Feminism, Musings, SAY WHAAA...!

How I Should Think About My Weight (If I Absolutely Must)

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Ah, another day, another chance for you and I, as women, to talk, think, and downright obsess about how much physical space our bodies take up in this big, bad world. At least that’s how it’s felt like for me ever since I came back home from Montreal a year and a half ago and started to steadily gain more and more of a circumference spectrum than I’ve had since at least six years ago. See, for the better part of the last six years of my life I never found myself outside of the healthy-for-my-height (173 cm) range of 64 to 66 KG. At my lowest, I was a spry 63. Today, I am a 72. Not a huge amount by any means, still within a healthy range, and certainly not the heaviest I’ve ever been but still way more than I had become accustomed to for the last several years.

And even for my feminist-defined, thoroughly skeptical, shruggingly blasé self it’s been a struggle. I am a mere mortal after all, not Deepak Chopra. Bu I also think it’s been especially difficult because, in my line of work (the media/magazine industry), you can’t so much as blink without being bombarded with some form of conversation or imagery about the subject of weight. The gaining of weight; the losing of weight; who gained/lost what; how they look; how they did it; how you can too; GODDAMNED ETC. But you know what? Screw that. Here’s how I’m going to personally start thinking about the subject of my own weight from now on (if I do at all).

Try it out for yourself if the idea of owning your own body strikes you.

WEIGHT THOUGHT #1: This Is Some Grade-A Crap Right Here

Okay, coming from someone who is thoroughly embedded within the media bubble system, I’ve gotta tell you that, when the media around you starts pushing the idea of perfect people in your face YOU WOULD BE WISE TO BE EXTREMELY SKEPTICAL. Really, the only correct way to consume images of perfectly tailored human beings in media is with deep, delicious, instant doubt. Saying this is probably hurting my rep as a ‘media-person’ (wait, what?) but, hell, it’s the goddamned truth. It’s advertising, you guys. It’s supposed to make you want something. That fact ALONE makes the whole thing AS FISHY AS THE FREAKING ATLANTIC. So when you see those types of images in your various media outlets (so, basically, anywhere) you really should move forward very cautiously (or better yet: not at all). So, instead of letting yourself feel flawed or even mesmerized by the images that are directly and indirectly telling you to shrink yourself away, I suggest you start seeing it as a sad, slightly hilarious, icky, desperate cash grab. Because that’s what the hell it really is.

Food, Musings, SAY WHAAA...!

Screw You, Quinoa!

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Quinoa usually divides itself into three distinct groups: people who love it, people who hate it, and people who have no idea what the hell it is.

To the people who love quinoa: get the hell out. Seriously, I am so freaking done with you. Kidding, kidding, I love you, please come back. But seriously, please stop telling me how much you love quinoa and how awesome all the proteins are. Enough already. Go fill that yapper with some quinoa instead and leave me alone.

To the people who don’t know what quinoa is: I’m not talking about rice or oatmeal or any other grain that sounds kinda like quinoa. I am talking about something so much worse. See, quinoa is a bag of pebbly, icky sand. That’s it. Its sand masquerading as food. Back in the day, if someone caught you eating virtual sand they’d call you crazy. Now they call you a “foodie” and make you pay beau coup bucks for a cup of water-blasted sand gravel. Progress! If you’ve never actually tried quinoa before THEN YOU MUST PROMISE ME THAT YOU NEVER WILL. SERIOUSLY PROMISE ME THIS. BLOOD OATH.

To the people who hate quinoa: LET’S RAP.

What’s wrong with buying some decent brown rice that doesn’t taste like tiny rocks? When quinoa lovers take me out, make me eat quinoa, and then annoy me with questions of how quinoa tastes, I try to be sensitive about it. So I say it’s ‘water-flavored.’ Usually they take that to mean ‘pure-tasting’ or ‘a little bland’ BUT NO. It tastes like water, which literally tastes like nothing. QUINOA TASTES LIKE NOTHING.

And then the texture! It’s gravel. Really. People are paying 5 KD a cup to eat gravel. They fool you into thinking its a healthier ‘rice substitute’ but that is a load of crap. Quinoa is not rice. It doesn’t even live in rice’s neighborhood. It doesn’t even share rice’s galaxy. Damn all of you swindlers who tried to pawn off quinoa to me as rice! You are horrible and I will never forgive you!

