Though we have the courage to raise our daughters like our sons … few have the courage to raise our sons like our daughters.
“Today anyone who wishes to combat lies and ignorance and to write the truth must overcome at least five difficulties. He must have the courage to write the truth when truth is everywhere opposed; the keenness to recognize it, although it is everywhere concealed; the skill to manipulate it as a weapon; the judgment to select those in whose hands it will be effective; and the cunning to spread the truth among such persons. These are formidable problems for writers living under fascism, but they exist also for those writers who have fled or been exiled; they exist even for writers working in countries where civil liberty prevails.” — Bertolt Brecht
I quote Brecht because the only real weapon to changing a people’s view is what is taught to their children. Why did Moses spend 40-years in the desert? Because that’s how long it takes for a generation to change and the old views to become new. the Huffington Post report about one of the longest lasting television shows that have helped shape young minds, Sesame Street, and how they are reaching out to change the minds of Afghani families. Real revolution is a slow process, any adult can quote slogans but it takes children to see a new possible world:
SESAME STREET UNVEILED A FRESH FACE
THURSDAY: A HIJAB-WEARING AFGHANI MUPPET NAMED ZARI WHO WILL TEACH
KIDS ABOUT “GIRL EMPOWERMENT, SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING.”
Zari is a six-year-old girl from Afghanistan who loves spiking a volleyball, swinging a cricket bat, and teaching her friends how to say “asalaam alaikum” — a greeting that means “peace be upon you.”
And now, the new “Sesame Street” character hopes to empower young women.
The Sesame Workshop announced Thursday that Zari, whose name translates to “shimmering” in English, would feature in the fifth season of “Baghch-e Simsim,” an Afghan edition of the popular children’s show.
The character will appear in several segments that focus on themes such as empowerment, fitness, and national identity.
Segments planned for the Muppet include “Zari Exercises,” in which she teaches kids how to stretch; “Zari Says ‘Salaam,’” in which she talks about the meaning of the greeting; and “Zari Interviews a Doctor,” in which she finds out what her heartbeat sounds like.
In a country where women were until recently almost completely excluded from schooling, Zari will target young girls and entrenched traditional attitudes towards women’s education and careers. Producers of the show have also teamed up with the country’s Ministry of Education in a bid to reduce any cultural resistance to the character.
Zari follows female Muppets like Chamki in India and Kami in South Africa who play a key role as feminist role models in locally produced Sesame Street co-productions around the world.
MENTAL ILLNESS & THE MALE GAZE — ANNE THÉRIAULT
(to read more about the article, please visit guerrillafeminism)
I have a very clear memory of the first time I recognized the Sexy Tragic Muse. I was in my early 20s and living in ramshackle old wooden house in Halifax’s North End. A friend and I were chatting over MSN Messenger, which should give you an idea of what year it was. We were talking about music – part of a long and ongoing conversation about Songs That Really Get Me – and at some point she sent me a link to a YouTube video of Ryan Adams’ Sylvia Plath. It was the first Ryan Adams song that I’d ever heard; my friend had sent it to me because she knew I loved Plath and thought I would love the song too. I didn’t, though.
Lord knows I’d wanted to like it; as someone who is both a writer and a woman living with mental illness, I probably idolize La Plath more than I should and am always eager for more media about her. The problem was that this song wasn’t actually about her; by the second verse, it was very clear that Adams was singing about someone whose resemblance to Plath began and ended with the fact that they shared a name.
Adams’ version of Plath is a gin-swilling, chain-smoking, skinny-dipping sylph – “the kind,” he says, “that goes out and then sleeps for a week.” He fantasizes about her semi-reckless behaviour, which includes ashing on the carpets of a fancy house, sleeping on a boat, and slipping him pills. At one point he hopes that she might give him a bath, which could either be a reference to the scene in The Bell Jar where Esther Greenwood waxes poetic about the joys of lying in a tub of steaming hot water or, more realistically, is the only word he could think of that rhymes with Plath.
The picture he paints is of a woman who is nothing like the real Sylvia Plath, a non-smoker who was meticulous about housekeeping and not, as far as I know, renowned for her ability to bathe men. Instead, she’s a sort of conglomeration of projections and fantasies – a woman who walks the fine line that men seem to believe exists between sexy and mentally ill. A woman who is not so much a person as she is a thing on which men can act out whatever it is they need to act out.
