The UN’s International Day of Peace: Why It Matters To Us All

“When the power of love overcomes our love of power, the world will know peace.” – Jimi Hendrix 

Peace. It’s one of those words which is thrown around here there and everywhere. Along with a cute little hand gesture which seems to sneak in to all of my photos, myself, along with many others would say that they wish to see the world become a more peaceful one. But if you watch the news, you would think that this world is anything but peaceful. From civil wars, a refugee crisis, poverty, the rise of terrorist groups and a growing gap between the rich and the poor, it’s easy to believe that peace is unreachable. But we cannot accept this. We mustn’t. Because the second we give up hope, is the moment that peace escapes from us. There are many types of peace and there are many forms it takes… but the most important thing is that we believe that peace is achievable. 

Winston Churchill peacing out. Source
Winston Churchill peacing out. Source

So what can I do to bring peace to the world?

Find inner peace. Before you can possibly start to try to bring peace to the world, you first must be at peace with yourself. And it’s not an easy thing to do. It involves knowing your flaws, your weaknesses and knowing what you can do to always be improving yourself. I’m still trying to find inner peace. By not being so judgemental of myself when I look in the mirror, by trying to accept the fact that not everyone I meet in life is going to like me (and that’s not my fault) and by realising that I am unique and it’s up to me to share my voice, my values, and my views with the world.

Discover what makes you feel peaceful. This one’s a little bit easier. Ask yourself… what do you do that makes you lose track of time and forget about the stresses of everyday life? Personally, it’s listening to music, reading a book, going for a bike ride to the beach, blogging, being with friends or doing yoga. All of these things are just as important in my life as the big things like my job and studying. Without these things, I’d be full of stress and anxiety, and it’s by doing these things often that I can actually deal with the stresses of every day life.

The ocean always makes me lose track of time
The ocean always makes me lose track of time. Source

Dignity for all. This is the theme for the UN’s International Peace Day. Dignity is also one of those words which is often thrown around and not many people may realise the significance and power of dignity. Dignity is defined as ‘the quality of being worthy of honour and respect’ (Dictionary.com) and don’t you think if we all treated everyone with dignity, the world would be a better place? Dignity is not only about the respect you give to yourself but also to others, so never lose sight of the fact that underneath all of the wealth or material things we have, we are all born as equals and we should continue to treat everyone else this way too.

Try and spread the peace. Feeling extra happy or peaceful today? Try and spread it. You never know what someone else is going through so why not offer to give them a hand, ask if they’re OK, invite them to one of your beach adventures… you never know how far some kind words can travel.

And the least you can do to help keep the world a peaceful place, as Mother Teresa said Peace begins with a smile.” 

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Why It’s OK to be a Bad Feminist

Feminism has copped a lot of slack lately. It is now a term of derision and many people say ‘I believe in equlality, but I don’t identify as a feminist.’  There’s such a big anti-feminist movement that when you google feminist, one of the first things that appear is the website ‘Women against Feminism.’ And when did it become a bad thing to be a feminist? Perhaps the following video could be fuelling the anti-feminist fire.

Unfortunately, this has been watched over 700 000 times broadcasting incorrect and damaging information about feminism. Feminism has nothing to do with giving entitlements to women or trying to make them superior to men as she suggests in her I’m not a feminist because… photo. And that’s why knowing what feminism is and what it stands for is so important. And this is the same woman who claims that ‘the west does not have a rape culture.’ She has been misled to believe that feminism is a women only movement, and by her spreading this message to such a large audience, can be detrimental for feminism and what it stands for.

Emma Watson delivering her speech at the launch of the He For She Campaign. Source
Emma Watson delivering her speech at the launch of the He For She Campaign. Source

If you weren’t living under a shell last year, you would have heard Emma Watson’s speech for the UN’s He For She Campaign, which addresses the crucial role that men play in the feminist movement. And this is the most important part, men and women should work together to overcome gender inequality because men suffer from being ‘imprisoned by gender stereotypes’ as well (Watson, 2014). So, to clear up some things;

Feminism is not: ‘laziness, bitching on Tumblr and policing other people’s free speech’ (1), demonizing men (2) or special treatment (3)’ (women against feminism)

Feminism is: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.

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Many people are under the impressions that ‘they don’t need feminism because gender inequality doesn’t exist in our society’ or as Kayley Cuoco said ‘I’m not a feminist because I’ve never experienced inequality(Jones, 2014). Just because you personally don’t experience inequality, it doesn’t mean it’s not real. The UN’s Millenium Development Goals 2015 Report highlights that gender inequality is still experienced world-wide.

