Category Archives: Blog

Denmark’s Role in Equal Futures Partnership: Aarhus Perspective

This post originally appeared on Aarhus Blog.

In September, the United States established the Equal Futures partnership for the purpose of expanding women’s political and economic participation. In an address to the United Nations General Assembly in 2011, President Obama stated that “We should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls.”

Denmark has pledged to –

Assess possibilities for improving the gender balance in Danish companies. Denmark will also implement new measures to reduce gender-based violence, focusing on increasing the awareness on violence in the family and capacity-building among municipal authorities and front line staff. In addition, Denmark will work to enhance political and civic participation of ethnic minority women in Denmark through mentorship programs and support for ethnic minority women’s entrepreneurship and businesses.

According to Helle Neergaard, a Professor in the Department of Business Administration, ”there is a very easy solution – equal access/right to maternity/paternity leave. Right now as the rules are, the mother is favoured over the father and it has negative consequences not only in the workplace (businesses do not choose young women of childbearing age for jobs even if they are as qualified because they will go on maternity leave) and second in the home, where children do not have an equal relationship to their fathers.”

She adds that she believes “it is wrong to support ethnic minority women’s entrepreneurship, when we are not supporting women’s entrepreneurship at large – I do not think that ethnic minority women are more disadvantaged in this respect than native Danish women.”

Whether or not the Equal Futures partnership accomplishes anything remains to be seen.

On Migritude

I don’t normally cry at poetry events. Most movies don’t get me either, unless I am on an airplane. There’s something about being suspended in the air that makes it easy for me to become teary-eyed at even the lamest romantic comedy. But here I was, very much on the ground at a poetry performance by Shailja Patel, sniffling back the flow of emotion.

It could have been my damp feet from walking through the rain all evening, but I think it was more. In part, it was my own sense of migritude that hadn’t washed away despite the rain. It was all the people I would have loved to bring with me, but they were in various cities and countries. It was my friend in Delhi who sent me the information with the info, and told me to go and soak it all in for her. It was more than that though, it was also the sheer power of Patel’s words.

“Poetry is my best thinking,” she told the audience at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco on March 24, 2012. “When a poem stays with us, it changes the way we look at the world.” There is a reason we read poetry at weddings and funerals and not contracts or wills. After briefly discussing the Occupy Nigeria movement she poses the question, “How do I synthesize the largeness?” For Patel, it usually begins by being in community, “What kick-starts my writing, is always conversations.” More recently, she has been exploring the idea of being alive, as opposite from depression. Patel sees art as part of this, “Art is also a conversation. That’s why we write, that’s why we speak.”

Her book, Migritude (2010) has been translated into 16 languages. She has appeared on Al Jazeera, BBC world service and won various poetry awards. Born and raised in Kenya, she has lived in London, San Francisco, and is now based in Nairobi and Berkeley.

From a performance done in San Francisco, some of Patel’s poems can be heard here, Readings from Migritude: How Ambi became Paisley, The Making (Migrant Song), Under and Over, and Eater of Death.

An Introduction to the Art of Occupation: #OccupyArt

 

I told my sister I just came home from a class called Occupy Art. She told me she just came home from her Macroeconomics class.

 

“Where is your class?” she asked me. “Stanford,” I said.

 

“So it’s a real class, not some art class in a park?” she asked.

 

“Yeah, like Stanford students take it… for credit,” I said.

 

The exchange highlights our differences, but also how rarely it seems that we discuss history, and movements inside the classroom as they are lived.

 

To be completely honest, I missed the beginning of the occupy movement. I had just started teaching at a school in Ladakh, India when it began, and I barely had a working phone and no internet. Since returning to the United States in January, it is clear that everyone seems to be occupying something, from Wall Street to Valentine’s Day, and now even the squirrel in the advertisement on BART is saying something about ‘occupy’. Perhaps too eager to gain a better understanding of what this occupy business is all about, I am still excited just a couple hours after the first class (which feels more like a process/performance or movement) of “Occupy Art” at Stanford.

 

In a mash-up that can only be described as a schizoid pastiche (which I use as a compliment), the first lecture by Jeff Chang and H. Samy Alim traced the history of occupation as a term that moves (and is moving) from occupied Palestine, to progressive political consciousness. As Jeff Chang said, “The arts rely on layers of meaning… we are privileging the questions.” With a shout out to the Zapatistas who remind us that, “other worlds are possible.

 

The intro went from military occupations to the occupation of Alcatraz, it jumped from skateboarding to consumerism and ‘black Friday’, or as Chang put it, “the day when people lose sleep and risk their lives to buy their 4th TV.” And from there, it went to defining domination (power enforced through coercion, usually through force, violence and conflict) and hegemony (mainly in the mind) to a discussion of culture.

 

As H. Samy Alim said, “Cultural change, always precedes political change.” Alim went on to talk about how “hip-hop helped change the narrative… artists provide the language to express that change.” Using the example of the Arab Uprisings he uses El General as an example of someone who provided a “soundtrack to the Tunisian revolution.” The song Not Your Prisoner, by the The Arabian Knightz (Egypt) was produced five years before the Arab Spring. Acknowledging the role of social media and its ability to assist with collaborations such as #jan25, those in the class are encouraged to tweet at #occupyart.

 

From Tahrir, we were brought back to Wisconsin and reminded of the calls that delivered Pizza to Wisconsin protesters from all over the world. The signs united protesters and occupiers in Oakland and Cairo, but Alim reminded us of the limitations within movements (where and how does race, class and gender politics come in to play…). And now, activists in Zimbabwe face up to 10 years in prison for watching films of the Arab Spring.

 

From the economy, to capital to immigration, “Capital can flow freely across borders, but people can’t,” said Chang. The ban on ethnic studies in Arizona seems comical, are we really banning speeches by César Chávez ? Maybe it seems so funny, because I want to deny it so badly.

 

Protest posters and art from the movement, a picture of a wave, hip-hop, skateboards, immigration… in the end Chang admitted that “We might need an intellectual Ritalin.” The Introduction to the Art of Occupation ended with a quote by Angela Davis, and the last words on the screen were “The revolution starts now.” When in truth, we know it started long before today with art, and our politics are just trying to catch up.

Feminist Films

Miss Representation http://www.missrepresentation.org/

I Was a Teenage Feminist http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/pages/c695.shtml

The Shape of Water http://www.theshapeofwatermovie.com/

Sari Soldiers http://www.wmm.com/filmCatalog/pages/c727.shtml

Girls Rock! http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/girls_rock

Miss Navajo http://www.missnavajomovie.com/

Taking Root: the Vision of Wangari Maathai http://takingrootfilm.com/

Dark Girls http://officialdarkgirlsmovie.com/

Passionate Politics: the Life and Work of Charlotte Bunch http://andersongoldfilms.com/films/documentaries/cb.htm

Palindromes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palindromes

Regret to Inform http://www.codepinkalert.org/section.php?id=167

Daughters of the Dust http://www.ovguide.com/daughters-of-the-dust-9202a8c04000641f8000000000668aa3

Shooting Women http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/pages/c748.shtml In the

Morning http://www.inthemorning-thefilm.com

Whale Rider http://www.whaleriderthemovie.co.nz/