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February Book Review: Stolen Girls: Survivors of Boko Haram Tell Their Story by Wolfgang Bauer

Did you know there is a very violent group called Boko Haram (meaning “Western education is forbidden”) in Nigeria kidnapping women and girls for the purpose of converting them to radical Islam? The Boko Haram refers to themselves as the “Group of People for Sunnah for the Preaching of Islam and Jihad.” Their goal is to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic state. The fight has been going on since 2014, and they are a sector of ISIS. In the words of Boko Haram’s former leader Abubakar Shekau in 2014, “My brothers you should take slaves. I kidnapped girls from a school, and you are irritated. I say, we must stop the spread of Western education. I kidnapped the girls. I will sell them at the market with Allah’s help. There is a market where one can sell humans. Allah has told me to sell them [my emphasis]. He commands me to sell them. I sell women. I sell women.”

In award-winning reporter Wolfgang Bauer’s Stolen Girls: Survivors of Boko Haram Tell Their Story, you will find heart-breaking interviews with the female survivors of Boko Haram raids, killings, and kidnappings. These women and girls were taken from their homes in Chibok, and forced into the swamps of the Sambisa forest in northern Nigeria. Some of the girls were as young as nine years old.  If they did not convert to Islam and participate in prayers and rituals, they were killed. They tell their heart-wrenching stories of how they were captured, abused, forced to watch beheadings of men and women, and how they survived after escaping by living under thick-brushed trees in the jungle.

Adult men were immediately shot when Boko Haram raided a village, and young boys were kidnapped and taught to fight for the radical group. In mid 2014, Boko Haram decided to attach bombs to mostly young women under loose dresses so they were unseen. Some of the women did not understand that they were being used as suicide bombers.  In addition, Wolfgang Bauer also talks a bit about the history and politics of Nigeria and the Boko Haram, which I found very helpful and interesting. The Nigerian military and security forces fought Boko Haram, but some of those fighters became corrupted. Eventually, the terrorists entered northern Cameroon, Niger, and Chad, and then the United States became involved by sending troops. As of February, 2018, the fight to remove Boko Haram from Nigeria continues, although some control has been regained. In terms of the number of people it has killed, Boko Haram has been called the world’s deadliest terrorist group to date. They occupied a fifth of Nigeria in just a few months in 2014.

I recommend Wolfgang Bauer’s Stolen Girls: Survivors of Boko Haram Tell Their Story to anyone interested in current Nigerian politics, ISIS, radical Islam, or human rights. Although this book is very difficult to read, it is vital to understanding the extreme insanity of radical Islam, Jihad (a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty), and the violence perpetuated by Boko Haram and ISIS.

A bit about the author, Wolfgang Bauer:Reporter Wolfgang Bauer

Passionate about human rights, Wolfgang Bauer began his career as a freelance reporter in 1994, after studying history, geography, and Islamic studies at the University of Tubingen.  Today, he works for the leading weekly German newspaper Die Zeit, covering the Middle East and Africa. His reporting on Boko Haram has won him the prestigious Nannen Prize in 2016 in Germany as well as the Bayeau-Calvados Prize for War Correspondents in France. He is also author of Crossing the Sea: With Syrians on the Exodus to Europe, which has been translated into twelve languages. He lives in Reutlingen near Stuttgart, Germany.

To learn more about Wolfgang Bauer, visit Wolfgang-Bauer.info. To purchase Stolen Girls: Survivors of Boko Haram Tell Their Story, visit Amazon.

© 2018, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com

 

 

 


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January Book Review: Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (And Join the 2018 Women’s March)

I used to think feminists were insane. I actually thought they were overblown, volatile, and superfluous and – get this, “asking for it.” I thought they hated men. I thought they wanted to destroy men. And, as ignorant as a turnip, I thought feminists were Satanists. (Gulp. Did I actually admit that?)

It was what I was taught. Until, I decided to think for myself.

