Desert Flower

October 3, 2009 at 2:16 pm (News) (, , , , , , , )

0688172377.01.LZZZZZZZI recently picked up Desert Flower – The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad after finding out a German filmmaker had managed to snag the rights to it. I had heard of it before, but seeing as I only recently officially came into being a snot-nosed feminist, it hadn’t occurred to me to read it.

Waris Dirie’s story is at once heart-breaking and inspiring. One of twelve children, she was born into a Somalian pastoral nomad family and raised in the deserts among those goats and camels. With no ability to read, write or speak a language beside Somali, she didn’t seem to be destined for great things. In fact, she was rather average for a young Somalian female. She tended goats, played with her siblings, had no shoes or education. Like every girl she was expected to marry whoever her father wished in exchange for more camels.

And like every other girl, she was subjected to the awful, awful practice of female genital mutilation when she was only five years old.

Waris Dirie is now a renown supermodel and UN special ambassador for the elimination of FGM. While I read this book, it felt like a small part of me died when I came across her experiences with FGM. When she was five, her mother woke her in the early morning before anyone else was awake and taken out to the bushes where the “gypsy woman,” as she was referred to, waited for them. Dirie was given a root to bite down on and held down by her mother. The gypsy woman herself used a razor stained with the blood of countless other young, helpless girls that this woman cleaned with her saliva and nothing else.

By African standards, this is relatively cleanly, apparently. Anything can be used – razors, glass, sharp rocks and when nothing else is to be had, teeth. The severity of the mutilation ranges from the removal of the clitoral hood to the full on removal of the labia majora, minora and everything else, then the girls are sewn shut. Dirie experienced the latter form – thorns from a nearby bush were used to create punctures for the sewing. After this, Dirie’s legs were bound together in order to create a minimal, “tidy” scar and she was left in a specially built hut to heal for a whole month.

Many girls die from blood loss, tetanus, infection, gangrene and other horrific side-effects of the “operation,” which include pelvic infections, severe UTIs and more. One of Dirie’s sisters bled to death. Dirie herself suffered for many years because she was left with only a small hole through which urine and menstrual blood were supposed to be allowed to escape. She was able to get surgery later in life, but will never regain much of the feeling in that region of her body because the surgery was performed back in the 90s. Nowadays, with medical advances, there are doctors who specialize in reconstructive surgery in order to help women regain feeling and a sense of pride in their bodies again.

I remember being in an Ethics class and the topic of FGM coming up. I argued against it because I feel, as a woman, that it is a cruel, unnecessary and awful tradition to uphold that gives a whole continent a bad reputation. I was told my Western privilege was showing – that it was necessary to approach some traditions with respect and the dignity it deserves because – while it is not my own culture – it is someone else’s cultural practice.

I call bullshit on that. I agree that the Western way is not always the right way, but I see no reason to accept a practice that is so barbaric. Many of the cultures FGM is practiced in are Muslim; men argue that the Q’ran demands it. Nowhere in the Q’ran does it state that you are to maim and brutalize your women. FGM – I refuse to deign it with the term “female circumcision” because it undercuts the severity of what is done – was invented by men in order to oppress women and make them pliable through their pain. Those who argue that male circumcision is equally cruel – what on Earth are you thinking? We do not cut off young boys’ penises. We don’t divorce them from their sexual organs in order to oppress them. There is a vast difference between a small surgical procedure in which the foreskin is removed and the hacking off and permanent crippling of young defenseless girls.

It makes me sick to my stomach that around 2 MILLION girls a year are at risk of being victims of FGM. I hope that, through education and redirection of practices, it will be possible to decrease and maybe eliminate the practice entirely, though it will take a long time. Meanwhile, here is the trailer to Desert Flower where Dirie is played by Liya Kebede:

Advertisements

Permalink Leave a Comment

Why Some Pet Owners Suck

October 2, 2009 at 7:00 pm (Life) (, , , , )

Today, on our way to school and work, C. and I got stuck in traffic. The traffic patterns at one of the pikes has been reset because they have been futzing around with construction a lot. So for a while, we were only inching along. At one point, we come to a halt. I make the mistake of looking out the window. What do I see?

