Saturday, November 29, 2014

First time hosting Thanksgiving dinner and a turkey brine recipe.

"We can choose to be grateful, no matter what. "This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer."
~President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Grateful in Any Circumstances"

Thanksgiving 2014 Sunrise

Just about every year for the past 40 years my mother has hosted Thanksgiving dinner to which usually upwards of 30 people come. This year, I offered to change to course of history. With Thanksgiving dinner at my house, only a handful of guests were invited. I just don't own that many chairs. Plus it was my first time hosting and making a turkey, so I didn't want to overwhelm myself.

Speaking of turkey, I read all kinds of recipes and tips online before I decided to brine my turkey. Everything I'd head and read convinced me that my turkey HAD to be brined to be juicy and moist. So the night before, I got started with my preparation of both the turkey and the veggies.


After two and a half years living in my new house and being SO careful, this guy finally attacked me. I was surprisingly amused at myself. Laughing sure is good for the soul.




So the brine. There are endless recipes for turkey brine on the internet, but all of them seem clear about the basic salt and water ingredients and ratio. The salt must be coarse kosher salt. And you must have one cup of salt per gallon of water. Also, use two oven bags (Reynolds makes these) one inside of the other to avoid any leakage. As for a recipe and instructions, this is what I came up with:

1 cup coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
16 cups water (split in half during the process)
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
5 fresh sage leaves
1-2 Tbsp of peppercorns (crushed)
a few random celery sticks and leaves
Combine salt, sugar, and half the water (8 cups) in a large saucepan and stir on stove. Add all the fresh herbs and bring to a boil. Let boil for a minute or two and then turn the burner off. Let the saucepan sit for as long as it takes for the liquid to cool.
While brine is cooling, take turkey out of it's plastic and rinse off. Remove the neck and the giblet and set aside for later. Place the oven bags in a large stock pot or bucket or casserole dish that can fit in your fridge and fit the turkey. Place the turkey, breast side down (this is important since you want it to get the most access to the brine, since it will cook breast side up and the juice will drain down to the back), in the two oven bags. Add remaining 8 cups of water (cold) to turkey bag.
When the rest of the brine is cooled, add it to the turkey. At this point, be very careful that you have a good hold on the edges of the bags so that the brine doesn't spill right out as you're pouring it in. Make sure all the herbs go into the bag. 
Now you will take the inner bag and wind up the top as tight as you can, pressing out as much air as possible so your turkey is completely immersed in the brine. Secure it with a twist tie. (Reynolds oven bags come with a handy tie.) Then do the same for the out bag. Next place the container in the fridge. If your container with the turkey in it doesn't fit on a shelf  (like mine) then you should have planned better to start, but just transfer it to carefully to another container.
Leave turkey in the fridge in the brine for 8-10 hours. In the morning, place the bag in a freshly scrubbed and disinfected sink, undo the bags, and pour out the brine. You will want to rinse turkey to get any excess salt or wilted herbs off and dry it thoroughly, inside and out, before placing it the roasting pan.

Then just prepare your turkey as you like. I put onion quarters, celery and carrots in the cavity, along with some other aromatics (more rosemary and thyme) and then slathered the outside with melted butter, crushed fresh rosemary and thyme, and pepper. Then I cooked it for 3 1/2 hours until it was perfect. And it was perfect.


I have to admit, I'm pretty proud of myself. That turkey tasted so yummy, I'm ready to roast another. Apparently, even the white meat was tasty. I'm not a big fan of white meat; I much prefer the dark and juicy thigh meat, myself. Everyone's offerings made for a beautiful plate.



And, I've been enjoying leftovers for last two days. Yum! First Thanksgiving dinner as host was a success! I think I'll go make myself another plate.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Utah Opera: Madame Butterfly and Why You Should Care to Go to The Opera, My Dear.

"An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I've left the opera house."
~Maria Callas

Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah

As a kid, I can clearly remember my brother quoting, Laverne and Shirley, "Would you care to go to the opera my dear, and you'll say..." and then there was a lot of spitting. Probably I remember most the recording he made of himself quoting them. (Note to self: we've GOT to get those tapes digitized.) Here, watch the original for yourself.



Shirley was quoted (and still is) over and over again in my family, spitting and all.

Every once in awhile it's nice to play dress-up and go to the opera. I really do love the opera and it's simply fabulous to have a night out on the town and a reason to wear all your jewels. This year, I decided to treat myself to season tickets to Utah Opera. So in October, I took my mom to see Madame Butterfly for her birthday. So tragic and so beautiful.



Some of you may be rolling your eyes by now or maybe you've stopped reading, but pause one moment while I tell you the opera is mahvelous and addicting, and why I just can't get enough.

1. The drama. Oh, the drama! Every opera has it and frankly, it always makes my own life's drama pale in comparison. It's like a full season of Days of Our Lives rolled up into one night.

2. It's architecturally beautiful. The lighting, the costumes, the sets are all absolutely stunning (when done well, and Utah Opera always does opera well). The elaborate layers of color, dimension, and fabric give your senses something to write home about.

3. The music. Now, this is a debatable point, since some operas I simply like more than others. But, typically, Puccini (composer of Madame Butterfly) never disappoints.

4. People watching. Come on now, everyone donning their best for a night out on the town certainly means there will be some entertainment off-stage also. Also, the half who certainly don't don their best also provide interesting people watching. Watching those who think they have donned their best is always, well, eye-opening. There are often some handsome men who have clearly been coerced into coming by their girlfriends, wives, mothers, and grandmothers, but suit up or tux up for the event. And let's face it, a man in a tux is a nice sight.

