women

And why I think we do care
Added: Friday, 25 June 2010

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“Who cares what anyone says” is what I recently told a friend of mine who was suffering from a classic case of peer pressure. In the academic circles she’s in, raising kids is seen as a task for day-cares or willing fathers. Despite wanting to stay home with her child and halve the time she spends on her PHD thesis, she felt judged by women who had chosen their career over their kids. One particular friend had put one toddler in 12 hour day-care and the other (the younger kid) with the father for a year, while she left town and focused on her work. My friend was torn between her desire to succeed and follow her ambition and her desire to be a good mom and be with her kid.

But this blog post is not about women, child-care or the issues involved with the dilemma that women have with their careers. This blog post is about why we care about what other people think. Sometimes what they think seems fundamentally contrary to our truths and sometimes what they think seems fundamentally right, making us feel guilty deep down. And very often, we’re caught in the middle with a little bit of both, not knowing what to do and caring about how the world perceives us.

While it is probably wise to go with your inner truths and act according to the principles you have chosen to live your life by, it’s worthy to reflect for a moment on the value of caring, nonetheless, about what other people think. I personally think that the bright side of caring is that it reflects an inherent desire to be in harmony with other people.

In other words, I believe that there is an inherent longing for people to come together. When you look at how we’ve developed over history, you’ll see that we’ve moved from tribal units to city-states, to nation-states and that now we are developing a global consciousness. We create communities that function around a specific set of values, so that we can flourish in harmony. Disarray is usually counter-productive. So we seek to gather around our commonalities, celebrating our constitutions and our national, corporate or religious values! This longing is what has taken us so far as a human family. It’s driven us towards being one reality.

Even the bloody, brutal and dark ways in which we’ve tried to achieve oneness (namely through colonialism and forced conversions) are nothing more than the inverted (or sick) version of this desire to share common values. While this inverted energy has, perhaps, contributed to more sameness that oneness, the positive version of it has made our diversity more apparent. And it is in diversity that you have real harmony. Anyone playing music will tell you.

While I believe that it’s great to stand up for what we believe, I also think that it is valuable to recognize the drive towards sharing a common framework of thought. We can strive, by trying, communicating, learning, cooperating, and retrying to move towards a more complete truth. One that is shaped by all our diverse voices, perspectives and experiences.

Peeling back the sticker
Added: Monday, 16 November 2009

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Last night I was graciously invited to join a friend of mine who had won a dinner for herself and 9 of her friends at a new restaurant in town. The whole thing had been organized by one of the leading local women’s magazines and it was great fun. One of the promotional gags they had come up with was a 20-minute talk by an image consultant.

Okay, so it wasn’t the best decision to make us listen to a presentation before appetizers, but I don’t think that was the real reason it didn’t quite click for us. I don’t know if she’d had a bad day, if she was not inspired by the crowd or if it was a combination of the two, but her delivery of the material was just not up to scratch. It felt like she was literally rattling off clichéd insights about how to dress and make a first impression. She mentioned the importance of choosing three messages that one wants to convey. An example: professionalism, reliability and ambition. But somehow she wasn’t connecting to the truth of what she had, perhaps, once genuinely felt. She tried to encourage us to look at ourselves as a brand that has only seconds to make an important first impression. We couldn’t help but doubt our own first impression of her.

But ironically, our second impression of her - now that was something else completely! Because when her presentation was done, she mentioned she had to run off to her 14 month old, who was waiting at home. Perhaps the reason she had not been present at her own presentation? We exchanged a few oohs and aahs and she explained that, though she was over 40, she had just found the man of her dreams and had a child with him. Our interest was sparked and she began telling us of her life and how she had attracted the same kinds of men forever, focusing always on what she didn’t want in life. (I don’t want a man who cheats, drinks and is lazy). This had led to her going from one unhappy, cheating, drinking lazy man to the next. Until one day she sat down and wrote a letter to God, asking him for all the things she was looking for in a man. That shift in thinking from negative to positive, she felt, had attracted a man who was not only all the things she was looking for, but – MORE.

It was funny how the three words that suddenly popped in my mind were: honesty, vulnerability and authenticity – virtues that were far more appealing and attractive than any she had set out to achieve and that came out only upon further investigation of her character. As she left, all the single ladies at the table began scribbling notes on their serviettes and I knew that what the image consultant had set out to do was, perhaps, not done - but instead she achieved far MORE.