That’s right, someone’s run-over pet.

The poor cat had probably been hit by a car and managed to drag itself off the road before it croaked. It was clearly someone’s pet – well-fed, otherwise in good shape, still fairly young. I couldn’t see its face, thank God, but it lay on its side, legs splayed as though it were running and twitching in its sleep, blood caking its mouth.

Until recently, my family basically always had a pet. We never had cats, but Lena was a regular old escape artist of a dog and whenever she disappeared, it felt like a little part of me died. She was a Golden Retriever – that means a BIG dog, the kind you can see in case it streaks across the street in front of your car. However, that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t do it totally unexpectedly or that you would be able to break in time not to hit her. Much like Winnie the Pooh, she had more fluff for brains than anything and she certainly wasn’t gifted with common sense. We always understood that having a pet escape and run about was a dangerous thing – most dog owners comprehend this matter. Cars are not safe to be around as a pedestrian, why would that be any different for a four-footed family member?

What I DON’T get is how this seems to be too hard for a lot of cat owners to understand. A cat, dear friends, is a PET. A cat is an animal. No matter what you may think, cats are not smart; most dogs have more common sense than a cat ever will have. Cats are, above all, arrogant and will not understand that a ton of metal will crush them. Some cat owners place way more faith into their cats than is ever warranted. Let me repeat: it is a RARE instant for a cat to be smart. Frankly, cats are also nowhere near as FAST as you think they are. A car is faster, bigger, meaner.

What I’m trying to get at is this: If you love your cat, don’t let it out. Just don’t. Unless your cat’s a Main Coone (thus a huge bugger), it is small and almost invisible, especially in the US where everyone drives SUVs which are generally higher than most European cars. People’s reaction times are slow. A cat doesn’t stand a chance.

Today, I saw someone’s beloved family pet dead at the roadside. I’m very sorry for their loss. But I can’t help but wonder if they really loved that cat since they let it out of their house in a high traffic area. Since I no longer have a pet of my own, it makes me resentful that someone would gamble with their pet’s life that way.

This cat lost the gamble and its carcass probably traumatized a bunch of small children who were on their way to school this morning. Please don’t be that cat owner.

Permalink 5 Comments

Adjusting Period

July 27, 2009 at 7:13 am (Life) (, , , , , , )

On July 24th, we went in to have my sweet baby girl, Elena, put down. I hadn’t seen her since we’d brought her in on Wednesday morning. It was heart-breaking. The second she saw me, she started crying and whimpering. Her eyes had that slightly drugged-out glaze you get when you are constantly on pain killers so your existence becomes bearable. Her customary greeting dance made her even more frustrated because her body was not doing what she wanted it to.

The only reason she was sitting at all was because the vet staff had propped her up against a wall. She nearly fell over in her desperate attempt to reach me when I entered the room and settled down in her cage. All she knew was that she wanted to leave and go home, that her body was not working. Her hind legs and tail were limp, her stomach swollen from all the air she’d swallowed with her frenetic panting and the fact her bowels were not expelling anything without help from the vet technicians. It took a while for me to settle her down enough so I could prop her up onto my lap. She struggled. She thought we were going home.

She cried for the entire time I held her. Multiple times she attempted to get up and leave on her own. I managed to keep it together for most part with some brief lapses into crying. I’d tried avoiding that. I didn’t want to upset her any more than I had to. At some point, my mother joined us and took pictures because my brother had requested them. She only left for five minutes to take care of arrangements; a private cremation, paying the bill, checking to see if the vet had cleared out the waiting room yet.