Women continue to face discrimination in access to work, economic assets and participation in private and public decision-making. Women are also more likely to live in poverty than men. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the ratio of women to men in poor households increased from 108 women for every 100 men in 1997 to 117 women for every 100 men in 2012, despite declining poverty rates for the whole region.’ (UN, 2015)

Germain Greer who is a leading Australian feminist, actually says that it is important that we don’t define feminism because by defining it, we are giving it limitations. ‘It’s important that feminism is allowed to evolve and change over time.’ (reference Q&A video) which can hopefully help overcome it’s exclusivity. However * argues that by having a more ‘dynamic definition it will enhance understanding and significance among men and women’ (Offen, 1988). This highlights the different ideas people associate with feminism and why it isn’t so simple to define or easily agreed upon.

Feminism is also generally associated with white, middle class women and excludes a person of colour or anyone else that doesn’t fit the criteria. Roxane Gay is what she calls a ‘Bad Feminist,’ because she does not fit the ‘traditional characteristics’ of a feminist of ‘being all, and having it all.’ Of course this raises many other questions regarding racism, however in the following TED talk, she discusses feminism and why she is a ‘Bad Feminist.’

The most significant part of her talk is where she proudly says ‘we can boldly claim our feminism. I’d rather be a bad feminist than no feminism because feminism gave me a voice.’ So regardless of what we call it, this is why we need it.

Personally, I am a feminist because I believe that all children have a right to education. Because women deserve the right to make decisions regarding their own body. Because I don’t want to be objectified or sexualised. Because men and women should work together to achieve equality. Because I am a young women who should have the opportunity to accomplish my dreams.

This is what a feminist looks like. Source
This is what a feminist looks like. Source

References

Jones, A 2014, ‘I’m not a feminist and I love feeling like a housewife’, Gawker, 12 December, http://gawker.com/kaley-cuoco-im-not-a-feminist-and-i-love-feeling-like-1676352429

Offen, K 1988, ‘Defining Feminism: A Comparative Historical Approach’, Signs, Chicago Journals, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 119-157

The United Nations Millenium Development Goals Report 2015, http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/2015_MDG_Report/pdf/MDG%202015%20rev%20(July%201).pdf

Further Information

Emma Watson’s speech

Q&A’s all women panel on How to be a Feminist

Booty and Beauty: The Fine Line of Cultural Appropriation

“What would America (and the world) be like if we loved black people, as much as we love black culture?” – Amandla Stenberg

The fashion industry is fierce. It’s tough, sets unrealistic expectations and leaves you staring at yourself in the mirror just that bit longer, wishing you had a smaller this and bigger that. We’ve always been one’s to take bits and pieces that we love from the catwalk and parade them around the streets of our neighbourhood. But what happens when we start taking bits and pieces from people’s culture and traditional dress to jazz up our outfits? You my friend, are engaging in cultural appropriation. 

Cultural appropriation is ‘the adoption of elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group, especially if the adoption is of an oppressed people’s cultural elements by members of the dominant culture.’ (Frew, 2015).

Black cultural appropriation by celebrities: Kylie Jenner, Miley Cyrus and Christina Aguilera
Black cultural appropriation by celebrities: Kylie Jenner, Miley Cyrus and Christina Aguilera

The issue here is power. And moreso ‘post-colonial power’ (Nicklas & Lindner, 2012). The dominant or ‘normal’ culture is free to appropriate what they want, whereas the ‘minority’ or ‘marginalized group’ is left with significant cultural forms of expressions, being worn by white girls at music festivals. Cultural appropriation is dangerous and damaging. According to Everyday Feminism contributor, Maisha Johnson, it ‘trivialises violent historical oppression, let’s privileged people profit from oppressed people’s labour and perpetuates racist stereotypes.’ It’s no lie that the dominant or ‘normal’ culture in the mainstream media and society is a white, middle class man or women. And what gives us the right to take something significant from another culture, make it ‘cool,’ and only once a white person adopts it, is it widely accepted?

Everyday Feminism: explains how it is. Source
Everyday Feminism: explains how it is. Source

‘Marginalized groups don’t have the power to decide if they’d prefer to stick with their customs or try on the dominant culture’s traditions just for fun’ (Johnson, 2015).

Native American headresses have slowly been banned at various music festivals. Source
Native American headdresses have slowly been banned at various music festivals. Source

We’ve come to accept that cultural appropriation regarding some items of clothing such as the Native American headdress as unacceptable as it is disrespectful of Native American history, traditions and oppression. It has already been banned at Montreal’s Osheaga’s Arts and Music festival and other major music festivals like Coachella have been encouraged to follow suit. So if we realise that we should show ‘respect and honour’ towards First Nation’s people in Canada and America, when will this translate to bindis, cornrows, grills, henna and any other ‘desirable’ or ‘exotic’ cultural traits.

