Monthly Archives: April 2015

Teen Fads in US 2015. What about your country?

Teens told BuzzFeed in 2015 that fads change or they didn’t know current fads, except for fashion trends: hippie clothes, choker necklaces, crop tops, and silver or lilac hair color.[i] They said Netflix replaced MTV and they listen to music and watch TV online. They don’t like Facebook but most use it, mostly to connect with their parents, while the teen platform is Instagram. They think technology helps them connect with friends and family. Speaking in text lingo was uncool, as was Justin Bieber. The most popular celebrities were women: Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé. What they want is to be taken seriously by adults and they like talking with them. I asked a high school senior in my town about the accuracy of this survey; “Ha ha, most of those seem pretty spot on,” said Sacha.

[i] Logan Rhoades, “16 Random things You Should Probably Know About Today’s Teens,” BuzzFeed, April 21, 2015.

Youth Environmentalists

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the youth director of Earth Guardians, is active in major environmental organizations and addressed UN forums starting at age 14. The website states “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are #generationryse young people to change the world.”[i] (It also lists 50 actions that individuals can take.) He lives in Colorado where he is working to ban fracking and is reaching out to youth in 25 countries to join him and his brother Itzcuauhtliin to demand action from world leaders. They delivered a petition to world leaders at the Climate Talks in Paris in December 2015. He believes youth are listened to more than other age groups because of their vulnerability and innocence and believes their youth is a tool they can use. The brothers are also an eco-hip-hop duo with an album called “Generation Ryse.” He attributes his motivation to be an activist to being raised in the Aztec warrior tradition by his father and his as an environmental educator, his mother founded and directs Earth Guardians.


Women want to do socially meaningful work: This attracts them to humanitarian engineering

Tech programs with equal or more women students attract women who feel they can do socially meaningful work, such as a UC Berkeley graduate program on development engineering to create solutions for low-income communities and the international engineering minor at the University of Michigan.[i]

[i] Lina Nilsson, “How to Attract Female Engineers,” New York Times, April 27, 2015.

Is Lena Dunham a Feminist Role-Model?

It’s not clear why Dunham is considered a feminist icon except that she says she is a feminist and is very frank and open in Not that Kind of Girl (2014) about her personal difficulties, many of which her TV character Hannah shares. This approach fits in with Third Wave T-shirts proclaiming “Bitch” and “Stupid Girl” as if rebellion against being a good girl or an achiever is liberation. Dunham’s book mentions taking medication for obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety that “has followed me through my life like a bad friend,”[i] phobias, difficult PMS and endometriosis, difficulty with authority figures, being too passive in romantic relationships with men and being attracted to “jerks,” being critical of her overweigh body but an exhibitionist, self-loathing, using drugs like cocaine, and being repulsed by her university (Oberlin). Her book starts out, “I am twenty years old and I hate myself” but struggles to “have it all.” She shares very personal stories about her sexuality, such as learning to masturbate after third grade, loosing her virginity and just pretending to like sex. Dunham concludes with the common sense advice “don’t put yourself in situations you’d like to run away from.” If you have to run, “run back to yourself, like the bunny in Runaway Bunny runs to its mother, but you are the mother, and you’ll see that later and be very, very proud.”

[i] Lena Dunham. Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned.” Random House, 2014, p. 71.

Missing Girls, More Boys

About 3.9 million females under 60 are “missing” each year in developing nations due to selective abortion in favor of males, lack of medical care and violence.[i] The World Bank estimates about 1.4 million girls are missing due to “gendercide” abortions, mostly in China and India.[ii] By the year 2020, China will have 30 to 40 million more males than females under age 20. Normally around 105 boys are born for every 100 girl babies. In India, where millions of baby girls are aborted every year, the result is 914 girls per 1,000 boys. It’s been illegal to reveal the gender of a fetus since 1994, but clearly parents find out. Parents with money use ultrasound technology to learn gender of the fetus and then abort girls. Some without money for this technology purposefully neglect the baby girl and she dies. Poorer parents resort to letting the girl baby’s umbilical cord get infected so she dies or abandon her—the Indian government set up safe drop spots for these babies as you can see in photos.[iii]

[i] Ibid.

