Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Culture of Hooking Up

Scenario: You find yourself lost in the moment; lusting, kissing, touching, and feeling. Tonight, there are no strings attached. This is your body, you have full control of it, and you plan on making yourself feel good. You will enjoy yourself today, and forget about it all tomorrow.

This is what hook-up culture is, and you'll find it in virtually all college campuses across the country. 

I won't lie to you, the idea of this sort sexual liberation with no strings attached seems pretty appealing. What's better than having someone make you feel great without any commitments to go along with it? Many people feel that its incredibly liberating for themselves and their bodies.

In older generations, we women were told not having sexual desires made us pure and innocent as we were supposed to be. If we desired sex, as it is normal to at our age, we were seen as dirty, whorish, and whatnot. In the 60's, when third-wave feminism really took hold, we decided fuck that, we have desires too, we wanted control of our bodies and wanted to explore ourselves as it was okay for men to do for so long. And from there we decided that sex with no-strings-attached and one-night-stands were liberating for us.

But, when we take a step back and really look at the effects of this ever-growing culture among us young people, is it really liberating? And is it something we as feminists should be advocating for, or begin to concern ourselves about?

Listen, I am all for sexual empowerment and taking control of our bodies. Our virginity doesn't define us (in fact, it's a social construct). We have desires too, and we want to act on those desires in a healthy and positive way, in which everyone is consenting.

But it seems all the wrong things are pushing us to engage in this new culture of sex, and the hook ups we have been demanding and wanting more and more of, have devalued something that should be far more important to us: love & well-meaning relationships. Not only that, but it seems hookup culture has led to the hyper-sexualization of society as a whole, where women have been reduced to sex objects, and not people to build meaningful friendships & relationships with.

In 2011, 92% of Billboards top hits were about sex. Male singers' lyrics were about convincing a girl to have sex with her, and female singers' were about being sexy enough to seduce men. The media in general nowadays has become ever-more sexually explicit, with films like Friends With Benefits and No Strings Attached being released within the past 5 years, and with an over-sexualized media, casual sex becomes the norm in everyday life.

Many well-known feminists have argued in defense of hook-up culture as stated earlier, but when women were asked whether they preferred dating to hook-ups, an overwhelming majority said they did, and not only that, but it was becoming more and more difficult to find men who didn't only want to use them for sex. 

There is simply no affection in hook-ups. Men don't care to please the women they're with, and as a result a staggering amount of women don't ever orgasm during hook-ups and don't even feel any pleasure at all. Hook-up culture is even proven to eventually lead to rape, where men will go to parties expecting to be laid, and sometimes wanting to have sex so desperately, that they rape a woman who has not consented. There are also times when men will be so used to hooking up with so many different women, that consent is not a priority for them. The drastic increase in rape of women over the past 50 years is by no doubt an effect of hook up culture.

When we hear about all the enjoyment and excitement about how hookup culture is this new way of empowering ourselves and moving away from outdated traditions, it seems as a great, forward thinking approach. But if we take a step back and further analyze the culture as a whole, we might in fact realize that these habits are just as harmful and detrimental to society as the outdated traditions we feel so strongly against.

So I am encouraging my fellow feminists to do just that. Analyze the situation and look at the culture as a whole. Maybe we will realize that this culture we have been pushing as revolutionary and empowering just simply might no longer be empowering for us at all.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Girl Goes Out Alone: A Phenomenon?

Capture from the Iranian film, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
This summer, something I've frequently noticed is the double standards of going out as a man, and going out as a woman in Algeria. To go out as a woman here, you are required the permission of either your parents or your husband. You must tell them who you'll go out with, where you'll go, what you'll be doing, and when you'll be back. You have to make sure what you wear isn't too provocative and won't solicit anything unwanted from men. Once you are out, you deal with staring men everywhere, and so many unsolicited catcalls, a growing problem for women all over the world. I often wonder when I'm out if so many of these men, who fail to see me as a person but rather someone they can gawk at and say obscene things to, think I exist for them. That my sole purpose in being out today, making the attempt to enjoy my day, is for them. I wonder this, because if they saw me as a 3 dimensional person, as someone who is their equal, would they think to see me as an object to catcall to and stare at?
I notice my male family members have no problem going out, and in fact, go out most of the time. They don't have to think about what they wear before going out, constantly ask permission to go out, and so on.
To be a woman in Algeria, you must be okay with being homebound. You must be okay with asking for permission from your parents or your husband while watching your brother or your cousin saunter out the door. You must be okay with being objectified while outside due to all the catcalls and disrespect.
I think, as an Algerian-American, it is not in my place to incite anything as I am, to some extent and outsider, but I hope throughout the next few years and decades, women who live in this beautiful country will finally be able to be treated with equity and have the freedom to go out when they please with whom they please, without having to ask their husbands, who should be seen as their equal, and without having their parents fear more and expect more from their daughters than their sons.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Blogging for fun and my stay in Algeria

Sitting around on vacation in my grandma's house reading, mindlessly scrolling through social media, and writing in my journal has led me to the thought of maybe doing something semi-productive, like blogging again; but this time, not for a grade.
During the school year, while blogging was a good way to write about things I liked and felt passionate about, while also practicing my knowledge in writing and English, the amount we had to blog felt like more of an assignment or a chore than anything else. This time around, I hope to make my blog more of a creative outlet where I can vent my thoughts, opinions, and simply just ramble on when I feel like it. Don't worry-- not a diary, but more of a space where I can reflect my thoughts and attitudes.

