Friday, January 26, 2018

The #WATWB January Edition: No Space for Sexism — #TimesUp

Here it is, the first We Are The World blog event of the year—and my first post of 2018!

In the spirit of the #MeToo and #TimesUp momentum that saw the old year out and the new year in (and shows no sign of abating; a nod of appreciation, by the way, to Casey Affleck for declining to attend the Oscars this year—let alone hand out the statuettes), I thought I'd start off with a brief but potent story about female empowerment. What makes this story special for me is that it doesn't come from Europe or the U.S. This happened in Sri Lanka, of all places. It underlines that this fight against predatory behavior and sexism in general is a global thing, and I believe it's important to highlight these instances, especially when they're successful, because the only way real change will be effected is by keeping those voices coming, loud and clear. Sing it, sisters—and I'll join my voice to yours.

This is the billboard that sparked the controversy in Colombo (Sri Lanka's capital). Yes, I would've been offended by it. But I probably wouldn't have done much about it—aside from boycotting the gym advertised, certainly. If I'd been a member there, I'd have cancelled my subscription. I might even have suggested similar action to a friend or two, if I knew they went there, too. Yes, the gym would've gained a black mark in my book... But that would've been it.

And that's the core of the problem when it comes to sexism, isn't it?

As women, we learn early in life to keep our opinions to ourselves—especially if they're of a belligerent or non-conformist nature. We learn to dismiss the myriad sexist incidents that make us uncomfortable or downright afraid; we learn to protect ourselves, but always discreetly and without rocking the boat. Everything and everyone around us, from pop culture to our closest friends and family, create emphasis on this. This is how the world works. It's always been this way. Nothing we can do to change it.

That may (or may not) be true, but here's what I love about this moment in history: women are refusing, loudly, globally, to remain silent about it. Maybe nothing will change, I mean really change, but just the fact that it's becoming acceptable to speak out is an encouraging sign.

Women in Sri Lanka not only spoke out, they took action. Here's what went down. Sure, it's a far cry from the perfect outcome (the replacement sign put up in protest only stayed in place for one day), but—at least it's happening. There's momentum still.

And it's up to us to keep it going. I don't mean just women; all genders need to participate. This is, after all, a cause for equality, for zero tolerance to discrimination and predatory behavior, for the eradication of objectification culture. And all of us, regardless of gender, stand to benefit from it.

You cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.
— Ursula K. Le Guin (who, sadly, died this past Monday—but left a plethora of beautiful words behind. A selection of excellent quotes from her books here.)

This post is part of the We Are The World blogfest, a monthly event created by Damyanti Biswas and Belinda Witzenhausen that seeks to highlight positive notes—news, stories, developments, discoveries, progress of all sorts—in an effort to keep at bay the hopelessness and negativity so prevalent in the media. This month I'm helping out as a co-host, together with Shilpa Garg, Simon Falk, Eric Lahti, Lynn Hallbrooks, and Damyanti Biswas. Please take a hop over to visit them; excellent content guaranteed to spark a light in your soul. And if you'd like to join us, write a post about a wonderful bit of news and add your blog here or in the Linky List below. Spread the love, and share the hope!

Thanks for coming by, and have a great weekend :)


  1. This is such an empowering story, Guille. Agree, if we do nothing. We, too, are nothing. We must all stand up to injustice and oppression.
    Here's to strong women may we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.

    1. We must indeed! Thanks for the visit, Shilpa—and I'm glad you enjoyed the story :)

  2. We need more such instances happening in the most unlikeliest of places so people wake up to the change that so needs to take place in our world. And, as you said, not just women, but we need men too in this army of ours which will fight sexism till, hopefully, we have for ourselves a safer place to live!

  3. "And all of us, regardless of gender, stand to benefit from it." So true. Yet a fact that often gets lost in any discussion about gender equality. Keep refusing, eh? Good topic for #WATWB.

  4. It is indeed encouraging to see global efforts addressing the issues that affect us all. Every call that challenges inequality empowers us all, and united we can and will make a difference. Thanks for sharing this story, and for co-hosting.

  5. I want to believe that things will actually change...

  6. It is incredible that someone (or a group of them) approved that billboard in today's environment. Well done to those who spoke up about it! Thank you for sharing this empowerment story and for co-hosting this month's #WATWB.

  7. Wow. That's some billboard. And I guess I'd never thought about the fact that we quietly do our thing when we're harrassed or offended, but try to not make waves for fear of being seen as a troublemaker, or for overreacting. When I've had awkward, offensive situations like that, I become overly polite because I'm usually too stunned to react properly.

  8. Wow, Guilie. Good for these women, all of them, but, especially this group in Sri Lanka. Only earlier today I was thinking about the wide impact of the #metoo campaign. Even our professional standards checks in my state now are working with all kinds of vulnerable people. For as we know, harming the vulnerability of children, across gender, across any way is not OK. Thanks for sharing. Thanks so much too for the way you have joined our WATWB community.

  9. Yup, it's one thing to be offended but what are you gonna DO about it? Kudos to the women of Sri Lanka ... we CAN take action. We CAN make our voices heard. We CAN say no, this is not acceptable ..
    Thanks for co-hosting this month and for this great post!

  10. Hi Guilie - it's different in the Asian world - so that was good it's had some sort of reaction .. possibly not what we might think - but at least people are talking about it and it's getting air time.

    I found a rievew of Mary Beard's recent book on Women and Power very interesting ... in the Guardian's page on it ... she has stated that:

    "Women are not only going to have to be “resituated” on the inside of power; it may be that power itself has to be redefined.

    We really should be equal in all ways and at least empathetic to all, looking with respect at all sides of life ...

    Great post - thanks for highlighting for us ... Cheers Hilary


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