Archive for ::Women

Mukhtaran Mai Weds…breaking all taboos

It was nice to see a follow up and update on Mukhtaran Mai’s life in this NYT article on March 17, 2009.  I just recently wrote about her in the Nicolas Kristof post here.

mukhtarwedding

So it seems that she has married a younger police constable (she is his second wife) after he has been pursuing her hand in marriage for the past few years.  Her will and resolve as a strong woman, rooted in her belief that she will lead her life on her own terms continues to resonate as she takes this new step in her life.  Read on….

There are several news stories on her:

Here’s the full report from the New York Times:

Rape Victims’ Advocate Marries

By SALMAN MASOOD
Published: March 17, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Mukhtar Mai, the resilient Pakistani who was
gang raped in 2002 on the orders of a village council but became a
symbol of hope for voiceless and oppressed women, has married.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Ms. Mukhtar, 37, said her new
husband is a police constable who was assigned to guard her in the
wake of the attack and who has been asking for her hand for several
years. She is his second wife.
She said the constable, Nasir Abbas Gabol, 30, and she married Sunday
in a simple ceremony in her dusty farming village, Meerwala, in the
southern part of Punjab Province.
“He says he madly fell in love with me,” Ms. Mukhtar said with a big
laugh when asked what finally persuaded her to say yes.
Pakistani rape victims often commit suicide, but Ms. Mukhtar, who is
also know as Mukhtaran Bibi, instead successfully challenged her
attackers in court, winning international renown for her bravery. She
runs several schools, an ambulance service and a women’s aid group in
her village and has written an autobiography. By marrying, she has
defeated another stigma against rape victims in conservative Pakistani
society.
The village council ordered her rape as a punishment for actions
attributed to her younger brother. He was accused of having illicit
relations with a woman from a rival clan, but later investigations
revealed that the boy had himself been molested by three of those
clan’s tribesmen, and the accusation against him had been a cover-up.
Mr. Gabol was one of a group of police officers deployed to protect
her after she was threatened by the rapists’ relatives to try to stop
her from pressing charges.
Mr. Gabol had a hard time persuading Ms. Mukhtar to marry. He had been
calling her off and on since 2003 but formally proposed a year and a
half ago, she said. “But I told my parents I don’t want to get
married.”
Finally, four months ago, he tried to kill himself by taking sleeping
pills. “The morning after he attempted suicide, his wife and parents
met my parents but I still refused,” Ms. Mukhtar said.
Mr. Gabol then threatened to divorce his first wife, Shumaila.
Ms. Shumaila, along with Mr. Gabol’s parents and sisters, joined
forces to try to talk Ms. Mukhtar into marrying him, taking on the
status of second wife. In Pakistan, which follows Islamic law, a man
can legally have up to four wives.
It was her concern about Ms. Shumaila, Ms. Mukhtar said, that moved
her to relent.
“I am a woman and can understand the pain and difficulties faced by
another woman,” Ms. Mukhtar said. “She is a good woman.”
In the end, Ms. Mukhtar put a few conditions on Mr. Gabol. He had to
transfer the ownership of his ancestral house to his first wife, agree
to give her a plot of land and a monthly stipend of roughly $125.
Asked if she had plans to leave her village to live with her husband
in his village, Ms. Mukhtar said no. “I have seen pain and happiness
in Meerwala. I cannot think of leaving this place.”
Her husband, she said, “can come here whenever he wants and finds it
convenient.”

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Women and the 2008 Vote

Now this is the kind of news analysis we here in the US could use from our press.  A well traced and comprehensive analysis of what impact women are and will have in this year’s presidential election – It’s not just about the electorate-at-large, but the intelligent, courageous and esteemed surrogates in the news media, entertainment and political circles who are making the strides…

From The Independent (UK):

The high heel vote: How women are winning the US election

 

Rachel Maddow, Samantha Bee and Tina Fey aren’t household names in Britain, but they’re at the vanguard of the feminisation of American politics. Sarah Hughes celebrates an election year in which women have finally moved centre stage – and asks: what next?

Monday, 22 September 2008

Every US election has a series of defining images, a collection of moments where, after the chads have stopped hanging, the votes have been counted, and the President-elect has been named, you can look back and say: “Yes, that was it, this was what that election was really about.”

 

In 1960, it came down to television versus reality. Richard Nixon’s fate was sealed under the unforgiving studio lights as John F Kennedy ushered in a new media age. In 1988, one snapshot of Michael Dukakis looking uncomfortable in a tank was enough to seal his fate as a peace-loving refusenik who would have no idea what to do in a Cold War crisis. And, in 2004, Fox News repeatedly told Americans that John Kerry “looked French”, sealing the Massachusetts senator’s image as an out-of-touch elitist with fancy ways and a foreign wife.

Yet, so far, this election has had no such clear moment. Yes, the John McCain camp have tried to brand Barack Obama as Kerry redux, just another country-club elitist making promises he can’t keep – and yes, the Obama camp have hit back hard at McCain, tying his name to that of President George W Bush in an increasingly tighter series of knots. But neither claim has really struck a resonant chord with the electorate.

Instead, it increasingly looks as though the 2008 presidential campaign is not about the candidates, the gaffes they might or might not make, or even about the issues. This election is really all about women.

And not only in the sense that the Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, is the Republican Party’s vice-presidential candidate, or that New York senator Hillary Clinton narrowly lost the Democrat presidential nomination to Obama. Rather, it is in the growing realisation that the most interesting punditry on both the left and the right is female; that the best political commentary and comedy is female; and so too are those much-fought-over “defining images”, from Palin herself, surrounded by her family on the convention stage, to the Alaskan women who lined the streets to protest at her nomination.

Nowhere are these changes more apparent than on the US cable news channels. Traditionally the home of a type of chest-beating masculinity in which anchors compete to see who can be the most indignantly self-righteous, cable news might seem an unlikely place for a feminist revolution. Yet that’s exactly what’s taking place. The good ol’ boys – Fox’s Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer – are still there, hollering their views, but the most interesting reporting is coming from women.

Leading from the front is MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who was recently handed the coveted 9pm slot. Maddow, who also has a radio show on the progressive station Air America, is an avowed liberal with a background in prison reform and HIV/Aids activism. But it is her style of reporting, rather than her viewpoint, which makes her stand out from the pack.

