Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

Month: December 2008 (page 2 of 4)

Virginity in a Box

I laughed a little today when I came across this product from Japan…artificial virginity. According to the product’s manufacturer:

With this product, you can have your first night back anytime. Insert this artificial hymen into your vagina carefully. It will expand a little and make you feel tight. When your lover penetrate, it will ooze out a liquid that look like blood not too much but just the right amount. Add in a few moans and groans, you will pass through undetectable

After my bout of giggles, I got to thinking…hymen reconstructive surgery is a popular phenomenon in Morocco, as well as many other Muslim countries, and indeed, France as well. The invasiveness and risk of such a procedure could make this little virginity in a box a hot commodity. A friend said that it would be quite useful in Latin America as well. And it’s manufactured in Japan…clearly there’s quite the market for it.

I’m unimpressed. The reason women have their hymens “restored” is to prove to their husbands that they are still virgins. The problem here is twofold: 1. The hymen is not an accurate indicator of virginity (some women are born without one, others tear theirs playing sports, using tampons, or in accidents) and 2. While virginity is certainly something to be revered and respected, the onus should lie on the person to tell the truth, not for her to bleed. In other words, if men and women are both expected to be virgins on their wedding day (and in religion, such is the case), then why are only women held accountable?

As you can see, I have a real problem with this. While I personally do not hold religious beliefs that emphasize the importance of virginity, that’s something I can wrap my head around; I cannot, however, grasp the concept of lying to your partner before your marriage even begins.

I’m not the only person asking these questions. Here’s a nice piece written by a Muslim woman on the subject, and here are some really interesting questions about the hymen in western culture. What do you think?

10 Reasons to Donate to Global Voices

10. Because Global Voices authors are really really unbelievably good looking.

9. Because you’ll get a lovely thank you note from Global Voices staff!

8. Because Global Voices authors can drink you under the table.

7. Because Global Voices often has the best coverage of global news stories; our coverage of the recent Mumbai attacks was so good, CNN recommended us!

6. Because the badges are unbelievably adorable:
Donate to Global Voices - Help us spread the word
(and way less creepy than earlier iterations).

5. Because side projects like Rising Voices really make a difference in people’s lives.

4. Because Global Voices authors throw the best parties (and are skilled in the art of BYOB – all the way around the world!)

3. Because Global Voices has successfully grown and flourished over the past four years, bringing new projects like Lingua, Rising Voices, and Voices without Votes front and center.

2. Because your donation tells us that you love the adorable lolcat badge, meaning that we never have to lay eyes on the first 25 creepy ideas again.

1. Because Global Voices brings you the news and stories you can’t get anywhere else.

Donate to Global Voices because we need the support of our readers to stay independent, free, and sustainable. And please, if you do donate, let me and the rest of your friends know that you did so.

On Lingua and distributed translation

Earlier today, a tweet popped up on my screen from someone I’d just begun to follow.  MeghnaK is a (self-described) 13-year-old blogger from India.  Her blog is what you might expect from a young woman…mostly personal, with some poetry and a few newsworthy stories.  Her grasp on blogging is clearly beyond her years (or is it?  There were no blogs when I was 13) however, and her writing is impeccable.  Anyway, she remarked on Twitter that her blog is often translated into other languages so that people can read it.

Now, I’m not sure how she figured that out, but it is certainly indicative of a growing trend; newsseekers, tired of seeing the same old in the media of their native language, are seeking translated sources more and more.  And MeghnaK’s timing couldn’t have been better, as Chris Salzberg of Global Voices’ Lingua project is speaking at Berkman today on that very topic.  Chris has written a very interesting paper on his experiences with Lingua and Global Voices, published in Translation Journal.

Lingua, allegedly “one of the largest and most active translation communities in the world,” was borne of the Global Voices 2006 Summit in Delhi, India.  The project answered a need from Global Voices readers whose English comprehension was not good enough to understand the stories coming out of GV.  And since Global Voices authors translate blogs from other languages into English on a regular basis, Lingua was a natural extension of that spirit.

Today, Lingua boasts 15 languages, with 7 soon to come.  But what’s fascinating is not that Lingua exists, but how it exists.  Although each language team has an editor (or in some cases, two), the translators themselves are all volunteers. The teams utilize a distributed translation model; some teams translate pieces using a wiki, others farm out translations to individual translators.  All are still working on the process.

Of course, Lingua is not without its challenges. Chris points to “lost context” as the biggest challenge of the project, meaning, when original articles are translated into a foreign language, translators are often stumped on how to translate phrases, concepts or terms. For example, in an article on “genital excision” (also known as female genital mutilation), a Malagasy translator had difficulty translating the foreign concept. She finally settled on “circumcision of young girls.” This is a common occurrence; as a Global Voices author, I’ve had translators contact me on a number of occasions to clarify terms I’ve used in articles on Morocco; terms which are clear in English but may not be in, for example, Korean.

Another challenge faced by Lingua is the discrepancies between GV’s bloggers and its translators; while bloggers are often well-versed in “web 2.0” and proficient as bloggers, some translators (though volunteers) often have a more professional focus in their translation work and are perhaps less familiar with the Internet.

What is clear, though, is that Lingua is a success. Readership grows by the month, and several languages, including Spanish and Italian, have made it into Google News listings. Many languages used within Lingua (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swahili) cover multiple regions and countries, allowing for a broader reach. And Lingua has a growing number of partnerships with other organizations: GV Arabic and Al Jazeera Talk have linked up, as well as GV Chinese and China Times.

Most of all, Lingua provides one of the world’s best resources for global news and information and is setting a global precedent for distributed translation projects. As Chris wrote in his paper, “With the Internet becoming more multilingual by the day, there is a growing need for local voices to fill in the gaps of ‘global news.'” Just as Global Voices brings local voices to the forefront, Lingua brings those voices to the masses.

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