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Mona Eltahawy and me, Aspen Ideas Festival 2013

Mona Eltahawy and me, Aspen Ideas Festival 2013

I have tons of stories from Aspen, but only one I’d like to share in this space.

After former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, US diplomat Richard Haass, and Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy went at it onstage (verbally), everyone started to clutter around their favorite. While I didn’t see too many people around Haass, the room was evenly divided between Albright and Eltahawy. After her vagina monologue, I jumped onto the Eltahawy line.

While a couple of my colleagues wanted to build a friendship with this sparkplug, I just wanted to thank her for speaking up and out in this predominantly male setting.

So I’m in line when this short White lady looks up at me and says, “So, are you here to talk about women’s issues?”

OK, OK, OK, what? I said whatchu mean am I here to talk about womens issues you trying to make me feel like I don’t belong here that I shouldn’t care that what you have to say matters more than what I do because you have some inferiority complex that says let me get this Black guy away because I can’t tell why he’s really here like omg you’re so the reason why I don’t give one ounce of …

Then, after a small breath, I said, “What do you mean? I’m here to hear women talk about women. That’s an important thing.”

Sure enough, she smiled and turned back around. I doubt others saw my twitch of disgust. At first, I didn’t get why she brought her prejudices to this event. My second thought was, “Maybe she too is tired of men trying to tell women about what they should do, how they should feel, and what they should think about the regulations of their own bodies.” My third thought was, “Can we assume a bit of intellect and compassion here?”

It’s disheartening, but I get it. One of my passions happens to center around teacher voice, and, as of now, the teaching profession has mostly a female voice. I’m not saying men can’t contribute their voices. I’m simply arguing that the fate of women is inherently tied to the fate of teachers. Thus, in my male privilege (yes, there is such a thing as Black / Latino male privilege), I want to come into these situations as someone’s equal, not above or below based on my gender.

When I got to meet Mona, it was obviously all love. I thanked her, took a picture for my friend, then posed for a picture of my own. She might have stood shoulder-height, but her personality is really where her stature lies. I came to hear women speak on women’s issues. Tucking in my privilege made me a better man, not lesser.

Jose

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Short Notes: With Tears and Cheers

by Jose Vilson on July 7, 2013

in Short Notes

Mona Eltahawy

Mona Eltahawy

A few notes:

  • Edutopia highlights five, count em, FIVE books I think you should read. Just go. Read em if you haven’t already. [Edutopia]
  • When discussing the path of citizenship, this is what really matters. Five fifths human. [Los Angeles Times]
  • The New York Times editorial board thinks there should be changes made to the way we treat schools in New York City, but don’t propose anything that takes it too far from where Bloomberg took it. [New York Times]
  • NYC Educator reluctantly endorses Bill Thompson. The jury is still out for me, but my vote could swing the mayoral race like 20 percentage points. I better get on this. [NYC Educator]
  • Dear Common Core dissenters: you might want to take a look at what this website’s saying about the CCSS and Black students. Especially #4 and #2. I’d rather not get confused with this group. [Central Illinois and Beyond]
  • These 33 teachers who got the last laugh cracked me the hell up. Buzzfeed wins again. [Buzzfeed]

Quotable:

When I talk about the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S., I like to compare them to what I call the Christian Brotherhood in the U.S. — and this is the religious right and conservative men in this country who are successfully trying to roll back reproductive rights. I always bring up Wendy Davis and what happened in Texas. And I say that Governor Rick Perry is an example of the Christian Brotherhood in this country. What they have in common is, the religious right — and especially the men in the religious right — are obsessed with our vaginas. And I would say stay away from my vagina unless I want you in there. I bring Wendy Davis in Texas in because it doesn’t help to say “over there” and “over here.” We have to look at women’s rights, and the successive fights toward reproductive rights — the Beijing platform from 1995, I was in Beijing at the global conference: If we had a global conference today, we would not achieve a third of what we achieved in Beijing because of this brand of conservatism, especially regarding reproductive rights.

- Mona Eltahawy in Aspen Ideas Fest 2013, when asked a question about women’s reproductive rights in the United States

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