29-year old Iranian artist Atena Farghadani is currently facing 12 years and 9 months in prison after being arrested for her cartoon depicting the Iranian government as animals (image below). According to The Independent, Farghadani drew the cartoon in response to the Iranian government’s plans to outlaw voluntary sterilization and restrict access to contraception.
She will also be charged at a later date for shaking the hand of her lawyer, Mohammad Moghimi, when he visited her in prison shortly after her trial. According to the same article, “This led to them being charged with ‘indecent conduct’ and having an ‘illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery.’”
It is difficult to understand the laws and cultural beliefs of countries outside of the Western world that do not share our collective beliefs. However in this situation, I believe the government is acting out of oppression rather than cultural belief. According to Elise Auerbach, the Iran country specialist at Amnesty International, and as quoted by the Huffington Post, “The laws on the books in Iran are a kind of arsenal or tool kit always available for use by the authorities in their efforts to suppress any form of expression they don’t approve of.”
It is difficult to follow the trial, as the global media has not yet addressed it on a large scale. If you’re interested in reading more about this story, you can look at these articles by the Washington Post and Cartoonists Rights.
If you want to get more involved in the campaign to free Farghadani, Cartoonists Rights have contact information for Iran’s permanent mission to the United Nations here, you can look at Amnesty International’s campaign, and you can look at the Facebook page.
NOTE: No images or articles mentioned in this post are our own, and are all linked to their corresponding sources. The image above is not our own, and is from here.
The Eastern Connecticut State University Women's Center and Campus Activities Board hosted the Palestinian American comic Maysoon Zayid on 11/4, and I found myself quickly converted to a fan. Zayid held one of the most influential TED Talks ever and was also the first person to preform standup in Israel and Jordan. Zayid also co-founded the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival.
Zayid also has Cerebral Palsy, but isn't a Palsy Comic, she's a comic who just happens to have Palsy.
Forbes calls her one of the global faces of feminism, and they're right, but mostly, she's just hilarious. Zayid serves as a massive inspiration to feminists, and I highly suggest following her on twitter @MaysoonZayid or visiting her website or Facebook page
***WARNING: This post may contain themes and/or content that is triggering to some readers. Use caution when reading.***
I recently saw a video on YouTube (shown below), called “Extreme Domestic Abuse in Public! (Social Experiment)” by MoeandET. The video outlines a social experiment that involves two parts; the first with a male “abusing” a female in public, and the second with a female “abusing” a male in public.
The first part (from 0:18 to 1:44) went as you would expect; people were very quick to intervene when the male was pushing the female around and yelling at her. Even with people reacting so quickly to recognize and intervene in the situation, domestic abuse is still very common for women in the U.S.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), a woman in the U.S. is beaten or abused every 9 seconds. That’s about 6 women every minute, 400 women every hour, and 9,600 women every day. 1 in 3 women have been victims (or will be victims) of physical violence (of some type) by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. And, on average, national domestic violence hotlines receive more than 20,000 a day.
The second part of the video (from 1:49 to 3:41) was a lot more disturbing. In the second part, the two roles were reversed, and the female began yelling at and hitting the male (a different male this time). I wasn’t surprised to see that no one interfered this time, and some onlookers were even smiling.
That’s the problem. When a women is abused by a man, people are more likely to take it seriously (in terms of intervention and recognition) than when a man is abused by a woman. NCADV estimates that 1 in 4 men have been (or will be) victims of violence (of some type) in their lives. In case that doesn’t shock you (which it should), I’ve compared domestic abuse statistics between men and women below (all from NCADV);
While there is an disproportionate number of female domestic abuse victims, men are still victims too. In order for our society to accept this reality, we need to abandon existing gender stereotypes and the notion that all men are and must be “masculine” and that “masculinity” is not subject to abuse. (Basically treat female and male victims of assault with the same respect and understanding.)
(If you, or someone you know, is a victim of domestic abuse, you can look at the following resources for help:
-Find a domestic shelter near you here
-Plan ahead here
-Call the Domestic Abuse Hotline at one of these numbers; 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224)
But most importantly, always call 9-1-1 is you’re genuinely afraid for your life (and/or your pet’s, family’s, and/or children’s lives).
