Wednesday, October 11, 2017

On men and Harvey Weinstein

“What are you studying?” he asks repeatedly, louder each time. I’m reading the Guardian and not paying attention to anything else, and I realize this stranger is addressing me. He demands to know, because of course he demands, he thinks he deserves my attention. “Film”. “Oh, do you wanna be a producer or a director?” I think, I’m already a director, arsehole, and have been for years. “Directing”. “Good luck, you’re at a great school. You’re gonna make it”. I don’t need your encouragement, random bald white man, nor do I want it.

Then the classic. “Where are you from?” I’ve finally learned that I do not have to answer this stupid fucking question, and of how to ignore it. “All over”. He laughs. “That’s a good one”. He says something about how he owns a house south of here. I don’t care about your house and nor do I ever wanna see it. I ignore him. He moves one seat closer and I continue to ignore him. He soon leaves, thankfully.

This past Sunday I walked around after doing some work, enjoying the day, the sun, the music on my headphones. A man cycled up to me; I couldn’t hear him coz of my headphones, but I could tell he was saying “Can I ask you something?” I was at a crosswalk. I told him no, and ignored him. I didn’t want this man, yet another man who thinks he’s entitled to my attention, time, or conversation, to ruin my day.

If these men think I’m they’re “exotic erotic”, they can and should piss off. I don’t know if its my brown skin, my hijab, how I loosely wear it, I dunno, but these stupid encounters happen too often, and interrupt my day. I currently wear hijab (and sometimes I don’t, depending on the space) and I wonder if I didn’t wear hijab at all anymore, if I’d still get encounters like this or if they’d change and become worse. I’m also not highly feminine, nor do I try to be, and I wonder if I was, if these encounters would again get worse.

Why do so many men think they’re entitled to a woman’s attention, time, conversation – or body? Why? We have words as to why, patriarchy, misogyny, etc., but just naming these things doesn’t make them go away. These are universal diseases and unfortunately, they’re also timeless and classic. Meaning, this shit has been going on for so long, practically everywhere.

Why did Harvey Weinstein think he’s so entitled to women’s attention, time, conversations, but especially, their bodies? To so, so many women. When the news reports first started gathering about his sexual assaults just a few days ago, I wasn’t surprised, at all. I’m no Hollywood insider, nor do I aim to be, but I’m aware enough of Harvey Weinstein to know of his status and power, and how he’d use that all to his advantage and think that he’s entitled to having women. I say “having” because essentially Weinstein, like billions of men throughout history, view women only as objects, as something to have, to consume.

So many of the reports – and there are more women coming forward everyday – but still not many men also speaking against him – talk of how scared the woman was of Weinstein, not only because of his size but also of his power. His power. Power. His power to start careers and end them, completely at his own will. The women were too afraid to report before, in case he would sabotage their careers (and he did to those who did say anything), and/or were afraid to fight back in case he’d sabotage their careers (and he did that to those who physically resisted).

This man, this Hollywood giant, assaulted so many women over decades, was able to get away with it this whole time, because of his power.

Power is disgusting. Harvey Weinstein is disgusting. Men, those who think they’re entitled to speak to me or suggest things to me, just because they’re men, whether they’re strangers or men whose phone numbers I have because I work with them, are disgusting.

I don’t know what else to say really. I suppose I’ll repeat what many others have already said: men need to be raised better.

I think of my nephew often. Let’s call him Joey. Joey is so sensitive; he’s always asking about people, and isn’t afraid to tell people that he loves them. I hope Joey always stays that way, to be so emotionally intelligent, and I hope other little boys are also raised without the notions of machismo, that trap them. Indeed, when men free themselves from the trappings of patriarchy and misogyny, of thinking of themselves as more than their sexual organs and thinking of women as more than objects, all are more free.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

On dissonance

I returned and saw something new on the fridge: a flyer for a rally that took place when I was away, by the Burmese American Muslim Association to raise awareness about the genocide of the Rohingya.

After more than a week and a half of being back, today I stopped and looked more closely at it. There's a photo of a highly distraught woman carrying a half-naked toddler. Both are severely disheveled, and the woman is crying. The image of this woman and her child is distressing, and I think that's the point and why it's on the flyer.

However, I will never meet this woman. She has no idea who I am, and I have no idea who she is. What's much worse though is that there's practically nothing I can do to actually help her. The horrors this woman has seen and faced, and survived, I will never know, can only attempt to imagine.

The dissonance is that a photographer in the field snapped this photo, uploaded it to a wire service, from where it got utilized and the designer of this flyer found this photo of this woman and child, and stuck it on the flyer, which is now on our fridge. I almost wish I could unsee this image, but that speaks to the volumes of privilege I have over this woman, in that I do not have to face war, genocide, or forced migration, rather I can very easily turn away from these things and never have to know about it.

The dissonance is that I wish could meet this woman and her child and family, do what I can to pool resources and provide those resources to them, and make sure that they will always be safe, healthy, and have a home and a community to go home to. But I can't do any of these things. I could donate some money to any relief efforts that are on the ground, but that is most likely the only actual thing I can do.

I will post this and go back to working and listening to music. Why is it that my own life can be so frivolous and I can attempt to work for meaning in my own life, but this unnamed and unknown woman...I wonder where she is sleeping tonight, if they are safe, if they have food and water - but honestly they probably don't. I have all of these things. Alhumdulillah. But why can I have many things - all of which I'm grateful for - and she has nothing?

Most of the world is in willful ignorance about what's happening to the Rohingya. They are facing genocide. They are Muslim. Is it because they are Muslim, that most of the world is not causing a fuss? A few years ago a term "Islamo-fascism" was getting thrown around; rather it is Muslims who have faced fascism, with genocides in Bosnia and now in Burma. They are seeking refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh, a South Asian and majority Muslim country. Is it because they are not going to Europe, that the world is again not causing a fuss? The Rohingya are also coming on boats. Those boats are also capsizing. What will it take for people to just even be aware of what's happening? I am made aware due to the flyer on my fridge put there by my Burmese roommate. If this hadn't happened and/or if I didn't live with her, I too could remain willfully ignorant.

The dissonance is that I can write and post this while this woman will continue to suffer, and there's nothing I can do about it.