After years of life’s experiences and recovering from my indoctrination, I realized what I believed was not true. The truth is some men hate women, want to control them, and even silence them. Why else would they do what they do to women? Did you know that one in three women will be raped in her lifetime; a woman is beaten every nine seconds in the United States; and if that were not appalling enough, spouses are the leading cause of death of pregnant women (again in the U.S)? I came to the conclusion that I agree with author Rebecca Solnit: “We treat the physical assault and the silencing after as two separate things, but they are [the same], both bent on annihilation [of women].”

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit is a short compilation of seven brilliant essays covering how men literally explain things to women, the global injustice and violence women face, a compelling reiteration of the insidious cultural beliefs that make women invisible, thoughts on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and its downfalls, an examination and commentary of twentieth century feminist Virginia Woolf’s take on mystery and ambiguity, the fight for marriage equality for the LGBTQ community, and a final essay on how men who get it know that feminism is not a scheme to deprive men but a campaign to liberate us all.

I found Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me fascinating, engaging, and creative. Her writing is first rate. I highly recommend this reading to anyone interested in feminine theory, the violence women experience, or patriarchy.

A bit about the author, Rebecca Solnit:rebeccasolnit-Flickr_Shawn_Calhoun

Rebecca Solnit is a best-selling writer on various subjects. An activist, feminist, and historian, she is the author of twenty books about civil society, popular power, uprisings, art, indigenous history, environment, pleasure, social change and insurrection, politics, hope and disaster, memory, and most recently The Mother of All Questions. She is also a Harper’s contributing editor. Rebecca is a product of the California public education system from kindergarten to graduate school.

To learn more about Rebecca Solnit, or to purchase Men Explain Things to Me, visit her website, RebeccaSolnit.net.

Women's March

Women’s March, Washington DC, January, 2017

Join the Women’s March on January 20th or 21st, 2018, at a city near you. The mission of Women’s March is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. Women’s March is a women-led movement providing intersectional education on a diverse range of issues and creating entry points for new grassroots activists and organizers to engage in their local communities through trainings, outreach programs, and events. Women’s March believes women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights. We must create a society in which women – including black women, native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women – are free and able to care for and nurture their families in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments. Download the full vision and principles of Woman’s March PDF here.

For more information, visit WomensMarch.com.

To join a march in your area on January 20th, visit PowertothePolls.com/anniversary.

Or, to join the march in Las Vegas on January 21st, visit PowertothePolls.com.

For further reading on the treatment of women, read my other blog, #MeToo.

© 2018, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com

 

bell hooks


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April Book Review: The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks

An absolutely compelling read, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks (she does not capitalize her name) urges us to reclaim feminism for men as the result of patriarchy maintaining its power over their lives. I have to admit that this reading left me in awe. I had not thought of the implications of patriarchy in regards to men this extensively, and I could not stop reading this book! The author addresses the damage patriarchy causes to men – the inability to be in touch with their emotions, to love wholly (themselves and others), and to truly know themselves.  Her writing is courageous and visionary.

bell’s book begins with a chapter defining patriarchy, and she states,” Patriarchy is the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation.”  She explains how boys are indoctrinated detrimentally, the role media, society, and women play in harming men, and male sexual relationships and sexual violence.  hooks also examines the roles men play at work and in their relationships with women, other men, and their children. The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love explains how the men’s movement against feminism is critical of women but makes no effort to address the damage patriarchy incurs on men. The book concludes with an unapologetic denunciation of patriarchy. It suggests how to heal the male spirit, how to love men properly, and how men can reclaim their integrity, wholeness, and authenticity. She also urges feminists to fight for men as victims of patriarchy. In hooks’ words, “We have yet to create a world that asks us to stand by a man when he is seeking healing, when he is seeking recovery, when he is working to be a creator.”

I highly recommend The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks to anyone who is interested in feminist theory, women’s studies, patriarchy, male and female relationships, male violence towards women, gender studies, misogyny or sociology. It is truly intriguing and a well-balance argument.