NOTE: We are not affiliated with the YouTube channel or video featured in this post. We are also not affiliated with NCADV, and all quotes and statistics in this post were taken from their website.
A few months ago, the youngest member of the Kardashian clan posted the following picture and caption to her Instagram account with the caption, “I woke up like disss.”
Kylie Jenner, then 17-years old, received a lot of criticisms on the look. But one comment stood out from the rest. Actress Amandla Stenberg, best known for her role as Rue in the first Hunger Games film, wrote the following comment (screenshot courtesy of The Shadow Room and here).
Even now, months later, the media is still reporting on this “cat fight” between the two celebrities. And, of course, the media is focused on pitting the two against each other, rather than writing about the real root of the problem; the treatment of black culture and women by white culture.
In response to the backlash Stenberg received for her comment, she posted the following tweet to her Twitter.
Stenberg also explained herself in this YouTube video, entitled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows.”
Stenberg’s comment wasn’t a criticism of Jenner (at least not entirely). It was directed at the racism in America that still prevails to this day. Where PoC are looked down on for wearing dreadlocks (or locs), but white people are praised. Where PoC are devalued for wearing their hair in braids, but celebrities like Jenner (and many others) are hailed as fashion icons for their “new” styles. Stenberg is targeting a system that repeatedly diminishes the accomplishments [and fashions] of non-white populations, and then praises those same accomplishments [and fashions] when worn my white celebrities.
This is not a personal attack on Jenner or other white celebrities that appropriate and exploit black culture. Stenberg has been one of many young WoC to comment on the system. Another strong voice on this issue is Zendaya Coleman, who was a victim of this same mindset when she wore her hair in faux-locs to the Oscars. You can read about that here if you’re unfamiliar. Zendaya responded in a similar fashion as Stenberg, taking to her Twitter to address the issue.
Stenberg’s outrage wasn’t over Jenner’s hair, but the ignorance she displayed when confronted about her appropriation of black culture and lack of response to black issues. I agree with Stenberg whole-heartedly. So many celebrities benefit from appropriating other cultures, taking different aspects to make “edgy” and “new” trends (like Jenner and the cornrows). This would be fine if they also addressed where these trends came from and spoke on behalf of the cultures, but many of them don’t. You cannot take the aspects you like from one culture but not involve yourself with it beyond those aspects.
If you want to read more about Stenberg and her involvement with this issue, Paper Magazine wrote a very interesting article about the event. You can also read this profile on Stenberg and her activism by Mic. I would further suggest following Stenberg’s Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram to see what else she’s involved in and follower her efforts.
Halloween is a beloved holiday in the United States among all age groups. Costumes, candy, and, consumption; it’s the trifecta of American holidays. But what happens when the costumes go too far, and cross the line between acceptable and offensive? That’s when cultural appropriation comes in.
Cultural appropriation is taking aspects of one culture (traditions, clothing and costumes, beliefs) and exploiting them in your culture for your personal gains. A common form of cultural appropriation is when mainstream culture, which in the U.S. is white/European culture, takes aspects of different cultures from people they’ve colonized or oppressed. Cultural appropriation if harmful because it enforces negative stereotypes, mocks and disrespects “nonwhite” cultures, undermines populations of people who have already been taken advantage of and suffered from colonialism and oppression, it has the potential to inflict violence against certain population, and it alienates cultures.
But isn’t there a way to incorporate aspects of one culture into another in a safe and harmless way? There is, and that’s called cultural appreciation. Cultural appreciation is a mutual sharing of cultures. It is difficult to distinguish between appropriation and appreciation, but these matters should be approached carefully. For more information, I suggest looking at this article from Everyday Feminism, Zendaya’s expanation , and this article from the Huffington Post. Cultural appropriation is especially rampant during Halloween, when children and young adults are dressing in costumes. Wearing costumes is my favorite part of Halloween because it allows you to be as creative and crafty as you want. But sometimes costumes go too far. Have you ever seen someone (or done this yourself), dressed as a Native American or “Mexican”? While these costumes may not seem outwardly offensive, they are prime examples of cultural appropriation.
