Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Shifting the Conversation on Headwraps

Shifting the Conversation on Headwraps

Shifting the Conversation on Headwraps

Posted: 11 Jun 2014 12:49 PM PDT


This article originally appeared on Patheos.

On June 8th, the 2014 Headwrap Expo was held in Dearborn, Michigan, billed as an event on "the art of headwrapping and scarf styling," bringing together fashion, culture and interfaith dialogue.

The event was presented by Beautifully Wrapped, an organization celebrating the art of headwrapping. According to Zarinah El-Amin Naeem, founder of Beautifully Wrapped, The Headwrap Expo is intended to celebrate "fusion — looking at how different cultural aspects, different things that people wear in different parts of the world are adopted across into other cultures."

As Naeem further explains,

"It's an intercultural, multi-faith event that brings together all these different groups…We have the Sikh Indians, we have Muslims, we have Christians, we have Jews, we have African Americans, African immigrants, everybody coming together. Once we're there, we share, we talk about love, we have workshops, we have fashion stylings, fashion shows throughout the day. It's a whole affair."

The "whole affair," as Naeem puts it, includes dozens of vendors and educational workshops on spirituality as well as style, topics ranging from natural hair care to "African adornment" to a special workshop for people dealing with hair loss from chemo or from other causes. In an interview about last year's Expo, Naeem said:

"We pull a multi-religious, multi-ethnic eclectic group of people, many of whom are humanitarian minded and enjoy diverse colorful atmospheres and mingling with people from various backgrounds…From London, New York Runways and Prada, to the streets of Morocco, Malaysia and Nigeria, headwrapping is a global phenomenon enjoyed by women and men of all backgrounds."

This sense of a hybrid, multiethnic "colorful atmosphere" is very much evident from looking at the poster from the 2013 expo, which features women of different ethnicities in various kinds of hijab and in elaborate headwraps. In contrast to such events as World Hijab Day, the Headwrap Expo presents itself as a way of bringing people together around the idea that head-covering is a common practice across many religions, rather than just focusing on hijab.

"Your head is your highest point of your existence; it is the part that has our consciousness. So when you cover your head, it is a constant reminder that something is greater than yourself, the Lord is the one you are you to revere. That is the big thing for many spiritual cultures — look at nuns, Rastafarians, Jews, Muslims — all these different spiritual groups have some type of head cover. That's no accident."

Is this a form of public relations for head-covering in general and hijab in particular? I think that is obvious. But rather than preaching about the requirements of "modest dress" and "correct dress," or getting non-Muslims to "try on a hijab" as though that is a way to "feel Muslim" this kind of event can work as an effort to help bring people of different communities together.

I was reminded of hijab tutorials, and in particular, a tutorial by a person who identifies herself as "the non-Muslim hijabi" and notes, "I'm not Muslim, however I do like to wear hijab. The draping of fabric framing the face is beautiful." Similarly, at the Headwrap Expo, the spirtituality of headwrapping, and whether or not is required, seems to be secondary to the focus on fashion and style and the aesthetics of headwrapping.

That's not to say that this is a bad thing. When I first wore hijab, I was the only girl in my school who covered her hair. There was, however, a Ghanian teacher who wore an elaborate head-wrap, and who, like me, often got stares from the other students, as well as other teachers. I remember the affinity I felt with her, which was not related at all to faith, but simply to the fact of being identifiably dressed as different. We are often told things like "being different is liberating" and that it is all about self-expression – but it can be lonely and frustrating, when for example, a child won't sit down next to you on the bus because, from the point of view of the child, you "look like a witch." So next time, you remember to wear colorful clothes because being in all black might be intimidating to little kids on the bus, and you make an extra effort to smile.

In a post about World Hijab Day on Muslimah Media Watch, Shireen Ahmed writes:

"As much as I am interested in sharing, dialogue and debate, as a hijab-clad woman, my concern is not, and will never be how other women "feel" about a hijab that they do not wear regularly…This exercise reduces a Muslim woman to one yard of material. It is not an action that one can adequately educate and put another woman in their position. It's completely disingenuous to think so."