A bit about the author, bell hooks:

bell hooks

bell hooks is an acclaimed intellectual, feminist theorist, cultural critic, artist, and writer. hooks has authored over three dozen books and has published works that span several genres, including cultural criticism, personal memoirs, poetry collections, and children’s books. She covers gender, race, class, spirituality, teaching, and the significance of media in contemporary culture.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, bell hooks adopted the pen name of her maternal great-grandmother, a woman known for speaking her mind. hooks received her B.A. from Stanford University, her M.A. from the University of Wisconsin and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz. In addition to The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, some of her books include Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, Rock My Soul: Black People and Self-Esteem, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope, Where We Stand: Class Matters, and We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity.

To learn more about bell hooks or to purchase The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, visit her website, bellhooksinstitute.com, or Indiebound and Amazon.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com

 


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I’m One of the Lucky Ones; Me Too, but…

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I’ve never been raped. I’m one of the lucky ones.

Violence from men towards women is at an alarming, disturbing high. It is extreme because we allow it. We dismiss, trivialize, ignore, and ridicule what happens to women. We laugh when woman talk about it.  We silence their voices. We do not hear their cries, and we don’t care. We traumatize women further. By “we” I mean men especially. I mean society. I mean the select groups of women – women who have bought into the abhorrent misogyny covertly embedded within patriarchy (a subject for another blog).  Bottom line: women are treated like they are expendable commodities. Feminists call this rape culture, and it must end.

I consider myself lucky – lucky that my virginity was not taken at sixteen when I was almost raped in high school by a stranger who should not have been on the track field, lucky that I was not left on the bottom of the Hudson river in New York City when I was almost raped at twenty-three; lucky that I was not raped on a date to dinner and a movie in Los Angeles when I was twenty.

I’m the Lucky One

I will tell you why I am so lucky:

Because the hired construction worker, who was a friend of the family, touched my tiny nipples right after I had hit puberty at age eleven. But, I wasn’t raped.

Because my mother fired the gardener when she caught him eyeing me from head to toe several times instead of pruning the roses. I was twelve. She did not tell my father. I wasn’t raped.

Because I was visiting Tijuana, Mexico, with my family one summer, and while walking down the street, a stranger touched my butt. I was nine or ten.

Because I lost count of how many times men have told me to smile throughout my lifetime, as if I exist just to please them.

Because saying “no” to a man is always construed as an invitation for more of … whatever. Men don’t understand “NO.”

Because I lost count of how many times men “accidentally” get too close and their hands end up feeling my ass on a crowded bus, subway, or street.

Because the jerk at the bar did not leave me alone after I told him I was not interested (Or, was it “jerks?”).

The many times when I lied outright: “I have a boyfriend.”

Because I’ve lost count of how many men from all over this world EXPECTED me to pay attention to them no matter what I was doing.

Because of the cruel and grotesque comments from men on my social media because I was standing up for myself or standing up for oppression (of any sort).

Because I lost count of the whistles, howls, obscene comments, and gestures uttered as I walked down the street minding my own business.

Because of the two high school boys behind me who yelled, “Let’s get her!” when as a middle-schooler, I was walking my bike home up the steep hill (I dropped my bike and started running towards home like a bat out of hell; they then yelled, “We were kidding – it’s okay!” Fuck them.).

Because at cross country practice in high school when I was running with my teammates, an overweight man drove by and yelled, “Go on a diet!” (NONE of us were fat, not that THAT should matter).

Because my ex-husband expected sex whenever he wanted it. Didn’t matter how I felt.

Because of the nonstop, intrusive chat messages sent on social media AFTER you tell men you are not looking for a relationship, a hookup, a boyfriend, a husband, or to even shoot the breeze.

Because women are called cunts, bitches, sluts, whores, you name it, and “just a woman” (as I was once told by a man from Iran).

Because of the many times I was thankful to be out with a boyfriend because I knew other men would then leave me alone.

Because I was sexually harassed by a male boss at a former job.

Because of the many times I was expected to play stupid so I would not embarrass (or anger) a man.

Because I was followed to the bathroom at an outdoor concert by a stoned, long-haired, sixties-freak hippie who would not leave me alone.

Because everything I mentioned above happens everywhere.

Because I can go on for pages and pages for myself and for every woman. I am the lucky one.

