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Spotlight on Website: New Moon Girls June 30, 2013

This is a rather different spotlight than we’ve had previously, but it goes with the theme of inner beauty from my previous post. New Moon is a fun, feminist website where girls pre-teen+ can safely connect and have fun, all while boosting their confidence and sharing their creativity. New Moon also presents a bimonthly magazine  with articles by girls and featuring their artwork and writing. It’s fun, but best of all, it’s activism- New Moon has worked extensively on changing Barbie’s unrealistic figure, which helps promote eating disorders, and de-color-coding Target’s sexist, stereotypical blue-and-pink toy aisles. The website, newmoon.com, requires a paid subscription, but it’s definitely worth it for girls. They’ll make friends, learn to promote feminism and equality, and show their creative side doing it. Plus, there’s nothing better to boost your confidence and happiness than having your work published in the magazine. The message boards have sections for debates, roleplays, condolences for those grieving, and there’s even two whole message boards dedicated to changing the world, which is awesome! New Moon is great and helps promote inner beauty. I’m a member of the Girls Editorial Board (I work on the magazine), and I love the whole thing. If you are a teenage girl, join New Moon today! If you’re not, tell the young females you know. :3

 

Ceej

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3 Ways You Might Body-Shame Without Realizing It June 24, 2013

When you leave the safety of your house and its wondrous wifi, you’ll see a multitude of people in different shapes and sizes. Some of them will be your friends, and that’s awesome. Some of them you may not know or like. I bet, however, you and a friend have discussed your bodies at some point, or you know somebody who has recently  lost weight. You probably haven’t noticed it, but you may have been insulting their body type when you were trying to compliment them. How?

1) Congratulating someone for losing weight

You may feel like you’re giving them a compliment, but when you say ‘congrats’ about their new size, it has implications that they’re better than they were before, and if they were larger for a long time, they may feel like you didn’t accept their body until now. In most cases, people gain back the weight they lost, which will make your earlier praise feel like an insult now that they’ve grown it back. It doesn’t matter what they look like, so tell them how happy you are that they’ve accomplished a goal rather than how happy you are with their new weight.

2) Mentally adjusting someone’s looks

I’m talking about saying things like, “She would be so pretty if…” and filling in the blank. Noooooo. She is pretty just the way she is. If she changes for what you think she’d look better, that person will no longer be the person they once were. They’ll be a fake. Don’t tell someone what’s wrong with them, because they don’t need to change.

3) Telling people what they ‘need’ to do

I hear people saying sometimes that thin people need to eat more, or looking at someone across the street and commenting that they could stand to lose a few pounds. This goes with Number 2- they don’t need to fit your cultural stereotype. As long as they don’t have a disorder or anything potentially harmful, then they don’t need to change. If they want to exercise, good for them. If they want to stay the weight they are, good for them.

The bottom line? As long as their weight isn’t a dangerous problem, they’re  beautiful. This goes for men and women. Let them be themselves, and they’ll appreciate that you are yourself as well.

Ceej

 

Spotlight on Religion: Zeroastrianism June 22, 2013

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a while since our last Spotlight on Religion, but now it’s time for the next one — Zeroastrianism! (I have no idea how to pronounce that, by the way.)

Religion: Zeroastrianism is considered one of the oldest monotheistic (which means you believe in only one God) religions. It was founded before Islam and Christianity in the sixth century BC, though it holds many of the same beliefs. It was founded by a prophet who, like most prophets, thought he saw visions of God (or, as he called it, Ahura Mazda). His name was Zarathustra. Zeroastrianism used to be a huge religion, one of the largest in the world, but in recent years the number of followers has dwindled down, now at only 140,000.

Where it is Practiced: Zeroastrianism was founded in Persia, but over the years it has made its way down to India, where the religion is called Parsiism and the majority of the followers live. Now, besides India, people practicing Zeroastrianism can be found in Iran, the US, Afghanistan, the UK, Canada, Pakistan, Singapore, Azerbaijan, Australia, and New Zealand.