Although Sylvia Plath was a fiercely brilliant poet and novelist, she is arguably most famous for her suicide. The most common cultural association that we have with her is an image of a young woman with her head in the oven. Her final breakdown and death have overshadowed her life and accomplishments, and her name has become a placeholder for a specific type of tragic beauty. When Adams sings that he wants a Sylvia Plath, he does not mean that he wants the reality of someone experiencing a depressive episode or suicidal ideation. He means that he wants a woman who is sort of sad but in a wild, impetuous, sexy way that will somehow benefit him. He doesn’t want a real person; he wants a Sexy Tragic Muse.
The Sexy Tragic Muse can be found in music, film, literature and pretty much every other form of media. She’s not dissimilar from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl – in fact, I would argue that there is some crossover between the two tropes – but she is also very much her own distinct type. She is usually young, and nearly always white. She’s often portrayed as being hyper-sexual – she’s the type that 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy was referring to when he said “Emotionally unstable women are fantastic in the sack.”She’s damaged, often as a result of sexual assault or other abuse by men. Her life carries with it some kind of Deep Lesson, usually a lesson that a male protagonist needs to learn.
The Sexy Tragic Muse is Joon in Benny & Joon, a mentally ill woman who,to paraphrase a wonderful review by Carleen Tibbets, turns out not to need professional help so much as she needs a boyfriend. She’s Marla in Fight Club, with her eerie stare and penchant for attending support groups for illnesses that she doesn’t have. She’s Gia Carangi in Gia, a movie whose tagline is “Too Beautiful To Die, Too Wild To Live.” She’s Babydoll in Sucker Punch, a pigtailed ingénue in lingerie who sexily pouts her way through an escape from a psychiatric institution. She’s Suzanne in Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne, a woman who is “half crazy” but who can “[touch] your perfect body with her mind.”
The Sexy Tragic Muse fetishizes women’s pain by portraying debilitating mental health disorders filtered dreamily through the male gaze. The trope glamourizes addiction and illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia – diseases that are distinctly unglamorous for those of us who live with them. The Sexy Tragic Muse is vulnerable, and her vulnerability is sexualized. Her inability to properly care for herself or make decisions on her own behalf is presented as being part of her appeal.
And perhaps this is the most frustrating thing about the Sexy Tragic Muse – the fact that this character type seems to be a neat way of removing a woman’s agency without the film or book or song coming across as overtly misogynistic. She occupies the intersection of ableism and sexism, and her mental illness is portrayed in a way that makes it commendable, even necessary, for others to care for her. We feel gratitude to the men that step up and save her, because she obviously cannot save herself. We feel empathy for the men that break up with her, because we see that she is difficult and volatile. We never get to see things from her perspective; often it is implied that this would be impossible, because her perspective is too confused and fractured.
It is so demoralizing to see so many narratives that treat mentally ill women as literal objects – objects that mostly exist only to fulfill men’s needs. Our pain and distress are not theirs to commodify, repackage in dreamy soft-focus, then serve up as some kind of panacea for whatever ails them. We deserve the right to autonomy over our lives. We deserve to exist as whole people, people who might struggle, yes, but whose worth doesn’t depend on how those struggles might benefit others. We deserve the right to exist as sexual beings without having our illnesses sexualized by those who don’t experience them. We deserve the right to exist, full stop, no extra qualifiers needed.
It’s important for there to be media representation of women with mental illness, but not all types of representation are created equal. We need characters who reflect the diverse realities of people living with mental illness; we need stories that portray the full scope of their lives – not just the difficult, painful parts, but also the joy and triumph of survival against deeply stacked odds. We need stories that are about us, not just the emotional impact that we have on others.
After all, we are people too.
Women’s Voice Provides a 24-Hour Radio Broadcast
“Women’s Voice Online radio channel is created to raise the voice of women under the Armenian Women’s Resource Center,” an online radio platform, covering all the initiatives that are being implemented in the field. The radio operates within the company microwav.fm Sourcefabric program.
“The Women’s Trail” is the first of a series of women’s voices that presents the history of the Armenian woman. The “Young Writers – Women’s Voice” is an opportunity to present new author’s works within the framework of a program called “Literary corner.” "Volunteers and Volunteering” allows volunteers to share their motivations and experiences, but also introduce their favorite music. Women’s Voice radio provides 24-hour broadcast.
