Sunday, 29 June 2014

What is True Feminism?

Feminism is an ubiquitous term, that is mindlessly used in our society that seeks to embrace change and promote equality at every turn. While it has achieved much for women, from voting to equal opportunities, this breeze is becoming a hurricane, that is set to destroy the very people it started off benefiting.

Does anyone know what 'Feminism' means anymore? I think not!

It was a movement that began to stop the marginalisation and objectification of women in society - although wages could be fairer and career prospects, wider, marginalisation is an issue that is being dealt with, but not so with objectification.


A Rihanna poster in Ireland, that was
forcefully fed some modesty
I have come across articles citing various distorted definitions of feminism - they feature celebrities who are often commended for their efforts in promoting feminism...and what exactly are they referring to, when they say 'efforts'? Explicit album covers, photo shoots, performances, name it!
Have I missed something? We were trying to stop the perception of women as sex-objects, were we not?
How on earth do you except a man to respect a woman when she readily sacrifices her self-respect and dignity! We cannot walk around scantily dressed and demand fair treatment; all we will get is reality slapping us across the face to remind us that the human brain is wired to lust. Society will only change when you allow it to, and I do not see how this practise benefits our movement. Lewdness is by no means a medium for feminist expression.

While rummaging for a satisfying model of feminism, a character from an Indian epic - Mahabharata - came to mind. Draupadi is said to be the most beautiful woman in the world, but circumstances obliged her to marry the Pandavas - five brothers who are said to walk in righteousness. You might, like the society of her time, label her a prostitute and wonder about the righteousness behind this polygamy, but she is nevertheless portrayed as the epitome of purity. I know it is dodgy and I am not here to address that. I want you to see why she was considered so pure.
Scenes from 'Mahabharat' that airs on Star Plus
  • Panchali (what she is otherwise known as) was pious. She remembered her gods, not only during her adversities, but also during prosperity. 
  • As the story unfolds, her husbands lose authority over her after a game of dice. She is hailed a prostitute, insulted for her polygamy and pressured to compromise herself with the princes of the court. She did not let them disrobe her, let alone touch her.
  • Draupadi sought justice - yes that meant killing (much wrong with that, I know!) but her motives were just; especially because she is said to have had the power to burn the court in an instant.
  • Finally, she was also a woman of integrity - showing mercy, impartiality and love.
What I'm trying to highlight is that, Draupadi had everything going against her, however she made society change its prejudices about her. Through modesty she held on to her self-respect and dignity. The very mouths that accused her of prostitution, later acknowledged her for who she truly was.
I believe she was a true feminist - she did not let society undermine or alienate her, nevertheless she respected male authority over her (i.e. her husbands). Boy, how we lack this balance!
Ha, by skim-reading this I know I have failed to do justice to this fantastic Indian epic, so I suggest you read or watch it if you can!

It might come as a shock to you that I am actually quite indifferent to feminism, however I strongly believe in fair treatment and the social acceptance of women. I write this because I do not want my generation to mindlessly turn feminism into something it never intended to be.
Finally, let me remind you that our identity as women, is not defined by how much flesh we flash, far from it! It is defined by the ransom that was paid by the blood of a sinless Saviour.
I hope you see it.

Friday, 20 June 2014

A Man Like Joseph

Joseph is one of my favourite Biblical characters. His life, from start to finish, has much wisdom to impart into our Christian journeys - but I have never seen it in the light that C. B. Martin presents it in, in is book 'GENUINE - Becoming a Real Teenager'.

Joseph the Dreamer

I believe that God places dreams and aspirations in the hearts of His children - obviously I recommend you pray and test it before accepting anything your mind conjures up! However, Joseph's life is a testament to the fact that 'dreams alone never lead to success'.
These dreams, are often ambiguous...they point somewhere, but that could be anywhere! They give a gist of the future but no clear plan for the present, or vice-versa. They're often frustrating but always motivating.
This is not just true for Joseph, take Abraham, Noah, Peter, the list goes on...
Dreams are a bit like faith and hope, action invigorates them. This action involves submission and discipline, and as Martin points out, discipline in three areas: service, self-control and suffering.

Joseph the Learner

Dreams require training before they can be implemented.
It took Leonardo da Vinci at least 12 years to finish the Mona Lisa.
It took around 2000 years to complete the Great Wall of China.
It took around 22 years to build the Taj Mahal...and it took God 13 years to make Joseph the great leader he was destined to be. Of course God can make a leader out of any Tom, Dick or Harry in the blink of an eye, but that's no good to anyone! Masterpieces take ages, and the journey is part of the reason as to why we stop and admire them.

