Feminism: Why I will not be quiet

“Come stand by me. I don’t normally get to see people this pretty in the morning.”

It was six in the morning and all I wanted was gas, coffee and to hit the road.

Little did I know that the 50 year old man standing at the counter had something different in mind.

Many thoughts ran through my head:

“Who does this guy think he is?”

“Why is he talking to me?”

“I could be his daughter’s age.”


Before he even said a word to me, I knew the situation was trouble. I walked into the quick stop by myself to four men standing around the counter. It gave me an uneasy feeling. I made my way to the back of the line only to have a 50-year-old man in overalls stare at me for an awkward amount of time. When I made eye contact with him, I gave a smile to keep myself from being uncomfortable. But, even when I looked away, he kept staring.

That’s when he said IT:

“Come stand by me. I don’t normally get to see people this pretty in the morning.”

And I broke down. Not on the outside. But on the inside something caved. I wanted so desperately for the situation, which I knew would happen from the start, to be a dream. I wanted to believe that I was judging the men too harshly that morning when I walked in and thought, “one of them is going to say something inappropriate to me.”

I wanted to be wrong.

But, at that moment, I was too right.

So, inside of me was this battle. What was I supposed to say? What did he want from me? What was I supposed to do? I most certainly wasn’t going to stand by this man I barely knew. Why did he have to put me in this position of having to retort to his unnerving comment (command)?

I tried to come up with something that would get him to question why he felt the urge to talk to me that way. I might have asked him why or told him that I can’t deal with men this early in the morning. I just wanted to say something that would get him to see how sexist he was being and how his comment was unfair for me to endure.

But what, in that moment, came out of my mouth?

“You’re so sweet.”

But see, I’m the type of girl who notices when there are more men in a room than women or when a guy puts his hands on me without asking or when a female backs down from a conversation because the males have taken over.

I notice these things and speak against these things daily.

And yet all I could say was: you’re so sweet.

As soon as I said the words I regretted it. I hadn’t stood up for myself. I didn’t stand up for women everywhere who have to deal with random creepy comments from men every day.

you’re. so. sweet.

I had encouraged him.

He looked at me and smiled, “I just thought that if a beautiful girl like you stood by me, it might make me look a little better.”

I laughed.

It wasn’t funny.

As he turned around and paid for his things at the checkout counter, I couldn’t help but think about how he had ruined my morning. In fact, I began to think about all the times that sexist behavior had really affected me and how I had not fought back:

The one time at IHOP when men chased down my car and opened my door without my permission. That time a little boy ran through the streets groping me and my friends in NYC. That time a boy gave me a massage without asking if it was alright. The time boys made fun of me behind my back because my boobs are too small. And let’s not forget the constant catcalling.

Why? Why that morning did I back down? What made me so fearful to speak up that I gave that man a smile he so desperately wanted?

Because of the times I have spoken up only to receive criticism from the people closest to me, from women who should be on my side.

One time a man groped my butt on Bourbon Street, and, instead of brushing it off, I turned around and told (yelled at) him to keep his hands to himself. My friends told me to “calm down”.

One time a drunk man with his son (who couldn’t be more than ten years old) stopped us on the street to give his son a hug. I originally protested, but none of my other friends did. So we all gave the little boy a hug. Afterward I talked about how hyper-masculinity teaches young boys that it’s okay to touch random girls they barely know. My friends shrugged it off and laughed about how upset I was.

One time a person who shall not be named (he’s married) randomly sexted me (a minor at the time) about the disgusting things he wanted to do to me. I told family. I told friends. I found out that he had done it to other people. I was told that it would cause too much drama if I talked to his wife. So I kept it quiet.

That morning in the convenience store was just one of many and more moments yet to come. And I was a bystander, allowing the man to think it is okay to DEMAND random women stand next to him.

“The bystander effect, or bystander apathy, is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders.”

There are plenty of times I have been a bystander. Sometimes I let someone get away with a sexist joke. Sometimes I don’t say anything to someone who makes a racist comment. And sometimes I am the one who perpetuates the negative behavior.

That morning at the convenience store, I was a bystander. And there will be other times when I choose to keep quiet instead of standing up for what is right.

But the thing about keeping quiet is that every time I stay silent, there is a woman who needs someone to speak up.

One in four college women will be sexually assaulted and one in five women will be raped.

