Category Archives: gender

Helloooooo, Cho!: Margaret Cho’s new reality show

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

I finally caught a rerun of The Cho Show, Margaret Cho’s VH1 reality sitcom-y show.

And I really enjoyed it. Not because I like Cho’s comedy. Not because she’s a woman of color on TV (one more for the team!). But because I can identify with her.

How can a twenty-something heterosexual Iranian-American identify with a thirty-something bisexual Korean-American? We’re both misfits.

Cho’s first episode revolves around her struggle with accepting an award from the KoreAm magazine for the Korean of the Year. She says herself that she’s felt a very cool reception from Koreans in the U.S. and feels at odds with the community because of past experiences. “They want me to perform, and they’re gonna hate me. I don’t play golf, and I’m not a good Korean that way,” Cho tells her parents about her nervousness regarding the award. She states that her biggest fear is “bombing in front of a room full of Koreans,” highlighting perhaps a desire to be accepted by her community for who she is at the same time that she expresses her anger over the lack of acceptance they’ve given her in the past. Continue reading

Female, Muslim, and Mutant: A Critique of Muslim Women in Comic Books – Part 2 of 2

By Guest Contributor Jehanzeb Dar, originally published at Broken Mystic

While I believe there is very little known about the images and roles of women in comic books, the subject of how Muslim female characters are portrayed is even smaller. In part 1 of this essay, I looked at how the character of “Dust” was depicted in a popular American comic book (X-Men). In part 2, as promised, I will examine how numerous Muslim female characters are depicted in comic books written by Muslim writers. I will begin by discussing two female characters in Naif Al-Mutawa’s fascinating comic book, “The 99,” and then critique two more female characters appearing in the world of AK Comics, founded by Dr. Ayman Kandeel. Al-Mutawa’s company, Teshkeel Comics, and Dr. Kandeel’s AK Comics couldn’t be any more different in their presentation of female characters – the former shows us arguably the best depictions of Muslim female characters to have ever appeared in comic books, while the latter gives us an unimaginative redux of unrealistically curvaceous and buxom super-heroines who look like clones of Wonder Woman and Catwoman. By bringing these characters into the spotlight, we can learn how incredibly significant it is to battle sexism and racism in comic books as well as how we can create a much-needed dialogue and understanding between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world.

Judging by the title, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Muslim readers that Naif Al-Mutawa’s “The 99” is inspired by Islamic culture and religion. For those who are unfamiliar, the title of the comic refers to an Islamic teaching that God has 99 Beautiful Names or Attributes. Al-Mutawa draws from this tradition and produces remarkable superheroes – most of them teenagers who each embody one of the 99 Names of God. The story begins in Baghdad in the mid-13th century when the Mongol invasion threatens the great city and most importantly, the Dar al-Hikma, or “The House of Wisdom.” As many history buffs know, the library of Baghdad doesn’t survive –the Mongols destroy it and burn every book – but Al-Mutawa explores the human imagination and shows us an untold story of librarians and scholars who preserve the library’s knowledge within 99 mystical gems known as Noor Stones (“Noor” being the Arabic word for “Light”). The Noor stones were taken to Andalusia and preserved in a fortress, but one man’s thirst for power caused the fortress to erupt and scatter the stones all around the world. We are brought to the present day in Paris, where a scholar named Dr. Ramzi Razem quests for the lost Noor stones with his organization “The 99 Steps Foundation.” There are many naysayers at Dr. Ramzi’s presentations and call it mere myth until one day, something extraordinary happens…

Those who are able to activate the Noor Stones are called gem-bearers. We learn later on that the Noor Stones choose their bearers therefore they are useless if possessed by anyone other than the ones destined to bear them. The first female character we are introduced to is the 18-year-old Dana Ibrahim (pictured above) in the United Arab Emirates. Being the daughter of a wealthy father makes her a target for many criminals, and this truth soon dawns on her when a car explodes outside of her university. Amidst the chaos, a group of thugs drag her into a van and speed her off to an isolated prison. Dana has faith that her father will pay the ransom, but just in case, she starts calculating the intervals in which the guards give her food and leave her unwatched, and starts digging a tunnel with a spoon, all whilst wearing a blindfold and having her hands tied. After many days of digging in the darkness, she stumbles upon a magical gem that radiates with extraordinary light. Her abductors discover the tunnel and then drag her into another dark room. Angry with tears rolling down her eyes, Dana decides not to give up, and the magical gem she found shines light and reveals a ventilation shaft for her to climb into. She crawls to the end of the shaft but comes to a dead end because the exit is locked!

