Thursday, June 22, 2006

Heidi Schnakenberg: Readers Respond to Heidi Schnakenberg

Stopping Rape as a Weapon of War Must be Top Priority

One of the most important on-going crises for women and families, globally, is the systematic rape of women as a weapon of war. From Darfur to the Congo, from Bosnia to Columbia and Gaza, rape of women is frequently used not only as opportunistic sexual gratification but, more increasingly, as an effective means of deeply disempowering entire communities.

A 3-day UN conference on the crisis is being held in Brussels, and is the first conference to be devoted specifically to this problem. According to Amnesty International, more and more women and children are raped in order to destabilize entire families and in order to impregnate women with the enemies’ child, as a means of “ethnic cleansing.” Since women are perceived as life givers and nurturers, destroying them, destroys the community and effectively devastates hope. Worst of all, entire generations of women are being damaged, psychologically, and physically, and find it increasingly difficult to carry on in their communities, not to mention all of the women who are dying from HIV/AIDS as a result. This global rape of women is truly one of the most destructive consequences of war and conflict, and we will all have to cope with the effects for generations to come.

Not only must women be protected and be taught to protect themselves against war crimes for wars they did not start, women must be provided the best of medical attention, pregnancy choices, and psychological assistance available. This matter must be taken as one of the most important moves we can make in healing the effects of war. Without women’s strength to rebuild communities in war-torn countries, there will be no communities left. And if women are provided pregnancy options, effective healthcare, and education, the damage that war criminals hope to do on them, will be far less satisfying. Unfortunately, women are often quickly forgotten and rapists almost always never receive any punishment, even after war. To this day, the 200,000 Korean comfort women that were recruited to be brutally abused sex slaves by the Japanese military during World War II, still hold weekly protests demanding reparations, which they have never received.

The empowerment of these women, both past and present, is the key to halting the destruction of war-torn communities and healing the minds and hearts of women and their families. It is the first step that must be taken, not the last.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Push for Positivity

The push for positive light is becoming more and more intense in the universe these days. The battle for good vs. evil seems to clash harder and stronger now more than ever. I contemplate this phenomenon often, each day, and not just from reading the news, but through reflections of this war in my own daily life.

It is hard to be a peaceful warrior in these times. There are dark, negative forces lurking in every corner, but we cannot be closed in fear. We have to re-light our skulls (such as the Baba Yaga does for us in the tale of Vasalisa - courtesy of Dr. Estes) and "see what there is to see." And we must see it clearly and truthfully, without wavering our attention and focus.

Big events tend to harness greater clashes, and it is at these times that we must remain vigilent. There is nothing to fear but fear itself and nothing to run from that won't enrich our lives and spirits if we stand still. The greatest tool in the war is forgiveness. It is the greatest tool and the most difficult to establish. The drive and need and want to be angry and resentful is powerful and potent and hard to fight. But once we overcome that step, we are in control of the war.

Fight the good fight, all of you Amazon women out there. The battle has yet to be won.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Women Making a Difference

I wanted to take a moment to give a big shout out to the Binti Pamoja Center, based in Nairobi, Kenya. I've been a long time supporter of the group, and can't emphasize enough the importance of the work they are doing with young girls and women in fighting the good fight for women's rights to education and sexual safety.

The Center was launched in 2002 by Emily Verellen and Karen Austrian, and aimed to educate and support women in dealing with sexual violence, AIDS, abuse, and poverty. These women have provided a safe haven for women to discuss these issues and seek guidance, while simultaneously encouraging them to express their feelings through art, photography, writing, and drama.

All of this started from a modest grant that Karen and Emily received from Columbia University, and has exploded into a fiery circle of positive energy. The group was endorsed by Nane Annan and has gained worldwide attention in just a few short years.

