What Rape Culture Stands For

Remember all those Law and Order SVU episodes that you watched? Feeling gripping anger and fear after the end of every show and then realizing that it’s fictional so you didn’t need to worry about those horrible things happening to you.

Well, it’s not.

One in five women have been a victim of sexual assault on college campus in 2015 in the United States. That is a terrifyingly large number.

It’s overwhelming and shocking to know that so many women do not feel safe inside the place where they go to receive education, where they go to build a future for themselves.

It makes you wonder about the safety of women in one of the most progressive countries of the world. The United States of America proudly leads the world’s economy and dominates international organizations, but yet it fails to provide safety to more than half of its population.

The issue regarding sexual violence against women is, by all means, not directed to USA only. In fact UK and a majority of the Asian countries are also experiencing rape as a growing epidemic.

We have to create an environment where women (and men) feel safe so that they can be more productive, healthy and happy. Safety is one of the most important aspects of life. You cannot expect a person to work to their full potential in a place where they do not feel safe.

We must all stand together to bring an end to rape culture. But for that, we should know what rape culture is.

Rape culture sprouts mainly from victim blaming. A lot of the sexual assault survivors face a few people who ardently believe that the victim herself is responsible for what happened to her. Question like, “Did you invite him into your house?” “What dress were you wearing?” “Were you drunk?” are thrown at the survivor. And there are many people out there who think that these questions are actually relevant and legitimate.

Well guess what, it doesn’t matter what she was wearing, where she was going, who she was going with or whether she had been drinking or not (incapacitated rape does exist!), rape is rape and is always equally punishable under any circumstances.

Nearly 19% of freshmen women said that they had been a victim of attempted or completed rape, either by force or while they were incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health. (src: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/20/living/feat-rape-freshmen-women-new-study/)

Sustenance of Socially Sensitive Vocabulary

The year 2017 is recovering from the political trauma of Trump’s election, the economic trauma of Brexit, and the social trauma of the Syrian Crises. But what most fail to acknowledge is that 2017 is also recovering from the inadequate and inappropriate usage of the English vocabulary.

As far as we have come in terms of technological and educational progress, this has still not reflected in the way that we communicate with each other. Political correctness is yet but a distant dream of free and unrestricted speech.

Somehow words like “depression,” “OCD,” “anxiety,” and “insomnia,” and phrases like “don’t run or cry like a girl,” have seeped into our vocabulary and have become normalized with daily usage.

But what majority of the public fails to realize is that depression and anxiety, etc. are real mental illnesses and more than a billion people have to deal with them. These words should be eliminated in 2017 because their usage trivializes what patients with actual mental disorders go through.

The phrase “don’t run like a girl” or “you throw a ball like a girl” are extremely derogative to women. These imply that female is a weaker gender and that being a girl means that you are automatically weaker than a boy. By using these phrases, we are instilling in the malleable minds of young children that sexism is okay and that women are less equipped to become leaders than men.

The 21st century prides itself in being a major turning point for the way that women are treated in the society; but the usage of these phrases simply perpetuates sexism.

Let 2017 be the time that we change our vocabulary for the better.

A Matter of Opinions

I am unconditionally pro-choice and I am proud to hold this liberal belief. Even though this more often than not means that I have to encounter some nasty situations from people who might think differently than me.

I can remember clearly this one time when I was with a group of my friends. We were laughing over inconsequential things like the latest episode of The Bachelor and eating pizza. And then one of my friend brought that one topic that no one should mention at a casual hangout because it is bound to create a threatening drift amongst the people involved: abortion.

Of course, the group almost immediately split up into those who were pro-choice and those who were pro-life. Unfortunately for me, there was only one person who was pro-choice, and that was me. In the heated and unnerving discussion that followed, I was heavily inclined to compromise what I believed in just so I could avoid the hyperbolic charges from the group of people who were only minutes ago laughing with me.

But thank God, I didn’t. There is only one thing worse than being the only one in a room with a distinctive, controversial opinion, and that is comprising your opinion just to satiate others. (Unless, of course you feel unsafe in voicing your opinion or detect hostility in the environment. Then by all means, pack up your bag and just leave, because nothing is worth putting yourself in a situation you can’t get out of).

We live in a democracy, in a country bound by diversity. And I’m not just talking about the diversity of race, religion, and sexuality; but also about the beautiful foliage of the diversity of opinions. It’s really hard to walk more than a mile and not come across someone who has a different opinion than you on some particular topic. But that shouldn’t stand out as an issue, because after all, a homogenous society is a boring and mundane society.