Maddow doesn’t hide her political opinion – “I’m a liberal, I’m not a partisan, not a Democratic Party hack,” she has said more than once – but nor does she feel the need to berate her audience or her contributors, as Matthews does, or to dress them down in the manner of her mentor Olbermann. Instead, her show, which is climbing up the ratings (recently beating even CNN’s Larry King Live), prefers to gently mock its targets, sending them up with a sarcastic turn of phrase and relying on its host’s congeniality to ensure that there are no hard feelings when she agrees to disagree.

“Everyone always says that Americans vote for the candidate they’d like to have a drink with, and I think the same thing remains true of news anchors,” says Megan Carpentier, who writes for Glamocracy, a political blog aimed at women, in addition to covering politics for the influential feminist website jezebel.com. “It’s not that I wouldn’t like to have a drink with Keith Olbermann or Jon Stewart; I would. But I’d really like to have a drink with Rachel Maddow.”

There’s something about Maddow that inspires otherwise level-headed women to, as Carpentier puts it, “extreme fangirldom”. It’s partly that she comes across as being very down-to-earth – her website proclaims both her hatred of Coldplay and her love of her red pick-up truck, while admitting that she “loves arguing with conservatives and shakes a mean cocktail” – and partly that she is obviously smart, yet so very unshowy with it.

For many female fans, there’s a sense that she could be your sister, if your sister was a former Rhodes scholar with a mean line in wit and a doctorate in political science.

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Bush Doctrine applied to Healthcare…By-passing Roe V. Wade and more?

Just read this Op-Ed burried deep in the New York Times written by Hillary Clinton and Cecile Richards (President, Planned Parenthood of America), [update: it is now #2 in the ‘Most Emailed’ List…!] published on September 18, 2008 – Those of us perusing the paper daily are the lucky ones to find this content or even know what goes on behind governments’ closed doors.  For the rest of America (not just women) being duped by the likes of ‘women for women’, aka Sarah Palin, they may not be so lucky to have access to this kind of news.

It is astonishing to me that these Regulations which have been proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on August 21, 2008 have slipped the public commentary’s radar and the completely uninterested MSM who are driven to satify their viewership, and take cues from the shrewd & savvy politicians’ press releases with topic meta tags like “pigs, lipstick, pitbulls and hockey moms’.  While the circus perfoms in town, the most important issues facing Americans during this election and their futures either go completely unreported, never even highlighted in the 24-hour news cycles or considered ‘un-juicy’ for the average American’s taste.  It seems ludicrous to hope that we’d want to ask our American nation to set its standards…higher?

With this new rule, the latest ideology push by the Bush Administration seeks to undermine your right as a patient, woman, family – and put the medical provider’s conscience and personal beliefs BEFORE yours.  The same medical physicians and providers whom we the people look to for an unbiased and best source of medical advice and information will be able to either deny you particular medical treatment or not fully disclose any option you possibly could have.

When someday ‘down home mama’s’ 16 year old daughter who had just been raped by some ‘ethnic’ man, is raced to the hospital and as she is being treated, is told that the physician tending to her daughter cannot in his ‘conscience’ administer emergency contraceptive medication to her, what could she do?

Six weeks down the road if she took her daughter to another clinic and wanted to now have her daughter get an abortion, and this doctor now said, “I’m sorry, my beliefs and conscience do not permit me to perform this procedure”, then what could she do?

A 27 year old man goes to his physician, visibly sick and asks for an HIV test.  His physician tells him, “I’m sorry, but I cannot test you for AIDs or HIV because I cannot see myself treating a homosexual patient”.  What can he do?

Your 3 year old son has a rare form of leukemia.  Your doctor cannot bear to see this child be put through rigorus trial medical treatment which she feels may not cure your child, so she says there is nothing medically she can do (it goes against her conscience).  What about you, the parent?  Wouldn’t you want to give your child every bit of hope and chance to live??  If you were told there was no chance, but medically there could be, would you not be up in arms and demanding your child’s right to live be met???  What could you do?

Get up and make your voice be heard.  Call your Congressperson.  Call the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.  Write to the President.  Write to your local Representatives. 

People, this is a glimpse of the America we are already becoming part of and headed if this political circus does not leave town.  Most Americans and those ‘at large’ not living near the metropoles, coasts and larger cities, haven’t a clue.  At the risk of sounding blunt, those of us who can read, think, write, speak, blog, opinionate and care about the U.S. Constitution, better get up and start doing more of it. 

And this plea applies to not only issues of health care or womens rights –  just look at our current state of the economy, international relations and energy challenges we’re facing as a nation.  Our Presidential elections should not be about the personas and who puts up a better performance – as some columnist recently put it aptly, “We’re not voting for the American Idol”…well, for most Americans, sadly it does seem that way.

This election means too much for all of us – not just ‘working America’. If you want to do something, call your local Office of the Registrar of Voting or go to ‘Rock the Vote’s Site and register to vote and find 10 others who haven’t registered – your colleagues, fellow moms, your child’s teacher, custodians, your local deli counter guy, the mechanic, your landscaper, the cleaning lady, your parents, aunts, friends, old college friends….Good Luck!

[NOTE: The public’s comment period ends September 25th, 2008 – so you’d have to act fast.  Here is a link to the Regulation:

The display at the Federal Register today triggers a 30-day public comment period. Administration officials will review the comments as they work to implement a final regulation. The proposed regulation is available at http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2008pres/08/20080821reg.pdf]

[For those who don’t access the NYT Online, here is the Op-Ed piece in its entirety]:

Op-Ed Contributor

Blocking Care for Women

 

Published: September 18, 2008

LAST month, the Bush administration launched the latest salvo in its eight-year campaign to undermine women’s rights and women’s health by placing ideology ahead of science: a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would govern family planning. It would require that any health care entity that receives federal financing — whether it’s a physician in private practice, a hospital or a state government — certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable.

Laws that have been on the books for some 30 years already allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further, ensuring that all employees and volunteers for health care entities can refuse to aid in providing any treatment they object to, which could include not only abortion and sterilization but also contraception.

Health and Human Services estimates that the rule, which would affect nearly 600,000 hospitals, clinics and other health care providers, would cost $44.5 million a year to administer. Astonishingly, the department does not even address the real cost to patients who might be refused access to these critical services. Women patients, who look to their health care providers as an unbiased source of medical information, might not even know they were being deprived of advice about their options or denied access to care.