I agree entirely with this sentiment – trying on a hijab for a day does not automatically mean you've walked in another person's shoes. But while there is no "insight" that can be gained just by covering your head with a piece of cloth, there are insights that can be shared when people of different meet around the diverse practices of head covering, with all their different symbolism and cultural meanings. The Headwrap Expo shifts the conversation in useful ways, because rather than the one-way track of asking non-Muslims to understand or accept Muslims, it asks people of different backgrounds to understand each other and to engage in creative collaborations. That is why, in the midst of all this personal and political hubbub around the piece of cloth some women choose to cover their heads with, events such as the Headwrap Expo are something to celebrate.

Tasnim is Associate Editor at Muslimah Media Watch. She is interested in the intersections of politics and culture in the Arabic-speaking world.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: We Need to Stamp Out Misogyny in Sports

Posted: 11 Jun 2014 12:37 PM PDT

The most moving reading I've done in the last six months has come from the anguished tweets on #YesAllWomen that followed the Elliot Rodger shootings in Santa Barbara. Even more depressing than his horrific actions is the feeling that the national debates about cultural misogyny, mental health care, and gun control that followed have already lost momentum — shoved back into their dusty corner, awaiting the next bloody tragedy. Public outrage has a short half-life. Fist-shaking and finger-pointing quickly degenerates into helpless shrugging.

But we can't let go of this question: Why in America do our mentally disturbed take out their anger so violently? In a September 19th, 2013 op-ed article in The New York Times, Stanford University psychological anthropology professor T.M. Luhrmann explained how when schizophrenics in Chennai, India hear voices, they are told to do domestic chores like cook, clean or bathe. But schizophrenics in San Mateo, California hear voices that tell them to do very violent actions like cut off a head and drink the blood. In India they clean; in America they kill. America also has the highest gun ownership rate in the world. And our number of multiple killings is nearly as many as the entire rest of the world combined.

Even more disturbing is why so much violence in America is directed at women. The answer to this question, at least in part, is that it's a result of a lifetime of cultural influences. And while there are surely plenty of cultural influences to blame, one of the sources of this negative influence is amateur and professional sports.

Surprised to hear me say that? I've spent much of my life in sports and promoting sports as a positive influence on our youth and our culture. The benefits are obvious: building healthy bodies, practicing sportsmanship (should we call that sportspersonship?), learning teamwork, creating a supportive community, and much more.

In fact, the image of girls and women in sports is much more culturally positive than that of mainstream society. In the sports world, women are praised for their athletic ability — not their physical appearance. We cheer the sweaty woman running down the field for her effort; mainstream America tells her heels are required because she's too short; make-up is required because her face isn't attractive enough; cleavage is required because it gives men a reason to pay attention; hair coloring is required because aging is forbidden and blondes are sexier; Photoshopping is required because no woman (not even a model) can match the fantasy woman our culture promotes on the covers of almost every woman's magazine. (It's not a coincidence that Elliott Rodger gives a hair color preference — "blonde slut" — to his object of hatred.) But in sports, women stand tall and proud in athletic shoes and uniforms because we're more interested in what they do than how they look.

But — there's a big "but." Despite all the good in sports, there are many aspects of it that encourage our culture to look at women as less valuable than men.

The easiest way to determine women's value to their culture is to look at how much we pay them in relation to men. Some studies suggest that in general women make less doing the same jobs as men (the Census Bureau concludes that women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn). This national trend extends to professional sports. According to Forbes, the maximum salary for a player in the WNBA is $107,000, compared to the $30.5 million Kobe Bryant will make. Inbee Park, who won the 2013 U.S. Open in golf, received $585,000 for her victory. Justin Rose, the men's winner, received $1.4 million. This disparity is seen less in tennis because England's Wimbledon, the French Open, and the U.S. Open all pay men and women winners equally (which is why of the 10 top-paid female athletes in the world, seven of them are tennis players).

This discrepancy extends to coaching as well. For Division I college sports, men get paid significantly more. Male basketball head coaches averaged $71,511, while women coaches averaged $39,177. Even in gymnastics, which is predominantly female, the men coaches are paid more. This doesn't even address the fact that there are more opportunities for males than females to play sports, both as amateurs and professionals.