You strike a rock
Added: Friday, 21 August 2009

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The phrase "You strike a woman you strike a rock", has come to represent the strength of women in South Africa. On August 9th in 1956, when the apartheid regime legislated that all persons of African descent must carry special passes around with them, women petitioned against this law by marching to the union buildings in the country's capital, Pretoria. They stood outside the buildings in silence, many of them carrying their own children or those of the white family's they worked for. They then began singing Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.)

There is something graceful and noble about the pictures one sees of the time. Although it was a march or a protest, it was done with the dignity and poise that we mostly see from women. When women protest, they don't hurl rocks and they don't burn icons. They demand your respect by giving you respect. This is a quality that our society does not nurture. We live in a world that is constantly nurturing and feeding our lower or baser nature. We may learn the theory of virtues and principles, but in our societal realities, we are constantly encouraged to bend our principles and beliefs in order to achieve goals. You need only watch an episode of RUNNING IN HEELS to witness a typical professional environment that is outwardly female, but loaded with the same "male" outlook which believes that in order to excel, you have to make others look bad, stab them in the back and hold them back from progressing.

The idea of protest is in itself problematic. It's a feature of our current order and a "necessary evil", as long as our societal paradigm is based on fundamental disunity. Its aim is to make a statement, raise awareness and create leverage against those who abuse power. But the problem starts with our understanding of power. We think of it in terms of control; the control of resources. And therefore we think of (and manifest) power as potentially abusive. So by default we need to leverage that power through counter-power and that's how we get social protest or opposition. But really protest buys into the same black and white notion of right and wrong, winners and losers as it claims to defy and it limits the diverse and complex nature of reality. It also means that those with the most sticks and stones will have their way. After all a simple strike can become a threatening situation. Your are essentially threatening and pressuring a person/party into a specific action. How is this really different from the nature of the oppression you're trying to undo?

I believe that if there were more of a female voice in the way the world works, we would see a transformation in the entire paradigm that our world operates on. Women have a much more inclusive view of things. They naturally see themselves and the world as an organic entity. Women are the heart of any family, village and society.

Our role far exceeds that of marching and protesting (even if it is peacefully). We have the ability to nurture other ways of transforming society. If we raise and foster families and societies that put justice, unity and cooperation in the forefront of their agenda, we won't find ourselves in a situation where ruthless oppression – the likes of which we see in many nations right now - must be confronted with another, perhaps socially more acceptable form of oppression.

*

Women's day is a day to celebrate and explore the true and unique potential of women around the world. We have come a long way. Let's not be satisfied and let's keep walking. I know that the idiom of the woman as a rock refers to our strength. We are strong and determined as a rock. Steadfast as rock. And that is beautiful and right. But let's also look at the smoothness and softness of a rock that is slapped by the waves and toned to perfection. What can that tenderness teach us (and teach MEN) about life and existence?

And who gets it first
Added: Tuesday, 22 July 2008

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I can't think of a subject that is more difficult for me to talk about than the equality of women and men. I've always felt that I needed to give my input on this very important subject, a subject that is sadly still, today, in the year 2008 after Christ, a very hot topic. Not only in those far away countries where women wear veils, but right here on our own doorstep.

Don't get me wrong - my challenge has not been my lack of interest or discernment to see the problem! It's been my inner freedom from the problem. I have never felt lesser than a man. I'm not saying I've never experience prejudice before. I have. I have felt prejudice in the work place and I have felt highly uncomfortable in situations where men have whistled or said derogatory things to me, I've felt angry at my husband for things he's said, but those have been "outer" feelings. Nothing within me has ever changed to make me actually believe I'm lesser than.

I remember when I wrote my masters thesis, the external examiner had put a big circle around one of my footnotes with a line that said, "acknowledge prejudice of author against women". It hit me like a knife. What was she talking about? Me? What had I written that made her think that? I checked the foot-note probably about 20 times, before I realized what the problem was. I had written "unity of mankind" ; and I had to change it to "humanity", which pleased the examiner, but not really me. I thought about it and realized that if you wanted to be really picky, you'd have to say 'huWOmanity'. It just hadn't mattered to me. It was just a word. In my mind I thought this poor lady must feel really compromised in her confidence if a word like "mankind" feels threatening to her.

I don't know. Am I not sensitive enough? Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe she's right. I understand, that our language is saturated with derogatory terms towards women, and I understand that that is not okay. In German "herrlich" (man-ly) means wonderful and "daemlich" (woman-ly) means stupid. Yes it's ridiculous. But that doesn't change the fact that on the inside I've always been free from feeling threatened by these things.