The definition of abortion in the proposed rule is left open to interpretation. An earlier draft included a medically inaccurate definition that included commonly prescribed forms of contraception like birth control pills, IUD’s and emergency contraception. That language has been removed, but because the current version includes no definition at all, individual health care providers could decide on their own that birth control is the same as abortion.

The rule would also allow providers to refuse to participate in unspecified “other medical procedures” that contradict their religious beliefs or moral convictions. This, too, could be interpreted as a free pass to deny access to contraception.

Many circumstances unrelated to reproductive health could also fall under the umbrella of “other medical procedures.” Could physicians object to helping patients whose sexual orientation they find objectionable? Could a receptionist refuse to book an appointment for an H.I.V. test? What about an emergency room doctor who wishes to deny emergency contraception to a rape victim? Or a pharmacist who prefers not to refill a birth control prescription?

The Bush administration argues that the rule is designed to protect a provider’s conscience. But where are the protections for patients?

The 30-day comment period on the proposed rule runs until Sept. 25. Everyone who believes that women should have full access to medical care should make their voices heard. Basic, quality care for millions of women is at stake.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is a Democratic senator from New York. Cecile Richards is the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

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“Alaska…a Microcosim of the rest of the US”: Sarah Palin

These vignettes which Op-Ed Columnist, Maureen Dowd chronicles in Tuesday’s New York Times, give you a real glimpse into the hearts and minds of Americans.  Yes, they are local Alaskans, and as Palin recently declared, “you know Alaska seems to be such a microcosm of the rest of the US…” she may actually be correct on this one, as far as pinning down what ‘real’ (the polled ones) Americans have on their, umm, ‘minds’.

This one sums it up, I think:

(from the NYT)

I talked to a Wal-Mart mom, Betty Necas, 39, wearing sweatpants and tattoos on her wrists.

She said she’s never voted, and was a teenage mom “like Bristol.” She likes Sarah because she’s “down home” but said Obama “gives me the creeps. Nothing to do with the fact that he’s black. He just seems snotty, and he looks weaselly.”

 

Here is the column in its entirety for those who are not registered with the NYT:

Op-Ed Columnist

‘Barbies for War!

 

Published: September 16, 2008

 

WASHINGTON

Carly Fiorina, the woman John McCain sent out to defend Sarah Palin and rip anyone who calls her a tabula rasa on foreign policy and the economy, admitted Tuesday that Palin was not capable of running Hewlett-Packard.

That’s pretty damning coming from Fiorina, who also was not capable of running Hewlett-Packard.

Carly helpfully added that McCain (not to mention Obama and Biden) couldn’t run a major corporation. He couldn’t get his immigration bill passed either, but now he’s promising to eliminate centuries of greed on Wall Street.

The Wall Street Journal reported that McCain was thinking about taking Palin to the U.N. General Assembly next week so she can shake hands with some heads of state. You can’t contract foreign policy experience like a rhinovirus. To paraphrase the sniffly Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls,” a poy-son could develop a cold war.

The latest news from Alaska is that the governor keeps a tanning bed in the Juneau mansion. As The Los Angeles Times pointed out, when Palin declared May 2007 Skin Cancer Awareness Month in Alaska, the press release explained that skin cancer was caused by “the sun and from tanning beds.”

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Great Essay from the ‘Red Room’

Interesting title analogy?…”this is your brain…this is your brain on drugs…”

THIS IS YOUR NATION ON WHITE PRIVILEGE

[warning: some explicit language in this quoted article]

from Red Room (www.redroom.com)

September 13, 2008, 2:01 pm

This is Your Nation on White Privilege 

By Tim Wise

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay. 

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you’ll “kick their fuckin’ ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”


White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office–since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s–while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.


White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.


White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you’re black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.


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Republicans Will ‘Fight’ for our Freedoms…

With the selection of Sarah Palin by McCain as his running mate, many questions of why and how he came to his decision remain.  More vexing is what Palin touts as her All-American values, in support of ‘Country First’ and her boss who intends to fight for our rights and freedoms…

It would be best for all Americans to ask themselves what we consider to be freedoms which make America great and the envy of the world.  Is it everything the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights grant us? …freedom of expression, freedom to speak freely without censorship, freedom of choice, freedom of religion…

Perhaps asking Sarah Palin her thoughts on these topics would help Americans determine if the Palin-McCain team will be fighting for their country first or not.  There is talk that Palin plans to give her first interview to ABC News in the coming days – But lets see if she gets the questions ahead of time and if the most pressing questions are indeed directly asked of her.  In the meantime, the following article/post by Michael Seitzman in the Huffington Post can hopefully get Charlie Gibson started on some questions for his upcoming broadcast with Palin – if he chooses to not go soft on her:

8 Questions for Palin — If You Really “Work For Me,” Then Interview for the Job

By: Michael Seitzman (September 6, 2008: The Huffinton Post)

The McCain campaign has now said publicly that they don’t think Sarah Palin should have to answer any questions from the media. Since a free press is the only way the People can ask the questions we have a right to know, maybe the media should stop granting access to McCain “spokesmen” until their candidate for Vice President of The United States answers some questions. There are legitimate questions to be asked and, as one of The People, I’d like to start with the following:

1 – Did you really ban books from that library up there? Did you fire a librarian over it? Can you tell us your feelings about censorship in a democracy?

2 – Did you really tell the secessionist group in Alaska that they were doing great work? This same group whose leader said in an interview that, “The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government?”

3 – Did you abuse the governor’s office by trying to get your brother-in-law fired from the state police?

4 – Exactly what is it about Alaska’s “proximity to Russia” that qualifies as “foreign policy experience?”

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So, what do the ‘feminists’ think of Sarah Palin?

Alas, the summer hiatus ends and I write once again.

I was feeling euphoric about witnessing and sharing with my young daughter and son, the historic moment at the close of the Democratic Convention. (For my husband, he was priviledged to actually be there and share in that moment.)  I had to impress upon their young and inquisitive minds, how momentus this evening was – that the first African-American had been nominated for President by a leading political party in the United Stated of America, for the very first time in history!  What this would mean to them in the context of a tumultous history from slavery, to civil rights and then to a general election with an African-American on the top of the ticket – will only be realized once they have lived a little in this world.