5. It's glamorous. It just is.

6. The voices. I mean really. Half the time they aren't even miked and if have never experienced an operatic voice and the power it has, just try Renée Fleming's  soprano on for size, the only performance of our national anthem



Now, if you're just having a hard time getting into opera, but want to dabble in it, might I suggest one of the top ten most popular operas:

La bohème by Puccini
Carmen by Bizet
Madama Butterfly by Puccini
Tosca by Puccini
La traviata by Verdi
Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) by Mozart
Rigoletto by Verdi
Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) by Mozart
Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) by Rossini
Aida by Verdi

They’re popular for a reason: they all mix music and drama and emotion in a particularly gripping way. All are typically considered good starting points for beginners and you can find great recordings of all these works to help ease you into your opera journey. I've also, conveniently, linked videos to scenes from each one. Enjoy!

And maybe I'll see you at the opera next time!

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Ten random thoughts for Monday.

Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.
~William A Ward

Sunday Sunset
Photo by me
9 November 2014

1. A neatly made bed and a clean sink won’t solve everything, but they make it easier to deal with almost anything.

2. A good bra is like money in the bank. Only it’s not, because good bras are REALLY expensive. And banks are, like, not so good with the money, as it turns out.

3. "Bean counters should not be allowed to make decisions for humans." ~former co-worker Victoria

4. For some reason it warms my heart when I watch the car in front of me slightly swerve to drive around a small pothole or drive closer to one side of the lane to avoid a deeply-set manhole. I know they are smart, aware, and know the roads just as well as I do and I can’t help but feel like kindred spirits.

5. I was once billed for a first trimester ultrasound. Convincing the bill collector that I never had an ultrasound and was not pregnant was no easy feat. Finally she said she would check with the doctor's office (thank you), and I never heard from them again.

6. I've worn a toe ring for over 16 years.

7. I've been called Henry twice (TWICE!) in the last two weeks. Via email. In response to an email *I* sent… I’m hoping it’s an auto correct issue.

8. I dislike the word noshing. I also dislike when people say nom nom when expressing their satisfaction with food. When women refer to their husbands as hubby or announce “we are pregnant” or “I’m preggo,” I just throw up a little in the back of my mouth.

9. I need a massage. Yes, need.

10. Is it Friday yet?

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Friday, September 12, 2014

2014 Emmy Red Carpet Favorites.

"The most important thing to remember is
that you can wear all the greatest clothes and all the greatest shoes,
but you’ve got to have a good spirit on the inside.
That’s what’s really going to make you look
like you’re ready to rock the world."
~Alicia Keys

I'm a little late in posting these favorite looks from the Emmys this year, but I've been busy at work, busy finishing up my IWHHR course, and I threw my back out which has just put a damper on my mobility and my mood.

SO here we go, in no particular order. I do not know any of the designers on these and I'm not going to take the time to research them. And all the pictures were borrowed from Yahoo!

I have mixed feelings about this first one. The color, I like, but then I don't like it, but then I like it. You get the idea. I feel it was a little tight on Vanessa, just because of the stretchy lines of the fabric across the top part of the skirt. But overall, I still think it was nice, with the trendy peplum even.

Vanessa Williams
Photo found here

Then there is Amanda Peet. The hair was dreadful, but I like the sort of romantic flowy-ness of the dress. I think I would have preferred different colors for this event, but I like the lines of the dress. And she's pregnant under there, so it attractively accommodated the growing baby.

Amanda Peet
Photo found here

Now, Heidi Klum. Beautiful lines on this dress. I love the sleeves and the train, very elegant. The color works well for her. I really like this one.

Heidi Klum
Photo found here

Camila Alves (Matthew McConaughey's wife) always seems to look good. I like this geometric lacy number. The neck is nice on her and the 3/4 length sleeves work well.

Camila Alves
Photo found here

Michelle Dockery is lovely. Her dark hair and fair skin always make her a striking face to look at. Her dress choice at first was not my favorite, but I do really love the colors. She pulls it off well. The high neck works really well for her and I love the drape of the fabrics (and colors) at her sides.

Michelle Dockery
Photo found here

Again with the high neck and belted look, Julia Louis-Dreyfus looks great. The red suits her color perfect and the belt in a slightly darker red is a nice touch.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Photo found here

Now, I read that some people felt that Katherine Heigl's dress choice was far too matronly, which I suppose I can see, but I think I like it. The only thing I might change would be the sheen of the fabric. I think I might like it better if it were a matte fabric with no shine to it. But overall, I like the style and think she pulled it off well.

Katherine Heigl
Photo found here

Well, that's all I've got. What were your favorites?

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

The day our world changed.

"This nation, founded on principles laid down by men whom God raised up, will never fail....I have faith in America; you and I must have faith in America, if we understand the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ."
- Harold B. Lee

Sitting in my cubicle on September 11th, the thirteenth anniversary of the the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I am flipping through an online gallery of pictures, images which are heavily embedded in my mind, and I have chills. I'm reaching for my jacket to stay warm, the chills run so deep. They just aren't going away. If anything, they're getting more and more intense with each picture and description.

In 2001, September 11th was a Tuesday. It was a day I was able to sleep in because I didn't have class until the afternoon. And didn't work until later that afternoon, if at all... I can't even remember. I remember walking through the hall of flags as school and passing by a few television screens that were continuously showing scenes of the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. It was dumbfounding. There was an eerie silence. People didn't know what to say.

Today, I spent the day in a 2nd grade classroom, reading with three girls who were born six years after the 9/11 attacks happened. They were born into a world already at war with itself. It's hard to imagine that they weren't even alive, that they didn't experience that day and the aftermath. They know nothing different than the way life is right now. Luckily for them, as young 2nd graders, they are largely shielded from the harsh realities of the conflicts going on around the world. But inevitably, not for long.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

IWHHR: Engage Your Community, Part Two

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.

