Tag Archives: society

Poem / Song Lyrics: Nowhere

“Crisis

Crisis

That’s how

I see who I am

My humanity

Is questionable

Indefinable

Nowhere

Where am I from?

Nowhere

Where do I belong?

Passport

Passport

Worthless document

They think it is fake

My nationality

Defies fascism

Racism

Nowhere

Where am I from?

Nowhere

Where do I belong?

Colour

Colour

Just pigment

Yet, key in my life

My race

A construct

Conduct

Nowhere

Where am I from?

Nowhere

Where do I belong?

Roots

Roots

The truth

Although, recovering it, is painful

My ethnicity

Most important

Constant

Nowhere

Where am I from?

Nowhere

Where do I belong?

Identity

Identity

African heritage

Stolen, erased, trashed and enslaved

My soul

Invisible essence

Distress

Nowhere

Where am I from?

Nowhere

Where do I belong?”

 

By Emilie F. Yaakaar

All Rights Reserved © 2017

 

 

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#IWD2016 Women’s Empowerment and Inspiring Women

Happy International’s Women Day! This year, I decided to celebrate this festivity by writing about what women’s empowerment is for me and about women whom I find inspiring.

First, it is important to define what we mean by women’s empowerment. Empowerment is such a buzzword nowadays, and it is at risk of losing its meaning, yet it is a precious word and it should be saved. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term empowerment can have two meanings:

  • Authority or power given to someone to do something.
  • The process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

Keywords to extract from those two definitions are “power”, “stronger”, “confident”, “controlling” and “rights”. These are important concepts that need to be considered and put into context within the women’s empowerment movement. Power is the ability to act and as long as it is not dominant power (based on fear, manipulation and coercion) it is a positive term that should help people to feel better about themselves and be autonomous. To have power, you need to be strong and feel confident, two concepts deeply related to a person’s SELF-respect, SELF-acceptance, SELF-worth and SELF-esteem.

Notice how I capitalised the word “self” on my last sentence. It was on purpose: before anything else, empowerment comes from within OURSELVES, meaning that we need to value ourselves and accept ourselves, see our worth and appreciate who we are, to feel truly powerful. Why? Because our emotions and thoughts are influenced by all those things. And at the same time, our emotions and thoughts will have an effect on our behaviour and actions, affecting ultimately our self-actualisation: our desire and path for self-fulfilment, which is to achieve (trying to achieve) all our realistic goals in life.

However, it is important to point out that women’s empowerment requires more than the positive relationship of a woman with herself. A good mind-set and emotional wellbeing is essential, but so is freedom: women’s empowerment has a lot to do with women making their own informed choices. And to make their own informed choices, women need more than a positive concept of themselves. Women need to have their basic needs (e.g. food, shelter) covered, they need to have the same legal rights as men, they need to have access to education and they need to be financially secure. Basically, women need to be treated as humans with free will and have their human rights respected. But we all know this doesn’t happen. Issues like poverty, inequality, lack of education and sexism hinder the ability of women to make informed choices, while affecting their development disproportionately. And this is a global matter that needs to be tackled.

Another thing to talk about is the role that various identities play in the definition of “womanliness”. Too often, being a woman is portrayed in a specific way that ignores intersections within someone’s identity. Sexuality, religion, race, ethnicity and others affect how someone is perceived, and it also influences people’s perception of their gender within different societies and social groups. Black women, Muslim women, lesbian women… All these are women, still different, and that’s okay. There is no right or wrong way to be a woman. I can’t stress how important is intersectionality for women’s empowerment and it frustrates me a lot seeing it left out.

Shaming religious women who choose to wear veils is not empowering. Discriminating transsexual women to the point in which they harm themselves and/or even commit suicide is a direct attack to women’s freedom. Not taking into account someone’s race to understand their oppressive situation as a woman ignores significant aspects that will influence their ability to feel empowered. Keep this in mind when advocating for women’s empowerment, if you truly care about the issue.

