Friday, September 24, 2010

A Small Request

After a year at a women's college, I've come to realize that I am not a feminist.  I don't understand feminist theory, I don't really care much for complaining about perceived slights, it doesn't really bother me that, in the English language, there is no gender neutral pronoun, and I believe that there are a lot of ways that girls have it easier than boys (not that I agree we're completely equal, just that we all have our challenges in life).

But now I have to clarify.  I, personally, don't believe I've had any significant hardships in my life because of my gender, or even any minor struggles beyond those directly related to menstruation (which I'm not asking anyone to eliminate).  However, I know this isn't true in other areas of the world, and issues of women's rights (to food, to life, to a basic education) are issues that I find myself very attracted to.  Which is why, when my mom sent me this video, I was very much interested.

The video portrays the grim, but not uncommon, realities in the future for adolescent girls in poverty.  While it isn't a scholarly writeup on the situation, and therefore has little evidence to support it's ideas, it offers a solution that many have said may be the way to end poverty in the world: keeping girls in school until they have enough of an education to earn a living for themselves.

It's been found that women in charge of the family's income are more likely to spend the money on things for the family, such as food and necessary health care supplies, while men are more likely to spend money on themselves: at the bar, or on prostitutes.  So a woman may be found on the street, holding her child who's dying of malaria because they couldn't afford a $5 mosquito net... while her husband is spending his $5 on beer.

Keep the girls in school, the video says.  Why aren't they in school, you wonder.  Plenty of reasons.  Perhaps she lives in a country where women simply aren't considered valuable enough to educate.  Maybe her family can't afford it, because all the money the family has is going to food, or beer, or education for the boys.  Or maybe she had to drop out, because she didn't have access to feminine hygienic products and had to stay home every fourth week or so and she was falling too far behind.

So lets find a way to educate our girls.  Maybe some amazing things could happen.  Will you do your part?

(The more I write, the more I wonder if there's really anything I can do.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sleeping to dream about you (and I'm so tired...)

I'm sure many of us understand the sentiment in Jason Mraz's song "Sleeping to Dream".  I've certainly had my days that I can't wait to go to sleep, with the hope that I might dream about someone or something in particular.

But is it possible to make yourself dream about that special someone?  What about using your dreams to solve some problem you're having?  Deirdre Barrett, a psychology professor at Harvard Med, believes it is.  In her interview with Scientific American Mind, Barrett explains dreaming, and techniques for dreaming what you want to dream.

Earlier this week, when I should have been doing my psychology homework, I not-too-accidentally found myself on the Scientific American Mind website, looking for an article that might be more interesting than what I was trying to do.  My long-standing interest in sleep and dreams (and wondering why I have such crazy dreams while many of my friends have none) drew me to this article.

From which I basically learned that if you want to dream about something, you should think about it before you go to sleep.  Even better, Barrett claims, if you have a visual representation of whatever you want to dream about, such as a photo, on your bedside table or somewhere that you can look at it before you go to sleep.

This makes me wonder: if I put a bunch of pictures of people on the wall by my bed, will I have really crazy dreams about them?

(The article also talks about how to know when you're dreaming, and how to influence other people's dreams.  If you're still not interested, you could read about how Tylenol can ease the pain of rejection.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

So Much Food

I go to a women's college.  I work at the school gym.  It's a nice gym, the kind of place you'd have to pay a good deal to have a membership to.  The kind of place that you actually want to spend time at, because the people are friendly, and after two years, the building still looks brand new.  But that's beside the point.

You don't have to go far, especially around here, to hear that low self esteem in women is a problem.  It's a problem that people are aware of and want to try to fix.  At the gym, for instance, we're told to watch out for girls who are working out constantly.  At a dorm meeting, we're asked to keep our living space a "fat talk free zone".

Fat talk, that's what they call it.  The mutters of "I'm so fat.  I eat so much.  I need to go work out."  The phrases which say "I'm not good enough" and hammer in the ideal of thin.

But what is this ideal of thin?  A woman I know who had cancer talks about being complimented on her "amazing body" after treatments had left her nearly skin and bones... and being smart enough to respond with the kinds of chemicals which had been pumped into her body to cause it.

From the sounds of things, fat talk is everywhere.  For some reason, I haven't really heard any of it.  Aside from the quoted "I feel fat and sassy" which my friends and I tend to say to each other after finishing a big meal, I can't actually remember hearing any fat talk since early high school.

Until this morning.  While waiting for my math class to start, I overheard a group of girls, probably freshmen, discussing their plans for the afternoon.  Soon they were discussing working out.

"I don't have any motivation to go work out" one complained.
"Neither do I" said another, and then looked down and put her hands on her stomach.  "But I feel like I've already gained a bunch of weight"
I looked at her.  She looked like she was probably smaller than me (though I tend to make that assessment of people), and I'm under doctors orders to eat as much as I want.
She continued.  "It's not that I don't work out, it's just that I eat so much!"
I found this statement hard to believe.
"Like this morning for breakfast, I had a small bowl of cereal, an english muffin with butter, and some fruit!"
"That is a lot of food."
That is a good balanced breakfast.

Working out is good for you, if you treat it right.  So is eating a large, healthy breakfast.
But really, girls: you're the most beautiful if you are confident.

That said, I'm going to go make myself a very large sandwich.

Friday, September 3, 2010

World on Fire

When I was taking Environmental Science a couple years ago, our teacher showed us this music video for Sarah McLachlan's song "World on Fire".  Which you should watch too.

I should first point out that I have no objection to the music industry.  Or the movie industry, for that matter.  But its easy to forget how much money is involved in something as simple as making a music video: and what kind of a difference it can make elsewhere in the world, if it's in the right hands.

And thanks to this video, I can't watch any of Lady Gaga's music videos without thinking of the colossal waste of money that went into making them.