ENGAGE YOUR COMMUNITY, ASSIGNMENT 2

Find a person who is more than thirty years different in age from you. Interview her and find out about that person and her ideas about women's rights and health.

Does she consider women in her country to have full equality with men? Why not? What issues relating to women's health and human rights does she consider important? Has she ever been discriminated against because of her gender? What advice would she have for young women growing up in her country in this period of time?
Interview with: Susan Roylance
Date of Interview: 28 August 2014

Susan Roylance is a mother, grandmother, and author with particular interest in international public policy as it relates to families. I met Susan through another friend, equally interested in families, the refugee communities in Salt Lake City, and serving people in need. We had the opportunity to sit down and talk with her about her work, her writing, and her hope for the future.

In 1977, Susan was approached by a friend to lead a small group of pro-family women at the Washington State International Women's Year Conference. At first she was not interested in the least, but after she listened to recordings of the other states' conferences, which were full of pro-abortion and anti-motherhood activities. These conferences happened in every state in the U.S., after then-President Jimmy Carter established a $5 million fun to hold IWY Conferences across the country and appointed Bella Abzug to lead the women of the nation in establishing a national plan of action for women. In an article entitled, "Mothers Not Welcome," published in Mothers and Father Defending Marriage and Family In the Halls of the U.N., Susan wrote, "While the original intent of the conferences may have been benign--merely attempting to focus on the need to treat women with greater equality in the work places, etc., somewhere along the way these conferences became the sounding board for radical feminists."

Susan's involvement over the years in over 25 international conferences, including the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, stemmed from her belief that women's rights include a pro-family focus. She supports the need to treat women with greater equality, but not by breaking down the family in the process. Susan founded United Families International in 1978. She also created an HIV/AIDS education program for children called "Stay Alive" in response to the AIDS pandemic in Africa. Her program has now been used in educating children about HIV/AIDS in over 16 countries in Africa.


In addition to her political and social activism, Susan has had a great interest in the peoples of the world. She and her husband lived in both Kenya and Uganda for several years, assisting rural farmers increase their income. Currently, she works closely with the Burmese refugee population in Salt Lake City, helping them adjust to life in the States. She also teaches piano to Burmese teenagers and English to families who have just arrived.

When I asked Susan if she has ever felt discriminated against because of her gender, her simple answer was, "no." She was raised in a family where she felt valued and was encouraged to do everything her siblings were encouraged to do as well.

The women's movement in the United States has done much for women. The initiatives are positives steps forward until, Susan says, "they begin to breakdown the family." Women around the world in developing countries still need the benefits of "the women's movement" because many women across the world are still in situations where they are undervalued and unsafe. But Susan still believe that a focus on strengthening and nurturing the family can assist with many issues that are plaguing women and families across the world.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

IWHHR: Conclusion (Choosing Priorities and Making A Difference)

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.
Photo by S. Smith Patrick

THOUGHT QUESTION, SUMMARY And CONCLUSIONS


Of the many topics that we have covered over the past weeks, focus on one topic that is of particular interest to you. Describe the situation relating to this topic in your community. What would you want to do to improve the situation for women relating to this topic in your community?
As I review the course topics and think about what I have learned, the one thing that sticks out in my mind as something which needs improvement is simply what value we publicly put on women and girls and their roles in the family, in the community, and in the world. Valuing not only women, but valuing families as the foundation of our society is crucial to improving the world. We can all do small things to help make improvements in this area by starting within our own families: Encouraging our girls (and boys) to get an education and to make the most of their time in school. Ensuring that our homes are safe havens for children to share thoughts, feelings, and feel safe. Instill a sense of love and respect for all members of the family, so that each feels their own worth and value.

So maybe we're doing those things in our own families. Should we stop there? I would say no. I recognize, and have been repeatedly reminded throughout the course, that I have lived a fairly privileged life. I have parents who not only love and care for me, but have advanced skills which they handed down to me, life skills, academic skills, and language skills. All these things helped to set me up for a more privileged life. This is not the case for many children and I think it's important to recognize the need that could be right next door. I can support local organizations that are working to improve the situation for children who live in homes that are not safe or supportive. I can volunteer. I can teach. I can also step back and realize that every family is different and functions differently. But a family is successful if it is filled with love and support and safety.

Another thing I have been thinking about are the vast number of refugees that have been brought to Salt Lake City for a second chance. There are many ways in which these families need assistance. A friend of mine volunteers with refugee families and has told me many stories about teaching them how to live in The United States, even down to learning how to use electricity, flush a toilet, and load a washing machine, all things they had never before had opportunity to experience.

Over the next few weeks, I will be chewing on ideas of ways I can help and get involved in improving the quality of life for women, girls, and frankly, the whole family, in my community. Getting outside of myself and serving others always seems to be the answer to greater happiness and greater fulfillment. And of course, in the process, I'll be helping someone in an invaluable way.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

IWHHR: Engage Your Community, Part One

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.

ENGAGE YOUR COMMUNITY, PART 1

In your town or region, locate an organization that is working on one (or more) of the issues highlighted in our class. Interview the people at this organization and write four to five thoughtful paragraphs about this group.
Please be sure to address the following:
What is the name of the group? What is its mission or goal?  How does it carry out its work? What is your general sense of the effectiveness of the group?


Organization: YWCA Utah (www.ywca.com)
Mission: The YWCA Utah is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.
Interview with:  Cory (last name withheld for privacy)

I selected the YWCA Utah as the organization to learn more for this assignment because I have had brief conversations with my friend, Cory, who has worked there, about its mission and work. Since its inception in 1906, the YWCA Utah "has worked to meet the needs of underserved populations," its website states. Over the years, it has focused on employment, fair working conditions, racial discrimination, family violence, homelessness, and teen pregnancy. The YWCA Utah assisted women migrating west to find work during the Depression, servicemen during World War I and World War II, and relocated Japanese-Americans after World War II. According to its website, the YWCA offered Utah’s first African-American and Japanese-American girls clubs, women’s boarding house, public cafeteria, women’s employment bureau, and local traveler’s aid society.