All this been said, it is time to move on to the second half of this blog post: talking about women that inspire me. My choices are: Malala Yousafzai, Beyoncé Knowles and Miley Cyrus.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala is an 18 year girl who first gained the public’s attention when she was 11-12 years old, because she wrote a blog “detailing her life under Taliban occupation, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls in the Swat Valley”. She was interviewed and celebrated by international press and even nominated for International Children’s Peace Primy7ze by South African activist Desmond Tutu. However, her activism became very notorious after she was shot in July 2012 while travelling to school. This event was considered an assassination attempt by the Talibans, who controlled the area where she lived and tried to prevent girls from getting an education. After being in a critical condition for a while, Malala survived, moving to England to get intensive rehabilitation. Now, over two years later, she is celebrated as an advocate for education for girls around the whole globe.

Malala-SATsThere are various impressive and inspirational aspects about Malala’s actions. First is her courage before and after getting shot. While she was just a kid and a teen, she fought for her right to get an education and she was brave enough to campaign for it, even knowing that her life would be in risk and her ambition was not liked by everyone. Second is her pacifist approach to her attack: instead of seeking revenge, she forgave and kept spreading love. She doesn’t believe in violence, and she thinks that education is the real cure for it, which is not far from the true. Ignorance is the root of a lot of evil in the world and educating people can make ignorance vanish.

Malala and her battle to guarantee every girl across the globe access to education is everything I aspire to be one day. I want to create change, use any platform I have to improve people’s lives without being scared of being silenced. Moreover, I’m slightly familiar with her struggle to be valued as a 1378312382000-GTY-179417801woman and being deemed worth of freedom of choice. Since I was a child, sexism has prevented me from achieving many things and it has deeply affected my self-confidence. I’m currently recovering from living in a toxic environment where I was downplayed due to my gender and I find courage in Malala’s actions and words. If she can do it, having it much worse than I ever did, I can do it too.

Beyoncé Knowles

Beyoncé is a singer and performer who is currently one of the most influential artists alive. I have always found her inspiring for many reasons, from her hard work ethic to her ability to improve and evolve over time. I remember researching about her for an essay for college and I finding out that when she was young, she had family problems, she suffered from depression, and she had self-esteem issues, just like me. I was shocked. Beyoncé seems like a very strong woman, but I guess that being strong doesn’t mean you can’t suffer. I always wonder how she overcame her fears and difficulties. Did she ever overcome them completely? I believe that some pain and insecurities never go, but you can learn to deal with them.

Although I admired her for years, it wasn’t till she released her fifth studio album, BEYONCÉ, when I saw in her (part of) the type of woman I want to be one day. Why? These videos and songs. I encourage you to watch them and share them. The words in them carry a lot of value and wisdom:

(I know Formation isn’t a song from her BEYONCÉ era but I couldn’t not include it! Her celebration of black women in this video is very motivational for me, it is important and it needs to be highlighted!)

Miley Cyrus

Miley is a singer and actress, and perhaps the public figure who has inspired me most since my childhood. Before it was because of her character in Hannah Montana as Miley Stewart, together with some of her songs as Hannah Montana such as “Just A Girl”, “Don’t Wanna Be Torn”, “The Climb”, “Every Part of Me”, “Nobody’s Perfect” and “Make Some Noise” (I find all these songs either uplifting or relatable, and they helped me go through some of my darkest times). Now things are different: Miley is no longer Miley Stewart, she doesn’t act a certain way to maintain her innocent Disney girl image.

Over the last couple of years, she has become open about her sexuality through her music, performances and photoshoots. She has also challenged some of the world’s perceptions of beauty and womanliness, sharing her own struggles with her image and her femininity (which I find very relatable). Even though her personal choices have made her happy and comfortable with her skin, the public has often condemned her nudity and sexual behaviour. Nowadays, hearing people refer to her as a bad role model is common, yet despite everything, I still find her inspiring, perhaps now more than ever. In order to show why, I picked some of my favourite quotes from her relatively recent interviews. Here are they:

miley-cyrus-happy-hippie-launch“I don’t relate to what people would say defines a girl or a boy, and I think that’s what I had to understand: Being a girl isn’t what I hate, it’s the box that I get put into.”

