Saudi Arabia Approves Physical Education Program in Girls’ Schools

Girls’ Physical Education in Saudi Arabia

According to Arab News,  the kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education has approved a program allowing physical education to be taught in girls’ schools. This is more significant than some observers realize. The deeply religious and conservative Middle Eastern nation does not not favor women’s rights or their independence. However, there is a movement for change. The kingdom wants to modernize and that means having women be a part of the larger society and public sphere. The implementation will occur during the 2017 and 2018 school year. Saudi women will no longer accept a second class status or remain under antiquated guardianship. An even bigger incentive is to mobilize women in the workforce and other sectors. This starts with the youth and creating new opportunities. Vision 2030 seeks to enhance the Saudi kingdom economically, politically, and socially. This change is policy is part of that program to ensure the country is not left behind in the 21st century. Sporting activities are being encouraged across the kingdom. This is part of the Vision 2030 program and women will gain the most  from it. The focus on sports clearly has an intention on building high performing Olympic teams. It would not be surprising to see the girls who benefit from this program becoming Olympic athletes in the future. Like Title IX in the United States it will be beneficial both in terms of public health and women’s empowerment.

        The minister of education Amed Al-Issa  issued the decree for schools in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for girls’ physical education. A supervisory committee will be established under the supervision Haya Bint Abdul Aziz Al-Awwad, undersecretary of education for girls.  This program will target both public schools and universities. Three months of intense policy study Saudi officials thought this was the correct time for educational reform. Change will not be immediate. It may be decades before the new policy shows positive results. Discrimination and gender bias cannot be erased by a mere stroke of a pen. There will of course be individuals who object to any form of change. Others are more open mined and fitness trainers seem more enthusiastic about the decree. It is not secret that some girls have been given private lessons in tennis and soccer before the royal decree. Now girls can have schools provide facilities to develop athletic skills. There are less liberal voices as demonstrated by Mohammud M.S :” I don’t think it’s right for a young girl to take a sports class in school, she will grow harsh and rough, which goes against her delicate nature.” He expounds further: “I won’t deny my daughter’s participation in any (physical education) related activities in school but I will draw a line somewhere.” It seems Saudi men who were raised in a religiously conservative society reject the idea of a strong woman. However, others realize  that change cannot be stopped  yet sill wrestle with the idea of  traditional gender roles. This change should be welcome for the sake of the kingdom’s image.

          Western images and ideas about Saudi Arabia either are stereotypical, racist, or Islamophobic. As a way to disparage an entire race, some point to Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women. Commentators say “they are not part of the civilized world”  or use it to elevate Western values as being superior. The truth is like any other country,Saudi Arabia has its problems, but it is seeing women become more powerful. Over the past decade it has happened rapidly. During the Rio 2016 Olympics Saudi Arabia sent four women athletes to compete. Although it was only four athletes the image was important. Prior to that Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shaherkani made history as the first women to compete in the modern Olympic games in 2012.

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These young women were met with harsh criticism at home by religious fundamentalists and extreme traditionalists. These negative reactions inside the kingdom only validate Western prejudices and misconceptions. If one truly loves their nation they should seek to see all members be successful, especially in an international setting. Doing so will dispel the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment so prevalent in mainstream Western media. Many objects to women’s participation in sport come from a religious context. The Quran does not ban or prohibit women from participating in sports. To make the claim it makes women into bad Muslims has not factual support. Religion should not be regressive, but progressive. Islam has a tradition of impressive civilizations which include the Abbasid Caliphate, Umayyad Caliphate, Songhai Empire, Mali Empire, Sokoto Caliphate, and the Ottoman Empire. That tradition must be revitalized in elevation of people and society. Women are the key to saving the kingdom from turmoil. Sports are not the only sector women are flexing their muscles; they are making their mark on government.

