Am I a ‘Cool Girl’?

Evolution From an Unexpected Source

By now you may be familiar with the ‘Cool Girl’ speech from the hit book and Hollywood Blockbuster, Gone Girl:

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend…

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The Role of the Media in Development Aid

As someone who works in public engagement for a non-profit telling stories that are quite hard to tell (and certainly tough to make a fun soundbite out of the role of stats and data in development), I agree….

So USAID asked me to speak at one of their conferences last week about the role of media in development. Being utterly unqualified for this task did not stop me from doing it, and below is an adaptation of my little talk!

Let’s start with a thought experiment.

Think of all all the companies you know that didn’t exist 30 years ago and are now worth more than a billion dollars. It’s easy, right? Facebook, Google, Starbucks, Amazon, Whole Foods, Uber, we could go around the room for ages.

Now think of all the development NGOs or national nonprofits that didn’t exist 30 years ago and now get more than, say, 100 million in donations.* Doctors without Borders: 1971. Human Rights Watch: 1978. Amnesty International: 1961. Greenpeace: 1969. And those aren’t even the big-big ones. Red Cross, Oxfam, Save the Children, Care International, we’re talking World War II or before.

And what’s weird about this comparison…

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On the ‘dangers’ of female travel

Yes, indeed- great piece. I had far worse things happen to me as a woman in Western countries than in any of the developing countries I have visited, which is not to say that they don’t happen everywhere. And the worst thing on my list- sad to say, every woman has a list- happened to me in the good old US of A…. inflicted by a well-educated, arrogant white guy.

Road Essays

This could just be a story about countries deemed dangerous for women to travel to. But it’s more than that. This is a story about our perception of danger and how we’re told time and time again that the unfamiliar and the foreign are more dangerous to us than what is on our own doorstep.

A couple of months back, British tabloid the Daily Mail ran a story in their travel section titled ‘Sex attacks, muggings, and harassment: World’s most dangerous holiday destinations for women (and some of them may surprise you)’. The top ten list declared India; Brazil; Turkey; Thailand; Egypt; Colombia; South Africa; Morocco; Mexico; and Kenya to be the most dangerous countries for female travellers.

We’ll get back to that shortly.  First I want to tell you about a strange encounter I had in Medellin, Colombia in 2001.

After a hard couple of days travelling…

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Blocks, corners, distance

My friend said, as she pauses over the first sip of wine: It’s ok, I guess. I just feel completely disillusioned. I thought we were trying to achieve something, but now… I think it’s all just for show. None of it really means anything.

My friend said, with the distant smile of someone who has made a good decision: After we’d been speaking for just an hour… I really felt like I had known them, like, forever.

I said, it turned out it was just a block away from me, so….
My friend interrupts: You’re even talking differently! We’d normally say ‘around the corner’.
Really? But it’s in a straight line. There’s no corner. It’s just…a block! Right?

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