Magically, the Noor Stone pours light into the lock and cracks the combination, setting Dana free and racing to safety. She is frightened however because wherever she turns her head, she sees the light and darkness that exists within all human beings. This is visualized brilliantly in the comic book, showing people filled with light, but also with stains of darkness. She says, “It’s not about one person, one place, it’s about who we are.” These words allude to how every human being has light, or goodness, within them, but there are dark elements too that come from the external world. As she is terrified by these visions, she looks within herself and sees an enormous amount of light, but she doesn’t believe it; she doesn’t believe there is goodness in her.

She struggles with self-doubt – her mother had died a long time ago and her father mysteriously did not take immediate action in paying the ransom. When she returns home, she sees that he is filled with more darkness than anyone she has come across. Because of this, she feels un-Loved and unneeded; she feels like she failed her father somewhere in her life and didn’t deserve to be saved. Upon meeting Dr. Ramzi at “The 99 Steps Foundation,” she learns from him that the Noor Stones chose her because of something within her. Dana is reluctant to believe until she wears the gem stone around her neck and sees the light within Dr. Ramzi. She tears and says, “I never thought I’d have hope again.” Dr. Ramzi tells her that she is one of the 99: Noora, the Light.

Dana Ibrahim, or Noora, is quickly becoming one of my favorite female characters in comic books. I was saddened that there have only been 7 issues released in the United States so far (there are 12 issues in the Middle-East) because, in my opinion, Noora is the type of character we need to see more of in comic books. When we are first introduced to her, she is wearing a red t-shirt and blue jeans, and although she is drawn with curves, it’s very subtle and not drawn out of proportion. From Noora’s depiction, it is made very clear that Al-Mutawa and his creative team (which consists of artists and writers who have worked with DC Comics and Marvel Comics) are more interested in storytelling and character development rather than having full pages of women exposing their larges breasts or shameless close-ups. There was not a single panel in the comics where I found she was being objectified or exploited; she struck me as a real character, someone with her own mind, thoughts, and beliefs. One of the most important lessons I learned from screenwriting class was to make characters accomplish things on their own, i.e. let them work through their problems because that allows them to learn and discover something new about themselves. This doesn’t mean that no one is allowed to assist them; it just simply means that no one else should do all the work for them. Noora’s premiere issue reveals to us that she is a three-dimensional and strong-willed character because she broke out of the prison by herself. She started to dig her tunnel, but before she could complete it, the kidnappers discovered it and sent her to another dark room. Even as she is beaten, bruised, and exhausted from days of digging, she refused to give up, and she found the Noor Stone not simply because it chose her, but because of the will-power that exists within her. Noora is not rescued by anyone and taken to the headquarters of “The 99,” she fights her way free against all odds – this shows us that she has agency; she has control over her kidnappers and refuses to fall victim to her captive state. As she raced across the city and saw the darkness and light within others, she was learning something new about the world and, more importantly, about herself. Probably the most interesting part of the Noora’s character is that much of the scenario I described above runs parallel with Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Although Muhammad wasn’t kidnapped, he was meditating in a cave when he first received God’s revelation from the Angel Gabriel. Similarly, Noora is in a dark tunnel where she comes across the mystical Noor Stone, which clearly has Divine implications since it represents an attribute of God’s 99 Names. When Muhammad runs out of the cave, he is frightened because wherever he turns his face, he sees the Vision of Gabriel. He is frightened, but at the same time, realizes that he has reached a transition period in his life – he is making the self-discovery that he is the Prophet of God, to bring the people of the world from the depths of the darkness into the Light. When Noora escapes her dark prison, she is frightened by the new Visions she is sees wherever she looks. She is frightened, but at the same time, realizes that she has reached a transition period in her life – she is making the self-discovery that she is chosen by the Noor Stone, to help bring goodness and light into a dark world.