Rape. Date rape. Spousal rape. Partner rape. Gang rape. Serial Rape. Friend rape. College-campus rape. Child rape. Prison rape.  Transgender rape. Rape just because. (Did I miss any? By the way, I know men get raped, but guess what? Most rapists are MEN).

Rape culture.

I have never been raped. I am one of the lucky ones.

Me, Too, but…

But, I have gained so much by what I’ve experienced! I have learned to forgive, to release it, to NOT give it any more power. I am no longer a victim. You read that correctly: I AM NO LONGER A VICTIM.

But, I have learned to accept myself as I am, with or without makeup, with or without sexy clothes, with or without high heels and perfect hair.

But, I have learned that I don’t need to smile if I do not want to.

But, I have learned it is okay to tell the truth: “Thank you, but I am not interested.”

But, I have discovered it is okay not to respond; it doesn’t mean I am a bitch or a cunt.

But, I have discovered I don’t have to have the perfect body for a man to love me.

But, I have learned it is okay to walk away. It’s okay to be me. It’s okay to be emotional. It’s okay to be smart.

But, I have learned that I am a human being first, then a woman. I breathe. I am a human being!

But, I have learned I don’t exist for MAN. I live for ME.

I have found my voice.

I am.

#metoo

I’m one of the lucky ones

I am one of the lucky ones who will spend the rest of her breathing days empowering a new paradigm where women are treated like human beings, like human beings, like human beings, like human beings…

I am one of the lucky ones who will spend the rest of her breathing days standing up for equal rights for women.

I am one of the lucky ones who will teach the younger generations of women that they are just as deserving in every aspect of their lives as men.

I am one of the lucky ones who will help to end the abuse and misogyny of women worldwide.

I am the lucky one who thanks the world over that there are men out there who treat me like a human being and not like a woman. Because they are the real men.

I am a survivor.

I’m one of the lucky ones.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com


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Dear Microsoft: absolutely not.

Here is a spot-on article on what reality is for women in STEM professions. Thanks, Monica Bryne. I could not agree more that the responsibility lies in the hands of those in power and not on young girls!

monica byrne

And it has nothing to do with your software. It has to do with your new ad campaign, which I happened to see while I was at the gym last week. Here’s the gist: brilliant young girls express their ambitions to cure cancer and explore outer space and play with the latest in virtual reality tech. Then—gotcha!—they’re shown a statistic that only 6.7% of women graduate with STEM degrees. They look crushed. The tagline? “Change the world. Stay in STEM.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

Microsoft, where’s your ad campaign telling adult male scientists not to rape their colleagues in the field? Where’s the campaign telling them not to steal or take credit for women’s work? Or not to seriallysexuallyharasstheirstudents? Not to discriminate against them? Not to ignoredismiss, or fail to promote them at the same rate as men? Not to publish their work at a statistically…

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On The Frightening Realities of Being a Woman in 2017

I stumbled across this blog post and thought I would pass it on because, frankly, what happened to this woman needs to end. Please read with caution.

Women experience what you are about to read every day to one extent or another. I, personally, was almost raped twice in my life – once because I jumped into a cab in New York City by myself. The cab driver grabbed my knees and legs while driving and would not stop. It was my first time in the big city,  and I was shocked.  I somehow managed to get away after pretending that I wanted to see him later. He dropped me off at Grand Central Station where I was to take a train; I will never forget the tears falling from face as I stood on the steps of the train station wondering what the hell just happened.

The second time, I was on a first date; his hands were immediately all over me after I hopped into his car to go to dinner and a movie. I began crying hysterically because I did not know what to do. He was so oblivious to my predicament that he thought I was crazy. I told him I needed to get back home immediately because my father was severely ill. He dropped me off and sped away.

Women go through hell every day in this world. Please read and pass this on.

Source: On The Frightening Realities of Being a Woman in 2017


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My Voice Matters: A letter from an Immigrant to Bernie Sanders

Dearest Bernie,

You have truly done it.

I have not been one to get heavily involved in politics, but this year, I couldn’t help myself. The reason is you, Bernie Sanders.  You have reminded me that I have a voice, and my voice is heard.

