Living, Mexico

Women in Politics

The editorial from this month’s The Eye magazine.

“For me, a better democracy is a democracy where women do not only have the right to vote and to elect but to be elected.”—Michelle Bachelet, head of UN Women, former president and defense minister of Chile, in The New York Times

Most people are astounded at the giant leap humanity has taken with regard to technology in the past 100 years. Equally astounding are the small steps we have taken on the status of women. 

Yes, women now have the vote (since 1918 in Canada, 1920 in the US and 1953 in Mexico) and can own property, in North America at least. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent US organization, 

When it comes to property ownership, women are not equal in the eyes of the law. According to the World Bank, close to 40 percent of the world’s economies have at least one legal constraint on women’s rights to property, limiting their ability to own, manage, and inherit land. Thirty-nine countries allow sons to inherit a larger proportion of assets than daughters and thirty-six economies do not have the same inheritance rights for widows as they do for widowers.” 

Even though we vote there is still a great disparity of representation of women in political spheres. It just doesn’t make sense. Women represent half the global population and in several studies it has been shown that women have a higher tendency to make decisions that benefit the community rather than just themselves. This is why organizations that give out small business loans favor women. Making decisions that benefit a community, organization and accountability are all qualities that make me think women are ideal politicians.

In 2019, women are still under-represented on the international political stage. We earn less than men and are at a higher risk for physical assaults and human trafficking. I don’t know how if we have come so far in the past 100 years; tv, cars, the internet, mobile phones, MRIs, ultrasound machines, cardiac defibrillation- with all these inventions to improve our quality of life, how have we lagged so far behind in our humanity? Why is it taking so long for women to be equally represented in politics?

It’s also not as simple as electing women. Why are fewer women running for office? Is it lack of opportunity, poor education, cultures that limit women to staying home and having babies? Is it the tolerance of misogyny from world leaders and super stars or the acceptance that our bodies are branding and marketing tools? I don’t know.

This progress is too slow.

Jane

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Living

You’re pretty… now be interesting.

“We won the minute they started doing pole dancing for exercise.” Ryan Gosling as Jacob in Crazy, Stupid, Love on the battle of the sexes.

When I was in college, Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth was the mainstream feminist text of the day. It posited that as women gained more power in the world, so did the pressure to adhere to unrealistic social standards of physical beauty and because of commercial influences on the mass media women were more objectified than ever. Personally, these ideas gave me pause to evaluate my own self-image and consider the role the media had played in shaping my standards of beauty.

Flash forward 25 years and not only are women’s bodies still being used to sell everything from deodorant to cars, we now have access to more images than ever before through social media. Each of us is curating a story about what we want the world to know about us; pics of our dogs, our lattes, selfies. There used to be great debate about the dangers of television but we have so evolved beyond that, that television seems benign compared to the image-based world we are living in today. It is impossible to avoid being constantly bombarded by images, day in and day out. No matter where you are, there is a television, an advertisement, a magazine, a logo, computer screen or phone in your hand to deliver ideas and standards of beauty.

Of course we all want to be pretty and admired. However, one scroll through my Instagram feed is enough to make me cringe. Smart women with feeds showcasing their bodies in hyper-sexualized ways that would be worthy of old-school Playboy. Then there is the argument that it is our choice. The idea that we have achieved such freedom and equality that women have the choice to do what they want with their bodies. I get it but I am baffled.

It seems to me that we have turned self-objectification into empowerment and it does not seem to be in an ironic way.  I recently had a frustrating conversation with a man who told me that he thought women wanted men to look at them with lust- he even went so far as to suggest that women who worked in the sex industry were seeking male attention. I tried to make an argument that our society has turned women’s sexuality into a commodity and that for many women it becomes the only currency they have, especially when they have not had access to education and opportunity.

However, what about the educated women? Women who are talking about their boob photos and perfect moist pouty lip selfie as empowerment? Maybe it is empowerment- if they believe it. Or maybe the brainwashing has gone so far that we are our own worst enemies.

Living

A Woman in the Oval- only on T.V.

I am a little embarrassed by how excited I was when I turned on my Netflix and saw that Season 6 of House of Cards is available. I had pretty much come to terms that it wasn’t going to have a sixth season after the whole Kevin Spacey scandal. I am only a couple of episodes in but I couldn’t be more impressed. Robin Wright, as Claire Underwood, as president, is a force and the writing is spot on with poignant lines like “Playing incompetent is so exhausting” and “The reign of the white middle-aged men is over.”

I couldn’t help but draw comparisons with Scandal’s final and seventh season which has Mellie Grant fighting to keep her presidency, while also lamenting on how wielding so much power has complicated her sex life. Her vagina monologue is a fine piece of writing and is delivered with humor and truth “I’m not just POTUS. I am a single female POTUS. Do you know what that means? It means I’m a human chastity belt, there is a famine in my lady bits! My vagina is beautiful, she is welcoming, but she is getting treated like a murder house. I can’t get anything in there!”

