“Discuss a book or film that has recently changed your perspective of the world.”

This past Fall, we had a final project in my Becoming Globally engaged class concerning either our previous travels of the world or a piece of film or literature that made us see the world differently. As a Global Engagement Fellow, it is important not to see ourselves as apart from the rest of the world, but as a part of it. I created a short video over the topic of a very recently published book by the Swedish journalist Jenny Nordberg, called The Underground Girls of Kabul. The following is my transcript of the video:
”  Inequality between men and women in the modern world is not unknown. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, a practice known as Bacha Posh, which translates to “dressed up like a boy” in Dari, further intensifies the divide. It is a tradition which has lasted for centuries, and occurs when wives are unable to bear a son to inherit the family name. Families without sons are seen as weak in society, and many parents raise their youngest daughters as boys to spare them embarrassment. Once the girls reach puberty, they are transitioned back into society as females so that they may be married. Many people are aware that bacha posh are girls dressed as boys, but as a practice deeply embedded in the culture, it is universally understood and unquestioned. 
As children, bacha posh are extended freedoms in society that they would not know if they were viewed as girls. These females escort their sisters in public as male relatives, work to provide for the family, and play sports with other boys in public. Thus, the bacha posh experience a life that they would never have known if they were raised as their true gender. Unfortunately, these girls often wish they were never given the opportunity, because once they must transition back, they are stripped of basic rights to which they grew accustomed living as males. After such large amounts of psychological distress, many attempt suicide.
The practice of bacha posh is a custom which must be stopped in order to achieve greater gender equality in the world. In no society should a woman’s value be based on her ability to bear sons, and children should be able to experience freedom no matter their gender. Currently, several human rights campaigns rage over the subject, but as a tradition deeply rooted in culture, there is no end to the bacha posh in sight. “
Reading this book and learning more about a practice in the world most people have never heard about helped me realize a few things about myself and the world. The first, which is something I have actually known for a long time, is that I am an avid supporter of gender equality. I am angered by differences in the way men and women are treated in my own society, which is supposedly one of the most advanced in the world, but I am absolutely livid with the inequity in countries where women are considered personal property. I want to lend a gracious hand in stopping this thought process around the world. 
The second is the fact that there are practices and things in this world which simply cannot be known by only scratching the surface. This seems pretty obvious, but when I showed the video to the class and some visitors, including the Dean of the College of International Studies, not a single person present had heard of the Bacha Posh. I shouldn’t have been too surprised, I had never heard about it before I read the book, but it was still upsetting.
In order to leave the world a better place than we find it, we must go beneath the surface of society. We must seek out the good and the bad, and see what we can do to make the bad go away and make the good better. As travelers, we must be weary of how our cultural perspective may simply be different from the one we are visiting, but we should also always, always be informed and seek out the whole truth. In this way, we can take steps to make positive changes in the world

OU THUNDERCOUSINS

On February 19th, I went with the student group OU Cousins to watch the OKC Thunder play against the Dallas Mavericks. I had a great time getting to know my Japanese Cousin and friend Mizuki better on the bus ride there and back as well as at the game itself.

I had never been to a Thunder game before, so the experience was almost as new to me as it was to Mizuki! The stadium was a happy chaotic mess, with loud and intense basketball fans packing the seats and walkways. Mizuki and I are not even big fans of basketball, but the excitement was contagious! Of course it also helped that the Thunder were victorious, winning out over the Mavs 104-89.

At the game, I got to tell Mizuki all about how the OKC Thunder have positively affected the state. She really liked the fact that the players are like a family, and take care of each other and love the community. Sometimes, because of the fact that the US is the melting pot of the world, I think it’s hard for foreign citizens to understand the American culture. Some would even argue that the country doesn’t really have a culture! Although it is far different and nowhere near as specific as the culture of most countries, I believe it has a culture all its own. It is simply very wide, and instead of being rooted in old traditions, is rooted in different people of various backgrounds working together for a common goal.

Mizuki also shared some aspects of Japanese culture with me. In Japan, every year there is a huge job-hunting season for new graduates, and it can be incredibly stressful for people to land full-time jobs. This mass-hiring ritual occurs every December, and young adults searching for jobs may send in over a hundred applications, go to various job presentations, and attend interviews with tens of potential employers. The pressure in Japan is very high to land a good job right out of school, because rarely does an employee leave or change companies in their working lifetime.

Mizuki is hoping to graduate after one more semester at her University in Hiroshima when she leaves OU, so she will be experiencing the anxiety of the new class of job-hunters this year. In fact, she is already pretty stressed and worried about the situation. However, I know that she will be successful!