Oh, and another fun fact about freaking quinoa? It’s ruining the farming culture in Bolivia. Oh yeah. Due to all the “foodies” running around and pretending to be cool and decadent and hip by eating a handful of pebbles and overpaying for it, thousands of other people get to suffer. Because in places that export quinoa like Bolivia and Ecuador it’s considered “poor people” food, that is until idiotic rich people came along and started buying it in bulk. Now these countries are exporting so much quinoa that the farmers can barely afford it themselves and are now turning to way less nutritional supplements instead. GOD, QUINOA. How do you sleep at night?

And, to add insult to injury, quinoa has forever ruined Joaquin Phoenix for me because, as I write this, my brain has somehow exchanged “Joaquin” for “quinoa.” And now Quinoa Phoenix sounds like an even douchier name than Joaquin Phoenix and I will never be able to watch Walk The Line again without hating quinoa and hating myself.

SO SCREW YOU GODDAMN QUINOA. Not liking you is Reason 137 that I will never be cool.

Feminism, Musings, SAY WHAAA...!

Screw You, Bigots!

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Look, equality is not complicated. Racial equality, gender equality, social equality are very simple issues, despite what people (who may actually mean well) have always said. Because when people don’t know how to approach sensitive subjects like race or gender they usually chime in (and chime out) with phrases like: “Oh, well, race/gender/social equality is complicated and everyone has a different opinion on it.” Except no. Its not and they don’t.

And you know why? Because racial bias, gender bias, and social bias is some seriously arbitrary and entirely made up nonsense. And imaginary, made up things are, by nature of their deep non-realness, usually not that complicated. I mean, really, they’re about as complicated as goddamn Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny.

Oh, well, that guy’s racial blood lineage is less ‘pure’ than mine so it makes me an inherently better person? Women’s brains are broom-shaped and so they need their own brand of pens and can only operate pink machinery? That dude likes other dudes (or doesn’t believe in God or likes to dress like Darth Vader) and so he deserves to have less rights to privacy, social dignity, or even a hint of human compassion?

Made up. Made up. Made up. Made up and completely messed up.

But, y’know, its not really all that surprising why these messed up things are around and refuse to go away. People benefit from bigotry–hell, I benefit from it every day–and things that benefit people in power don’t just suddenly go away because Halle Berry won an Oscar or whatever. Nope. They lurk around in words like “social background” and “natural-born” or calling every other Indian person “Raju.” Look at where there are deliberate and silent absences of certain kinds of people and there you will find hidden, powerful bigotry.

And the people who watch that bigotry from afar and choose to say nothing about it, or worse purposefully disseminate it and make it grow for their own benefit are The Bigots.

Now, I’m generally a well-intentioned person and so I try my best to give people the benefit of the doubt when they make seemingly unintentional bigoted claims like, “Racism is over! Obama’s president!” So I always ask these kinds of people one simple question: Do you believe that people are born equal? And their answer to this question is usually the deal-breaker.

Because if you claim that you’re not a bigot (or at least that you’re working hard towards not being one, which is the most any of us can really do) then you must at least believe that all people are born equal. And so, if you believe that, then you also believe that things like someone’s race/gender/personal lifestyle choices shouldn’t have anything to do with how successful/socially comfortable they are. Right? And yet you look around and what do you see? Tons of successful traditional men of one specific race who’s success vastly outweighs the people who are otherwise born different than them. And so, if you believe everyone’s born equal, then you also believe that there are external factors that are holding these different, but equal people back. Factors like bigotry. Right? So, then congratulations! You believe in bigotry and you are actively trying to make sure that you are not a bigot. Kudos to you!

Unless of course you believe that all people are NOT born equal in which case you would be a freaking bigot.

See how simple and so not complicated that whole equation was. ALL people are born equal? Not bigot. Maybe not ALL people are born equal? Bigot.

