Tag Archives: cultures

A Letter- to my future child

15 Dec

My dearest child (who is yet to be conceived and born),

I woke up to horrible news that happened on the other side of the world, the part that I used to reside for a while. I hoped that it was just a heinous story that was made up by those sensational journalists who are fretting over the potential of their job losses. But no, the tragedy in Connecticut, whether I wanted to believe or not, happened, killing, wounding, shocking and permanently damaging dozens of people, including 20 innocent children who died in extreme fear.

My facebook updates (if this will still exist in your times, I’m not sure) were filled with those who are equally horrified as I was. Those who are parents, those who pray to God, those who criticize the lack of gun control in the country, and those who criticize lack of mental health policy, etc. etc.

I couldn’t help but thinking that many of us who talk about all these policy talks on gun control (both  pro and con) and mental health policies (“it’s not the gun control idiots, it’s the mental health policy, yada yada yada”), though important, are missing the point. Even as a previous policy students, I still see many things with my cultural anthropologist’s eyes. And at the end of the day, we must mourn for the culture of violence that we as humans -well, as adults- have constantly built up and masochistically enjoyed, NOT for the lack of list of regulations written on the rule books. And because of that, I greatly fear to bring you to this world, the world I have grown to detest for its gruesome reality and lack of humanity.

When I started to live in the US, a country that I spent my formative years, one thing that my family feared the most for me was the (perceived) prevalence of violence, you know, the kind that you see in Hollywood movies, easy access to firearms, racial bigotry/hatred and all the fear due to the unknown potential of being violated.

Many years later, I see no improvement, and I witnessed that certain things are even worse than Hollywood films. Some of the worst shooting incidents happened over the past several years, at universities, at a place of worship, at shopping malls and just a few hours back, at a school. Many lives, who could have contributed to making this world a more vibrant, perhaps a better place, were taken away. Such violence took away the innocence and hope, the faith that human beings can be “good,” from many of us.

I fear that I’m gonna leave you a world that believes that policy machines, systems and politics can fix such problems while certain policies are formed by those who are funded by interest groups who make profits by contributing to violence. Although I spent 2 years studying public policy, my conclusion is that policy alone is not enough. I’m often angered that those politicians endlessly debate on “the greater policy implications” and “procedures,” because meanwhile, the real narratives and dialogues that must happen -to heal, to change the culture and to bring changes- will get lost and be deliberately forgotten until another shooting incident, another rape, or another tragedy somewhere happens, which brings everything back to the policy cycle ground zero.

I fear everyday for my personal security, whether from the tangibility of the violence that may be imposed upon me -let it be the danger of war, mugging, sexual violence, pop culture’s bombardment of “ideal female images” which often make me feel ugly and powerless- or from the deep sense of inner insecurity that are caused by such potential violence.

I fear because I see many broken systems that don’t seek cure, healing and greater societal effort for holistic approach, but rather seek only endless nit-picking arguments, blaming, hatred-filled speeches, ugly politics that we have lost our faith in, and endless hurting of each other. We hide ourselves behind policy jargon and aggressive facade, while the media gradually fade the narratives away, chasing the next big thing.

I fear that violence everywhere will not cease to happen while girls are violated because they want to go to school, ethnic minorities do not have claims to live in certain countries, people get discriminated for whom they love, girls starve themselves because the society tells them that they are not beautiful enough unless they’re skinny, countries and groups go to wars in the name of peace and religion, violence is considered “real man’s nature,” destruction of nature is going on in the name of “development and progress” and the list can go on.

I fear that I’m gonna leave you and your generation the world in a worse shape where there’s no place for dialogues, justice, hope and healing.

As an adult, I feel that I’m gravely responsible for such tragic state of things. I have been busy blaming others, while I’m one of the guilty ones. I have consumed such violence that are flashed everywhere, but often failed to see the injustice and pain. I decided to look away even when I saw painful signs of social wrong, thinking, “Hey, I’m just a kid,” while in fact, I’m not. The culture of indifference which ignored to care about the others ultimately causes such culture of violence.

I’m not a parent yet, but one day I may become one, to you. I may not even understand a fraction of the pain of the parents who lost their children in this very incident. But I promise you today that I own up to the responsibility as a grownup, as a human being. I promise you that I will do my responsibility as a citizen. I won’t just stop at the state of being outraged and upset. I will continue to be vigilant, discuss and stay alert so that one day, I will be able to tell you that the world is indeed a better place than it used to be when I was in my teens and twenties.

