The Semester is Over and I Can’t Believe It!

My time at the American University in Bulgaria has been amazing.  I will remember my time here for my entire life.  As I have grown close to my classmates in Multimedia Journalism, I have really enjoyed getting to know them and the communal sharing of experiences we have had together.  Meeting Juxhina, Alena, Natalia, Mikael, Teodora, Alina, Christine, and Amalija through the class and bonding with them has been awesome, and I could not have picked a greater group of girls  ♥  ♥.  Alright, mushiness over, time for business.

Looking back, I think I would have chosen a different topic for my blog.  I love writing about feminist issues, and it’s a really interesting subject to me, but it’s just really difficult to make a unique video each week based on this topic.  When I’m talking about issues like women being stoned in Islamic countries, I really can’t make a video to go along with that, unless I want to reenact it or something (obviously, I don’t).  So, I found that the general story format I followed was that I would get inspired by a certain topic (like Steubenville Rape, or Dove Real Beauty Campaign) and then analyzing and trying to include a unique perspective on the situation.

I feel like I have learned a lot in this class.  Before #mmj220a, I never really knew techniques for shooting and editing video.  If anything, I was an amateur at it.  Now I feel like I am more knowledgeable on how to make my blog more entertaining.  I can’t believe I used to blog without videos or sound clips.  At least I’ve learned my lesson.

The idea of continuing the blog is kind of a no-brainer for me–I am definitely gonna do it.  The realm of feminism is one that is constantly evolving and being challenged by society so there is an endless amount of issues to write about.

Learn to Love Yourself!

Girls are taught from a young age that their self-worth is derived entirely from their looks.  This leads us to judge ourselves, and other women, purely on appearance.  This week, I decided to do a little experiment.  I found myself wondering what women like about themselves more–some physical trait or a more personal attribute?  My hypothesis was that most women would answer that they liked some personal attribute about themselves, not a physical characteristic.  I was inspired by Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches experiment, a viral video in which they asked women to describe themselves to a forensic artist (someone who draws people based on descriptions).  The women were asked to describe themselves to the artist and he drew them just the way they described.  Every single woman described herself with things like “My jaw is too big” or “Well, I have a really big forehead.”  NONE of the women described themselves flatteringly.  The researchers also controlled the experiment by introducing the women who were subjects to another person beforehand, and then asking the other person to describe them for the artist to draw.  As you can imagine, the discrepancies between the image the artist drew based on both opinions (the women’s personal description and the other person’s) was huge.  The portraits of the women came out looking rather horrid when they described themselves but when another person described them, it was more accurate and attractive.  I recommend you all to check out the hyperlink and see this result for yourself!  This goes to show the way we women see ourselves and they way other people see us is hugely different.

I decided to do a similar experiment, in which I asked women and men what they liked best about themselves.  My hypothesis was that women would answer personality-based traits about themselves, instead of focusing on their physical appearance, because society trains us to sort of judge ourselves too harshly.  I also chose to include men’s responses to see how the two compared.  Here is the video with (some) of the responses.

As you can see, my hypothesis was mainly proven true.  Out of the 12 girls I asked, 9 of them responded with a personality trait.  The three girls who didn’t also happened to be Miss AUBG contestants.  I also asked 8 guys, two of which declined to be featured in the video.  Both of these guys answered their most sacred private part when I asked them what they liked most, one of them very jokingly (“my penis”) and the other one not so jokingly (“the size of my dick”).  Of course, this is very important to men, but I did not really guess that three guys (one says “my sausage” in the video) would choose this as the thing they like best about themselves.  Out of everything.  As for women, I have found there are two ways to interpret the results: 1) either women are less shallow than society makes us out to be, and not concerned with appearances at all, or 2) women are overly concerned with their appearance to the point that we are reluctant to say we like any particular part of our looks.  I guess we can each decide for ourselves what we derive from this experiment.