Now, if you think you may be a privileged bigot and you think maybe you wanna try to change your mind about including EVERYONE in the growth and progress of your country/your subcontinent/your world then here’s my humble two cents if you’ll have them:

It’s not easy to swallow your own privilege and to admit your complicity in bigoted actions especially if that’s just what you were born into. Really, I get it and I know how that feels because I, OwlOlive, am in many ways a member of this privileged global class. By sheer randomness I had the good fortune of being born into a white, straight body, in an economically stable family, with ample education opportunities, in a rich, powerful country in a world that implicitly favors powerful, educated, straight, white bodies over all other kinds of bodies. It’d be so easy for me to say ‘Well! That’s just the way it goes, I guess! La-di-da! Thank God for making me so privileged! What’s for dinner!’

So, yeah. I absolutely know that swallowing your privilege is hard but I can promise you that once you do it you’ll be addicted to that feeling. That feeling of opening yourself up to different perspectives, accepting your part in unknowingly helping to build a crappy social structure, and working on making the world a better place for everyone instead of just defending your territory and telling people where their ‘place’ is. It’s something I have to do as a privileged white person and something I still have to work on every single day because it’s the right thing to do. It’s just that: right. And so you have to do it. And that’s it.

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that you’re a bad person for being born into a privileged life in a privileged body. I’m saying you’re an extremely lucky person and that you should acknowledge that random luck by trying to make life easier for the people who weren’t so lucky. The people who were born with a different skin color, or ethnicity, or ‘lineage.’ The people born as female. The people born wanting to live a different but completely non-harmful lifestyle. You should be trying to make their lives equally privileged and easy as yours not less so. And when you do nothing but stand around and watch (‘What am I supposed to do? That’s the way the world is!’) when you could at least say something, you are making it less equal.

Humans are not complicated. All everyone wants is to feel valued, respected, and to feel like we deserve to exist in the world and all that it offers. So stop pretending like these ‘issues’ are so complicated, because they’re just not.

And, to those horrible specimens of crappy, bigoted people who know and understand all of this but still choose to live their lives at the expense of other people’s safety and livelihood and equality, I have but two words for you: Screw you. Screw you for literally turning the whole freaking planet into a disgusting cesspool of pain and division and a lack of progress just so you can stay the only privileged person in the world. Screw you for holding innocent people back and degrading them just because you’re so afraid of being overpowered and made obsolete by unity and loyalty and respect and equal opportunity.

People like you are garbage monsters who just need to shut up already. So yeah. Screw you, bigots. Please go away and never come back.

Musings, SAY WHAAA...!

Screw You, Cancer!

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Cancer has been a persistent factor in my life since before I was even born. My aunt died of it, my grandma died of it, my closest friend in high school died of it, my grandfather almost died of it, and now I know three people who are en route to dieing of cancer.

Cancer is an axe that’s been hanging over my head and my sisters’ head and my mother’s head since literally forever because, as luck would have it, we all share a mutantly rare genetic possibility of dieing of breast cancer. Me and my sisters each have a 1 in 4 chance, and my mother has a 1 in 2 chance. So, basically, the odds have royally screwed us and the higher likelihood is that breast cancer is going to be claiming one of us for sure at some point.

We’ve each suffered multiple cancer scares in our lifetimes and my mother now has a chronic, deep-seated fear of mammograms, hospitals, and anything that vaguely resembles the word ‘cancer’ (answer, dancer, prancer: very scary words for my mother). Somewhere in the deep, dark corners of our mind a part of us is waiting for that axe to drop because we’ve all seen it happen so many times.

And to those of you who have thankfully never been through such a harrowing experience and so don’t know what I mean by ‘seen it happen,’ here’s the basic gist:

Seeing someone die of cancer does not, by any means, look like a movie or a TV show or even a well-intentioned PSA. Nope. Listening to the breaths of someone you love getting so slow and so heavy that inhaling and exhaling literally begins to physically hurt them is something you can never ever, ever prepare yourself for. Never. Because seeing cancer is seeing the surgery scars, the exhaustion of chemo, and the sky-high (and usually crippling) medical expenses. Seeing cancer is seeing the toll it takes on every single relationship you have and seeing someone live in fear of the fact that there’s a good chance they are going to die very soon.