I can’t be bulletproof to protect you from all the harms, but this much I promise you.

 

Advertisements

On Invisibility

17 Jul

“For God’s sake, can you just TAKE compliments?”

On one fine evening out on Arab Street with my friend Yvette (the official “last” dinner in Singapore for her, before she went back to Rwanda), she told me she liked my outfit, and I probably said something like, “Oh, I just got it for really cheap.”

“You know what my aunt says when people tell her she looks good? She says, ‘Oh, you should have seen me yesterday!’ with her attitude.”

I didn’t particularly know what to say. So I just told her it was an Asian thing. We Asians are not supposed to show up, we are programmed to be “modest” in our actions and words. Then the whole conversation really made me think of the aspect of Asian womanhood, at least to my life so far.

I “became” Asian when I went to the US as a 15-year-old girl. That was the first label that was given to me. An Asian chick. The label came with many other tags, such as being quiet, a hard worker, genius in math and really, having not much of character at all. In one word, I was automatically considered an “invisible one,” just like all the other FOBs at my school.

The thing is that I didn’t choose to be invisible. My English was not great and I didn’t know how to socialize in the language and the particular social structure, so I couldn’t talk much and I didn’t have any other choice but working hard. I was good in math because that was about the only subject that didn’t require much English.

I was invisible by default.

It was a very painful period of my life, but I did well. I excelled in my high school career, graduated at the top of my class, and went to a decent university. But what many people don’t know is that I stayed up many nights in the bathroom after the light-out time in my boarding school dorm, I practiced English pronunciation that I couldn’t quite get during the day (and often was made fun of) hundreds of times so that I could speak it right the next time, and I woke up 6am every morning so that I could do more studying than others. Eventually I started to become more active. I was able to speak up.

I did all these so that I could become visible. But even then, I was still a hardworking Asian girl who is good at math (and maybe in other subjects, too, but only good in academic sense). I was still invisible.

Now, I feel very comfortable with English (which is my working and social language everyday these days), and people know that I have a sarcastic, biting sense of humor along with my “attitudes,” and maybe I can thank my American education for that. I tried really hard not to be “that Asian chick” who rarely speaks out her mind, who studies a conventional discipline (econ, biology, engineering, etc) really hard and dresses too well. I chose to speak out (often very nervously I admit), chose an unconventional major (although I did study hard), and ran around in my sweatpants with no makeup on purpose. I tried hard to prove myself different. I tried to be visible.

But the funny thing is that I still find myself “choosing” to be invisible often unconsciously. Maybe it got started after I came back to Asia a few years ago while I was struck with a sense of reverse culture shock. But then thinking about it, I’m not sure about that at all. Looking back, in the States, I deliberately “oppressed” the Asian side of me, because it was too painful to be one. In a way, I chose not to see a part of me that I associated with invisibility. And now, I come back to my “home” culture, I feel a sense of displacement, and I’m not sure how to position myself. Gradually, I became invisible again. I am afraid of how people may judge me, because I act “too American” and “too White.” My dad used to yell at me for being “too loud” and “too all over” when I was younger, and the same voice is ringing in my head again. The culture that brought me up for the first 15 years of my life is creeping back in and the confusion that I probably should have had as a teenager is hitting me hard.

From all the voices of the past and present, I hear clashing things: Be modest.  Don’t be afraid to express yourself. Be quiet. Talk out loud. You are not supposed to think that you are beautiful (and you are kinda ugly). You are beautiful in every way. And I become buried in all these voices, then again, I become invisible. I choose not to express, because I don’t wanna be judged in one way or another, and this time, such invisibility brings me a temporary comfort, but maybe a deeper cut.

I don’t think it’s simply about a confused individual’s confidence issue, although to a certain extent, it is. It is about certain social constructs and how they may affect an individual (or many individuals) of certain origin, let’s say an ethnic minority (in American context) woman whose cultural diversity should not only be celebrated but also be reconciliated. And even as an ethnic “majority” in Asia, the same individual still feels the cultural pressure and ambiguity, now faced with the “home” culture, because she would hear the society dictating how a good Korean woman should be while maintaining the invisibility at the same time.

When will I become visible by default? When will I be able to take those compliments without feeling the necessity of being modest? Will I be able to love myself truly without being able to truly see herself?

Day 27: How Is Your Culture (and Are You) Treating Homosexuality and LGBTQ Population?