The original reads:
Կանանց Ձայն ռադիոալիքը ապահովում է 24-ժամյա եթեր
«Կանանց ռեսուրսային կենտրոն»-ի ներքո գործող Կանանց Ձայն Օնլայն ռադիոալիքը ստեղծված է բարձրաձայնելու կանանց ձայնը օնլայն ռադիոյի հարթակում և լուսաբանելու այն բոլոր նախաձեռնությունները, ինչ իրականացվում է ոլորտում: Ռադիոալիքը գործում է Sourcefabric ընկերության microwav.fm ծրագրի շրջանակներում:
«Հայ Կանանց Հետքերով» հաղորդաշարը Կանանց Ձայնի անդրանիկ շարքից է, որ անդռադառնում է հայ կնոջ պատմական անցյալին:Երիտասարդ գրողներին Կանանց Ձայն-ը հնարավորություն է ընձեռում ներկայացնել իրենց ստեղծագործությունները «Գրական Անկյուն» կոչվող հաղորդաշարի շրջանականերում: Իսկ կամավորներին ոչ միայն հնարավորություն է տալիս կիսվել իրենց շարժառիթների և փորձի մասին «Կամավորները և Կամավորությունը» հաղորդաշարի միջոցով, այլ նաև ներկայացնել իրենց նախընտրած երաժշտությունը ‘My PlayList’ ծրագրի շրջանակներում: Կանանց Ձայն ռադիոալիքը ապահովում է 24 ժամյա եթեր:
Թողարկումները լսելու և նորություններ իմանալու համար հետևեք Կանանց Ձայն ռադիոալիքի ֆեյսբուքյան էջին’
Կանանց Ձայն Ռադիոալիք – Women’s Voice Radio
Համապատասխան ժամին այցելեք հետևյալ հղմամբ՝
Իսկ հաղորդումները բաց թողնելու դեպքում կարող եք այն գտնել soundcloud –ի մեր էջում’ https://soundcloud.com/women-s-voice
In support of UN Women’s Initiative, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, the Yerevan-based NGO “Society Without Violence” (SWV) has organized and coordinated a wide variety of activities and gatherings to help spread awareness about the subject in both global and Armenian context. Peace Corps Volunteer Leader, Aislin Lavin, is collaborating with SWV to extend the reach of the campaign and develop even more events.
Events and programs include a Young Women’s Empowerment Workshop, the BBC’s #100Womenglobal debates on Women’s rights, and flash mobs around Yerevan. Although the 16 Days of Activism only officially runs from November 25th until December 10th, Society Without Violence and Aislin will continue to provide support for the women of Armenia and work to educate the public about topics that affect Armenian women and girls.
ՄԱԿ-ի Կանանց Նախաձեռնության, ինչպես նաև «Ընդդեմ գենդերային բռնության ակտիվության 16-օրյակ» քարոզարշավի շրջանակներում, «Հասարակություն առանց բռնության» ՀԿ-ն կազմակերպել ու համակարգել է մի շարք նախաձեռնություններ, նպատակ ունենալով հանրությանն իրազեկելու այս թեմայի շուրջ՝ լուսաբանելով իրավիճակն աշխարհում և
This photo comes from the Coalition to Stop Violence against Women, a NGO which is working to pass the first Domestic Violence law in Armenia. The quote to the photo reads:
Շատ հետաքրքիր փորձառություն է, երբ գնում ես Գավառ ու մխրճվում շուկայի տարածը, փորձում խոսել կանաց իրավունքներից, նայում շուկայի մուտքի մոտ անգործ կանգնած տղամարդկանց, ովքեր բլոտ են խաղում, ու ծիծաղում, ասելով. “…կնգան էդ ո՞ր տղամարդ չի տփա”: Տիպիկ գավառական վիճակ…
A translation, by
Elvira Meliksetyan, reads:
It is an interesting experience to find yourself in a public market in Gavar, trying to talk about women’s rights, to follow some indolent men standing at the market, playing cards (blot) and giving a feed back with a laughter: “Which man won’t beat his wife?!” A typical situation of Gavar.
Note: the photos in the lower right are of women murdered by their partners. Currently there are no laws protecting survivors of domestic assault in Armenia.
