Thanking the Will of Determination

THANKING   DETERMINATION

There are no two ways about it: Go watch Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours starring the versatile James Franco. I watched it on the weekend of its release in New York and was gripped by Boyle’s direction, Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography, A.R. Rahman’s soundtrack and James Franco’s rivetting performance portraying over-confident climber Aaron Ralston. If I had to pick the two most fascinating films of 2010 so far (not counting a few indie flicks) it would have to be Christopher Nolan’s Inception (https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/inception-movie-dreamweavers/ ) and Boyle’s 127 Hours. (Toy Story 3 of course, despite being a sequel – is definitely a winner too.)

Many critics have focussed on the one nerve-wrenching gory scene of the movie where the protagonist takes the ultimate step to break free. I instead would like to focus on the strength and determination it took for Ralston to try everything for 127 hours before breaking free from the mess he admittedly had gotten himself into, but with logic, level-headedness and a cocky indomitable spirit.

It is also surprising to sometimes see some snide, bitter comments by certain readers under the movie synopsis in certain sites (including under a review in UK’s Guardian) that Aaron ‘capitalized’ on his accident or that he ‘deserved what he got’ for his climbing! Mindboggling – that people can envy a survivor because he refused to see himself as a victim and evoked inspiration rather than pity. Nothing can bring back a lost hand, and sometimes in sticky situations, it is better to lose a limb than lose a life. Perhaps the fact that Ralston went through his ordeal while on a self-chosen activity of sport, rather than for some ‘self-sacrificial’ act as a soldier in a war, is what irks those who cannot enjoy the spirit of endurance and determination it takes to be a true survivor who did not lose his chutzpah. Or who voluntarily enjoys rock and mountain climbing. As an avid mountaineer myself – I know that there are risks involved and that precautions must be taken, but you can’t stop a guy/gal out of fear and cowardice from climbing rocks and flying planes and diving deep! As Edmund Hillary had once said : “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” 

Stories like those portrayed in 127 Hours of everyday ordinary people showing extraordinary courage and survival-instincts under impossible situations ARE inspirational, because they echo our hidden inherent optimisim that at the end of all the unforseen tribulations of life, or even the risks we knowingly/unknowingly take, steely determination and clear rational thinking can truly create miracles – many more positive ‘miracles’ than wallowing in self-pity or blaming supernatural forces to ‘rescue’ or curse, instead of taking full responsiblity for your own life, your own actions, your own errors and taking steps to rectify, heal, survive and live instead of giving up. Or to put it bluntly : “Ok – I made a serious error in judgment and am in deep shit now. What do I do NOW to get out of this shit and avoid a similar mistake in the future?” This attitude works much more than ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ or ‘Woe is me’ or ‘damn ye heavenly Father!’

On that note, I am very happy to place at the end of this post a youtube copy of a unique film that I think every man and woman should see. I had written a post about it earlier in June : (https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/d-day-and-dieter-dengler/ )

This is one of those tales that changes forever the way you view life, your place in it, the stories behind seemingly ordinary folks you run into at the grocery store or walk by the street; the manner in which you perceive reality in this world, the relativity of pain and sorrow and most of all, to witness first hand the incredible human spirit of survival against all odds. Yes, against every possible odd, when death is possibly your only friend and yet you do not give up on life. The documentary is named ‘Little Dieter Needs to Fly’.  Directed by the unique and amazingly accomplished and talented film maker Werner Herzog. I do not think words can do justice to the experience at a deep visceral and existential level that this film produces, so remarkably engrossing it is. Both visually and audibly in its unique artfulness. With just a real life character and a few hired locals from Laos who help re-enact Dieter’s journey as he narrates it, it is still the simplest yet most profound stories on film a man can experience.