We should all be so inspired to take matters into our own hands and simply change the world.
See also: We Like Feisty, Feisty is Good, By Heidi Schnakenberg

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Margaret Cho

Jennifer Jung has a yummy quote from Margaret Cho on her blog, which speaks to the objectified woman in all of us:

"I don't need any more people calling me up, saying, "I have this script that you're gonna love. There's this part for an ASIAN WOMAN--it's really not the lead, but it's such a great part. Call me." The first thing that I do when I get a call like that is to press 3 for "Delete," because there's no way this part is gonna be anything good. I have never had any desire to play a maid, a liquor store owner kicking a black person out of my store, a rude and harried waitress, a worldly-wise acupuncturist, an early-rising, loose black cotton pants-wearing elderly woman practicing tai chi in the park, a manicurist, a prostitute, a student in an English as a Second Language course, a purveyor of exotic mushrooms and ginseng, an exchange student, a newscaster covering gang warfare in Chinatown, a woman drowning my newborn baby in a bowl, a daughter crying with my mom over our constant battle between East and West yet finally coming together over a particularly intense game of mah-jongg, a queen sitting on her throne in the Forbidden City being served a bowl of turtle soup by a eunuch, a peasant carrying a yoke on my shoulders like a yak trudging up Gold Mountain delivering precious water to my village, a young girl being raped and killed by GIs in the Killing Fields, a woman balancing a basket of any kind on my head, being the second wife and committing suicide to avenge the first wife by coming back as a ghost and scaring the shit out of everyone, or, alternatively, committing suicide because my white lover did not come back to Japan after the war, or having him come back for me and fooling him sucessfully for years and years into thinking I am a woman when really I'm a dude, as if my race castrates me so much that this deception is completely feasible, or a girl, barely out of grammar school, playing violin for the president in a long, black velvet dress, or a mother, out of nowhere, screaming and then sullenly freezing out my children in an effort to terrorize them into getting better grades in school, especially in math and science, through emotional blackmail and coercion, or a teenager, figure-skating in the Olympics and winning the Gold but never getting a major endorsement contract because even though I fucking won that goddamn medal for America I will never be considered the hero that I truly am because, no matter what anybody says, this is still a racist country, or a woman giving birth to the Dalai Lama, or holding my breath for over three minutes while diving for pearls, or arguing with Elaine from Seinfeld about her dry cleaning, or saying, "Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond," or being a hired assassin and flinging a ninja star, or sword-fighting up a tree, or writing my Geisha memoirs because playing weird musical instruments and powdering my neck is so fucking memorable I need to write a book about it, which actually wasn't even me writing, just some old white guy who wanted to turn my life of exploitation and prostitution into some "Pretty Woman During the Heien Period" fantasy, or brushing up on those concubine skills, or going anywhere with a chicken under my arm, or travelling all the way around the world to meet my birth mother for the very first time, or eating dog for lunch, or being mail-ordered for marriage to some way-out-of-my-league computer geek I have never met, or getting shot down and then rolled over by a tank in Tiananmen Square, or walking on some Jim Belushi-looking dude's back, or balancing with five other family members on a bicycle, or being knee-deep and pointy-hatted in a rice paddy, or graduating magna cum laude from Stanford, or wearing a lab coat and goggles and holding that beaker a safe distance from my body with tongs, or cooking with a wok after speedily cutting all my vegetables vertically, or binding my feet because that's what all the girls are doing this year, or wearing my long, silky black hair on one side of my head and a big flower on the other side, or doing a dance that requires me to jump over a sword, or getting off a tour bus and taking numerous photographs, or bowing, banging a gong or getting it on, or considering Pearl Harbor some kind of triumph for "my people," or making the best of being in an internment camp by starting a theater company and staging a production of Anne Frank, or taking all my white friends out to Benihana and ordering for all of them, making sure nothing is too spicy, because they all think I know what to get, or dramatically escaping from Red China with none other than Richard Gere, or arranging flowers or pruning a bonsai tree, or being a "teenager" in pink lipstick and a HELLO KITTY T-shirt and miniskirt, or acting like I am five years old and pressing my knees together while making a big O shape with my mouth in a display of cuteness that is really just another expression of the denial of my strength as a woman, which we all know is another way I keep myself from my own power, remaining a safe and ineffectual sexual stereotype, pleasing to the status quo (see the third Austin Powers, the characters Fook Mi and Fook Yu), or breaking boards with my forehead, or being a prisoner of war or a spy of any kind, but obviously not a very good one or my character would be played by a white man, or explaining the mysteries of the Far East to Richard Chamberlain or to Chris Tucker--or to anyone, for that matter--because the Far East is just as much a mystery to me as it is to them, or letting anybody say, "What do I know...I'm just a ROUND EYES!," because that statement is condescending to me and yet so true, in that, yes, you don't know shit, and don't act like acknowledging your own ignorance excuses it, and nobody cares if you can "tell us apart" because we are not doughnuts that you need to first identify to decide if you want to eat us or not." -Margaret Cho-

