London 2012: Historic Olympic Games for Women

For the first time in history, all nations competing in the 2012 Olympic games will send at least one female athlete. This signifies a new era in the modern world of athletics and gender roles.

Take Saudi Arabia for example: after undergoing much pressure from The International Olympic Committee, they realized that there needs to be social reform. King Abdullah has been working on reform for women and wants to see them in more active roles. For the first time ever, Saudi Arabia will be sending a female athlete to the Olympics! This has been controversial in the Saudi Arabian society as many Saudis hold highly conservative values. Women participating in sports is not widely accepted because there is fear of it leading to sinning and stepping up their status in their community.

King Abdullah and other members of the Saudi Arabian government see the public as having to accept the changes that will inevitably come. Read more here.

Brunei and Qatar are also sending female athletes to the Olympics for the first time. With pressure and changes in cultural norms, even ultraconservative nations are being forced to revisit their attitudes on womens’ roles in their communities. Each step brings us closer to gender equality.

Sexism Online and in Video Games

Browsing the internet as someone who identifies as a woman can be disheartening at times. Many online communities and online video game forums are dominated by men and sexist stereotypes.

The typical defense is the age-old “I’m just joking,” but sexist jokes still reinforce notions of sexism! Even if you don’t consciously intend to promote sexism, by revisiting sexist jokes and related ideas you are promoting it. You are making the internet a less safe and less welcoming place for all non-males.

So before you make another “get me a sandwich” type joke– think again. Is an upvote on Reddit worth oppressing others?

For more on this topic check out this video from the Ill Doctrine.

Life as a Single Woman in Iran

 

If you are a single woman in Iran, you still face challenges with acceptance from society. The traditional expectation that you must live with your parents or husband is supported by clerics and popular politics.

Where do these single women come from? A lot of them decide to obtain university educations instead of marrying and/or have divorced from their husbands. Over the last ten years, this has accumulated to a 60% increase in university enrollment and 135% increase in divorces. Iranian women are fighting against society’s expectations of womanhood and seeking to carve out their own definition. Armed with education, they begin to see success in their own terms and ambitions. They enjoy independence unlike their mothers ever did.

However, this freedom comes with a price. For the time being, they must lie and pretend to be wives of husbands who are studying abroad. This way they are allowed apartment rentals from landlords and real estate agents.

Although many parents of these new class of single women in Iran support their daughters, larger society still does not. The government encourages quick, cheap, and easy marriages in an effort to keep traditional virtues of motherhood and role of women intact. They even go as far as giving out loans for marriage. Unfortunately for them, their plan has backfired and is dubbed as the “fast food marriage plan”.

When do you think Iranian women can openly show they are living alone?  Will it be another ten years from now? Sooner? Later?

Volunteer Post: First Qatar Woman Athlete: Noor al-Malki

Who’s ready for the Olympics? I sure am!

In the 2012 London Olympic Games, Qatar is sending their first female athlete to compete. She is just over 5 ft. tall and weighs just under 45 kg. Her name is Noor al-Malki.

While others are worrying about breaking records,  Noor is more proud of the fact she is part of Qatar’s process to break down gender discrimination. She is part of the new generation of Qatari women who can now play sports. Let us cheer her on for the historical significance she is representing!

Find out more on her story here.

End the Stop-and-Frisk Policy

Last year in New York City 85% of those stopped and frisked were black or Hispanic. Out of 685,724 stops, 605,328 were determined to have not engaged in any unlawful behavior. 

Image

This stop-and-frisk policy is clearly flawed– the majority of stops are based on racial profiling rather than truly suspicious behavior, as evidenced by the statistics above. This policy is racist and creates a culture of fear for many NYC residents– particularly men of color. Yet Mayor Bloomberg continues to defend the policy.

In response to Bloomberg’s ignorance, the NAACP has organized a Silent March Against Racial Profiling. The march will take place on NYC’s 5th Avenue this Sunday, June 17th. 

Read more about the flaws of the stop-and-frisk policy here; learn more about Sunday’s march here. If you have friends or family that live in New York let them know about this!

Against Me & Joan Jett cover The Replacements’ “Androgynous”

Just weeks after revealing to the world her new identity as Laura Jean Grace, Against Me’s lead singer performs with Joan Jett at Terminal 5 in New York City. Learn more about Grace’s gender transition in the current edition of Rolling Stone.

Sex Education in Mumbai

Photo by Neha Thirani for The New York Times

Growing up as the daughter of a sex worker in Mumbai’s red light district, Aparna Bhola dreamt of becoming a gynecologist. Watching her mother and other neighborhood women be routinely denied medical care because of the stigma of prostitution, she realized the need for better reproductive health services– including sex education.

Now she’s finishing her last year of school and has teamed up with a local NGO Kranti (which translates to ‘revolution’) to educate local teenagers about sex. She speaks candidly with girls who would otherwise have no means to learn about sex, pregnancy and more.

“‘What all do we need for life?’ she asks the group of 15 teenage girls. ‘Food, air, water, but also sex. It is a natural instinct and something that brings us happiness.'”

Read more about Aparna’s journey and dreams in this great profile from the New York Times global edition here.