Don’t Write Me Off As a “Young Woman”

By on Mar 3, 2014 in Femellaneous | 0 comments

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed for the BBC World Service’s Sportsworld Sunday Debate. The topic of the show was whether countries with strong and controversial political views should be allowed to host major sporting events. The issues discussed included the Sochi Olympics and Russia’s homophobia, but I was interviewed specifically about Qatar and its hosting of the 2022 World Cup. I gave my perspective and the other interviewees/guests on the show gave theirs. All in all, a normal debate. Except for one tiny, sexist thing. One of the guests pretty much brushed me off and everything I had to say because I was a “young woman.” Here’s the background: I spoke briefly about women’s rights and migrant laborer issues in the country. Basically I said that when it comes to women’s rights, Qatar actually has a lot of things going for it. The...

EuroMaidan: Women Rising in Ukraine

By on Feb 24, 2014 in Femellaneous | 0 comments

The past couple of days have been truly exciting in Ukraine. Nationalists, anti-corruption activists and opposition leaders have ousted President Viktor Yanukovych from power and are now calling for new elections in May. As a Ukrainian-American, watching the revolution unfold has been both exhilarating and frustrating. It’s been an incredible experience to witness the everyday people of Ukraine rise up and demand their democratic and human rights from the government. But I wish I could be standing alongside my fellow Ukrainians, instead of watching the EuroMaidan protests from afar. I am nervous about what lies ahead – will justice prevail? Will Ukraine finally break free of Russian subjugation, just as my grandparents have dreamed of for so long? Or will EuroMaidan transform into another failure, just as the 2004 Orange Revolution did? Will another Russia-lackey or avarice...

Vatican Synod on the Family: My Feminist Thoughts

By on Feb 23, 2014 in Gender and Religion | 0 comments

On Friday, Pope Francis convened a two-day closed synod at the Vatican about modern family life. The issues up for discussion include communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and other hot-button issues, such as contraception, couples living together outside of marriage, abortion and possibly even gay marriage. The details of the synod are a bit murky and it seems like the cardinals in attendance won’t be issuing press releases anytime soon. This particular conference is a lead up to a larger, more comprehensive synod that will take place in October, and then another in 2015. Though the cardinals’ current conversations at the Vatican may not be released publicly, Religion News Service reporter David Gibson did get some interesting feedback from the participants prior to the synod’s commencement: Francis wanted the entire College of Cardinals to have a chance to...

Gender Equality in Qatar: Good Steps, But More Needs to Be Done

By on Dec 24, 2013 in Women in the Middle East | 0 comments

Happy Holidays! Here’s my gift to all my readers: my latest opinion piece on gender equality in Qatar, published by JustHere.qa. An excerpt: Qatar is doing many things right. The Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-2016 states women’s empowerment as a key developmental objective. It lists many goals for its citizen women, including increasing the number of Qatari women in the workforce, increasing leadership positions for them, and even “reducing the stereotyping of women’s roles and responsibilities.” But if true equality for women is to be achieved in Qatar, much needs to be done. A patriarchal mindset is still the norm here. When I have reported on women’s issues here in the past and wanted to interview men, I was warned by Qatari colleagues not to use “bad” terms such as feminism and women’s empowerment because the interviewees would think I was advocating taking power...

Why Many Qatari Women Won’t Pursue Media Careers

By on Dec 18, 2013 in Women in the Middle East | 0 comments

For the past two years, I’ve been working diligently on a story about the Qatari cultural taboos and traditions that prevent many women here from showing their faces in the media, even if they don’t wear a niqab in every day life. That means refusing to appear in photos or video reports even for positive news stories, or even posting a profile picture on Facebook. This piece was just published by Chime For Change, which is edited by renowned journalist Mariane Pearl. In it, I explore how this taboo impacts gender equality in the country. Here’s an excerpt: The stigma against women appearing in visual media is “a tradition that has no basis either in Islam or in any logic,” said Amal Al-Malki, the only Qatari professor at Education City, a campus run by Qatar Foundation that is home to several American universities. She teaches literature and Islamic feminism and has...

Jupiter Ascending. Or Not: Another Male Character Saves the Day

By on Dec 10, 2013 in Gender in the Media | 8 comments

So I’ve been watching movie trailers all morning (because that’s how I procrastinate), and I came across one for Jupiter Ascending, produced by Warner Bros. Pictures. It’s a sci-fi action-adventure film starring Mila Kunis as the eponymous protagonist. Here’s the synopsis for it on the Apple Movie Trailers page: Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) was born under a night sky, with signs predicting that she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning other people’s houses and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along—her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the...

Red John’s Demise: Why is The Mentalist Afraid to Use the M Word?

By on Nov 26, 2013 in Gender in the Media | 5 comments

Warning: Spoilers Below Patrick Jane finally caught and killed Red John on Sunday. Spoiler alert, turns out it was the sheriff all long! Honestly, I had mixed feeling watching the episode. I love the premise of The Mentalist but lately I found the plot developments too predictable and even excruciatingly cheesy. This last one was aggravating in various ways. In some ways the big reveal was too quick and all the stumbling blocks Jane had to surmount just to finally do the deed too contrived. Of course, some woman in black is going to walk into the chapel right before Patrick is ready to deliver the final gun shot. And of course, that woman is going to be Red John’s accomplice, even though Patrick, for all his alleged brilliance, won’t realize it until she’s trying stab him with a knife. Give me a break! But what really pissed me off about the episode is that Patrick...

Would You Wear Anti-Rape Shorts?

By on Nov 2, 2013 in Femellaneous | 2 comments

Last week, Role/Reboot published my piece on anti-rape shorts. It’s a new product created by an NY clothing firm that would apparently protect women from being at least penetratively raped. I’m not entirely convinced of its merits. But yet, I can’t help myself thinking about buying a pair. Anti-rape wear is another example of how women must shoulder the burden of sexual violence and misogyny. This time around, we have a say in whether we wear them, but we are still allowing men—or our fear of them—to indirectly control us. We don’t need another commercial campaign telling women how to protect ourselves. We already know. I carry pepper spray, always keep a close eye on my drink, and even know a few self-defense moves. Does that keep me safe? Maybe. But these actions don’t do anything to solve the underlying problem: We live in a world where men frequently dehumanize...