Wear Your Voice Feature – Revolution and Irresolution in Iran

Written for Wear Your Voice by Shadi Bozorg



My Passion Died in a PC Fire

I’ve had six months of writer’s block. I put the voice inside my head on mute.

It’s a universal truth that everything you think you know is up for debate, but the debates I’ve been encountering lately have been consistently less enlightening and more segregating. Social media justice is more of a one-up contest than it is an attempt to heal the injustices we face in real life. We get lost in our fight for betterment. We lose sight of what we’re actually supposed to be doing. We lose our battles while we’re having petty arguments in comment sections with each other.

Sometimes I forget what the point of doing this is.

Will anyone ever change anyone’s mind?

Lately, I haven’t been willing to sit in front of this screen and vent. Lately, this screen has been more of a dejected place than it has the outlet it once was. I used to love it here. This place used to be where I figured it out. Now, this place is where I come to realize I’m just as lost as the rest of the world.

I feel burdened when I come here. I feel like I need to get away from this place in order to keep my sanity in tact. So I do. I left this place a blank page for six months because I was too disillusioned to look at it.

I’ve spent six months questioning my passion in life. When I was a little girl I wanted to save the world. I used to speak up when no one else would. I used to get in trouble or made fun of for having an outspoken opinion. I didn’t care. I knew it was what I was meant to do. I knew if I kept going someone out there would learn how to be a better person. I was self-righteous. I thought I knew better. Now, I don’t know that I actually know anything. I’m tired of this place. I look outside instead, but something is still missing.

There are times when I stop speaking during a conversation because I’m not sure if what I’m about to say is acceptable. I worry that I might cross a line, and I worry that the line I’m crossing won’t be met with guidance on the other side, but solely judgement.

Isn’t it ironic that in our fight to defend everyone, people become so disposable?

I wanted to see myself as just human, but I’m an immigrant woman of colour. My label defines my experience and therefore defines what I’m allowed to feel or know. What I can say is reliant on this label. Do I have the right titles to back up my passion for this world?

This isn’t new. My label has always defined how people experience me. My skin makes everyone assume my religion. My face forces me off the sidewalk so a group of older white people can push by.  My name makes employers throw out my resume.

My words were supposed to be what saved me. Yet, words are fleeting. They come and they go, and these words that used to free me have become a prison of doubt.

I was taught not to give up, and so even though it feels like salt on the wound, I can say this. I fill a blank page with desolation.

In spite of that, today, I felt a flicker of hope. I came here despite my reluctance. Maybe I’ll find love here again. Seasons change, wind blows, I grow and so will everything else.

You Are What You Hate

Lately, I feel a bit defeated. When the world goes haywire, I always try to comprehend the negative. I can’t seem to this time; there’s no logic or reason behind it. I’ve studied and observed bigotry and hatred for as long as I’ve been able to think. Even though it has always been ugly to me, I could see why it existed. Now, it’s just getting  to a really fucking stupid point- way beyond my understanding.

I really thought for a while it was something we were moving towards healing. I guess my blind faith in humanity was ideological. And yet, I know we can’t give up. It seems like a feasible option when you see what’s happening, but I realize we  lose faith in humanity every once in a while . History repeats itself, and the world has put out bigger fires before. It stings, it makes it hard to be positive, it hurts on different levels, but the beauty of this disaster is that it brings the good together.

I believe that we all want progress. Thing is, some people want different progress, and that’s where the lines get blurred. It’s also where hatred finds a way to manifest. Cause and effect are blurred and people begin to only see colour, religion, head scarves and culture clashes. What I’ve learned is that being a bigot makes life easier on yourself. Do you know how much internal stress you can eliminate if you blame entire groups of other people for your problems?

Without ever looking in the mirror, you can identify your issues with the economy, violence, your town looking different, the reason you no longer feel comfortable, your lack of job, your lack of happiness, and your lack of faith. Without ever once considering yourself as an issue, you can clearly see why everything is going wrong in your life and in the world. It’s the easiest thing to do. Being a racist is nothing but a cop out. It does nothing but deter you away from being a decent, evolving, compassionate individual.

Every word I just used to describe what a racist lacks, defines what an immigrant has to be in order to move here. It’s expected, and I see it in most immigrants I know. I’ve seen how immigration works to benefit the world, and I’ve seen the issues that arise with it too.

If we could just eliminate one major factor in the phenomenon of diversifying our world, we could actually function together and work towards real progress.

But we can’t seem to shake it off.  It doesn’t only exist on one side, it’s from both, it’s a cycle. I’ve seen racism in my own community, it exists in all communities. It’s not just coming from white people, and we can all admit that. Yes, on a global political scale we can pinpoint who is often at cause, but you have to nourish your surroundings before you go big.

For some reason the idea of just being empathetic and patient is a complicated concept for people to grasp. People shrug it off as if it’s just not practical. Like it’s just a word, a dream of people finally coming together and being kind. Some hippy ideology. Why is it so laughable?

