Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Beauty Myth

This is a book I read by Naomi Wolf, which I'd recommend to any woman concerned about the place of her gender, her rights and real freedom. Although I can't say I agree to all the ideas highlighted, I would say that everything mentioned is a valid thought to muse over and an issue to be addressed.

With the feminist wave brought about that gave women the rights to pursue careers freely and the laws to protect those rights, there came a threat to our all-time male-dominated society of the dangers in allowing women to control the workings of this world alongside men. I don't know if I would attribute this to the creation of The Beauty Myth, but according to Wolf, it's the perfect political solution.

What is this preoccupation with beauty that has engulfed all of us these years? Who defines beauty anyway, and who gave it the weight of importance it has today?

At work, women are expected to look as glamorous as glossy front-page models alongside with perfecting her career and keeping up with housework. Beauty has slowly entered the requirements of professional posts- starting with modelling but slowly expanding to include anyone with any sort of interaction with others. Beauty can even be used as an excuse to hire or fire. In popular culture, books and films rarely portray the heroine as the ugly one. The author makes a resemblance of this whole move with a religion- the beauty tips in magazines become divine laws, being imperfect an original sin that must be annihilated through a painful cycle of purification- denying themselves the food they crave, the sunlight they yearn for- as if a punishment for being created a woman.

The amount of exposure of female sexuality in media is nothing compared to that of males- it is the females who have a constant "standard" to work towards. It is only in the female world where sex is linked to beauty- women's beauty are always "rated" in regards to how well they compare to the media's idea of her body; men are rarely judged by their sexual attraction. The beauty myth leaves a woman feeling unloved no matter what she does: if she conforms to society and achieves the "beauty" watermark, the love she receives she will always feel is due to her achievement in copying the ideal; if she doesn't, she is left feeling ugly compared to the rest of the millions of women in this beauty competition. The myth has gone as far as to let the hundreds of girls starving themselves to silence. A hungry girl cannot rebel or think of herself as competent or feel effective. Why is popular media filled with articles on weight loss? When can women start thinking of their own bodies as their own true property, rather than the property of society?

The media tells us aging is a disease- it must be combated- with anti-aging creams and electric shocks and handing ourselves to the knives of cosmetic surgeons. Yes, maybe this can kill, but it "hurts to be beautiful".

I say, the only way we can consider ourselves free is when we are accepted the way we are created. And that begins with accepting ourselves the way we are, the different forms we become as we experience life. Aging is beautiful- stretch marks tell the world of the children we gave to it, wrinkles speak of the different worries we took for others....

I don't need to paint my face to be beautiful, nor starve or fill myself up with the food others tell me to. The standard keeps changing anyway. No-one will reach it. Who wants perfection in appearance? If we are going to aim for perfection, let's aim for flawless characters and habits.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

That sinking feeling...

It started to creep into me as soon as I had got what I wanted. That mean thought that told me things won't always be this good, that they can't be- that the plans I drew in my head and smiled at in the morning each day won't be carried out to perfection. I think that's when it first started. Except... if that was the case, why did I feel so surprised when it became reality? I guess I over-estimated the strength of my optimism. I can never be sure.

All I know is that I was alive. And I was living with all the other six billion people and plants and animals and words and ideas and buildings and things and screens. But now it's just me. Or just them. The point is we're not together. I walk around feeling like a stranger in a strange place with strange people saying strange words and doing strange actions.

I surprise myself sometimes. I had no idea how important it was to me. Had I really built my life upon it? It didn't seem so to me, but if I hadn't...why do I feel like my building blocks have fallen?

Have I lost hope? I haven't. But is it worth all this mental stress? Am I wasting time?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Children of Heaven: A Persian Movie

The simplest movie is also the one you learn from the most. What I loved about this movie is that, contrary to most Hollywood production that's designed to leave you in the disillusion that you are far from the world of glamour and glitter, "Children of Heaven" makes draws your attention to some of the most important things in life- a sincere sacrifice for someone else, a consideration of somebody else's feelings- that cost nothing and worth everything, all the while helping you count your own blessings.

So go here and watch this now:

It will definitely be worth the two hours!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I am an artist

And my life is my masterpiece. God gave me my paintbrush and infinite colours. Sure, He has ultimate control over everything, but He decided to give me power over my own life. I have the freedom of choice, and I shape my world with my thoughts.

Every day I wake up thankful for my mind. I am determined to stand guard at its entrance, refusing entry to those polluting negative thoughts that try their best to squeeze their way through. I may not have control over other people and the way they treat me, I may not have control over the traffic and the weather, over world leaders' decisions and wars, over global trends and social mindsets, but I do have total possession of my mind, and I know that I owe it to God and to myself to use my thought-filter to fulfill the purpose of my existence.

I don't know how much time I have but I do know it isn't much. I also know I never want to make the mistake of wasting my limited time giving thought to things that don't matter instead of focusing on those that do. Wasting time worrying about the future or about peoples' opinions or about past mistakes and regrets and pain.