Joseph was one pampered boy - spying on his brothers, arrogantly boasting about his dreams and showing off the colourful coats tailored for him by dad! How annoying! Thank goodness God worked on him before letting him anywhere near a position of power.
We are destined for greatness...whatever God intends 'greatness' to be, hence we too undergo the same disciplining as good old Joe:
  1. Discipline of Service: Joseph had to have his pride broken and his arrogance stunted. Service teaches humility, which brings with it respect, diligence and obedience. Martin depicts this beautifully, 'God had to literally strip Joseph of his flashy coat and clothe him with a slave's tunic so that Joseph might learn to be 'clothed with humility'. Can you relate? I sure can!
  2. Discipline of Self-Control: Temptation is an inevitable reality; sexual temptation in particular is inescapable in the 21st century, it is also debilitating. It starts in your head, and before you know it, your body gives in. The Bible is clear by word and example that a man cannot be entrusted with greater things if he cannot be entrusted with the body he is given. 'Greatness' requires self-control...Samson lost his greatness when he lost his self control and gave in to the lust of his flesh. Yes this is a hard one but remember, God does not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. Like Joseph, acknowledge your weakness (in his case, Potiphar's wife), consciously avoid it and if need be, RUN AWAY!
  3. Discipline of Suffering: You'd think that was enough discipline, but God intended Joseph to experience suffering - in prison, because of a false accusation. Suffering can be a defining period in our walk with God. A period that can either make us or break us. Suffering teaches us patience, it sharpens our faith by teaching us to increasingly trust in God and His word, even when the future looks bleak.
Discipline rids us of importance, impurity and impatience. It isn't a cosy ride but the end is worth it!

Joseph the Leader

Joseph brought Egypt through a severe famine and draught; he was also instrumental in helping his family survive. When life seems unfair and people cause you harm, let Joseph's life reiterate the truth that God can use everything to accomplish His good and perfect will.
Joseph would never be the man he was if it weren't for the experiences he endured. God has a plan for your life and mine, but before he can use us, we've got to let Him teach us - whatever that may involve! You see, a dream without discipline becomes a nightmare.

There's much more to this average Joe after all! Now go, turn your dreams into realities!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Sharing Grandpa's Gems of Wisdom

I recently came across Brandon Heath's new single, it's a tribute to his grandpa, Paul Brown Petty. As I listened, it was clear that Brandon wanted to be like his grandpa; he was not only proud of him but missed the values that he held. Paul Brown Petty was a lot like my grandpa - they didn't just have their military past in common, but their 'can-do' attitudes and love for God. With Father's day around the corner, this seems like an appropriate time to ponder on and share what I love about my grandpa, and some of the values I hope we don't lose with his generation.

Patriotism

My grandpa served in the Indian Army with his four brothers, from 1955 to 1971 (some served in the Indian Air Force) - my great-grandfather was awarded a national award for sending all his sons to National Service. Hence, it's safe to say that patriotism runs in my blood. Patriotism applies to where you are from, but it also applies to where you reside - it is national loyalty not national superiority, and it is something my generation lacks greatly.
I am not proposing we worship our countries, flags or leaders - all I propose is that we respect them. A nation can only ever move forward if it is united; unity means feeling one and we can only feel one with those around when we embrace patriotism - forget race, forget size, forget ability, we are diverse but the country we share unites us. This patriotism awakens during the Olympics, Football World Cups and during national events like the Queen's Jubilee or the Royal Wedding - it seriously moves me to tears and I long to see more of it.

What are the perks?
Patriotism promotes a sense of belonging. When one feels a sense of belonging, they begin to respect authority, laws, and public property. The public would use their votes or ensure they cease complaining and start acting. I'm not sure if I am over-reacting but it bothers me to see flags being worn as slippers or underwear; in my opinion, it just reveals a lack of respect. Vandalism of public property can also be reduced greatly. It truly baffles and appals me to see bins set on fire or bus stops cracked...for fun!

How?
In India, every child knows the National Anthem, I've been away for many years but I still remember it, likewise in many other countries around the world. We were taught it in school and were expected to sing it every morning during assemblies. I love Downton Abbey; it paints a contrasting picture of the Britain we see today. Patriotism and many good values (take the good forward, leave the bad behind) of the past seem to have dried up after the wars; they have 'changed everything'. How many teens can name the National Anthem, let alone sing it? Schools and the government must do more to promote this national loyalty we lack - this generation is the future of Britain - patriotism induces a sense of responsibility when it comes to national affairs. It's not the government's problem, it is our problem - I can't help using a cliché here, but we're all in this together! That is legit and we need to acknowledge it.

Don' replace it, fix it!
I'm sure you've seen this image on social media, but have you taken some time to ponder on the truth behind it?
My grandparents have been married for 50 years. Obviously every marriage has its ups and downs, but I've seen my grandparents live their marriage out in a way that is so special. I am no expert on this hence I'll give you grandpa's two tips for a successful marriage:
  1. 'You need two hands to clap' - meaning, you need two people to cause an argument, so as soon as you see the dawn of one, zip it!
  2. Prayer - 'a family that prays together, stays together'. 
This fixing rule applies to all areas of life, not just relationships. I was recently watching some talks given by relatives during my grandpa's 80th - many referred to his 'can-do' attitude and how he walks into a house and immediately fixes everything that's broken. I have to say that I do fear this ability of his at times, as he ends up fixing something I was hoping to replace with something more trendy!