It was an interesting discussion explaining to my children about the defeat of a woman, for instance; ‘that while Hillary Clinton was a strong and able candidate, who lost the nomination to Barack Obama,  it was equally historic that an African-American became the Democrat’s candidate’, is how I think I phrased it.  I knew my daughter would still be inspired – by both Clinton AND Obama – telling her that anyone who has worked hard, cares about people, is smart and can stand up and speak intelligently about issues which affect our country and the world around us, can someday aspire to becoming president. 

Then came the Friday announcement of McCain’s running-mate: Sarah Palin.  My son asked me who she was as we watched the announcement/rally.  Telling him she was McCain’s Vice President, he said, “But she’s not Hillary Clinton, how can she become a Vice President”.  The same thought ran through my mind, but naturally on an entirely different level.  That McCain felt he could dupe the women out there by propping up an unknown female politician, from a sparsely populated state, who sounded aggressive, and seems to be a most anti-woman, woman candidate- was frankly, insulting.  My hope is that the disgruntled Hillary supporters are smarter than what McCain is making them out to be!  Just because she has the anatomy of the female gender, does not make her some symbolic replacement.  Women need to see through this blatant transparency.  Most people would acknowledge that were many more compelling women in the Republican party with much more broad based experience, ‘vetted-ness’ and gravitas.   This is obvious pandering to a very specific segment of Republican conservatives.  My wish is for the many articulate, media savvy, vocal and active ‘feminists’ to come out aggressively to voice their disgust at McCain and this insult to women. While I respect that there are many women who may agree with Palin’s conservative bent with regards to abortion, I’m sure they would come to reject McCain’s policies on women’s concerns. I invite the alums from women’s colleges, prominent feminists and women’s rights activitists to heed this call and flood the media with a clear message from women who know McCain is not a champion for women’s rights, is against equal pay for equal work, and even against the right to choose – and dissuade those women who are leaning towards voting for this ticket.  Let us not re-seal those 18 million cracks which have been made in that glass ceiling! In the blogosphere, I am hearing women rally behind Palin, saying, “she’s so pretty and would make a great VP”, or “she’s the mother of 5 kids, what an inspiration”.  Our young women need to be inspired by more than just a beauty pageant winner or an honorable mother – even while she may have made personal strides in achieving her political aspirations.  The creditials required to be next in line as the leader of the free world, I would hope, would be a slightly more demanding reach for higher expectations, no?  In all fairness, it would be wiser to critique Palin’s work and policies she’s set in her short gubernatorial career.  Very quickly it will be realized that most Democratic women would not agree with her platform.

 

ADDENDUM:  Thank goodness fellow Alum, Gloria Steinem said her peace: “To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, “Somebody stole my shoes, so I’ll amputate my legs!” You can read the post here.

So, here I have dug up a few voices of prominent ‘feminists’ and hope for more…

McCain Tries To Grab the History Flag From Obama:  by Tanya Melich

August 29, 2008

www.WomensMediaCenter.com

The first time I hear a woman has achieved something special, my automatic reaction is to cheer, to think  “good, another of us has won.”  

Then reality sets in and the questions start.

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Smith Grad Building Bridges

Farah Pandith is working to build bridges with Muslims overseas and to help spread the word of integration and tolerance to young people…

From the Boston Globe (Saturday, May 17, 2008)

This recent article in the Boston Globe was just shared with me.  In times of mounting misunderstandings, misperceptions and judgement, Smith Alum, Farah Pandith shares her personal and professional journey from an opportunity on one given day at Smith – to the White House and beyond.  

Article in it’s entirety:

The Messenger

Farah Pandith is working to build bridges with Muslims overseas and to help spread the word of integration and tolerance to young people

By Irene Sege

Globe Staff / May 17, 2008

NORTHAMPTON – Eighteen years after she graduated from Smith College, Farah Pandith, her hair neatly coifed in a flip, her tailored pink jacket and dark skirt accented with a string of pearls, her White House folder in hand, visits her alma mater. A flyer advertising a talk by former Vermont governor Madeleine Kunin catches her attention, and, with a nod of approval, she reads aloud the title of Kunin’s book: “Pearls, Politics, and Power.”
“I’m glad to see that Smith is still bringing in good people to inspire their students,” Pandith says. “I remember when Betty Friedan came in. Gloria Steinem.”On this sunny spring Friday, it’s Pandith who’s bringing pearls, politics, and power to Smith women. Here to meet with students a day in advance of addressing a model United Nations, Pandith is senior adviser to the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, charged with working to counteract the radicalization percolating in some segments of Europe’s Muslim communities.

Pandith, 40, brings to the task a resume that includes stints as director for Middle East regional initiatives for the National Security Council, chief of staff for the Bureau for Asia and the Near East at the US Agency for International Development, and vice president for international business at ML Strategies in Boston. Born in Kashmir, in India, and bred since infancy in Braintree and Milton, she also draws on her personal experiences as a Muslim American.

“When you have a population in Western Europe that is 20 million strong in Muslims, how are we Americans thinking about what’s taking place in Europe?” Pandith asks. “How are we Americans thinking about what’s taking place in Europe in terms of demographics and how are we getting to know that next generation and the generation after it? Are we building bridges of dialogue?”

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Democratic Primary 101

Hopefully it’s not too late for anyone reading this – even if Feb 5 (super ‘duper’ Tuesday) has come and gone, there is still time to vote your mind in the remaining primary voting states.

Been talking to many friends – most of my female ones, at least – and they seem to be on the fence whether to vote for a first potential woman leader of the free world or the first person of color?  A seemingly tough decision, but for some and personally for myself – it has nothing to do with either of these monumental moments at history’s doorstep (though I have to say, it does make it more exciting).

Obama for President 2.25My choice, is for Mr. Barack Obama – because I feel he will make a better leader based on his values (if you have read about his life – he has humble beginnings, a personal and living understanding of the world we live in, in addition to his early life struggles – he understands first hand, where the majority of America and potentially the world is coming from), his solid stance & clarity on policy and his ability to take leadership actions.  Most importantly, he has the gift of being able to inspire hope, provide a turning point amidst apathy towards politics and the current leadership’s stand on almost any issue.  Obama has character and a deep sense of humanity which he so effortlessly displays.  He has rallied young voters and has raised funds rivaling Hillary Clinton’s – despite lacking all the pomp and celebrity his oponents have been banking on.  The single most defining character statement for me, at least, was his clarity of judgement with his opposition of the Iraq war from day one – and not pandering to what was the popular thing to do as Hilary Clinton and so many others did – and now find themselves having to wriggle out and reinvent their reasons for their ‘for war’ vote.  In our world today, it is ever more important to mend the bridges which have been burned over the past 7+ years in international relations.  Having a keen understanding and sensitivity to the world beyond our borders will only make America stonger inside and out. 