Living in the ‘Cancer Death Bubble’ is like living in the slowest, most horrible purgatory you could ever possibly imagine and wanting nothing more on this planet but to leave that purgatory. Except for one thing: to never ever leave that purgatory. Because once you leave that purgatory, it’s over. The person is over. Your grandparents and aunts and uncles and mother and father and sister and best friend are all over. And all you have to do now is go home without them.

So, I guess no one ever told cancer that my mother would suffer with self-guilt issues for the rest of her life because her sister and mother died suddenly and prematurely and all while she was about to give birth. I guess no one told cancer that I would’ve really liked to have gotten to know my grandmother and to get some great stories and life lessons and endless love out of her. That my friend was only 17 and had an entire lifetime left to live. That my aunt would never get to know her only son who she had to leave mother-less at one years old. Couldn’t someone have told cancer about any of these things? Cancer, you’re fired.

But, of course, the reality is that none of these things matter at all. Which is why me and my sisters and my mother have to deal with the constant and very real possibility that one of us might have breast cancer at this very minute. And to that I say: screw you, cancer!

Screw you for killing my grandparents and other people’s parents and other people’s children and for probably killing me one day. Screw you for not giving a flying dingbat about whether or not someone is nice or mean or good or evil or boring or ugly or pretty or if someone’s daughter or son are going to suffer for their whole entire life because of you. Screw you for just taking people and time and money away. Screw you for making women like Angelina Jolie resort to these measures just to save her children and herself from you. Screw you for being nothing more than a weird organ failure and mutant cell growth instead of something real that I can be mad at. Screw you for surrounding me and my family and so many other people in the world with this feeling of heavy, sad, deep absence that never really goes away.

So, yeah. Screw you, cancer. And screw you most of all because saying ‘screw you’ doesn’t even help.

Musings, SAY WHAAA...!

Introducing ‘Screw You!’ Week

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This is going to be about as straight and plain of a post as you’re probably ever going to read on this blog. Because the basic fact of the matter is that things have just sucked lately. Not in any deeply tragic, ‘please send your donations here’ kind of way but there’s just been a serious happy, fun vibe deficiency going around lately.

And while I know that in many ways current unhappiness is actually the key to to eventual happiness, I figure purging some of that toxic crap out of your system doesn’t hurt either.

So, this week I’m going to do just that. I’m going to purge. Purge endlessly and gloriously about ALL THE CRAP.

Big crap, small crap, petty crap, meaningful crap, specific crap, general crap, and all your other basic craps. And I’m going to take all these various craps, sit them down in the naughty corner, and flagrantly shout ‘Screw you!’ at them all week long. And, come weekend time, I will hopefully be fully purged and back to my normally surly but mostly sunny old self. Hoorah!

So, it is with great relief and zero real explanation that I bring you ‘Screw You!’ Week. A week entirely devoted to desperate emotional cleansing and unabashed mental purging which, really, we all need to do from time to time in order to retain our sanity.

Some of you will think its whiny. Some of you will think it’s refreshing. Hopefully most of you will land somewhere within a manageable middle. Whichever way you go, I hope you stick around and maybe even join in the glorious purging fun (email me your angry woes and, in honor of this week, I will be more than happy to post them here if you’re so inclined).

And, y’know, I usually sign all my posts with the proverbial ‘All my love!’ because I like to leave you all with a sense that I’m not some evil, negative troll monger but merely a concerned, slightly snarky individual who watches too much George Carlin.

But I’m not going to do that this week, and that’s mostly because I do not love any of The Crap I’m going to talk about.

So hang on to your metaphorical seats and, for the last time this week: All my love!

Feminism, Kuwait, Musings, SAY WHAAA...!

Basma Sultan Is Funny! (And So Are You!)

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Y’know there’s this overarching myth that’s been following women around since the beginning of jokes, comedy, and possibly even since the first chortling grunt laugh of our Neanderthal ancestors. Y’know, the one that proclaims female, estrogen-makin’, bird brains are just not that funny. Why, you ask? Well, because psychological half-science a’course! I mean, look, according to all kinds of ‘studies’ men are just the funnier gender, okay? Women are just biologically incapable of making you laugh anywhere near as strongly as a dude with an ‘edgy’ joke! It’s fact.

