A Weed In a Field Full of Daisies (by Lule K.)

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“They didn’t care that I was African. To them, I was just black. And black was always less,” explained Eunice Kariuki, a Kenyan woman who lived in the United States of America. When you are residingin the West, sometimes the only thing that differentiates you from an African American is your accent. So what if you don’t have an accent? Then you are simply identified as a black American.

Kariuki experienced a considerable amount of culture shock when she first moved to the United States. “I remember the day that I arrived. I had never seen so many white faces in one place. I felt like a weed in a field full of daisies.”

Of course, America is not all white. However, according to Black Demographics, African Americans are the largest racial minority, equaling a measly 13.3%. The probability of racial profiling soars when a black person is clearly…

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A Trip of Expectations (by Angel T.)

A Culture of Us

Every year at Rosslyn Academy, the senior class goes on a trip to the beach for a week in March. The trip is meant to be a time of relaxation and debriefing from a busy year. However, it is often the case that feelings of excitement for the trip are overshadowed by great anxiety in having to meet social expectations and pressures that are present throughout the trip.

“I hear students talk about getting ready for senior trip all the time, saying things like, “I’m going on a diet because I want to look good for Senior Trip”and other comments like that,” remarks English teacher John Leonard, who has accompanied students on previous trips.

In talking with students, it is obvious that the expectations are clear to many. “There’s definitely expectations of how your body should look and what you’re going to wear,” says Njeri Thuo, a current senior. Junior students Jackie Lee and Kafura Thairo state that they are aware of…

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Why the Gender Wage Gap is Even Worse for African American Women (by Lule K.)

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The debate on the wage gap is not a secret. Everyone’s heard the whole “a woman makes 77 cents to every dollar the man makes” issue.  However, when the pay system is further analysed and dissected, one will find that this isn’t true for every woman, or every man. It is no surprise that white women have significantly more privilege than black woman, and black men less than white. For both men and women of color, the “77 cents” deal is unfortunately not the case. According to AAUW, for every dollar a man makes, the black woman makes 63 cents. That’s 37 percent less than a non-hispanic white man. Think about it this way: a black woman has to work for an extra eight months to be paid what said white man was paid at the end of December. So what exactly is the cause of this?

Well, statistically…

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Catcalling: Two Sides to the Story?

In my previous article “Compliment or Catcall”, I addressed the issues of catcalling, why it is done, why it shouldn’t happen, and its effects on women. Which made me wonder-what happens when the roles are reversed and women are catcalling men?

Do men like the attention and respond positively to it, or do they feel objectified and uncomfortable like many women do?

Earlier this year, a shopping mall in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, reported 16 cases of sexual harassment of men by women, prompting outrage in the conservative kingdom. Men were followed around the mall and catcalled in a growing trend that is challenging gender roles in the Middle Eastern kingdom. Many said the women should be punished severely, to ensure that this kind of behaviour doesn’t happen again. According to one male shopper, “Women harass men verbally for emotional enticement, especially if the man is handsome.” This issue was unexpected. However, the amount of sexual harassment of women and girls still vastly overshadows the limited harassment of men, and we don’t see that being brought to light every time it happens.

Malaika Norman, a high school student from Nairobi has an opinion on this issue. She brings up an interesting idea about where this double-standard might stem from: “Some men are hypocritical in the way they do things. The same men that you will find catcalling women are the same men that if you ask ‘What if someone did this to your mother, sister, etc?’, they will be against it, as they see clearly it is disrespectful and that a woman is not to be objectified. Yet they are the same people who still do it. Does it start from the way boys are raised? And how does that play into their actions now? Shouldn’t boys [and girls] be taught to be respectful and understanding human beings in general? As the one time a woman stands up for the disrespect that men of this class dish out, we are rude, bossy, crazy feminists.”

Many social experiments have been performed in order to uncover what men think and feel about catcalling. In videos titled “Sons React to Their Moms Getting Catcalled”, “Dads React to Their Daughters Getting Catcalled” and “Men React to Their Girlfriends Getting Catcalled,” we see that the issue can hit close to home, and that most males did not like it when those close to them were victims of this disrespect. However, catcalling shouldn’t only become disturbing when it happens to someone’s mother, daughter, sister or girlfriend. Shining a light on the commonness of street harassment women experience on a daily basis (often when a male friend or loved one isn’t around) can have a powerful impact.