[ii] “No Ceilings: The Full Participation Report,” Gates and Clinton Foundations, March 2015, p. 14.


Gender Segregation in Saudi Arabia in Novel

The best-selling and controversial Arabic language “chick-lit” novel Girls of Riyadh (2005) describes the frustration in upper class young women’s and men’s interaction. The 25-year-old author says classes don’t interact except for servants and their employers, nor do Shiites and Sunnis. The narrator reports, “Any fledgling love relationship, no matter how innocent or pure, was sure to be seen as suspect and therefore repressed.”[1] Even married couples don’t socialize; husbands find it embarrassing to be seen with their wives shopping or eating at a restaurant.[2] Young men try to get their phone numbers to young women they see in malls, driving on the street—giving business cards through an open window, or meet briefly at weddings when they can quickly look each other over when the groom and his friends briefly join the bride and her friends. Their main way to interact is on their cell phones and on the Internet chat sites. All but one of four of the college-age friends are frustrated in their search for love because they’re not acceptable to a boyfriend’s family, one husband is in love with a foreign woman who his family would never permit him to marry, and one looses her fiancé’s respect for having sex with him before the wedding ceremony.

Above all else, it’s important to preserve one’s reputation as a good girl, similar to India. Even after being legally engaged, some families only allow one “viewing” for the young couple to interact except on the phone, but some of the girls managed to sneak visits. Lamees, the only friend who happily marries her love, met him in one of the few places men and women are allowed to interact, in a hospital where they are medical students. The secret of her success is she plays hard to get, making a list of what she will not do such as be open about herself because “an open-book girl is no challenge.” Being “vague and mysterious” induces him to propose marriage. Marriage seems to be the young women’s main goal, with no interest in global issues like politics except for scandals.[3] The narrator’s favorite show is Sex in the City. She does frequently quote the Koran, showing the importance of Islam in the characters’ daily lives. The novel shows the restraints on young men and women who find ways to connect electronically.

[1] Rajaa Alsanea. Girls of Riyadh. Penguin, 2007,p. 88.

[2] Rajaa Alsanea, p. 245.

[3] Rajaa Alsanea, p. 65.

Oxford Prof Reports on Youth-Led Arab Spring

According to Oxford professor Tarriq Ramadan, starting in 2004 significant numbers of young bloggers and activists (including leaders of Egypt’s April 6 Movement) were trained by US government funded NGOs such as Gene Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institution, Freedom House and the International Republican Institute.[i] Trainers emphasized how to use nonviolent tactics to shape mass psychology via the Internet with symbols and slogans spelled out by Gene Sharp. For example, the black clenched fist symbol used by Otpor was adopted in Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Syria and had no religious divisiveness between secular or Islamist viewpoints. Simple slogans like “Get out!” were repeated over and over to influence mass psychology. Instead of waging war that failed in Iraq, the US used mass movements to “undermine regional stability and bring about a Western-dependent transition under military and economic control.”[ii]

Ramadan points out the main motive of the Western powers isn’t democracy, as shown in their support for repressive dictators and monarchs, but economic and military interests that require stability and access to oil and other resources. Western countries set up bases in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Emerging economic power China is more popular than the US in the region, so real democracy would be fearful for the West.[iii] Since its formation in 2008, the Africom (United States Africa Command) bases in Africa have expanded.[iv] However, a conspiracy of foreign powers didn’t start the uprisings nor did the Islamist organizations. Young women and men led them in a new form of nonviolent opposition with new models of democracy that Western powers tried to instigate and manipulate for economic gain.[v] Ramadan noted the “very instrumental presence of powerful multinational corporations at every stage of the process that climaxed in the mass uprisings.”[vi] Although youth ousted dictators, they weren’t able to develop a vision for “a genuine mode of political organization,” which opened the door to assumption of power by well-organized military or Islamists (Ennahda in Tunisia and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Libya and Syria).

[i] Tariq Ramadan. Islam and the Arab Awakening. Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 11.

[ii] Ramadan, p. 23.

[iii] Ramadan, p. 56.

[iv] Ramadan, p. 53.

[v] Ramadan, p. 15, p. 21.

[vi] Ramadan, p. 58.