I can grieve because roses have thorns, or celebrate because thorns have roses. The seemingly-unfortunate events that happen to me don't come to me labeled. It is I who will define whether it's a tragedy or an opportunity waiting to be noticed.

Happiness is a choice. :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chewing gum? You've been fined a hundred

Errr, yes. That's what happened to me today.

I mean, I know we're not allowed to eat or drink anything on the metro, but I honestly didn't really classify gum as food, neither did I expect a random inspector coming up to me while I was lost in my book (Crime and Punishment, just for the record), tell me to open my mouth very wide infront of everyone, and then order me to get off at the next station because I have to pay them a hundred dirhams. Because I was chewing gum. Or 'lbaaan' if you'd like to be Emarati.

And then I only had sixty on me, so they decided they would keep my University ID Card with them which couldn't happen because I needed it for my exam (to which I was now going to be late because I had unfortunately not predicted this little episode). So then they decided that I had to call my parents to that station to pay the remaining forty, which totally defeats the purpose of using the metro to conveniently beat the traffic and be on time. And then I decided I can ask my mother for her credit card number but that solution didn't really appeal to them.

So that's when it hit me that I was going to be late for my exam because I'd been pulled out of the train because I was chewing gum and now will have to wait until my already exhausted mother drives around forty minutes to pay the remaining forty of the precious hundred- the price of choosing to chew gum on the metro the day a train official decides to enter my cabin.

All these thoughts proved to be too much for my mind which had been overloaded with management principles and theories in preparation for my exam, so much that all these overwhelming and excess thoughts triggered a very rare, strange, emotional breakdown, and this breakdown somehow ended up saving the day and I was allowed to go back on to the train, forcing many strange stares and rushed terrified apologies.

And I don't care what those officials thought of me, but I wasn't going to pay a hundred, be late for my exam and trouble my mother because I had committed the terrible crime of chewing a gum.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Color Purple

One of my favourite parts of a very unique novel ('The Color Purple'- Alice Walker), winner of a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Price

Here's the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don't know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord.

It? I ast

Yeah, It. God ain't a he or a she, but a It.

But what do it look like? I ast

Don't look like nothing, she say. It ain't a picture show. It ain't something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you've found it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Exams are the same everywhere

I don't know why I find it hilarious.

No matter which level of educational institution you're in, which continent you're's all the same!

The minutes before the exam where all the examinees are revising, asking each other random questions, talking about how nervous they are..

Entering into the exam halls and going to your assigned seats. A few people realising they've forgotten to get their ID cards or their calculators.

People looking around to see who their neighbours are. Wishing each other good luck.

The examination papers being distributed. A few minutes of paper ruffling and general unrest and then a deep silence sets in.

The drone of the air condition in the background. The footsteps of the exam invigilators. The squeaking and scratching of pencils and pens on paper. The occasional cough, sniff, yawn, sneeze

The sound of so many people thinking furiously. Not saying I'm a fan of exams, but I love that sound. The sounds of many minds at work.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

1 Litre of Tears

The only drama that managed to make me cry in almost every episode. This is a must-watch Japanese drama based on a real-life story of a fifteen-year-old girl who gets an incurable degenerative disease that makes her slowly lose control over her body before it takes away her life. This was a reminder I needed to let me appreciate my health and body, and to never let me take it for granted.

It's worth it- only 11 episodes but filled with life lessons!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Second Childhood?

A picture of my grandmother with her great-granddaughter got me thinking. What you see is a little girl sitting in an old lady's lap. She has her new tiny young fingers on my grandmother's aged ripe ones. Her limbs and body parts are waiting to be completed, my grandmother's are completed beyond saturation. She looks around curiously, taking in every minute detail, trying to absorb and digest all the new, unfamiliar elements of the world around her- the different voices people use with her, the different expressions and faces she sees, the different material she's touched, the people, sky, trees, animals, all foreign to her. My grandmother doesn't want to bother with grasping everything now: she's seen it all. She is so acquainted and familiar with this monotonous world that it's not foreign anymore and nothing can succeed in surprising her.

The little girl of six months peers curiously at her great grandmother. Her great grandmother gazes at her with nostalgia. So many thoughts and feelings well up- she wants this little bundle of innocence to grow up happy. She wants to be there when it happens, give her all the wisdom and strength she needs in life.

You are not that different from me. I have been through all my stages in life, I have more experience, there is so much more you need to learn. But one day, you will be just like me- you will again need to depend on others to walk, to eat, to wash, to dress, to remember. It won't be as easy because you'd have tasted total dependence and freedom. But for now, live and experience each of your life stages. You have a long eventful life to lead before reaching your second childhood.

The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything

From William Shakespeare's "As You Like It"

Qur'an 36:68 If We grant long life to any, We cause him to be reversed in nature: Will they not then understand?

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