The story of a man who grew up in great hardship and all he wanted was to learn how to fly, from the day  as a little boy he caught the eye of an Allied pilot who was shooting down his house. The grandson of the only man in his entire village who had not voted for Hitler and faced its consequences. The man who ended up as a pilot for the US Air Force and later a POW in Laos during the Vietnam War. And a man who for some reason just did not give up on life. I will not write the details of the harrowing tortures he went through in the hands of the Vietcong, or the details of the horrors he himself participated in due to his actions as a US army-man. Because this is a film to be seen, not written about, even though most of the experience of the viewer is simply from the narration of Dieter talking to the camera. What struck me most was quite simply the state of being of this man who was neither bitter, neither angry, neither judgmental nor traumatized but came across as just an objective, almost obsessive observer of life and the situations and realities that surrounded him. And saw both sides without any hatred, but only an obsession to fly. And in the harshest of circumstances since his childhood still somehow found inspiration.

In war both sides are victims in the power play of leaders who use their citizens and soldiers as pawns. There are no winners. One country’s hero is another country’s barbarian and vice versa. And the torture of a Caucasian is no greater nor lesser than the torture of the Asians killed by dropped bombs. (Although you do begin to understand why the Geneva Conventions for the treatment of prisoners of wars were made, in 1929 and 1949, not that they are still followed everywhere.)  As Dieter says: “I don’t think of myself as a hero. No, only the dead people are heroes.”

I have amongst my friends a few who were former US marines, corporals, officers and pilots. And an older lady who had fled Vietnam during the war and is a well established painter in America now. The marines I knew had entered the force more out of financial necessity. The lady had fled on a boat from Vietnam and would end up as a prominent painter and anti-war activist in the U.S. They had stories that were remarkable  and poignant. They had told me tales of their experiences and their views on war. The ways in which they perceived the world after that. How sometimes simple joys such as even lying back on a mound of grass and watching the sunlight filter through the veins of a leaf was a profound source of pleasure. This film only reinforced the point even more.

This is a documentary that despite picking up several awards is not something that has been shown around with great fanfare or publicity. There are no glamorous posters, and the online videos are insufficient. And though it was remade as a full length feature film later in Hollywood, the latter did no justice to the real thing. Dieter Dengler in real life with his ordinary looks and captivating thickly accented monologues is ten times better than any Hollywood actor playing his part. But every person who has seen this documentary knows that it is one of those rare gems that changes  your life forever. That makes you view every moment of freedom, every meal, every drink, every warm bed as a gift. And makes you thank your lucky stars for the gift of life and comfort. That makes you question why people get into wars over ideologies and religion. And most of all, gives you the courage and determination to overcome every little hardship in life without complaining. A truly remarkable testament of the human will, of luck and of optimism.  As one reviewer wrote on the IMDB site – ‘Cancel your shrink and watch Little Dieter.’

Stories like those of Dieter Dengler and Aaron Ralston are fascinating because they stand as testimonials that if they could survive and not lose their determination and spirits despite impossible circumstances, what excuse do we have? (especially if we are healthy, with adequate financial acumen and mental stability, and are lucky to live in countries with far better infrastructures and freedom.) As the holiday of Thanksgiving approaches, I think we have much to be grateful for…..and on watching Dieter’s story, much to thank for – everytime we have a warm meal and a comfortable bed, besides the love of true friends and families. (If only one complaint, I wish for turkey-eaters, there was a more humane way in which these birds give up their lives for this ‘holiday’- or that all turkeys raised would be cage-free and free-running. Or the ‘tofurky’ would improve its texture and taste.)

Oh well! All wishes don’t always come true….and after seeing what Dieter Dengler went through, the scene of Herzog’s camera showing the close-up of a dining-table feast takes up a whole new meaning!

Here it is. I would prefer you rent the DVD, since the youtube version is low resolution. 

Little Dieter Needs to Fly


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Watch ‘Dieter Dengler Needs to Fly’ in better quality than youtube on Daily motion here:  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3zw7g_little-dieter-1_news

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Sidetracked Alert: Some fun facts of the origin of the word ‘turkey’ – that denizen on your Thanksgiving dinner plate  (http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=117173) :

From the Ayto Dictionary of Word Origins: “The term turkey was originally applied to the “Guinea-fowl”, apparently because the bird was imported through Turkish territory. When the American bird we now know as the turkey was introduced to the British in the mid 16th century it reminded them of the “Guinea fowl” from Turkey and they called the bird a Turkey bird.”