I’ve found some examples of popular Halloween costumes that appropriate different cultures.
Native American Costumes
One of the most popular Halloween costumes in the United States are Native Americans. Women especially like to dress as Native “princesses,” wearing short fringe dresses and their hair in braids. It may seem like a good idea to dress as a Native American for Halloween on the outside, but doing so is extremely racist.
Check out the costumes I found below from Party City, Halloween Costumes, and Costume Supercenter.
While dressing as a Native American may make you feel creative and worldly, it has very harmful stereotypes against Native men and women. According to this presentation by Victoria Ybanez, Native American women are more than 2x likely to be raped than women of any other race/ethnicity. 1 in 3 American/Alaskan Native women will be raped in their lifetime. Native women are 50% more likely to be the victims of violent crime than black males aged 12 and over. And, 1 in 33 Native men will be a victim of attempted or completed rape in his lifetime. More statistics can be read here in a report from the Futures Without Violence organization.
Look at the phrasing used to describe the costumes above. One says, “In many Native American tribes, women were extremely powerful. They were engaged in warfare and participated in politics, which Europeans viewed as male-oriented activities. If you’re more interested in war than basket-weaving, then you’ll love staging an attack in this Sexy Cherokee Warrior Indian Adult Costume!” Another description was even worse; “No wonder the British refused to leave. One look at you, and they were sold on this place now called America. Sure, things could have gone differently, but even the Trojan War started over a beautiful woman.”
Women wearing the costumes are also exploited, as many of the costumes offer little coverage and add to the sexualization of both Native women AND the woman wearing the costume. These costumes aren’t “cute”; they’re racist and degrading. With costumes like these, it’s no wonder Native women are more likely to be victims of sexual assault than women from any other race/ethnicity.
Additionally, feathers and paint have symbolic meaning in Native culture. It’s extremely disrespectful to wear them, with no knowledge about their symbolism, for the sake of a costume. So please refrain from dressing as a Native this Halloween season, whether you’re male or female. If you need further proof that dressing as a Native American for Halloween is a bad idea, check out this Tumblr.
Mexican and Dia des los Muertos Costumes
Another culture the mainstream U.S. appropriates during Halloween is Mexico. Many people like to dress as racist interpretations of Mexicans or “illegal aliens.” Check out the two costumes below from Costume Craze and Amazon.
These two costumes promote harmful stereotypes poking fun at Mexicans. The costumes show Mexicans as riding donkeys, carrying guns, wearing nothing but sombreros and ponchos, and having the “iconic Mexican” moustache. These costumes are literally parodying Mexican people (“This funny Hey Amigo Mexican Costume…”). Being Mexican is not something to parody and make fun of. The woman in the second costume is also being sexualized, similarly to the Native American women costumes, and can lead to violence against Mexican women.
Mexican and “illegal alien” costumes make light of a very harsh reality for thousands of illegal immigrants from Mexico. It is very easy to joke about a life-or-death situation when you are very privileged within the safety of your home country. You can read more about “chola” style and the harms of appropriating Mexican culture with this article from The Guardian.
Many people in the U.S. also appropriate the important Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Dia de los Muertos is a festival where Mexican and Latino populations honor their dead relatives and friends. This celebration is a very important cultural experience for these populations, which you can read more about here. Check out the below costume from Amazon.
When people in the U.S. wear sugar skull makeup and dress up for Day of the Dead as a part of their costumes, with no understanding of the cultural significance behind these traditions, it is very offensive. It may be fun to wear sugar skull makeup, but if you have no connection to the actual culture and are only exploiting it for your own benefit, that’s cultural appropriation. You can read more about the harmful effects here, here, and here.