Many will argue that the pay difference is the result of free market supply and demand. More people want to see men play professional basketball than want to see women play, so the players are paid accordingly. You can't argue economics. There is truth to this. You can't force people to attend a sporting event if they don't want to.

However, this is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. We can change things. First, we need to address why they don't want to watch. This goes back to cultural biases. If we don't value girls' sports in middle school and high school, then we don't grow up to value them as professional athletes. And by value, I mean make athletic opportunities available, pay coaches equally, and promote female sports with the same vigor as we do male sports.

At the same time, the disrespectful and disparaging language used in sports furthers the gender gap. Male coaches often address their male athletes as "ladies" whenever they want to humiliate them. "Come on, ladies," they'll say, "lift your skirts." Or, "You're playing like a girl!" This is treated as a joke or good-humored tradition, but its long-term social effect is not funny. Even in movies and TV shows we see tough women turning to men and saying, "Quit acting like a girl." Cue audience chuckle at the reversal. But all that does it prove we've brainwashed women to be derogatory toward themselves.

We also need to address the culture of violence surrounding our athletes. When we see them resolving problems through violence it can send a message to others in our society to emulate them. Raven's tackle Jah Reid was arrested for allegedly head-butting, kicking, and punching a man in a strip club (what attending strip clubs says about our culture of devaluing women is another matter). Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov was arrested on charges of kidnapping and assault of his girlfriend. Houston Rockets forward Terrence Jones was arrested for stomping on the leg of a homeless man. Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez was charged with murdering a friend. This year alone football players Chris Rainey, Robert Sands, and Daryl Washington were arrested for domestic battery or assault. We can't as a culture glorify violence and then be surprised when our members resort to it as our "heroes" do.

Which brings us back to #YesAllWomen. Despite more than a million responses, it probably won't change anything. It should be a national wake-up call that such a forum even needs to exist. And we should celebrate the opportunity for women to express their frustration. But we need to remember that while misogyny may be mostly perpetuated by men, it is enabled by both men and women in society who embrace gender inequality — or simply let it go unnoticed.

It's reminiscent of the 1947 film Gentlemen's Agreement in which Gregory Peck plays a journalist who pretends to be Jewish in order to write about anti-Semitism. His WASP-ish fiancé realizes that there's a "gentlemen's agreement" to ignore distasteful anti-Semitic comments (and by implication racist, homophobic, and misogynist comments) as if they never happened. She also realizes that ignoring them is part of the problem because the silence encourages them and thereby taints our whole society.

We can change things. Small things. One at a time. We start by not remaining silent in the presence of misogyny, not tolerating violence as a form of communication, and demanding gender equality in education, sports, and jobs. Right now, tennis is showing us the way. All athletes need to help finish the job.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a six-time National Basketball Association champion and league Most Valuable Player. Follow him on Twitter (@KAJ33) and Facebook ( Mr. Abdul-Jabbar also writes a weekly column for the L.A. Register.

Fancy Bluetooth Ring Connects to Your Phone for Discreet Alerts

Posted: 11 Jun 2014 12:30 PM PDT

Over at Wired, Liz Stinson profiles a tech-infused ring — called Ringly — that looks like costume jewelry (I only know what “costume jewelry” means after being with my wife for a decade). This ring sports a Bluetooth chipset, however, and pairs with your phone to discreetly alert you to calls, text messages, email and other notifications that’d otherwise steal your attention away. You can customize the alerts as one of four vibration patterns or one of five different colors.

Speaking to the ring’s creator, Christina Mercando, Stinson’s piece contains a quote that pretty much perfectly sums up what’s going on here:

"The fashion world is blown away; they can't believe something like this exists," says Mercando. "And the technology world is like, is that all it does?"

People who have been writing about gadgets for more than a couple years will instantly recall HTC’s Rhyme smartphone, a device awkwardly marketed to women by way of a little cube-shaped charm that plugged into the headphone jack and lit up when calls and texts came through. The idea was apparently that you could leave your phone in your purse, and stretch the charm outside your purse so you could see if someone was trying to get a hold of you. Our own Jared Newman took two for the team, first writing about the phone and then reviewing it.

