Asma Jehangir’s Legacy: Speak in Turn, Rise in Unison!

It has been a trying few days after the loss of true feminist icon and fearless advocate for the unprotected, Asma Jehangir. I tried to capture my thoughts and feelings in poetic form. 

Asma Jehangir’s Legacy: Speak in Turn, Rise in Unison!

Shoulder to Shoulder,

hand in hand,

a name, a presence, a force

that continues to rankles men’s egos and upset their comfortable self-delusions

This time around, Time will not heal,

We will leave this gash exposed and untreated

like the state of women, the minorities, the children, the unprotected

across the land

to twirl one’s mustache and think “ab tho yeh bala tali’

there could be no bigger mistake,

jahaan aik thee, ab hain aik hazaar,

sirf aik hazaar awaazein nahi, par goonjey thi we azaan hai yeh

bohot ho gaya intezar, auratein, miskeen, bachoon ka – Insaaf ke liye!

Asma Jehangir, courage and integrity personified, leaves up to Us

To Carry On,

To Be Strong,

To Be Fair.

 

– Mariam Shoaib

 

Women-Only: Out with the Bucket-list, In with the Action Plan

For those unfamiliar with the term, a bucket-list is essentially a list of experiences one wants to gain before ‘kicking the bucket’ or ‘meeting their Maker’. Hollywood is partially responsible for making ‘The Bucket-List” concept widely popular. It has been romanticized endlessly as the ultimate gift one character can give another; they are to help the other main character cross off all of the items, travel to remote destinations and partake in kooky adventures- all this mentioned on the bucket-list before they die.

Ever seen Mandy Moore’s ‘A Walk to Remember’ ?  One of Jamie’s wishes is to be in two places at the same time, so Landon makes it happen:

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It is easy to see the allure in choosing this concept for moviemakers as it makes for a straightforward plot line.  But here, on this blog, we are sticking to the real world.

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I say down with the bucket-list! Enough with adding bullet-points upon bullet-points to soothe the frustrated soul and the impatient mind  into believing that you will, indeed, take a big juicy bite out of Life- Someday.

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As a South Asian woman, especially as a Pakistani woman in today’s world, the lingering narrative is to ‘wait’ – wait until you are married to travel, wait for approval from a large, faceless ominous presence called “log” (a Desi-Urdu term for community) before choosing your major for graduate school, wait until the kids are older before going back to work (or to begin working in the first place!), wait for a better time for your partner before trying out a side hustle – just keep waiting.

If you are reading this, you are practically enrolled in the Catalyst Woman movement. I will let you in on a little secret-  us Catalyst Women, we do not wait for change to happen – we are the ones who make it happen!

Ease off the brakes and gently push down upon the accelerator when it comes to living your best life in 2018.  Replace the winding scroll of travel destinations, quirky hobbies and languages to learn with a point-by-point Action Plan.  Rather than dampen your dreams (and your spirit) by banishing them to a distant, undefined point in the future, try feeding the same list into a task management tool like Asana and start figuring out the logistics for attaining “Experience #1”.

 

Be realistic about what resources you have at hand – so that means taking a long, hard look at whether you have the basic requirements sorted – the savings, the passport,the right credentials- before embarking on “Experience #1”. Worst case scenario? You’ll find out  exactly what needs to be done before you can scale Mt. Kilimanjaro or enroll in vegan cooking classes.  Add that to your ‘to-do’ list and get cracking!

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If your dreams are founded upon undeniable aspirations, they deserve a chance to be actualized. No one will give you express permission to do so – not your boss, not your partner, not your pets- so you will need to be practical, focused and find motivation from within yourself about it all.

What is more logical and practical than an action plan?!

Don’t Call Us Girls

The best way to discuss a phenomenon is to start with a little memory recall.

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  • What Cyndi Lauper song refers to people having fun?
  • The mid-’80’s hit ‘ Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ .
  • What is the name of the highly popular yet highly controversial T.V. show by Lena Dunham?
  • Girls on HBO.

See a pattern there?

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Cyndi Lauper twirling in the music video

Dig Deeper:  When Lauper sings ‘Oh girls, they wanna have fun’ she is referring to a community that she belongs to and is thumbing her nose in the face of the stodgy patriarchy. She is referring to her friends and herself as ‘girls’ but it is evident she is talking about young women who want to ‘walk in the sun’ and refuse to be shut down/shut away or diminished in any other way by conventions and societal mores.

Time for those who are NOT women to stop calling women ‘girls’. This type of language is problematic and should be avoided at all costs. Using ‘girls’ instead of women reinforces traditional sex roles and erases their adulthood as a consequence. 

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By calling grown adults ‘girls’, you are essentially robbing them of their personhood. Their agency and their impact, their careers, their decisions, their feelings  as adults are all trivialised by the consistent labelling and use of such language.