I personally know at least ten women in my life who have been raped and more who have been sexually assaulted. Behind them are women who have almost been. And even larger are the number who experience some kind of verbal assault or sexual misconduct on almost a daily basis.

If I don’t stand up for these women, who will? If I allow men (and women) to think it’s okay to shame women or make unsolicited comments or touch them without permission (god forbid), then I am just as bad as they are.

The point of this story is not to shame those who may not always stand up for what they believe in or to bash on all men. The moral of this story is to encourage those of you like me, who may not always feel supported, to speak up. Don’t sit down and shut up. Stand up for what is right. Continue to give a voice to those people who may not have one. A simple word may make a small change in someone’s behavior.

But small changes can turn into big ones.





The Righteous Among the Nations With Eric Sundby

Two weeks ago the University of Oklahoma celebrated Holocaust Remembrance Week. For me, that meant attending a lecture about the Righteous Among the Nations.

I honestly had no idea what the Righteous Among the Nations were when I went into this lecture. I assumed they were Holocaust heroes. The Righteous Among the Nations are actually people honored by Israel for saving lives during the Holocaust.

To understand the risks these people took, we must first understand a little bit more about the Holocaust. The persecution of Jews really began in the 1930s but took a turn towards more overt violence on the Night of Broken Glass. That night in 1938, German officers burned and pillaged Jewish Synagogues and businesses.

Systematic genocide of Jews, the Holocaust, officially began in 1941. Jews and other “undesirable” people were deported East towards labor camps.

Something not talked about frequently is how many countries actually knew about the Holocaust. In 1941 Poland documented the Holocaust and it was known by the European and American governments.

At this time the United States has a noninterventionist policy and there were many anti-semitists in government. Though many Jews came to the United States on ships seeking refuge, FDR sent all ships away stating that he didn’t believe the Holocaust existed and thought it was a plot by the Polish government in exile.

So, without government help, the only way for Jews to survive was to hide. The people helping them were often diplomats, party members and military because they needed to have clean identities. These people stood up for what was right risking their own lives and the lives of their families.

There are 25,685 Righteous from 38 different countries (most of them European). They are still being decided upon today.


Schindler’s List

Dead Week at the University of Oklahoma brought tears, life realizations but also Holocaust Remembrance Week.

I have low key been obsessed with the Holocaust since I was in middle school when I did a report on Hitler’s rise to power. It is always amazing to me how something so atrocious could have openly happened and how no one really did anything to stop it. At the end of the war 11 million people were brutally murdered and countries around the world pretended to be surprised. They knew. They knew and did nothing.

For so long I have put off watching Schindler’s List because I was afraid of how much it would hurt. But, if I have learned anything from college, it’s that uncomfortable is the best thing I can be if it means that I am learning.

For Holocaust Remembrance Week, OU held a whole week of educational events. One of them just so happened to be a showing of Schindler’s List.

So, on Tuesday, May 3rd of Dead Week I got my butt out of bed, showered for the first time in forever, and made my way over to Meacham Auditorium to endure (what I thought would be) the worst three hours of my life.

I won’t bore you with the details of Schindler’s List, but I will tell you:

What Schindler’s List taught me about 2016

Oskar Schindler was not the typical person you would expect to be saving Jews. He was a high ranking officer of the Nazi Party. The real reason he began saving Jews during the Holocaust was because he needed to employ Jewish workers in his factory. When he began seeing the atrocities of the Holocaust, he started saving them under the guise that he needed factory workers, but in reality he realized that what the Nazis were doing was wrong.

I could go on and on about how sad the movie was and how great Schindler was, but I want to talk about what Schindler’s List means for 2016.

It is currently 2016 and there is a civil war going on in Syria. There are people being killed by ISIS, Assad’s regime and rebels. As of February, 470,000 people had died in the war. Syrians are forced to flee their homes in the dead of night, risking their lives in the hopes of finding a better place and not becoming another statistic.

Besides accepting refugees with open arms, there’s not much people like you and me have been doing to help Syrians. When you’re halfway around the world, what can you do?

However, there are some people risking their lives everyday to make sure that Syrians survive. Just like Oskar Schindler, these people are doing what they can in the face of adversity, even when helping may mean putting their own life on the line.