The organization is dedicated to eliminating racism and empowering women. In 1976, they opened Utah's first domestic violence crisis shelter. Currently, they provide emergency services for women and children experiencing domestic violence, transitional housing, case management, wrap around services through the Center for Families, and community education. It carries out this work by not only providing a safe place for women and children who are experiencing domestic violence, but by using a strength based model to empower women. There is a strong emphasis on economic empowerment and education.

As all with all organizations, Cory feels like there is room for improvement, but that they do an amazing job with the resources they have. "Everyone works hard and is focused on the mission," she believes. Their most recent published annual report (Fiscal Year 2012-2012) states that they served 777 women and children in the crisis shelter. However, it also states that they were unable to meet 801 requests for shelter, involving 1,569 adults and children. Clearly this brings to light that though they do an amazing job at providing services, they are limited in the resources they have. Luckily, these other 801 requests were often able to be met through other area partnerships, providing temporary space until they were able to be housed at YWCA Utah. YWCA also reaches thousands more through their Family Justice Center and comprehensive children's services.

The leaders and workers at YWCA Utah are proud of their legacy, stating on its website, "Since 1906 the YWCA Utah has been a voice for women, a force for change, and a place for hope. Our enduring belief is that better lives for women – all women – will lead to stronger families and communities. Throughout the years the YWCA’s underlying purpose has remained the same but we have changed as women have changed, as the needs of our families have changed, and as our world has changed. Since our earliest years we have responded to the needs and aspirations of local women with innovative programs, promoted the rights and interests of women, and advocated for positive social change that creates better lives for all."

The statement, "better lives for women – all women – will lead to stronger families and communities," resonated with me and my belief that empowering women is really about empowering families, empowering human beings to change for the better and live better and more enriched lives. This focus on families is an important aspect of YWCA Utah and one that I believe in and can wholeheartedly support.

Monday, September 01, 2014

IWHHR: Group Meeting - Individual Reflection #3

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.
Photo by Paola Gianturco from her book Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon


International Women’s Health & Human Rights
www.internationalwomenshealth.org

Week 8 Discussion Guide:
Aging

Themes from this Week
• Aging
• Demographics and the “feminization of aging”
• Social exclusion and loss
• Women as caregivers

Part I. Initial Response
Please discuss your personal reactions to the readings and videos from Week 8 on Aging and the End
of Life. Describe one new idea or fact that you have learned from the course this week.

Part II. Topical Questions for you to consider with your group.
1. What does it mean to be elderly? Take one minute and write down a list of words or phrases that come to mind when someone says a person is “elderly” or “old.”
2. After you have finished, share your list with your group. Which words did you have in common and which words were unique to one or two members of your group?
3. Why do women make up the majority of the elderly? (See p. 234 From Outrage to Courage.) What are some of the features of aging, and are there challenges specific to women aging?
4. List the ways that you think elderly women draw assistance from society. Next, list the ways that you think elderly women contribute to society. What do these lists illustrate about people’s concepts of “productivity”? How “productive” are elderly women? Does this discussion bring to mind anything you discussed during Week 7 on Globalization & Women’s Work?
5A. How does your society treat elderly people and elderly women in particular? Have you personally witnessed what you described in answer to that question in your own life or in the lives of others? We encourage you to share these experiences with the group.
5B. Choose a culture different from your own. (For example, if you are from Europe, you might choose an example from an African or Asian country or if you are from Asia, you might choose an example of a Latin American country.) Do you think this society differs in how they care for the elderly? Why do you think such differences might exist?
6A. What are some of the characteristics that older women in poor communities share? A suggested starting place is to consult pp. 245-246 in From Outrage to Courage.
6B. Consider again elderly women in your community. Do they have similar or different experiences in comparison with the women described in the text?
7. We encourage you to talk about some ways that activists are working to create social change for the elderly. Could similar strategies be applicable in your country? What about the elderly themselves: are they able to be agents of change for themselves? To what extent do you think elderly people in your country are effecting positive change in the society in general?


Using Discussion Toolkit #8 about aging, Anu, Purniya, and I discussed the status of women and what it means to be elderly in each of our countries (The United States, Pakistan, and India). The state of the elderly and how they are regarded and taken care of can differ from family to family, community to community, and often generalizing by country does not give an entirely accurate picture, though does give a general idea. We noted that strong loving families can help to diminish ALL of the issues and problems we learned in this unit, as well as most of units in this course. Focusing on the family and strengthening it can help to solve many of these problems. Women often dominate the topic of family because of their traditional roles as nurturers. Purniya commented how when there are family get-togethers at her grandparents' home, they often refer to going to Grandma's house, despite the fact that Grandpa lives there as well. However, focusing on the family as a whole, both the mother's and father's roles, is important to strengthen and nurture the family as a unit, which will help to alleviate many of the problems our society has.

Women generally assume caretaker roles both for young children and for the elderly. This fact was very apparent in our group discussion today with Purniya at home caring for her younger brother while her mother was away at work and Anu caring for her young daughter who was very excited to be part of this video discussion since she wouldn't go to bed. This care-taking role continues into old age, when they are taking care of young grandchildren and aging parents at a time when they themselves could be considered aging. This can be difficult because as women age they have less and less energy, so the role of care-taking is hard on them and not rewarded in the formal economy.

In our experience, older women are the bearers of family culture and wisdom, and are deserving of our love, attention and care as they age. As they age, we age too, and with that comes a greater compassion and understanding of what our mothers, grandmothers (and fathers and grandfathers) have sacrificed and done for us. We feel an urge to honor them and learn from them as we age and come to understand the role they have played in our lives.