Nicki Minaj flaunting her booty. Source
Nicki Minaj flaunting her booty. Source

It even extends to the whole, Booty craze sweeping the world at the moment. Sure, Queen B sang about it back in 2001 with Bootylicious, it’s only within the past year or two that the rise of the booty has exploded across the fitness scene. Now you can’t scroll through Facebook or Instagram without ‘how to get a bubble butt, #girlsthatsquat, big booty bitches…’ ANYTHING related to how apparently now it’s trending to have a big booty.  This can extend from the ‘appropriation of African American culture, occurring as a result of the dominant culture’s fetishistic desire to consume blackness and to relegate the black body. They’re objectified and can leave the individual psychologically and emotionally damaged.’ (Bailey, 2012).

Alex Wek. International super model who speaks openly about her struggles as a black model coming from a South Sudanese/British background. Source
Alex Wek. International super model who speaks openly about her struggles as a black model coming from a South Sudanese/British background and also encourages individual beauty of the mind, heart and soul. Source

I’m not writing this to accuse people of being racist, or to depict anyone in any single way. We’re all different and have different experiences in life. However, being a white woman born in Australia, I have to acknowledge the extreme privilege that I have. I’m not trying to exclude myself from this either. I’ve worn saris and bindis to dress up parties and been to the gym and maybe hashtagged #thatass before. I’m also not trying to say that these traits can only ever belong to that cultural group. But I think it’s important to be educated and understand the history and significance these actions can have on others before doing so. I believe that the power I do have should be used to discuss these issues so we can attempt to empathise, empower and create change. If we continue to turn a blind eye to casual racism and cultural appropriation, especially regarding beauty, then we will only continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes.

So to answer the question at the beginning of this blog post, I believe the world would be a much better place if we loved people from all over the globe equally for who they are and not for what we can take from them.

*

References

Bailey, C 2012, Fight the Power: African American Humor as a Discourse of Resistance, The Western Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 36, No. 4, University of Missouri

Frew, C 2015, Othering, blackface, appropriation and #blacklives matter, Lecture Slides, University of Wollongong, 14 August

Johnson, M 2015, What’s wrong with cultural appropriation? Everyday Feminism, June 14, http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/cultural-appropriation-wrong/

Nicklas, P, & Lindner, O (eds) 2012, spectrum Literaturwissenschaft / spectrum Literature : Adaptation and Cultural Appropriation : Literature, Film, and the Arts, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, DEU. Available from: ProQuest ebrary. [14 August 2015].

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/05/cultural-appropriation-in-fashion-stop-talking-about-it/370826/

Smash Those Study Blues

This week is the beginning of Autumn session exams here at the University of Wollongong. Whether you have 1 or 5 exams, they’re never fun and never easy. Whilst I’m one of those lucky one’s who only have 1 exam, I still find myself stressing out, freaking out and passing out each night after hours of excrutiating study. But too much of these bad vibes can bring you down emotionally, mentally, physically and just all round suck. So here are my little tips and tricks to surviving exams and studying, to ensure you make the most of your valuable time and come out on top!

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Have a designated study space. I personally opt for going to the library because it’s quiet and there’s minimal distractions. Many times I’ve tried to study either in my room or out in the lounge room and I find that I’m continuously distracted by people and just try to do anything else but study. Having a specific place to get work done will help keep you motivated, productive and focused.

Eat a balanced diet. Whilst it’s easy to pick up a packet of M&M’s (I’m currently sharing a packet with my friend), don’t forget to include lot’s of fruits and vegetables. Eating nutricious food will provide you with the vitamins and minerals that are needed for your brain to funciton.

Oranges are my favourite study food
Oranges are my favourite study food

Get some fresh air. Sitting down at a computer for hours on end is not good for you. Every few hours, be sure to stretch your legs, go outside, get some sunshine and just do some movement. Excercise is also important throughout exams, even if it’s just going for a walk around the block or a quick bike ride, about half an hour of cardio is enough time to get the blood pumping and distract yourself from any concerns in life you may have.

On that note, positive procrastination is key! No one really expects you to spend 12 hours a day every day just studying. BORING!!! However, instead of watching seasons of How I Met Your Mother in one sitting, is probably not going to help keep your brain and heart active throughout a stressful period. So I like to engage in some positive procrastination, which is exactly what I’m doing now. I think about what else is important in my life after study, blogging, keeping fit, travel plans, seeing my friends… and I try to make time to fit them in to my schedule. Balance is the key to success. 

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Keep motivated. I know it’s difficult, but try and hold on to it, because motivation is what will kick you over the finish line. Keep your end goal in sight, seek inspiration and when in doubt refer to the Ryan Gosling image above.

