Month: November 2014

The Dynamics of Love

Yesterday, a friend was sharing her feelings about a person that voiced personal interest in her. She explained that this person wasn’t “her usual type,” and that she was trying to find a sense of attraction because she felt that this person was very genuine and nice and wanted to give them a chance. However, for the meantime, she felt no emotional spark or connection towards the person, and hoped that it would grow over time.

I remember the first time a man sought interest in me; rather, I should mention, the first man that wasn’t a “creep,” nor someone way out of my box of interest. I wasn’t originally into him, but because he was interested in me, I figured I should explore the opportunity and see how things turned out. In the end, I ended up not feeling an emotional attraction to him.

My friend also shared that her only exposure to relationships was through more discreet ways, where the person was not fully committed and open but nevertheless gave in to some account. Similarly, I shared that I am generally always attracted to people that are either unavailable, or not mutually interested.

It reminded me of a scene in the show Scandal; the main character, Olivia Pope, is a woman who has a messy, deceitful relationship with the President and her feelings for him overpowered the other relationships she tried having with other men. When confronted by another character that proposed to her, she expressed that she wanted her love to be painful, complicated, and other harsh words. At the time, this was disturbing to me – who wants love like this? Shouldn’t love be happy?

However, during this conversation, it hit me – I’m only attracted to people in situations of confusion, of complication. I’ve never been into a man, or person, who has showed open and honest interest in me. Why is this? What do I really want, or expect?

About two years ago, I watched a documentary in an anthropology course on the experiences of couples who had arranged marriages. They expressed that, indefinitely, they had no feelings towards one another at the start, but over time they worked to create that connection, they worked to love each other. At the time, this confused me but looking back, I think it is a very valid concept.

When I think about this, I look back at that one relationship I had, and think – should I have worked to have feelings for him? Of course, this was never a serious relationship, but nevertheless I believe part of me was scared that someone could be so open and honest with me. Perhaps part of me was overwhelmed, and wanted to escape the intensity.

Also, it makes me look at future relationships – should I forget having “a type,” and just try anything with anyone? All relationships require work, however the work is also in personal attraction; that once you love someone’s character, the physical flaws disappear. Perhaps the way I love needs to be shifted to a certain degree; I need to better balance initial attraction and personal effort.

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by ZAIN AHMED

image source: https://mosaicsjsu.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/6a178-the-law-of-attraction-manifesting-love.jpg

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On Being “Born into” Gender

In our current, modern-day society, we are growing in queer awareness in our media. We are slowly seeing queer diversity in our TV shows, in journalism, in arts. However, we still have a long way to go in addressing queer diversity in media and mainstream culture.

In a sociology class once, my professor was discussing social roles. He discussed that some roles, we are either born into or cannot change. He then went to explain that gender is a role that people are born into, and that for the most part we can’t change it, although some people are trans*.

I find the idea that people are “born into,” a gender problematic. We have to analyze what “being born into a gender,” really means. What does it imply?

Trans* woman, journalist, and fierce advocate Janet Mock appeared on Piers Morgan’s segment on CNN. They discussed Janet’s journey through childhood and transitioning to female. The initial interview seemed to go well until the show’s producers decided to take the interview out of context by saying Janet was “born a boy,” or “was a boy,” and the worst – “What if the love of your life was actually a boy?” or something along those lines. Janet argued with these statements via twitter.

After Janet appeared on the show again to debate with Piers her arguments, something she spoke stood out to me when asked whether she disputes being born a boy:

“Do I dispute that I was born a boy? I was born a baby who was assigned male at birth. I did not identify or live my life as a boy. As soon as I had enough agency in my life to grow up, I became who I am. And this did not start at 18 when I went to Thailand to have ‘surgery,’ it started when I was six years old, and my parents saw me for who I was and allowed me to live my life. That’s a lot of nuance, and it’s hard to communicate that in 30 seconds or even in a 140 character tweet.”

This idea that people are born and assigned a gender at birth, or given a gender identity, really has opened my eyes. I feel like it speaks very true, that people are never born as a gender, or people are never a distinct gender. It’s simply that people are born and assigned a gender, and then furthermore, socialized into that gender identity and it’s expectations.

It literally scares me how much children are socialized into gender normativity. I volunteer at a children’s community center, and more than most of the time I receive comments like “You talk like a girl,” or “boys aren’t supposed to be like that.” It doesn’t personally offend me, but it makes me realize how much we socialize gender into children. It scares me how strict these norms are, and how marginalized people that don’t fit these norms must be.

Genitalia doesn’t equal gender identity, and also that people aren’t born into a gender. It’s this socialization of gender that creates this belief, and furthermore objectifies and sensationalizes trans* people to merely their body parts.

We as a society need to start thinking about gender differently. Gender is so complex and so fluid, and people live their lives with a combination of different gender identities, gender expressions, and sexual identities. I hope that in the future, we continue to advocate for gender fluidity and erase these oppressive norms of the gender binary.

by ZAIN AHMED

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image source: http://images.catholic.org/ins_news/2013070839.jpg

The Stigma of Erased Histories from Human Rights Leaders

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech in front of Lincoln Memorial in Kentucky to call an end to racism in the United States. This speech was incredibly profound, asking Americans to envision racial solidarity and inclusivity in all types of social and political settings.

