Monday, July 29, 2013

Facebook, are you leaning in?

I was at BlogHer'13 this year, for those who don't know, BlogHer is one of the largest gathering of women bloggers in North America.

Apart from being one of panelists for International Activists, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of keynote speakers in person, not limited to Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.

The reason I decided to talk about Sheryl as she claims to be a "feminist" in addition to being a businesswoman. In her keynote at BlogHer'13, she said that she believed that it was indeed possible and that after writing her book, Lean IN, she has indeed changed the discourse of conversation of sexism.

Er... OK... maybe that conversation has changed in corporate tech world... but that conversation has not changed for many at all.

So the night before keynote, I posted a question on different forums asking what would people want me to ask, Sheryl Sandberg, when I meet her. This is one of the responses I received;

These are some of the questions we all have and I am glad that Lisa Stone, co-founder of BlogHer, was able to ask the initial question, during Sandberg's interview.

But most disappointing part was the reply from Sandberg.

According to Sandberg, we
just need to use the "report" button .. Ermmm... WOW ... we didn't know that
part, did we?

I mean it wouldn't be so bad if something actually happened when we clicked the "REPORT" button. 

I ain't sure what Sheryl Sandberg is trying to do but either she is in complete denial or she was just being dismissive. 

I found her keynote to be somewhat disappointing!

I am sure she is trying to champion of women rights in the "new era" but this is not 1930s, when rich white women decided that it was time to stroll out of their tea rooms. This is 2013, we have moved past first-wave feminism, we speak inter-sectionality of gender with race, class, sexuality and cyber space. 

She calls herself quote unquote feminist but what we all heard was a businessman who is a COO of a corporate structure.

After her keynote, we were informed that we will be meeting Sandberg during which we can ask her questions. I was not really happy about the keynote speech and I decided that I will ask her about removal of breast feeding pictures & #fbrape in a bit more detail.

Me: "I wanted to continue the question from your earlier keynote speech, where you were asked about #fbrape.. you mentioned that the we need to just use the report button... but the problem is this is not working.. we know countless incidents where people report consistently and pictures are not taken down.

I am not sure how much you are aware of it because of your position as COO.."

                             SS: "Oh no, I know everything...

Me: "Well, we have not witnessed any change and this is still an issue for a lot of people. Other than that the breast-feeding pictures...I mean this is important.... BlogHer consists of numerous bloggers who are mothers and they blog about motherhood. Breastfeeding ain't a huge issue for me as I ain't a mom but its an issue for a lot of people."

policies are much more stricter than all the other online forums. There are more than 1.5 Billion users of facebook and everyone posts all the things all day every day. We have algorithms which take down a lot of online material. 

There are people who make offensive comments all the time, e.g. there is a group and its about holocaust deniers and I am Jewish and it offends me but we decided to let it stay for the sake of free speech... if such material ends up being there it also gets criticised by other fellow users.... We have made changes and it might not be working where you are [ probably she mentioned that part as I said that I was Pak-Canuck.. *sigh*...]"

Me:... well we do not see any changes. We are part of groups like "Everyday Sexism Project" where numerous users still rage about extremely violent pictures not being taken down...

SS: You know if you see anything like that... I will give you a number and you can call it.

She basically did not address any part of breast feeding pictures being taken and no proper answer for violent pictures about women.

In the part of my question, I did give her an opportunity to walk away from the whole thing that she is COO and she might not be aware of all the details, she was pretty insistent that "she knows everything".

I guess then she knows everything. At this point, the number I can directly call has turned into an email address. We will see if it will be any useful in progress.

After her mention, "Everyday Sexism Project have said itself that they have seen changes", I decided to ask Laura Bates if this was indeed true...

"Well yes, in so far as we got a public statement from Facebook that they would change their policy guidelines on domestic violence and rape, and we released a joint statement with the other
coalition members saying that we welcomed that ... but we are still in the process of actually working towards implementing those policy changes to see real change in reality, so it's difficult to say just yet..."


I decided to speak with another coalition member who was spearheading the hashtag #fbrape. Soraya Chemaly said;

"Facebook agreed they'd insufficiently recognized gender based hate in applying their own rules. In response to our request, they pledged to review and revise guidelines and to train people which is what we are working in making sure happens in a systematic way. We approved those steps as a commitment in response to our action. Part of their response was to seek our input, which they are doing. The more we learn, the more pragmatic and implementable we hope our recommendations will be."

I mean, I am glad that they are recognizing that there are errors and they are willing to work on it but its far away from leaning in [at least not at this point].