Whether Al-Mutawa intended Noora to be somewhat analogous to Muhammad is unknown, but the similarities cannot be denied. Likening a fictional character to a Prophet may be a very touchy subject among more conservative Muslim communities, but if these aspects of Noora’s story are inspired by Muhammad’s mystical experience with Gabriel, then I believe this is a very positive and timely achievement. Many fictional characters like Neo of The Matrix, Anakin Skywalker of Star Wars, and Aslan of The Chronicles of Narnia have come to symbolize Jesus (peace be upon him), so it’s refreshing to see a positive fictional character inspired by the Prophet Muhammad (and even more so considering those horrid Danish cartoons!). Continue reading

Judd Apatow and the Art of White Masculinity

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published at Post Pomo Nuyorican Homo

“That shit is SO fuckin’ homo”

So I finally saw Pineapple Express this weekend and throughout the whole movie the men around me were constantly expressing how “fucking gay” the movie was. I left there thinking about the two very different displays of masculinity I had just witnessed in the movie theater. The men in the audience, who were mostly young men of color in their late-teens/early-twenties, were attempting to (re)affirm their masculinity through homophobic and sexist comments in response to the perceived lack of masculinity they saw on the screen. On the screen however the cast of Pineapple Express (most of whom are white men with the exception of Craig Robinson) were celebrating their homosocial (but not homosexual) affection for each other and their outsider status as members of the informal economy. I thought about the ways that homosociality functions not only in Pineapple Express but in Judd Apatow movies generally as a comment on the state of contemporary white masculinity in American society.

For those of you who might not know who Judd Apatow is, he’s the writer and/or producer of many of the successful “Frat Pack” movies including: Pineapple Express, Step Brothers, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Superbad, Knocked Up, Talladega Nights, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Anchorman. He’s was also the Executive Producer of the cult TV show Freaks and Geeks on NBC.

Yeah, he’s that guy. Continue reading

Female, Muslim, and Mutant: A Critique of Muslim Women in Comic Books – Part 1 of 2

Dust

by Guest Contributor Jehanzeb Dar, originally published at Broken Mystic

BAKWA, AFGHANISTAN – A convoy of jeeps packed with turban-clad and bearded Taliban militia roar through the rocky streets of a small Afghan town. The engines slowly die down as the militiamen hop off their vehicles and prepare to unleash havoc and raid homes

But something unusual mystifies them and halts their extremist fervor. An ominous silence fills the town, as if it were a strange pause in reality. They ponder, “Has the town been abandoned?” The silence is interrupted by the desert wind blowing against curtains and flags, while startling the braying animals.The radicals soon realize: the wind is not alone.

A female voice emerges from gusts of sand and warns the Taliban to turn back.The leader becomes infuriated and threatens to burn the entire town to the ground if the people don’t come out of hiding. The invisible entity replies as her voice steps closer and closer to the militia, “[the town] is under my protection. Leave before you get a demonstration of what that means.” The leader is not intimidated and asks what will happen if he does not retreat.

“I’ll rip the skin from your bones,” answers the wind.

Infused with arrogance, the Taliban scoffs, “I would truly like to see that.”

Immediately, the gust of sand swirls into a tornado and swallows the leader’s hand and disarms him of his assault rifle. The sandstorm retracts while the Taliban leader screams in pain and looks at his skeletal hand in horror. Finally, the Taliban rush to their jeeps and speed off from the town. The desert wind and sand transform to reveal the city’s invisible hero.

Meet “Dust,” or Sooraya Qadir, a burqa-garbed adolescent Afghan girl who has the ability, as shown in the scene above, to shape into sandstorms and tear the skin off her enemies. She has been a member of Marvel Comic’s X-Men since her first appearance in 2002 and she currently appears regularly in the “Young X-Men” comic books.

In the male-dominated world of comic books where female characters are depicted with large breasts and skimpy skin-tight (or lack of) clothing, it’s interesting to examine whether or not Dust and other Muslim super-heroines escape the sexual objectification and sexism that women often suffer in comic books. Are the Muslim women subjected to stereotypes? Are they doomed to the same fate of other female characters? Does the “male gaze” still apply? Continue reading

Open Thread: Summer Movies

by Latoya Peterson

Readers, we have a problem.