Beliefs: The core of Zeroastrianism is good and evil. The two representatives of these concepts are Ahura Mazda (good) and Aura Mainyu (evil). If you spend your life doing good and being good, you will go to heaven with Ahura Mazda and you will be guided there by a beautiful woman. If the bad you have done in your life outweighs the good, you will be taken to hell, guided by an ugly old woman. There are many different levels and degrees of hell depending on how good you’ve been during your lifespan. In Zeroastrianism you are given free choice, and you will either be rewarded or punished for what you chose to do. All of these beliefs and more can be found in their sacred texts, the Avesta, which translates to “The Book of Law.”

Practices: Today, the practices of Zeroastrians (or Parsis) have several important practices, including a coming of age ritual, penance, ceremonies, sacred objects, festivals, burial rites, and much more. In the coming of age ritual, children are either 7 or 10 (depending on whether they study the form from either India or Persia). They are initiated into the religion and receive either a shirt and a girdle which they are supposed to wear their whole life. Penance is very much like the Catholic version of confession, where you confess to a priest, but first must recite the patet, whereas Catholics recite the Act of Contrition. The chief ceremony is known as the Yasna, which is basically a sacrifice of sacred liquor and celebrated before the sacred fire (which is left burning at all times), and recitation of large portions of the Avesta. There are six seasonal festivals in Zeroastrianism, the most important of which is the New Years Festival. Lastly, burial rites are very important to Parsis. A “four-eyed” dog (a dog with spots above each eye) is brought before the corpse and brought back five times a day, which goes on for three days. This is thought to expose the dead.

References: I got my information from these places: http://www.religionfacts.com/zoroastrianism/index.htm and http://globalgoodgroup.com/blog/2011/12/17/three-awesome-world-religions-you-didnt-know-existed/

 

Religious Literacy June 12, 2013

You probably know somebody from a different culture or set of beliefs. They may not celebrate the same holidays as you or have the same customs as you. You know the name of their religion, maybe some of the holidays they celebrate, but you probably don’t know the basis of their beliefs, their practices, or what higher being they worship, if they believe in one. And that’s where religious literacy ties in.

While looking for images that showed a diversity of religious standpoints, I found a lot of thought-provoking things that are sometimes tread lightly around, but I think I'll make posts on those later.

While looking for images that showed a diversity of religious standpoints, I found a lot of thought-provoking things that are sometimes tread lightly around, but I think I’ll make posts on those later.

What is religious literacy?

It’s knowledge about the different religions of the world and their practices. This includes the holy text, the laws that they live by, if they believe in a deity or god, and which one or ones they do, as well as other important facts. Someone who is religiously illiterate isn’t culturally enlightened, and may have trouble being open-minded. A lot of religion-based prejudice comes from a lack of understanding, therefore creating a lack of acceptance. Stephen Prothero wrote a book about it’s importance that inspired this post, which I plan to read sometime.

 

Why is it important to be religiously literate?

Not only will you be able to better understand the people around you, you will have a greater acceptance of people who believe different things. It will increase your cultural knowledge, and people will thank you for understanding and accepting their religion. As you learn more about different religions, you can help to erase the misconceptions and narrow-mindedness. You will also be able to get in touch with your own spirituality (or lack thereof) and learn things about your religion’s history that you never knew. Or, you may decide that you do not want to be part of any category. It is an internally rewarding journey as well as one that will help you and others to understand.

 

How can you improve your ‘religious IQ’?

I’m taking a religious study class over the summer because I’m required to. (But seriously, I think it will be a very good opportunity for me to become more religiously literate, and the class is actually very interesting! Yes, though, I am required to by my school.) You can search online about different religions, purchase a book or check one out from your library, ask your friends about their individual customs, or attend a talk or workshop. I promise it will make a difference!