Moments like these, when a man like Donald Trump is in office and is attempting to tear the world apart, is when we have to just take any old risk we can and try to salvage this planet for one another. That means letting go of your anger, and actually focusing your energy into the real issue, not just blaming and pointing fingers and complaining.

When I went to the Women’s March, I felt emotional and proud. Then I went home, and I saw people complaining about it. Not just Donald Trump’s camp, but people I consider my friends with opinions I respect and often agree with. It wasn’t inclusive enough, it lacked real progress, where was everyone at the other protests, it was only for and about white women.

It wasn’t. I’m a woman of colour who has been discriminated against my whole life in different capacities, and I understand the frustration of feeling excluded, but right now is not the time to nitpick at people who are on the right side. I felt united at that march, and yes there we’re a lot of white people there, but they were speaking for more than just reproductive rights. They were standing up and showing themselves as an ally, in agreement with you that Donald Trump is a piece of shit. And you could have been standing there beside them, as I was, and spoken up for what you are. This is the thing, the moment we get angry at people for not standing up for us instead of educating them, is when we become negative.

Right now, if you feel excluded it’s your time to fucking shine, and to do so without feeling like it’s necessary to diminish another movement before yours. Yes, white privileged feminism can be disappointing to people who feel they aren’t represented, but you have an opportunity to speak up for yourself. People are listening right now. We are trying to find a way to unite, so let’s please do that and save humanity before we nitpick.

I have always been someone to call out bullshit and try to peal layers. But now is not the time for that. Right now, let the white women march and march beside them instead of finding more issues to separate us. Yes, we are different, yes we experience different sides of life and politics, and some of us are more prone to be hurt by them than others, but right now, we have a bigger issue. Right now, we all have to be on one side, and if someone who’s standing beside you comes off as ignorant, teach with love instead of anger.

We can’t lose focus, because that deters us away from the big picture. Blaming all your problems on other people is a cop out, let’s not do the same thing without realizing it.

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what will happen next. The only thing I know is that we can be united, and it all starts with kindness and education. Anger may make a wave, but compassion is what will heal us.

Bless This Cursed Year

It’s been a year since I moved away from comfort. I decided to jump onto a plane and seclude myself away from everything I was familiar with. It’s been a bumpy, uncomfortable, spectacular journey. I had no idea what I was in for, but I learned quickly. Toronto is tough, I can be relaxed to a fault. I definitely got a little chewed up by this city, but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t ask for it.

I didn’t leave Vancouver because I don’t love what I have there, I just wasn’t growing anymore. It was too easy. I needed adrenaline. I needed a high that wasn’t chemical. I did it for my career, for the story, for the hell of it.

Life was ready to teach me a lesson or forty, but also to show me how lucky I am.

I got off the plane and moved in with two charming fellas in The Village. It was only fitting. I had a lot of fun. Too much fun. Just enough fun.

I found a long lost sister in Sara, and we decided to live together. We moved everything by foot, by ourselves down 5 city blocks because we were too spent to get a u-haul or to ask for help. We lived without wifi for 2 weeks. Chaos can bring people really close together.

I dated enough to live out my Sex and The City fantasy. And then when I was least expecting it, I found a man that altered my view on love.

I became an undeniable cliche; a struggling writer working as a waitress, a sales girl, a barista. I learned to swallow my pride because being an adult is expensive. Only after that was I commissioned to write a feature script.  Funny how that works out.

I lost too many members of my family and a friend. I was put face to face with what death does to the living. I went through a heavy heartbreak.

I learned that nothing worth having comes easily, but you can laugh the whole time if you keep your perspective in check. Sometimes you have to grab a tight hold of it.  Sometimes it gets away from you, you can still get it back.

Not everything works out the way you want it to. Not everyone is who you think they are, or who you want them to be.  No one has your back more than you do. And that’s all okay.

I discovered that unwavering support from people you love doesn’t fade because of distance. I learned how to live without my mom’s cooking, or getting to hug her all the time. Free therapy from my sister came via text rather than from her couch. I learned to be without my perfect friends and family for the first time in my life. I also figured out that people love an excuse to get out of Vancouver. I was grateful to be that excuse.

No one from back home is replaceable, but they don’t need to be replaced. They hold their own place. People everywhere have soul. There’s love in any corner you look, as long as you’re willing to see it. Sometimes you have to do some weeding, but you’ll find it.

I learned how to be happy when everything seemed to be wrong, strong when I felt my weakest.

I learned that despite all the shit we have to go through on a daily basis, life is so beautiful it hurts.

And now I’m at the airport on my way home for the first time since I left, but I’m ready to do it all again in two weeks.

This was the hardest year of my life, it was for a lot of people around me. But I wouldn’t change a thing. A perfect storm. Even though the world seems like it’s falling apart, even though sometimes people are painfully confusing. Nothing matters except how we go on. You get up and show up.

Here’s to this beautiful, sad, difficult, learning year. To being torn down, beat up, getting up, standing tall, and doing it better. This time stronger, this time more focused, this time with all the lessons we’ve learned.