In French, turkey is called “d’inde”, or “from India”, either because it looked similar to the guniea-fowl or female peacock – a bird found in East India, or perhaps because French explorers on finding this bird in North America thought that they had reached the east. In Hebrew, however, the turkey is called “hodu”, which is the Hebrew name for the country of India. Another coincidence: The word “hodu” (=Hebrew name of turkeys, country of India) is related to the word “hodaya” meaning “the giving of thanks” (the Hebrew name for the holiday of thanksgiving is “chag ha-hodaya”.) It seems that Columbus’s interpreter for the expedition in the new world Luis de Torres was a Jewish man baptized shortly before the fleet had set sail.

The word “turkey” is connected to India in the following languages:

Arabic (standard) – turkey is diiq hindi, or Indian rooster.
Azari – ‘hindishga’, that’s something related to ‘Hind'(India).
Basque – “indioilar” or “indioilo”
Catalan  – “dindi”.
Hebrew – “tarnegol hodu” or “Indian rooster”
Polish – indyk, or more specifically indor ‘male turkey’, indyczka ‘female turkey’ from the name ‘India’.
Russian – indjuk_(male), indjushka/indejka  (female).  As food, the turkey is referred to by the term indjushka. In sum, it’s the “bird of India,” as in French.
Turkish – ‘hindi’.
Yidish – “indik”.

In Danish, Dutch, Finnish and Norwegian, it is associated with a town from the Malabar coast in southern India.

A whiff of If….

A WHIFF OF ‘IF’……AGAIN & AGAIN

GiGi movie poster

New York. September 9, 2010. As I still go through unpacking, arranging and maneouvering through the boxes and furniture and literally tons and tons and tons of books in my new city, and before I get the time to sit down to write any long posts, here’s a short one – of one of my favourite poems since I was a little girl: A poem which first written in 1895 still holds true to this day…….and somewhere still stirs up that 19th century Victorian part of my soul, even as I walk along the asphalt sidewalks and 21st century stores of the Big Apple, or traverse past its 19th and 20th century buildings.

Though I’ve always had my reservations against British imperialism, or the circumstances under which this particular poem was written, the writer of this gem and many of his fascinating books that I read as a child still remains one of my favourites – the youngest Nobel laureate in literature to this day, the Bombay-born literary genius Rudyard Kipling (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudyard_Kipling)

And as I feel inspired reading his poem once again (which I used to keep posted on the wall above my drafting table through all my years in architecture school and at work), the only line I’d change would be at the very end – for that is how I always read it in my mind: instead of ‘you’ll be a Man, my son’ I change it internally to: ‘You’ll be a complete WoMan.’ As a certain 1903-born woman writer Anais Nin had rightly said : “How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself.” Here’s to a sniff of IF, to every good, kind and strong man and woman.

GG (or ‘Gigi’ in the Victorian spirit ;-)

GiGi from the fin-de-siecle-Paris movie

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IF

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling (1835 – 1936)

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For a list of all previous posts, please go here :

https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/index-of-articles/

Anthem

A flock of Anser Indicus. These birds fly the highest altitudes on the planet, even migrating in flights above Mt. Everest.

Note: I am currently on a two-month trip driving from the U.S. east coast starting from Boston through to the mid-west and the western States. I’ll be in the Chicago area for quite  a while hoping to photograph many of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings, have already passed through small Amish towns in rural Pennsylvania, farm fields in Indiana, waved from a float as part of a 4th of July parade in a town in Wisconsin for a lark thanks to a strong-willed lovely lady who runs a dance academy (and pictures I hope to upload later should I find time – especially of innocent children and a fantastic Star Wars float), and then at some point will hopefully be off for a trip through the mountains and national parks in the Wyoming and Montana area and further. There will be long and deliberate stretches of time when I’ll be without any internet connection, far away from the world of humans,  so the blog posts will be sporadic and infrequent this summer. Have fun all, watching the World Cup semis & finals!  I’d love to see a Dutch-German one (my mom’s maiden family name is Dutsch – if that’s a clue ;-), but any other combos would be great too!