Nawal Soufy is a 28 year old woman who rescues sinking refugee ships for no pay. Syrian civilians band together as “White Helmets” and rescue the hurt and buried after missile strikes. Doctors Without Borders sends their own ships to save those fleeing Syria in the night. Maya Terro feeds hungry refugees in Lebanon. Souriyat Across Borders offers free medical assistance to Syrians in Jordan. Hala Abu provides art therapy for refugee children in Amman. These people are not anything special. They are not stopping the war or stopping deaths of thousands of people. But they are using the gifts God gave them to make a small difference. They are the hands and feet of Jesus in action. Schindler was one of these people and we can each be that person too.

2016 is the year of a Syrian refugee crisis. It is a year where politicians hand out hate like it’s candy. It is a year of choices. We can choose to be like Oskar Schindler or Nawal Soufy or Maya Terro or Hala Abu. Or we can choose the wrong side of history and pretend that we are oblivious to the atrocities happening around the world just like our president did when he turned back Jewish refugee ships 75 years ago.

What’s it going to be for you?

Global Engagement Fellowship: What is it?

As many of you know, I am a fan of anything international (especially if it’s food and if it’s Indian but I digress).

Something you may not know is that next semester I will be studying abroad in Arezzo, Italy. Arezzo is a town in Tuscany about the size of Norman. The University of Oklahoma has a campus there where I will take classes on Renaissance Art, Women’s Studies, Italian Culture and Fascism. Unfortunately, Arezzo is not cheap. The semester there will cost me (*cough my parents) about $10,000. However, I know how to get what I want. So how am I paying for this semester that most college student could only dream of? Scholarships.

One of my bigger scholarships is the Global Engagement Fellowship stipend. As the inaugural class of Fellows, it has been interesting to be guinea pigs for such a cool program. This year I was selected to serve as an Ambassador for the Global Engagement Fellowship. Basically my job is to educate high school students and college students as to what GEF is and how they can get involved. Thus, I give to you:

Global Engagement Fellowship: What is it?

The Goal of the Global Engagement Fellowship is to encourage college students to learn more about the global community. But how do we do that?

GEF is a four year program. Starting freshman year, Fellows are required to become part of one international club, take an international class, become moderately proficient in a foreign language, start a blog about international issues and attend international events.

What do these students get in return?

$5,000 smackeroonies. $5,000 that can be split into a summer and semester study abroad experience or the full stipend for a year long study abroad experience.

The benefits of the program are far beyond money, though. Being a Global Engagement Fellow has taught me so much about the world beyond Oklahoma.

Without GEF I wouldn’t have learned how to bellydance or how to do henna or meditate at a Buddhist temple or dress up like the Desi queen that I am or bring my BFF from Namibia home for Christmas. I wouldn’t care as much as I do about the world around me. I wouldn’t know about the rich, diverse community that attends the University of Oklahoma. Most of all, I would not have friends that share that same passion for the global community.

I encourage anyone reading this to talk to high school students who would benefit from the program to APPLY. It is life changing and, at the end of it all, their diploma will show a Certificate of Global Engagement. What could be cooler?


The other day I was watching a documentary about drug addiction. There was a man on skid row who was working to pull drug addicts off the street and into rehab. He was not the typical aid worker. He himself had previously been a drug addict. It was not easy for him to get clean. He went to rehab 13 times until he finally decided to break the habit.

As a college student, I have never had much exposure to drugs. I went to a public high school where I knew many people sold them, bought them or did them. It never meant much to me. The students around me just had alternative lifestyles that I was to busy to have myself.

But as my high school career progressed, I slowly began to see changes in these people. They would skip out on school work and do things high school students shouldn’t do. I didn’t know if it was drugs or bad choices, but I couldn’t help but worry about how such great people could fall into the trap that is drug addiction.

Things only got worse. The freedom that comes with going to college can be too much for anyone, especially freshman year. The choices that come with adulthood are difficult, and sometimes we make mistakes. I saw these people deteriorate. Drugs had taken over what was left of their lives. Some of them got help. Some of them are still struggling. Some of them have disappeared.

This is far from a personal story. No one close to me has ever been affected by drug addiction. But there are many people out there who are fighting for those addicted. People have lost friends, family and mentors. I cannot describe what it’s like to be addicted.

Something I do know is that addiction is an evil that can tear even the best people down. I know that it is easier to let addiction consume than it is to fight. I also know that overcoming addiction takes perseverance.