In other social experiments, such as “The Shame Game”, we see that flipping round catcalling doesn’t quite work in the same way. The reactions that the women conducting the experiment get ranged from confused to amused, and – unfortunately – the men seemed to like it.

So, women are in a conundrum; it is hard to explain the combination of shame and being “creeped out” that comes with frequent objectification, especially when you are trying to explain the experience to the opposite sex, and if most people of the opposite sex (i.e. men) seem to like it.

Ivan Coyote, a transgender activist, has a message for men who don’t understand that a woman’s existence in public is not an invitation for male attention. “Just leave her alone,” Coyote wrote in a status on Facebook. “She is wearing her headphones AND reading her book at the bus stop. What part of that says ‘I want to talk to you?’ She’s not dressed up for you…She doesn’t want to smile. She knows she looks good.”

So when in doubt, people of public spaces, just follow Coyote’s advice: “Just leave her alone.” We need more people to spread the word and understand this simple message. You might like catcalling and being catcalled, but that doesn’t mean others feel the same way.

Respect.

Shaming Nature

This article is about period shaming, and why we shouldn’t be ashamed of something so natural. The irony is that while writing this article, I felt cautious and tentative, as if I shouldn’t be writing about this because the chances are high that someone (of the male persuasion) will read this. Menstruation is a natural and necessary biological function. It is not something we can change, and despite all the symptoms and physical discomfort, it is not something we would want to change. Menstruation is healthy; a woman’s cycle can indicate health problems such as hormone imbalance, bones thyroid and metabolic wellness, fertility, and emotional wellness. It is part of living a healthy natural life.

Despite the health benefits of menstruation and its necessary existence in order to cleanse our bodies of waste, girls are often taught to not talk about their periods. We are taught that it is something to hide, something shameful. We are taught to carry our tampons and pads in small bags so they will not be seen. We learn to never talk about something so natural with any man or boy. We learn to try our best to not let the symptoms show (like we can control the pain). And the worst thing we can possibly do is have that stain of blood on our clothes because we forgot, or the cycle is irregular. When we sit in class, and Aunty Flo comes for a surprise visit, we ask our male teacher if we can go to the bathroom; he says no. So, we have a choice: we can wait and stain our clothes and feel uncomfortable until class ends, or we can tell our male teacher what’s going on, and how we actually can’t wait. More often than not, we pick the first option, because it’s more embarrassing to tell the truth, and because it’s awkward to see that super uncomfortable look on his face. What’s wrong with this picture?

In some cultures, the women of the community are banished to a cowshed (or another animal dwelling) during their periods, simply because for three to five days they are considered impure, dirty, and unlucky. Why? Because they were born female, and consequently go through menstruation.

All of this shaming occurs because men are uncomfortable with menstruation. Somehow the world assumes that because men don’t have periods, it is unnecessary to educate them on how periods work, and why women have them. But men need to know because the world is not only made up of men. And we need men to understand periods so that we do not have to walk around on eggshells trying not to show, or talk about something so natural.

Women cannot prevent, or stop menstruation from happening – if it happens, it happens. And, it’s not going to stop happening until menopause. Children- both male and female – need to be taught about menstruation, because regardless of your sex, menstruation will affect either yourself, someone you care about, or someone you are around on a regular basis. Menstruation is a natural bodily function for women. Why are we shaming nature? 

Compliment or Catcall?

Catcalling is defined as a whistle, shout, or a sexual move/comment towards a person (especially a woman) walking by in public. This atrocious remark (or noise) is often structured in a way that makes it seem like a compliment. Well, at least this may seem to be the case to the one who isn’t receiving it. The comment generally says something about the woman’s physical appearance: “Nice legs!” or, “Hey, sexy!”,  objectifying women as walking sexual objects. What is the goal here? Why do men do it? Women’s bodies are not public property awaiting validation from men.

The idea that women should appreciate catcalling implies that it is done with respect. It indicates that when a guy sees a girl walking down the street and shouts something at her about her body, he’s doing so because he thinks it will make her day better. This theory is laughable! Guys catcall because they think it will somehow lead to them getting attention or having sex. This is disrespectful, and it continues even though many girls complain about it. If it were meant to respect women, then men would, naturally, also respect women’s views on this practice; it would stop.