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As I post this today my heart is heavy with the appalling news of the mother Sakineh Ashtiani in Iran who is hours away from being stoned to death by a religious and judicial system that defies logic and humanity. It is a horrible blend of anger and helplessness one feels and wonders how can actions such as these be prevented from a grassroots level? How many more innocent lives will be taken as words are spoken, protests made in faraway lands yet little action is actually taken to prevent the deed? As people go about their daily lives obsessing about Blahniks and Benzes, bashing and insulting each other on virtual message boards, or picking on old objective harmless male film critics in liberal western countries to yell ‘misogyny’, this horrendous act of jaw-dropping REAL & ACTUAL misogyny and injustice will occur today. And like ostriches, heads will be buried in sands of escapism while Ashtiani’s serene face will be battered with stones of hatred and unfathomable injustice. Any society/societies in the world that allow evil like this to occur and yet claim the presence of some almighty benevolent God/Gods should do a check-up of their core values and rational mental faculties or rather lack thereof – for acts like these seem to be nothing more than ideologies used to profit the unchecked bullying by psychopaths.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/07/01/iran.stoning/

I post the rest with heavy hands

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ANTHEM

This is a poem I wrote to myself when I was 19 years old. It was part of a series of poems I wrote as an answer to personal ponderings. It was long before I had any boyfriend or would even fall in love – so the words were coming purely from the ways of social dogmas, facing bullying by the ‘mean girls’ and the general ways in which following one’s own ethics or callings or work or other hobbies were perceived by many others who understood the ‘language of groups’ much better than the voices of individualism. And for the times I didn’t give up and just focused on my goals no matter how tough it was. The words of the poem constituted my anthem and elixir through which I drank in strength when I needed it. (I’d started writing poetry as a kid but the early ones were mostly about nature, the skies and quizzical observations of human characteristics viewed during social events.)

Many years have passed and through time, despite their youthful and naive determination, whenever I read these words again, they  bring back the same sense of empowerment I’d felt while writing them. Later in my mid-20s, a beloved teacher from back in school asking for contributions to fill in the alumni publication liked this poem so much that it now stays framed on the wall in the entrance lobby of my former all-girls high school.  The words were not based on fantasy but on the reality of the life I had lived till then and the world I’d observed. And these words are not just for me, I share them freely and lovingly with every girl who has strived for strength and self-reliance no matter what she has faced in life, and no matter how many times she has been pushed down for having a sense of will and self-esteem – full, unfettered and vibrant within.

This is an anthem I now dedicate several years later from the time I first wrote it to every woman in the world and through the ages  who has stood for rational ethics for humanity and the natural world; to every woman who believed in her intellect and intelligence enough to seek answers through FACTS and truths based on reality rather than blindly follow irrational myths or ideologies; To every woman who has been mocked, ridiculed, bullied, insulted, pushed down, tortured for simply being herself and trying to do good even when it seemed to be against all odds; To every woman who has never ever indulged in using vampire hooks to induce pity, shame and guilt in others to ‘rescue’ her nor bullied and controlled others to cater to her whims, but has instead lifted herself up in life through her own hard work, self-reliance, logic and confidence without using human props;

To every strong willed truly brave activist who has fought for women’s rights in countries where misogyny is intrinsic to its religion and laws; To every woman in a free country who knows these truths and counts her blessings unlike those who use hooks on good people, instead of doing real good in the world or understanding the pain of women who face REAL and not fake suffering;

To every innocent girl in more free countries who has paid the price of being misunderstood or pigeonholed due to the conniving girls in men’s pasts, even as she held out her kindness, logic and patience in return and watched it being torn to shreds but was able to walk away with her dignity and compassion intact when she realized you can give unconditionally only to those who are ready to receive; To every girl who has faced apathy or cruelty from either men or women in return for her empathy or innocence and still never became bitter nor lost her ability to laugh;