14 Mar

While visiting my grandparents in the province, I have had to travel to a place where I have limited internet access. I apologize for the delays, but there is no way that I would give up on the last 4 days of my blogging project, so don’t worry J. What I ended up doing, instead of writing, was reading lots of articles, way more than I usually would, because I still had some internet access through my phone. And I thought a lot about how I could connect those to my writing, and here’s one topic that I will talk about today.

I ran into a very interesting article on the LA Times, which featured a Korean actor, Hong Seok-Cheon. He is not one of those Korean drama stars, but he has acted in many series acting in supporting roles. What is so significant about this guy is the fact that he has been an openly gay public figure since 2000.

You may think, so what? If so, good for you, since it may mean that you don’t really feel any prejudice against homosexual entertainers and individuals alike around you. Or maybe you just think that that’s an irrelevant topic to you, although you may feel a slight discomfort with the subject and want to avoid discussing about it. Or maybe you just feel pure disgust by even thinking about it. Within Korean culture, which is still very much conservative at its core (although it has been changing quite rapidly), being openly gay means risking everything in your life. It was even worse about a decade ago when Mr. Hong came out, especially as a public figure.

Hong had to have a press conference as he could not live in the dark (“in the closet”) anymore. He wanted to be someone who he really is, and that is all he asked for, but to make it so public, I am sure it required extraordinary courage. He was on several shows, but he was kicked out immediately. According to the article, he remembers it as the moment where everyone turned back against him, and he even received many death threats. I still remember his “coming-out” event which happened when I was in middle school. It was a shock to me at first, but then I never gave it a serious thought about what kind of impact it would have on the individual and the society as a whole. I was simply too young, while I was living a “normal” life as a majority in which everyone I knew was living a heterosexual middle class life.

Then several years later, I attended a camp called AnyTown during high school in the States. It was a camp to expose teenagers to diverse cultures and social challenges (racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, etc.) so that they can build up more tolerant and vibrant future. I was attending a private school, and it was a privileged environment where I didn’t necessarily experience much diversity. However, AnyTown totally changed my view towards the world as I was exposed to a huge range of social issues besides racism, which I was already interested in. It was my first time to make friends with people who were of LGBTQ origins and to learn about them. Previously, it was not an issue that I had to deal with or was concerned about, because I didn’t have to as a heterosexual female. And the only issue that I had to deal with was mainly related to that of race, being a racial and linguistic minority in the US. But being in the same small group with them, sharing meals, chats and tears, and discussing about intensely personal issues, I became very much aware about the challenges that my friends had to go through in the conservative social norms and hatred-driven (and unreasonable) views towards them. I became a totally different 16-year-old by accepting the diversity that is beyond black and white racial dynamics.

I really believe that anybody can overcome her/his ignorance if s/he is willing to acknowledge the ignorance and prejudices from it. However, I really (and sadly) think that not many people have the ability and courage to do so. Instead, many people learn to dislike/hate others first in the midst of hugely competitive era, where everyone must be a winner of some sort while oppressing those who have some level of disadvantage in the society (whether that be race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical disability, etc). I cannot help but think that we all end up hating ourselves in the midst of the ugly fight, and then hate others even more, just fulfilling a terrible cycle.

Mr. Hong does not have to suffer such extreme hatred anymore. He is now back on TV and is a successful restaurant owner. His restaurant is very famous for the great food and atmosphere, and people want to meet him. He takes picture with the people and proudly walks around the restaurant asking people if the food is alright. Just like a normal person. Nowadays in Korea, I heard that there are even some cable TV channel and social network celebrities who have marketed their “gayness” so well that people actually think that their being gay is actually very “cool.” But there was also an incident about a year ago when a Korean drama series featured a gay couple, many organizations, including national parents’ associations and Christian associations, put a huge ad on a major newspaper saying that “SBS (the broadcasting company which aired the drama) should be responsible if our children die of AIDS.” The advertisement wrongly claimed that the series will make the children want to become homosexual, which is wrong apparently (and where did they get the idea that being homosexual will directly cause AIDS?). Well, have they ever thought that many Korean dramas featuring divorces and couples cheating on each other were actually giving more unhealthy examples of relationships and challenging social norms hence they would be more harmful to their children? Of course, the very same people have not said a word about the influences of such Korean dramas. At least the gay couple in that particular drama actually had a very healthy relationship. What is more family-friendly in this case? Take that.