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Princess Reema  was appointed in 2016 to oversee the women’s sports sector. She works in the General Authority for Sports and it is pivotal that women have leadership positions. Normally, a Western view of a Saudi woman is that of a weak and oppressed creature sheltered from the outside world. Contrary to misconceptions women are challenging old customs. Around 2014 schools Saudi state schools introduced sports for girls after vocal opposition to a general ban on women in sports. The move was incomplete without physical education for all girls. Gradually, the kingdom is introducing reform. Yet, they do not go far enough. The fear of the House of Saud  is that reform in other areas may mean mass political reform or possible revolution. The Arab Spring has increased this paranoia. The trepidation of regime change may halt reforms, which could prevent such events from occurring. The addition of physical education to girls’ education is a great step in promoting social health and stability to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The encouragement of  a healthy lifestyle will prevent disease and reduce healthcare costs in the long term. Seeing as people will live longer in the future, this must be encouraged.

Saudi Arabia Approves Physical Education Program in Girls’ Schools

Happy Inauguration Day

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It is unfortunate that American politics has come to a point in which far-right extremist views are acceptable. Hate or general violence directed at immigrants, African Americans, and women will become  the norm under a Trump presidency. Donald Trump and his supporters dream of a United States that is of the 1950s  in which racial discrimination was common and women had little power in society. While Donald Trump’s racism is well documented, what people forget is his misogyny. Women have accused him of sexual misconduct and tapes exposed a crude side of his personality. A Republican dominated Senate and House of Representatives means Trump has a free hand to implement policies that could be potentially devastating to the United States. There is limited hope for the future, but people can still resist. That is why it is important to support the Women’s March on Washington. Let it be known the citizens of the US will not tolerate oppressive measures by a Trump administration.

Women’s March on Washington

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Happy Inauguration Day

Wonder Woman Is No Longer an Honorary UN Ambassador

The iconic comic book character Wonder Woman is no longer an honorary UN ambassador. The fictional character’s selection did meet some condemnation. The reason it was done was to promote the empowerment of women and girls. UN members and external pressure wanted this revoked based on certain perspectives. They claimed they were concerned about the “over sexualized image,” which featured “a large breasted white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh -baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots.” They went on to explain that it was “not culturally encompassing or sensitive.” Hearing these statements demonstrates erroneous thinking. It is the type of  irrational thinking that comes from extreme third wave feminists and false social justice warriors. These two groups do not want to challenge injustice, but merely act as managers of current conditions. These people presenting themselves as advocates are nowhere to be found when people are in danger. At this point in history the United Nations has lost most of its credibility. UN failures and abuses in the  Democratic  Republic  of the Congo, South Sudan, Haiti, and the authorization of military action in Libya prove it should not lecture any nation on human rights. Iraq suffered under both UN and US sanctions, while North Korea  is  being put under sanctions. This honorary ambassador for the famous DC character could have been a positive development for the struggling supranational organization. Syria could be the breaking point for the world body. These criticisms of  Wonder Woman’s image display a level of ignorance about the character. The arguments for rejection can easily be discredited.

           The claim of the over sexualized image almost sounds like a religious fundamentalist argument. Wonder Woman is drawn as an attractive and athletic woman. Yet, some feel that the mere image of the woman’s body is sexual. There effort to prevent misogynistic convictions only reveals their sexist prejudice. To them a woman that is dressed in a certain way is just a sex object. Men are hardly ever judged on how they dress. These objections to the character’s costume expose an undated traditionalist view about women. Extreme third wave feminist make similar arguments, but in another context. They believe that presenting women in this image encourages a rape culture. This explains why feminists and the religious right collaborated in the attempt to ban pornography in the United States in the 1980s. The traditionalist claimed that it was obscene. Feminists stated it created rapists and hate for women. Both these statements are incorrect. Rape is the product of a society that thinks violence against women is normal, not lascivious materials . What is considered obscene or  crude to one person, may not be to the other. These two groups obviously do not believe in the freedom of speech.

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The case with the statement on Wonder Woman reveal a combination of these two schools of thoughts. They say her uniform is sexualized, but the only thing it does is reveal some parts of her body. It should be understood that DC comics is not pornography or sexualized. It has happened to the character in certain comics, but that is not her sole purpose. Wonder Woman does not fall into being a simple stock character or some random trope amusement. She is one of DC comics most recognizable characters, with plenty of fans around the world.  Wonder Woman costume is more tame compared to real life swim wear.