First Girl Winner of Survival Kills 20 Victims

My friend Levi Kapllani, who I have interviewed previously for this blog, has just kicked the ass of over 100 men.  No, not physically, but perhaps emotionally… she is this year’s winner of Survival and also the first female winner of Survival EVER! For those of you who did not get out much in college and do not know what Survival is, it’s a skill game where each player gets a target and has a set amount of time to “kill” that target.  Once you kill your first target, you move on to your second, then your third, and then in Levi’s case, ultimately your 20th.  The hard part is that you must kill your target when they are completely alone–if anyone watches the kill, it doesn’t count.  It is a game I’ve been playing since high school and this year, I got five kills–nothing compared to Levi.

levi

My Thoughts on Steubenville

The Steubenville rape case has been one of the most talked-about issues on social networking sites this year, so I thought writing about it might be like beating a dead horse.  However, I think there is no such thing as too much coverage on an incredibly important issue like this one.  So, just for some quick background info, back in August of 2012, two football players named Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays attended a party where they met a 16 year-old girl who had been drinking too much, forced her to drink more, and eventually took them back to their house, which they dubbed the “Rape Cave.”  And then this happened.

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The two football players then proceeded to rape the underage girl, and to add insult to injury, they posted photos on Instagram and tweeted about the whole thing.  The story blew up on social media, with many bloggers covering it.  An internet vigilante group called Anonymous posted this Youtube video showing teenage boys laughing and joking about the incident on the night that it happened.  These boys presumably watched the whole thing, and yet no one intervened.  The most sympathetic response in the video comes from an off-the-camera guy who asks,

“What if that was your daughter getting raped?”

To which Michael Nodianos, the main speaker in the video and presumably Steubenville village idiot, responds,

“My daughter would never be that drunk at a party.”

This highlights the victim-blaming attitude that is so prevalent in America’s response to the rape.  It seems that many people believe that because the victim may have been drunk at the time (there are accounts which state that the girl was in fact, drugged), she deserved to be raped.  This may seem so ridiculous an idea to my readers that it is hardly believable but this way of thinking is so prevalent in our society that we scarcely notice it at all anymore.  For example, think about when you were a college freshman and attended orientation programs for new students.  I, for one, distinctly remember one orientation program highlighting the ways in which alcohol can turn women into victims and how to avoid this fate.  However, I doubt there was an equivalent program for the male population of my school teaching them NOT TO RAPE IN THE FIRST PLACE.  Instead of placing blame on the victims of rape, why don’t we place blame on a society which implies that it’s okay for men to rape, as long as their victim is drunk and they don’t get caught.

Here is a video I made about my response to the case:

Really good article on “nice guy syndrome”

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Ah, the ever-present problem of ‘Nice Guys.’ It plagues the population as a whole and feminists because the typical reaction is ‘but this just proves you’re a man-hating feminist!’ Ah, the things that anti-feminists describe as ‘manly’. Rape, sexual harassment, spousal abuse. I mean, you’d think they’d have a higher estimation of the men they revere as flawless.

Onto Nice Guy Syndrome. See, maybe the title is misleading at first. The point, though, is, that the men targeted by this concept aren’t actually nice. What happens is, boy likes girl. Girl does not like boy, for whatever reason. Girl chooses other boy who turns out to be, in Nice Guy’s opinion, a jerk.

Nice Guy then says any of these things.

She has ‘issues’. That’s why she chose him.

This one is problematic because of the stigma of ‘issues.’ The crazy, overemotional woman is so whenever she’s upset and the…

View original post 1,179 more words

5-Shot Video “The Price of Sex”

I interviewed my friends Jonathan Hinson and Brittany Meservey, who attended the screening of “The Price of Sex” at AUBG last week and had a lot to say about it!  The above video includes about two minutes’ worth of the interview, but the full thing was over ten minutes long!  I guess the prostitution subject was very intriguing to them.

One part of the interview that was very interesting to me was Jonathan’s initial thought on prostitution.  He stated:

“I knew it was something that was a problem, sex slavery, but I didn’t know what it was like.  I figured it was more like Taken, where they unknowingly walked into it.”