The heart of every humane value contains that everyone has the right to hold their own opinion. But I guess some of us just have a much harder time grasping that concept.

Never let anyone tell you that what you believe in is not valid. In this time when we have conservative ideas being pushed down our throat, it is so important for liberal women to stand up and agitate against oppression. And how are you going to do that if you let someone tell you to lower your voice?

Rosa Parks didn’t stop her activism against racial discrimination even when she was thrown in jail. Susan B. Anthony didn’t agitate amongst traditionalist men to win women the right to vote. All women throughout history didn’t raise their voice together for you to turn down your right to raise yours.

But I know, from experience, that it can be hard to keep holding onto your belief, especially when you are surrounded by people who think so different from you. So here are some ways that you can always keep your head high and your voice bold.

Never, ever let anything said by someone make you irrationally upset. Whenever you come across someone who is being obnoxiously rude, just imagine all the things Cecile Richards probably has to put up with. And she’s still so strong, and she’s still advocating for women’s (and trans men’s) reproductive rights. Don’t let one or two possibly uneducated opinions stray you away from what you think – no, what you know – is right.

I have had my fair share of encounters with people who feed on trotting over other’s opinions or stuffing their unrequited belief down others’ throat. Remember, that you have just as much right to speak your mind than they do. If we can have a strong political figure say that sexual assault is, “locker room banter,” then we can most definitely make room for your agitation against rape.

It can also be very hard to sustain your beliefs when your own family seems to disagree with you. If your sister or you brother is being sexist or homophobic, you should most definitely call them out on that; and if the relationship gets healthy then you are in your right mind to walk away from it. Living amongst the people you love dearly and knowing that their views contradict yours can be a struggle and can even push you to change your opinion. In this case it’s so important that you realize that just because someone thinks differently than you, it doesn’t mean you have to stop loving them, or that you have to love them any less.

And above all, don’t forget to respect others. Just like you want your voice to be taken seriously, others do to. Listen and try to understand your “opposition’s” perspective and then bring out your own. Mature discussions are the only way that you can build a society anywhere near as close to the utopia that you want.

So here’s to staying strong in the face of negative criticism. Here’s to holding on to what you believe in.

An Open Letter to Pro-Lifers

I can easily point out the day, date and time when I started calling myself a feminist. It was two years ago when I had read a newspaper article about how a fourteen year old girl had been raped and then denied an abortion. This story mortified me, it gave me shivers to know that I live in a world where people so casually deny women the right to their own bodies.

I decided then itself that I was a feminist and that I hated people who wanted to take away my rights and give it to a fetus who was using my body to survive without my consent.

It is so easy to fold your arms across your chest and assign people sides in your mind. The people who do not agree with something you passionately believe in go on the side of people you detest and the ones who do agree with you become your new best friends.

I lived under this canopy of my blindsided belief that people who are anti—choice do not deserve my respect until very recently when I found out that my best friend was against abortions. She was against women (and transgender men and anyone who can get pregnant) having bodily autonomy and having a right to decide what they wish to do with their own bodies. Ironically, this news made me more mortified than the one that made me a feminist.

The person who always stood by me even when I made terrible mistakes and the person who was my very first friend on my first day of elementary school, now stood on the opposite side of one my biggest battlegrounds.

How could I simply drop this person to one of the well divided sides in my mind? I couldn’t.

She called herself ‘pro-life’ for a reason. She was against abortion for a reason. And I hadn’t realized that everyone had a reason, beyond what I could superficially see, for believing what they believed in and the essence of an equal society was to respect each other’s belief. 

I am feverishly against people dictating what I should do with my life. The how can I expect someone else to do what I want them to and to believe in what I think is right?

You learn something priceless from everyone and I learnt from my best friend the power of acceptance and respect. I learnt to respect the people who held beliefs that did a poor job of aligning with mine. It is because of the existence of contrasting people that the world can paint beautiful, abstract images of life. I do not want a world where symmetry in the only way around a good life, I do not want a world like Paris under Napoleon III.

I want a world where we all can have our opinions heard and where we all can paint the pictures of our choice.

So here are a few words to my best friend and all those who call themselves pro-life: I respect your belief and I hope you respect mine too.

Veganism: A Link to Sustainable Development

There has been a lot of talk lately about becoming vegan, or becoming a vegetarian. We have animal rights organizations like PETA that are notable proponents of what some like to call the, “vegan propaganda.” But there is one undeniable benefit to becoming vegan that doesn’t necessarily associate with the humane treatment of animals.  And that is the humane treatment of our earth.

