Uniform

Some arguments I was told in favor of the hijab:

  • I don’t have to worry what my hair looks like
  • People pay attention to what I have to say, not what I look like
  • I focus more on what’s important, not my looks
  • I respect myself, so others respect me

Notice anything?

It’s the same arguments we use for school uniforms or same-sex education.  This is one of my favorite realizations from Egypt.  I love the idea that even though most Americans are taught to hate the concept of hijab outright as oppression, it is entirely relatable to us in a way that is deemed socially acceptable.

I Hate Twitter

At least, that’s what all my friends say whenever it comes up. Like Hillary Clinton, it’s a polarizing issue: love it or hate it. But more like every other hot thing on the internet, or trend in general, people hate it until they become a part of it. Then they love it until it fades to make way for the next thing. People get very indignant when told this. Are we really pretending that we don’t all do this? After getting indignant (which came after talking about how useless twitter is) they usually all sign up. Well done.

Twitter has been around for about three and a half years now (gasp!) but only really came into public focus withing the last year, when The Adults started noticing. My general rule is that once a trend involving youth or technology makes the six o’clock news, it’s cooked. If you joined before, more power to you, but eventually everyone who was around for a while before that gets sick of hearing Katie Couric and the weather guy awkwardly try to connect with their viewers. People who aren’t really into it sound uncomfortable and awkward when they say they have to check their “facebook page,” or read some…tweets. Most news anchors sound hesitant and a little impressed with themselves for reading the lingo off the teleprompter.

But back to real people. Most people who don’t like twitter will eventually admit that they simply don’t understand it. Too many people use twitter simply to discuss…twitter. And I’ll admit, I will absolutely link this. But if the only thing you use a medium for is to explore the medium itself, what is the point?

Twitter means different things to different people, and can be a great tool once you decide what it will be for you. While in Egypt, I got to see the best of twitter. I talked to David Ferriss (no relation to @tferriss) who is writing and researching blogging in Egypt. For Egyptian youth, twitter, facebook and blogs aren’t about funny pictures of cats in coffee mugs, or talking about a stupid trip to a foreign country. Obviously that happens too, but so many more people are using these media to get out their agenda and mobilize like-minded masses.

When organizing rallies and protests, twitter is used to change the time or location at the drop of a hat. Updates are disseminated quickly and in a cost-effective manner. Facebook is a great forum for ideas and a way to connect with others. Blogs have become like the pamphlets of the 16th and 17th centuries, but with no additional overhead and far easier to access. The Muslim Brotherhood operates on blogs, as do local students trying to improve the interaction between their government and its disenfranchised people.

So maybe you hate twitter because you simply don’t care that i’m having a bad day, got stuck in traffic or have some youtube links to share. But maybe twitter is useless and stupid because you’re not using it correctly–none of us are.

(disclaimer–sorry, there was no good place to put this–the links should be better, but i cant find any of my English language links for the MB right now, as well as the actual blogs of kids involved in the April 6 protests. instead i can only find western coverage of it by people who don’t understand the technology that was inherent in its success. Big fail for me, considering the various intentions of this post. also, my lack of linkage for David Ferriss sucks. apologies.)

Originally posted Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 1:39 PM

Southern Man

This past weekend I was down in South Carolina.  Having returned, I’ve noticed a stark difference in the way delegates handle themselves, especially with regard to gender, in the South as opposed to the North.