For fun: This is still one of the most dramatic pictures of Sheryl Sandberg and I #BlogHer13

Friday, July 26, 2013

What Should You Look for If You Suspect Sexual Abuse?

Children who are sexually abused may exhibit behavioral changes, based on their age.
Children up to age 3 may exhibit:
  • Fear or excessive crying
  • Vomiting
  • Feeding problems
  • Bowel problems
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Failure to thrive
Children ages 2 to 9 may exhibit:
  • Fear of particular people, places or activities
  • Regression to earlier behaviors such as bed wetting or stranger anxiety
  • Victimization of others
  • Excessive masturbation
  • Feelings of shame or guilt
  • Nightmares or sleep disturbances
  • Withdrawal from family or friends
  • Fear of attack recurring
  • Eating disturbances
Symptoms of sexual abuse in older children and adolescents include:
  • Depression
  • Nightmares or sleep disturbances
  • Poor school performance
  • Promiscuity
  • Substance abuse
  • Aggression
  • Running away from home
  • Fear of attack recurring
  • Eating disturbances
  • Early pregnancy or marriage
  • Suicidal gestures
  • Anger about being forced into situation beyond one’s control
  • Pseudo-mature behaviors

What Can You Do?

Protect your children. Teach your children what appropriate sexual behavior is and when to say “no” if someone tries to touch sexual parts of their bodies or touch them in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable. Also, observe your children when they interact with others to see if they are hesitant or particularly uncomfortable around certain adults. It is critical to provide adequate supervision for your children and only leave them in the care of individuals whom you deem safe.

Support child abuse victims. Children need to know that they can speak openly to a trusted adult and that they will be believed. Children who are victims of sexual abuse should always be reassured that they are not responsible for what has happened to them. Offer encouragement for victims by supporting organizations that help victims of incest or by simply reassuring victims of sexual abuse that they should not feel shame or guilt. It is important to understand that troubled families can be helped and that everyone can play a part in the process.

Teach others about child abuse. Help make others aware of sexual abuse by arranging for knowledgeable guest speakers to present to your organizations or groups. Encourage your local school board to establish programs to educate both teachers and students about the problem.

Report, report, report. If you suspect sexual abuse and believe a child to be in imminent danger, report it to the local child protective services agency (often called “social services” or “human services”) in your county or state. Professionals who work with children are required by law to report reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect. Furthermore, in 20 states, citizens who suspect abuse or neglect are required to report it. “Reasonable suspicion” based on objective evidence, which could be firsthand observation or statements made by a parent or child, is all that is needed to report. Remember that you may be the only person in a position to help a child who is being sexually abused.

Reblogged from American Humane Society

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Stories of courage: Fighting Back

We have guest post taken from Angel Jones tumblr


TW: rape, assault.
After having several conversations with friends about our sexual assault/rape experiences, I noticed that we were all talking about them the same way: eyes down, voices shaking, shame on our faces and thinking more about it, this really began to piss me off. None of us had ever done anything wrong yet here we were questioning ourselves, doubting ourselves, trying to figure out ways we could de-escalate our potential next attackers with words, and I was only getting more and more angry.
Going home and continuing to think about the assault stories those brave women and men have shared with me (and my own assault stories) made me pen this letter and post it on my tumblr. I'm tired of feeling afraid to say NO and tired of being too scared to fight back.

Dear men,

Just so you all know, I’m done worrying about coming across as a bitch for rejecting your shitty advances. If I’m not interested in you then I’m not interested and it’s up to you to get over it because I simply don’t give a flying fuck anymore.

I swear to all major and minor deities that if you touch me without my consent (and I’m fairly explicit when I want someone to touch me) I will do my absolute best to cause serious harm to you. I will grab onto your ear and try my damnedest to rip it off your head. I will mace you and then drive my heeled shoe into your face/neck/groin. I will try to break your fingers and rip out any visible piercings that you may have. Corner me in the car and I’ll reward you by punching you in the throat.

I’m beyond done being nice towards men that feel that they have some god given right to touch me wherever and whenever they feel like. I’ve been held down and assaulted, groped, and raped enough times to put up with this shit anymore. So all of you men out there had better be listening real fucking close because I’m only going to say NO once and then you’re going to need stitches/bones reset if you don’t back the fuck up.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Token Muslim

You get my point..
I know when I went to a school in super white hick town, I would be the only brown woman for miles. The town I am talking about had an approximate racialised population of less than 3%, according to its own county's official demographics.