And for God’s sake, no one has the right to judge someone, because s/he is in love. And everyone should support love, no? Cultures are their to change, so shift your prejudices NOW.

Day 26: The Power of Listening- Kony2012, Development and “the Other” Voices

11 Mar

As a feminist and a hopeful future scholar from the developed part of the world, I always have to deal with a guilt-ridden question that I don’t necessarily have the answer for. “So what gives me the right to talk about ‘the other’s’ story with so much self-righteousness?” After all, this is why I have lots of problems with Nicholas Kristof and his stories, and maybe as a privileged woman, I probably do not have any right to talk about “the other’s” stories, however I am heartbroken and angry about them. It is obvious that I am always (unconsciously and unfortunately) likely to have the “first-world” bias, because I am a product of such education.

What I can do the best for now, until I do get to understand the uncanny boundaries between truly understanding and mistakenly knowledgeable, is listening and learning from those who do speak out. Some do not speak as loud, and others may not speak the same language. But it is my job to develop the ear through constant learning, instead of just being frustrated with more Kristofs who are out there, trying to fix the world with their assertiveness in their own ways. It is not my job to change their perspectives, but to develop my own perspectives from the alternative voices which are way more powerful (Yes, I have been reading Thich Nhat Hanh a bit).

So this time, maybe I won’t speak so much about my opinion on the current debates on Kony 2012, which initially bugged me quite a bit. I will just leave you with a very passionate, intelligent (yes, one can be both) statement from a Ugandan journalist, Rosebell Kagumire, who has written extensively on women’s war experiences in Uganda, South Sudan and DR Congo. There is nothing more powerful than peace and conflict stories told by a woman who is in the midst of them and tries to generate a powerful voice.

I think we need to have a kind of sound, intelligent campaigns that gear towards real policy shifts rather than a very sensationalized story that is out to make […] just one person cry and at the end of the day, we forget about it. I think it’s all about trying to make a difference, but how do you tell the story about Africans is much more important than what the story is, actually. Because if you are showing me as voiceless, as hopeless… you have no space in telling my story. You shouldn’t be telling my story, if you don’t believe that I also have the power to change what is going on. And this video seems to say that the power lies in America, and it does not lie with my government, it does not lie with local initiatives on the ground. That aspect is lacking and this is the problem. It is furthering that narrative about Africans totally unable to help themselves, and needing outside help all the time.

Day 14: Nicholas Kristof Depresses Me

25 Feb

I’m gonna write something that is not directly related to women’s/gender issues. It is more on a particular writer and international development, but it is my belief that these are interconnected issues as many women (and men) of the world are still very much excluded from achieving better quality of lives and human rights.

I have read quite a few of Nicholas Kristof’s writing, and I even read a book written by him and his wife, Half the Sky. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, he is a big time NYT columnist who has been writing extensively about women’s human rights in developing world.

But can someone tell me why his “courageous acts” never fails to appear to me as journeys based on “White Man’s Burden?” Watch this video first.

http://video.nytimes.com/video/2011/12/03/opinion/100000001203762/win-a-trip-2012.html

It just makes me feel uncomfortable that he often (dangerously and surprisingly naively) claims that people who might be ignorant but means well should get out of America (or whatever their comfort zone might be) and explore the developing countries. While these people may infinitely benefit from the life changing experience, I believe that their short visits are quite invasive to the daily lives of the people in the developing countries who have to live with poverty probably for the rest of their lives whether they come or not. Their visits may even give these people false hope that making personal relationship with them could possibly lift them out of poverty. I have seen such efforts, and it is quite heartbreaking and uncomfortable.

The “natives” or “those unfortunate women” being the elements that satisfy the voyeuristic pleasure. It doesn’t sit quite well with me. But then, isn’t all development literature coming from more or less that viewpoint? Aren’t we all, the citizens of developed countries (and those who are fortunate enough to get out of poverty or to be born in well-off families in developing countries), just talking gibberish about what poverty and injustice are to those who are subalterns (the entities who do not even have autonomy)? And who are we to call them subalterns? Or should we forget all of these “unproductive” arguments and just move on to come up with better solutions?

These questions ought to be constantly debated, and they are never going to have awesome answers for me (that could clear my head eventually), but those debates are honestly quite exhausting…

Day 11: On Korean Drama Series…

22 Feb

I have a lot of time nowadays. In fact, I have enormous amount of time that I end up doing the least productive things throughout my days. One of the (terrible) hobbies that I picked up to fill up my time during my “post-school transition period” is watching TV. It’s one of those habits that once you pick up, you can’t get away from it, sort of like an addiction problem (gasp, it might actually be addiction!).