To every girl who is a realist about her own flaws and weaknesses and strives for self-improvement and is open to objective criticism instead of becoming delusional or wallowing in her weaknesses; to every girl in a free country who stands for rational goodness and knows the power of inner strength, without making herself some sacrificial lamb but rather chooses quiet non-abrasive confidence and fortitude over giving in to victimhood, no matter how hard her trials are;

To every woman in a suppressed patriarchal Islamic country who has fought for her and her sisters’ rights, for they are in many ways the toughest and bravest feminists of all, and make the cushioned-liberal-arts-type-so-called-‘feminists’ here look like self-centred jokes and rightly so;

To every woman in a science and technology field who just a few decades ago was not even allowed admissions in these fields because they were women, but who have worked hard and never given up in professions where men still dominate and the women who have made it have worked doubly, nay – triply hard; To all those silent women in science and technology and all other professions where the products of their work are seen but not their faces; nor their presence hardly ever written about;

To every woman who has seeked and celebrated the inner strength of her individual being and never craved for hollow power over others; To every woman who understands the value of genuine love – glorious, enlightening, all-accepting, and the value of true kindness and empathy even when messages around her loudly scream to embrace frivolity, fakeness and shallow vacuousness;

To every woman who faced choices in life and chose her integrity and goodness each time no matter how hard or lonely that road was; To every woman who has the strength to speak up the truth, if only for her own conscience, no matter how difficult that seems because she knows that the truth does set one free;

To every woman who has never lost her sense of practicality, pragmatism and optimism no matter how hard the knocks of life may  be, no matter how many dreams have broken, and has used her experience to shape her own character and resolve and help others in return, rather than fish for excuses; and dared to dream again; To every woman who rose in life through self reliance and not by piggy-back riding or using others;

To every girl who has cried alone through a dark cruel night when there were no arms to comfort her even when she asked for help on the rare occasion; and even when it seemed the walls were collapsing till somehow with the last drop of her strength she lifted herself, battled and channeled the darkness into creativity and stood up straight holding her head up high again; To every girl who from childhood has sensed an overpowering ‘sense of Life and of love and learning’ – hard to express in words, but a soaring of one’s ‘spirit’ – as though life is important and there is much to learn and LIVE for, not merely exist; much to be curious about; much to be happy about despite all the downers life might have;

To every girl who has celebrated the beauty, innocence and goodness that lie either oblivious or obvious in the world but can be recognized and seen only by those eyes which have never nor ever will cross to the side of malice, jealousy, bitterness nor evil; To every girl who experienced an indescribable sense of joy within herself just being her own authentic self without ever giving up her tenderness or love or sense of ethical justice or a passion for knowledge – and found that that very self-assurance which is her inbuilt essence seems to incite something weird in others who go to lengths to push that down or lay traps to suck it dry; To every girl who never let those trappers clip her wings or kill her joy or lose herself to their diminishing mockery; To every girl and woman who never gave up and knew deeply and completely the immeasurable freedom and possibilities of rational goodness and inner strength;

To every girl who no matter what fears she had to confront, learned to be cautious but never, never to be afraid or cowardly.

And to every man who had the ability to recognize and love a girl like that, and was open to receive her love in return because he felt that same way inside about life as well. And felt confident in his own self-respect to know he deserved to share that sense of joy and peace. And recognized and cherished the difference between that adventure of living from the complacency of existing. And the love and strength it takes to create or fight for ethical justice rather than destroy or choose cowardice-disguised-as-apathy.

To every person who has dared.

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YOU GOT TO BE STRONG, GIRL

“You got to be strong, girl.
So dry those tears
Remove those fears,
BELIEVE in your own confidence
To reach out for the right:
For you have to be strong,
To point out the wrong,
And though you’ll be called a fool
And told to follow rules
Set by prisoned minds,
Just stay above and cool,
Don’t lose that Fire
of faith that sustains the true spirit of life in you.