Treating someone like a child is infantalization, and  it can be applied in several different ways, and often for different reasons. A solid example would have to be the way Lucy, the main character in the I Love Lucky t.v. show, is often talked down to and even spanked by her husband, Ricky, for laughs.

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Ponytails in Popular Culture: Depicting Women as Girls

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Popular culture does not miss an opportunity to depict women as inexperienced and naive. This peculiar social pressure on women to appear youthful extends to even makeup trends, where eyeliner is applied to mimic the larger eyeballs of young children.

Women are told, repeatedly, that they must act submissive, and uncertain to appear desirable. Men maintain their status and power in this flawed projection of gendered traits; being womanly, however, is equated to childhood and complete vulnerability. 

Overwhelmingly, the attempt is to show women without power or maturity.  Observe photo shoots in leading fashion magazines and the postures and expressions render the models pictured as powerless yet sexually available .

Women in ads are made to pose in ways that resemble children – with blank stares, knees bent, and hands place in or around the mouth. Men, however, are shown standing up straight and tall, completely in control – much like an adult.

The Bratz Phenomenon

Rampant Sexualization of Young Girls

We have, not one, but two disturbing phenomenon at work here. The  infantilisation of women is accompanied by the trend of sexualizing young girls for commercial purposes. Advertisers increasingly market clothes, makeup, t.v. shows and even toys that promote the sexualization of girls (meaning actual children). Let’s not forget the extremely disturbing beauty pageants industry catering exclusively to little girls.

In the article titled “Behind the Cultural Imperative for Women to be Sexy and Cute,” Wade explains that:

“The sexualization of girls and the infantilization of adult women are two sides of the same coin. They both tell us that we should find youth, inexperience, and naivete sexy in women, but not in men. This reinforces a power and status difference between men and women, where vulnerability, weakness, and dependency and their opposites are gendered traits: desirable in one sex but not the other.”

There you have it! Portraying women as childlike and pushing sexualized fashion and music on girlhood- are part of the same disturbing societal problem. 

Is there a solution? In fact, there is more than one way to correct these prevailing trends. We will explore those in the next few blogs.

For starters, let’s stop calling women ‘girls’.

-Mariam Shoaib 

The devil has the best lines.

 Big Hair, even Bigger Dreams:  Wisdom from the G.L.O.W. 

Be Ok with Being Unlikeable.

Being okay with being unlikeable is a rude awakening for many in this selfie-driven / likes-driven world. We can not imagine being ignored, discounted or misunderstood by the public at-large.

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Ruth, our heroine in magenta tights, does not suffer from this delusion. Her life as a struggling actress in L.A. does not allow her to ever, ever forget that she is unlikeable.

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Ruth gets rough treatment on almost every casting call she goes for;  mostly for being original, authentic, and adamant on achieving her dream to become a Hollywood star. While she refuses to give up, that constant negative feedback has turned her into a worrier.

Accept Your Lot in Life.

In episode 2 her director Sam drives the truth home – to find your place in the sun – try not giving a f*ck.

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As the roles for the upcoming wrestling match are being assigned, Ruth is disappointed to hear that she is not playing Liberty Belle, a patriotic Southern Belle, in the fight. Instead, Sam has pegged her as the adversary in the ring, who will lose in the end.

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She needs to embrace the role that is being offered, to accept responsibility for some of the shitty things she has done as well as the inevitability of everything else that remains a confusing mess, like her broken friendship and the *always* overdue rent.

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Ruth is made to see the role as the villain for the big break she was striving for. It is not until she embraces this fact and pursues her character, albeit with a wonky Russian accent,  that Ruth’s talent is recognized.

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Plus, like Sam says, the devil has the best lines.

Haven’t seen G.L.O.W. yet? I highly recommend this show as it consists of smart writing, unpredictable characters, a diverse cast and kick-ass female leads who keep you at the edge of  your seat. 

Women in Positions of Authority (Quote)

Feminists have been telling us for a very long time that women in positions of authority find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. Too assertive or confident and they’ll call you a “bitch.” Too passive or self-deprecating and they’ll think you’re a doormat and unfit to be taken seriously.”

We lack the cultural narratives to make sense of women in positions of social power or authority. The ones we do have haven’t changed much since the days of Freud and de Beauvoir. This failure of cultural imagination affects women’s political, economic and social prospects.”

Read the entire article by Carol Hay titled Girlfriend, Mother, Professor? (it’s excellent) here.

Selections from Aya de Leon’s”On Pandering, White Women as Scapegoats, and the Literary Industry as a Hand-me-down”

“I don’t disagree with James about the phenomena he observes: a literary industry with white women in gatekeeping roles and with white women set up as the archetypal consumer to be pandered to.

I do, however, disagree with the implied notion that white women are the powerful and designing force behind the institution.

In reality, the literary industry has been forged by a patriarchal system that decides what would be in its own interest for women to want, tells women that they want it and then sells it to us.”