My 7 year old daughter was asking me about the candidates (after constantly reading all the campaign signs posted around town) and also piping up when mom and dad were discussing dad’s volunteering this weekend to help her school-friend’s mother (the neighborhood precinct captain for Obama’s campaign) canvass our immediate neighborhood to garner support (and a nod for a vote!) for Barack Obama.  When telling her why her dad and I were supporting Obama, I found it a little difficult – as a graduate of a woman’s college & a mother talking to her young daughter – not standing up for a candidate who could potentially be the first women U.S. president…but then thought again to tell her why I felt Obama was the better one to be a leader of America.  (I told her in her mom’s native country, Pakistan, there already had been a women leader – a prime minister – several years ago, so that absolved some of my feminist guilt!). 

So back to why Obama?  I found an interesting piece comparing the democratic candidates (an ‘Election Guide’)  in the New York Times – ironically on the big policy issues, the positions on Health Care, Abortion, Climate Change, and Immigration were resoundlingly similar.  The big differences again were: 1) on his strong stance against going to war in Iraq from the onset and a comprehensive plan to withdraw from Iraq; 2) insistence upon  engaging in direct diplomacy with open communications with all world leaders to ensure America gets it right in foreign policy issues; 3) while both candidates are for repealing the Bush Tax cuts for households over $250,000, Hillary Clinton wants to ‘jumpstart’ the economy with a $70 Billion stimulous package, Barack Obama proposes a plan for tax relief (cut $80 Billion in taxes) for the middle and working classes and the elderly who make less than $50,000.  It boils down to the nitty gritty, of course, but I feel it is very important to believe in someone who sincerely believes in bringing about the changes and having the intellectual and practical ability to take a well thought out stand.  Just think for a moment, if Clinton wins the primary….and subsequently the role of president, we would have had the Bush and Clinton dynasty running America for 24 years (potentially even 28 years!) – Is this good for America?

While the road to becoming the nominee for the Democratic party is still up for grabs, polls (!) are showing a closing of the gap between Obama and Clinton – especially in the key states of California, New Jersey and Arizona as of February 4th.  Hot off the press (2/4/08): nationally, the USA Today/ Gallup Poll is showing a fierce dead heat competition: 45% (Clinton) to 44% (Obama).  So, there is time in case you are still undecided and have yet to cast your vote.  Interestingly,  while I was writing, I received a ‘taped’ phone message from actress Scarlett Johansson, urging me to cast my vote tomorrow if I am still wavering!  I have come across people who say, “Well, there isn’t a candidate who is worth voting for – I ask them candidly if they have actually spent the time to even read or learn about the policy positions each candidate has (I’ll admit, I’ve been brushing up on this more recently since the race tightened) –  or are they going with their gut?  I urge you to use the upper domain of your body and cast your decision accordingly. Please go and be counted and heard.  It is really empowering and gives you a legitimate license to either applaud or criticize what goes on in your country – without becoming one of those Monday morning quater-backers…

Note: As many know, it is the amount of Delegates the candidates pick up by state vs. winning by more votes.  For the Democratic Primary, it is not winner takes all…(more details below from the NYT):
 

Super Tuesday: Democratic Preview

As the candidates head into Super Tuesday, one of the main factors is how delegates are awarded in each state. There are hundreds of places for candidates to pick up delegates, since in many states delegates are awarded based not on the statewide vote, but rather on the result in each Congressional district. For the Democrats, delegates are won in proportion to a candidate’s percentage of the vote, making it difficult for Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama to pull very far ahead.   Republican preview »
— Amanda Cox, Farhana Hossain and Ford Fessenden   

Oh, and if you’re registered as an Independant or Non-Partisan in California, you are able to cast a vote for your Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party.  Just remember to ask for a ballot for the Democratic Primary when you check in to vote! 

–  –  –  –  :::::::: –  –  –  –

Excerpt from Obama’s speech given in Springfield, Illinois (February 10, 2007) – announcing his decision to run for President of the United States.  I remember listening to his words and feeling moved and a sense of hopefulness for this nation…

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Hope and the power of one…Soccer, Refugees, America

After a long absence from my blog, I thought I’d usher in the new year with a story about hope and how one person has impacted the lives of so many…

Upon reading this article in the NYT this weekend, I was deeply moved and inspired by the dedication of female coach, Luma Mufleh, to her team of re’fugees’ resettled in Clarkston, Georgia.  I was also troubled, but not entirely shocked, by the xenophobic reception of the longtime residents of Clarkston, and their associated fears arisen by the large influx of ‘foreigners’ (but legal asylees) to their once quiet all-American town.  Luma Mufleh (fellow alumna!) and her achievements, her voluteerism and selfless commitment to her team comprised of young children who have suffered unimaginable hardships in their short lives is something to look up to.  

For those without access to the NYT, here is the complete (and very lengthy) article:

Hostility and Hope on the Soccer Field 

By WARREN ST. JOHN

Published: January 21, 2007

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Members of the Fugees soccer team in Clarkston, Ga.

CLARKSTON, Ga., Jan. 20 — Early last summer the mayor of this small town east of Atlanta issued a decree: no more soccer in the town park.

“There will be nothing but baseball and football down there as long as I am mayor,” Lee Swaney, a retired owner of a heating and air-conditioning business, told the local paper. “Those fields weren’t made for soccer.”

In Clarkston, soccer means something different than in most places. As many as half the residents are refugees from war-torn countries around the world. Placed by resettlement agencies in a once mostly white town, they receive 90 days of assistance from the government and then are left to fend for themselves. Soccer is their game.

But to many longtime residents, soccer is a sign of unwanted change, as unfamiliar and threatening as the hijabs worn by the Muslim women in town. It’s not football. It’s not baseball. The fields weren’t made for it. Mayor Swaney even has a name for the sort of folks who play the game: the soccer people.