“Fuck that. You don’t have to wear makeup. You don’t have to have long blonde hair and big titties. That’s not what it’s about. It’s, like, personal style.’ I like that I’m associated with sexuality and the kind of punk-rock shit where we just don’t care. Like Madonna or Blondie or Joan Jett—Jett’s the one that I still get a little shaky around. She did what I did in such a crazier way. I mean, girls then weren’t supposed to wear leather pants and, like, fucking rock out. And she did.”

“I don’t put pressure on myself to be a role model, other than hopefully inspiring people to be good and to treat people w1401x788-Screen-Shot-2015-05-18-at-10.57.17-AMell. I’m going to be what I want, and I’m going to do what I want. When people are suffocated, that’s when they end up falling off.”

“I still don’t think we’re there 100 percent. I mean, guy rappers grab their crotch all fucking day and have hos around them, but no one talks about it. But if I grab my crotch and I have hot model bitches around me, I’m degrading women? I’m a woman—I should be able to have girls around me! But I’m part of the evolution of that. I hope.”

“I don’t want, in my life ever, some prince dude to come save me. I don’t need to be saved. I’m my own person. I’m strong.”

Miley-being-Miley-e1433898215356She told Out, that she was “frustrated” by being a girl when she was younger because of the, “stereotype of weakness, and the vulnerability,” that came with it. But said, “As you get older I think I just started to celebrate it, because I learned more about what women really are. Being a woman, that’s everything to me. Without women there is no life. I’m empowered as well, because I really feel like I hold something that’s the secret in all of life and the power of it. But, it took me a while to get like that.”’

“When you look at retouched, perfect photos, you feel like shit. They lighten black girls’ skin. They smooth out wrinkles,” Cyrus told Marie Claire. “Even when I get stuck on Instagram wondering, ‘Why don’t I look like that?’ It’s a total bummer. It’s crazy what people have decided we’re all supposed to be.”

On conclusion, these are three women that had (and still have) a significant impact on my development and growth as a woman. None of them are perfect, some of them have more flaws than others, but I don’t strive for perfection and that’s fine. All of them are self-proclaimed feminists and use their platform/career to advocate for gender equality, even though if it is in different ways and in different levels. Their feminism is also quite different from each other, since they are women with different identities (religion, race, ethnicity, sexuality…) and issues they care about (education, motherhood, sexual liberation, gender roles…).

Before I end this post, I must say that there are many other women whom I consider inspirational, these are just three of them. In fact, lately I have been discovering the activist, artistic and/or academic work of many women who have been always unknown for me (mainly women of colour, many of them African), and I’m loving it. This means that if you ask me in a few months’ time, the women who inspire me the most may be different to these three I just talked about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

POEM: The Second Closest Place To A Home

“Entering in it

Feels like ascending into heaven

You sense the calmness

And lose yourself in the silence

 

In a faraway hidden corner

Your next favourite adventures

Await to be unravelled and discovered

Full of characters that will shape

Who you are and how you will change

 

When you walk between shelves

Beautiful covers compete for your attention

But the unspoken bewitching words

Written on the back of those pieces of art

Are the ones who really scream your name

While captivating your brain

And without doubt, the most relatable words

Always win the game

 

The place is like a school

Where distant authors are the best teachers,

The best dreamers, the best preachers

They build a bridge

Between the untold and the willingness to know

They even spark creativity in learners

Who then decide to become in charge

Of new anecdotes to share and write

 

Yet, the best thing about

These wonderful spaces

Is that they tend to be open

To underprivileged faces

Offering free wisdom to those who are shamed

For using services that are important

To educate, empower and don’t remain unnamed

 

The underprivileged may not keep the book forever

But they retain the essence of what they learned

The warm words that touched their hearts

Remain in their minds till the end of their days

 

Hours go by

Yet you keep cancelling a goodbye

Outside a storm looms

Outside there aren’t angels

That keep the devil away from your life

You want to stay inside forever

Where you can think of a world

Without misery and with more hope

 

But then you remember

Everything books taught you

About how to embrace yourself

How to be brave and survive

How to be optimistic while living a lie

How to smile even when you want to cry

 

Defiant, you stand up and pick your new friend

You ask for permission to take it away

Promising it will be returned

Once it has done its temporary mission

Of making you grow

And of making you feel less alone”