“For many years, people have been asking, “are books dead?” The answer is no, they have just been passed to women like a hand-me-down. The infrastructure and implicit values in the literary establishment guarantee the reproduction of patriarchal values, as Vaye Watkins so clearly identifies. The women in the industry have all grown up in this society, have all been schooled in what makes a “big” and “important” book. Women’s concerns are consistently belittled.

We have a canon of “great literature” that dates back for several hundred years and is etched in stone. So the addition of a Toni Morrison and a Junot Diaz and a Maxine Hong Kingston and a Sherman Alexie can be grafted on as branches of the tree, or perhaps more like leaves. Branches? Leaves? Whatever. The industry’s roots are grounded firmly in Europe and White America and men’s voices. Vaye Watkins said, “I have built a working miniature replica of the patriarchy in my mind.” The literary industry is the same: fully imprinted with the values and preoccupations of the patriarchy. Once that’s firmly entrenched, it’s safe to leave the girls in charge.”

Read the entire blog post by the effortlessly brilliant  Aya de Leon on her blog:  On Pandering, White Women as Scapegoats, and the Literary Industry as a Hand-Me-Down  .

Step-Up Workshops : Employability & Empowerment for Pakistani Women

I run self-empowerment, employability skills and digital literacy workshops for young professional women, minorities and economically disadvantaged youth under the banner of Step-Up Workshops.

With my team, our focus is to offer discounted workshops and resource materials that counter common obstacles for women/minorities  in the workplace/hiring scenarios.

Wireless Charging is Here! – Beam Me Up Scotty!

The phone is bleeping every 3 seconds and it’s about to shut down.  You rush to nearest cafe sit down and reach for… nothing. No need for a charger.  The wireless charging network being offered by the host cafe/office/airport/mall/public space will automatically charge your phone.

This will soon be a real scenario thanks to the innovative AND inventive research of Meredith Perry of UBeam. She claim that the wireless charging model being offered by her company will be as commonplace as wifi internet. Ubeam uses sound, technically ultrasound waves  emitting from a small panel to charge electronic devices.

Meredith goes as far to promise that this technology will remove the need for international adapters and eventually power outlets!

#1 One Reason for Millennial Women to be Financially Literate

Blog Series: 10 Reasons For Millennial Women To Be Financially Literate

Are you Financially Literate?

Being financially literate goes beyond knowing how much savings one has in the bank; it means possessing the ability for informed financial decision-making.  I will be sharing the top ten reasons why Millennials Women MUST dominate their finances and what that looks like – beyond the jargon.

The Number One Reason for Millennial Women to be Financially Literate

#1 – FOMO is a Trap

FOMO.  Fear of Missing Out.  According to the dictionary :

FO·MO  ˈfōmō/   noun informal     noun: FOMO

  1. anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”I realized I was a lifelong sufferer of FOMO”

The important words in the definition are “social media” and “anxiety”. Social Media posts by other people, especially acquaintances or the random troll,  can be annoying, but Anxiety-Causing?   Turns out this is a real issue – we can literally feel disconnected and dissatisfied with life due to the perceived success and contentment of our peers and idols.

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There is nothing wrong with staying up-to-date with our friends’ lives, but when FOMO sets in, we start comparing and evaluating our lived experiences – unconsciously. That is damaging behaviour.
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If you have ever felt the need to constantly check your Instagram or Facebook Timeline while out with friends, that is what FOMO looks like. The theory is that social media, with its sheer speed and glossy selfies, overwhelms users with imagery that is picture-perfect. In-fact, that is exactly what it is – Too Good To Be True.

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While our rational mind is well-aware of the fact, the subconscious gets triggered by these posts and creates a nervous energy – a nervous energy that is often channeled, at a HUGE disadvantage to your wallet, by going shopping.

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See enough pictures of your ex-boss’s new Ferrari and chances are you are gonna want to a) Buy a Ferrari  or b) Realize you can’t afford a Ferrari  and eat a tub of Chocolate Ice Cream or c) Go shopping and buy yourself another scented candle set to gloss over the feeling of overwhelm.  If this happens enough times, you will be making decisions triggered by outside influences – including how you spend your money- rather than by rational thinking and planning for what suits you best.

Still not convinced that FOMO is dangerous to your financial health?  According to Yahoo Finance, the need to keep up with friends has resulted in 56% of Canadians aged 18 to 30 to live beyond their means.  Their purchasing decisions are the result of social pressure from Instagrammed selfies and Snapchat clips, often with luxury brands popping up.

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So, the number one reason that Millennial Women should be Financially Literate is that FOMO or Fear of Missing Out is a trap.  It is an anxiety-ridden behaviour that often results in overspending that ruins your budget and fills nothing but your closet.
Coming Up Next –>   Cut It Out!  The Expenses! Stick to a Budget! 
Like what you read? Want to ask me a question about personal finance? Drop me an email at talktocatalystwoman @ gmail.com or visit my Facebook page