Feminism Fridays: This Is a Thing I’m Doing Now

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I’ve decided to do a new weekly post regarding feminism. I haven’t been great about blogging regularly, and hopefully this will help keep me on a better schedule. Also, feminism! Yay!

Some of you may be cheering with me. Others may be groaning. That’s ok. My hope is that this first Feminism Fridays post will turn your groans to cheers as well. It will be less about feminism in general and more about my own experience with feminism. So stick around, please, and maybe I’ll change your mind about what it is to be a feminist. For those of you who aren’t groaning, feminism! Yay!

So without further ado, here is the first weekly Feminism Fridays post.

We-Can-Do-It-Rosie-the-Riveter-Wallpaper-2-1024x714

I didn’t always consider myself a feminist. In fact, I used to actively disengage with the word “feminism.” It was not something I wanted to be associated with. When I was younger, the only thing I knew about feminists were that they hated men, they took themselves too seriously, they had no sense of humor, and I didn’t like them. I unfortunately did not have access to the kind of information that would show me what feminism is really about. Yes, the Internet has all that info, but I wasn’t looking to learn about feminism because no one told me that what I thought I knew wasn’t the whole story.

When I finally got to college, I began to learn more about feminism and women’s studies. I heard enough from peers and professors to actually look into feminism and see what it’s all about, and, gradually, I began to identify as a feminist.

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t feminists out there who hate men, who take themselves too seriously, and who have no sense of humor. They don’t however, make up the majority of feminists, just like not all whites are white supremacists, not all Jews are doctors and lawyers, and not all blondes have more fun. The bra-burning, armpit hair-bearing, men-hating feminists are the stereotype. (Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with bearing armpit hair. You probably shouldn’t burn bras though. They are expensive. You also probably shouldn’t hate men. Sometimes they just don’t know any better.)

The problem is that there is not enough education about what feminism is, at its core, actually about. Even as I write this, I’m still not one hundred present sure what constitutes a textbook feminist. I’m not sure anyone does. But that’s part of feminism. It’s giving women the opportunity to choose who they want to be and how they want to act. Feminism is being able to not shave and show the world that woman don’t need to conform to social standards of beauty. Feminism is being able to shave and show the world that this isn’t for the men who find it beautiful. It’s for us. Feminism is giving women the power to choose. It’s raising women up to know that we are beautiful, we are strong, and we are good enough.

I hate that I didn’t learn more about feminism before college. I hate that I didn’t have many women in my life to teach me that women are powerful, and that we can do anything we set our minds to, even if society doesn’t think we should. I hate that young girls are taught to be pretty instead of smart. I hate that they’re shown how much society values their sexuality more than their minds. I hate that this is still a problem.

Feminism is not something to be feared, like I once did. It is something to embrace. It is something to teach the next generation. We as women have a duty to show young girls what women can do, to show them that we are not objects. And men have a duty to teach young boys that women do not exist for their pleasure, and that strong women do not immaculate them. We all have a duty to embrace feminism and teach future generations what equality looks like.

I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, but I’m saying again because no seems to be hearing it yet, not really. So help me spread the message, and welcome to Feminism Fridays.

Advertisements

Step Aside, Teens. Benjamin Percy’s “Red Moon” Is a Tale for the Masses.

percy_RedMoon_TPI recently finished Red Moon by Benjamin Percy, and it is quite honestly one of the most intense novels I’ve read recently. It is a kind of alternate history of the United States, clearly meant to speak to those of us living in post-9/11 America. Although, rather than tell a story about xenophobia toward Arabs and Muslims, the characters in Red Moon are fearful of werewolves (or, as they are called in the book, lycans). Stay with me. This is not Twilight or True Blood or any of the many horror books and movies and shows aimed at teens. This is literary horror that Stephen King and Dean Koontz readers have been hoping would emerge in this new generation of writers.

The lycans of Red Moon have been around since the seventh century. Their condition is caused by a prion called lobos. It is a blood-borne contagion, similar to a virus, which affects certain areas of the brain that control stress-related functions. When lycans change, they don’t turn into wolves. They become hairier, their teeth sharpen to points, their nails turn to claws, but they are still human. They are less the mythical werewolves we’re used to and more people with hulk-like abilities.

In Red Moon, lycans are treated as second-class citizens. They are required to register, and, even though they can control the change on their own and can function as normal human beings, they are required to take monthly blood tests to ensure they are taking Volpex, a drug which inhibits their transformation. Non-lycans are afraid of lycans, and that fear is reinforced by splinter groups of lycan terrorists fighting for their right to be treated the same as everyone else. Most lycans, however, are not a radical as those in the splinter groups and just want to live normal lives (sound familiar?).

Those lycans who wanted a homeland where they could live freely created the Lupine Republic, situated between Russia and Finland, in 1948. However, when the U.S. discovered a boat-load of uranium un the Republic, they occupied it and began mining the uranium. Most U.S. troops are sent there until the lycan terrorists back home set off a nuclear explosion.