Wonder Woman has not appeared in a thong or nude in the comics. Microbikinis almost seem like no clothing at all.   When examining this objection it lacks cogency. While it is true, normally Wonder Woman appears in her thigh bearing suit, there are times in which her costume changes. At first she wore a shirt. This was during her first comic books in the 1940s. There were times in which she wore pants. The costume changes depending on the time or character designer. Writers and artists change the image of  a  comic book character various times.

         The belief that Wonder Woman’s design is impossible baffles the mind. Seeing as she is a cartoon character she can be drawn, which ever way an artist wants. If these UN members bother to do research, they would realize that Wonder Woman is not some unrealistic standard body. There is a habit to draw women unnaturally thin, but this has been avoided by DC artists. Wonder Woman has either appeared athletic and sleek or muscular. Being an amazon she has to look the part. She is a type of superhero that is a fighter trained in warrior combat. So it would make sense to show her body as if it was trained for rigorous physical activity.

Depending on the artists and writers of the comic, Wonder Woman can break the common model of slim woman. This allows the readers to at least believe that she could pull of the strength feats she does or fighting super villains. Wonder Woman’s design can either be extremely cartoon like or realistic model. Saying that her body proportions are impossible is wrong based on several reasons. The first reason one should remember is that it is a fictional character not meant to be a entirely realistic depiction. Another reason is that there are other mediums besides comic books encouraging body image disorders. The fashion and fitness industry do this as well. Fitness magazines emphasize weight loss and present the slim body for women as the image of health. Fad diets and equating a slender body with success. The fashion industry entourages models to starve themselves and they only design clothes for an ectomorphic body type. These critics have never spoken out about these more serious issues. The last point also is that Wonder Woman’s proportions resemble that of a female athlete. Many of them are more Wonder Woman like than the actual character!

Muscular thighs and a powerful looking upper body seems to be the model Wonder Woman is based upon. The women who train in what ever sport they choose to compete in create a body that is powerful and has implications about what a woman can achieve. The concept of the weaker sex is based around a pseudoscientific understanding of biology and physiology. The female body is seen as inferior or either frail. The muscular woman challenges this idea. This extends to a version of feminism that emphasizes women’s physical prowess as a means to challenge patriarchy. The fact that men are stronger than women has been used a justification to control women, becomes a ludicrous argument when women develop their strength. The image of the strong woman in this mode of thought can inspire young girls to grow up to be confident and independent women.William Moulton Marston Wonder Woman’s creator was a supporter of women’s rights. He has supported the women’s suffrage movement  and did not hold traditional views about gender roles. The character was not meant to be an empty vessel, but a symbol for women to liberate themselves. It surprising  that UN members are rejecting an image that shows a woman with one type of power. Although there are many types of power ( mental, financial, and constitutional) , physical power is still not consider acceptable for women. That statement about Wonder Woman’s “impossible proportions” just proves their objections are not out concern for women’s well being.

     The only legitimate argument that can be made to revoking the honorary ambassadorship is one of cultural sensitivity. This claim also has weak points. Wonder Woman is a white person who is trying to be presented in a campaign to empower girls and women globally. The majority of the world’s population is not white. This image almost seems like a painful reminder of the colonial past in which whiteness was presented as a standard of beauty and success in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Adding to this is the fact her costume is the US flag in swimming suit form. What appears from this is a type of subtle cultural imperialism. The great part about fictional characters is that they can be changed. That means even their skin color. Marvel has done comics in which their former character are no longer white. Amadeus Cho is the new Incredible Hulk. Fans did not recat negatively to the change, because comics function on retrocative continuity. There is no reason why Wonder Woman can be either African, Asian, or South American.

This needs to be done to correct past mistakes. It is no secret that comics have had a tradition of racist caricature. African Americans were targets, but Asians, Mexicans, and other non-white groups were subject to prejudicial representation in popular media. It was common to see blackface and yellowface  caricature in Wonder Woman comics in the 1940s and 1950s. The only characters drawn in a normal form were the whites. This was the era of Jim Crow and Japanese internment. Even after the end of World War II, ant-Asian and anti-black racism was still prevalent. America’s refusal to grant African American equal rights and its wars in Korea as well as Vietnam demonstrated America’s desire to maintain a white supremacist system.