You got to be strong, girl,
They’ll hurt you a lot and crush you to depths, 
But bounce back again with renewed strength, with added confidence,
Cry out your heart if you feel like, and after you’ve cleansed yourself
Surge ahead to a new tomorrow,
With a light so brilliant it can blind those who try to extinguish
that fire in your soul;

For who can keep underwater a sparkling bubble of air
With myriad colours surrounding its unbreakable shell?

For life is filled with challenges and there are those who can and who cannot overcome every hurdle
And you know you belong to the former;
And although you might be left dangling from the end of a rope or a clifftop,
So what? You can make new footholds and sprout new wings
And fly up above the hilltop.

When you know you are right and truthful
And done nothing to regret,
Why live in the past and the future – you’ve got the Present,
So make the best.
There’s a time for every wisdom
And the search for self-realization,
Or the pursuit of True freedom –
Was always frowned upon.
But you can smile at every mile –
‘cause you know, girl:
That when the road is long, you’ve got to be strong.
But when they tribe to make it longer –
You know it’s because you ARE stronger.”

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A Heartfelt Comment

A HEARTFELT COMMENT:

I have to confess that a reader recently wrote something so touching with such a level of understanding, it truly moved me. So I thought I should post his comment. The actual thread is here, in the comments of a previous post. It was based on gender-stereotyping in our society when it comes to the way men perceive women as ‘naming colours.’ I felt that as an architect, structural engineer and designer who has worked in the field for over 10 years, I could see that stereotypes such as this end up affecting those technical-brained minority of women who DO work in the engineering and construction industry and are not the caricatured ‘girly airhead’ that a lot of people would like to portray ‘women’ as.  The debate also was about the ‘male-brain’, the ‘female-brain’ and colour perception. My reference to the ‘gender’ of the brain was based on an interesting study by Cambridge professor of Developmental Psychopathology Simon Baron-Cohen on the ‘brain-wiring’ of those with ‘Aspie’ qualities. I was interested in his work on finding my own extremely high brain-systemizing quotient through his tests when I found after many years that the reason why I was interested since childhood more in those activities and occupations that are generally done by men, amongst many other characteristics, to be linked to traits seen in Asperger’s (the somewhat socially naive ‘inventor’-type Aspie, not the severely socially challenged type.) My brain systemizing quotient is 66/80. ‘Normal’ men according to Cohen have a score at ‘30’ and ‘nomal’ women have it at ‘24.’ Hardly any women at all have their “brain systemization” that high. Thankfully I  scored in a very high range on the ‘empathy quotient’ too, which meant that the ‘extreme-male-brain’ or the ‘picture-thinking’ which is my usual way to process information  had not come at the compromise of more ‘softer’ qualities. For more on Cohen’s book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Essential-Difference-Women-Extreme-Science/dp/0713996714

Both radical feminists AND some geek-girls (as I sadly found out) can be ruthless to those women who have chosen not to give up softness & style yet retained a sharp intellect.Its an either/or approach for the bashers.

But despite having been interested and involved in those activities and occupations that have traditionally been ‘male’ (engineering, architecture, mountaineering, flying), yet being outspoken – and not docile – to assertively say what I think, I have never believed in compromising my femininity or ‘softness’ in looks or poise. Nor given up my love for cooking, nurturing, painting or even knitting for that matter, or those traditionally ‘feminine’ hobbies that can be practiced in solitude and alone. And unfortunately I found that this has few takers both amidst radical feminists and even amongst certain ‘geek-girls’ who I thought would be less complicated but found out sadly that that isn’t always the case. I do not believe in the ‘man’ifying of womanhood or changing my biological hormones or chromosomes to act outwardly as some gender that I am not. And although I have always preferred rationality and logic over emotion in my choices and thinking, I do not believe in the ‘extreme’asization  of sexes and mannerisms or the either/or approach which seems to be the way both traditional and radical schools of thoughts and/or movements seem to promote.

In any case, what touched me incredibly is this writer’s empathy at the end of the comment. To know what strength it does require to maintain individuality without losing integrity. Especially for the women in architecture. So I decided to put this up.