You need to know, Mr. Sanders, that in the past, my voice shattered when I spoke. I stuttered badly as a child, because I was not secure in my skin. I grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood in California as part of a working poor class family. My family and I were considered strange – Mexicans that were a nuisance who would not amount to anything (even though we were Argentine; no offense to anyone who is Mexican or Hispanic reading this). I did not feel accepted, liked, normal, and especially, heard. I had no voice then. It was not until decades later that I realized what had happened to me and to my family. Thank you, Bernie Sanders, for speaking for immigrants and the working poor. Thank you for reminding me that my voice matters, that our collective voices matter.

Bernie Sanders

I am a first generation, Argentine-American who is now a United States citizen.  Like most of the masses of people in this country, I believed that what I witnessed in the world around me and what I had experienced first hand was all there was or will ever be. I believed that no one had the courage to fight for what we need, what we want, what we should have and what we deserve as citizens of this country or of the world. I believed there was no way to change the corrupt system we endure year after year. I believed with every cell of my body that there was no way to change a system that has been in place for decades, even centuries. I believed that I would not see significant social change and significant betterment of society in my lifetime. You, Bernie Sanders, have taught me that I was wrong. I owe this to you and only you.

As the eldest of three children, I watched my father devolve from a fun-loving, gregarious, and funny man who was usually the life of the party into a silent, dispondant, depressed alcoholic until his untimely death of a heart attack at the age of 59.  Dad worked in a book binding factory in an assembly line with no air-conditioning or heat for very little pay (he was a legal immigrant who did not speak English) and with an unrealistic production goal from management. My father was the sole breadwinner in our family and would often have to work overtime, sometimes as much as sixty hours per week.  He eventually secured a job working the swing shift so he could avoid the heat from the sweltering summers and meet the production assembly-line quota. Because of this change of schedule, we only saw an exhausted version of dad on weekends. My mother was left to care for me and my siblings and hardly spent any time with her husband. We were the working poor class. Dad sacrificed his life working his ass off getting paid minimum wage or less doing a job that would drive anyone insane. I am now part of the middle class because of my father’s unrelenting dedication and sacrifice. I acknowledge that sacrifice and commitment from my Papa. I have never forgotten that.  

Like my father, Bernie, there are many other fathers (and mothers) in this country working menial jobs where the pay is not enough to even survive month to month. This is the result of the unregulated, corrupt capitalistic system we have in place where greed flourishes and people are viewed and treated like machines for production. This is unacceptable. No person should have to work in deplorable conditions and earn a meager income. YOU, Bernie Sanders, are the only politician in a long time that has even addressed, (and much less cared about) the condition of the working poor or the immigrant, and I thank you for that. I thank you for standing up for working class families and fighting for an increase in the minimum wage in this country. June 24th would have been my father’s 82nd birthday. Below is a picture of him working at the factory. I often imagine what his life would have been like if he had been treated better at work. I wonder if he would have lived sober, if he would have not died so soon. I imagine how different my childhood might have been.

Dad

We have a long way to go in this country (and worldwide) to change or improve the systems in place that abuse and oppress people. It is your vision, Mr. Sanders, your courage and your passion that ignites the fire within each person to step up and do their part in changing our country for the better, not only for the plight of the poor and the immigrant, but also for all the other problems facing this country that you address. Thank you for your courage, your diligence, your inspiration, your unwavering conviction, your honesty and trailblazing spirit. You are the inspiration that we all needed to fight for change, to fight for freedom, to wake us out of our slumber. It is people like you who change the world for the better. You are our voice and have helped us rediscover our own voices. I sure hope you will be elected our next president, Bernie Sanders, but if you should not, I want you to know how truly grateful I am for you.  And, if my father were alive today, Bernie, I picture him shedding a tear (or two) knowing there was a candidate running for president that would have heard his voice.  He would have Felt the Bern, and he would have been SO INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL.

From one inspired immigrant who speaks for other immigrants,

Thank you, Bernie.

To learn about Bernie Sanders and his vision, visit BernieSanders.com or Bernie’s Facebook page, BernieSanders.

© 2016, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.comMusings and Inspiration for Abundant Living for all Beings from One Creative Being