Here he is referencing the movie Taken, which is an action film starring Liam Neeson which apparently everyone in the world has seen, given the incessant Taken references I received upon coming here.    SO many people back home said things like, “Don’t get Taken,” when they heard I was coming to Bulgaria.  Because of this movie, many people associate Eastern Europe with sex slavery.  The main “bad guys” in the movie (which I re-watched out of curiosity a couple of weeks ago) are Albanian, actually, not Bulgarian.  Almost all of the Albanians I’ve met here are lovely people who I’m sure would never sell anyone into sex slavery.  It’s important to avoid falling into stereotypes, I think.

 

Midterm Post

Well, the semester is halfway over even though it seems like just yesterday, I was entering the front doors of AUBG Main Building for the first time.  I have learned a lot so far.  I mean, I’ve blogged before but this? This is some high-octane blogging.  I feel a lot better about my blogging skills after learning how to edit video and audio, make a slideshow, write interesting posts, etc.  Half of the semester is over, but it’s a shame because there is so much left to write about.  Who knows?  Maybe I will continue this blog after the semester is over.

My first post was a summary of what my intentions were for the semester.  I have followed through with many of my original goals as of this point, however, I might need to adapt my question a little bit.  I have not really covered the question, “What is life like for women in different parts of the world?” as much as I had hoped.  I have mainly been covering topics that interest me each week.  I will edit my question a little bit to fit this better.

My second post was an interview with Halil Ablesenov, a Muslim student at AUBG.  I disagreed with several of Ablesenov’s statements, and I based my blog post around that.  I respect Islam, but I think it is wholly incorrect to say that in Islam, men and women are equal.  This is evident from the way women have to dress as opposed to men.  It may be that roles for men and women are different, but they are not equal.  Ablesenov supported this by saying:

“I don’t want to be rude but when you see a Western girl, you think about sex.  It’s not like that in Islam.  When you look at a woman, you see in her a mother, an honored person.”

That’s really great, Halil.  I’m totally gonna punch any guy who looks at me from now on.  With my uncovered hair and eyes, I must be every guy’s wet dream.  (Excuse me while I go throw up).  What a skewed viewpoint on gender roles.

My third blog post was an interview with Levi Kapllani, an Albanian student who mainly hangs out with guys.  I found this interesting because it reminded me of myself in high school.  Because of negative experiences with my own gender, my general mentality was: “I can be very into women’s rights, but that doesn’t mean I have to hang out with them.”  It took me a while to trust females again, but now I can say I have a healthy mix of both in my friend group.  Levi said:

“I’ve noticed that some girls don’t wanna stay with boys.  They think that the friendship between girls is more important.  They don’t see guys as friends, and this irritates me.”

I think the opposite of this is more true, actually.  There’s the whole myth of the “friendzone” in America that really fucking gets to me.  It’s the idea that any friendship between guys and girls must be superficial, because the guy is simply trying to get into the girl’s pants and if that’s not an option, then the friendship is not worth it.  It’s a self-perpetuated myth that ultimately harms relations between men and women.

My fourth blog post was on M.A.C. Cosmetics’ new ad campaign, which goes out of the norm and features a muscular bodybuilding woman instead of the slim models featured everywhere else.  I commended M.A.C. for this fresh take on feminine beauty.  I also included a poll in this post asking “What do you think of this new look?” and most people responded that the model was smoking hot!  Yay, M.A.C.!