Monday, February 20, 2006

We Like Feisty. Feisty is Good: By Heidi Schnakenberg

On Heidi Schnakenberg's blog yesterday:

There is an excellent article today in the BBC News on Girija Devi's fearless mission to rebuild her community in the state of Bihar in India, in which she breaks through tough as nails barriers to make change happen.

In the rejected "untouchable" Musahar world in backwoods India, this woman is breaking through unimaginable classism and extraordinary obstacles as a woman to make her world a better place. While I don't necessarily agree with her stance that alcohol is the root cause of abuse toward women - it is really an erroneous gender ideaology that makes this happen - I have enormous respect for her cause and her strength.

Devi and her fellow female leaders are terrific examples of the power of women when they unite - having the courage to shave their men's heads when they catch them drinking up a storm, and ravaging liquor pots around village. The fire of a good woman like this is unstoppable, as evidenced by her continued efforts to improve everything from healthcare in the area to literacy.

Whatever drives Devi is sure to have positive results for women - women in the U.S. could certainly use her as well. Her courage is a source of inspiration that should be copied the world over, and may the Goddesses bless her when she speaks to the United Nations at the 50th Commission on the Status of Women on February 27th.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Spirit of the Santa Ana Winds

Mother Earth at her most fierce: Cleansing the chaos!

Crews battle wildfire near Malibu

MALIBU, California (AP) -- Firefighters made progress Wednesday against a wildfire burning in chaparral in the hills above Malibu. Several schools were closed as a precaution, and the fire crews there and in Orange County worried about the wind picking up again.
The fire above Malibu covered only 25 acres but it moved between two canyons a few miles from the Pepperdine University campus.
The canyons are historical fire corridors, carrying wind-driven wildfires that swept from the Calabasas area to Malibu in 1993 and 1996, destroying hundreds of homes.
"The whole Malibu area has had a history of fire," Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Sam Padilla said.
Crews doused the main body of fire in a few hours and concentrated on smaller hot spots, but wind up to 40 mph and 90-degree temperatures were forecast later in the day.
"It's definitely a concern. ... it's going to get hotter and drier," Los Angeles County fire Inspector John Mancha said.
There was no immediate threat to homes. The fire apparently was started by a vehicle fire, authorities said.
In Orange County, another blaze had blackened 7,000 acres in the Cleveland National Forest, just east of the cities of Orange and Anaheim, said Dennis Shell, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Authority.
The temperature was rising there, too, along with the humidity and a threat of increased wind.
"Today's going to be a very critical day for us," Shell said.
Authorities believed the Orange County fire developed from a controlled burn started on February 2, when no Santa Ana wind was predicted for at least five days, said Rich Hawkins of the Cleveland National Forest. (Full story)
Prescribed burns in the forest have been temporarily suspended, he said.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Memo to A Leader on "God"

This was sent to a dear spiritual leader recently:

I’ve been thinking about our debate on the use of language and how to reference “God” and wanted to share some thoughts with you. I know how important it is to not become attached to any word or symbol, and to not let it cloud our vision of what truly “IS”. However, I do believe strongly in God/Goddess being in balance, and God encompassing everything and everyone. While I do not wish to use ‘Goddess” in order to create a duality, I wish to use God and Goddess to diminish a separateness that has been created by making God male in nearly every world religion. The use of both is really about including rather than excluding, and to me, it actually erases a duality that is already there by bringing the faith into balance.