Of my three aunts, Sylvia, Adrienne
and Anne, two killed themselves and one refused
to look at me. I’ve loved them. I’ve loved gin,
static-buzz, bone-fever — all that confused
their words with being something more. “Nomen
est omen:” call me, “Left Behind.” Call her:
“Matertera.” Without these three women
what am I? Check your tongue about that slur
that I’ve broken my pact made between gods
and their dire verse; as if either pleased.
Tonight I want an aunt’s voice that marauds
through my skull, that translates all that buzzed
into something. Confessions. I love them.
I love their words. Their so-called hate and sin.
“On a planet where for thousands of years, even today, a woman’s worth has been judged exclusively by the productivity of her womb, what the hell is the point of a barren woman?”
― Elissa Stein and Susan Kim
After the change they called you a monster.
Ain’t that the truth, Ruth, Ruelaine and Susan; Pat, Judy and Audre – –
That dying, drying, dissolving inside. Listen.
You had no child so you had no cradle and what woman can dance with ecstasy with no cradle?
Who can sing when they have no tongue?
They hang girls for less, body and mind.
The priestesses banished you to the island of Cisthene in the Red Sea (east of Ethiopia).
What man wouldn’t lose his erection at the sight of you? What woman wouldn’t cast you out?
Somewhere Athene laughed while plotting your murder, “Perseus, bring me her head.”
We love to be fruitful; outside spring rises; we even describe the world in terms of ovulation.
Ai, mama mine, winter time.
No one wants to remember how the goddess of wisdom, courage and womanhood cursed you for getting raped.
You would think that your name alone would shatter a civilization built on pomegranates and sweet wine.
Today apologists say that you were prideful, that you boasted, that the gods moved in mysterious ways.
So do priestesses. So do judges.
Athene didn’t curse Cassandra when she was raped in her temple.
She was young, fertile, still a thing of beauty.
But you, mother mine, became the exception to the rule.
Rules change. Honey and harp strings. Swine and flies.
Here is the head of a woman with snakes in her hair.
ironic. Your blood spilled
out vipers, Pegasus
Hysteria: suffering of the womb, madness of the womb, but still a womb.
That which defines, that which engenders.
“As long as men ejaculate they will try to control what comes out.”
That which they cannot possess turns them to stone.
The change; you were desired once, Poseidon cursed you, Athene cursed you, Perseus cut off your head.
Now you have no more use, you and your sisters on Cisthene.
“What do you see when you look in the mirror?”
“Doesn’t that fill you with rage? Coil your hair in fury? Make every pleasure into a wasteland? What do you feel looking at yourself being slain?”
“Why are you still talking to me?”
“I looked into her stony eyes and see only myself.”
No, they aren’t stony, that is just what you want to see in them.
I call her mother the way I call all who taught me ancestor.
“Speak earth and bless me with what is richest.”
“Queen/ we claim you.”
“I am here to take/ back my Mother that/ you just Othered.”
I do not look like you, but I keep looking.
We stripped the old woman to prove that her body was once like ours.
A man passing as a woman is a double blasphemy.
Not only is he an oppressor but he has a face like ours.
What is a revolutionist to do when monsters come in so many forms?
That which cannot bear seed must be rubbed out.
How to silence the wailing from the monster?
When it is time to pray at dawn there is the wavering sound of a man singing from the slender phalli of minarets.
Today Iran hung 16 year-old Atefeh Sahaaleh for “crimes against chastity.”
That is to say, Iranian judge Haji Rezai bragged that he raped and tortured Atefeh then had her hung to silence the girl after she removed her hijab and threw her shoe at him.
There are ghosts – – there are ghosts that stay with me that I love
the old man in drag – the daughter with the broken neck – my mother who turned her back
hush now, listen as we sever their tongues.
domination is part
of the domination
adapts, by the time
you’re done reading
this you too are
part of the system
What a drag; every time they tell your story it is always the same.
Even the priestesses – holy of holy – do not falter.
They have named your malady, mother: barrenness, death of the womb, a monster with nappy hair.
It’s always the same remedy: a man beheads you and places that which he despises before him.
Because a goddess commanded it.
You’re loved, you’re loved, you are loved.
Once there was an island.
And on it lived three sisters: Stheno, Euryale and Medusa.
And that’s all you need to know.