And in those days I was this girl who had long wavvy hair with fuscia streaks as if hot pink exploded on my head.

It was a challenge to be hounded by assumptions about your identity just cos you were a coloured woman and then to be hounded out as to what "Muslims" do?

I was more of a practicing Muslim then than I am right now but the tokenization and fetishisation has still not ended for me. I remember when my Prof. in Criminology class would look at three coloured kids sitting at the back of the class everytime she would bring racial profiling in the most fucked way possible.

I mean that used to happen in an extremely white space but now even though I have moved away from that space, things have not much changed for me [in terms of tokenization]

The story goes when a colleague of mine asked me during lunch today "if Muslim women can have blue hair and does it not violates faith?!?"

I dont understand what does God or "Allah" has to do with the colour of my hair :S

Since when did world problems became trivialized and my hair became more important for "Allah".

                                                   Seriously,Kill Me Now‬!!

I was confused as to why I was even bothered with such questions especially when I mind my own business at work. I complete my tasks and I leave. I don't even interact with people more than necessary.

After looking at my confused expression, she started telling me how her brother is a "convert" and he just became "Muslim" after getting released from prison. 
Apparently he found "Allah"... not my words [Honestly, it sounded like when old people find God, when they are near their death bed -_- ]

Because according to her convert brother [from what I understood, he is hanging out with Salafis];
any woman who doesn't covers her hair [ or lives in 625AD] ain't really practicing religion -_-

And you know because I was the coloured woman at work with an Arabic name, I turned out to be an encyclopedia on everything Muslim... *FML*

She also asked what do you wear as per religion; at which I had to show her my baby pictures that my parents ain't cave men. Yeah, they are Paki-Muslims but they didnt time travel from 1400 yrs ago. They don't ride camels and they have 5 daughters out of which none were buried alive after birth. My parents might be problematic for a lot of reasons but they are not guilty of being these things.

                  She was SURPRISED that I had worn "NORMAL" clothes all my life *fumes*
You wore frocksssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!
Nah, man, back in Pakiland, we were just catching bombs and throwing them back at the drones with our bare hands. That's exactly what we were doing!! *rolls eyes*

Surprise we wore "NORMAL" clothes and we were fashionably hip.. imagine that! Oh and while we are on the topic, I like cheesecake, chocolates, flowers too and I am sure its pretty much haram!

And here I thought I was done being the token Muslim to provide all the answers to confused people out there.

SideNote: Seriously fuck all the Salafis who have made the religion so inaccessible for the rest of the crowd!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Guardian removed article: Open season on black boys after a verdict like this

We thought of placing this up because Guardian pulled it out. Down with censorship, down with racism

Calls for calm after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin are empty words for black families
Trayvon Martin
Trayvon Martin: caused suspicion by his existence alone. Photograph: Reuters
Let it be noted that on this day, Saturday 13 July 2013, it was still deemed legal in the US to chase and then shoot dead an unarmed young black man on his way home from the store because you didn't like the look of him.

The killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year was tragic. But in the age of Obama the acquittal of George Zimmerman offers at least that clarity. For the salient facts in this case were not in dispute. On 26 February 2012 Martin was on his way home, minding his own business armed only with a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. Zimmerman pursued him, armed with a 9mm handgun, believing him to be a criminal. Martin resisted. They fought. Zimmerman shot him dead.

Who screamed. Who was stronger. Who called whom what and when and why are all details to warm the heart of a cable news producer with 24 hours to fill. Strip them all away and the truth remains that Martin's heart would still be beating if Zimmerman had not chased him down and shot him.

There is no doubt about who the aggressor was here. The only reason the two interacted at all, physically or otherwise, is that Zimmerman believed it was his civic duty to apprehend an innocent teenager who caused suspicion by his existence alone.

Appeals for calm in the wake of such a verdict raise the question of what calm there can possibly be in a place where such a verdict is possible. Parents of black boys are not likely to feel calm. Partners of black men are not likely to feel calm. Children with black fathers are not likely to feel calm. Those who now fear violent social disorder must ask themselves whose interests are served by a violent social order in which young black men can be thus slain and discarded.

But while the acquittal was shameful it was not a shock. It took more than six weeks after Martin's death for Zimmerman to be arrested and only then after massive pressure both nationally and locally. Those who dismissed this as a political trial (a peculiar accusation in the summer of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden) should bear in mind that it was politics that made this case controversial.
Charging Zimmerman should have been a no-brainer. He was not initially charged because Florida has a "stand your ground" law whereby deadly force is permitted if the person "reasonably believes" it is necessary to protect their own life, the life of another or to prevent a forcible felony.

