May 25 2013

European_Douchebag and the Bearded Sikh Girl: When Cyberbullying Goes Terribly Right

I’m not sure how much attention you’re willing to pay to the ramblings of a Reddit poster named “european_douchebag,” but the guy has sparked a conversation that has led many, myself included, to examine the impromptu judgments we make about how other humans choose to present themselves to the world—and about how the concept of “beauty” so effectively divides us.

Balpreet Kaur, “a baptized Sikh woman.”

It seems “douchebag” caught sight of the young lady pictured here and, without her knowledge, snapped this photo of her. He proceeded to post the photo on Reddit and tagged it “funny,” along with the caption, “i’m not sure what to conclude from this.”

On the cyberbullying meanness scale, I’d give douche’s caption a 2.5, but the message he not-so-subtly conveyed about his photo’s subject was, What’s wrong with this picture? The photo elicited hundreds of responses, many of them considerably more cruel than Douche’s original caption.

Of course, with the virtual world being as small as it is, a friend eventually alerted the photo’s subject that she was being ridiculed online, and, well,  I’ll give you four wild guesses how the “victim” responded:

A. She contacted an attorney and issued an immediate cease and desist letter to Douche and Reddit.
B. She combed through Douche’s Reddit ramblings and found several posts with which to embarrass him.
C. She took the high (ignore that insensitive jerk) road.
D. None of the above.

The answer is “D” —and then some.

Against the advice of cyberbullying experts, who warn bullying targets to “never reply to cyberbullies -even though you may really want to,” the young lady posted this response to Douchebag’s photo share: (The paragraph breaks are mine)

Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn’t know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled :) However, I’m not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it’s who I am.

Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will.

Just as a child doesn’t reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying ‘mine, mine’ and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us.

By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can.

So, to me, my face isn’t important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. :-) So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I’ve gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this.

Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. :) I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.

*blink*

Ahem.

Can we say SCHOOLED?

Geez.

Balpreet really took it there. And by there I mean LOVING, PATIENT, COMPASSIONATE WISDOM.

Did she really say, “By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions.” ?

Well, damn. I’m so humbled by that line (and simultaneously knocked back into my own history to examine the many many many apparel and grooming choices I’ve made in my life that in NO WAY added value to my life’s purpose, and probably inadvertently  (?)  created a carnal distraction for some poor soul struggling to stay on a spiritual path.)

But, I digress.

So,

I’ll give you four wild guesses as to how Douche responded to this very (clearly) loving message Balpreet directed at him which was the essence of peaceful, thoughtful, kind, and mature.

A. He photoshopped the picture with creative cruelty–ratcheting up the ridicule factor.
B. He responded to her message with vicious insults.
C. He shut down his Reddit account and disappeared from the conversation.
D. None of the above.

The answer is, of course, “D” —with an unexpected twist.

Douche apologized:

I know that this post ISN’T a funny post but I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture. Put simply it was stupid. Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you’re making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post.

/r/Funny wasn’t the proper place to post this. Maybe /r/racism or /r/douchebagsofreddit or /r/intolerance would have been more appropriate. Reddit shouldn’t be about putting people down, but a group of people sending cool, interesting, or funny things. Reddit’s been in the news alot lately about a lot of cool things we’ve done, like a freaking AMA by the president. I’m sorry for being the part of reddit that is intolerant and douchebaggy. This isn’t 4chan, or 9gag, or some other stupid website where people post things like I did. It’s fucking reddit. Where some pretty amazing stuff has happened.

I’ve read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant.

So reddit I’m sorry for being an asshole and for giving you negative publicity.
Balpreet, I’m sorry for being a closed minded individual. You are a much better person than I am
Sikhs, I’m sorry for insulting your culture and way of life.
Balpreet’s faith in what she believes is astounding.

“Balpreet’s faith in what she believes is astounding.”

I concur.

And, I would add that she stands as a magnificent role model for those who would be victimized by cyberbullying–not necessarily in her amazingly humble and instructive written response (which not everyone is mature or literate enough to effectively pull off), but in her INTERNAL response to the criticism itself. She decided not to be embarrassed or humiliated, and she clearly wasn’t, because she knows who she is. She knows where her value lies. And since that value is not related to anything material, nothing material can touch it.

Love that.

I can only honor Balpreet for how far ahead of us she is in recognizing how so-called physical beauty (determined by whom?) is a stumbling block to spiritual evolution and often impedes us in living a life that adds true value to the world, though I must admit I won’t be letting my body hairs have their way in homage to her.

Having been raised in the Baha’i Faith, with “unity in diversity” as the watchwords for human interactions, it is not difficult for me to admire Balpreet and respect her choices.