So I took a good look at my history and my family. We were not perfect, no we were not. But there were several outstanding men in my family who actually contributed to women being free and confidant. One of them was my granny's father. Light years ahead of his time and cultural moment, he created an atmosphere in his home where women were able to soar and express themselves. They had freedom of thought and were able to discuss and make decisions about their own lives. They worked and had careers and some of them became entrepreneurs. This confidence has been passed down to me on a very deep and natural level. So men then, have a huge part to play in this struggle!

As I try to sensitize myself to the subject, I realize that one of the ways that I can play my part is to pass down the freedom I feel to my children and by simply living it out be a role model to women and men who might have a different understanding of the relationship between the two wings of the bird. Like the couple who come to our house from time to time. The husband and wife both work, but at the end of the day she has to cook, clean, take care of the kids and serve her husband. Every time they've come over, she gets on her knees and serves him a piece of cake or fills his plate before the kids and before herself. So now my husband, Ryan, cuts and serves the cake for them. He gives her the first piece, then the kids and finally the husband. You can tell, the couple find it funny and a bit uncomfortable, but at least they're being exposed to a different model.

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12 May 2008

The Dance of Life

If you could go back and have an easier life, would you do it? If life had dealt you some of the hardest blows would you still feel like dancing? If you had no legs to dance with, would you still know how it feels? Having mastered the art of living in spirit more than in body, Renett Grové has transcended physical and emotional challenges the likes of which few of us can comprehend. And through it all Renett has praised her Creator, the One whose loving bondage has been her blissful freedom.

CREDITS:
A film by: Leyla & Ryan Haidarian
Music by: Amal Ma'ani
"If Ye Have Faith" written by: Abdu'l-Bahá
performed by: Tadia



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8 May 2008

How Long Will This Go On?

Dedicated to anybody who believes in equality of men and women: A short clip on discriminations against women all around the world.

Hilda Hashempour is an Iranian/Canadian actor, producer and director recently residing in United States. She left Iran on 2003 due to religious oppression as a Baha'i.



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16 March 2008

The Dance of Life

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If you could go back and have an easier life, would you do it? If life had dealt you some of the hardest blows would you still feel like dancing? If you had no legs to dance with, would you still know how it feels? Having mastered the art of living in spirit more than in body, Renett Grové has transcended physical and emotional challenges the likes of which few of us can comprehend. And through it all Renett has praised her Creator, the One whose loving bondage has been her blissful freedom.

CREDITS:
A film by: Leyla & Ryan Haidarian
Music by: Amal Ma'ani
"If Ye Have Faith" written by: Abdu'l-Bahá
performed by: Tadia



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From slave to servant
Added: Friday, 1 February 2008

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These last two weeks have been extremely depressing for me. It all
began with an email from an organization that helps women in Afghanistan and Iran. It described the urgency of the plight of women in the region some of whom sell their bodies and those of their daughters in order to survive. Then I got an update from my friend Arezo, who's been living and working in Afghanistan. Her affirmation of the horrible details was really disheartening. Finally catastrophe struck at home. A colleague of mine told me that in her daughter's school 10-13 year-olds are having sex. The most shocking detail was that a group of girls had been saving pocket money, which was designated for movie-going. They had then awarded this money to the girl who slept with the most guys. Evidently these girls were not getting their sense of nobility, worth and love at home, so they were looking for that affirmation in the wrong places. To top it all off I heard a psychologist on the radio talking about the AIDS among young children and she said, "But sex is their right after all". She must have been confusing rights with responsibilities. And people like her are accredited psychologists.

Cover imageCheck out the movie Idiocracy for a humorous prognosis of our future.

In one of my last blogs I spoke about our thoughts being our reality. Obviously we believe we are worthless, exchangeable and disposable. For a human being who believes they were created noble with a sense of purpose in this life wouldn't treat themselves like this.

What is happening to us women? And I'm not only talking to women in the Middle-East or in developing, third world countries. I'm talking about those "role models" on Western TV. Let's see, do women in episodic television represent noble, dignified women with a sense of higher purpose? The only thing that's changed since the 60s when women were objectified on screen is that they're now aware of it, that they objectify themselves deliberately and believe that by playing with men the way men play with them – they have gained any sort of credibility or power.

We're either completely covered, or half naked; we're either subservient to men or their playthings. We're either oppressed or degraded under the guise of being "sexually liberated". We're either the slaves of men or radically feminist, emulating men and beating them at their own immaturity, ruthlessness and aggression.

