Posts tagged feminism
Say it with a Queen's Letter
queen's letters

I've written a bunch of articles on the topics of "Speaking Up" and realized that it can be difficult to know where to start. Especially when you have felt disrespected, have not been able to react on the spot and keep thinking about it.

The other day, my girlfriend came up with a hilarious & witty concept.

The Queen's Letters.

The concept is simple: when you want to set someone straight, whether a lover, a friend, a colleague or literally anyone who recently messed with you, you prepare a queen's letter. Forget about ghosting.

Here is the template.

- Example 1: X makes promises to do business together but never follows up.

1. Start with kind words that you really mean:

Hey X, I hope that you are well. I really value you as a ... & am looking forward to ... project.

2. Say it straight out:

But I'm writing to you to inform you that in order to build a professional relationship with me, I require trustworthiness and reliability. You have not followed up on the project several times so am kindly asking you to only promise what you can execute on.

3. Warning (optional)

If you can't come to terms with this, we won't be able to work together.

4. Add something gentle & close:

If you're still in, please let me know if we can finally set a straight date for our meeting. Take care, talk soon

_________________

- Example 2: X tells his friends that you're hitting on him.

1. Start with kind words that you really mean (the shit sandwich):

"Hey X, hope you're well, just to clarify things: you're a great friend and I consider you as being part of my close circle of people that I respect and trust.

2. Say it straight out:

But I am 0% attracted to you and never have been / will be.

3. Add something gentle & close:

Sorry if you misunderstood my behavior. If you have any question, feel free to reach out to me directly, thanks!"

_______________________

- Example 3: X is dating you but has been disrespectful on various occasion

1. Start with kind words that you really mean (the shit sandwich):

"Hey X, you know I really like you.

2. Say it straight out (mention what happened if need be, sometimes guys don't realize consequences of what they say/do):

I was thinking about what happened earlier today & you have crossed the line with insensitive behavior. In order to be with me, I require positive language/attitude moving forward".

3. Add something gentle & close:

Call me if you want to talk more.

Note: the amount of gentle Vs straightforward words really depends on your communication style.

Voilà!

Queen's letters do the job.

We've cleared the air and set our personal and professional boundaries various times using this technique. Surround yourself with people who respect you and care about you.

Try it out and let me know how it went in the comments below ;)

 

Speak Up!
cat calls of New York

There are few guerrilla street art projects that can catch your attention and trigger emotions in you like Catcalls of NYC does. Just imagine walking down the street and reading the sentence "come blow me" or "I deserve to touch that ass"  in rainbow colors under your feet... Impossible to remain impassive.

Sophie Sandberg started chalking pavements in New York shortly after puberty, when realizing that not only men were catcalling her on a regular basis despite her young age, 15, but that passersby weren't paying attention to it.

She decided to dedicate her studies and past time learning about gender equity and raising awareness on sexual harassment, in the hope of empowering both victims and witnesses to speak up.

Listen to her inspiring story and share your experience of sexual harassment in the comments below.

Find your way in the episode:

1:00: How the project started

2:00: Compliments or harassment?

4:00: Feeling powerful by making someone feel uncomfortable

4:50: The #metoo movement

6:00 Tips to learn to speak up

8:00: Why women should be empowered

If it Doesn't Feel Right, it Probably Isn't
Estimated reading time: 3'

Estimated reading time: 3'

 

We've all seen a lot of publications around sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and general disrespect of women lately, with the #Metoo campaign.

I come a little bit late in the game, but I am tired of witnessing red flags and seeing men behaving like predators. I am tired of having to stand up for myself as a woman, having to set limits because they've been crossed, and having to comfort my girlfriends for the same reasons.

So I've decided to share a few examples of red flags (true stories), from my experience, from soft to risky:

Situation 1: you are on a date. Your date spends more time looking at your breast and your bottom when you turn around, rather than listening to your conversation. And when a bunch of girls passes you, he literally turns his head back. No surprise there. Oh and in case you wondered, it was not a Tinder date. And I did not wear revealing clothes.