COOL STORY, BROS. TELL IT AGAIN.

Look, I take no issue with these kinds of studies per se. They’re just a collection of data that proves that no one laughs at women’s jokes and no one thinks women are funny. What irks me is the overbearingly sexist insinuation these studies make. Which is that women might just be biologically less funny than men.

Of course, they never go so far as saying that explicitly because they would then be burdened by the need for biological evidence WHICH WOULD PROVE THEY ARE DOWNRIGHT BONKERS. Instead they make light references to pop psychology here and there and say that these findings may have “something” to do with the way women are socialized.

To which I say: No, no. It has EVERYTHING to do with the way all women are socialized everywhere.

I mean, consider it from a local angle and look at how most Arab women are conditioned both within Kuwait and elsewhere. Girls are born into a social environment which is, for the most part, explicitly telling them that if they ever hope to be considered as desirable they have to remain modest (translate: quiet) and pliable no matter what, and that they should never ever bruise a man’s ego by seriously outsmarting or outshining him. If you’re the kind of girl that sits still and smiles at everything everyone says you’re ‘tharba’ (put-together). If you’re the kind of girl who always makes sharp, witty, off-hand remarks and cracks jokes in a confidently unapologetic tone then, more often than not, you’re about the last thing from being “tharba.”

Oh, but psychology says? Well, I guess we’re done here. I mean, it certainly couldn’t be all those ingrained social customs of what constitutes a desirable, potential wife and what constitutes a yucky, she-man telling people how to judge a woman as soon as she so much as attempts to make a knock-knock joke. No? Psychology? ‘Kay.

Fine. You know what? They’re right. Most women are not funny. But that’s because most PEOPLE are not funny. Being a funny person with strong comedic timing is a learned artistic skill. In order to be funny you need to teach yourself to be outspoken, unapologetically honest, very self-confident, and absolutely REFUSE to humor people. And, well, these traits are not exactly the traits we foster in our little girls (and even our adult, women-folk).

Instead, we go with mistrust of other women, a crazy obsession with needlessly expensive junk, and the idea that, when it really comes down to it, being pretty is a lot more important than being smart. The reason no one laughs at women’s jokes is because, to most people, they don’t read as jokes. They read as uncomfortable confessions or socially awkward comments. Because our society teaches girls that they need to always work on attaining perfection 24/7.

A man’s ideas are just as important as his body. A man is encouraged to be bold and speak his mind candidly. A woman is told that, while her ideas may matter on some level, they are not nearly as important as the need to perfect her physical body at all times. A woman is told that she needs to re-re-re-RE-think every step and utterance she makes lest she be considered as anything less than “tharba.”

And all these crazy, unnatural, socially constructed outlines are the very reason why I was nothing short of delighted when I first saw Basma Sultan’s “Dine With Basma” segment on Bel Mokhba’s YouTube channel.

For one thing, Basma Sultan is a very funny woman. She has the kind of raw, candid humor that you really only share among the closest of friends. She doesn’t think twice about embracing the awkward things that everyone is already thinking about and turning them into a joke we can all laugh at (the free food, the passing bus, the self-promotion). Her charm is in her off-beat, bubbly personality that is outspoken and entirely genuine. She laughs at what frustrates her just as much as she laughs at what amuses her. You laugh with Basma Sultan because Basma Sultan knows how to tell the best kind of joke. The kind that naturally and easily rolls of the tongue like that’s how she really talks all the time. And I bet she does. I bet Basma Sultan is just as genuine and carefree and hilariously outspoken in reality as she is in that video.

I don’t know of many women in Arab media who are willing to speak so candidly, embrace their personality so openly, and so confidently and easily navigate from one joke to the next on a public platform as well as she does. In that way, Basma Sultan is a freaking relic. She is extremely rare. And its so awesome to see her in action like that.

But, hey, I know plenty of other funny Arab women. Hell, I’m a funny Arab woman. And I know that if all these comedically gifted ladies take Basma’s route and decide that they actually don’t give a flying dingbat what anyone thinks and just start to confidently embrace their personalities (which happen to be funny as hell) the rest of the world will totally know it too. Even more importantly, they’ll grow to love it.

All my love!