There are parts of this book which are not fully realized, mainly the characters. Claire and Patrick, the novel’s two teens, have an ongoing and complicated romance throughout the novel. They don’t grow that much, though. They move from one tragedy to the next, and they become harder, but they are relatively unchanged from the beginning of the book to the end. Chase Williams, a politician who is as against lycan rights as you can imagine, is turned into a lycan. Even that, however, doesn’t change his mind. He remains so far to the right in his beliefs that he seems less like a person and more like a vehicle for Percy to make a point. Many of the other characters exist more in the background than anything, and Percy sometimes seems unsure of what to do with them.

In the end, though, Red Moon is still a very impressive book. Percy’s prose is almost poetic at times. He describes violence in a way that makes it seem almost beautiful, which, in turn, makes it even more horrifying. I saw the whole book in my head so clearly it was hard for me to put it down. Percy’s descriptions are so clear I felt like I was there. And while the characters might not be as fully developed as they could be, Red Moon is, at its heart, an allegory for the world we live in. The lycans represent many of the minorities at the forefront of the tragedies and discussions of the last few decades. The resettlement and registration of the lycans is like that of the Jews during the Holocaust. The protesting lycans are reminiscent of the 1960s civil rights movement. The medical context of the virus that infects lycans, and the fear and lack of understanding of that virus, mirrors the initial scenes of the AIDS epidemic. And, of course, the Islamophobia of today’s post-9/11 America is possibly the biggest comparison Percy makes with his lycans.

I don’t know if Percy is trying to make a point one way or the other with Red Moon. Arguments could certainly be made for both sides. Rather, I believe Percy is merely trying to make readers question our thoughts and actions in today’s world. His novel goes to extremes, but I think that is to show us what could happen if we continue on our current path. In any case, Red Moon is an intriguing and intelligent read, and you would do yourself a disservice if you didn’t go pick up a copy right now.

Good Hummus Is Key to the Process of Discovery

Processed with VSCOcam with e3 presetA couple weeks ago I returned home from my second trip to Israel. I could have written this post then, when everything was still fresh in my mind and home didn’t quite feel real again yet. I wanted to wait till now, though, so that I could get used to real life again, so that I could look back on my trip and remember the things that were truly important (like hummus).

The trip I went on was called Birthright. It is a ten day trip offered to Jews, and it’s free. That’s how important Israel is to Jews. The country, along with private citizens, pay for Jews to come to Israel and experience the country in a way that the media never shows us. In Hebrew, the trip is called Taglit. Taglit means discovery, and that was exactly what this trip offered. It gave me, and the other forty North Americans and eight Israelis, a chance to discover Israel, to discover Judaism, to discover ourselves.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI could spend all day talking about the things we did there. We visited the Old City of Jerusalem, visited a desert oasis, rode camels, slept in a Bedouin tent, climbed Mt. Masada and watched the sun rise, swam in the Dead Sea, experienced the Tel Aviv nightlife, and so many other things. That’s not to mention the food. I could spend a day alone talking about hummus, falafel, shawarma, pita, bamba, and, again, so many other things. All of those things, however, are surface discoveries. They are memories that will fade over time. I will forget how uncomfortable riding a camel actually is. I will forget how soft my skin was when I washed off the Dead Sea mud. I will forget what the sun looks like rising over mountaintop ruins that are thousands of years old. I will forget how good Yemenite hummus is compared to Sabra (no offense, Sabra). What I won’t forget are the things I learned there. Israel has problems, just like everywhere else. The conflict with Palestine is not the only thing to focus on in Israel, just like we often focus on the wrong things in our lives. There are some things worth fighting for. Family is everything. Judaism is more than its stereotypes. It is a culture, a way of life. Questioning what we don’t understand should be encouraged, not punished. We need to remember our past so we don’t make the same mistakes. Learning and discovering is an active process. We can’t allow ourselves to become so complacent that we stop moving forward.

Processed with VSCOcam with n3 presetSometimes we get so wrapped up in our lives, so comfortable in our routines, that we stop noticing the world around us. We stop trying new things. Traveling helps remind us what we love about our homes, but it also introduces us to new things. Unfortunately, traveling is not something most of us can do often. Fortunately, though, most of us also don’t need to travel far to break our routines. So go somewhere different for lunch (have some hummus), take the long way home, explore a neighboring city, listen to a new band, go on a hike, buy yourself that thing you’ve been wanting forever but haven’t been able to justify. Read the news, educate yourself, contribute to your community. There are so many different ways to keep your life exciting and discover new things. You just have to be willing to try.

Processed with VSCOcam with e6 presetThis was not my first time in Israel. Some things were familiar to me, some things we completely new. This country has so much to offer, so much to discover, and it will always have a place in my heart. It will always be home. It is hard to describe to a non-Jew what Israel means to me, to Jews everywhere, but many of use the word “home.” It is the one place in the world we can go to and move from the minority to the majority. It is the one place we have that was created for us. Coming home from Israel is an interesting feeling. It feels more like leaving home, actually, like when your parents are divorced and you split your time between two homes. I’m back in America now, but Israel is still home, and I will keep its lessons with me. Eventually I will go back, and I will learn new things and bring them back to my daily life here. Until then, however, I will do my best to remember the important things (and to find some quality hummus). And if you ever get the chance to go on Birthright, DO IT, and savor it. You only Birthright once.

Processed with VSCOcam with e5 preset

P.S. If you want to see more photos and in-depth descriptions of my trip, check out my Instagram page here, or find me on the app @jordynmyah.