While there is always room for improvement, in my family and community, we honor our women and seek to assist them with everything they need as they age. There are still issues with ensuring there is enough money to financially sustain oneself and family in old age, the issue of loneliness, the issue of lack of recognition in the formal economy, but we are doing our best. And as usual, the majority of effective of change happens at a grass-roots level. The most effective grass-roots organization is the family. Strengthen it, love it, nurture it, and it will sustain you throughout your life.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

IWHHR: Week 8 (Women and Aging)

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.
Photo by S. Smith Patrick

THOUGHT QUESTION, WEEK 8 (AGING)

Given that the number of people over the age of 65 is going to increase hugely in the next few decades (with women being in the majority), share your thoughts about how women’s lives may be affected by these demographic changes both for better and for worse.  Consider the situation in your own country.

Over the course of this online class, I have come to more fully appreciate the benefits I enjoy because I live in a developed country with vast resources available to me. I have realized that in my sphere, women are, by and large, well regarded and taken care of. As women age in my country, though I can see some of the negative factors of aging, I observe that most older women are being taken care of. It's certainly likely that in other communities within my country, aging women are not being cared for. But in my observation, aging women are often looked upon as ones who have a lot of wisdom, who have lived hard lives and are therefore deserving of our care and assistance.

Growing up in San Francisco, in our church ward twenty years ago, there were many LOLs, as we called them, Little Old Ladies. There were far more widowed and single older women than there were men, maybe even ten to one. This ratio could also be due to the fact that women tend to be more active, religiously speaking.

In the coming years, as we have learned in this unit, the number of older men and women will outnumber the number of young people. Because women tend to live longer than men, the number of older women will be even greater than ever before. These demographic changes, along with the lower fertility rate than in previous generations, will put a greater burden on the younger people to care for their elders and put older people at greater risk for being "forgotten" if you will.

As I mentioned earlier, my community and my family has historically taken care of its older generation, especially its women. With the upcoming demographic changes, I don't see any change in that. We seem to revere our mothers and grandmothers and do all in our power to ensure they are taken care of. This is true within my family, extended family and in my church. Special care and thought is given to the older women of our church. While we may not always does a great job, they are certainly not forgotten. It's possible that as the number of older women increase, so too will the awareness of their needs and therefore, the service rendered to them.

Living in a developed nation, and a caring community, I fully acknowledge the experience could likely be different in other communities and nations. But I think awareness and instilling love for our families can change the situation. If we love our mothers and honor the role they have played in bringing us into the world and teaching us how to be, then we will naturally turn our hearts to them, and to the women (and men) have have gone before us and plowed the earth, so to speak, to make way for us, their children, to enjoy countless blessings and reap the benefits of their hard work. It's a cycle because we then will do the same our children and those to come.



Saturday, August 23, 2014

IWHHR: Group Meeting - Individual Reflection #2

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.
Photo from our course material

International Women’s Health & Human Rights
www.internationalwomenshealth.org

Week 3 Discussion Guide:
Childhood and Adolescence

Themes from the Week
• Adolescence and Change
• Female Genital Mutilation
• HIV/AIDS

Part I. Initial Response
Please discuss your personal reactions to the readings and/or videos from Week 3 on Childhood and Adolescence, which focused on Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Describe one new idea or fact that you have learned from the course this week.

Part II. Topical Discussion Questions on Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation to consider with your group.
1. Why is it important to study adolescent girls as a separate age group? What are issues that adolescent girls face that children (younger than 10) do not? What are issues that adolescent girls face that women (older than 24) do not?
2. What is the World Health Organization's definition of Female Genital Mutilation [FGM]? Consider the terms “female genital mutilation,” “female genital cutting,” and “female circumcision.” Given what you know about the differences in the procedures between countries, comment on these terminologies.
3. What are the justifications for FGM? What are the consequences of FGM? What is being done to change perceptions of FGM in the communities in which it is practiced? If you were a citizen of a country in which FGM is being practiced, how would you address the cultural reasons for conducting the procedure?

Part III. Topical Discussion Questions on HIV/AIDS to consider with your group.
4. Girls and women are more vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS than are boys and men. Why do females have a higher risk than males of contracting HIV? Think about biology, social status, and age differences.
5. How does the stigma relating to HIV/AIDS further endanger girls living with this disease?
6. Despite the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS, there are methods and resources to reduce symptoms and prevent the spread of the disease. Pretend that you are a young woman in a monogamous relationship with an HIV positive male. What are some ways to prevent you from contracting HIV? If you plan to have a baby, like Bhanu in From Outrage to Courage, how can you prevent your child from contracting HIV? How are some communities helping girls and young women infected with HIV/AIDS?

Part IV. Women’s Health & Human Rights in Your Community
Dr. Gene Richardson talked about “structural violence,” which he calls “types of violence that are not physical but that affect the health of populations,” including “institutionalized racism, gender inequality, lack of access to water or to clean water, lack of access to adequate housing—all the sorts of social mechanisms that prevent a population or a group of persons from becoming as healthy as they should be can be thought of as structural violence.”
7. Please think about the community you live in. Are there any examples of “structural violence” in your community that prevent some members of the community from being as healthy as they could be? Please write down some of these examples.
8. Write down some of the reasons these conditions exist.
9. Are there ways to address these problems? Does positive change require action from the government, organizations, or individuals to help eliminate “structural violence” and promote health for all?

Unfortunately, this time around two of our group members decided not to join us, so that left just me and one other woman named Janelle. We had a good discussion anyway, following Discussion Toolkit 3. We discussed what we learned about FGM/C, its prevalence, and the (physical, emotional, psychological, etc.) issues women face because of it. We also talked about HIV/AIDS and how we would handle a relationship with a partner who was HIV positive. Admittedly, we both felt like this might be a deal-breaker. Next we spoke a lot about St. Lucia and the structural violence examples Janelle has seen there. She talked about the attitudes of men and how often women don't really have a say in the relationships. It was fascinating to me, being from the United States and I really appreciated her openness and the opportunity to learn how life was for her in the Caribbean.