Since it was Zimmerman who stalked Martin, the question remains: what ground is a young black man entitled to and on what grounds may he defend himself? What version of events is there for that night in which Martin gets away with his life? Or is it open season on black boys after dark?
Zimmerman's not guilty verdict will be contested for years to come. But he passed judgement on Trayvon that night summarily.

"Fucking punks," Zimmerman told the police dispatcher that night. "These assholes. They always get away."

So true it's painful. And so predictable it hurts.


Addendum: After the article being removed for a while, it was found to be back up on July 14th at 10:19 AM EST

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Notes from suicide alley: When I don't crash...

AR sent us submission on their suicidal thoughts and why it keeps them going. They have been struggling with tendencies towards suicide and mental health issues for quiet sometime.

I always feel that its important to share such voices to others and hopefully people will feel that they are not alone in their personal struggles.


I know I have a mental disorder, and at times there is no reason in reality for me to be miserable about. But I am. I feel like gauging my eyes out and shaving my head. Screaming at the top of my lungs, telling how it hurts me to see everything around me. Wishing to stop breathing, or that a bullet whizzes through my head, turning my brain into a million droplets of mere un-homogenized matter. I refrain. Not always, but most of the time.

You want to know what keeps me from crashing at times? That I have far more things to be happy about compared to more than 90% of the world. That I am insulting their misery and zest for life by being upset about personal as well as other shit. Maybe it is not a good enough reason for many. But to me, it translates to offending hungry children around the globe, brutally raped women and physically impaired people who live in absolute misery, but who still have a shine in their eyes and a mischievous twist in their smile.

So as long as I can think about other peoples misery, maybe I will stay selfish enough to remain a burden on this planet.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Everyday Sexism - Montreal

I was in Montreal this weekend for #JazzFestival and at the Mont-Royal subway waiting to meet my twitter buddy Maya [ if you dont know her, she goes by the name of @mayanchocolate0]. It was a great weather and Hani and I had a lovely breakfast in one of the croissant places on Mont-Royal.

Anyways, this post is not about my food adventure but it is about one of the most bummed moments that I had that day. A man in his 40-50s was present at the outside patch making really loud comments but after few minutes of observation. At first I thought that he might be the person who is having mental health issues, I realised that it wasn't the case. 
He was actually passing extremely explicit sexually harassing comments to majority of the women who were getting into the metro station. 
In a span of 10 minutes, we waited for Maya, he harassed at least 3 passer-by women. He was moving in and out of the station and making the most fucked up remarks. He wasn't intoxicated, he was completely coherent. Reminding that he was extremely loud, we were some 20-30 ft away from him and we heard him clearly. Some of which were;

                     "I want to get in your skirt...."
                                     "I want to tear your shirt off.."

Anyways you get the idea that he was being beyond disgusting. I was looking for Transit cops when he just appeared out of nowhere and came by to sit in our portion of the patio. He sat on left side of the bench across me and said;

                "You are so hot, I want to fuck you right now"

I was completely mortified. At that point, I was hoping that he didn't make those remarks cos I am "exotic brown woman" but I just scrapped that thought from my head and I asked him to leave cos my friend Hani was like we aint leaving the space cos we were there first.
After asking him to leave the premises which he refused to do so like most sexual harassers who think that its their God-gifted right to make any woman uncomfortavle. I had to inform the incident to Montreal cops because it wasnt just me but he was passing extremely harassing comments to every woman who was passing by.

Cops of ours as usual were more worried if he physically grabbed me [well the point never came] but yeah they said that they will canvas the area 
                   [P.S. no proper report was taken by them as it was not deemed "serious"]

I was honestly surprised that the station did not have Transit Cops and the ticket checker at the subway had to call 911 for the cops to arrive 15 minutes later [The asshole was gone by that time]. The cops were just apologetic that I was a tourist visiting the city and that I had such experience [as if that helps -_-]
My point being sexual harassment is a criminal offense in Canadian Criminal Code and if you see any asshole acting as such report that garbage before anything else happens. Shit escalates because we choose to be quiet about it. The purpose of writing this post is that if you are in Montreal and if you come across this person, don't hesitate to report him.

Description: He is white [will look tan], has a tattoo on the right side of the neck "Pierre". He has shaggy white hair.

Website last updated 2013