I’m not saying that girls who enjoy getting catcalled are wrong or have low self-esteem. Some people are rightfully proud of their looks and enjoy the attention. Although, it is important that they shouldn’t trick themselves into thinking that the catcall means something that it doesn’t.

People, if you actually genuinely want to get the attention of a woman walking down the street, perhaps you could try this: catch up to her, and in a polite non-threatening or creepy way tell her, “I’m sorry to disturb you, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful you are and I’d love the opportunity to get to know you. Would you like to get a coffee with me someday?”

The hashtag #FirstTimeIWasCatcalled is proof that some experiences are universal. Alanna Vagianos, Women’s Editor for The Huffington Post, wrote about her first time being catcalled in this article when she was 16, and almost 10 years later, she still remembers that day, what she was wearing, and the shame she felt.

The stories shared by the women using this hashtag on Twitter, and the story of feminist actress Rowan Blanchard, show us that this distasteful experience is all too common for women. Emotional damage can be done at a young age; innocence can be lost.

Issues like catcalling, dress code and sexism are sometimes regarded as topics that are not the most important when compared to others. People who write about them are deemed to be overly sensitive, and that is frustrating. Why don’t people understand the importance of these topics? Maybe they don’t know about how girls have learned, by instinct or trial and error, how to minimize an uncomfortable situation.

We have all ignored or laughed off an offensive or inappropriate comment. Maybe people don’t know that we have had to brush off adult men staring at our breasts at a young age. Maybe they don’t know that we pretend not to notice. We suppress our anger and fear, as we would rather not deal with confrontation so often. We don’t talk about it everyday, or name it. We don’t even consider that other girls are doing the same thing – mastering the art of acquiescing.

Women can ignore catcalling and mostly don’t react, as that will only serve to satisfy the person calling for attention and just be a waste of time. But they still hear it. Catcalling is a demeaning manipulative act, as not only are women being objectified and stared at; but comments are being yelled at them about the way they look. Do people think this practice is really increasing women’s self-esteem?

Here’s an interesting video that debates this issue of Catcalling…

What do you think? Compliment or Catcall?

Who Writes History? The Gender Gap

Is the significance of women’s roles throughout the course of history diminished in education? Some people claim that history was written primarily by men and for men. Few of the textbooks used in history education are written or edited by women. And yet, there are groups that still disagree with the opinion that there is gender bias in today’s history classrooms. They hold to the opinion that many of the leaders in the past were men and it is therefore natural for these curricula to focus more attention on men than women.

It is important to remember that written history is not based only on facts, but also on the views of those who write it. Furthermore, our perception of what has happened in our past is important because it is reflected in how we experience the present. The way we see the role of women in history, therefore, does matter in the current debates concerning gender equality.

In speaking with some students at my school, Rosslyn Academy, opinions varied on the perception (or lack thereof) regarding gender bias in history education. I posed the question “In your experience, do you believe that there is gender bias in history education?” to ten girls and ten boys. Interestingly, seven out of the ten girls thought that the history education they receive shows gender bias, whereas only two out of the ten boys think so. Boys, generally, did not seem to see anything problematic in the history they’ve been taught, while girls answered very differently.

Johanna French, a history teacher at Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi, says that her history teachers and professors of both genders were intentional in talking about women in history. I asked her about the books she uses in her classes, which I have noticed to contain quite a few documents and statements made by women, and she said “The books are good and also [intentionally] include women, but sometimes you still need other sources and documentaries that shed more light on women’s perspectives and experiences.”

Textbooks used in schools are not always the most recently updated versions, and the process for bringing in new research findings to the school education seems to be a slow process. Ms. French also says that “so much of history has been written by men that sometimes little attention is given to women acknowledging what they have done [throughout history] – including being some of the first writers and scribes in ancient Sumer and Mesopotamia. An interesting event in the US this week was about the idea of putting women on the new US dollar bills – like Harriet Tubman and Eleanor Roosevelt.” Evidently, people are opening their eyes to the roles that women have played throughout recorded history, and their importance in the stories we tell. However, a large part of history seems to be seen through men’s eyes.

What are some possible effects of a skewed perception of history? Perhaps there is a fine line between historical accuracy (because human history is dominated by men) and the diminishing of women’s roles. What we can hope for is further development of history education, and a greater diversity among the people working with it. Only then, perhaps, can the stories of our world’s women be told.