Black Culture Costumes
Black culture is another commonly appropriated culture during Halloween in the U.S. Even though it may seem blatantly obvious that dresses as an “African” is offensive (and crossing a line), there are still people in the U.S. that do not understand it’s offensive. Check out images below from Bossip http://bossip.com/859181/race-matters-white-teens-in-blackface-costumes-respond-to-backlash-from-black-community-worry-about-finding-your-dad/, Racism Review http://www.racismreview.com/blog/2013/10/31/whats-up-with-racism-and-halloween/, and Amazon http://www.amazon.com/California-Costumes-Womens-Ghetto-Fab/dp/B003Y8YQN2.
The above “costumes” are racist for many reasons. The first image incorporates blackface, which has historical racist connotations (and is never okay). According to the website,
“Every immigrant group was stereotypes on the music hall stage during the 19th Century, but the history of prejudice, hostility, and ignorance towards black people has insured a unique longevity to the stereotypes. White America’s conceptions of Black entertainers were shaped by minstrelsy’s mocking caricatures and for over one hundred years the belief that Blacks were racially and socially inferior was fostered by legions of both white and black performers in blackface.”
The second image makes a joke of a very serious issue among the African-American community; violence against black Americans (especially from the police). The costume makes light of Trayvon Martin’s death, a 17-year old boy killed in his Florida neighborhood in 2012. You can read more about his murder here.
The third image mocks the natural hair movement, which emphasizes that eurocentric beauty and hair standards are not the only hair standards. “Ghetto” wigs mock black women who wear their hair natural as a way to rebel against dominant society and its unrealistic expectations for them. Remember that white American culture has a long and violent history of exploiting African Americans.
Don’t be part of the problem this Halloween. If you want to read more on the issue, try here and here.
Geisha costumes are highly offensive to Asian cultures because they not only lead to the sexualization of the women wearing the costumes, and the fetishization of Asian women, but they also undermine the cultural significance of Geishas. According to this article, Geishas are very important entertainers. Contrary to popular Western beliefs, Geishas are not prostitutes, and do not engage in paid sex.
Look at the below Geisha costumes, and recognize that they are both racist and highly sexualized. The costumes are from Halloween Costumes, Fancy Dress Shack, and Halloween Costumes.
Sexualizing Geishas (and Asian women) has lead to serious culture consequences. According to the Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, 41-61% of Asian women have reported physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. In addition, Asian women are increasingly fetishized, leading to increasing statistics in violence and sexual assault. Read more about the effects of sexualizing and fetishizing Asian and Pacific Islander women with the websites listed above.
You may feel “sexy” or “exotic” dressing as a Geisha, but you’re actually misconstruing and disrespecting a centuries old culture with traditions your education system never bothered to teach you about. So put something else on, your ignorance is showing.
Arab or “Terrorist” Costume
Again, it may seem obvious that dressing as a “terrorist” is a bad choice for Halloween, but there are still people out there who disagree. Muslims and Arabs are an entire population of people that are already alienated by Western culture.
Check out the below costumes from Amazon and Amazon.
There are many, many things wrong with the costumes above. In regards to the male costume, it simply mocks Arabic and Muslim clothing. The entire culture is seen as a costume, dehumanizing its people and making them easier target for violence and aggressions.
The female costume is even more offensive because it not only sexualizing the woman wearing it, but it also completely disrespects female Muslim attire. Many Muslim and Arabic women (and women of that culture) choose to wear the headscarf, which is very much a part of their religion and culture. This costume mocks the burqa, and makes light of the fact that many Muslim women do not have a choice in wearing it (however, it is noted that not all Muslim women are forced to wear the burqa).
Additionally, these costumes help add to the growing Islamophobia in the United States and other Western countries. This is a very serious issue, and dressing as a “terrorist” for Halloween may seem innocent enough, but it have very ingrained cultural connotations. Even if you disagree with violence and discrimination against Muslims, you are adding to the increased violence and aggression against Muslims and Arabs living in Western countries.
You can find out more about the growing Islamophobia in the U.S. (and other Western countries) here and here. Do not underestimate this problem, as it has grown more serious in recent years.
And these are only some examples of racist Halloween costumes. In short, do not appropriate other cultures for the sake of a Halloween costume. If you need help determining if your costume is appropriating another culture, try reading this article for more costume suggestions. Halloween is a fun tradition in the U.S. that you have every right to take part in, but not at the sake of someone else’s culture.