Is there any country in the world whose Presidency is portrayed in so many fictional accounts? As a Canadian, I am not sure I would tune in to a show based on the drama of Ottawa. As entertaining as it has been to watch Justin Trudeau, I don’t ever think of Canadian politics as glamorous. 

What does it mean when two prominent shows portray a woman running the Oval? Is it a Hollywood backlash against the misogynist who currently holds office? Whatever it is I am loving it and I hope it is a sign of things to come. 
Living

Tits Up

A few days ago I posted a collection of photos on my personal Facebook page titled ‘Houston Food and Art – a perfect weekend getaway!’ A few hours later I received a notification that one of the photos ‘violated the Facebook Community Standards’ which has rules on nudity, sexual and violent content.

The photo is of a sculpture by Australian artist, Ron Mueck, that is on exhibition at the Houston Fine Arts Museum. ‘Mother and Child’ depicts a newborn on its mother’s belly- and yes, there is a breast!

Facebook led me through a series of hoops, chastising me for posting the photo and essentially making me agree to be more careful before allowing me to access the rest of my account. At the end of the process I was asked to rate my experience and I expressed my distaste for this censorship – sadly I have not received a response, nor has the photo been restored.

Since then, I have heard about Facebook removing several photos of women breastfeeding. It’s 2017- breasts are EVERYWHERE and usually portrayed in an unrealistic and sexualized way. How is it we have created a culture in which posed sexualized photos are deemed ok, but photos of real women are considered offensive? I typed ‘boobs’ into my Facebook search and got a plethora of highly-sexualized images of topless women. There are even several pages devoted to the subject and all the photos privacy settings are public.

It is tempting to go into a rant regarding FBs guidelines however the real issue here is that if Facebook is a platform which is based on user content and these images are being removed- what does that say about the values and morality of the users? Plus, Facebook has the feature that if someone is offended by something I post they can opt not to see my stuff in the future- so if you are the person who ‘reported’ this photo, please feel free to unfollow me.

From an art perspective, one could even use Magritte’s argument and say that ‘Ceci n’est pas un sein’ (This is not a breast)- it is the representation of a breast made out of acrylic, fiberglass and silicone.  And while the museum offered a warning of nudity and graphic images at the entrance to the exhibition, I saw several children there with their parents.  I think good art should make you feel  and do you know what I felt as I saw the detailed and raw depictions of the human bodies in this exhibition? I felt inspired and good about my own human body. The sculptures are a far healthier portrayal than the images that come at us everyday from the culture we usually digest; advertising,  porn, movies and television. Personally, I am exhausted by the false-perfection we have been dishing up as a culture.

imageThe Ron Mueck sculpture ‘mother and child’ depicts the most basic of human experiences; the moment of birth. If you’re reading this- you’ve been there! How can something depicting this universal and authentic experience be censored? It’s been over 25 years since Demi Moore bravely graced the cover of Vanity Fair magazine when she was seven months pregnant.  It was a bold move for a Hollywood star considering they weren’t even allowed to use the word ‘pregnant’ in ‘I Love Lucy’ in the 1950s.

How far have we really evolved?

 

Living

On Technology…

april coverEditorial of the April issue of The Eye. Thanks for reading! http://www.TheEyeHuatulco.com

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

Albert Einstein

I am a technology resister- without a doubt more Wilma Flintstone than Judy Jetson. I read books not tablets – I love the smell and feel of paper over the subtle hum of electronics. My daily planner is one of those cumbersome paper ones and it never leaves my office. While some might view this as an inconvenient method to run a business, as I need to be physically in my office to schedule anything – for me it is a luxury.

I was very resistant to getting an iPhone. Did I really need email alerts at the grocery store or to check Facebook when I was out with real people? Eventually I gave in. When the screen got smashed up I continued to use it for months. It still worked – as a phone. Upon seeing my damaged phone, one woman remarked that I deserved a new one and that I should ‘treat’ myself. I responded that the treat was to not be so attached to my phone.

Don’t get me wrong – I think technology is cool, science is cool, talking to a friend on the other side of the planet with the touch of a button on a cordless device is super cool! But most us have become slaves to technology. We are desperately creating electronic scrapbooks of moments that are gone. Filling fake clouds with stuff we don’t even know why we’re saving, or what for. We are living with sound bites rather than substance. Our everyday lives have become a virtual existence rather than one based in reality – most of our communication is via devices and shared moments happen through screens, which capture the aesthetics of a moment but not the emotion – technology has not managed to capture the subtlety of human experience. There is no emoji to capture … all the best moments. The flicker of a feeling you get when you walk on a crisp fall day and for a second you know everything is going to be ok … a flicker of inner peace.

So has technology exceeded our humanity? Has it dumbed us down to communicate our feelings via emojis? Sanskrit has 96 words for love. We have happy faces with hearts for eyes.

Did Albert Einstein even really say that? I wish he had – it would fit perfectly with my beliefs – add some heft to the idea that what we are experiencing is a momentous and scary collective experience. But ironically there is no proof that he even said it. It is a perfect example of the soundbite machine roller coaster we are all on, where it seems if something gets repeated enough it could be true … alternative quotes.