The night before an exam. Get a good nights sleep! This is something I still haven’t mastered but it’s really important to ensure you wake up energised and motivated. If you’ve got an early exam, make sure you set an alarm (or two or three). Get prepared! Pull out everything you need for your exam, pens, pencils, erasers, student card, clear water bottle, clear pencil case and anything else you may need and put it in a neat pile in the middle of your room so you won’t forget anything. If like me, you have a case of ‘I have nothing to wear,’ then pre select clothes that you’ll feel comfortable in the night before. It just means that in the morning, you’ll have one less thing to worry about. Have a healthy and hearty dinner and have a re read over your notes so they can circulate around your mind whilst you sleep.

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The day of your exam. Woo hoo! Exam day is here and you’re ready to smash it! Make sure you have breakfast! You need nutrients to keep your brain working! Have your coffee, have your orange juice, have whatever you normally have. Afterall, it’s just another day! Play some music that will get you pumped and feeling like you can and will do well! Get rid of all those negative thoughts and just breathe. Make sure you know where your exam is and you get there early to avoid unseen interruptions to your day. Once seated, just concentrate on what you need to do and do it.

After your exam. Make sure you take time to congratulate yourself. You’ve made it through another exam period! A common way to do this is at the uni bar.

Good luck to everyone with their exams! Do the best you can and remember to maintain some balance! OK, so I think this is enough procrastination from me for one day! Back to the books.

xxx A

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Girl Bashing

http://birdeemag.com/bitch-dont-call-me-that/

This is an incredibly interesting article about why we have to stop calling women sluts and whores (thank you Tina Fey). Because they are women only slurs, the words are inherently misogynistic, degrading and damaging.

It’s an interesting article because I am guilty of using these terms amongst friends but I’ve never meant it in a way where I’ve purposely set out to hurt someone. I think that these days the word ‘bitch’ is used very loosely and can even be used amongst friends. Slut I don’t agree with but am guilty of describing a girl that I don’t like very much as a slut, and upon reflecting on this really bad habit, it’s not a nice thing to do and I’m sure there’s many other words out there that could be used to describe someone.

But where’s the limit? Do we keep asking for more? How morally and politically correct can we actually be in a world full of people who are inherently different? But I do agree that we should fix up our vocabularly because we should be lifting women up, encouraging and supporting them other than ripping them down.

Peace and love to all you beautiful women and men out there!

xxx A

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Celebrity Certified Feminism: Visual Essay

This is a visual essay I made for a subject at university. It looks at the misrepresentation of feminism by celebrities in the media and why we need feminism to focus on basic human rights for all women. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Beyoncé and Miley, however I think more responsibility needs to be applied when representing serious social issues like gender inequality. It can’t all be sequins, booty, free the nipple etc because how is that going to help the women in the world where gender inequality affects their everyday life? We need to not only act for ourselves, but also for those who are not given the opportunity or right to.

xxx A

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TED Talks to Lighten Your Day

http://www.ted.com/playlists/225/talks_to_get_you_through_your

Do you ever get that flat feeling? Where you lay in bed for an extra 15 minutes contemplating life, with little to no motivation to get up? Or you have some reoccuring thoughts along the lines of ‘why am I here?’ Then the above link is for you!

All of the videos are inspiring, motivating, address difficult and strange issues that each of us face at some point in our lives. Definitely check it out for a burst of happiness and kick ass motivation!

xxx A

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Voluntourism: Are you really helping?

http://www.travelmole.com/news_feature.php?news_id=2010188&c=setreg&region=2

I recently came across this article and found it incredibly interesting and something worth addressing. Whilst I completely believe in equality, education and helping those less fortunate, it was interesting to read that in some cases, can have negative impacts on individuals and communities that they are trying to help.

“No one is saying volunteering is a bad thing, but people need to be really well informed … and know which skills they bring to the table”

I think responsibility and the main focus of volunteering shoul be at the core of a project. Not advertising things as a package and all the amazing/once in a life time things you get to experience, when the main purpose of your presence is to improve the lives of others. And that improvement should not be short lived. Strategies need to be implemented to guarantee longevity of projects and overall profit to the local community and people that volunteers work with.

I also never quite understood young adults travelling to some countries in Africa to build houses or schools when they have little or no construction skills. Are you really going to benefit a community who basically has nothing by building a ‘house’ when you have no knowledge or experience in doing so?

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Poverty tourism

The article below suggests that before embarking on a volunteering experience overseas, one should first look at themselves and see what skills they really bring to the table. By volunteering in your local community first, you can gain experience and knowledge of what you’re good at doing and improve your skills before taking them overseas.

I have volunteered in my local community in many different ways and would love to do the same one day overseas. I believe my skills and strengths lie in talking, listening, understanding and taking the time to get to know people and would therefore love to teach english overseas. However, I would only do it with a program whose intentions are true to their practises and genuinely want to make a positive difference in the world.

http://www.smh.com.au/it-pro/gap-year-the-pros-and-cons-of-voluntourism-20141220-1282f6.html