Caught in the middle is a boys soccer program called the Fugees — short for refugees, though most opponents guess the name refers to the hip-hop band.

The Fugees are indeed all refugees, from the most troubled corners — Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burundi, Congo, Gambia, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan. Some have endured unimaginable hardship to get here: squalor in refugee camps, separation from siblings and parents. One saw his father killed in their home.

The Fugees, 9 to 17 years old, play on three teams divided by age. Their story is about children with miserable pasts trying to make good with strangers in a very different and sometimes hostile place. But as a season with the youngest of the three teams revealed, it is also a story about the challenges facing resettled refugees in this country. More than 900,000 have been admitted to the United States since 1993, and their presence seems to bring out the best in some people and the worst in others.

The Fugees’ coach exemplifies the best. A woman volunteering in a league where all the other coaches are men, some of them paid former professionals from Europe, she spends as much time helping her players’ families make new lives here as coaching soccer.

At the other extreme are some town residents, opposing players and even the parents of those players, at their worst hurling racial epithets and making it clear they resent the mostly African team. In a region where passions run high on the subject of illegal immigration, many are unaware or unconcerned that, as refugees, the Fugees are here legally.

“There are no gray areas with the Fugees,” said the coach, Luma Mufleh. “They trigger people’s reactions on class, on race. They speak with accents and don’t seem American. A lot of people get shaken up by that.”

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Grameen Bank Microcredit -> Grassroot Development = Nobel Peace Prize 2006

Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank (first time a financial institution awarded the Peace Prize) in Bangladesh have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006.  This is a monumental acknowledgement that working from the roots up does and has made a difference in lives of so many in the impoverished parts of the world.  In the world of economic and social development of the so called, ‘third world countries’ or less pejoratively, developing nations of the world, the best or even only way many view that progress and poverty alleviation will occur is through grassroots development and locally inspired movements where the people themselves are involved in their own plight and hence success.  Often, the imposition (a segment of the study of anthropology namely, development anthropology, rests on this tenet) of a top down or ‘their’ view of what development or progress should be, comes from the outside – a remote international agency, or even urban government agencies, which are disconnected from the indigenous culture or societal norms of the region or people they claim to be helping.  

With Yunus and the Grameen Bank, providing small loans (microcredit) without collateral to the most impoverished on terms which were relevant to the people of those villages, made the initiative sustainable and a success.   Almost 97% of the loan recepients are women, which has positive development implications.  They used the funds to purchase egg-laying hens, cows or materials which they could sell for a return.  For many, their lives have turned around, as they are now able to sustain their small enterprizes.  Without the threat of predatory lending institutions, Grameen’s track record has been equally astonishing, with very high payback rates—over 98 percent. More than half of Grameen borrowers in Bangladesh (close to 50 million) have risen out of acute poverty thanks to their loan, as measured by such standards as having all children of school age in school, all household members eating three meals a day, a sanitary toilet, a rainproof house, clean drinking water and the ability to repay a 300 taka (Bangladeshi currency)-a-week (8 USD) loan.  Read the rest of this entry »

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A day of Firsts: Iranian-born female space tourist blasts off into orbit

The first female tourist, first female Muslim and first Iranian went into orbit early Monday, from Baikonur, KHAZAKHSTAN.  Anousheh Ansari (age 40) is an Iranian-American telecom entrepreneur.  She hopes that her trip will inspire women and Iranians to pursue their dreams. 

While space tourists typically pay their way (as much as $20M!) to get a seat on space missions, it still takes courage to pursue this endeavor.  She has paved the way as far as ‘firsts’ go, and for that she deserves her day of fame.  Whether or not it is the best way to get a Muslim woman into space, is a matter for later debate! 

“By reaching this dream I’ve had since childhood, I hope to tangibly demonstrate to young people all over the world that there is no limit to what they can accomplish,” said Anousheh Ansari, chairman and co-founder of Prodea Systems, Inc.

On another note, there are reports that a Pakistani woman, Numera Aslam/Saleem will be the sent by NASA in a space mission sometime in July 2008, when commercial operations are supposed to begin.

Article from Reuters follows.  You can also view her Blog and her Official website.

From: REUTERS, September 18, 2006 

By Shamil Zhumatov

anousheh-ansari1.jpgBAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (Reuters) – A Russian Soyuz spacecraft blasted off on Monday carrying a woman set to notch up three space records: the first female tourist, first female Muslim, and first Iranian in orbit.

Anousheh Ansari, 40, an Iranian-American telecommunications entrepreneur, joined a Russian cosmonaut and U.S. astronaut in the cramped interior of Soyuz TMA-9 for a flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Soviet-designed spacecraft lifted off into a clear blue sky at 0409 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

“The flight is normal, the crew feel fine,” a flight controller at Mission Control near Moscow said.

Unlike American Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian Mikhail Tyurin, who are starting a six-month stint in space, Ansari will return to earth in 10 days with the outgoing U.S.-Russian crew.

Ansari, a U.S. citizen based in Dallas, Texas who left Iran in 1984, has said she wants to be an example to her compatriots.

“I think my flight has become a sort of ray of hope for young Iranians living in Iran, helping them to look forward to something positive, because everything they’ve been hearing is all so very depressing and talks of war and talks of bloodshed,” Ansari told Reuters last week.

FLAG

She has been told, however, to remove an Iranian flag from her spacesuit and, at the insistence of the Russian and U.S. governments, promise that there will be no political messages during her trip.

Looking relaxed and smiling at a pre-launch news conference at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Sunday, Ansari said she would still pack another Iranian flag for her trip.

The United States and Iran have not had formal diplomatic relations since students took 52 Americans hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979. President Bush has called the Islamic Republic part of an “axis of evil”.

Ansari has not said how much her ticket cost but previous space tourists have paid the Russian space programme about $20 million.

She had originally been scheduled to join a later Soyuz mission but took the place of Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto when Russian space officials said last month he was not able to fly for unspecified medical reasons.

Several hours before the Soyuz blast off, the U.S. space Shuttle Atlantis undocked from the ISS.

The Soyuz craft will dock with the space station early on Wednesday. Atlantis is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida a few hours later.

(Additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow)

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Maid in India turns into Best Selling Author – Her Difficult Life: Documented.