High-tech rings pair with your phone to discreetly alert you to calls, messages and more Ringly

While Rhyme sales probably didn’t make HTC’s year in 2011, Ringly might have a shot. For starters, the ring itself will cost almost as much as an on-contract smartphone — just shy of $200 at retail, though pre-orders are going for $145. So it’s already a luxury item: It’s available in a handful of different designs and contains 18-karat gold.

More importantly, it doesn’t look like a ridiculous gadget you strap on your body somewhere. I showed a picture of one of the rings to my wife, who immediately identified it as costume jewelry, not some newfangled wearable device housing a power-sipping Bluetooth Low Energy chip. Big points for hiding the technology.

So would she wear one? “I would wear it as costume jewelry when going out, sure.” Would she pay $200 for it? “I wouldn’t spend $200 on costume jewelry. A lot of people do, though.”

If you’re going to pay $200 for an oversized ring, why not buy one that pairs with your phone, right?


Study: Kids Know When Adults Are Keeping Secrets

Posted: 11 Jun 2014 12:09 PM PDT

Lying about Santa Claus, how babies are born or whether there are cookies in the cookie jar could get parents into trouble. Children are extremely perceptive: past studies have shown that kids can tell when adults are lying to them. But telling children only part of the truth can get adults into trouble too. New research suggests that youngsters can tell when people commit “sins of omission” and even learn not to trust those people.

Researchers at MIT studied how 42 six and seven-year-olds evaluated information. They conducted two experiments. In the first study, the children were separated into two groups: one group got a toy that had four buttons, each of which performed a different function—lights, a windup mechanism, etc.; the other group got a toy that looked the same but only had one button, which activated the windup mechanism.

After the two groups of children had played with their respective toys, the researchers put on a show: a teacher puppet taught a student puppet how to use the toy, but only showed the student puppet the winup function. For the kids playing with the one-button toy, this was all the information; but for the kids playing with the four-button toy, the teacher puppet had left out crucial information.

The researchers then asked all the children to rate the teacher puppet in terms of how helpful it was on a scale from 1 to 20. The kids with the multi-functional toy noticed that the puppet hadn’t told them the whole story and gave it a lower score than the children with the single-function toys did.

The second experiment began with the same premise—splitting the children into two groups, letting them play with their simple or complex toys and then giving a puppet demonstration. But then after the demonstration, the researchers brought out another, totally different toy and gave it to both groups of children. This toy had four functions, and the teacher puppet demonstrated only one.

Children who had the multi-functional toy in the first part of the experiment—and therefore had seen an incomplete demonstration from that teacher puppet before—explored the toy more thoroughly than the children who only had the single-function toy. These children, it seems, had learned to not trust the teacher because of the first uninformative demonstration.

"This shows that children are not just sensitive to who's right or wrong," lead author Hyowon Gweon says. "Children can also evaluate others based on who's providing information that is enough or not enough for accurate inference. They can also adjust how they learn from a teacher in the future, depending on whether the teacher has previously committed a sin of omission or not."

So watch what you say parents: if you lie to your kids—or even keep secrets from them—they’ll learn to not trust you.

Driver Charged in Fatal Crash That Injured Tracy Morgan Pleads Not Guilty

Posted: 11 Jun 2014 12:07 PM PDT

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Truck driver charged in fatal crash that injured Tracy Morgan pleads not guilty in New Jersey.

The Cast of Napoleon Dynamite Reunited and Took Some Weird Pictures

Posted: 11 Jun 2014 12:03 PM PDT

On an average day, if you ask Jon Heder — the actor best known for playing the titular character in Napoleon Dynamite – what he’s going to do, he could reasonably respond, “Whatever I feel like I wanna do, gosh.”

But on Monday, if you’d asked him what he was going to do, he’d have replied, “I’m reuniting with the film’s entire cast so we can celebrate the 10th anniversary and then also unveil a creepy bronze Napoleon Dynamite statue.”

So yeah. That happened. The cast was also, of course, promoting something: the special “10 Sweet Years” Blu-ray/DVD release.

As for the statue, Heder seemed pretty cool with it and was gleefully Instagramming it:

Instagram Photo

To be fair though, not everybody is flippin’ sweet enough to have a statue in their likeness.

