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Assigned Blog Posts

Post-War Rebuild of Liberia

Clip from film, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell

The Republic of Liberia became a country torn apart by the civil war that started on Christmas Eve in 1989. This civil war did not end until 2003, it took the women from Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, to peacefully stand up and demand for peace. The peace they sought was not for themselves but for the raping, abuse, starvation and death of children to cease.

As a UN Humanitarian Aid worker, I have just been sent to Liberia to provide aid to women, men and children in surrounding IDP camps. There are many issues that need to be resolved, however, before any action should be taken, my team will need to observe and understand what we need to do to help these displaced Liberians. Charli Carpenter once said, “Gender is a lens for uncovering hidden power relations.” By observing and assessing, my team will have a better grasp of how to better serve the Liberians, as men and women have different needs.

Photo of a Liberian IDP Camp
Credits to Blogger Eva

According to Mary-Wynne Ashford in The Impact of War on Women, there are many post-war issues that need attention as the violence is slow to change once the war ends. She also mentions that, “weapons are easily acquired, jobs and food scarcity results in agitation, combatants suffer form PTSD and sexually assaulted women may have a hard time re-integrating into the communities.” These major issues are long-term projects that will require the government and outside aid to help accomplish. Disarmament of weapons, creating jobs to jumpstart the economy, providing food aid to alleviate the food scarcity, PTSD care to the combatants, and guidance to sexually assaulted women are all needed as basics for providing aid in Liberia.

Photo of Child Soldiers of Liberia
Credits to Blogger Eva

The people living in IDP camps provide the most valuable stories of their experience as it is the best gauge of their needs, both mental and physical. According to UK Immigrant Magazine, Theo Neewrayson was a Liberian refugee during the conflict (link to article). He speaks about his experiences as Liberian refugee and how he is giving back to the Ivorians refugees from Côte d’Ivoire, by helping them out as they helped him out. He has said because he was a refugee himself, he knows what war trauma and depression feels like, and group discussion sessions is a good way to cope with conflict-related trauma. The group members are able to speak about their experiences and shows that they are not alone. These group discussions will provide mental health help for combatants with PTSD and women who have been sexually assaulted. Child soldiers are another group of combatants that will require a lot of help mentally and physically, no matter what they have done. In the film, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, one of the women said that they had to learn to forgive these child soldiers as it would be impossible to move on without forgiving them.

Photo of Theo Neewrayson
Credits to UK Immigrant Magazine

“Work also improves ones mental health. It gives you energy and makes you feel part of a society.” said Theo Neewrayson. Theo is the perfect role model of what UN Humanitarian Aid Workers needs to be and do. We need to increase the quality of life of people living in IDP camps by providing them with a safe and conforting environment to live in, food, medical attention and work so they can start sustaining themselves. In order to prevent cultural problems from arising, UN Humanitarian Aid Workers entering Liberia must learn about Liberia such as: Liberian customs, brief history and culture.

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Gender, Sex and The Internet

Because the personal is political. Because the bedroom is a political space. Because queers have been silenced for such a long time, any and every expression of our identity, of what makes us who we are, is revolutionary.

~Doug

The Internet provides a space where people’s ideals and beliefs are able to transcend hegemonic boundaries society has set. It has become a space where anyone is able to voice their opinions or advocate for change. In “The Reality of Virtual Reality: The Internet and Gender Equality Advocacy in Latin America,” Elisabeth Jay Friedman states:

The internet is a critical resource for marginalized or socially suspect groups and subjects, providing a unique space for the expression and transmission of often ostracized ideas and identities.

Taken from Donna Koehn’s article “Patriotism inspired “Rosies” to serve country during war”

Rosie the Riveter is an iconic image of the U.S. from World War II era. It was used as propaganda to spur women to take on an active role on the home front during WWII. Rosie symbolizes the alternative occupations to being a housewife during the war, it was the first step to working women. However, Rosie the Riveter can also symbolize many ideals as this well-known icon can be interpreted in so many different ways.

Rosie (from the picture shown above) can be seen to have a very feminine face with bright red lipstick and a very masculine body build. One can argue that Rosie the Riveter is a transfemale (someone who is born male that identifies as female) that has begun the process of transitioning her body to become identical to her internal identity.

Lea T. is the first transsexual super model and she has begun her transitioning from male to female. In the video below, Oprah interviews Lea T. and learns of Lea’s journey as a woman in a male body. One point that was brought up was Lea’s parents and their reactions to her decision of being a transfemale. The differing reactions from Lea’s parents also identifies the struggle parents’  of children who queer, bisexual, or trans faces.

