Tuesday, July 19, 2016

It's Possible That I Just Did a Good Job

Recently, an interesting incident occurred.

We had some home work that I thought I had done quite well. I thought I had come up with a simple solution to kind of a difficult problem. My teacher praised me. He also praised a lot of other kids in the class, too, not that any of them valued the praise because this particular teacher isn't all that familiar to us and most people don't believe he has anything valuable to offer.

Throughout the class, my teacher kept singling my work out. Throughout the class I had to sit through people all around me snickering, and the snickering just kept getting louder and louder.

The reason my classmates responded this way was because they think this particular teacher favors me because I am a girl, a girl he likes. It was very embarrassing for me. I don't use my feminity to attract people to get ahead in life, and it's a policy I adhere to as if it were a religion. So yeah, the response hurt.

What hurt even more was that my work was ridiculed and diminished in value. I will admit that even if it is true that this particular teacher does favor me, as far as my work is concerned, I have always taken it as a motivation and not as an unfair advantage. In college, none of the teachers treated me as special, so every time somebody does, I try to use it to do better.

Also, let me point out that the truth is that most of the other students had not worked very hard on the assignment. A third of the class did not submit. Many of those who did didn't put any heart in their work. Also, a lot of the of the got compliments. He told one student that if she is as original as her work on the assignment shows, some day she will make a good architect. He told one girl, who really does get overshadowed some times, that her work was the best, and she really understands process. And then there's this one guy who, so far, has never got a single compliment for design,  but this teacher said his idea for the assignment was 'not bad' and could really be worked with.

Nobody saw that I had actually done the work and even enjoyed working. Nobody even considered that maybe my work had any merit. Yes, the teacher favours me, but nobody saw that most teachers (even female teachers, by the way. How come we never take that seriously?) have  favorite students. And worst of all, whatever judgements were being made on the teacher's character, the same judgements were inadvertently being reflected on me, too. And the whole time, I kept thinking that I had done nothing wrong. I was disappointed that I have not been able to prove the strength of my character so far, even though I have worked really hard for it.

I have pointed this out to people, and they say it's all good fun and that I shouldn't take it to heart. But the thing is I have been called a lot of things in my short life, from weird to asocial to antisocial to someone who acts quiet and righteous but actually "has her own games" (yeah, that last one even sent me cracking). Bt I never took it to heart. But this time I am taking it to heart because I feel like I have earned a right to. I could have been the girl who took advantage if male teachers to get ahead, the girl who played games. But instead I am hear, braving myself to ridicule and simply trying to explain my point of view.

So now tell me. Do you truly, truly believe I deserved the snickering?

And just so we are clear, I am not a victim in this situation. I am just someone who is weird, antisocial and maybe has some games up her sleeve, but nevertheless someone who doesn't want her very character being laughed at and expects fair recognition for her work. Nothing more, nothing less.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Random Thoughts of a Young WOMAN: We Find You Guys Handsome, Even When You're Not

Benedict Cumberbatch is not handsome. He's charming, charismatic, always dapper and phenominally talented, but he's not handsome. Before someone points out that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, let me clarify some things. Yes, I like looking at Benedict Cumberbatch. Yes, he qualifies for my 'dream guy' list. But if you look with closely, with only your eyes, you'll see that he doesn't fit into the narrow definition of conventional beauty. Neither does Shah Rukh Khan (That nose? Those eyebrows?) Neither do a lot of men in the entertainment industry who constantly feature on "Sexiest Men' lists. Their beauty doesn't come solely from their physical features. In a lot of cases, their facial features are irrelevant. What makes them handsome are the things that come from within. It's about how they present and carry themselves, their charismatic mannerisms, the subtle imperfections that make them who they are.

It's not the same for women. Most women who are considered beautiful by popular media (and society) are physically and facially gorgeous. For them it is about having the longest legs and the straightest nose and the fullest lips and the slimmest waist and blah blah blah. It is! Yeah, we say that Barbara Streisand is beautiful, but let's be honest, we don't mean it the way we mean it when we say Aishwarya Rai is beautiful. And have you looked at Adele? She is absolutely jaw-droppingly good-looking when you really look at her, but most of us can't get past her weight.

