Food and culture are often discussed topics on The R, so we wanted to share this video…
By Guest Contributor Ethel Tungohan, cross-posted from Grad Student Drone
The controversy surrounding Devina DeDiva’s racist posts against Megan Young, the Filipina who was recently crowned Miss World 2013, exploded all over my Facebook and Twitter feeds a few days ago. For those of you not privy to what DeDiva stated, see her Facebook feed below:
DeDiva’s words, while hurtful and racist, is so similar to sentiments I’ve heard expressed before that I was saddened but unsurprised. When the Philippines’ labour export policy has, since the late 1970s, been reliant on the export of women to work in households around the world, it is no wonder that ‘Filipinas’ are equated with domestic servitude.
By Guest Contributor Sayantani DasGupta; originally published at Feminist Wire
The Abused Goddesses of India. The advertisements, created by Mumbai-based ad firm Taproot India, have been making the rounds – not only of my Facebook friends’ walls, but of many a feminist and progressive site including Bust, Ultraviolet, V-Day and MediaWatch, usually along with reactions like “powerful” and “heartbreaking.”
The images are unusual in their aesthetic appeal. After all, it’s not every day that you see the Hindu Goddesses Laxshmi, Saraswati or Durga made to appear as if they have been subject to gender-based violence – with tear stained faces, open cuts and battered cheekbones. But even despite (or because of?) the bruising around those divine eyes, the images are breathtaking – recreations of ancient Hindu paintings accurate to their last bejeweled crown and luscious lotus leaf.
I’ll admit it, I too was entranced by these ads when I first saw them. Having grown up in the heart of the American Midwest at a time when no one in the media looked even remotely like brown-skinned and dark haired me, I have a particular soft spot for images of glamorous Indian women. After childhood and teenage years believing that no one who wasn’t a blonde, blue-eyed Christie Brinkley look-alike could be deemed ‘beautiful,’ I’m still a complete sucker for images of traditional Indian beauty.
Yet, no matter how appealing, these ads are also deeply problematic. The reasons are multiple:
By Guest Contributor Hannah Green
In India these days, it’s hard to go for very long without thinking about gang rape. Since the horrific and well-publicized rape and death of a young woman in Delhi last month, more rapes have been appearing in the headlines every day. More politicians’ and public figures’ opinions about why violence against women occurs are getting thrown around as well, each more ludicrous than the next. (But the press isn’t tolerating the nonsense this time, nor are the women of Delhi.) It’s a confusing time to be female and living in India. The constant discussion of rape makes it difficult to forget bad experiences. And it’s hard to know whether to be dominated by anger or fear. It’s easy to forget that India’s–and the world’s–reactions to this will shape what the next stage in the women’s rights movement will look like.
It was a Monday afternoon at the theater in Lucknow, a small city not far from Delhi, somewhat old-fashioned by reputation. We–the women in the audience–were wearing the loose, concealing clothing that women usually wear in Lucknow. The three women on stage were dressed similarly, but in striking combinations of black and pink. The audience was excited, maybe a little tense. During the introductory remarks, the Delhi rape case had been brought up again. About ten minutes into the play, the atmosphere changed when she walked on stage. Black hair, black top, short black skirt, long brown legs. She looked good, but she wasn’t trying to titillate anyone. She spoke with a kind of serene authority “Meri short skirt ka aap se koi lena dena nahin hai.” My short skirt has nothing to do with you.
By Guest Contributor Izzie, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch
Sania Mirza is a source of pride in India. She is the first Indian woman to:
- Win a WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) tour title of any kind
- Win a Grandslam Title
- Surpass $1M in career earnings
She has also won the Arjuna Award, which is the highest sports honour in India, and the Padma Shri, which is the fourth highest civilian award in India; she was named one of the “50 heroes of Asia” by Time, and named by The Economic Times in the list of “33 women who made India proud.”
She also happens to be a Muslim woman, who according to her father and coach, is a deeply religious girl who prays five times a day, tries hard not to play during the holy month of Ramadan, and reads the Quran every day.
However, to many Indian Muslims, she is a media personality, who doesn’t wear the “proper” attire that a Muslim woman is supposed to be seen in. She dresses like any other tennis sports star, and is popular for her style statements as for her skill with the racket. This resulted in a Maulvi in Midnapore (West Bengal, India) issuing a fatwa on her dress code stating “The dress she wears on the tennis courts … leaves nothing to the imagination.” He also said she should follow the example of Iranian women who wore head scarves and long tunics when they played in badminton tournaments. Islamist groups such as Jamiat-ulema-e-Hind allegedly threatened to disrupt her tennis matches.
Recently another fatwa was also issued against her, for living together with her current husband, before their marriage: the fatwa stated that ”It’s un-Islamic for a man and woman to see each other during the ceremonies before the ‘nikah.’” (Mirza’s husband stayed in her parental home for few weeks prior to their wedding. )
By Andrea Plaid
Having watched several of Mira Nair’s films repeatedly, I swear her guiding directive is, “If you’re 1) brown, 2) grown, and 3) sexy, you need to be in my film.”
By Guest Contributor Margaret Redlich
When they’ve tried to make realistic pictures about the poor and the middle classes, they get miserable attendance…People don’t want to see problems on the screen.
So says a 2001 article from Smithsonian magazine about the rise in popularity of the Indian movie industry, a.k.a. “Bollywood,” in the West during the 1990s. And this is the general assumption many in the First World like to make about Indian film: that it is an escapist genre, and that all the poor people of South Asia need to be happy is three hours of brightly colored fantasy.
Indian films have been the main source of popular culture for all of South Asia and popular in many other countries throughout the world since the 1950s. The first international hit was Raj Kapoor’s Awaara in 1951, followed by Shree 420 four years later. Although the 50s are generally considered the “Golden Age” of Indian film, the Indian film industry had been around for 40 years before that, with the studio system already thriving within 20 years. Although the West, especially America, likes to pretend that they invented the movies and every other country is merely imitating them (as is implied in the very name “Bollywood”), in fact India has been making movies in its own style since the advent of the artform.
The West didn’t suddenly make a Columbus-like discovery of Indian film in the 90s; it was a result of a calculated strategy on the part of the Indian industry. A series of political shifts in Indian government had led to weakening import/export regulations as well as the legalization of investments in the Indian film industry. Therefore, there was suddenly more money around to make these globe-hopping song- and dance-filled extravaganzas. And that money could be turned into even more money by making plots that were universal and of interest to Desis and others living in the First World. What is more universal than romance?