 

And finally, a shout out to the Bonsai ruler of religious literacy…

That’s right, Mary, I’m talking to you! We can’t thank you enough for inventing and taking on the project of Spotlight on Religion. It’s definitely enlightened us and the readers, and we eagerly await all the posts from that category!

 

Ceej

 

Spotlight on Religion: Jainism May 8, 2013

It’s been a while, but it’s finally time for our third spotlight on religion. This time, as you can tell from the title, we’re going to be talking about is Jainism.

Religion: Jainism is a religion that believes in non-violence to all living things, and one of the oldest religions on the planet. The founder is unknown, but the beginning of this religion has been traced to the Indus Valley Civilization, though nobody knows for sure.  Jainism used to have a great many worshipers, but now there aren’t as many (only 4.2 million) because of the growing popularity of Hinduism.

Where it is Practiced: Jainism, as I mentioned before, has been traced to have started somewhere in the Indus Valley Civilization, which was in current-day India. It is now mostly practiced in India, but immigrants have spread/now practice it in countries like Belgium, the US, Canada, China, Japan, and Singapore.

Beliefs: Jainism’s main belief (or, as it are more commonly referred to, principle) is non-violence (ahimsa). Non-violence is seen as the biggest religious duty for all Jains, which means that it is the most important thing for them to follow/do. Jains strictly hold in place this view, which means that they are vegetarians, pacifists, and don’t fight each other with fists — ever. They also try not to injure plants more than they have to, and consider arguments and harsh words another form of violence. However, Jains know that they cannot go through life without hurting anything, so they rate the thing from 1 to 5 based on how many senses they have. Things with more senses are valued more and they do their best not to hurt them more than  those with less senses.

Practices: Jainism has many rituals and practices. The Navkar Mantra is one of their most important prayers. They do not mention names or ask for favors, but they do try their best to respect all beings with the prayer. They may thank them for what they have done or compliment them or something like that. Jains preform prayers like this so that they can break barriers of worldly desires/attachments and therefore help to liberate their soul. They also follow six rituals to liberate souls, as well. Some important festivals in Jainism are Paryushana, Mahavira Jayanti, and Diwali. During these festivals, Jains don’t really party like you’d expect — they mostly fast and meditate and pray. Meditation and fasting are a huge part of the Jainism practices, which also, I suppose, helps them to liberate their souls. In that way, they are similar to Hindus — they try to be good in this life so they can reach nirvana, or the point where they don’t have to do life over anymore and can simply be with God.

If you want to find out more about Jainism, I used this Wikipedia page to do my research:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jainism

 

Accept and Conquer: Stop the Bullies April 17, 2013

BULLYING: PRESENT PARTICIPLE OF BULLY. VERB: To use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.

BULLY: NOUN: 1. A person who uses strength or power to intimidate those who are weaker. 2. Corned beef. 

I think we’re all aware of what bullying is. Bullying is picking on that kid who’s different than everyone else. Bullying is whispering behind the loser’s back. Bullying is making someone hurt inside. Bullying is causing someone to cry themselves to sleep every night. And most of all — bullying is mean. Wrong. Terrible. There is a whole mound of adjectives I could use to describe bullying. And let’s face reality: bullying exists. Bullying may always exist, and it probably always has existed. But the thing is, bullying isn’t okay. Just because a lot of people do it will never make it okay.

Why Do Bullies Bully People?

Only bullies can really, truly answer this. Guidance counselors throw around things like, “They feel alone, or they feel terrible, and they need to get their feelings out.” That’s probably true. People aren’t born mean (unless your name is Tom Riddle), and they don’t wake up every morning only thinking about all the people they could torture and how many people they’re going to force to give them whatever they want (again, this is only true if your name is Tom Riddle). They might wake up feeling terrible, and they might need to take that terrible feeling out on somebody who they wish they could be, or who they’re jealous of, or who they genuinely don’t like because they annoy them. The latter is the worst reason, and you should just ignore them or try to show them who you really are because if they can’t see that you’re amazing just the way you are (to quote Bruno Mars), they need glasses or contacts.