So jest so we're clear, no matter how many times people argue that these days men are objectified just as much as women are, it's clear that we take into condsideration personality attributes that can never really be objectified into consideration. It's different with women. People look only at the packaging when judging a woman for her beauty. I concede to the fact that it's getting better with time, but it's a slow change. I agree that not everything is sexism, and this is just a result of ages and ages of mental conditioning, but let's start looking for magnetic charisma when compiling the next completely unnecessary beauty list, shall we?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Some Foreign Movies Worth Watching

I have always loved movies. It's unfortunate that I have no talent that will enable me to participate in any aspect of the making of the film. I can't act, sing, direct, write or photograph. Nothing. But my appreciation for movies has grown over the years. For most people, movies are just entertainment, and many movies are even a lowbrow form of that. It's not like that for me. Most people who know me make comments about my knowledge, ranging from an awe struck "how do you know so much?" to a critical "she's such a know-it-all". Most of my knowledge comes from watching movies. I have the uncanny ability to cut through all the fillers in a movie and reach the messages, the information, the very heart. I have already spoken about movies that I believe were much better than they were given credit for, and now it's time to speak about some films that I believe need to be watched, but aren't because of the language barrier. I'm talking about foreign films.

Here are some movies I have seen over the years, and I enjoyed every minute of them even though I had no idea what the characters were saying.

1. Hotell

This is a Swedish film about a young, beautiful, privileged woman, Erika, whose expectations of a perfect future are shaken when her son is injured during childbirth, leading to permanent brain damage. It's a future she simply cannot accept, which keeps her from so much as holding her newborn son as her more practical husband begins to cope with his new situation. She joins a support group for people dealing with trauma and is more of a silent participant till one of the members suggests wanting to be someone else for a change. When the group coordinator takes some time off, five individuals from the group decide to spend some time in a hotel, acting out personalities that they would want to be in real life, if only life were so kind to them. There's Anne-Sofi, who has been unpopular and shy and abused her whole life, and wants nothing more than to be someone whose coworkers like her and ask her about her daily life. There's Rikars, a man with serious mommy issues and a fascination with Mayan torture techniques. There's Oskar, whose curse in life is that it's been too perfect for him so far, too stable, too devoid of drama. And then there's Pernilla, a woman who has reached middle age without ever getting married or being in a sucessful relationship, and believes that having someone to share physical relationships with would be therapeutic to her.

Together, the five of them spend a week in different hotels, getting booted out from each one due to various reasons. Yes, the supporting characters are fascinating, but the film belongs to Erika, played masterfully by recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (whose performance here surpasses that in The Dansih Girl). Even though she is consistently judged as self-centred and privileged in the movie, you understand how shaken up she is now that her life has changed forever. You sympathise with her, not once being able to judge her for her money and success, instead feeling her anger with her, even when she refuses to touch her own child.

Hotell left me wanting more. I was literally gripped throughout, which is more than I can say for a lot of Oscar nominated films, even the Oscar nominated foreign films that tend to be really good. It never compromises with entertainment and never ventures into the dreary 'art film' category (we all know how that works out, huh?). But here's my biggest compliment- no matter what language you speak, you can go to watch Hotell and actually enjoy it, without having to pretend later that you've enjoyed it because you want to show everyone that you get foreign films.

2. Monsieur Lazhar

This movie wasn't really underrated, and it was nominated for an Oscar in the Foreign Film category. Also, it's not the first title that comes to mind when you think of entertainment. But Monsieur Lazhar is one of my favorite movies about teachers, and that is after some stiff competition from Mona Lisa Smile and Dead Poets Society (which were both the same things with the genders reversed, right?). It's about an Algerian teacher who comes to a French Canadian school to replace a teacher who committed suicide in her own classroom. As the children deal with the grief of losing someone they looked up to, the teacher's own losses are slowly revealed.

I think this is one of those movies that is worth watching just for it's last scene, such as Roman Holiday. The last scene makes us question if the recent paranoia regarding inappropriate relationships between teachers and students completely destroyed our ability to see the innocent, pure closeness between mentor and pupil. Perhaps an embrace isn't something disgustingly inappropriate, but a show of affection of like-minded people.

3. Children of Heaven

This Iranian gem of a film is one of my favorite films of all time. One of the problems with our perception of West Asian countries (or any developing country for that matter) is that we see them only through the eyes of relatively wealthy, English-speaking societies. We see them as backdrops, sometimes even as props, and never do we get a chance to experience these countries as people who live in them.

Children of Heaven is one of those movies that you can't not like. You just can't. There is forced simplicity, something that writers and directors employ to lend a stylistic atmosphere to their films. And then there's purity, there's innocence. There's the ability to look at the world through a child's eyes. It's not easy. Most children ion film are precocious creatures cast only to speak some funny lines or act cute or tug at heartstrings in moments when the adults become too rough to look at. But Children of Heaven goes beyond these tropes and explores something only a child can experience- the struggle of a brother-sister duo sharing one pair of shoes. Through this story, we are taken through the streets of Iran, witnessing the life of ordinary men and women that no Hollywood film could have helped us do.