Oprah has interviewed people who are intersex and then she interviewed Lea T. By interviewing all these people, she is utilizing the media to spread awareness that our world is not solely of two sexes.

In “Queer Blogging in Indian Digital Diasporas: A Dialogic Encounter,” Rahul Mitra and Radhika Gajjala felt that online blogging creates differing meanings of the same concept between online and offline reality. The differing meanings between the online and offline worlds may be due to the generational gap that may exist. However, which concept then becomes the mainstream and widely accepted concept?

In “On Queer Liberation and My Own Struggle,” Doug starts off explaining the differences between gender and sex while also giving the correct terminology of queer, tran, bi, and pan instead of using LGBT. In the quote (seen all the way in the beginning), he emphasizes that the individuality is also the key to revolutionizing, while also breaking down stereotypes and ignorance.

Did you know that december of last year, a few bloggers asked their readers and Toronto’s trans community to boycott  Xtra!, (a major queer media outlet)? I didn’t. I only found out about the boycott through one of the trans blogs i found while writing for this post. Although the incident was settled within a day, why did it not make headline news? How is the latest celebrity scandal more important than people being disrespected for being themselves?

Another blog I found is by a trans activist and writer named Julia Serano. In her blog titled, Whipping Girl, she gives updates on upcoming events, however on the occasion, she’ll blog and I found her pre-election post titled, Thoughts on the election and “Romnesia,” very interesting.

Finally, a blog written by Angus “Andrea” Grieve-Smith titled, Trans Blog. I found his/her blog post titled, My life as a data point, quite interesting as he/she exposes the problems of generalizing test results. I quite enjoyed how he/she took apart the study piece by piece with his/her opinions as it showed the readers the discrepancies, even if it was only one person of the many they studied. Sometimes, it only takes one participant to make all the differences in the results.

I feel that the queer community has had a greater voice now than 20 years ago, however, this voice took several decades to be heard. The trans community also has a voice, although significantly smaller in volume. How do we raise trans’ and queers’ voice? How do we knock down the wall of ignorance society has placed?

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Weight Issue: What is “Just Right”?

“This one is too hard. This one is too soft. This one is just right.” These well known three short sentences are from the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and I feel that they describe body image perfectly. Being too hard could possibly refer to being just all skin and bones, which is the thought of being too skinny. Too soft could be the ideal of being obese, similar to the batman shown below. However, what is the “just right” weight? How are we to deem others and ourselves as “just right” weight-wise?

Taken From itsnotbadatall.com

Societal norms place shackles on everyone as it dictates what the ideal weight and image of a person’s body. Topics of female celebrities on tabloids and magazines tends to focus on their looks and fashion. However, the attention focused on female celebrities often include their weight and including [media’s] opinions of them being “too skinny” or “getting fat.” Jessica Simpson and her post-pregnancy weight is a prime example of the limelight celebrities are thrusted into regarding their weight. According to Dodai Stewart on Jezebel.com, after giving birth to her daughter there has been 109 articles all solely written about Jessica and her weight. An article called, Fat Camp, was written by my fellow blogger, Elizabeth, who believes that the reason there is a widespread following about celebrities and their weight is due to the widespread coverage of celebrities by the media. Which is true, as celebrities are watched under a microscope similar to that of a bird-watcher watching exotic birds.

Apparently Jessica Simpson signed a contract with Weight Watchers that required her to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain date. If she was successful then Weight Watchers would pay her $1 million dollars as their spokesperson. It is quite interesting as Jessica is essentially being paid to lose weight, while everyone else pays to lose weight. Celebrity advantages? Tracie Egan Morrissey writes about her struggle with losing post-baby weight. She has already spent $7800 dollars on trying to lose her pregnancy weight!

During her lecture this past thursday, Melissa Campbell (@pluralisms) mentions:

Fat is a manifestation of societal pressures on women’s bodies and emotions—caused exclusively by emotional overeating, etc.

I believe that there are many different factors that results to fat and gaining weight for women. Melissa’s statement regarding fat being a manifestation of societal pressure as a product of emotional overeating. However, emotional strain on one’s body can also cause one to start overeating. Therefore, is The Biggest Loser productive or counter-productive when it comes to losing weight? Also, why put yourself under so much emotional and physical pressure?

Society pressures everyone to lose weight and be healthy, however, is it healthy to dramatically lose a ton of weight? How do we determine that we are okay the way we are weight-wise? When will we decrease our expectations and judgment on celebrities and their body image?