How Do I Strike the Balance Between Confidence and Arrogance?

Posted: 11 Jun 2014 11:57 AM PDT

Answer by Will Wister, a fund manager and health enthusiast, on Quora

  1. Arrogance is not something you should strive for – even partially. It stems from insecurity and lack of effective feedback. Arrogance attracts weak people and you want to attract strong people with whom you can interact in a healthy way.
  2. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Trying to become some ideal mix of confident and arrogant will take your mind away from the present. That means you won’t be at your best in responding to situations as they come up. Your interactions will become more awkward as a result.
  3. Confidence is important. Strength attracts strength. If you’re not confident, you’ll tend to attract people who are weak – which can feel burdensome. Alternatively you can attract egotistical people which can make you feel small.
  4. Accept who you are as a person. You’re not perfect. You didn’t have a perfect childhood. No one does – ever. Doesn’t matter. You have to accept it anyway. It’s you. It’s not going to change. There’s no reason to feel shame. You might have flaws or shortcomings that others might not have liked. Realize that you can’t please everyone, and that everyone’s personality is an inherent compromise. Accept the compromises you have made and recognize that you’ve done your best to learn and become the person you are today.
  5. Figure out what you like about yourself. Everybody has great qualities. From what I’ve seen of you on the site, you’re smart. You’ve created some interesting opportunities for yourself. If I knew you better, I’m sure there’s a lot more I could say. I’m sure that a lot of people have given you various sorts of praise over the years. Own that praise. That’s you. That’s the good side of the compromises you’ve made in your personality. Remember that.
  6. Think about that the next time you need confidence. Confidence isn’t some magical trait that is always present. Everybody has times in their life when things don’t go their way and they don’t feel their best. They doubt themselves. When that happens, just remember what’s good about you. If you get in a situation that is stressful or unfamiliar, just relax, and remember that you have a surplus of good traits to help you get through whatever obstacles may come your way.

This Question originally appeared on Quora: How do I strike the balance between confidence and arrogance? More Questions:

This Is What the New Batman Villain Looks Like

Posted: 11 Jun 2014 11:31 AM PDT

Batman’s rogue gallery is host to some of the most famous comic book villains of all time – Two-Face, Catwoman, The Joker – but video game developer Rocksteady’s final installment in the wildly successful Arkham trilogy is introducing a new villain: The Arkham Knight.

While prequels Arkham Asylum and Arkham City confined Batman to just parts of Gotham, Arkham Knight will allow players to explore all of the city. That much space calls for an extra villain — and a new set of wheels.

Bat-fans can now drive the Batmobile (as well as drones and tanks) in order to stop the Scarecrow and mysterious Arkham Knight from turning Gotham into rubble.

This Is Alibaba’s Plan to Take on Amazon and eBay on Their Home Turf

Posted: 11 Jun 2014 11:26 AM PDT

Chinese retail giant Alibaba is making its boldest move yet to directly compete against sites like Amazon and eBay on their home soil. The company launched a new boutique online marketplace in the U.S. Wednesday that it hopes will gain a foothold in the country’s $262 billion online retail sector.

The new site, called 11 Main, allows merchants to sell boutique products in categories such as fashion, jewelry and crafts. For now, it's more of a Etsy competitor than an Amazon foe.

"The 11 Main experience was really created and inspired by that Main Street shopping experience," says Mike Effle, president and general manager of the business. "It's really positioned as a hand-selected collection of speciality shops and boutiques."

The site is Alibaba's first substantial attempt to break into the U.S. retail market. In China, Alibaba is an unprecedented tech giant that generated $248 billion in retail transactions in 2013, dwarfing global sales for both Amazon and eBay. 11 Main takes some cues from its parent company’s successful Chinese enterprise. Like Taobao, the largest of of Alibaba's retail sites, 11 Main leaves the shipping and logistics fees to the merchants, acting only as a massive storefront to let customers browse thousands of items. 11 Main charges a 3.5 percent commission on most products sold. The site was formed through the 2010 acquisition of two e-commerce U.S. startups, Auctiva and Vendio, and will operate independently of Alibaba, Effle says.