Don’t be that person.
Note: all photos are not our own and belong to the listed source. We are not trying to degrade the companies that make and sell these costumes, we just believe that consumers should vote with their wallets and not support costumes as offensive as these and then maybe they wouldn't be profitable to sell. Just please don't sue us.
When we think about women’s issues in the world, we often think about the wage gap in the United States, or maybe bride burnings in India and gendercide in China. We think of all the big picture issues, which, yes, are very important, but we often overlook the little issues. These little issues are just as important, because they are easier to address than widespread female genitalia mutilation (FGM) in Kenya. Over a year ago, on April 14, 2014, more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram from Chibok, Nigeria. This kidnapping, while not uncommon in the country, received global media attention (as it should). According to a New York Times piece published back in April of 2015 by Adam Nossiter, “The majority [of the kidnapped girls remain missing, forced into ‘marriage’ by their captors, forced to cook and do chores for them, or killed by them.”
But this kidnapping happened more than a year ago, why is it still relevant? While it is also disheartening to learn that a terrorist group has kidnapped and killed large groups of civilians, it is especially saddening to learn that girls and women were primary targets. The 200+ schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria show that 1) being a woman in the world is still hard, and you are more likely to be targeted by political agendas and extremities, 2) that even going to school can’t protect you from dangers, and may even deter you from receiving your education, and 3) the world will soon forget about you because you are only 200+ Nigerian girls from a continent the world sees little hope for.
Nigeria is in a particularly vulnerable state. With a history of political upheaval and instability, its history may seem interchangeable with any other African country (especially when looking from a Western perception of Africa). Boko Haram, like so many Islamist terrorist groups in Africa, has terrorized the country for years. The terrorist organization is believed to be responsible for the kidnapping of more than 2,000 girls and women in Nigeria, according to Amnesty International.
But wait, haven’t these girls been found already? Aren’t they home safe? Even a year later, with the Nigerian government working to further combat Boko Haram and take back their northern territories, the girls are still missing. What’s even worse, however, is that even more women and girls have been taken and freed since the kidnapping. Nigeria is in a rut, a continuous cycle where girls and women are kidnapped, and while the government is searching for these people, they stumble upon even more girls and women who were kidnapped months or years prior.
I know that for me, a female attending college right now, this story really hit home a year ago. I followed the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign until it sputtered out of the mainstream line of vision last April, and have been increasingly searching for more updates on the girls. It is sickening to imagine these children being forced into marriages or sold into sexual slavery, instead of furthering their educations and lives as they intended. I can not even begin to understand the sorrow their families feel, and the families of every victim.
What can we do to help these girls, and all the other men, women, and children taken by Boko Haram? Remember them. Continue to bring awareness to their kidnappings. Keep pressure on the Nigerian government to continue to search for them. Show Nigeria that the world is still watching, and discourage the actions of Boko Haram (although I doubt that will have much effect). Do not forget the 200 girls taken from Chibok, even if you don’t know where that is or who the girls were. The worst thing you can do is forget them.
Frida Kahlo is one of the most recognizable female Mexican painters in the world. She is best known for her self-portraits and prominent unibrow, challenging white and Eurocentric beauty standards. She is remembered as both a feminist icon and Mexican activist in addition to her status as an artist.
It is perfectly acceptable to admire and love the art of Kahlo, as she was very talented and had a lot to say about America, Mexico, and women. But honoring her through t-shirts and other material possessions is not the best way to immortalize her ideas. Every time I see Frida’s face peeking out from under a rolled-up pant leg or from in between a cardigan, I get annoyed. These people who claim to love her so much that they wear her face on their clothing or have large cheap reproductions of her paintings on their walls are forgetting one her most valuable beliefs; Kahlo detested capitalism.