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Harry Potter: Fandom and Anonymity

Fanfiction on Harry Potter, specifically, has grown into its own subculture, with websites that come up with data on Harry Potter through scientific knowledge and educational guesses based purely on a world created by one person. That is the power of Fanfiction, to influence lives and to build on worlds that fans love so much they cannot help, but write more about it.

The above quote is from an article my friend, Calvin Li, wrote called, What is Fanfiction and How Harry Potter Became its Champion, it beautifully summarizes how fans continue to show their adoration for certain books. There has been a vast number of FanFictions written just solely for the Harry Potter series. As of today the count for Harry Potter FanFiction on FanFiction.net is 614,784 FanFictions, which is by far the highest amount of FanFiction written for any genre on that website.

Fandom provides a platform where many authors, artists, and video producers are able to unleash their creativity and fantasies while still remaining anonymous. The anonymous atmosphere allows for authors to write or create a lot of different pairings and not be judged by cultural hegemony [societal norms]. Sometimes authors get heavily criticized or “flamed” for many reasons including posting up stories that deviates from the “norms” of society. Therefore, anonymity tends to give creators the comfort to create whatever they wished, be it a story of how Harry should have ended up with Hermione or Harry and Draco falling in love during their Hogwarts years.

[Here is the space where I explode into a monologue about how big of a Harry Potter fan I am…]

Pairing monikers for the different Harry Potter pairings are also widely used when searching for content on search engines (i.e. Google) or YouTube for fan created art or videos. Harry Potter monikers include: “Harmony” refers to Harry and Hermione, “Dramione” is Draco and Hermione, “Drarry” refers to Harry and Draco, and “Drapple” for Draco and Apple (no joke).

Proof that Drapple Exists!
[Taken from Instagram Festival Cultural Zacatecas 2012]

My fellow blogger, Sarah Hatoum, raises an interesting point when she talks about how slash is part of “romantopia” in her blog post, Subverting the Media: Slash FanFiction & Women. However, it truly depends on what sort of slash is being written as the slash written for FanFiction can fall under both categories: “pornotopia” or “romantopia.” Any type of pairing can be sorted into either one of the categories as it all depends on how the author writes the FanFiction and how the reader interprets the story.

For example, my deep seated belief that Harry and Hermione should have ended up together at the end. The hero always gets the girl right? Apparently not. However through Harmony FanFictions, Harry and Hermione will live those “happily ever afters” that we all imagined.

Has this blog post and the above video convinced you to believe Harry and Hermione should have been together in the end? 😉

Taken from “Being a POTTERHEAD” Facebook Page

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Internet Personified.

In New Media and Internet Activism: From  the ‘Battle of Seattle’ to Blogging, Kahn & Kellner says,

This is the internet as a living, historical force and one of the keys to understanding and shaping the political and cultural life of the present age.

The Kahn and Kellner piece was written in 2004, however, this quote talks directly into present time where the internet has become a major part of daily life. It is mentioned that the internet is a living historical force, Josh Harris refers to it as, “technology” when he says, “there’s a new boy in town called technology.” How is this relevant? Josh Harris from We Live In Public, masculinizes the internet by referring to it as a ‘boy’ this personifies the internet as being a male. However, the internet is not masculine nor feminine, but a representation of the tech-saavy generation.

In the documentary, We Live In Public, Josh Harris started an experiment called “Pod Hotel” where people were filmed doing everything and anything. One of the citizens said, “it would inspire people to do things they wouldn’t do outside.” In a sense, the Pod Hotel and its surveillance became a disembodiment of societal expectations. Pod Hotel gave its citizens a break from societal rules and judgment to do whatever they wished. Citizens of Quiet saw Pod Hotel as a opportunity for a chance at a new beginning and a escape of the real world.

The above video is an Australian advertisement that plays with the idea of people doing anything they want while alone when no one can judge them. It is similar to the Pod Hotel experiment, where the citizens acclimated and forgot about the surveillance in their environment. However, there are people who are under constant surveillance due to them being celebrities. Jennifer Aniston is one of these celebrities that is often under surveillance and has to combat through rumors all the time.

What better way to poke fun at all the rumors about her than make it all into an advertisement? Many celebrities, like Jennifer Aniston, constantly combat criticisms, rumors, and hordes of paparazzi just to go about their normal routine. While the celebrities gain nationwide news coverage, important feminist politics and resistances would be neglected. We often do not hear about the feminist rallies and picketing that happened that afternoon and will not learn about it until possibly late at night through YouTube.  Although we live in a surveillance culture, we do not scrutinize the social media hard enough as we do not know how to protect ourselves from being scrutinized.

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