 The Japanese a portrayed as small eyed, sneaky dwarfs. African Americans are shown as sub-human. These were the views shared by the majority of whites in the United States. 

The end of European colonial empires and the civil rights movement in the United States had a major impact on race  relations. Certain views were no longer acceptable. It had a positive effect on popular culture and comics, because more non-white superheroes were being created.  Wonder Woman has been used as a symbol for social justice whether its appearing on the cover of Ms. Magazine  or artistic renditions for a contemporary cause.

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An artistic rendition of Bree Newsome, who took down the Confederate flag form the South Carolina State House in 2015. It had been there since in 1961 and continues to be a symbol of division in hate.

Numerous fans produce art and share it online as a way to explain certain movements. This could range from anything to Black Lives Matter to women’s rights issues. Taking a recognizable popular culture figure helps explain what a cause is about. A popular symbol remains in the minds of  people longer than just mere ideas. Wonder Woman should not be regulated to just a frivolous part of entertainment.

   UN  member should reconsider their decision. If one examines the history of Wonder Woman she is a comic book character born out of the women’s rights movement. Using this cartoon character for a UN campaign to  empower women and girls would a positive development. This sudden reversal reveals what the organization is really about. The United Nations was never about creating world peace or even enforcing international law. It was about imposing order through the domination of the world’s most powerful nations . The UN has either authorized or allowed armed conflicts to start, which harms more women and children. It fails women on many levels and continues to make women’s rights as  low priority. There are a few programs for women’s causes, but these are under funded by peacekeeping missions. Although there was controversy regarding this event, one question remains. How come no one has nominated a real woman as an honorary ambassador? There are women who do amazing things everyday and making a difference in the world. May be this exposes a larger problem. The United Nations,just like most human societies is majority male dominated. Women must have an active part in the societies in which they live. While Wonder Woman is no longer going to be an honorary UN ambassador, she will always be a favorite among comic book fans.

Wonder Woman Is No Longer an Honorary UN Ambassador

Serena Williams Wins Her Seventh Wimbledon

Serena Williams won her seventh Wimbledon. She has proven over the years that she is one of the best tennis players competing today. Williams has made tennis an important sport and has done much to promote it to a wider audience. Once considered the domain of arrogant, pretentious, and self absorbed upper class elites has become a sport worth watching.  Below is a video showing both Serena and Venus flexing their muscles. Femuscleblog offers words of congratulations to the Williams sisters.

Serena Williams Wins Her Seventh Wimbledon

RIP Muhammad Ali

The sports world awoke to lugubrious news today. Muhammad Ali one of the greatest boxers passed away at the age of 74. His life was not only amazing in terms of his athletic feats, but his humanitarian work. Besides fighting opponents in the ring, he also fought social ills. Racism, white supremacy, war, and poverty were cancers he spent most of his life combating. Ali’s refusal to serve in the Vietnam War inspired many peace activists. Muhammad Ali was a member of the Nation of Islam and supported Black Nationalism. As the years past he became a global icon. Muhammad Ali’s athletic talent boosted the international profile of the sport of boxing. Today matches are highly rated shows on television. Muhammad Ali will be remembered as one of the best athletes in history.

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Laila Ali With Father Muhammad Ali

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Ali king

RIP Muhammad Ali

The Moroccan warrior women beating men at their own games

Moroccan women are becoming involved in a sport traditionally reserved for men known as Fantasia. Players get onto horses riding in unison firing guns. This sport is dangerous, but these women do not show any sign of trepidation. North African Berbers have played this sport for centuries and is a unique part of their cultural heritage. The BBC normally biased against non-Western nations actually provided a quality report. The reporter makes one mistake.. She asks how Arab or Moroccans feel about her participation. Arabs and Berbers are not the same ethnic group. However, both live in the kingdom of Morocco. There is ethnic conflict, but maybe this sport can be a way to bring these two groups together in national unity. For women it can be a step for advancement in society. It is a positive image challenging the notion that women in the global south are weak and helpless needing Western “help” to liberate themselves. There still is a long way to go. Women can compete locally, but not nationally. With enough protest and objection to this measure this will soon change. Women across the globe are enjoying sport and the numbers are growing.

The Moroccan warrior women beating men at their own games