What are Some Types/Forms of Bullying?

I think we all know a lot of the types of bullying — we’ve been hearing about them all of our lives. There are name-callers, weight-teasers, sexual-orientation-make-fun-of-ers, cyberbullies, family-bullies, disability-meanies, and the like. But it really all comes down to this: all the different people in the world (which is weird because nobody is exactly the same as everybody else) will experience some kind of bullying. Forms of bullying can include hitting and kicking (physical), name-calling and teasing (verbal), in a note (written), or on the internet (cyber).

 

Why do People Get Bullied?

Well, I guess I kind of already touched on that in the last heading, because I talk a lot and sometimes the things that I say don’t sound right all next to each other. So, anyway, why do people get bullied?  Well, like I said, people get bullied because they’re different. They get bullied because their hair is a different color or their humor is a little different or their voice is too high or too low or their religion is different or uncommon or their sexual preference is difference or their weigh too much or too little. People get bullied because who they are is not widely accepted by society, because they are part of the minority in some way. This is not okay, because, as you may know, people in the minorities tend to be quite awesome because they have a different perspective on life or they have experienced different things that not everybody has that makes them a better person.

 

Can We Stop Bullying?

Some people say, no, we can’t stop bullying. Bullies are everywhere. There are bullies in the workplace, bullies in the senior center, bullies in the daycare, bullies on the internet, bullies at school, bullies at stores and restaurants, and bullies everywhere else. They say human nature will not change, and that nothing, no prevention, nothing, can stop bullies. But did you know that 1 in 12 teens attempt suicide? Did you know that depression rates have tripled in people 12-15 years old? Don’t you think that that’s terrible? Don’t you think that that can be, if not totally stopped, at least lessened a little? If bullying has always been here, than why did depression rates triple, why are suicidal attempts so high? Bullying is serious.

 

How do We Stop Bullying?

Raise awareness. Support people. Don’t bully. Use bystander power. Go to adults. Stand up for yourself. Help pass laws against bullying. Think about what you say before you say it. Whatever you can think of, do it! And if you’re being bullied and are contemplating suicide or self-harm or anything like that, tell someone. Tell someone. Don’t let it slide. Don’t let yourself slide into depression. Call a suicide hotline. Go to a support group. Tell your parents or a teacher. Stand up for yourself. Do something.

 

I recently watched a movie called Cyberbully in my Computers class at school, and it was touching and sad. You can read about it in the Wikipedia article supplied by the link. It does contain minor spoilers, but it is such a sad movie that I cried. I, the person who barely ever cries, cried. It also raises some good points about cyberbullying. If you haven’t watched it, I would strongly recommend it.

 

~Mary, author at Bonsai

 

Spotlight on Religious Holiday: Christian Easter March 31, 2013

Today is Easter, and it’s time to welcome the Easter bunny! Most of you probably eat chocolate rabbits and jelly beans on Easter,  but do you know the religious background to it? Do you know why some people complain about Easter, even if they get a ton of candy, because they have to go to church for two or more hours on Saturday night or Sunday and about an hour and a half on the Friday before?

In the Christian religion and all of its branches, Easter is the most holy day of the year.  You probably know about Jesus and God from just living. They’re also the reasons why we celebrate Christmas and everyone looks forward to that.

Easter is when Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, after he was crucified to save us from our sins. It’s the last day of Holy Week, where Christians celebrate The Last Supper, where Jesus gave his body and blood to his followers and celebrated the first mass, Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified, and Easter Sunday, when Jesus was found to be gone from his tomb and alive again.

For Christians, Easter represents hope, a long journey, and miracles. It also shows them that God has the ability to do anything.

So where did the Easter Bunny and colored eggs and chocolate and peeps come from? Where did hunting for Easter eggs and candy evolve from? I have no idea, but it’s a nice way to celebrate what some people think is the most holy day of the year, don’t you think?

 

 
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