey- progress is progress.

EVAN: That being said, today we are going to turn our sights on a topic presented by Hannah, one that all three of us in particular can relate to:

I’d like to hear your take on what it’s like to be a TCK, whether it’s possible to really be a “global citizen”, and how you make judgements (if you can) across cultures.

For those of you who didn’t know, “TCK” stands for “third culture kid,” a little something we know about seeing as a) we were from one culture before b) being implanted into another culture and c) not finding ourselves fitting fully into either created a third.

That’s sort of the dictionary definition of things, anyway.

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Shame Day: Your Treatment of Syria

I grew up in Syria.

I was born in the US, but the vast majority of my life was spent in the Middle East. In spite of the civil war that’s been raging in my adopted homeland for the past couple of years, I’ve remained largely silent on the issue here on the blog. More than anything else, I’ve done so because I know that there’s really no happy ending to anything I can say. For all my raging and foaming at the mouth, I really and truly don’t enjoy having to lambaste things- more than anytime else when there’s really and truly no light I can see at the end of the tunnel. Nevertheless, with American warships closing in on the Syrian coast and a mountain of evidence growing for the regime having unleashed a chemical attack on its own people, there’s really no keeping quiet at this point.

So here it goes.

I. There Is No Free Syrian Army

If you’ve been watching the situation or if you listen to the news, you may hear the term “Free Syrian Army” or “FSA” thrown around. While initially formed out of deserting Syrian soldiers and officers in the early stages of the conflict, there never really was- and still isn’t- any kind of centralized command. There’s a myriad of different militias and cells in Syria all operating under the banner of the FSA, but there’s really no connection between any of them, militarily, ideologically, or demographically. There’s also no connection, as is otherwise sometimes portrayed, between the self-declared opposition government operating out of Turkey and the FSA- they’re two completely different groups. It’s important to understand this to keep from being led into the false assumption that there’s only two sides to the conflict- the dictatorial regime and the pro-democracy rebels. There’s going to be a temptation to grossly oversimplify the situation- don’t let it happen more than it already has.


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