Kuwait, Musings, SAY WHAAA...!

And Now, A Crazy, Racist Dose of Bloodline “Purity”

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Story time: So a few days ago I was having a casual lunch with a friend of mine and, as does sometimes happen, she invited one of her own friends to drop by and join us. I didn’t mind because, you know, I like people (and new people too? Variety!). My friend’s friend arrived, we talked, we ate hamburgers, we enjoyed each other’s casual company. Then, as nonchalant as ever, my friends friend nibbles on a few french fries, fiddles with her phone, and casually shares a funny little anecdote that goes something like this:

“Oh, my mom is so excited cause she just got back these lab test results which prove that our family lineage is totally pure-bred.

She had said this in Arabic, of course, and for ‘pure-bred’ she used the ever dignified, somewhat widespread and unequivocally racist word: A9eelen (أصيلين). YUP. That’s right. Racism: alive and well and scientifically proven! Thank you, humanity, for reaffirming my faith in you.

Now, this was not the first time that I was exposed to this very disturbing side of Kuwaiti social culture. A friend of mine has actually suffered due to this brand of racist ‘blood’ elitism. I’ve heard this term flung around in a number of occasions between my Kuwaiti friends (or more like acquaintances, I don’t closely associate myself with racists and none of my good Kuwaiti friends are anything like that). But, for crying out loud, sometimes the level of human crazy charts a new high on the Richter scale. And in regards to this bug-nutty, koo-koo ‘a9eel’ crap this is the latest Richter scale reading:

Whaaaaaaaaaaaat.

How ancient and delusional do you have to be to actually invest in this kind of idea? Like, to actually wake up every morning, go about your day, deal with different people and, in the midst of all that, be like, “That’s riiiiight! My blooood! My blood’s the purest blood! So glad I have this blood and not that gross NOT PURE BLOOD. It makes me a way better human being!”

I mean, really? You look down upon people who you SOMEHOW believe are less ‘pure’ than you? You believe in a “master lineage”? I’m sorry, but if that’s not the hackiest, vaguest premise for any kind of social racism I don’t know what is. And, gosh, don’t you know that modern racists have learned to cloak their racism behind creative language about “social backgrounds” and “values”? Catch up please.

You know, a part of me feels uncomfortable for trying to make jokes about this kind of behavior because, clearly, this is a messed up and truly dangerous social attitude for anyone to have. Obviously, these kinds of perspectives (which are really not infrequent at all in Kuwait) need to be stopped and not catered to whatsoever. But I honestly just cannot wrap my head around the sheer absurdity of believing in something like racial, bloodline ‘purity.’ This is some seriously old-timey nonsense garbage right here.

I mean, if you believe in and publicly support this insane idea of racial purity you are, essentially, separating yourself from the rest of freaking humanity. Because when it comes to you actually being a sane, happy, truly productive member of society I’m pretty sure that “Don’t Be A Racist Tool” is like the 2nd most important personal quality you need to have after, like, “Don’t Be A Weasel.”

Also, what are you doing with science? Science is way too busy for you. You do not get to use science for your racist reassurance woes. I mean, honestly, someone using cutting edge, scientific technology to try to prove something as anciently offensive and backwards as the ‘purity’ of their racial lineage is the biggest insult to ALL OF HUMAN SCIENCE. That’s like using NASA’s latest solar satellite to prove that the Earth is actually flat. No. You do not get to talk to science anymore. Go to the naughty corner!

So, just to get this ‘a9eel’ business totally straight, here’s the basic gist of what the people who truly believe in this stuff are actually like: They look down upon certain people (in various degrees) because they believe that these poor, lowly individuals have some racially, blood-infused inferiority which makes them not worth as much. BUT! They’re not really all that sure of what this inferiority even is SO THEY HAVE TO USE A TEAM OF SCIENTISTS to figure that out for them. And, of course, they have to use those same scientists to prove that they themselves are, indeed, not of this lowly, stinky, and VERY VAGUELY ‘UN-PURE’ lineage. Basically, they’re the most half-assed and weirdly disturbing kind of racist. The kind that doesn’t even really know what they’re racist against, but chooses to be racist anyway.

Sigh.

All my love!