Self-Immolation and Sexism

Hi everyone! Sorry that my first post after a long break is a downer, but I just had to write about this.

Earlier today, this article popped up in my Google Reader. The title is “The Arab World’s Horrific New Trend: Self-immolation.” Apparently, this new trend is men self-immolating in protest of their governments. Six men have lit themselves on fire in recent weeks. This is news-worthy! It’s something important that should be commented on! This is new!

Unfortunately, it’s not. In Afghanistan alone, over 100 women self-immolated in 2010.  Several times the number of results appear when googling “self-immolation Arab” than when googling “self-immolation Arab women.” Even when adding “women” to the search, the first few results are about the “new” trend of men self-immolating. Because these are just women, right? Who cares about them! They’re just hysterical laydeez overreacting to some tiny problems, like women always do. No, until men are doing it, it’s not important!

This issue clearly illustrates that sexism still exists in the media. Self-immolation by women in Arab countries has been a known and studied problem for years, something committed by hundreds of women in response to abuse and a lack of control over their own lives, and yet the media still reports a series of six self-immolations by men as a horrific, serious, new, trend that we should be concerned about.

Just another example of women’s lives and experiences being invisible.


Obama Visits AU

Last week Obama came and gave a speech on immigration policy on campus. He spoke in our brand-new School of International Service building, which was pretty cool. The speech itself didn’t disrupt campus life too much. They closed the SIS building at 5 the day before, and all staff and faculty with offices in that building got the day off with pay (nice!). They also closed off the quad in front of the building and the library.

The closed area of the quad, complete with officers.

I didn’t see any snipers, but two of my co-workers said they did! On my way back from my errand, the police were closing off more of the quad, and they were really freaking me out because they were being so polite. They were like pleading with us, “Please go through this building. Please step off to this side.” It was like they were trying to soothe us because they thought we’d explode into a rage at any minute! But I guess that’s preferable than how the G20 protesters got treated, so in the end, I win!

Washington Hospital Center, Shame on You!

Washington Hospital Center has fired 11 nurses and 5 staffers for not coming in to work during the snowpocalypse. I still can’t believe that they would do such a thing. Seriously, if your street wasn’t plowed (and really, in the days between the two huge storms, almost no streets were plowed) there was no way you could get anywhere. You guys saw my pictures on Flickr – SUVs with 4-wheel drive were getting stuck on the main roads! If you had a car like mine, which is really low to the ground, it was impossible to drive through the two feet of snow that was still on the side roads. And public transporation wasn’t an option for many people, because above-ground Metro service was suspended, as was all bus service.

It boggles my mind that the Washington Hospital Center thought it was appropriate to fire nurses who had been working there for decades because they were unable to make it in during the absolute biggest snowstorm in history. I’m grateful to the doctors and nurses who were able to get to the hospital and complete their shifts – they are nothing less than heroes to me for making that trek. But people who were unable to do the same shouldn’t be punished for not having the foresight to purchase the right vehicle, live on the right street or in the right neighborhood, or spend the night at the hospital so as not to miss work during this once-in-a-lifetime epic storm.

More on Journalistic “Ethics”

I just keep thinking of more things that are wrong with this story.

The FP writer relates how the photographer who watched the little girl die later comitted suicide, supposedly haunted by the things he saw. He then writes:

That’s why I can’t blame Gupta for helping out when he did. On the one hand, he crossed a journalistic line and became part of the story. On the other hand, he probably saved a few Haitians’ lives. Imagine how he’d feel if he had to report on CNN that he’d stay there to watch them die that night?

Apart from that “journalistic line” thing again, the writer is literally saying that it was okay that Gupta intervened and crossed that line because it would have been so hard on him if he had watched them die instead. The focus is not on the people who were dying and needed help – it’s on the journalist/photographer and their feelings. You should save people’s lives if you can, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because later you might get all depressed about letting them die and capturing their suffering to further your career. And wouldn’t that be a shame?


Journalistic Line?

I was going to write a post about a cool promotion that Wendy’s is running right now, but I am so disturbed by something I just read on Foreign Policy that I have to write about it.

Apparently CNN correspondent Sanjay Gupta used his medical training to treat some patients in Haiti, where he was reporting from a hospital after the Belgian staff had left due to safety concerns. The Foreign Policy piece argues that, even though it made people cringe to think that Gupta was being some kind of show-off, ultimately he did the right thing by helping out. You know, instead of letting those three patients he stabilized die. So that’s weird to start – how is there even a question that he did the right thing?

But then the article gets horrifying. They post this picture –

Image from Foreign Policy article

– fand tell the story behind it. The photographer discovered a starving little girl trying desperately to drag herself to a feeding tent. A vulture landed nearby to wait for the girl to die. The photographer, professional that he is, spent twenty minutes trying to get the best, most emotional shot. Then, after getting his Pulitzer Prize-winning shot, he chased the bird away and sat under a tree while the girl died.

Absolutely horrifying. But to top that, Foreign Policy says that this incident “raised uncomfortable questions about whether he should have helped the girl rather than simply watching her die.”


I’m speechless. How is that even a question? How is it that journalism is so tied to its code of ethics that says “don’t become part of the story” that journalists would feel its acceptable to muse in public about whether it would have been okay to break that code to save a dying child?

That’s messed up.

Officer Kimberly Munley is my hero.

This article made me cry – and I am not a crier. Good on her, and good on the other soldiers who helped each other.


Guess who totally aced her Econ midterm! I did! I’m totes a genius.

And speaking of geniuses, OkCupid (an internet dating site) did an interesting survey recently, and one of the questions they asked was “Are you a genius?” The results were interesting, but not surprising. Unsurprising – 46% of men said they were geniuses, compared to 30% of women. Given stereotypes and sexism, it’s not surprising that women would be less likely to think they’re super-smart. Also unsurprising – 39% of all respondents said they were geniuses, which is not possible. As OKTrends said “2 in 5 people (and nearly half of all men!) think they are one in a thousand.” This is something that I’ve long suspected. Everyone thinks they’re above average, that they’re special. But it’s just not possible for everyone to be above average!

OK Cupid broke down the results in a map, which was pretty interesting. Green means more people think they’re a genius, and red means less. Check out Nevada!