Friday, August 22, 2014

IWHHR: Week 7A / 7B (Globalization and Women's Work / Sex Work and Sex Trafficking)

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.

WEEK 7 THOUGHT QUESTION

Think about this question:
Although the text notes that there are many legitimate fears about the negative impact of globalization on women, it can be argued that there are benefits for women internationally. Describe in three to five thoughtful paragraphs three possible positive impacts of globalization on women.
After reading the text, I started to think that globalization has actually had great detrimental impact on women, which in many cases it has. The advances and money infused in poorer countries sometimes seems to have exacerbated the plight of poorer women. But with the bad, there is always good.

Globalization has opened opened up opportunities for women for paid employment and a way out of very restricted lives, has created new standards for the treatment of women, and has helped women's groups to come together and mobilize. In many countries globalization has helped to increase women's status and opportunities for growth and progression. Women have more job opportunities than they did even 50 years ago. There are also far more NGOs working to help women across the world.

"Although trafficking is in part a consequence of inequities stemming from capitalism and globalization, it is possible that, working together, women and men can employ some of the benefits of globalization -- instantaneous communication, the uninhibited flow of knowledge and ideas, and major upgrades in the technological infrastructure -- to prevent trafficking." (Murray, p. 218)

Change takes times. It's very likely that globalization's effects will impact women adversely before they get better, but I do believe it will get better over time. Change is a slow-moving ship, but it will eventually get there with the help of many people and the pass of time and people who are ingrained in the old ways. Together, as individuals and collectively, we will make a difference.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

IWHHR: Week 6 (Women in War and Refugee Settings)

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.
Photo from our course material

THOUGHT QUESTION, WEEK 6
It is clear that violence against women increases during conflict and post-conflict periods. In the context of the video interview with Zainab Bangura, do you think that it is inevitable that conflict will result in increased violence against women? Do you think that anything short of eliminating war will eliminate the problem of violence against women in conflict and refugee circumstances? Is peace possible?


Zainab Bangura, of Sierra Leone, is the current Under-Secretary-General, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. In her interview she discussed the concept of command and control. If rape (as a weapon of warfare) is commanded, it can be controlled. Based on her interview, it is not inevitable that conflict will result in increased violence against women.

Ms. Bangura spoke of interventions and conversations she has had with military personnel. These men are human. Certainly, there are some monsters who will just commit rape and violence no matter what. But the majority of these men, she believes, are true human beings and have a conscience which can be appealed to. She spoke with them about the injustice that is done against women. By asking them what they would do if this woman was their mother or their sister or their daughter, she was able to put into perspective the great atrocity that is occurring to women.

As is often said, and something with which I completely agree, education is the key. Men are people too. Despite the fact that they are the perpetrators of the vast majority of sexual violence in war and refugee settings, they are still people. If we can educate the military or other group leaders that rape is a crime and how it can completely destroy a woman and her family, then I believe many of these men will stand up for what is right. The leaders need to not only believe that rape is a crime, but they need to be prepared and dedicated enough to swiftly investigate and prosecute these crimes so that others will begin to learn and accept that it is a crime and should not happen. This is how the culture will change.

Ultimately, education and gender equality are what is needed to highlight rape as a war crime and begin the process to eliminate the problem of violence against women in conflict and refugee circumstances. "If you don't respect your women, you can't protect them during conflict," Ms. Bangura stated. Elimination is possible. Peace is possible. The military and leadership who took her advice in the DRC drastically reduced the rate of rape by the following year when they went back into battle. Not only were the perpetrators held responsible, so was the commander. So the commander had an invested interest in ensuring that his soldiers knew, understood, and followed his orders NOT to commit rape or any other type of gender-based violence during warfare.

Elimination or at least drastically reduced rates of gender-based violence is possible. Peace is always possible. With buy-in from powerful leaders, peace can be brought about.

If you are interested there are some great documentaries in a series called Women, War and Peace on PBS. I've watched a few of them. Individual stories always help me to understand history and its effects on communities and the world.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

IWHHR: Week 5 (Violence Against Women)

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.




THOUGHT QUESTION, WEEK 5

Do you think that violence is a “natural” part of being human?  If so, why do you think this? If not, why do you think violence, particularly against women, is so prevalent? Please write a response in three to five thoughtful paragraphs.

The question, "what is natural?" must be defined before answering whether or not violence is a natural part of being human. Natural, as defined by Merriam Webster means:

: existing in nature and not made or caused by people : coming from nature
: usual or expected
: implanted or being as if implanted by nature : seemingly inborn

Still with this definition, I find it difficult to answer this question. I think we are born with certain tendencies and characteristics, both positive and negative which we either have to overcome to let it subside (negative or harmful tendency) or disappear or nurture to develop more fully (positive or beneficial tendency). The tendency to be violent is a characteristic which is inborn, but is only developed or brought out by cultural traditions and expectations.

Certainly, as an adult the tendency to get angry is natural, but how we choose to channel that anger is just that, a choice. Our choices as young people and into adulthood, however, are largely dependent on what we have seen in our families and what we have been taught. Violence is one way to react to the feeling of anger but there are many other ways to handle that anger, but other options must be illustrated and taught. Think of a two-year old child who has difficulty sharing a toy. Often that child's reaction is to bite or hit the child who has taken his or her toy or has the toy that he or she wants. In my experience, this type of violent reaction is more common than not for a small child and children must be taught  or learn other ways to react or channel their anger in a non-violent manner.

