Friday, January 17, 2014

The Friday Four, Part 49


Photo credit: wikipedia
On Monday, I attended the funeral of a young man I never met. I do, however, know one set of his grandparents, both of whom are good people, from church.  His grandmother, in particular, is one of the most sincerely warm and loving people I have the privilege of calling a friend. 

During the service, his friends, family, and comrades-in-arms movingly described a dedicated, giving, compassionate, talented, and determined individual. Not only did he serve with distinction in the Marine Corps, advancing ranks far more quickly than average, he also served as a bone marrow donor, saving the life of a young mother a couple of years ago. The Patriot Guard Riders turned out in force to honor this soldier, as did the community as a whole.  Military honors were given and, as always, tears streamed down my face during the three-volley salute, the playing of Taps, and the folding and presentation of the flag to his wife.

My deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones. Semper fidelis, and rest in peace, Sgt. Hess.  


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a writer from Nigeria, recently came to my attention through her 2009 TED talk. (I've been introduced to so many fascinating people that way!) She gives her talk, "The Danger of a Single Story", from the perspective of the storyteller she is. Stories have immense power over how we perceive ourselves and others, she says. "Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity."

Because of this, it is important to ensure that we recognize that every person has many, many stories that make them who they are, rather than being a one-dimensional creature. "The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story...The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar."

Seriously, go watch this talk.  It's less than 20 minutes and well worth your time.


And then go watch her TEDxEuston talk from last year, "We Should All Be Feminists". Adichie speaks to her experience as a Nigerian woman and the sexism she sees in her culture, but she expresses many truths that are applicable across cultural lines.

While a thousand years ago physical strength was important for survival, making men (who are often--general speaking--physically stronger than women) the natural leaders, "today we live in a vastly different world.  The person more likely to lead is not the physically stronger person. It is the more creative person, the more intelligent person, the more innovative person. And there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, to be creative, to be innovative. We have evolved, but it seems to me that our ideas of gender have not evolved."

She points out that the way we raise our children, both boys and girls, needs to change because it affects the kind of adults they become. "We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them. We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity becomes this hard, small cage and we put boys inside the cage. We teach boys to be afraid of fear, to be afraid of weakness, vulnerability. We teach them to mask their true selves." 

On the other hand, "we teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls you can have ambition but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful otherwise you will threaten the man...So [girls] grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. They grow up, and this is the worst thing we do to girls, they grow up to be women who have turned pretense into an art form."

And then I love this: "I am angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change. But in addition to being angry I am also hopeful because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to make and remake themselves for the better."

I'm on the waiting list to get her novels from the library.  I can't wait to see what else she has to say.


And speaking of feminism, read here about what one of my favorite "rabid, man-eating feminists" in the entertainment industry, Meryl Streep, said about another of my favorite "rabid, man-eating feminists" in the field, Emma Thompson.  Delightful women, both of them!

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