She hated everything about it, and its inequality and pettiness. One of her paintings, entitled “My Dress Hangs There” (1933) was created in New York when she travelled there with her husband, Diego Rivera, for one of his mural. According to a website dedicated to her art;
“After more than three years of staying in America, Frida started wanting to go back to Mexico desperately. But her husband, Diego Rivera, was enjoying the fame and popularity he got from this country and didn’t want to go back. This painting is the result of this conflict. Frida Kahlo was trying to depict the superficiality of American capitalism. This painting is filled with the icons of modern industrial society of United States but implied the society was decaying and the fundamental human values are destructed.” (from FridaKahlo.org)
While Tumblr is not always a credible source, and can be very biased, I found that the community has addressed this issue very well. When searching the tag “Frida Kahlo,” you can find a lot of posts from users articulating why you shouldn’t buy merchandise with Kahlo’s face on it. Check out the following quote from user proletariangothic:
“Frida Kahlo disliked white capitalism intensely, so I would recommend not buying images of her on socks or whatever from big box stores especially if you’re white. What I would recommend instead is make your own art and design inspired by her. She taught underprivileged teenagers art in the years leading up to her death. Her class was multicultural due to Mexico accepting refugees from WW2 including Jewish people (she herself was half German Jewish). She was very pro DIY and I think would’ve been flattered by fan art that’s not sold for money.”
Long story short, if you actually care and admire Kahlo, stop buying merchandise with her face on it! You don’t need to wear a shirt with her face on it or socks with some bizarre portrait of her on them to let people know you like her. So throw your Frida socks out right now, because you’re not doing her any favors by buying her “merchandise.” If anything, make your own. That’s what Kahlo would really admire!
Note: The photograph of Kahlo’s painting was found here and is definitely not ours
Many people, especially privileged populations from developed countries (i.e. Americans), believe slavery ended long ago, not only in the U.S., but globally. Few people know that slavery is still very much alive in several parts of the globe, like in Pakistan, although it is known by a different name there.
My attention was first brought to ‘bonded labor’ through the Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page. HONY has made a campaign with activist Syeda Ghulam Fatima to raise funds for her work to end bonded labor.
Before I get too ahead of myself, what is ‘bonded labor,’ and why is it so important that it is stopped? No one could explain it better than HONY in their first of seven posts spotlighting the issue.
“I want to conclude the Pakistan series by spotlighting a very special change agent who is working to eradicate one of the nation’s most pressing social ills. Over 20,000 brick kilns operate in Pakistan, supported by millions of workers, and the system is largely underpinned by an extremely close cousin of slavery—bonded labor. Throughout rural Pakistan, illiterate and desperate laborers are tricked into accepting small loans in exchange for agreeing to work at brick kilns for a small period of time. But due to predatory terms, their debt balloons, growing larger as time goes on, with no possibility of repayment, until these laborers are condemned to work for the rest of their lives for no compensation. If the laborer dies, the debt is passed on to his or her children. The practice is illegal. But due to the extreme power and wealth of brick kiln owners, the law is often unenforced in rural areas. It is estimated that well over one million men, women, and children are trapped in this modern feudalist system.” - from the Humans of New York Facebook page, written by the creator of the page Brandon Stanton
HONY continues with six stories from men and women trapped in the bonded labor system, forced to work off an ever-increasing debt that will passed onto their children. With 20,000 brick kilns across Pakistan, HONY estimates more than 1.4 million people and their families are enslaved through bonded labor. Laborers are beaten, exploited, and sold by the kiln owners, whom are very rich and powerful.
To help raise awareness for this growing issue, which is very often swept under the rug by the global (and even Pakistani) media, HONY has helped raise awareness (and funds) for Fatima, who is described as a “modern day Harriet Tubman,” as HONY credits her.
If you are interested in reading about Fatima, who is an incredible woman who has done incredible things to bring attention to and help end bonded labor in Pakistan, more can be read on her fundraising page . And consider donating to her cause, as she helps eradicate the debts of bonded laborers and their families. Let’s help Fatima help even more laborers, and start similar movements in Nepal and India (where some bonded labor exists as well).
The six laborer profiles HONY wrote about and published on their accounts are linked below;
***NOTE: We are no way associated with HONY or Fatima, and definitely do not take credit for any of the quotes or posts linked in this piece!