 

-Written in honour of World Book Day, highlighting the important role of libraries in promoting reading, well-being and helping to create writers like myself,

 

By Emilie H. Featherington

All Rights Reserved © 2016

Song Lyrics: Isolated (By Myself)

“(VERSE 1)

Living now is hard

People don’t understand

Why I don’t fit in

I don’t even wanna be here

I’m not the type

That socialises down the pub

Clubbing isn’t for me

And I despise drunkenness, please

The party lifestyle

Has spread way too much

I have nothing against it

I’m just not part of it

(PRE-CHORUS)

I can’t help feeling lonely

There is no one to blame but me

I wish I was a different person

With an interesting character and good looks

I don’t even have energy to fake

I don’t even have motivation to lie

This isn’t for me

And I want to stop pretending that it is

(CHORUS)

Oh someone save me

Someone help me

Someone stay with me please

I hate feeling isolated, isolated

Even if it is by myself

(VERSE 2)

I know it is my fault

I shouldn’t have left depression win

But I can no longer fight myself

And no one knows how it feels

When darkness

Wins over light

When you never turned

Into a beautiful butterfly

My past betrayed my future

A feeling of guilt conquered me

Faking confidence drained my being

I can’t control my emotions, sorry

(PRE-CHORUS)

My intentions get lost

Between empty words

Every time I open my mouth

Shame makes me shut it down

Sometimes I have so much to say

Yet I just can’t express myself

While other times I just don’t want to talk

And people don’t get why, oh

(CHORUS)

Oh someone save me

Someone help me

Someone stay with me, please

Oh someone save me

Someone help me

Someone stay with me, please

I hate feeling isolated, isolated

Even if it is by myself

I hate feeling isolated, isolated

Even if it is by myself”

 

By Emilie H. Featherington

All Rights Reserved © 2016

 

Song: Hey Hey

“(VERSE 1)
Looking at the mirror
You don’t like what you see
You wish you were different
But that’s not an easy wish

Always staying silent
Avoiding to be noticed
You have so much to say
But nobody cares

(PRE-CHORUS)
To be admired in this world
You need to be a size 6 or over 6 foot
To be admired in this world
You need to be have a six pack or a thigh gap

Because beauty is the most valued feature
So you are damned if you are not a flawless creature

(CHORUS)
Hey, Hey
You are more than your appearance
Hey, Hey
Stop seeking their approval
Hey, Hey
Beauty is based on trends
Hey, Hey
While your self-esteem is based on you
Just you
Stop trying to reach their standards
Or your self-confidence will keep going backwards

(VERSE 2)
Magazines profit from your insecurities
Overrating Eurocentric beauty and thin bodies
Why are you pouring bleach in your skin?
You are ruining it, honey stop please

Healthy is not an antonym for thick
And skinny is not a synonym for unhealthy
You can be gorgeous and fat
You can even be sexy if you are flat

(PRE-CHORUS)
To be admired in this world
You need to be cute and tall
To be admired in this world
You need make up and extra hormones

Because beauty is the most valued feature
So you are damned if you are not a flawless creature

(CHORUS)
Hey, Hey
You are more than your appearance
Hey, Hey
Stop seeking their approval
Hey, Hey
Beauty is based on trends
Hey, Hey
While your self-esteem is based on you
Just you
Stop trying to reach their standards
Or your self-confidence will keep going backwards

(BRIDGE)
Hey, Hey
Care less about your looks
Hey, Hey
It’s more important to be good
Hey, Hey
Work hard and make an effort
Hey, Hey
No one is more important than your education

Hey, Hey
Life is about happiness
Hey, Hey
It’s nice to feel good and praise your looks
Hey, Hey
Just don’t get lost in vanity
Hey, Hey
And love yourself before anyone else

(CHORUS)
Hey, Hey
You are more than your appearance
Hey, Hey
Stop seeking their approval
Hey, Hey
Beauty is based on trends
Hey, Hey
While your self-esteem is based on you
Just you
Stop trying to reach their standards
Or your self-confidence will keep going backwards”

By Emilie H. Featherington

All Rights Reserved © 2016