Enjoy your life. Enjoy being here today. Enjoy being around the people you’re surrounded by. Enjoy being you. This life is a blessing, it’s just that sometimes it comes disguised.

Merry Christmas x

You got the light, count it all joy.

Asking For It

Last summer I took a trip to LA. The second to last night I was there I went out to a bar and someone I was talking to roofied my drink.

I was lucky. What he didn’t realize was that I was with my best friend. I could tell something was wrong. I went back to our place with her and I passed out cold for nearly 12 hours.

I woke up the next day feeling physically worse than I ever have in my life. I was a disoriented, non-functional, hungover mess. I had one drink that night. It was painful, but I eventually recovered and went on with my trip.

It never struck me how completely messed up that experience was until recently. It was more like, “yeah, it’s bound to happen sometime” rather than “what just happened to me”. I realize that’s primarily because I got out of it without serious damage done to me, but I never fully took in the other side of things.

I was in a foreign country, and this man knew that. He seemed like a decent guy. He was nice to talk to, I’d even go as far as saying we we’re hitting it off. Clearly, there was enough trust established between us that made me forget the “never look away from your drink” rule.

So, why did he roofie me?

Is it a fetish? Is it a power thing? How can someone prey on an unconscious human being?

Talking about sexual assault makes people uncomfortable. What about it, exactly? The fact that someone would be willing to rape someone while they’re practically dead, and why they want to do that. The fact that someone would perceive sex as something that can be taken without consent, and why they grow up believing that.

That’s why I brushed it off, because thinking about why he would do that any further made me uncomfortable.

What bothers me now is how okay I was with it in my thought process.  I didn’t tell many people, because nothing happened. I didn’t let it define my trip, because nothing happened.

But what if it did?

This is a normal occurrence. It’s an “it happens” kind of thing. I felt like it was my own fault. Why? Because we currently believe it’s more important for a woman to watch her drink like a hawk than to teach men not to rape.

We question the victim rather than the attacker.

Admitting a sexual assault happened, that it happens frequently, and that it happens as if it’s normal is hard on society. This is because it would ultimately be admitting that there’s a severe underlying problem within us. We have trouble doing that, you see.

It makes people groan when 1,2,3, or 50 women come forward and accuse someone of rape because they think that they’re seeking attention. It’s 2016 and a sexual assault lawsuit is considered an attention grab.

And if that’s not enough, somehow the subject of sexual deviance is taboo. Not sex, because sex is where the money is. Sex, when you plaster it on a billboard to sell beer, is A-okay. But talking about unwanted sex, and what we should to stop it, is just too much. Discussing the actual problem, rather than the aftermath, seems too far fetched for some reason.

Don’t get me wrong, sexual assault cases make it to mainstream media. That’s once they’ve already become cases. You can discuss the person abused, you can rip them apart and pinpoint all the things they did wrong to make a sexual assault happen to them, but you rarely hear about the actual abuser and why they do what they do. No, that’s not something we ever want to talk about. We focus instead, on the victim, we don’t ask questions about the person that created one.

Admitting that objectification and power is the root cause, especially in recent years, would require society to take blame for an issue that we would rather remain a “personal problem”. But the truth is, sexual assault is not a personal problem. Yes, there are broken individuals who take advantage of others, and they should be held accountable on an individual level, but when will the rest of us own up to creating this narrative for women and men who are sexually assaulted? This  “it happens” and “it must have been your fault”, followed by little to no repercussions for the assaulter, is the landscape we’ve created.

I realize now that being casual about being roofied was a problem. Teaching girls to prevent getting harassed rather than teaching boys to not do it in the first place is a problem. Selling women as objects in the media is a problem. Brushing off women and men who come forward as attention seekers is a problem. These are the things we can’t seem to admit to.

People don’t want to be made uncomfortable, they don’t want to think for a second that they are feeding into an issue, so we brush them under the carpet. But guess what? The carpet can’t cover it all anymore.

Acceptance, admission, and accountability.  It’s a process.

When we stop avoiding the issue because it’s a touchy subject, victim blaming, and letting sexual assault be treated like a slap on the wrist, we can actually move forward. I’ve heard people say this is something we can never prevent “because evil people will always do as they will” but I don’t believe that. I believe by educating young men and women equally on what sexual assault is and what it does to us as individuals and as a society, we can begin to not only hold people accountable to it, but prevent it from happening so frequently.

Next time you roll your eyes at a woman in the media discussing her rape, next time you brush off a girl who says she was taken advantage of at a party as her being too drunk, next time you allow yourself for a second to forget that this all happens because of the current narrative in our society, just step back. Consider what these victims go through.

Consider how drastically someone’s life changes when this happens to them. Consider how you can change your own dialogue, and perception of sexual assault. Consider what you shrug off as nothing; the words you use, the experiences you go through. Do something to shift this current mindset and landscape of sexual assault, because it is possible. We’ve just let it become so unfairly one-sided that people can blur lines without any consequences. It’s time to start seeing clearly.

The escapades of a cynical optimist.