Situation 2: you walk up the street with heavy bags from the supermarket. A car stops. The dude asks you to come closer so he can talk to you... You naively think he wants to offer his help. Instead, he tells you (warning - raw language): "Don't move, I will come back to break your legs and lick your pussy until you scream". You're so confused you forget to note down his license plate.

Situation 3: you are interviewing for a job. The HR advises you to not look under the table. 

Situation 4: you apply for a model gig and meet the 70 y.old manager in a cafe. He asks for your cup size for the bikini you are going to wear, and before you have time to answer, he swiftly grabs your breasts to "measure himself". 

Situation 5: you book a massage online. Turns out the massage takes place in a private home, and the therapist spends an awkwardly long amount of time massaging your upper thighs. 

Situation 6: you are in a cab in Mexico, middle of the jungle, no network and no soul in the streets. The car driver puts his hand on your leg. You push him away and pray.

I have experienced a million small situations like that. But despite the red flags, I kept going for it. I saw this guy again, I kept seeking those jobs, I stayed in the car.

And worse, most times, I did not speak up.

Why? Low self-esteem? Probably. Fear of making the other person uncomfortable? Definitely. 

At the moment, I knew exactly what to do, I knew exactly what to say. I was screaming inside of my head.

But I got paralyzed. Shame was taking over. I thought I had misunderstood. It thought it was not real.

Earlier in January, three of my friends confessed having been raped.

But that's not what shocked me the most.

What shocked me the most was that they KEPT HANGING OUT with the predators. They did not see themselves as victims.

They blamed themselves for not having known better.

For having accepted their drinks.

For having trusted them to take care of them and respect them as they were saying no. As they were crying. After they blacked out.

And the only thing they wanted to do in the morning was to hide away and pretend it did not happen.

A pure walk of shame. 

So I am begging you ladies to go ahead and speak up. And if you can't do it on the spot, it is never too late. Trust your instincts. Remove toxic people from your life. Respect yourself and do not let anyone enter your intimacy without your consent.

There are too many stories of disrespect towards women, abuse, and sexual harassment.

My trick is to count the red flags:

- One red flag: be on your toes. Speak up.

- Two red flags: just walk away.

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Which red flags do you look for?
Curiosity Doesn't Kill the Cat
Estimated reading time: 6'

Estimated reading time: 6'

I met Ruhana at a concert organized by common friends.

One of the biggest secrets she rarely discloses to anyone is her age. And when we became close enough, she told me she was 18. You could not tell by the way she speaks.

She can talk about any topic for hours.

She has this talent for connecting with people and connecting people: you put her alone in a room and she will leave with five friends.

She studies, has two jobs and multiple side-projects, and is part of various ethnic, feminist, spiritual and artistic communities.

As we were chatting about her involvement with minorities, I asked her where it all started.

"Far back. I come from a highly disciplined and traditional family in New Jersey. I studied at a preppy private school. Money was never an issue. People's family name and size house represented their status. One of my friends owned a jet, another one had a monthly $500 allowance; that was normal. Naturally, my friends and I selected people to hang out with based on level of intellect and status. Kids from public school were considered 'improper and unsheltered'. We also would select friends according to their ethnicity. There was only one African American in my school and no Hispanic students. Even as a first generation Bengali American, possessing fair skin was the standard. I always made sure to hide my darker hands under the table, or in my pockets. 

One of the core values that was instilled in me since attending that school was practicing discipline to earn respect.

At home, my parents were expecting me to know everything about all sorts of topics (physics, politics, conspiracy, etc) from a very young age. And at school, I'd get a fine if I wore grey socks instead of white, for instance. We were all expected to go to Ivy leagues and land a 6-figure salary job. The GPA determined my entire life and my worth to society. The "A" defined confidence, and I would beat myself up for anything less than that".

I tease her about her current 4.7 grade on Uber.

"Yeah I don’t understand why Uber drivers are judging me so hard...!" We laugh.