That being said, there are culturally acceptable ways to channel that anger, which are often gender-based. Unfortunately, violence is acceptable in some cultures as a way to express anger, whether that is violence against people in general, women or intimate partners, children, or simply against property. I have observed that allowing violent reactions is more acceptable for boys than it is for girls. Many of us have heard the phrase, "boys will be boys." Unfortunately, this school of thought perpetuates the notion that violence is an acceptable form of expressing one's anger with no thought to the other person or their physical rights.

With regard to sexual violence, I think it is somewhat an extension of violence due to anger, but I believe this type of violence is learned and is not innate or natural, depending on the reason for the violence, which is debatable and likely, different in every situation. But it is the same in that other options to channel their feelings (anger, desire for power, hatred, etc.) must be introduced, taught, and practiced. Most people do and act the way they have been taught, the way they have observed relationships function throughout their lives. If they have never seen another way, they will not know how to do something different until it is introduced to them. Until they have been taught.

Our responsibility as adults, as parents, and as influential members of our communities is to help make other non-violent options known and understood. We can act as examples. We can teach children or other adults who still struggle with this tendency before they find themselves in a potentially violent anger situation, what options they have to deal with the anger. If the tools are not given to individuals to deal with their anger in the heads, they may resort to physical violence. Tools can include learning how to soothe oneself, learning to take a step back from the situation and wait while the anger in one's mind subsides, learning to channel that anger into something else physical like running or boxing. All of these tools take practice before they are fully effective and if they are introduced at a young age, an individual has a much better chance of ridding him or herself of the natural tendency toward violence and empower him or herself with the greater emotional and mental capacity of rising above.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

IWHHR: Week 4 (Reproductive Health)

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.

THOUGHT QUESTION, WEEK FOUR ON REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

How do the themes and issues raised in the short film, "Why Did Mrs. X Die?" correspond to the conditions in your country? Do you know anyone who has experienced or dealt with these conditions? 


"Mrs. X didn't only die of a hemorrhage. She also died of social injustice." 

The remake of the short animated film "Why Did Mrs. X Die?" is a great teaching tool for women in poor areas of the world. I was impressed with the information and the way it was presented. The music and the drawings are pleasing to the ear and eye and drew me into her story.

Mrs. X encountered so many barriers along her path of pregnancy keeping her from getting the help she needed to have a health pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. These barriers: lack of doctor visits, lack of access to midwives and doctors, lack of blood, lack of transportation to the hospital, illiteracy and lack of education, poverty, living in a remote village, gender inequality causing women to be the last to receive food are all barriers to a healthy pregnancy

Mrs. X could be any woman in any country, but most likely from a poor or remote area. I do not know anyone, personally, who has met ALL of these barriers, but I have known women who find themselves pregnant without the finances or insurance that would enable them to visit the doctor regularly and get the care they need during pregnancy.

This movie was an eye-opener for me to all the things that I take for granted living in the United States. Opportunity for education, employment, and medical access is fairly universal. Certainly there are inequities, but I feel for the most part you can find what you need and find a way to get it. Now, this may not be the case for those in the poorest of circumstances in the U.S., but the chance to overcome the barriers presented in the film seems far more attainable in the U.S. than it might in other developing countries.

Enlightening it was to think that these barriers actually started when she was just a child before she even thought about having babies of her own. Education. Gender equality in family. The more I hear about stories like the story of Mrs. X, the more I realize how privileged and blessed I have been to grow up where I did and with the family I did. This makes me grateful and in return, makes me want to help and reach out. As the narrator of the film said, "It is up to all of us, no matter where we live, who we are, or what we do to help remove these barriers for Mrs. X and the millions of pregnant women like her." Dr. Mahmoud Fathalla said this is a call to action for all who care.

I care.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

IWHHR: Group Meeting - Individual Reflection #1

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.

International Women’s Health & Human Rights
www.internationalwomenshealth.org
Week 1 Discussion Guide:
Women’s Rights

Photo from our text, From Outrage to Courage by Anne Firth Murray
Themes from the Week
• The status of females
• Women’s Rights = Human Rights
• Giving reality to human rights
• Negative Rights: (civil rights) and Positive Rights (socio-economic rights)
• UDHR, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Part I. Introduction and Initial Response
Take a moment to write down: Why are you interested in taking this course? What do you hope to gain from it? Then, when everyone is ready, please share these ideas with your group.
Next, please discuss your personal reactions to the readings and/or videos from Week 1 on Women’s Human Rights. Describe one new idea or fact that you learned from the course this week.
Part II. Topical Discussion Questions to consider with your group. 
1. What does it mean to be born female in different parts of the world?
• Consider places such as Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Kenya, the United States, or any other country of interest, including your own.
• What are the barriers and burdens that women (not men) experience?
• What are some reasons these barriers and burdens exist?
2. Recall the conversation on human rights with Professor Helen Stacy. Think about and discuss the differences between negative rights and positive rights.
3. Consider your own country and women’s rights. What is the condition of negative (civil) rights in your country? What about positive (socio-economic) rights?
4. Can human rights norms be broadly adopted and/or enforced? Consider them at the local, national, and international levels. If your answer is “yes,” how can they be given reality? Who are involved and what are some of the challenges? If your answer is “no,” then how can these rights still be promoted? (Please refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights if you think it is relevant to your response to these questions.)
5. Discuss the CEDAW treaty. What does the acronym stand for? How does it pertain to your country? Has your country ratified CEDAW and/or has it placed any reservations on the treaty? Why do you think it has placed reservations?


