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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Race, Gender and Sexuality--Who AM I?!

When people write that there was not enough time for discussion and in fact, we had more than an hour for it, this means that the discussion was good. Indeed, this time was not enough for the FLEX Alumni to express their opinion on race, gender and homophobia issues in Georgian reality during the two-day seminar that took place in New Art Café.

We watched three films and talked about three respective issues. I choose films that are not too artsy but not too Hollywood either. All three films have very high rating on IMDB, though some were better than others.

The event was held at the New Art Café because 1. It was moderately priced 2. It did not look like a classroom. Originally I wanted to rent a small screening room in one of the movie theaters, but their prices are just unreal, and their customer service…well, you get the idea.

My favorite discussion was about racism/ ethnocentrism. Alumni touched deep issues, knowledge of the official language was brought up, immigration seemed a problem to some and nationality and national identity were examined. One of the alumni asked why do we even need a sense of nationality, which definitely charged the air with controversy.

Gender discussion was not what I expected. None of the themes of the film were touched, though one of the guest speakers just recently worked with UN on a study about violence towards women in Georgia and she could have talked about how relevant the film was to Georgian reality. In the end, girls felt frustrated, boys felt outnumbered, and we concluded that pregnant women should move away to the village and stay there for 9 months J

And finally, we did not discuss, but asked guest speaker about homophobia, which was very informative, but not too controversial. I am still wondering what happened to the voice of the audience, since the last two discussions were so heated.

The goal of the seminar was to let the audience see that there are many opinions on the matter and make them question their beliefs. I hope that at least some of the alumni (and the guest speakers and organizers) will research these topics more to come to a solid conclusion. After all, critical thinking means re-examining the established truths and arriving at one of your own!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Homo: Phobia and Sexuality or How Do We React When Two Men Kiss?

This weekend I organised (with help of a team) seminar called Critical Thinking in Social Problems in Georgia. First of all, I am generally very pleased with seminar overall. The only thing I would change—replace “The Color Purple” with something more dynamic.
The last film is my favorite and the last issue—most controversial, so I will start discussing it first.
I was surprised that we did not have any discussion. Rather, it was a Q and A session with Paata Sabelashvili. And though I am very grateful for his informative, and I would say comfortably reassuring presentation, I expected more debates. What happened?
Was it that the audience did not know much about the matter and genuinely preferred to listen? Was it that the Alumni thought it would be rude to directly oppose homosexuality, when we had a gay guest speaker? Or were we all simply tired after two days of talking?
In the end, I think that “they are born that way” argument is bullshit. If I were anti-gay, I would say, so what, some people are born with a thyroid gland dysfunction, that does not mean it shouldn’t be cured!
I believe that this argument tries to validate homosexuality and that is wrong. It is like saying, well how is it their fault if they are born that way? This case automatically tries to find a cause that justifies wrongness.
I believe that we are born with an inherit free will. I believe that we have right to love, be in a relationship, marry and have sex with whoever—unless it hurts the other person. I don’t care what the cause is, because I do not consider that homosexuality needs explanation. How would you feel if a black person tried to justify her skin color by saying that she was born that way and there is nothing she can do about it?
When I was in college in the States, some of the kids on my campus wore shirts that said “Gay? Fine with me”. I thought that was atrocious! Can you imagine shirts that say “Woman? Fine with me” or “Black? Fine with me?”?! I think justification of any kind is humiliating and that human sexuality, whatever it is, should be taken as a fact. And yes—big surprise!--men do kiss men, and after you get used to it, you might even find it sexy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Russia As I Saw It--Posolok Gorodskogo tipa

How Soviet is Post-Soviet?
My trip to Russia was fun overall and I certainly don't have enough time to write about it now--my tea is getting cold and I have a seminar to conduct in two days--but I wanted to share this picture of the local school located in a little town/village, or, as I was told in a " Posolok gorodskogo tipa".