I've met few women who are real ladies. Women with feminine attributes who radiate their spiritual qualities on the outside without undermining their dignity; women who are so refined in character, so strong and gentle, that they could but have very special men by their side. Of some I've made films: Layli Miller and Karyn Robarts ... I am blessed to know more and I'll continue to feature women like that. But if there is anyone listening to me at the other end of the tunnel: teach your children to value and love themselves, to understand themselves as the perfect and unique creation that they are; teach them to protect themselves, their bodies, their emotions, their souls and to nurture their nobility so they can be unique servants of mankind.

A servant in the Baha'i understanding is the highest state one can reach. It is someone who is striving to be refined in character, someone who loves themselves as a creation of God but is free from ego and 'self', from insecurities and prejudices. It is someone who consciously works with the aim of contributing to the advancement of world civilization. Slavery is thinking you're 'free' but being a slave to your passions, desires, your self, to society, its standards and to patterns of creed and behaviour you've always known and from which you're too weak to break lose. A servant is the polar opposite of a slave in the Baha'i understanding. But slaves we are still for the most part.

Here is some inspiration from the Hidden Words
O SON OF SPIRIT! I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.

O SON OF THE WONDROUS VISION! I have breathed within thee a breath of My own Spirit, that thou mayest be My lover. Why hast thou forsaken Me and sought a beloved other than Me?

O SON OF BEING! Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for My descent. Thy spirit is My place of revelation; cleanse it for My manifestation.

O SON OF MAN! Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.

Women weep and have babies
Added: Friday, 5 October 2007

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I chose this provocative title for my blog this week, because of what I've been witnessing in the media lately. There are a growing number of advocacy and psychology shows that give people life skills and tips about how to manage their life. One of the shows I've been watching is in fact a Persian show. Callers call in and tell their stories and the TV psychologist analyzes their concerns and gives his view on the situation.

Of the 6 shows I watched in 2 weeks, I'd say over 90% of the callers were female. And all their stories revolved around marriage problems or abuse by a male member of the family.

One lady was beaten by her father, deserted by her mother, wondered the streets of Tehran and finally found her way overseas where her life of misery continued, albeit with more economic possibilities. Her number one need was someone who would love her. Several ladies called in because their husbands were addicted to drugs. They had "tried" to leave their husbands, they had "tried" to call it quits. But for various reasons remained in the relationship either "for the sake of the kids" or worse, if they didn't have kids, they started making them in order to "save" their relationship. "I thought things would get better if I had children", was their rationale. Often struck with economic problems, these marriages were really only a poor excuse for being too weak or too dependent to call it quits.

Now, I'm not an anti-make-up, anti-cooking, anti-raising kids feminist, the likes of which we see so often on the other side of the sad spectrum, but this scenario is very alarming. Every time the psychologist boiled it down, the cause of inertia for women was their fear of standing on their own two feet. They could not see themselves being economically independent. They had many other excuses such as lack of support and understanding from family member:

"what will people say?"
"it will hurt the kids if I get divorced"
"but he's trying to stay clean/ faithful..."

The psychologist was almost always furious to hear that women had had children in order to save their marriages. He made it very clear that children should be wished into a stable, happy family. And the only real piece of advice that the psychologist was able to give was "educate your girls, your daughters, so that they don't have to lead a life like yours!"

And that is my little message for today. Women must be educated. They are the first educators of the next generation, they spread their knowledge and they are empowered by education. Education will give them confidence, security, independence and the right to say yes or no. The education of women will ease the process of bringing about the equality of women and men, it will have a significant impact on ills such as HIV/AIDS, human trafficking and all the other sad realities that women around the world face because their life is not in their own hands.

This blog is especially dedicated to one of my closest friends. Today I got news that she fell pregnant. She is married, she and her husband share deep bonds in their Catholic faith, they both have jobs, and she is one year away from getting her PHD. I'm proud of every decision she has made in her life, even if her childhood was not always easy.

My last thought of the day is: When as women we do stand our ground, we must be careful to have mercy and compassion towards men who are themselves learning, slowly learning, what it means to be a real man.

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1 July 2007

Inspiration Beyond Borders

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Layli Miller was only a law student when she took on one of the most famous cases in the recent history of women's rights. The case made headlines across the United States and beyond, changing US law forever. Layli could have easily chosen to use to use her talents and status to create personal comfort and wealth, but chose instead to dedicate her life to the equality of men and women. The Tahirih Justice Center is Layli's foundation where she takes on pro bono cases and changes the world one case at a time. Meet this incredible lawyer and her 18th century heroine, Tahirih...

CREDITS:
Written, Produced, Directed & Edited by: Leyla Haidarian
Produced & Edited by: Ryan Haidarian
Executive Produced by: Naysan Naraqi
Music by Benny Cassette



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