I understand that while you may understand that when we refer to God as “He” or “Him” we understand it’s just a word - a reference. Unfortunately, many people do not understand that and absorb this unconsciously as God being male. This subconscious belief has contributed to centuries of male delusions of superiority and consequently, centuries of female oppression. The Pagans and Druids understood the importance of balance in nature, on earth, and in spiritual life, and consequently believed in a multitude of Gods and Goddesses. While the idea of worshipping one God is important, in that it recognizes that God is in all of us – that we are One, I do feel it is our duty to undo the masculine genderization of God and work to transform the negative impact this has had on the imbalance of male/female energies on the planet.

Take for example, Jamaica. The country is famous for harnassing the powerful beliefs associated with Rastafari, which focuses on all of us being “One” which is, of course, true. However, because of its roots in a male God, this manifests itself in Jamaica as all men being One – in reality, women are not a part of this Oneness, they become less than human in the men’s eyes, and are objectified in violent ways. Their world is a great example of the rest of the universe, in that the oppression of women has thrown them out of balance and created outrageous violence in a country that believes in one of the most gentle religions out there.

Just like it’s not OK to exclude a black person or Native American person from Godliness, it’s not ok to exclude women, and unfortunately, many women do feel excluded by the single use of the word God and He/Him. I’d like use rather “the Creator”, the “Higher Power” or “God and Goddess” and when personifying God and Goddess, I’d like to use “Him and Her” or “She and He” interchangeably, or, ideally, use a non-gender word. God and Goddess is, after all, both genders and neither genders, and I feel it is appropriate!

Here are some links I’d like to share with you as well, to further highlight my thoughts, perspectives and beliefs.

Religious Tolerance on the Goddess

Religious Tolerance on the Druid

Think Quest

The Goddess: (this one has some excellent links as well that discuss Jesus’ relationship to the Goddess)

And if you haven’t already picked up the Da Vinci Code – a testament to the lost sacred Feminine….: The Fellowship .

American Mason

And this paragraph in Wikipedia’s article, “God and Gender” sort of sums up, for me, why it’s difficult to stomach the persistent use of “God”:

“An argument for using female symbols for God arises from the practical effects of God-language on the readers. Imagery for God helps people understand the world. The way a faith community talks about God indicates what it considers the highest good, the profoundest truth. This language, in turn, molds the community's behavior, as well as its members' self-understanding. The fact that Jews and Christians ordinarily speak about God in the image of a male ruler can be problematic. For feminist theology, the difficulty does not lie with the male metaphors. Men as well as women are created in the image of God. The problem lies in the fact that the specific male images reflect a patriarchal arrangement of the world, casting God into the mold of an omnipotent, even if benevolent, monarch. God's maternal relation to the world is eclipsed.”

Also on Wikipedia, this paragraph address what you and I were talking about, which in essence says that if you make God female, you draw attention to God as having a gender or duality, but if we call God male, God is genderless, or without duality. This argument, to me, is a double standard which doesn’t make much sense:

“In regard to translating Hebre names of God into English, most Orthodox Jews and many Conservative Jews hold that it is wrong to use English female pronouns for God; their reason is not because God is of the male gender, but because doing so among English speakers tends to draw attention to God as having gender.”

Just like Martin Luther King Jr. had to stand up for his people, I have to stand up for women every chance I get. While I try to stay away from becoming stuck on identifying myself as a woman, when I am much more than that, I still have to do my part to bring an end to injustice in the world, and this is deeply integrated into my spiritual beliefs.