Kifah Shah (via wendesgray)
This gave me goosebumps.(via feminishblog)
100% agree… Even at 29 and fully aware of my individual value, I struggle to disassociate myself from this cultural construct of how I must behave and how I must live my life. Sometimes it’s easy… Some times the pressure to conform is ridiculous.
Barack Obama, 1/21/13 (via think-progress)
(Sorry, haven’t used that in a long time!)
Obama NAILED it… but now I want to see some action. I want to see leadership from him; I want to see him come out of those gates fighting (I may have muddled my metaphors there…). I want him to turn that stereotype of a ‘Two Term President’ (i.e. Lame Duck) on it’s head, think of his legacy and demand that these issues be resolved, or at least receive some serious attention.
He has to know that he embodies people’s hope and that, to date, he hasn’t achieved an eighth of what was expected of him. Of course he’s human, and he has to play the game, but he also has the power to change the game, change the conversation (that’s a lot of metaphors!), and achieve something real and tangible. Change that everyone can believe in.
I have been reading Kat Banyard’s The Equality Illusion, and though I found myself nodding vigourously throughout (seriously, I thought my head and neck were going to come apart at one point!), the following two quotes really stood out to me;
“Women and girls in every society have less access to opportunities, resources and political power than men and boys – not because of sex, but because of gender”
“…at some point in human history the concept of female inferiority was woven into the very fabric of how we see ourselves, how we treat each other, and how we organize society”.
They highlight for me the social constructivist nature of sexism. Though superficially it might seem like these prejudices are based on our genitalia, in reality they are based on a distinction between boys and girls, men and women that doesn’t exist naturally. We create that divide; we dictate what boys must play with (guns), what colours our children must like (pink for girls; blue for boys); we allow men to be paid more than women of equal standing; we do all of this. And only we can change it.
Babies are hard work. I don’t have any, but I have enough friends who do to have realized this. Even in the UK, with our ‘mod cons’ and a million and one toys to distract infants with, babies are hard work.
So imagine what it must be like to bring up a child in an isolated, rural village, where electricity is rationed and water is collected from a communal source; where the majority of the men have migrated to Russia to find work, and the women are responsible for all household chores (in addition to working in the field); where there is no money for toys, even if toys were readily available; imagine how much work a baby is for rural women in Tajikistan.
Historically, Tajik women have cared for infants through the use of a small, low wooden cradle. The wooden bed of the Gavora has a round hole cut in it, approximately 20cm in diameter. It is covered with a mattress, which has a corresponding hole. Traditionally the child is placed in the Gavora at 40 days old, but in practice this can be as young as 7 days. H/she is laid on its back, with its buttocks positioned over the hole. A plastic or wooden pipe, adapted to fit over the infant’s genitalia at the urethra is fixed between the infant’s legs, pointing down through the hole. A ceramic bowl is placed directly beneath the hole, into which the pipe deposits waste. The infant’s legs are then swaddled together. A blanket is placed over the child and his/her lower body is tied into the gavora. The infant’s arms are straightened to its sides and a second binding is tired across its chest to keep it from moving. The gavora is then covered with a cloth to protect the child, and to keep it quiet.
At feeding time, the infant is not removed from the cradle. Instead, its mother leans into the gavora to breastfeed. An infant who has difficulty feeding in this position is often given diluted cow’s milk, tea, water or formula instead. In rural areas, an infant can spend as many as 20 hours a day for much of its first 24 months lying on its back, tied into the gavora. It will not be removed from the cradle if it cries, but is merely rocked back to sleep.
Often older children or grandmothers are given responsibility for the infant, whilst its mother attends to household chores, gathers wood or water, or works in the fields. The gavora affords convenience, and ensures the safety of the child, it is argued. Yet the use of the gavora is linked to poor infant feeding practices. Approximately, 30% of Tajik children are affected by chronic stunting, rickets and vitamin deficiencies. Research is ongoing into the relationship between the gavora and these health issues. There is also a wealth of research which shows the detrimental impact of restricted movement on infant motor and psychosocial development. No wonder then, that INGOs are increasingly concerned about the widespread use of such cradles, not just here in Tajikistan, but across Central Asia.
I find it difficult to express my feelings about this practice; having observed life in rural Tajikistan, I can understand why the gavora is still used. Life here is hard. Anything that makes life a little easier is embraced, particularly when it is perceived as harmless. And the gavora is regarded as such. Rural women do not have access to information on motor development, nor do they have the time to engage in play or interaction which stimulates physical and mental development.
That said, the idea of treating one’s child in such a way fills me with dismay and horror. An infant tied into its cradle, unable to move? It’s seems cruel… And if it seems cruel to me, I can’t imagine how my friends with children would react.
Image courtesy of Google search - origin unknown
The thing I dislike most about this country is the way women here are treated. This is a very patriarchal society and in the years since Independence ‘traditional’ values have re-emerged, dictating that a woman’s place is in the home. Increasingly, girls are dropping out of school before completing secondary education because their parents see little value in educating a girl; she is destined to become a wife and mother, and has no need of education to fulfil such roles. In rural areas, when looking for a bride for their sons, in-laws prefer girls who have not completed their secondary education. It is assumed they will be more malleable, will conform more easily and most importantly, will not argue or stand up for themselves.
Whilst society’s attitude toward women is worrying in itself, what I find horrifying is the attitude of the men. In the 3.5 months that I have been here, I have lost count of the times I have been accosted in the street; been yelled at from passing cars; been openly stared at by men I have walked past. Just last week, whilst walking home from the supermarket, I found myself surrounded by a gang of teenage boys, some of whom proceeded to push me into their friends so said friends could ‘catch’ me (for ‘catch’, see ‘subtly grope me’). I loathe going out on my own here, even to the supermarket, and have got into the habit of waiting until my cupboards resemble Old Mother Hubbard’s before venturing outside.
Now, before anybody accuses me of being hyper-sensitive here, I am well-used to men flirting with me. I have worked in pubs and nightclubs in the UK for nearly 10 years; I learnt long ago to ignore the comments men make about the way I look or dress. Moreover, I love a bit of flirtatious banter, and in all honesty, I enjoy a ‘perv’ as much as the next person. If you’re pretty, male or female, I am going to notice you. It is human nature to notice and appreciate an attractive person. I understand the impulse. It is how you react to that impulse that separates healthy appreciation from skeevy old man syndrome.
What aggrieves me so about these men is their lack of discretion. They will holler at you in the street, and from their cars… They think nothing of walking right up to you, stopping you in the middle of the street, so that they can hit on you. They will stop their conversation and, in a group, turn and stare at you as you walk past. It makes me feel awkward, and reinforces the fact that I am different; blonde, pale-skinned and petite in amongst a sea of dark-haired, dark-eyed and dark-skinned people. But that’s not to say that they stare because I am different; I have been out with female friends (locals) and seen it happen to them.
It makes my skin crawl, these open displays of admiration. I don’t believe my worth to be attached to how attractive I am, and it makes me feel small and insignificant to be reduced to my external characteristics. It also makes me view men in a wholly negative light – why would I trust anyone who places so much emphasis on the way I look, rather than my intelligence or my personality? Why would I spend my precious spare time with someone who views me as a pretty play thing? It’s simple. I just wouldn’t.
So put your eyes back in your head pal, ‘cos it’s not going to happen.
Image: The Sociological Cinema on Pinterest