Finally, my fifth blog post was about Katheryn Carmean, a woman who raped a 14-year old boy in the States.  This was an interesting case to me because every time something like that happens (role reversal, I mean), men’s reaction tends to be something along the lines of, “He gets to do his teacher?  Lucky kid!” as if it’s consensual sex and not RAPE.  Fourteen year-olds are normally too busy playing Pokemon or something to be thinking about sex, so there is no doubt in my mind that this was RAPE, not good fortune on the boy’s part. I interviewed Olivia Schumacher on the subject, because she is studying to be a teacher so I thought she would have a relevant perspective on the issue.  I was right.  She stated:

“I consider it a violation of trust because teachers and teacher’s assistants and aides and anybody who works in a public school or private school setting are given trust and people expect them to be honorable and teach their children and the future of the US, it depends on the children.  It’s our job to teach them and help them grow, not have sex with them.”

So, I hope you have all enjoyed my blog so far.  I have certainly enjoyed writing it.  Be on the lookout for some interesting posts coming up in the second half of the semester!

5-Shot Pup

I took this 5-shot video of one of the stray dogs, in Blagoevgrad.  A speckled white and red cutie is filmed with my friend Jonathan right outside AUBG Main Building.  We just learned how to do this in class today!  I am so excited about finally learning how to edit video!  Watch the video below.

A 35-year Old Woman Rapes a 14-Year Old Boy and It’s “Lucky”

So, pretty big news in America this week is a 35-year old teacher’s assistant who is being accused of raping a 14-year old boy in Delaware.  I interviewed Olivia Schumacher, a 20-year old American transfer student who is studying to be a teacher, on the subject.  It appears that the woman will receive a more lenient penalty than if it had been a man committing the same crime against a female student.  I asked Olivia her thoughts on this and she responded:

“The fact that she’s a woman shouldn’t make a difference.  It’s about the student.  It shouldn’t be about whether she’s a male or a female or about how old they are or who they commit the crime with.  It’s about the student.”

I wholeheartedly agree with this.  If a woman commits a crime that is the exact caliber of a male’s crime, she should receive the same penalty.  Men and women will never be considered equal if women are given preferential treatment in a case like this.

This case, and other cases of females raping men are incredibly interesting because they are, in my opinion, an example of how our patriarchal society harms men as well as women.  This link to British news source the Daily Mail offers readers the chance to post their comments on the Katheryn Carmean case and “upvote” or “downvote” the comments of other readers.  Many of the comments echo the sort of thinking that surrounds a case like this, as this is hardly the first time a female teacher has committed this sort of crime against a male student.  Mary Kay Letourneau gained infamy in 1996 for having a sexual relationship with her student, Vili Fualaau.  The curious part about the whole situation, to me, is the commentary that surrounds a case like this.  People think it’s just a huge joke that this kid got raped because he’s a boy.  One comment on the Daily Mail link reads, “What’s the problem here? I see the boy had a grand ol time and was educated for life lucky dude, lol It’s a guy thing I guess.”  This is not a rare sentiment, either–the internet is littered with offensive comments like this on articles on this case.  I’m sure this poor 14-year old doesn’t exactly consider himself “lucky.”  This case is proof that placing such an emphasis on “getting laid” as the most important thing for a guy has consequences in the long run.

M.A.C.’s New Ad Campaign Highlights a Different Sort of Beauty

Jelena Abbou is the new face of a M.A.C. ad campaign.

Jelena Abbou is the new face of a M.A.C. ad campaign.

M.A.C., a New York make-up company has chosen to feature a very different model from the stick-thin standard for their new beauty campaign.  The Ad campaign features Jenna Abbou, a Serbian fitness model with an extremely toned and muscular body.  While muscles may be considered the norm for male beauty, they are generally excluded from society’s standards for female beauty.  Instead, comments on articles on the ad campaign have elicited some negative responses from both women and men.  One commenter posted:

“To me a women is graceful, softly moulded and sexy, lovely to look at and exciting to hold, this muscular style I find totally repulsive.”

Many commenters wrote very similar responses to the ad.  In our society, muscled men are glorified as beautiful and powerful, whereas muscled women are described as gross and mannish.  It’s as if this society wants women to be weak so that men can more easily overpower women physically.  That’s why I commend M.A.C. Cosmetics for this brilliant ad campaign showing that women can also be a force to be reckoned with.