On skytrain journalism, sanitary pads and the real face of dignity.
I don’t typically brood over words like “dignity” while chomping on a piece of toast on a Thursday morning. I’m usually preoccupied with trying to make decisions like, “Can I get away with not washing my hair today?” or “How long can I sit on Facebook before I’m officially late for work?”
This week, however, was different. I came face-to-face with the stark reality that dignity is:
– A vague concept.
– A scarce commodity.
Allow me to illustrate my point by going over my week.
Monday: I spot this guy on the Skytrain. The repressed journalist in me just HAD to take a picture of his hoodie.
It’s a little hard to read in the picture because I was trying to be discreet. His hoodie says, “Chicks should come in six packs.” The infamous mudflap girl imprinted on each can. Pun intended.
The feminist in me was appalled. For the record: I’m not anti-men. I’m just pro-women.
Tuesday: I read this really great article: “MILFs and Happy Endings” (You should read it too.)
“Was it just me, or was I being bullied, along with everyone else, into having to accept porn’s invasion into everyday life with its coarseness as the new norm?”- Lili Bee
Wednesday: I sat across from this guy…
“My parts are the best,” his T-shirt reads. TMI … but I’ll take your word for it kind sir. On closer inspection, it’s mudflap girl again! Only this time she’s on her knees. I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt but I’m guessing she’s not changing the tires.
How does a woman living in today’s world define “dignity” when the media tells us we are most appreciated on our knees, half-dressed, preferably in front of an automobile.
Don’t believe me? Take Beyonce’s music video “Run the World” for example. Ms. Knowles is singing about female empowerment on all fours in front of a car. Look at the similarities between the T-shirt and the video.
Car? Check. Mudflap girl? Check. Girl power? I don’t think so. Talk about sending mixed signals.
I really don’t want this to sound Anti-Beyonce because I love the girl. She can sing, dance and is a successful business woman. What’s not to love? It just bothers me that the music video for a song about girl power is communicating a conflicting message.
Why aren’t there more T-shirts emblazoned with the faces of Rosa Parks, Madeleine Albright and Margaret Atwood? I’d wear that!
Thursday: As you can imagine I was feeling pretty deflated by this point. The overly sexualized imagery and language surrounding my gender was depressing.
In an effort to cheer myself up I was browsing through the Living Hope website on my lunch break. Readers who have been following SheLoves regularly know that a group of 50 women in Vancouver are running a Half-Marathon on September 25th to raise money for the Living Hope Program that aids women in northern Uganda.
Looking through the photos on the website, I saw a true picture of dignity. I saw women with deep-rooted self-worth, effortless grace, resourceful spirit, fervent courage and untainted joy.
This is the kind of “girl power” that appeals to me. I’m tired of the in-your-face, skin-baring, swearing-like-a-sailor, overly sexual, middle-finger showing, aggressive, violent, catty, condescending “girl power” the media advertises. It’s a cop-out. It’s counterfeit.
True girl power is someone who forgives the unforgivable, loves the unlovable and dares to show up for life even at the risk of getting hurt in the process.
“What should move us to action is human dignity: the inalienable dignity of the oppressed, but also the dignity of each of us. We lose dignity if we tolerate the intolerable.”– Dominique De Menil
The Intolerable: Abducted, gang-raped, infected with AIDS, left for dead, mutilated, forgotten, beaten, disfigured, shunned from society and sold as sex slaves.
“Restoring dignity” is the mandate of the Living Hope program that supports the women of northern Uganda. These women have suffered the intolerableand are rising up from the ashes, daring to rewrite their story.
That to me is real “dignity.”
Real women with real dignity
This is the glee-inducing portion of this post. The Living Hope Training Center provides vocational training and helps the women generate projects with the help of micro-finance loans.
The key to restoring their sense of dignity is training and equipping them with skill sets so they can integrate back into their communities as valued contributing members of society.
Here’s a peek into the Living Hope Training Centre in Gulu:
1. Sewing Workshops
2. Making Honey
3. I was saving the best for last, a brilliant initiative called “MAKAPADS.”
According to UNICEF, approximately 1 in 10 African girls will skip school during menstruation because they fear being ridiculed or stigmatized. Rural schools don’t usually have proper toilet facilities or water and girls can’t afford sanitary pads. Often times they have to resort to unsanitary alternatives like leaves or cloth. This is the crucial juncture where many girls drop out of school.
The Living Hope ladies in Gulu have been part of an initiative that provides affordable sanitary pads, called Makapads made mainly of papyrus reeds and almost entirely of local materials. It is exciting because, not only is this a skills development opportunity, but the ladies also get to be a part of an initiative that is giving a new generation of girls the opportunity to remain in school.
The finished product is pretty impressive if you ask me!
“Our ladies are not a drama of victimization; they are a story of empowerment that transforms formerly abducted little girls into successful businesswomen.”- Marilyn Skinner, Founder of Watoto – Living Hope
Transforming abducted girls into successful business women?!
Hello? I love that.
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Nothing ever happens if you stay in your room
Nothing ever happens if you leave the party too soon
Never be a winner if you’re not in the game
Nothing ever happens if you always play it safe
So, make a little space and get out of your own way.”
So … my global SheLoves sisters:
– Does the portrayal of women in media affect you on a personal level?
– Any stories or anecdotes that you’d like to share in lieu of this post?
– What is your definition of dignity?
Dear SheLoves Half-Marathon Bravehearts,
– Many of you have had milestone runs this past week, how are you feeling about the Half-Marathon now? Is the end in sight?
– How are your fundraising efforts going? I’d love to hear about how you’ve been spreading awareness. Mailouts, phonecalls, meetings over coffee, email, etc?
Love you more than Almond Herb Tarts with Dandelion Pesto, Truffled Fontina & Figs , (<- Recipe)
To read more TGIFs from Tina: Click here.(Images of Living Hope Centre courtesy Watoto)