11 Main, which is currently in an invite-only beta, has a long road ahead to create a significant dent in the overcrowded American retail marketplace. But Alibaba’s backing gives the new site a significant advantage, according to Forrester analyst Kelland Willis.

"A successful eCommerce practice requires seasoned talent – which Alibaba is hiring in the form of acquiring companies," Willis said in an email. "Acquiring mass traffic will likely be their biggest issue to date, but with a long tail of products it may be easier than we expect."

Ahead if its upcoming mega-IPO in the U.S., Alibaba has made significant investments in plenty of other American businesses. The company poured $215 million into a messaging app called Tango earlier this year, and led a $250 million funding round for ridesharing app Lyft in April. The company also has a 40 percent stake in Shoprunner, an online storefront with a free shipping program that competes directly with Amazon Prime. Flush with cash—the company made $3.5 billion in 2013 alone—Alibaba's ambitions are rapidly expanding beyond its homeland.

What Bergdahl’s Journal Entries Tell Us About His Troubled State of Mind

Posted: 11 Jun 2014 11:23 AM PDT

In a diary entry written shortly before Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl headed to Army basic training in Georgia and more than a year before he walked off base in Afghanistan, the young recruit wrote, “I know that there is light in this darkness, and that I can actuly [sic] reach it if I keep walking, keep moving to it.” That excerpt, from a journal kept by Bergdahl before his capture by the Taliban in 2009, is just one of many that suggest a restless soldier eager to walk away.

Bergdahl’s writings, obtained by the Washington Post from a friend of the young soldier, paint a portrait of a vulnerable and troubled young man who was often psychologically at odds with those around him. Bergdahl, who was discharged from the Coast Guard in 2006 and drifted for several years before joining the Army in June 2008, called himself “the lone wolf of deadly nothingness,” and mentioned having “plans” shortly before he apparently walked off the Afghanistan army base.

The excerpts the Post published from Bergdahl’s journal do not answer the question of whether he deserted or not, and may not play a significant role in the House of Representatives’ investigation into the events surrounding his disappearance from base. But they do reveal important details about his character.

Here’s what Bergdahl’s journal suggests about the soldier’s state of mind before his captivity.

  1. He struggled to maintain mental stability. Bergdahl wrote of a “darkness” around him and seemed to harbor deeper psychological unease. “I will not lose this mind, this world I have deep inside," he wrote shortly before he deployed. "I will not lose this passion of beauty." In one diary excerpt from 2009, repetitions of the phrase “velcro or zipper/velcro or zipper/velcro or zipper,” cover nearly two pages.
  2. He seemed frustrated with the Army. Bergdahl was disillusioned with the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, and while his comrades called him “a good soldier,” the private was aloof and brooding. “i’m at an odd place here,” he wrote.”Bullet sponges… This is what some of the SEALs call regular Army and other mass ground troops. Its right, the job of a soldier is basically to die,” he wrote.
  3. He longed to travel. Bergdahl wasn’t accustomed to staying put for long periods of time. “One day, if I make it out of this, I will go around the world. I will not use airplanes, but only trains, boats, vehicles, and… (if I still have them) my feet,” he wrote. And later, “Walk us to the end of this. Walk on. And walk us out of here…”
  4. He had a “plan.” Bergdahl’s journal discusses a “plan” on several occasions, but it’s far from conclusive whether he was planning to desert the Army. In an email to a friend’s daughter written three weeks before he walked off post, he wrote “Im good. But plans have begun to form, no time line yet. . . love you! Bowe.”His friend’s daughter wrote back, "Exactly what kind of plans are you thinking of?""l1nes n0 t g00 d h3rE tell u when 1 ha ve a si coure 1ine about pl/-\ns," Bergdahl wrote back in coded script next day. "There is still time yet for thinking."
  5. He expressed feelings of alienation. "Like i'm pulling away from the human world, but getting closer to people," he wrote in Afghanistan. "Almost as if its not the people I hate, but society's ideas and reality that hold them . . . I want to change so much and all the time, but then my mind just locks down, as if there was some one else in my mind shutting the door in my face. . . . I want to pull my mind out and drop kick it into a deep gorge."

Bergdahl, who is still recovering after his five years in prison, has yet to speak to the media — or, if reports are to believed, his family.



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