How often have I looked to Africa and thanked my lucky stars that I was born Canadian? 300 kidnapped girls in Nigeria, already facing unimaginable terrors, are being threatened with being sold into sexual slavery and even if rescued, will face a social stigma that could prescribe marriage to their captors.
A few days ago I was outraged that Canada had yet to make a move to help Nigeria try and save these girls. This morning I started to feel like there is nothing more useless than a middle-class Canadian woman feeling outrage over crimes across the globe which she can have absolutely no effect on. And so I did what I do when I feel helpless about things that preoccupy my otherwise first-world-problems occupied mind – read as much as I could about it.
Where has that left me? With a bit more understanding about how militarized reactions from world super-powers do more to destabilize the democratic process in the countries they are trying to help than actually make a difference with the scenario at hand. It’s also left me with the realization that there is no charity I can donate money to that will ensure the safe return of those girls. It’s left me further jaded that social media response such as #bringbackourgirls has no positive effect at all other than possibly for the PR campaigns of celebrities.
‘‘For four years, Nigerians have tried to understand these homicidal monsters. Your new interest (thanks) simplifies nothing, solves nothing.’’ – Nigerian-American author Teju Cole on the Twitter campaign against Boko Haram (article in The Guardian).
Yet, I turn to my Pink Monday wordpress blog to say something. What?
Well, I guess it’s this: that being afraid to put girls in schools for fear that they will be targeted by Islamic extremists or whomever is no reason to keep girls out of schools. If any good can come of a social media campaign on the topic, perhaps it could be to encourage people to continue supporting organizations like Because I Am A Girl, CAMFED (Campaign for Female Education), Action Aid, Save the Children, War Child and FAWE (Forum for African Women Educationalists), just to name a few.
Completely shifting topics now, although still along the theme of women’s issues, I wanted to mention The Bechdel Test. Yesterday, while describing a movie I recently watched, and joking that it didn’t exactly pass the Bechdel Test (Wolf of Wall Street), my office-mate, Anita, had no idea what I was talking about. Anita is an extraordinary woman which only tells me that the Bechdel Test isn’t as widely known as I thought! For a movie to pass the Bechdel Test it has to have a) two women who b) talk to each other about c) something other than a man.
“When I call it a systemic problem, what I mean by this is that it’s not just a few people here and there that don’t like women or don’t want women’s stories told, but that rather the entire industry is build upon creating films and movies that cater to and are about men.” Maria Aliyah, Feminist Frequency
Though many movies may technically pass, the test doesn’t ensure promotion of positive images for women but I find that it’s a brilliantly simple way to assess movies and encourage discussions about portrayals of women. Think about it – what was the last movie you watched? Did it pass? No? What about the movie before that? And if it did pass, what were those women talking about? You may find yourself surprised to discover that often their discussions are about about some aspect of female life that still doesn’t necessarily portray us on an equal level with men in society or show us in positions of power or influence.
Perhaps for Mother’s Day you’re considering a movie date or gift for your mom. There’s a great list of 2013 movies that passed the Bechdel Test with flying colors here. If you’re in Vancouver, check out Finding Vivian Maier on Monday at 7pm at the Rio Theatre. Myself, I have to settle for a phone call with mom tomorrow as we are a province away. My sisters and I went in on a laptop for her which they will take care of presenting at Sunday brunch. I wish I could be there. In honour of women, mothers and daughters everywhere, I’m donating to CAMFED today and I’m going to see Divergent (a movie which my husband deliberately picked out for me using the Bechdel Test because he is amazing) and I can’t wait.
Happy Pink Monday!
…or in this case, Pink Saturday as I’m posting a bit early this week – partly due to the fact that I felt a need to strike while the iron is hot as I haven’t written a post in several weeks, partly to promote an upcoming movie and partly to get this out there in time for Mother’s Day tomorrow.
Til next time,
P.S. Special thanks to my friend Angela whose email this morning helped inspire me to write this post.
- With Kidnapped Nigerian Girls, Can a Hashtag Help? – The Boston Globe
- Abducted Nigerian Girls Likely Split Up Into Smaller Groups, Officials Say – Fox News
- Michelle Obama: Nigerian Kidnappings “unconscionable” – CNN World
- Nigeria Abductions: Timeline of Events – BBC News Africa
- Goodluck Johnathan, Nigerian girls’ abduction a turning point – BBC News Africa
- Nigeria Profile – BBC News Africa
- Behind the Rise of Boko Haram, ecological disaster, oil crisis, spy games – The Guardian
- Vivian Maier and the Problem with Difficult Women, The New Yorker