Oh the accent. The twang is gone now, but while I was there, and a few days after, my delightfully charming Boston accent was dulled and the twang came out.  I wasn’t really expecting this, as I’ve been to the South before, but this past weekend I spent all my time listening to southerners speak for hours on end, where the only other non-southerner in the room is from the blandly-accented land of Seattle.
Throughout the weekend, I was called Darlin’.  As in, “Don’t you worry bout a thang, darlin’, I didnt mean to fuss you up any!”  I was thoroughly confused by how often doors and chairs were held for me.  In fact, it rubbed off on my own team, a group of guys who generally sees me as a, uh, witch, nuisance or male.  Instead they were being downright chivalrous all weekend.  My natural tendency has been to open doors for myself, shake hands with male delegates, and to wear pants.  Part of my treatment was due to Vince and my success as a pair, and part was being female.  I started to get less annoyed by the politesse and actually enjoyed it.  Strangers always greeted me with “Mornin!” and even people who disagreed with me remained extraordinarily kind, a behavior quite foreign to the northern conferences.
The more time I spend as a delegate, the more I focus on every specific aspect of my behavior.  For example, I, like all Harringtons, stand with shoulders squared, feet hip-width apart, and my arms crossed in front of my chest.  If you look at pictures of the Harringtons, we all stand this way, and in person nod repeatedly.  This is our listening posture.  Unfortunately, this is considered an aggressive stance, especially for a woman, and especially for a younger woman in the south.  I have done my best to eliminate this from my conference behavior, just as I actively turn off my Boston accent when I’m using my intelligent conference voice and vocabulary.
It’s not that I endorse permanently changing myself for others, or doing what makes males comfortable for a prize, but I think it is important to realize that postures and mannerisms mean different things to different people.  Really, I only hesitate to change because it is males who are made uncomfortable.  If I were instructed to speak up so people could hear my good ideas, no one would be concerned in the least.  This is just another way of making it easier for everyone to hear my ideas, instead of focusing on everything else.
It was pointed out to me by my advisor and partner that the reason we got second and not first is my behavior.  I am an intelligent, straightforward human being, and I tend to be more agressive and blunt than most females.  This is offputting to the guys on my own team, and to many guys in my life in general.  Take this down south, and it doesn’t go so well.  Especially when the other teams expected my tall, muscular male marine partner with the booming voice to be telling me what to do, even though it was his first conference.  (For the record, he never once tried to tell me what to do, and I hope I didn’t order him around either.  Vince is pretty much the portrait of a gentleman, and I think our partnership worked really well.)
Reflecting on these ponderings and the discussions with my lovely UNA mentor and our advisor, the accent is actually kind of an advantage.  As my partner mentioned to me today, he will miss the sweet smiles of the southern ladies, as opposed to the hostile and frigid demeanor of their northern counterparts (his words, not mine.)  The female delegates I went up against were formidable.  Many had done more research than I, and several had more experience.  They wanted awards just as much, maybe more.  And yet, they never came across as masculine, dominating or terribly negative at all.  Perhaps the over-emphasis of the accent is just another one of their tools, one that allows them to be aggressive like I am, without losing any votes in the final tally.  In the end, the first place pair had one partner who was dead weight, and another who never controlled the room like I did, but neither of those two ladies pissed anyone off.
Originally posted Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 12:56 PM

Why America Needs Transformers

Last night I saw Transformers 2 in Imax, and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. No, it is not high drama, and there are more plotholes and cheesey lines than I careto count, but that’s not the point. It was entertaining, and I think I, like all Americans, need a little bit of that in my life.

We’re at War
Transformers shows American military as powerful, creative and honorable. The soldiers fight hard and smart, and rise in the ranks through courage and hard work. America needs to see “our boys” in action, victorious, instead of just hearing about bodycounts, roadside bombs and military debt. We even get to see the US win in the Middle East for once.

We’re in a Recession
America needs an excuse to get out of the house and spend a little money (but really, only a little). We’re on a collective staycation, and it could use a little bit of a boost. While we all complain about the price of movies, it’s fairly cheap, as far as escapism goes. So get out there and foster our economy, just a little bit.

We Need a Win
L
et’s face it, no matter how goofy or ridiculous the movie is, it’s hard not to feel triumphant when the autobots kick some ass. This reason is tied to the two before it: as a nation, we’re feeling some collective ennui right now. This is especially so in New England where the summer decided to show up just last week. The economy is in the shitter, we’re still at war and the future is incredibly uncertain for so many. Every once in a while, it’s nice to just lose yourself in something and feel victorious. Coming quick on the heals of the 4th of July, Transformers 2 taps into the deep felt need for a swelling, grandiose score and many shots of the American flag, high atop our grandest buildings.

Right now a lot of people have to be very serious, almost all the time. Transformers 2 lets us indulge in hokey dialogue, overblown patriotism, transparent characters, amazing special effects and Megan Fox running in slow motion. So enjoy it, America. You deserve a break.

Originally posted Monday, July 20, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Declaration of Intention

I had a blast writing this blog, and in egypt in general.  Originally, I started this one specifically for the trip, to be grandparent- and Bridgiebear-friendly as well as to calm the collective nerves of my family.  In the meantime though, I had lots to say (shocking) that had nothing to do with the trip, so I started a separate blog. 

At this point, the necessity of separating the two doesn’t really exist.  There’s nothing profane on either blog, and I don’t want this one to die.  Increasingly posts of one type are bleeding into the other, as the Egypt experience invairably colored everything I do.  I like wordpress far better (it shows me stats so I know how I’m doing; the other blog is on blogger) and I’ve already distributed this link to most of the people who matter in my life.  So I’m keeping this one and transferring the best of my other blog to here. 

So what will I write about now?  Well, I plan to continue travelling as well as learning about the Middle East, Arabic language and culture and international politics, so there will be some of that.  I’ve also assigned myself some homework (i’m on coop and miss school cuz i’m a nerd) and i’ll be keeping up with that here.  Basically, I don’t feel done with my research about women’s clothing.  I have started expanding the paper, and that will be reflected in various posts here. 

So I hope you keep reading–there will be plenty of stuff, new and old, coming down the pike!