Hell, it could take going to rehab thirteen times.

What matters is that addiction is recognized and that those who are fighting continue to do so no matter the costs.

Inside each of us, there is the seed of both good and evil. It’s a constant struggle as to which one will win. And one cannot exist without the other. – Eric Burdon


History Repeats Itself

Some people may say that we’re far gone from an era that would create discriminatory propaganda against a specific group of people based upon false ideals. Some people may say that we have learned from the past, that we will never let a holocaust color the pages of our history books again.

What if I told you that, while we sleep comfortably in our homes every night, millions of people are fleeing their home countries seeking asylum in a world where they are called “terrorists” because of the way the look or the accent they bear.

I’m talking about the refugee crisis.

Two weeks ago I sat in an auditorium with some of my closest friends watching a documentary called Salam Neighbor.

I didn’t expect to get emotional watching this documentary. I just thought I would learn more about the logistics of the refugee crisis and how it is affecting the stability of the EU and other Arab countries.

What I learned, however, is that there are children who are irreparably damaged by war. There are families who have lost brothers, wives, daughters and cousins. These people risk their lives fleeing miles in the middle of the night with bags and children in tow, only to find that they are unwelcome.

I have heard people say:

“We need to protect our own children.”

“We need to keep out terrorists.”

“Refugees are unsafe.”

We talk about terrorism like it popped up out of the blue, and yet our ignorance of this “lost generation” of Syrian children who do not have an education and only know violence is what is building ISIS. ISIS looks for people lost and and in need of protection and education. If these children grow up only knowing hate, they will continue to push extremism. When we alienate refugees, we are playing into terrorist hands.

Furthermore, the rhetoric that is lumping together millions of refugees under the terrorist label is how anti-semitism took hold of Germany after World War I. No, there are not currently forced labor camps and mass killings of Arabs in the EU, but already 250,000 people have died in the Syrian Civil War. Those relocating to places like Jordan are paid pennies for work that Jordanians would normally be paid a sustainable wage for. Sometimes the UN peacekeeping refugee camps are where these refugees are most comfortable. In the EU, protests and microaggressions against these people can be disconcerting.


If we allow fear of these people to build, the brainwashed hate will only grow stronger creating more anti-Arab and anti-Muslim thought processes.

We must remember who the real enemy is: those who would rather see children die than have freedom. Those are the people we should fear and fight back with love.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Political Party Responsibility to Support Constituent’s Opinions


*I do not support Trump and this is not a post outlining why Trump would be a wonderful president.

Section one of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America says:

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Although this passage is extremely clear, it is hard to apply it in a world where political parties exist. How are the parties’ candidates for the general presidential election chosen? In an ideal world, parties would listen to their constituents, allowing the Democratic system to run its course.

According to the Economist:

“To win the Republican nomination a candidate must secure 1,237 of the party’s 2,472 delegates.”

As of April 24th, 2016 Donald Trump has secured 845 delegates. 1,237 are needed for nomination and 733 are still available. In second place is Ted Cruz with 559 delegates (Associated Press).

Many people are afraid Trump is going to win the Republican nomination. I’m even afraid. His radical ideas are alienating to Americans who really just want their voices heard and his fiery personality could cause damage to the U.S. in the international arena.

However, is it not the right of the people to choose who should be nominated to each respective party ballot? YES, Trump does not uphold any ideals of which this country was created. Republicans in power would even say that he does not represent the party. But why, then, are so many people voting for him in the name of the Republican Party? The Party is represented by the people. If the people say he deserves the nomination, then he should have it.

Party politicians such as Ted Cruz will say that they do not support Trump’s campaign. Does that mean they do not support a vast number of Republican constituents who are indeed voting for him? Or are they against Trump because his ideas are against their morals?

If the Republican party leaders do not support Trump if he wins the majority nominations, they will be alienating a majority of the voting party.

No matter who the people are voting for, every voice deserves to be heard.

George Washington warned us about the power political parties could have and how it would one day become a system not run by the citizens but by parties themselves.

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” – President George Washington

With the negative rhetoric associated with Trump and the issues with voting in New York and Arizona, it is obvious that both parties have favorites. Bernie Sanders continues to win Democratic debates according to viewers at home, and yet the news media continuously declares Clinton leader in polls. Trump himself has given a shout out to Bernie Sanders for running outside of the Democratic regime complex.