On the subject of dress and appearance, the Baha’i writings advise:

“Let there be naught in your demeanor of which sound and upright minds would disapprove, and make not yourselves the playthings of the ignorant.  Well is it with him who hath adorned himself with the vesture of seemly conduct and a praiseworthy character.”  (Bahá’u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶ 159 p. 76)

Who, exactly, possesses “sound and upright minds” raises a deeper question, of course, but the concept makes so much sense to me that any extreme in dress or grooming that provides fodder for “the ignorant” can turn one’s own individual freedom of expression into another’s spiritual, emotional and moral distraction.

Some folks reading that are like, “So what?! I’m going to dress however I want to, and how it’s perceived by others is not my problem.” Which is how you might respond if you don’t believe the spiritual lives of others have anything to do with you, and if you don’t believe that cause and effect carry any significant consequences.

I am still pondering this incident and the conversations it has inspired, and I am still deciding how it applies to my own life and choices.

No, I won’t be letting my body hairs do their own thing, but I will be asking myself in what ways my individual freedom of expression is impacting my own spiritual growth, and how it might impact the spiritual lives of others.


Nov 19 2012

Tatiana Zamir Wants to Touch You…

“Truth is a part of our foundation…even though pain may come from being vulnerable, beauty will surely follow.” –Tatiana Zamir

Tatiana Zamir wants to touch you.

Yes, you read that right.

Not only does Tatiana Zamir want to touch you, she wants you to know that it may be one of the most moving experiences of your life.

The word touch carries a lot of meaning for us humans. Being touched is a basic human need—but because so many of us have been injured or betrayed or abandoned in our quest for intimacy, we have forgotten how uplifting and nurturing it is to allow ourselves to feel the healing and serenity that comes from letting another human authentically meet our need to be touched.

Zamir, who is a graduate of  UCLA’s renowned World Arts and Cultures Program (and  is also a licensed massage therapist and graduate of the Institute of Pycho-Structural Balancing),  believes she is on earth to remind us not to lose our vulnerability.

Talking about truth and touch and vulnerability with this multi-talented healer, dancer, teacher, writer and theater producer reminds me of the opening quote from the Oscar-winning Paul Haggis film Crash a movie which, at its core, was about how we hide our truths and our vulnerabilities in an effort to feel safe:

“In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”

Zamir is on a mission to change that—one human being at a time.

Whether Tatiana is transporting a client to “another realm” via her “Healing Hands” massage therapy practice, or delivering messages of hope and healing to packed audiences through her sold-out theatrical dance production, “Moonlight Reflections, or teaching her students to “sweat joyfully” via her popular “Afro-Hip Hop Dance Class,” Zamir has made it her life’s work to share her temple and her truths in ways that are healing, inspiring and spiritually uplifting.

Afro-Hip Hop Dance Class 

“I grew up dancing and I always hated going to dance classes in Los Angeles because they were so competitive and I just wanted to have fun. Then I found this class and I couldn’t be happier. Not only is it dance, but it is a serious, fun workout!

The best thing about the class is, the studio is filled with students from no experience to dancers, so the instructor, Tatiana, creates an incredible workout and choreography that allows you to either just keep up or stylize it to your own skill set. Tatiana is sweet, challenging, fun and super talented.” –Ashley L, Afro-HipHop Dance Workshop student

“This class is the most enjoyable cardio style dance class I’ve taken in my 20 years of taking classes at various studios and gyms in LA.  It’s a great workout whether you are a beginning dancer or a professional. Tatiana is a knowledgeable teacher with great energy and she creates such a welcoming environment.  Everyone is there to have a good time and a good time is ALWAYS had!  I always walk out of this class with a smile on my face.” – Tracy M, Afro-HipHop Dance Workshop student

 

Moonlight Reflections

“Through a diverse range of topics, from the female African American experience, to spirituality, materialism and struggles with family and the pains of growing up, Tatiana Zamir weaves these dramatic vignettes to tell a story of love, creativity, roots, forgiveness and healing that is truly inspirational…I left the theater floating on a higher physical and spiritual vibration!” ~Dustin G.

“[Moonlight Reflections] was AWESOME, I was moved!!! I laughed, cried, danced, etc.!! The entire cast… amazing. Folks NEED to see this work…” ~Leslie G.

Healing Hands Massage Therapy

“Tatiana truly has a talent of transporting your body and mind to a whole new level of bliss with her intuitive touch. “ – Taylor D, massage client

“I have traveled the world, literally, getting massages and body treatments everywhere I go. I have had just about every type of massage; shia-tzu, swedish, thai, spa pamper. Throughout every experience I always find something to complain about; it’s too hard, not hard enough, not long enough or just not all around complete. Healing Hands by Tatiana is the only time that I get to fully let go, not think and enjoy the love my muscles receive. ” -Yaani King, massage client

If the ultimate Purpose of Life here on earth is tied in any way to how effective we are at using our bodies, our minds, our talents and our time to inspire growth and healing in others, Tatiana Zamir is setting an excellent example of how to get that done—and how to have a great time doing it.