"On the other hand, everything was granted, including the teacher's behaviour. Students would have their parents make appointments with the principle if they were unsatisfied with their fixed grades. To be honest, I never realized I was entitled to good treatment until I went out of that situation. I never even learned how to register for my own classes or find classrooms on my own since we were given designated point of contacts to find classes for us on the first day of school. 

When I turned 13 years old, I went on a trip to a spiritual Islamic retreat in Tarim, Yemen, for 40 days. In that specific city, it is said that the sun purifies the dirt of your soul.

We spent the days praying in a sacred atmosphere, which opened up the doors to a spirituality that I had never been exposed to before. I understood that life was more than the materialistic things I was exposed to back home. Through a new perspective of religion, I discovered a deeper relationship with a higher being, and gained a new outlook on life and people.

Each Friday evening, a spiritual celebration was taking place where a congregation of women would be gathering, singing, dancing and playing instruments. Each person would play their own music, though somehow manage to all sync together. They were all living fully in the present, enjoying with what little they had. Their inner beauty and independence was glowing.

There were people from all parts of the world; Germany, France, Russia, Malaysia and so on. They had different ideologies, different upbringings. I figured that everybody's life is customized to bring up the best of themselves.

What happens in their lives defines their personality and crafts their motives for doing things.

 Once, a clerk at a store, a complete stranger, invited my family and I over for dinner during the stay. She hosted us in such a grand manner with a huge feast of kafsa, an enticing Arabian dish of perfectly seasoned meat and rice. The rest of her family members sat down to put henna on our hands. It seemed so unreal I got skeptical. I supposed she would be asking us for help after she hosted us. It was hard to fathom that she hosted us purely out of kindness. I asked her why she was feeding us in Arabic. And she responded with one word as if the answer was obvious, “Ya’ani adaab.” “I mean...it’s etiquette.” A sense of morality came to thin air and I wondered, “Why aren’t we this nice in America?”.

Again, this made me embrace and respect each individualities more, differences and viewpoints, as well as taking pride in my own views and values and learned to differentiate between the real and the fake. I became interested in understanding behaviours and people.

I redefined knowledge: I was not learning for the sake of learning anymore, because of peer pressure or for the best GPA, rather, I wanted to learn out of genuine curiosity. 

Obtaining supplementary knowledge rather than studying the American education system's redundant core curriculum seemed more important to me. So I decided to homeschool for the next 5 months upon my move to California at 15, unaware of the detrimental social consequences. Although the silently killing isolation drove me insane, I was able to learn more about myself and internalize everything around me.

In California, the state of liberalism to the max, I referred to myself as a FOE, fresh off the East. We’re pretty ignorant about racial diversity there. I re-evaluated how I saw people of color; taught myself how to humanize people based on John Locke’s principles of natural rights. I unlearned racist behavior and mentality.

After I switched over to public school, I also began to understand the importance of sisterhood, tied with female empowerment. Insecure but “popular” girls at Santa Clara High swooned over immature foolish boys. Subtle sexism was everywhere from high school to corporate employment.

From body gestures to language, gender discrimination became more prevalent as I started college. I decided to experiment with men; 21 men in the span of three months to be exact. I kept a mental report of my dates' different characteristics associated with races, occupations, ethnicity, their views of women and expectations. Getting hugged rather than having my hand shook in a group full of men; being called an attention seeker for dressing too “provocatively”; being asked why I come home late on the weekends; encountering mansplaining on a daily basis by bosses, colleagues, and friends; my 40 year old male roommate denying that sexual assault is even a real thing; being asked why I go to the gym because my figure didn’t imply it was necessary; friends not believing things happening to me non-consensually. Getting mistreated as a women subtly was something I could no longer tolerate. The values of self respect I learned at school were put in place in my childhood for this reason. Self respect implies the intolerance of bullshit. And in hopes of ending such patriarchal bullshit, I’m planning to start a nonprofit to empower young women in a few years down the line. I embrace my own self. I know who I am, what I like and what I want.”

By switching her focus from "having the best grades" to "real-life experience" through being confronted to different social, spiritual, artistic and ethnic environments, she has become exponentially more curious, open-minded and comfortable networking, and so can anybody,