Writer. Fighter. Lover. Dreamer. The doctor's say she's generally functional.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day #4 - The smoke in your face comes from my fire.

Today has been a mentally exhausting day.
Started off by splitting up into groups, choosing a conflict occurring in the world and analysing it using the conflict analysis tools we learnt yesterday. These tools basically look into how different needs and fears lead to conflict, and what factors escalate them.

My group chose to focus on Afghanistan as we had 2 members from there and one from Pakistan. I still can't get over how different life is for them - today I heard how one of our coursemates from Afghanistan lost her mother and sister in a bomb blast years ago. Her father up and left to marry another woman, leaving her to raise her five brothers by herself. She was 12 or 13. They got by with jobs like carpet weaving and sewing and carpentry. She now has a job that pays well, though I can't imagine it pays well enough to support them all. I'm starting to question if I really know anything about life at all.

We made a chart to analyse the relations between the countries and parties involved, from the Afghan government to the Pakistani people, USA to UAE. And I learnt more about the entire situation in half an hour than I have in years of media coverage. Suddenly, these situations that were shocking and saddening but ultimately foreign and and far from me have names, people and stories attached. It makes a world of a difference.

our chart:

Later in the day we talked about gender and peace, been looking forward to this a lot (Gender studies in social psychology was my favourite.). Started off with an activity where we had to form a straight line and a statement would be read out, you move to the left/right/stay in the centre if you agree/disagree/undecided. About 5 men agreed with "Clothes for men have pockets. Clothes for women should not have pockets." Their argument was that women carry bags/purses and don't need pockets. right -_- when asked why I disagreed, I said that the statement did not say "does not need pockets" but "should not" and besides, who has the right to tell me what my clothes should or should not have, what I need or do not need? Zarah (who was conducting the lesson) was very pleased.

I was pleasantly surprised when every single person disagreed to, "Women should always do the housework." That joy was short-lived when someone said he disagrees that women should do all the housework, a man can help depending on how much time he has after work and how tired he is. I asked him about how that's different from how much time a woman has after work and how tired she is (whether her work is at home or not), there was no answer.

There's also a lady who said that boys are brave and strong and girls are cute and sweet. And that baby boys must wear blue and baby girls must wear pink. And it's not like she's uneducated, she's a university lecturer in political science.

The worst part was when another guy was asked if gender stereotypes such as men, strong, women, weak, men, independent, women, dependent are true. Of course, he said, women are dependent and they should be. According to him we should also be submissive while men are dominant. I thought he was kidding at first. He wasn't.

All this despite the fact that we had just discussed how gender bias affects women in terms of violence and discrimination. When asked our opinions on men, decisive, women, indecisive, and some of the guys agreed, I pointed out how during the agree/disagree activity it was always the men (I use the word 'men' in the most general sense) who remained in the middle and couldn't decide, a comment which was received with unsuccessful justification from the men and applause from a few other girls. Owned, boys, OWNED.

Later in the van, we were waiting for the driver and someone stupidly said, I wonder if any of the girls can drive? Concentrating very hard on a nearby tree, I refused to react. I can drive, parallel park and change a tyre better than you, you #%**&!@ $%&#*.

Of course, these don't represent the views of everyone there, some made really good points, both men and women. But for the others, I think it's terribly sad that people who have come together for a course on peace and conflict resolution have opinions like these. And it isn't as if the relation between gender bias/stereotypes and their effect on discrimination/violence against women wasn't made clear.

Later on Mr. Iheartsubmissivewomen, obviously unaware that I wasn't really in the mood to have anything to do with him, came to take a picture with me. I asked if I should lean on him since I'm dependent and might need him to support me, he laughed jovially like it was the best joke he'd ever heard in his life.

He is now the proud owner of a picture of me with my eff off face.

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