Baby Halder is being hailed as a best selling writer.  Her humble and cruel life story give us a window to a world we have never imagined or want to experience.  Her courage and determination are inspiring.

Article is from the August 07, 2006 edition of The Christian Science Monitor.

(Photograph) UNLIKELY AUTHOR: Baby Halder’s employer encouraged her to write after finding her looking at his book collection.
SCOTT BALDAUF

Indian housemaid pens Dickensian memoir of poverty

By Scott Baldauf | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The hardships of Baby Halder – abandoned at 4, married off at 12, a mother herself by age 13 – could fill a book.

Small surprise then that Ms. Halder’s breathtaking memoir, “A Life Less Ordinary,” is causing a stir in the Indian publishing industry. Halder’s book offers a window into a world that shocks many Indians, one in which women, and particularly poor ill-educated women, remain second-class citizens.

Still in its first printing of 3,500 books after three months, admirable for a first-time author in India, Halder’s personal memories as a poor domestic worker aspiring to a better life seems to be selling best in bookstores that cater to foreigners in India. But the book’s buzz also has the potential to stir debate about the social responsibilities of India’s wealthy as the country moves toward greater individual opportunity and fewer collective obligations.

“The semifeudal contract that existed before between rich and poor, between master and servant, has broken down. And nothing has come to replace it,” says Nandu Ram, a sociology professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University and specialist in caste issues.

Many older prejudices have waned, as citizens of lower castes are taking greater part in the political process, and as more of those of humble background prove themselves in the today’s marketplace. But the waning of caste prejudice has not meant that more Indians are suddenly doing more for those less fortunate, says Mr. Ram. “There is a generation gap of our younger people who are becoming more and more self-centered, with not much consideration for the poor, for even the older members of their own family.”

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The State of Pakistani Women

In recent weeks I have come across a blog which has really captivated my attention, as well as over 17,000+ other ‘bloggers’ since it’s first post on June 12, 2006.  The blog is managed by Adil Najam, called: All Things Pakistan (ATP), where his posts range from reports on the national past time of cricket, to politics, society-at-large, music, food, culture, and all the good, bad, beautiful and ugly, which makes up all things ‘Pakistani’. It is amazing how his idea has transformed into a lively platform for diverse and open discussion on a wide range of topics by Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis coming from all walks of life.  Thank you, Mr. Najam.

tarazoo.gifOn a recent post entitled: ATP Poll: Pakistan’s Image and Women’s Rights, I found some of the questions he asked to be a step in the right direction as far as making his blog more inclusive of a large segment of Pakistan’s society (women), whose plight is often not part of everyday discussion or discourse.  The main gist of the poll asked: “[W]hat can be done to improve Pakistan’s International image in terms of women’s rights?”.  What was even more interesting were several insightful comments left by visitors of his blog.  While I agreed with what many were saying with regard to how the image of women in Pakistan needs to be ‘improved’ and that certain reforms need to be made, I felt the poll did not adequately represent the larger segment of Pakistan’s female population who are in essence the most oppressed and underrepresented: the urban poor and rural, tribal women. More importantly, perhaps we need to be more concerned with can and should be done to help the plight of women and others who are neglected in our society, as opposed to being worried about how the West or outside world perceives us.

Here is my rather lengthy ‘comment’ which I posted to ATP:

The fundamental human rights of women and how they are perceived and treated in a predominately patriarchal society are at the core of the question on ‘how to improve’ the image and more so the condition (as you, Adil, even felt was the better question to ask) of women’s rights and how they may be perceived globally. Apologies in advance if I seem to stray from the essence of your poll, but I feel I must express in greater detail! Harping on the image issue is not the reason why women’s rights should be improved.  Improving the ‘image’, however defined, will not make the inadequate & unrealized rights of women in Pakistan disappear.  Mountains have to be moved.

The Image Issue

The question I ask, is what is the image that we want to portray of Pakistan and the status and plight of those women?  And again, from which segment of society, are these women who’s image needs to be promoted?  Do we want to promote how the educated class of women (so many of us now educated in the UK and US) are working side by side with their male counterparts in high profile banking, marketing, and industry professions with much greater access today?  Of course, no doubt, it is a good way to publicize to the world at large that Pakistan is able to churn out female prime ministers, internationally acclaimed women artists, female fighter pilots, fashion designers, cardiologists, business leaders, and entrepreneurs – and that the Pakistani middle and upper classes are more westernized and progressive now.  But I feel the question of image also should more broadly include the underrepresented, urban poor and rural, feudal communities, where this wave of modernity and gender equality has yet to hit!  Would it be safe to say that there are, in essence, 2 worlds, 2 Pakistans?  The image of women repressed by patriarchy, conducting their daily lives under the so called ‘veil’ and oppression, whilst being victimized by unjust Islamic rules, is probably the one we should be more concerned about.  That is not to say that sexism is rampant amongst the professional class, as the Dawn Ad illustrated.  But is that not the case in even European and other western societies?  Women at work are subject to that day in and out in varying degrees and subtleties.  The plight of women like Mukhtar Mai or female child brides for that matter, is what we really need to focus on, as far as ‘improving their condition’ is concerned –.  It took a NY Times journalist to bring Mukhtar Mai to the International media arena, forcing the government and President to have to deal with this ‘national shame’ by confiscating Mukhtar Mai’s passport & putting her on a ‘no exit list’, so that she would not leave the country to further ‘tarnish’ Pakistan’s image internationally.  (I am not sure if such eye-opening news reports would either contribute to or take away from items: 1, 3 & 4 listed in your Poll Question!) If this kind of press is given in the international arena, then perhaps it may put governments to shame and finally force them to act?   

Anyway, here are a few mountains… 

Education

Agreeably, like many who have thus far commented, education, that is, equal access and delivery of that education to girls, is a must.  Sadly, we are not even close to that target, let alone overall literacy.  Educating girls, will educate the next generation and in turn will teach the sons of those women how to respect women and show how important their mother’s education, vocation and worth is in their families.  So you ask, what ought to be done?  Well, for those of us who are privileged and are able to afford it: donate generously to NGO’s which support the education of children, especially young girls.  Since governments (and not just Pakistan’s’, but many of the world’s underdeveloped governments) are unable to provide this basic ‘right’ and public service, it falls on the abled citizens and expatriates of Pakistan to fill this gaping void, by outsourcing this job to the private organizations who can deliver tangible results with a higher rate of return.  