The vet and the technician settled her out onto the floor. He held this absolutely gigantic syringe full of medication – my mother later told me he’d used a third more than he really needed to in order to ensure Lena’s end would be quick and absolutely pain-free. The consultation was brief. I was basically prepared. I did not, however, know how quick things went. I just watched in horror, Lena’s head in my lap, until my mom told me, “She’s going. Say good-bye now!” I ended up whispering, “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you” over and over even when I felt her just go . . . limp. My mother says the dog settled against me in her final seconds, contentment obvious, and just heaved a sigh of relief, which was to be her last breath.

I started sobbing pretty much immediately. The vet’s face looked a little drawn, he didn’t like putting animals down any more than any normal person would. “Why did you go out and do that, you stupid dog?” I stroked her face for a while the vet checked her pupils for signs of life. I then realized how downright obscene it felt to hold the mortal remains of my best friend, that it felt like holding a ragdoll, that it was just downright freaky how just every bit of tension had left her body. Even when dogs sleep, there’s a small amount of tension in their bodies that lets you know they’re still among the living. Lena was just completely still, her eyes open and staring lifelessly. I dropped her head like it was an intensely hot object and scrambled away, then ended up breaking down as my mother held and rocked my. The vet technician was clearly hurting, too – she asked if I wanted to spend a moment with her. I think I was so distraught I ended up half-shrieking that that was no longer my dog even as she handed me a few tissues. I was hysteric. A mess. Now I wish I had taken her up on the offer, but at the time, all I wanted was to get away from that thing, that disturbingly limp semblance of my best friend.

I wound up walking out of the back room in a half-catatonic state. The back room, where the vet technicians take turns answering phones, billing and whatnot, also houses their pets when they’re at work. Three very curious, friendly noses had already greeted me as I walked through to the kennels. I didn’t have the energy to fend them off on my way out. I sat on the floor and let Lotti, the tripod doxie mix, and Madison crawl all over me in their efforts to console me. I’m not sure I would have made it through the day had it not been for those two dogs.

The vet staff was incredible. They let me sit there for as long as I needed, talked to my mother and I and were generally supportive through that intensely traumatic experience. They cared. That was a blessing.

Now the house just seems too quiet. Wherever I look, there’s something to remind me of Lena. The food and water bowl are still in the kitchen, the latter filled sometime on Wednesday when I was still trying to convince myself Lena was going to come home. Her toys are strewn throughout the house. Her leash is on the floor of my bedroom. Her bed is tucked between the wall and my bed, there is dog hair all over the floors. Lena’s ashes will arrive in about two weeks, give or take. I am still unsure as what to do with them. Part of me wants me to stop being so obsessive about this dog and just bury it somewhere, but another part of me, the one that is still hurting and probably never will cease hurting, just wants to keep them in an urn and just take them wherever I go. I don’t even know how the hell I would take an urn full of ashes through an airport. With my luck, my suitcase would be selected for a random search and they would wind up tossing everything in the garbage.

It will take some time getting used to the silence and the hurt, and the void that is left in my heart. I do feel like a part of me was ripped out, trampled on and then left for dead. Every day is a struggle to go on. The days drag by and I somehow manage to keep my shit together during the day, but it all comes crashing down in the evenings, when dark creeps in on me and takes away any bit of rationality I may have left in me. Sleeping is an ordeal. I seem to hear Lena falling to the ground and screaming every time I close my eyes. Sometimes I just end up curled up in a fetal position, hands over my ears in a failed attempt to block out the memory. I can barely drag myself out of bed in the mornings.

My mother tells me I am at that point where I am processing, solely missing. But I don’t think it’s true. I just feel numb. I keep hoping I’ll wake up and it will all turn out to be an awful, elaborate nightmare. And I’ll look down, and there she’ll be, splayed out on her side, nose and paws twitching, snoring and snorfling in her sleep. It’s hard. I wish it had never come to this.

Permalink 2 Comments

RIP

July 24, 2009 at 7:05 pm (Life) (, , , , )

Elena

Nov. 21st, 2001 – July 24th, 2009

I love you. This was not what I wanted for you.

IMG_1645

Permalink 3 Comments