Here is the comment:

“.….This(a reference to another comment terming “nothing inherently male” about computers, math or technology) fails to provide a complete survey of the entire landscape. From a biological perspective, there doesn’t seem to be inherent or biological differences between males and females on these fronts. If we lived in a world free of socially constructed gender roles, the chances of any given male or female infant growing up to be a mathematician, scientist, architect, or computer whiz would be theoretically equal. Well, we don’t live in a world like that. Little girls aren’t encouraged to go into these fields as readily as little boys. In many cases, they’re told that boys are better at math, and research on stereotype threat has demonstrated that these kinds of stereotypes actually lead to exactly the kinds of deficits that they tout. The stereotypes are self-fulfilling in that way. They lead to anxiety and stress, and contribute to their victims underperforming their male peers on math and science tests, undoubtedly sending many careening off into careers more “typically female.”
Just because we want something to be true (socially constructed stereotypes don’t exist, and have no adverse effect on women) doesn’t mean it is.

The fact that I point to these socially constructed gender roles as impediments to females’ success, does not mean I support them. (though I realize that there is a certain brand of feminist who love to kill the messenger if there aren’t any other worthy targets in the vicinity.) My point being that because of the extra barriers to entry for women trying to enter predominantly male fields, the ones who do make it would tend to be most qualified, the high achievers, the outliers. I will come back to this point in just a minute.

Men also have to subscribe to assigned stereotypes. Until recently, it was difficult to find many men working in the fields of nursing or teaching kindergarten (the nurturing professions) as these fields were, and still are to a large extent, seen as the province of women. And it’s still the case that most US courts will favour the mother in divorce/custody cases, as it’s assumed that children would be better off with their mothers, who are thought to be the inherently better parental option. You won’t see many men showing up to work with lipstick, or a nice blush to compliment their ties, or carrying purses. Nor will you be likely to find groups of men forming knitting clubs. There is nothing inherently female about any of the above activities – there’s no biological reason why I shouldn’t tote a nice purse around – yet, there exists a strong gender delineation there. The difference here is that my life won’t be adversely affected if I can’t throw some eyeliner on tomorrow morning before I head into the office. This is a gendered custom I can afford not to challenge. But what of the woman who is a natural born systems analyst or architectural engineer? Considering all of the obstacles that woman would have to break through, starting in childhood, to “make it” into and to the top of these fields, should we really expect that she wouldn’t be an outlier, that she wouldn’t be a somewhat atypical female? I can almost hear the feminist hive mind buzzing as I write this: “Typical female! The nerve!” I submit: Stephanie Meyer is not a multimillionaire because boys are lining up for her books, nor is the value of any modern sports franchise dependent on the burgeoning interest of young girls. Whether the forces that led to these differing interests are “inherent” or not is essentially irrelevant.

Some women, against all odds, are able to buck the stereotypes. Gipsy Geek works in an extremely male- dominated field. In order for her to have built a career for herself there, she would have to endure far greater hazing than any of the men did. Additionally, if she is as stunning as those eyes might suggest, then the hazing must have been doubly worse. I realize it’s terribly un-PC, but one issue that isn’t spoken of enough in regards to gender stereotyping, is that specific flavour of bias faced by intelligent and talented women who are beautiful and sexy, but not slutty, and who don’t downplay their feminine sides. To be able to hold on to this brand of feminine identity AND be successful in a male dominated field takes an immense amount of strength. And I, for one, think this should be rewarded, especially by other women, because if there is any hope of us breaking free of these deeply embedded gender myths it will only be through the example of women who are willing to stand alone.    – D

Reader who wrote this – I cannot thank you enough – it really brought a lump in my throat and all I can say is thank you for nailing the isolation I have often faced. People think it is easy. It is not.  Often if you have too many interests, you will never ‘fit’ nor be accepted in any one group. And somehow this becomes doubly difficult if you are a woman who has not compromised femininity entirely for feminism. Few men understand the strength it takes to keep going. And women, even if they understand it, resort to more envy and back-stabbing than loving support. Thank you reader, for your insight and empathy. My reason for placing your comment is  both for its wisdom about gender roles and out of gratitude.