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What’s a Mother’s Worth? (part I)

A tough one to tackle.  Many have tried to quantify this ‘worth’ to no avail.  A mother gives you life. For most, she is a nuturer, a comforter, a healer.  She feeds you, keeps you clean, teaches you your manners, your ABCs.  She disciplines, she cuddles, she reads to you and drives you to school for over a decade.  A mother listens, a mother scolds (and screams, yes we do).  A mother’s eyes well up when she sees her young preschooler sing, “You Are My Sunshine” to her and the other fellow mothers on a ‘Moms’ day at school.  A mother does it all and feels it all – from dawn till…..well, dawn (at least in the early years!)  Even moms who spend a majority of their day outside the home at work do get this opportunity…  Yes, and for the dads out there, while many may be the ‘moms’ of your families, the majority of them don’t have this priviledge of sorts in the fulllest sense of its capacities.

While I had planned to post this on Mother’s Day, the job of being a mother has delayed my posting date.  The following were sent by fellow mom friends. I know you may have seen them fly in your inboxes in recent years, but somehow they still manage to stir you – and make you laugh.  Belated Mater’s Dia. girlwithflowers.jpg

Before I was a Mom

Before I was a Mom I never tripped over toys or forgot words to a lullaby.
I didn’t worry whether or not my plants were poisonous.
I never thought about immunizations.
Before I was a Mom – I had never been puked on.
Pooped on.
Chewed on.
Peed on.

I had complete control of my mind and my thoughts.
I slept all night.
Before I was a Mom I never held down a screaming child so doctors could do tests.
Or give shots.
I never looked into teary eyes and cried.
I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.

I never sat up late hours at night watching a baby sleep.
Before I was a Mom I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn’t want to put it down.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn’t stop the hurt.
I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much.
I never knew that I could love someone so much.
I never knew I would love being a Mom.

Before I was a Mom – I didn’t know the feeling of having my heart outside my body.
I didn’t know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby.
I didn’t know that bond between a mother and her child.
I didn’t know that something so small could make me feel so important and happy.
Before I was a Mom – I had never gotten up in the middle of the night every 10 minutes to make sure all was okay.
I had never known the warmth, The joy, The love, The heartache, The wonderment or the satisfaction of being a Mom.
I didn’t know I was capable of feeling so much before I was a Mom.

And before I was a Grandma, I didn’t know that all those “Mom” feelings more than doubled when you see that little bundle being held by “your baby”…
On a funnier note, the following sent by another friend made me chuckle more than a few times:

Why God made Moms — BRILLIANT Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions!!   

Why did God make mothers?
   1. She’s the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
   2. Mostly to clean the house.
   3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
   1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
   2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring
   3. God made my Mom just the same like he made me. He Just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?
   1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
   2. They had to get their start from men’s bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you Your mother & not some other mom?
   1. We’re related
   2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people’s moms like me.

What kind of little girl was your mom?
   1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
   2. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
   3. They say she used to be nice.

What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?
   1. His last name.
   2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
   3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your mom marry your dad?
   1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my Mom eats a lot.
   2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
   3. My grandma says that Mom didn’t have her thinking cap on.

Who’s the boss at your house?
   1. Mom doesn’t want to be boss, but she has to because dad’s such a goofball.
   2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
   3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What’s the difference between moms & dads?
   1. Moms work at work and work at home & dads just go to work at work.
   2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
   3. Dads are taller & stronger, but moms have all the real power ’cause that’s who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend’s.
   4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your mom do in her spare time?
   1. Mothers don’t do spare time.
   2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your mom perfect?
   1. On the inside she’s already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
   2. Diet. You know, her hair. I’d diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your Mom, what would it be?
   1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I’d get rid of that.
   2. I’d make my Mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.
   3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.

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Feminism: What does it mean – to you?

Betty Friedan’s passing on February 4, 2006 (on her birthday, eerily) provokes some thoughts… 

This word, ‘feminism’ has been thrust so many times at us – thrust at those in academia, those working in the professional work force, mothers, wives the whole gamut.  As a student at a women’s college in Massachusetts in the late 1980s/early 1990s, this was a topic which at best, was impossible not to discuss, debate or stumble into at some juncture during one’s college career.

As I evolved as an adult during my years in college, followed by becoming a member of the corporate and new media work force, and later as a wife and mother, I went through various phases of life which helped me define and refine my everchanging ‘role’ as a member of the female population, if there is one.  I look back and believe that my views and my personal definition of what feminism meant, really had not gravitated too much in any extreme direction.  I know that I wanted to do well in my studies so that I could acheive success down the road in a career which would be meaningful to me and also pay the bills – ‘financially independent’ and confident, as my parents hoped I would become.  I also knew that I always wanted to marry and have a family, not fully knowing at the time, how it would not only provide new perspectives towards my own life and more so, what challenges I would face while becoming that all encompassing ‘woman’.

Betty Friedan                           Betty Friedan at a rally in 1973. Tim Boxer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

So what does feminism mean?  It means so much to so many, and while the word ‘feminism’ has suffered ridicule by the media, describing feminists as crazed, bra-burning women, out to demonize the male species, it means freedom, courage and empowerment to so many more. Feminism is personal and is oft in the eye of the beholder – it means one thing to someone in the West and another to someone in the East.  But to many in the 1960s, like Betty Friedan, it meant that women needed to be ‘more’ than just mothers and wives, essentially.  That they could persue other venues in life beyond the management of a home life.  While her views on the role of women and her focus on ‘housewives’ were both revolutionary and controversial (controversial some say, as her views perhaps were not all inclusive with regard to women from the middle or lower economic strata, and her not so flattering comments on women who did housework!), she did begin the discourse of what the role of women in society was and how women’s work was [not] valued. Her groundbreaking 1963 best seller, “The Feminine Mystique” laid the groundwork for the modern feminist movement.  She was also the co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Gloria Steinem, years later, felt women had to break the ‘glass ceilings’ and demand equal opportunity and equal pay for their work at work.  I think this part of the movement for ‘feminism’ was sorely needed and was well received on the whole by aspiring women, giving them confidence to forge on and ‘be all that they could be’, while empowering them with the confidence for demand for equal pay and opportunities.  Steinem also was the founder of MS. Magazine

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