Now, getting to the important part, I am currently spending my Ramadan and remainder of the summer in Algeria seeing and hanging out with family.

The plan has been that we'll be in Algeria until August 20th (four days before school starts, yeah), with our father joining us July 31st. That's about 2 months that we'll be in Algeria, and I am ready to soak up as much sun as I can.

I hope to use this blog as a platform of this beautiful forgotten country and to even brush up on my [subpar] writing skills. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Working in high school

Ed from the Good Burger

Recently, I got the chance to land a part time job at a grocery store near my house, to work in the floral department as a florist. Essentially, I sell people flowers, fill out deliveries, make orders, and clean the department. Not only has working given me a good amount of money, but it has also taught me important things that I will carry on for the rest of my life.

Firstly, the application process itself was a new experience for me. Applying everywhere that I was qualified, finally being called back, going in for an interview, and doing orientation were all new things for me and gave me a feel as to what applying, being rejected, being accepted, and being interviewed was like. 

Second, dealing with customers was something else that was new for me. When I first started out, I was incredibly awkward (I still am to an extent, but a lot better than when I started out), I had to answer many questions for them, and learn how to be a helpful and friendly person. I also, unfortunately, got the chance to meet and deal with awful and rude customers. That gave me a chance to learn how to be patient and keep my cool.

Interacting and engaging with co-workers was something that I had to get used to. So far, all of my co-workers have been incredibly lovely and interesting people.

Lastly and most importantly, I have learned how to manage my time and plan ahead. Often, when I work all afternoon from 4-8 I feel I won't have any time for homework. I've slowly yet surely learned how to complete my homework around that. I either try to utilize my time during Smart lunch, get a little done right before I work, and try to finish it after work. This has taught me not to slack off and to manage the time I have. 

I encourage every teenager to get a job. It helps you become independent and make your own money, make valuable experiences, and learn how to communicate and engage with others better. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Smartphone Apocalypse

Saba's Snapchat selfie, circa February
We have so much to thank for Smartphones. They are incredibly beneficial, convenient, and are essentially a whole world of knowledge in your very own hands. They provide us with current news, important information, and many other tools. Apps such as Facebook, and Skype help us stay updated with friends and family; Instagram and Snapchat let us post and share what's going on in our lives; and Tumblr and Twitter help us learn about the changing world around us.

But with changing technology, our habits, manners, and lifestyles are changing as well: for better or worse. Our lives have begun to revolve around the Smartphone. Let me put this in perspective for you.

Bored? Get on your phone. Can't concentrate in class? Get on your phone. Don't want to do homework yet? Get on your phone. Tired of the conversation? Get on your phone. Want to avoid someone in public? Get on your phone. Don't want to seem like you have no idea what to do? Get on your phone. See this video for more details:

It essentially becomes an endless cycle, where every free minute of our lives are dedicated to our phones because they have become the priority. We are being a lot more more distracted and a lot less productive. Not only that, but we have become so immersed with our phones and technology that we have forgotten to look up and around and enjoy the presence of other physical human beings around us.

I can remember more than one occasion when I am completely ignored by peers, family members, customers, and other people because of their seemingly important encounters going on on their phones. Many times, when my sister is over from college I hope to be able to catch up, discuss, and just hang out together, but more often I notice that my sister is more interested in her phone than her family around her (don't worry-- we've called her out on it multiple times).

And I am not the complete victim in this situation, yes I have been too immersed in my electronic devices to notice the seemingly small yet important encounters around me.

With my electronic devices, I increasingly become more distracted from classwork and homework. Often in class, when I am bored with lectures and schoolwork, I'll get my iPod out and mindlessly scroll through Twitter. When I want to take a 5 minute break from homework, my smartphone makes that 5 minute break a 30 minute break. And I'm suddenly staying up to work on homework that would've otherwise been done a lot earlier.

Last year, because of my lack of motivation, I decided to delete all of my social media apps, and I do confess, my grades got a lot better and I became a lot less distracted. But I cannot lie, I was bored. With everyone around me immersed in their own social media, I didn't really know who to talk to or what to do. Mostly, I just tried to play games to pass the time that would have otherwise been used scrolling through social media.

