Thursday, March 27, 2008

Miss Bimbo

For every concerned doctor and terrified mother who watch young women destroy their bodies for popularity, there is someone happily, and not always intentionally, perpetuating the problem.

Welcome to the land of Miss Bimbo! "Become the most famous, beautiful, sought after bimbo across the Globe!"

"Find your own cool place to live. Find a fun job to pay for your needs and all the clothes a Bimbo could possibly want. Shop for the latest fashions and become the trendsetting bimbo in town! Become a socialite and skyrocket to the top of fame and popularity. Date that famous hottie you've had your eye on and show the Bimbo world the social starlet you are! Even resort to meds or plastic surgery. Stop at nothing to become the reigning bimbo!"

Stop at nothing. Even resort to meds or plastic surgery. STOP AT NOTHING!

This is the message that we teach young women in this country. The message in and of itself is not a bad one (hear me out). When we teach them to work towards their goals and dreams, we should impart the idea of 'Stop At Nothing'. They need to learn about hard work and persistence.

However, 'Stop At Nothing' is extreme thinking which can lead to promiscuous sex, adultery, drugs and other behaviors harmful to your psyche and body, especially in the entertainment field.

For this young generation, being "Famous" is the ultimate goal. Think about YouTube: Broadcast Yourself. How often do funny, horrifying or impressive videos wind up on major websites, television shows or even referenced in movies?

But let's talk more about this game. Let's talk about how the values it sets forth are permeating our youth. Dr. TimValko, a psychologist from Toledo, cites a comparison to a real world patient. "I just had a patient. One of her friends taught her how to vomit to lose weight so they would be attractive for other boys in her class. And she's in the fourth grade.” A nine year old with bulimia, and all for the attention of boys. This is the example set by this game.
The game's web promoter, Chris Evans, argues for the positive influences: “What about loving your bimbo? What about taking care of your bimbo? Sending it to university? The quality aspects of the game have been completely ignored.” My first big problem with this statement, for there are several, is the reference to the Bimbo as an "it". I realize that the game is intended to be compared to Tamagochi's, the hand-held electronic pet, but that is hardly an excuse for that mindset. Secondly, pretending that university is an expectation, even a possibility, is ridiculous seeing as how your Bimbo starts off with an IQ of 70. For those of you who are unaware, that is one point above mental retardation. "And you can't raise your I.Q. in the game," steams Valko.
The game has received quite a bit of attention from the medical profession. "This is as lethal as pro-anorexia websites," Dee Dawson, medical director at Rhodes Farm Clinic, which treats girls aged from eight to 18 who suffer eating disorders, told The Times. 'Players compete in beauty contests and send text messages to the site to earn currency in the game, which is then used to pay for lingerie, diet pills, breast enhancement and face lifts.'
One of the scary things about this phenomenon is that parents would be almost completely in the dark about it if it weren't for their phone bill. Although it is free to play, when the contestants run out of virtual dollars they have to send cell phone text messages costing $3 each or use PayPal to top up their accounts. This shows up as a cell phone charge which Daddy pays ( seems to fit into the theme of the game, doesn't it?)
This game is one of too many bricks in the wall between our youth and a healthy self-image. We have to work not only to tear down this wall, but to prevent more building.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Great Women Gone Missing

One week after authorities found the body of Katoucha Niane, in the River Seine, Waris Dirie was reported missing. Seeing as these women are both involved in the political battle against FGM, suspicions are rising. Dirie has since been found, but the mystery behind her disappearance remains.
Both of these African-born women used to be models in the French fashion world. They have also both undergone female genital mutilation, FGM, and since written books describing their ordeals. Dirie's book, "Desert Flower", shocked the world as a best seller. Katoucha's story, "Katoucha, In My Flesh" was published very recently, and given it's practically-post-humus release it will likely make quite a splash.
The autopsy for Katoucha revealed no signs of foul-play, but her family holds their suspicions. Given their common connection it seems likely that many people will suspect the "coincidental" nature of these cases.
Whether it is a coincidence or on purpose, I believe there is a silver lining: this story will make it into many news sources, bringing awareness to an issue that has been too long in the dark. Hopefully enough light will be shed to make a difference, no matter how small.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

FGM rages on in Sierra Leone

This disturbing visual hails from Sierra Leone where some 800 women paraded and protested their right to female genital mutilation. These women, ironically 185 miles east of Freetown, danced and sang a warning to outside governments and groups against "any attempt to take away our traditional ritual".

Mamie Banya, a member of the Bondo Society, claimed, "Any organisation that has accepted funds from overseas donors to wage war against FGM is fighting a losing battle. Let donors keep their money, we will keep our culture."

The ritual is regarded as "harmless" while it "promotes marital fidelity". One demonstrator even stated that "it has made us women be responsible housewives to our husbands". Women were actually using the phrase "we love FGM" during their protest. They say that if the process was outlawed in their region, as it is in many others all over Africa, they "will become uncontrollable". It is a very important part of their culture that they hold dear.

That is hard for an American to handle, especially when we hear so many stories of women who experienced it as children; women who were scared, in great pain, forced against all will to be cut by unsanitary tools. According to the July 12th issue of Women's Policy, Inc., written in 1996 mind you, in areas in the Sudan where antibiotics are not available, it is estimated that one-third of the girls undergoing FGM will die.

Another piece of this puzzle often left unmentioned is HIV. Many women, especially those who experience infibulation, the most severe and damaging form, are left with no sexual options other than anal intercourse to please their husbands. This radically increases the odds of catching and spreading the virus.

If you believe in prayer, please say one for these women. Those that are suffering from the practice against their will as well as those who fight desperately to maintain it.

Katoucha Niane

This Guinean-born model did many extraordinary things in her life. She experienced genital mutilation as a child. She ran away to Europe to be a model, where she became a muse for Yves Saint Lauren. She used her fame and status to speak out against FGM.

She was found dead in the Seine river this past week.

While some will specualte that this was an assasination for her efforts against female circumcision, the common theory is merely that she fell in the river while intoxicated. She lived in a houseboat, where her purse was found. The autopsy did not suggest foul play.

This beautiful, soulful woman experienced FGM at age nine. She later wrote a book, dedicated to her three children, that described the whole ordeal. "Katoucha, In My Flesh" was published last year.

Katoucha, like many women I deeply admire, used her pain, her suffering and her truth to help other women. Rather than hiding in pain and shame she acted out against a horrible crime. For that she deserved better than a meek ending in a watery grave. Let her story encourage you to share your pain with someone it can heal.