I recently sat down with Tatiana for an in-depth discussion that reveals how and why she is so committed to and effective at touching others, and why she is so good at telling the truth:

KC: Why are you on earth?

TZ: I’m a truth teller. I’ve always been a fan of the truth. It’s always come easy for me to express it, and I hope to inspire others to be closer to the truth–whatever that looks like in their own lives.

Why is truth telling so crucial to you?

In the Baha’i writings it is written that “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtue,” so we can’t really grow or develop spiritually if we cannot be truthful about where we are now. We are essentially spiritual beings and part of what helps us to be spiritually successful is to be truthful.

If Tatiana Zamir were a brand, what would that brand represent?

Vulnerablity. Truth. Healing. Creativity. Inspiration.  I’ve been hearing so many people say how inspired they were by Moonlight Reflections. Whether inspired to go create something themselves, or to finally address some situation in their lives that required truth telling and honesty. I think people saw on stage tangible examples of how being vulnerable can be the foundation for real change in our lives and in our relationships.

What does vulnerability mean to you?

There are no walls. Or fewer walls. I have a couple of walls as an artist and as a human, but there really are not many emotional boundaries I won’t cross. I’ve had people tell me that creatively and emotionally I’m really brave and courageous, though I don’t really feel that way because it comes so naturally to me.  Sharing is not something that’s hard for me. I think vulnerability is letting your walls down and not being afraid of what people will think and knowing that the truth is part of our foundation and that even though pain may come from being vulnerable, beauty will surely follow.

The ways that you reach for your fellow human beings are very tangible. Why are you so open to sharing your temple in such visible and tactile ways?

What else am I here for? If I can’t fully be myself and fully share myself with the world why do we even exist? Because I’m so attracted to the truth, I always want to get to the core of who people are and I want them to see me right away. I believe it gives people permission to be their true selves when I do that.

What inspired you to want to be a massage therapist?

It’s something I’ve always loved to do and I was always really good at it even before I received formal training. I hadn’t really considered massage as a career, but I have always been attracted to healing, and I know that when I massage a client I’m literally making the world a better place. Healing touch produces so much good in the world.

Your clients really do rave about your technique. What makes you such an awesome masseuse? There are a bazillion massage parlors in L.A., why do your clients come back to you?

I think people come back to me because I’m really in tune with what’s happening with people and I really nurture them while I massage them. That may sound like “duh doesn’t every masseur do that?” But, unfortunately, the answer is no, they don’t. I get massages myself all the time and I’m often disappointed because I feel like people are so disconnected from the touch they are putting on your body and the work they’re doing is not reflective of the frequency your body is at. I’m really good at connecting with people and being present with them. People often say to me “I’ve had massages all over the world and I’ve never experienced that before.” My clients say they go into a zone. They go to another realm. They get their muscles worked on but they’re having an out of body experience as well.

You are a person who lives and breathes dance. What are people missing out on when they have no dance in their lives at all?

I really feel everyone’s life would improve tremendously if they danced every day, and I believe that so strongly because of what it does for me. Dance really takes me to a higher place. No matter what frequency I’m at, when I dance, it takes me to an even higher one. If I’ve had a bad day, after dancing, no stress can touch me. If I’ve had a great day, I’m just that much happier. I don’t know if it’s from releasing endorphins and relieving stress or what, but I feel closer to the Creator. I feel a real spiritual high.

Can I experience that spiritual high vicariously through watching others dance, or do I need to experience it by actually dancing myself?

I think you could have a piece of that high by witnessing it. I think you can feel that and I think you can experience some of what we’re feeling. I think you take it to another level when you do it yourself. You’re feeling things that are unique to you and depending on how your body’s feeling and where you are, you’ll experience it at a uniquely personal level. It’s a different experience when you put yourself out there.

If I attended a session of your Afro-Hip Hop Dance Workout, what would make me want to come back?

I believe my students come back week after week because they get a great workout–they’re drenched at the end–but they’ve had an amazing time doing it. They’ve told me they really love the music. I mix up my playlist with Afro beat, dance hall, salsa and hip hop, and I”ll mix contemporary radio hits with old school artists like Common and the Roots. You would love the intimacy of the class too, and the uniqueness. It feels like family. Everyone is supportive and loving and you don’t always get that in a dance or exercise class. But my class is like a family reunion every time. People say they feel very supported and supportive there.

Your decision to create, choreograph and produce Moonlight Reflections must have been a huge leap of faith. Is this a new direction for you? Will you venture further into dance theater?