Most Americans are taught about this historical moment in the Civil Rights Movement in elementary school social studies classes, and understand some of the realities of racial segregation in the United States; the separation of “white” restaurants, banks, schools, water fountains, public bathrooms, etc; from those that are “colored”, as well as the harassment, brutality, and even death many black citizens faced in the post-American slavery era.

Malala Yousafzai receiving her Nobel Prize this year.

The idea of “equality” is more complex than a majority of people think – the idea that people understand from King Jr.’s speech, the idea of “seeing everyone the same” is not actually what King preaches.

What our education system fails to present to the American people is King’s critique on U.S. military relations and poverty that not only affected American people of color, but also the war on Vietnam at the time.

“… [the Vietnamese people] watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for the one Vietcong-inflicted injury.” (‘Beyond Vietnam’ speech, 1967)

Why isn’t this discussed in our educational system? Why are King’s critiques on military erased when we discussed racial equality? Because it criticizes the motives of our government.

A few weeks ago, Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize. She was a young girl in Pakistan who was shot in the head by the terrorist group, the Taliban, when she advocated for educational rights for young girls. She became a renowned spokesperson for the rights and education of young girls around the world, and a face for intersectional feminism.

Our nation commodifies Malala as a brave, young girl who only wants to do good in the world. She has had a global impact in human rights and women’s rights. However, once again, her message is not fully represented through our nation’s media.

Malala actually actively critiques US drones in Pakistan and the Middle East, US funding in Israel, and also capitalism as a whole – she believes in socialism.

“It is true that when there’s a drone attack the terrorists are killed, it’s true,” she said. “But 500 and 5,000 more people rise against it and more terrorism occurs, and more — more bomb blasts occurs. … I think the best way to fight against terrorism is to do it through [a] peaceful way, not through war. Because I believe that a war can never be ended by a war.” (Huffington Post, 2013)

Although, yes, awareness of Malala’s views and critiques on US war relations and economic theory have spread due to social media, this was not something we had during King’s time. So the question still remains – why are histories that support criticism on the US military and economy continuously silenced?

I think this says a lot about the motives and values of those in high political power in our nation, as well as questions power dynamics in our nation altogether.

Why Racism is Far From Its Demise

“The savage is feeble, and has small organs of generation; he has neither hair nor beard, and no ardor whatever for his female; although swifter than the European because he is better accustomed to running, he is, on the other hand, less strong in body; he is also less sensitive, and yet more timid and cowardly; he has no vivacity, no activity of mind; the activity of his body, is less an exercise, a voluntary motion…” –Thomas Jefferson, On Indians and Negroes

This is a quote from an essay by Thomas Jefferson that I had to read for my humanities class. Reading it broke my heart so profoundly that I could not actually finish the reading; I skimmed it, my eyes latching on to words like the ones in this passage: savage, animal, inhuman, immoral… It is very disconcerting for me to hear about Thomas Jefferson as this incredible emblem of the Enlightenment period and despite that he is still unable to see people of a darker skin color as his equal. It would seem to me that someone who is as intelligent and multifarious as he is would be able to recognize the false nature of biological race. In a way it is endearing to have this narrow mindedness juxtaposed against his intelligence because it humanizes him. But on the other hand, it is extremely frightening to see Jefferson as a hero of American rights, freedom of religion, speech, equality and the like, when his exploration of race in this piece is representative of anything but these aforementioned qualities.

What scares me the most about this mentality is how alive it still is today. Biological race is still very much real, and for some, especially those living in the Bay Area, this is shocking because people like to believe that we are past racism, that we are “above” this narrow-mindedness. This is so far from the truth that it scares me to hear people speak this way. In an essay by Peggy McIntosh entitled White Privilege, she lists forty six privileges that she has as a white person that someone of color would not have. Some of the privileges were that she can be almost guaranteed that her children’s teachers would be the same skin color as her own. She does not have to worry about where she chooses to live and based on whatever decision she makes, she still doesn’t have to worry about her neighbors being mean to her on account of her skin color. She doesn’t have to be the one asked to speak for people of color. When she is told about the history of America, she is shown faces of people of the same skin color as her. People like Jefferson.

Therefore, I would like to offer two points of contention: this white privilege should not be considered privilege: it should be commonplace for all people in America, regardless of creed or skin color or any other physical marker, to have full access to the security McIntosh describes for herself. The fact that it is not proves that racism is anything but dead. I would even argue that it is more alive now because of its sublimity. The second point is that this representation of white people as the heroes and saviors of this country denounces the contributions of those of different skin colors. Even today, media representations of people of color are typically caricatures based on well-known stereotypes. It seems all too obvious to me that this narrow-mindedness in Jefferson’s On Indians and Negroes is still alive today but so many are in denial. Even politicians govern as if race is an issue in a vacuum, as if access to affordable housing, to a sustainable job, to affordable healthcare, are not to an extent dependent on skin color. The colorblind mentality that politicians take detracts from the reality of the experiences based on skin color across the States. Even though I can count the number of times I’ve been a victim of blatant racism on one hand, I still worry for my future children, for my dad, and for my mother, who can’t walk anywhere without receiving imploring, unnecessary stares. This is a subject that is very near and dear to my heart, not because it disgusts me to see “where we used to be” but because I still think we are there.

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image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1e/Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale,_1800.jpg