Keep Learning

My grandpa is 80, but he would never let that stop him from being up-to-date with the latest developments in science and technology. Be it listening to an impatient grandchild or meticulously analysing the instruction manual, he is prepared to do anything to acquire the knowledge he wishes to. From practical knowledge on hunting or making fires to more contemporary insight on using social media .etc. his prowess is learning.
We live in a world that is rich in culture, history and technology, there is seriously no excuse to stop learning!

There is a lot more that I believe we're losing from his generation...like respecting elders or even having a sense of community...but this post is lengthy as it is!
My grandfather is special, and so is yours. Spending time with him has allowed me to share these little gems of truth with you, and I urge you to do the same. They have some exciting tales to tell, make sure you treasure them and pass it on! There's much to learn from these brave men who were momentous in creating the world we now cherish.
To every father, grandfather and great-grandfather out there - Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Maleficent - Is 'True Love' an attainable reality or just another heart-breaking fallacy?

Yesterday I had the joy of watching 'Maleficent' with one of my besties. Oh, before I proceed, please stop reading this if you intend on saving yourself from spoilers!
In my opinion, 'Maleficent' is yet another Disney classic; it retells 'Sleeping Beauty' from the villain's perspective. Maleficent is played by the flawless beauty, Angelina Jolie - who is striking in appearance and performance throughout the film. We get a glimpse of this supposedly evil fairy's past, exploring the reasons that led to the darkening of her previously pure heart and the resulting irrevocable, ruthless spell on an innocent baby Princess Aurora (played by the angelic Elle Fanning). It is a tale of many themes, all pertaining to the human nature. One such theme was 'True Love'.

I was honestly surprised! Throughout the years, Disney has fed many little girls the concept of 'True Love', implying that they ought to portray themselves as damsels in distress in hope that their Prince Charming would come riding on a white horse, to carry them away into the sunset to a land of happily-ever-afters. This film is different. It promises no such thing, in fact the characters mention at least twice that, 'There is no such thing as True Love' - a statement that is filled with despair, hurt and just sadness. That made me wonder if there really was such a thing, or are we just fooling ourselves...

BEWARE - here's where I might spoil a bit of the film for you! Maleficent casts a spell on the little princess that she'll prick her finger on a spindle needle and 'fall into a sleep like death', which can only be awoken by the 'True Love's Kiss'. The catch however, is that Maleficent and King Stefan - who were past lovers separated by betrayal fuelled by material greed - knew there was no such thing. However, as Maleficent watches Aurora grow and mature, she cares for and loves the girl - she regrets her impulsive spell and tries vigorously to revoke it, but to no avail. As the young princess lay helplessly asleep, not even awoken by a prince's kiss, I looked around, as I do, and saw that almost everyone around me was as shocked as I was. A remorseful Maleficent then speaks to Aurora through her tears, promising her the utmost care and kisses her forehead...and, yes you guessed it, the Sleeping Beauty wakes up!

Intrigued, I reflected on this twist on my journey home. The reason why it was initially portrayed that 'True Love' was non-existent was because the human heart - tainted by greed, lust, self-importance and hatred - is incompetent to express such a delicate, pure and sacred entity; the movie refers to this as the 'great evil in the world', and rightly so. Careful assessment would reveal that the human nature is only to blame for every war that has ever marred history. From wise Solomon to persevering Paul, we repeatedly hear warnings to guard our hearts, and not be led by the desires of the flesh, why so? Our hearts, whether we want to admit it or not, are storehouses of everything sinful, with even the most charitable deed corrupted by a hint of selfishness. Many spend their lifetime searching for love, success or something that completes them, satisfies their inmost being but fall disappointed time and again because what they acquire is often incomplete.

As Aurora opens her eyes, Maleficent's servant Diaval exclaims that there is in fact something called 'True Love' - a scene where I could not help but reflect theologically! Maleficent, was Aurora's fairy godmother - the bond between them reminded me of our relationship with God. Apart from vengeance driven by hurt, the evil fairy had a pure heart, but God is the epitome of purity, holiness and all goodness.  The love that resonated from this pure heart was the much coveted 'True Love'; it was powerful enough to break the spell - how much purer, how much truer, the love that flows from the throne of God! God's 'True Love' is the truest of all, it led Him to the Cross and thus has the power to break the spell of sin that binds our hearts and human nature. What a beautiful but unintentional parallel! C.S. Lewis depicts this with great brevity, 'It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak...we are far too easily pleased with lesser things than Him'

I believe 'True Love' is a reality, but a reality that we are incompetent to express. Only God has the power, purity and credibility to express it and faithfully persist in it; we shall be disappointed if we pursue it elsewhere. Take heart however, for those who trust in Him are empowered by Him to express a fraction of this magical love as long as we live on this side of Heaven.
I hope I've given you some food for thought, and watch 'Maleficent' for yourselves to ponder further on related themes. Who knew a children's movie could be so philosophical!