No system is perfect. This election just happens to have two outsiders running a strong race under party systems who would rather give them the boot. If anything, it’s eye-opening to how the political system has morphed since the inception of the United States.

As a country founded to prevent oppression of people (except slavery but that’s another issue), it is sad to see how political parties have somewhat become the oppressive King that the colonies despised. Every citizen has the right to vote, unfortunately power to get whoever we want on the ballot has been somewhat usurped.

When political parties do not give full backing to the candidate whom the people choose, it is the beginning of a government not run by the people and for the people, but run by those already in power.

The Story of a Refugee


The other day I ate Moroccan shawarma for the first time.

Over a plate of chicken, fries and pita I heard the story of the refugee crisis first-hand.

Nina* is an Iraqi Christian studying to be a doctor in the United States. She attended high school in the Netherlands through an international scholars program. This is where she perfected her English and Dutch.

This year, I had the pleasure of befriending Nina through a foreign language program. The first time I met Nina I knew she was special. She is kind, genuine, smart and hilarious. Her laughter lights up a room.

Hearing that she was a Christian from Iraq, I was very interested to learn how she felt about the mass amounts of people fleeing the Middle East for their safety.

This is Nina’s story.

As a Christian, Nina was the minority growing up. In school, all of her Muslim friends were kind as long as long as you didn’t bring up religion.

Nina has three sisters, one older, two younger and a little brother.

Nina’s dad owned auto parts in Iraq.

That was until he received threats on his life for being a Christian.

Not knowing what to do, Nina’s father asked her if the Netherlands was a safe-haven for their family.

The issue was, that passports in Iraq are nonexistent. To get one, Nina’s family had to find them illegally through a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy. These pseudo-passports cost around $20 thousand per person.

$20,000 is a small price to pay for the safety of your family.

Nina’s family now lives in the Netherlands without jobs and without a culture to call their own.

When I asked Nina if she would ever go home to Iraq and if she felt safe. She said no.

Iraq is not home to her anymore.

When we look back at the Holocaust, many wonder why the United States did nothing to stop the murder of six million Jews.

What are we doing now?

From behind computer screens people scream that migrants (which I hate to call these refugees because in no way are they migrating at their own will) are terrorists and will only harm the rest of the world.

I warn you of the danger of a single story.

While we sit comfortably in our homes watching the plight of others through a television screen, there are those who, because of war, do not have shelter, food or water.

There are those who may never be able to show their children where they grew up.

There are those who will never see their family again.

There are those who have nowhere to call home.

Nina is one of the lucky ones. She left before her life and home were destroyed.

Others aren’t so lucky.

*name has been changed to protect identity

My Opinion in 400 Words – Media Convergence

My grandparents taking a selfie

My grandparents taking a selfie

When many people think of media convergence they automatically think of my generation – people hooked on instant gratification. Don’t get me wrong, today’s world is one where companies make it as easy as possible to access music, movies, radio, television, and news at the touch of a button all from one device.

Some may call convergence the end of face-to-face interaction. Others say it creates laziness.

But what about the benefits of media convergence?

In a segment of Sunday Morning on CBS, Jeff Greenfield celebrates the show’s 30th anniversary by looking at how media has changed since the show first began. He ends the segment by talking about how convergence preserves the past by making history easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

That video made me think about other ways that convergence has impacted the world in a positive way.

Take the news for example. Before media convergence, news was only on television, in newspapers or told by word of mouth. The news had to be sought after to be accessed. Now news is all around us. Even those that choose to ignore world issues at least glimpse what is happening around them while scrolling through social media and other websites.

Even better is the personalization that comes with media convergence. Most applications on cellphones or computers have settings that allow the user to only see the things that interest them. Instead of having to only listen to local radio stations or watch the only movies in the theatres, consumers have access to millions if not billions of music and motion pictures that interest them.
This now brings me to academics, more specifically research. No, libraries are not coming to an end. Books made of paper still have merit, but media convergence allows different types of sources to be available in one place, and many types of sources at that.

For example, a student doing research on architecture in Egypt can easily find news articles, photos, books and videos without having to get up off the couch. I don’t think this is lazy. I think this is innovation.
Although convergence does has its downfalls, it makes life more interesting and inspires people to be engaged in the world around them.