You might be shocked to find out that almost half of the world’s deforestation occurs because large scale food industries clear out dense ecosystems to create grasslands to feed livestock that are used to make your delicious cheeseburgers.

Almost ten times more water is required for the production of one unit of meat than is required for the production of one unit of nutritious vegetables. Not to mention that a lot more energy is required for the processing of meat, than what is required for the harvesting of vegetables.

With all these facts in mind, going vegan definitely stands out as a sustainable life choice; at least until alternative, organic animal husbandry can be developed which can produce meat with minimal damage to the environment.

Western Hegemony Over Media

Malcom X once said, “The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They control the minds of the people. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power.”

Now imagine if this power was concentrated in the hands of just a few nations. Nations that are already powerful in almost every other social and economic aspect. I believe it would be safe to say that this power would be immensely prone to misuse.

The gap between how different countries see the world is enormous and this makes it necessary to establish a diverse and representative media that can grasp the fabric of different societies.

Western hegemony over media not only makes the representation of diverse groups restricted, but also fails to provide genuine information that can cater to every individual. A media source based in the United Kingdom will think first and foremost of the impact on its citizens while broadcasting news before it thinks about the impact on its international viewers.

Media is the mirror of society and it is about time that it starts reflecting the true image of the world.

The Feminine Etiquette: Choice

The twenty first century is a good century to be alive because most of us have the liberty to own our reproductive health. But sometimes the way we exercise that liberty might be different for each of us.

There are plenty of women out there who never want to have kids and there are plenty who do. I think it’s time we stop telling women what’s the ultimatum of life.

Some women would like to get married and have kids and have a nice, quintessential family. Some women might want to solely focus on their career or use that (plenty) extra money they’ll be saving by not having kids on travelling to the places that they’ve always wanted to go.

But every time a young woman tries to tell someone that she doesn’t want to have kids, she’s shut down and told that “she’ll change her mind.” Do you really want to force your image of a happy and satisfied life on another woman?

Let’s stop telling young women that they’ll change their mind and decide against not having kids when they grow up. Your womb doesn’t make you a woman just as much as your marital status doesn’t make you a person.

Humanitarian Intervention in the UN Charter

Attacks by non-state actors in countries should be taken up us an imperative issue in the United Nations and within the UN Charter.

Fighting against groups like ISIS and ISIL, that have the potential to cause serious attacks and mass hysteria in countries, is a compulsion, especially for targeted countries, so as to protect the rights and safety of its citizens. This makes it important for the right to self-defense be properly defined within the UN charter and provisions for allocation of resources to the targeted country be also adequately defined.

A large number of casualties resulting from a terrorist attack of certain magnitude calls for the use of self-defense to ensure the safety of the citizens of the country. Comprehensive legislative laws at the international level are important in maintaining and establishing peace in areas of terrorist attacks, since it is only through international cooperation that the issue of terrorism – an issue that adversely affects every nation involved – can be tackled efficiently.

For this purpose, International cooperation and collective action as a part of self-defense should also be clearly defined within the UN Charter so as to provide a basis for which humanitarian intervention can be used efficiently.

The Feminine Etiquette: Makeup

If I could get a penny for the number of times I’ve been told to not do a certain thing because boys wouldn’t like that, I’d be rich.

The general standard of beauty has been so thoroughly shaped by cis men that we’re all falling for it without giving it a second thought.

There might have been times when you would have seen your friend douse her head in a little too much make up. And you might have cringed at that and told her to bring it down her little. Well, don’t do that anymore.

You have all the means to go and stop your friend from looking like a clown, but don’t stop her from experimenting with makeup. Let her own the look she wears.

A lot of the times women are taken less seriously because of what they decide to do with their face. If we put on too little or no makeup, we’re dry and boring. If we put on too much makeup then we’re surely unintelligent.

It’s about time that we stop defining each other because of how we choose to look.

The Feminine Etiquette: Assertion

For centuries we’ve sat on a wooden dining table and lend our ears to men talking and telling us what to do. But now that we’ve finally started talking as well, we’re being told that we’re too loud.

Women often restrain themselves from raising their voice because everyone’s almost too quick to tell us that we’re being rude. But how many times has a male boss raised his voice and gotten praised for getting work done?

If you see a woman owning her career and taking on a leadership role, go and support her. Don’t tell her that she’s being “bossy” just because she wants to get work done. I don’t hear anyone calling a man “bossy” because he’s being a good leader.

We have to teach young girls that taking on actual responsibility and handling it like a boss doesn’t make them any less attractive to anyone. Only then can they grow up dominate their career of choice.