So today, I decided to do something productive out of my mindless hobby: writing about the things I observe and being the critique of it from a gender analysis perspective. I admit that I’m pretty rusty on all the feminist theories and what not, but heck, I’ll just do what I’ve been doing over the past 10 days, and hope you’re OK with my critiquing on K-drama scene.

Living in Southeast Asia for a while, I experienced and lived through the popularity of Korean pop culture. Unlike in the US, I think there are much more common threads between Korean and Southeast Asian cultures, hence Korean drama series are very popular. Trust me, I met so many people who are very much into Korean drama series or Korean novelas as Filipinos call them. It was, in a way, a shock to be reconnected to the culture that I was not a big part of, and hey, I think it actually improves the reputation of Korean people in general in the continent, so I have nothing against the overall positive outcomes and influences.

And now, I’m based in Korea, I get to watch many more of them, and every day, I go in front of the TV at 10pm to watch my regulars. While I watch them without thinking so much, I feel a little bit of guilt, especially looking into the very apparent stories that I know for sure how it’s gonna end, especially in terms of relationships. Yes, the actors and actresses are unbelievably good looking, and that for sure is unrealistic. But what I’m trying to point out is not so much of the unrealistic looks, but more of the gender role that female characters play, and how the media at large is reinforcing how women should be like if they want to have their fairytales and happy endings achieved.

Firstly, I have made a list of female characters that may show in Korean drama series.

Type 1. The beautiful one who has lost everything but has the men of her dreams nearby

This is the most common one I think. As I said earlier, most of the actors are beautiful in the series, but the female protagonist is always the most beautiful one. She often possesses next to nothing (maybe an orphan, or with an alcoholic father, or left with younger siblings that she has to support by herself), but she is always an optimist. She is unbelievably nice, so the world may give her all the difficulties possible, but she always survives, often with the help of a nice guy (that she will end up being together “happily ever after” by the end of the series). She doesn’t know how to be angry, so a jealous girl (who will be explained as a “type 2” character) may do everything possible with her will power and money, but she eventually wins. There are usually two guys, who are very handsome of course and hey, very wealthy as well. They can be cousins or very good friends who end up competing for the unfortunate nice girl.

Female Type 2. The beautiful one who has it all but wants to take away the main male character from the nice girl

She seems to have everything, wealthy family, a good job, and what not. The world envies her for what she has, and she is admired by those who surround her. But she is often very unhappy and bitchy. All she wants to do is taking away the only happiness that the Type 1 girl has: the main male character (who is really nice, good-looking and rich). She does anything and everything possible to get his attention, and he may pity her as a friend, but his heart is always with the type 1 girl. She will never get her happy ending, because she is the “evil” one who pursues what she wants.

Female Type 3. The lovely tomboy who eventually realizes her feminine side eventually (and gets to live in her fairytale eventually)

This is the newest development in K-drama, I believe. More of romantic comedy material character. She is someone who is definitely not perfect in terms of her behavior. She makes a lot of mistakes, and she sometimes acts like boys (and this is supposed to be the proof of her imperfection). She is clumsy, too. Usually, the main male character doesn’t consider her has a potential romantic partner, but hey, it’s OK. The way she acts is so lovely that he will eventually fall for her. She gradually develops her love for the guy and tries to act more “like a girl” so that he will pay attention to her. By going through lots of accidents together, they eventually realize that they are in love, hence, happily ever after.

 

Yes, these are stereotypes, and each story carries different characters, but I think these are pretty much what I have seen over the past years when I have had the chance to watch a series even partially.

As I said in my previous posting, I believe that the media tells the viewers a lot about how they should be like in their everyday behaviors, while the ideal is often impossible. Whether we want it or not, the drama series are of great influence on the society’s imagination of “perfect womanhood.” And the influence that they have on women, especially young women in their 20s and 30s, is rather uncomfortable for me.

Through the unreal characters like the three types above and their romantic and human relationships in general, the viewers unconsciously learn about how their behaviors and relationships “should be.” The shows tell the viewers how women should be like if they want to be loved, whether by a potential romantic partners or by the world. If one wants to be liked, she has to be nice, but it’s OK if she is clumsy and not so smart. She is always in need of help, and the prince will surely help resolve the issue, while she by herself often can’t get out of the mess that she is in. But she should never be assertive, because being assertive means that she speaks her minds, and of course no one likes a girl who is expressive. She doesn’t know how to actively pursue what she wants (whether social status or the love of her life), but she sits there and waits until they come to her. And hey, don’t forget that she is flawlessly beautiful. In other words, a smart, confident, go-getter woman cannot be someone who is loved, but someone who is just foolishly nice and needy can achieve a successful relationship with the man of her dreams and with the world. WHAT?