And thanks to him, I received an apology, by someone whose intentions were good, but who had misunderstood. And hers was  a true, genuine misunderstanding compared to what I had  faced earlier and later by a bunch of girls who I mistakenly thought I was defending but found sadly that you will be accepted in certain geek-girl groups only if you go all the way and maintain a dorky appearance and are no threat to the geek-narc-queen. I found even in girl-geekdom intense territoriality and  a vicious brand of intellectual-competition-and-annihilation (that could put even girly girls to shame) exists and women who flock around the ‘geek-King’ can be incredibly vicious in their power structure and politics and display a peculiar form of ruthless unempathetic cerebral NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and backhanded politics. Perhaps those who are bullied for being geeks turn cyber-bullies instead? Or maybe the true measure of character at the end just comes down to goodness and ethics that hearts contain, and how secure you are with yourself – whether one is a geek or a non-geek.

I am finished defending any ‘group.’ And choose individuality. Yet. Again. And  men and women who are similar to me. Or those women who understand the value of the blend between feminism and femininity. And goodness. And for those who wish to term self-respect as pride, frankly my dears, I don’t give a damn. You are only proving Freud’s projection theory true. Multi-dimensionality and paradoxes have few takers in the world, and even fewer supporters. Sad, but true.

And those who can’t stand multi-dimensionality in others, deal with it. Take your group bullying and cyber-harassing/blocking/virusing/ganging elsewhere. You’re up against one that has climbed many rocky cliffs before.  In real life. And is not afraid of her strength nor her curves. And may I point out, that there is a difference between strength and power. A secure woman stands for the former. The bully uses and salivates for the latter. And therein lies the difference. Whatever the form or disguise. Real strength comes from within. It needs no followers and is self-sufficient, self-generative. Conversely, ‘power’ from controlling others. It craves for followers for its sustenance. So women who wish to engage in power plays, take it elsewhere. Please. This is my cliff. And it has no foothold for those who are insecure and manipulative.


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Sidetracked Alert : I have been a long-time advocate against female bullying and had written a well-received piece about it in  the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph a few years back. But to learn more about bullying go here – the site run by a no-nonsense Bill Maher-loving & Rene-Magritte loving say-it-as-it-is Dr. Palmatier. For a book on female bullies from school to office – a good book – here. There is also a good book on female politics at work: Nan Mooney’s  ‘I can’t believe she did that : Why women betray other women at work.’ http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/product-description/0312322062

Also to introverted girls in school (the Lisa Simpsons and similar ones) who have faced bullying before, I want to say: Those who will criticize you one way or the other, that is a form of using their positions of power. To them you have to say- ‘Your approval neither needed nor desired’.  One of the hardest yet most liberating things of life is to learn to say : “I do not wish to engage in giving  those bullies even a single minute of my time, nor the space of even a neuron in my brain.” But getting to this stage is absolutely worth it. The weirdness of life is that when you play a victim (whether you really are or not) you will have more people being understanding. But if you find inner strength and self-affirmation through your own introspection and effort, it will be termed as ‘pride.’ Maybe it is just ‘self-respect’ and ‘self-reliance’?  Women complain ‘there are not enough girls with healthy self-esteem’ – but when one comes along, there will be lengths taken to shoot that person down. (Translation of the shooter’s stance: ‘I, alone, am the example of a woman with self-esteem and I will help only those who come to my fold and who cannot threaten my superiority and affiliation with powerful men. Any other will be seen as a threat, and I shall not rest till she has been demolished.’ ) This is another form of bullying although it is disguised in more covert ways. And so women still will unfortunately largely remain the ones who will not let other self-assured women come to the surface. It is a sad truth of life which has to be accepted, but girls in high school reading this, remember that self assurance is the key to not suffer the consequences of bullying. As Eleanor Roosevelt said : ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’ And if it still continues, here’s another quote of her (where I’ve replaced ‘heart’ with ‘brain.’): “Do what you feel in your brain to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

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