See you next month,

Jane

 

Living

Happy Love Month!

february-coverHappy Love Month! This is my editorial from The Eye magazine this month. For those of you who don’t me personally, I am the editor of an English-language magazine in Mexico called The Eye, in addition to owning a restaurant and a cooking school. The magazine really allows me to explore different aspects of life in Mexico and connect with amazing writers and of course our readers. You can check out current and back issues online at http://www.TheEyeHuatulco.com or if you are fortunate enough to be in Oaxaca or Huatulco you can pick up a hard copy.

 

Editor’s Letter | Beach, Village & Urban Living in Oaxaca

“I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company.”

― Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

I am feeling very exhausted. Everywhere people are bubbling over with their opinions, demanding their right to be heard but it seems we are so busy talking that the entire planet has actually stopped listening. All mouths are open and everyone I meet is ready to let me know where they stand on the state of world politics – by this I mean American politics – since WWII, America has prided itself on being the leader of the Free World and the consequence is that much of the world feels totally within its rights to weigh in. Add that to the fact that America has rarely hesitated to weigh in on the politics of other nations – and we all carry our opinions about those actions – layers and layers of ‘I thinks’ and ‘I believes’- each of us holding onto these values, believing that they have come to define us.

Strangely for me, an outspoken feminist, the day of The March did not incite in me the feeling of power it seemed to for the rest of my contemporaries. As I looked through my social media feed and saw photos of many people I respected taking to the streets, I felt sad rather than exhilarated. I felt even sadder when I read comments from those who were against the march. I asked myself… ‘Can I respect people whose opinions are so offensive to me and different from my own?’

Here’s what I realized. The wall has already been built. Without laying a single brick we have completely divided ourselves by allowing our beliefs to define and separate us. None of the issues being presented at the moment are new; access to abortion, equal pay, sexual assault, immigration reform, gay rights, police brutality. These are not just issues concerning the USA – these are issues we need to be concerned about worldwide. Human rights are a problem worldwide. There are many people around the world who do not have the privilege and freedom to attend a march or have access to rant on social media. If you are even reading this, you are most likely a lot ‘freer’ than the rest of the world.

If we really don’t want a wall, we need to stop talking. We need to stop shouting at people to love more. Shhhhhhh. Enjoy the silence. Listen to your heart beating inside your body. Before your gender, your culture, the randomness of the country where you were born, the religious and political beliefs you were raised with- before all that, you were just a beating heart, in the bubble of quiet of your mother’s womb. It was safe. You were most definitely loved.

Can I respect people whose opinions are offensive to me and different from my own? If I really want to be a part of the change I want to see, then I am going to have to learn to.

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Jane

Food, Living

It takes a village… the building of our Chiles&Chocolate Cooking School

picmonkey-collageI have been involved in several building projects while living in Mexico but none has been as exciting or as rewarding for me as our Chiles&Chocolate Cooking School. Located in the village of Zimatan, I wanted the building to fit in with the architecture of the buildings in this rural area. Most of the houses in the village are rectangular with small windows and galvanized metal roofing. Since our cooking classes showcase the beauty and dignity of Oaxacan cooking, our building needed to be a testament to that as well. In the same way a mole recipe evolves using the ingredients of a particular area, our building needed to use materials that were found around us; river rock, stone, wood and I felt the same should be applied to labor.

Village life is very gender segregated. Women in my village are not even permitted to attend town meetings unless they are the ‘head of their household’- meaning they have no husband. So I was more than a little nervous as this project was my first time building without a husband to negotiate and deal with decisions such as where to put the septic tank.

Blandino, the mason, and his two sons, who live in the village, collected rock from around the property to build our retaining wall and patio. In other projects I have been involved with we always ordered our cement blocks already made from the hardware store. Blandino mentioned that Andres, a man in our village, made blocks, so we decided to make them on-site. This decision led to us having a higher quality block, it was about the same price as buying the ready-made blocks, but we also created a job.

Seeing Andres make blocks was amazing. All cement was mixed by hand, poured into molds and then set in the sun to dry. When it came time to get a door, the metal smith in the village made one and the electrician who installed the lights lives just a few doors down.

In the cooking classes I talk a lot about the dignity of what we term ‘women’s work’- cooking, housekeeping, child rearing. My experience of being a stay-at-home mother in Mexico during my daughter’s early years was life changing and forced me to reevaluate my own ideas about gender. It was the beauty of this time that led me to want to give cooking classes.

I always have thought of the cooking classes as a way of shedding light on the dignity of ‘women’s work’ but as I look around the cooking school it dawns on me that the building is truly a testament to the beauty of ‘men’s work’.  Much in the same way it takes a village to make a tortilla; men to grow the corn and women to grind, form and cook it on the comal, our cooking school is the product of a long line of tradition.

For more information about our classes: www.HuatulcoCookingClasses.com