During our discussion this morning, it was apparent that we were from various backgrounds and came into it with different experiences. This made our conversation all the richer. We discussed women's rights as human rights through the context of our own experiences in our families, our communities, and the two different countries where we are from. The other women in my group opened my eyes to experiences and stereotypes they have encountered in their lives as women of color. Another woman shared with us her views about what it means to be a woman in her country of St. Lucia and even the differences between living in the capital as she does and living in the rural areas. We talked a lot about how it comes down to how we were raised and the type of education that happens within each family. The family is the fundamental unit of society. Though governments have the power to impose laws about human rights (hopefully in our favor), the action happens at the smallest of levels. First the family, then the school, the workplace, the community, the city, the state, the country and so forth. We followed Discussion Toolkit from Week One. It was a fruitful discussion (two hours) and really helped us all to get more excited about the class and be accountable for our learning so we have something to bring to the group. Group work has always been difficult for me. The timing, the planning, the scheduling, the equal load share. But it's always rewarding when done right.

IWHHR: Week 3B (Childhood & Adolescence: HIV/AIDS)

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.

THOUGHT QUESTION, WEEK 3, PART B

Dr. Gene Richardson speaks about how reliance on medical technology can undermine the introduction of social interventions that may be relevant in preventing or treating HIV/AIDS.  Describe two or three social/non-medical interventions that you think might be effective in preventing or treating HIV/AIDS.  Write three to five thoughtful paragraphs about these possible interventions.

This week I learned that gender inequality plays a huge role in the HIV epidemic. Girls are more than twice as likely to contract the disease for both social and physiological reasons. Social interventions to combat gender inequality are relevant in treating and preventing HIV/AIDS by the same principle that participating in a sports team or taking up running (social intervention) can help one's overall physical health and possibly eliminate the need to take a blood pressure medication (the bio-medical intervention). Treating the root of the problem instead of just the symptoms.

The first social intervention that comes to mind immediately is educating young people (both boys and girls). Education, alone, increases the chances that young children and adolescents will be in the classroom instead of vulnerable on the streets where they are more likely to become involved in unsafe sex practices and drug use, which we know increase the odds of contracting HIV.

Eradicating school fees, so that all children and adolescents have equal access to attend school would be another social intervention that would be relevant.

Also, the type of education and learning also makes a difference. Education about the disease specifically, as illustrated in the videos distributed by TeachAIDS, will help young people know what HIV is and how to be careful not to contract it. Also teaching healthy communication styles to empower girls to ask for what they deserve. Both boys and girls (and men and women) would benefit greatly, in all cultures, from healthy communication practices.

Other interventions include banning things like child marriage and FGM/C. These would help to get girl children to remain in school and in a less vulnerable position to contract HIV/AIDS. I was surprised to learn in this week's readings and videos that one of the most vulnerable places for an adolescent girl to be in to contract HIV/AIDS is marriage due to the practice of husbands continuing to have multiple partners, which is socially acceptable and encouraged in many poorer countries, and the inability to negotiate safe sex with condoms, and the inability to say no to sex with their husbands due to cultural/social expectations.

The effects of FGM/C on girls' school attendance, psychological health, and physical health are all factors making her more vulnerable to situations where should would contract HIV.

Social interventions may have a greater holistic effect in preventing HIV/AIDS and decreasing its prevalence than bio-medical interventions such as preventative cocktails, which are often given to high-risk individuals in some sub-Saharan African countries, as well as India. Instead of just treating the HIV virus after it is acquired (bio-medically with medication and other healthcare), preventing women and girls from being in the situation to contract the disease by implementing other social interventions as mentioned above will have a greater effect on decreasing the number of HIV/AIDS cases. Combining these social and bio-medical efforts will help both those who are vulnerable and at risk to potentially contract the disease, as well as those who have already been diagnosed.


Sunday, August 03, 2014

IWHHR: Week 3A (Childhood and Adolescence: Female Genital Cutting / Mutilation)

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHRDetails on the course can be found here.
If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.

THOUGHT QUESTION, WEEK 3A: FEMALE GENITAL CUTTING / MUTILATION (2 OF 3)

Consider the different terminologies used for the cutting of female genitalia, as discussed in the text, "From Outrage to Courage" and write three to five thoughtful paragraphs about the implications of the different terminologies:
  • Female Genital Cutting
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Female Circumcision

I have always been a staunch believer in the fact that you can say anything to anyone, but how you say it will alter the outcome of how it is received. Execution matters. Words and terminology matter.

At one point in my reading during this unit, I thought about the fact that calling this practice "mutilation" could be very harmful for a victim of the act to live with. To feel as though you have been mutilated, to be told you're a victim of a mutilation and no longer whole could have lifelong psychological effects. And, indeed, we know that FGM/C causes lifelong adverse psychological effects on many, if not all who are subjected to the practice.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially adopted the term "female genital mutilation" to identify the practice. However, we know that "female circumcision and "female genital cutting" are also used just as often to describe the practice.

Female circumcision is a term that is a little misleading, since its comparison to male circumcision is inevitable. In fact, female genital cutting is very different than male circumcision. The only way the terms could be equivalent would be if when males are circumcised, they are entirely or partially dismembered and their penises suffer mutilation that cannot ever be repaired. I will not be making an argument for or against male circumcision, but it only involves cutting away the foreskin from the tip of the penis and none of the actual sexual organs are harmed. This not the case with female circumcision, so the term is hardly equitable. Also, the term circumcision also brings with it a level of validity and appropriateness since male circumcision is widely practiced and typically does not cause major physical and psychological health concerns for the rest of that male's life. It's an easier term to handle for some because it does not immediately bring to mind the horror that the terms mutilation and cutting do.

Despite the possible psychological effects that the term female genital mutilation may impose on those have undergone the practice, I think this term combined with cutting is the most accurate and keeps on the forefront of our minds the tragic horror that is this practice. Education is key in decreasing and eventually eradicating this practice which is deeply entrenched in the cultural traditions of the people who perpetuate it.