In the process of creating that show I felt a happiness I had never experienced before. It felt so right and it was clear that it was where I needed to be. It’s very new for me to even be thinking about this right now. This is a new dream for me. I had a burning desire to bring my ideas to life in a theater and have people witness it. I had no idea it would sell out two weeks in advance and that people would call for me to stage it again. I don’t know yet how this calling will continue to express itself in my life, but I do see myself in the future as a producer of work that heals and hopefully inspires others to heal and inspire others.

What did you learn about yourself in taking that risk?

Being a producer requires bringing a lot of skills to the table that I might not really need to use too often in other areas of life. Hiring and assessing and critiquing the expertise of staff for example. I had endless learning experiences, but the thing that really floored me was that I never anticipated how deeply moved people would be by my work. It’s inspiring and humbling to see how sharing truth can ripple out into other lives in meaningful ways. I am still receiving letters from people who were moved by Moonlight Reflections. And, I mean written letters sent in the mail. In this age of technology, that is so stunning to me. People must have been really moved and inspired for them to sit down and write me letters and share their stories with me. I’ve had so many parents say the show made them think twice about their relationships with their children. They really want to be different and open and truthful and work harder at nurturing their relationships. I also had many young people come up to me after the show to say they felt like I told pieces of their story so truthfully, without me even knowing their actual story.

A significant part of Moonlight Reflections entailed the abusive-turned-estranged-turned-healed relationship with your mother. Through movement, music and spoken word you told many truths about your childhood experiences with her that were not cute or sweet. You really exposed some hurtful things that many mothers would not want exposed. How did your mother feel about that?

Her friends were like “I can’t believe you let her say these things about you.” My mom’s response was, It wouldn’t have been as powerful if she didn’t. What Tati shared is the truth. It’s what happened. The healing part of our story is so powerful because the painful and uncomfortable part was truthfully and fully shared. The show created even more healing and love between us. I had never had so much support in my life from my mother as I did with developing and producing this show.

In the successful Kickstarter project you launched to fund the planning and production of Moonlight Reflections, you talked about how your mother’s transformation as a parent began with a spiritual experience. In a state of prayer and meditation she suddenly became you and she felt the tiny heart of a little girl that was so shattered by her actions. How did your mother begin to heal your injured relationship?

Our healing occurred because my mother was able to finally tell the truth after she was in denial for so long, and she was able to truly apologize for hurting me all those years. A true apology is when you really mean it, and I knew for the first time in my life that she meant it. In the past I felt her apologies were followed by a million excuses. “I’m sorry but I was a single mom and this and that…”

This apology was different in what way?

It was something I truly felt. It was genuine. It wasn’t an angry apology. It wasn’t an I’m sorry, but…”  It was genuine and it was beautiful. And, more importantly, after my mother apologized, she actually changed. She actually became a different mother. She doesn’t yell at me. She doesn’t verbally abuse me anymore. She came to a place where she really wanted something different for us. 

So many people were touched in amazing ways by your journey. What do you think we can all learn from your story of injury and healing?

The truth really will set you free, if you allow it to.  That saying has a whole new meaning for me now.

www.tatianazamir.com
twitter.com/tatianazamir


Nov 17 2012

Man Sues Wife for Making Ugly Baby: Judge Agrees He Was Victimized

When Jian Feng’s baby daughter was born, he wasn’t just disappointed that the baby didn’t resemble her beautiful mother, he was “horrified” by how “ugly” he found the little girl to be.

Feng was so horrified, he convinced himself there was no way he could be the child’s father–his wife must have had sex with a hideously ugly man to have created such an unattractive offspring.

Feng (a resident of Northern China) took his wife to court to prove that the baby was not his, but was surprised when the DNA test confirmed he was indeed the little girl’s father.

At that point, his wife admitted that she had undergone plastic surgery to beautify her face before she met her husband. The woman’s numerous surgeries cost her over $100,000 and changed her from a person Feng would never have considered marriageable into the beautiful woman he says he fell in love with.

“I married my wife out of love, but as soon as we had our first daughter, we began having marital issues. Our daughter was incredibly ugly, to the point where it horrified me,” he told the judge.

Jian insisted that he had been tricked by his wife and the judge agreed, granting him a divorce, and ordering his ex-wife to pay Feng $120,000 restitution for his troubles.

How would you have ruled in this case?

Although I do agree Feng was “tricked” by his wife into believing she was a so-called natural beauty, for him to be horrified at the sight of his own child (who is actually pretty cute) speaks volumes about him. His ex-wife should file a counter suit  for being tricked into believing she married a human being.

If I were the judge in this case, I would have agreed with him in open court about one thing: His wife did have sex with a hideously ugly man–her husband. He’s the only ugly person in this sad story.

There is no surgery available for that.