There is no way in hell the Racialicious team is going to be able to get through all the summer movies we want to get through. There just isn’t enough time. So this thread is going to have two functions: (1) to solicit suggestions for which movies we will cover and (2) to share resources if any of our readers know of other sites who have covered these movies and discussed all the “-isms”.

Continue reading

Conversations on Feminism: Domestic Violence Against Aboriginal Women in Australia

by Latoya Peterson

Megan over at Jezebel provided a provocative conversation topic in her post “Aussie Feminist Germaine Greer Argues That Domestic Violence Against Aboriginal Women Is Understandable.”

She writes:

Despite Kevin Rudd’s official apology to the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders for their treatment at the hands of the Australian government, his government continues to support and fund the previous government’s Northern Territory Intervention, which puts troops on the streets of Aboriginal towns (among other seemingly repressive measures) to combat the well-documented widespread epidemic of domestic and child abuse. That said, feminist Germaine Greer’s response to it is nearly as shocking. She suggests that domestic violence is an understandable outlet of rage against oppression and thus argues that we shouldn’t ask them to stop. What?!

When I first saw this story, I thought she was joking, but she’s not. In trying to argue that rage, substance abuse and violence is a result of the oppression of the Aboriginal people, most people would be hard pressed to say that she’s wrong. Addiction begets addicts, violence begets violence, and crushing and hopeless poverty and societal isolation does nothing to help. But that does not mean that no one should try.

Continue reading

Diversity in Mass Effect

by Guest Contributor BomberGirl, originally published at Girl in the Machine

I’ve recently been replaying Mass Effect, Bioware’s 2007 action RPG, and I’m totally in love. Though there’s plenty of things I could babble on about, I want to discuss the first thing I noticed when I brought the game home back during the holidays.

Women and people of color. They aren’t invisible . . . in fact, in this game, they’re all over the place! Just like, you know, real life! Way too often, sci fi falls into the trap of showing us a universe where PoC and women have been sucked into a black hole or something and no longer exist. Mass Effect introduces a galaxy that’s truly diverse, an experience we don’t often get in video games.

An interesting facet of Mass Effect’s immense cultural salad is the absence of racial tension among humans. Humanity’s discovery of advanced Prothean artifacts is only quite recent; their technology jumps two hundred years, and thus all contact and interaction with alien races is relatively sudden. These aliens all look down on the human race and treat them as lesser beings. As the first human member of an elite agency called Spectre, the protagonist Shepard must combat prejudice and bigotry as well as your typical monsters and other foes.

Mass Effect pitches humanity into a situation where all racial tensions seem to vanish in order to unite against the prejudice of the alien races. Now, I realize that Bioware did not craft this game for the purpose of social commentary, so I don’t blame it for not directly addressing human racial interaction along with the new problems presented by alien prejudice. It’s a fascinating thought, though: could humanity put internal racism aside when all of us, collectively, face the same from an outside source? Continue reading

Expectations: Sheva Alomar

by Guest Contributor Bomber Girl, originally published at Girl in the Machine

There’s been a veritable dry spell in survival horror games as of late, and I’ve definitely been suffering. Dementium: The Ward for the Nintendo DS was a huge disappointment, and Silent Hill: Origins left me with only a cynical apprehension for September’s Homecoming. This year’s E3 provided a smattering of goodies for gamers to ooh and aah over, and we were fortunate enough to get a preview of some sorely-needed survival horror titles. Probably the most notorious is Capcom’s Resident Evil 5.

I enjoyed RE4, although I’m more of a Creep Around And Get Scared Oh Shit What Was That? kind of gal, as opposed to Mow Down Hundreds Of Zombies And Jump Through Windows action-star wannabe, so it wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. It was a wonderful game regardless of my personal preferences, so Capcom is clearly sticking close to that formula for its sequel. Also part of the formula is the good old survival horror hallmark, the secondary character, this time in the form of a woman named Sheva Alomar.

I’m as shocked as anybody that not only is one of the main characters a person of color, but a woman of color, to boot. Sheva comes to protagonist Chris Redfield’s aid as a member of the West African BSAA, or Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance. In another shocking twist, she’s not a squealing, floundering idiot a la RE4′s Ashley, but a competent, well-trained agent who does her share of the combat. Be still, my heart! Continue reading