Yes, it’s easy to tell people, “well don’t watch the shows if you don’t want the influence.” But how could that be even possible while internet portal sites are talking about the stories, the main topic of conversation amongst your friends are about the series, and the current cultural trends simply carry these stories in our everyday lives? Everyone knows that they are not real.  But the shows magically realize our fantasy world as if they can become real, something that could potentially happen. The show producers constantly produce and reproduce the unreal images, and they sell really well, not just in Korea, but in many other countries, too.

But how many more of the three types of women do we have to bear, simply to satisfy our voyeurism for impossible fairytales?

Day 9: Defining a Woman by Her Cover

20 Feb

A few days ago, I ran into this posting on facebook on my friend Mirza’s wall.

Photo credit: Mc Diamondog on Facebook

Whatever the message you got from above, it somehow reminded me of my friendship with some of my friends who are Muslims and have worn headscarfs for several years of their lives.

Before I lived in Singapore, I had never had a close friend who was Muslim. I’ve only lived in small towns without much diversity, and even during college, the closest interaction I had with Muslim population was the Imam at the school (who was called “Muslim Chaplin”) that I attended a lecture of. I mean, I was interested in Islam and the culture, but I never had much exposure, part of it because I did not have any friend around me who was able to share her stories.

Then when I started grad school, I encountered people from way more diverse Asian cultures (and I thought America I experienced was diverse), and I had the honor of developing friendship across nationalities, cultures and religions that I had never interacted with before. Now, some of my closest friends are Muslims, and I am so grateful for the relationships.

Although what I saw from my friends in headscarves at first was not “oppression, submission or terrorism,” I know that there was a type of orientalism-like curiosity from my end (a la Edward Said). After all, my perspective looking into the wide range of Asian cultures was probably not too different from that of an educated yet ignorant Western person, hopefully without nasty prejudices against certain religions and cultures. I was more careful in getting to know my friends who were in headscarves, because I saw them with women who were determined to express their religious identity, and Islam was all I saw from the first impression.

But then, what happened during the process of “getting to know each other?”

It was simple. We became friends. We talked about celebrities, had dinners and snacks together (avoiding pork, of course), shopped going through sale racks, watched Friends and movies together, talked about boys and cried over some of them, and worried about our futures because we did not know what the heck we were doing by being in grad school. In sum, we did what friends did. We did what all 20-something year old girl friends did together.

On the way, I automatically got to learn so much about Islam and what it means to them, of course. I fasted a few times for Ramadan (not the whole month though, yet), broke fast at 7:14pm Singapore time, and celebrated the end of the holy month together with really nice food. I have woken up to the sound of the first prayer in a morning in Yogyakarta when it was 3-something-am. I had several long conversations with a friend before she decided to take off her headscarf, and I was happy to support her decision. I have been to the mosque during prayer with my friend while we were out and about, and watching so many people devoted to God breaking away from their regular day was something so moving. My friends all became a part of enriching experiences, and learning about a religion that I had almost no exposure previously was a wonderful experience, because I was getting to know an important part of their lives.

What I’m trying to say here is this. The whole political discourses over what women of certain cultures and religions (in this case, Muslim women) should wear and not wear, depending on which countries they live in, seem completely absurd to me. After all, who made the grand fear discourse that a society is in danger, because of certain cultural forces? And who has reproduced such language in order to keep the society in panic by scapegoating women’s attire?

As a non-religious person who has been in and out of different religious temples for experience’s sake, I wear whatever I feel right in. I sometimes wear jeans and t-shirts, and other times wear a dress. I refuse to be ordered around in terms of what I wear, because I’m a woman who decides what is good and comfortable for me to wear. I exercise autonomy over my body and over my decision, because I refuse to be treated like a child. And I’m sure that my girl friends that I talked about earlier, the ones that I have done all the “regular girl things” together, enjoy their autonomy as full adults who are capable of picking up the shirts, headscarves, or whatever the garments they want to wear every morning.

After all, we all can define ourselves in various ways, regardless of the types of clothes we wear.