Now, I'm not saying the smartphone and all the innovations that come with it are bad, because they are not. I am an avid fan of smartphones and social media and I encourage the use of it (for further interest, read my Social Media Empowers Us blog post) and the benefits of smartphones are enormous. But there comes a point where it goes too far, where we forget to appreciate everything that is physically around us, forget how to manage our time, and forget how to just turn the darn thing off.

There is a quote from a great Argentinian movie Sidewalls I watched that said this:
"The internet brings me closer to the world, but further from life."
The quote definitely spoke to me and I did relate to it.

So, I challenge you (and myself) to try to use the smartphone less. Leave it in your bag in class, keep it in a drawer while doing homework, try talking to people more face-to-face or on the phone than through text, and try going out every once in a while without it. Learn to appreciate things around you and then move on to appreciating things in a global context.

Monday, April 6, 2015

On getting my sh*t back together

source: rubyetc
These past few months, it seemed as though I'd lost absolutely all my motivation. It was... a terrifying feeling; my grades were plummeting, I felt incompetently lazy all the time, I was incredibly overwhelmed, and it seemed as though I had so much to do all the time. But no matter what, I just couldn't get out of bed and get my sh*t done. I pushed it all back and told myself I would get it done eventually. 

Well, as most fellow procrastinators know, to "get it done eventually" is synonymous with "to never really get it done." My parents would often ask me how I was doing in school, what my grades were, and the like. And most often I lied to them. 

So many things ran through my head at once; "violin lesson tonight, I work all afternoon tomorrow, eye appointment Wednesday-- speaking of eye appointments, I need to talk to mom about contacts. I'm absolutely sick of these glasses. I should check my email. Oh shoot, ACT's are coming up soon, I need to register for those. Ugh. What if I don't do well? What if no college will accept me? Speaking of which-- which college am I going to? I need to look at scholarships soon. What will I do in college? What kind of job will I have? Where will I live? What if I end up being a completely average and boring human being? But I can't be-- everyone has a place in the universe." These thoughts plagued me to my core. So naturally, instead of going out and confronting these things that I had to do, I hid in my bed and retreated into the wonderful, yet completely distracting world of the internet.

Many high schoolers have probably gone through similar experiences; a flop in the year where no matter what, we just can't pull ourselves out of the gutter and get to work. I can't lie-- I am to be blamed for it. I should've been working harder and putting in all of my effort- I just... didn't want to confront my responsibilities. 

Recently, I've been able to bring my motivation back. Slowly, yet surely. I've been starting my homework earlier, planning ahead, listing out daily to-do's, and making use of my time. Heck, I've even turned off my electronic devices, which as we all know, is always a bitter (but temporary) farewell. 

Truth be told, going through these temporary weird phases is merely a part of being a teenager. We mess up, lie, fail tests, and make bad decisions (it's not our heads making the decisions, it's our outrageous hormones and underdeveloped prefrontal cortex). The important part is that we eventually learn from past experiences, and use them to be better and more responsible people. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

A month without makeup: what I learned

Me with makeup
Me without makeup

From around the end of January to the beginning of March, I decided to go makeup free. It wasn't for any particular reason. I thought to myself "I wonder what it would be like to go without makeup for a good and long amount of time. Would people notice? Would I stop feeling so self conscious? Would it be easier or harder for me?" So eventually I decided to go for it; it was only a month, so I figured I didn't have anything to lose in that time! On my first day of going completely natural, I thought surely people were going to be completely surprised by my natural face, and that at least someone was going to end up saying something. In actuality however, it seemed as though people didn't notice! I can't lie, I was quite surprised. I made the assumption that people would comment on my appearance, ask things like "did you do something different to yourself?" or "what happened to your face?" or even the classic "you look tired." But no, none of that. Everyday life went on, even with my bare and exposed face.
The first few days of going without makeup was a challenge for me. While I wore a minimal amount of makeup in the first place, I felt that I absolutely needed it to feel good and confident. I began to learn how ironic the idea was, since feeling the obligation to wear makeup was what made me feel less confident.
Don't get me wrong, I am a big advocate of makeup, it's a way to express yourself, accentuate your features, and feel good about yourself. I have no problem with people who wear a lot of makeup nor do I have any problems with people who don't wear a drop of makeup. What I'm not a fan of, however, is the idea of needing makeup to feel happy. Many times, especially as a high schooler, I encounter many people who say "I could never go out without makeup" or "I'm too ugly to do that to myself." As if wearing makeup is their default self and anything less is their "ugly self." Even I at one point felt that way as well.
 But eventually I learned that makeup shouldn't reflect on how smart, successful, or hard working you are, and neither should it reflect on your beauty. Going without makeup saved me time, money, and make me feel better about my "bare and exposed" face.
 Ladies and gentlemen, learn to appreciate your natural selves. It may be a long and hard process, but the outcome is worth it.