Tag Archives: India

The Miss World 2013 and Devina DeDiva controversy: Racism begetting more racism

By Guest Contributor Ethel Tungohan, cross-posted from Grad Student Drone

Miss World 2013 Megan Young.

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.

Continue reading

Abused Goddesses, Orientalism and the Glamorization of Gender-Based Violence

goddesses1

 

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:

Continue reading

The Vagina Monologues In Hindi

13212557

Cast from a Mumbai performance of “The Vagina Monologues.” Image Credit: Times of India.

**TRIGGER WARNING**

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.

Continue reading

Links Roundup 1.24.13

As part of today’s festivities, a site called InternetFreedomDay.net was launched. One of the several organizations behind the effort, Fight for the Future, tried to make a point about copyright law by posting a video that included footage of Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. Why? Because, as Fight for the Future’s video explained, King’s speech is still under copyright—and therefore sharing it is an act of civil disobedience that honors both Internet Freedom Day and Martin Luther King Day this Monday. Fight for the Future’s video also explained that SOPA would have made streaming the film a criminal offense—a crime like kidnapping, bank fraud, anddownloading too many JSTOR articles in violation of terms of service.

Yet just after 1 p.m. on Friday, the video had been removed from the video sharing site Vimeo, presumably at the request of EMI, which, with the King estate, holds the rights to the speech. You may not realize it, but, as Vice’s Motherboard explained, “You’d be hard pressed to find a good complete video version on the web, and it’s not even to be found in the new digital archive of the King Center’s website. If you want to watch the whole thing, legally, you’ll need to get the $20 DVD.”

“Do you think it’s easier to look beyond race in France?” Most Americans assume this is true, but even from my few days in the country so far, I’d seen evidence to the contrary. Christine’s favorite leftist newspaper Le Canard Enchâiné regularly satirized former president Nicolas Sarkozy and his hardline approach to dealing with immigrants of color.

“Maybe,” she answered. “You’re less ‘not supposed to do something’ than in America. I think the pressure is stronger over there because society is not going to want you to mix in that way. Even inside your family the pressure is going to be stronger. And not every mixed couple lives in Manhattan either. Imagine if you live in Arkansas; your life can be hell! In France it can be the same thing if you live in a small village. Mais, the less you are together, the less they are going to expect you to be together, and in France we are not as apart from each other. You don’t have a separate Black school here where they’re teaching you how wonderful it is to be Black and what Black people did to make humanity grow.”

Some of us matured away from the idea of a Black culture that thinks with only one point of view about things like interracial marriage, and others never would. My opinions now are a lot different than they were before I graduated my own Black college alma mater, but I tried explaining to Christine—the product of a supposedly colorblind society—my younger attitude about preserving and protecting the Black community from being watered down. She laughed.

Many argue that Indian popular culture is full of misogyny, and Bollywood too needs to own up to its role in fuelling this culture. As Ritupurna Chatterjee writes, “it will be highly presumptuous to assume that Hindi cinema is the root cause of a spike in sexual assaults. But Bollywood and regional cinema in equal parts, because of their reach, scope and influence, have a larger role to play in assuming responsibility for the message it sends out to millions of audience — some highly impressionable.” India’s population has now exceeded 1.2 billion, and even though literacy has increased quickly in the past years, a little over 25 per cent of the country’s population is still illiterate.

Is it fair to blame Bollywood, or even expect it to produce movies that adhere to a higher standard? As Bollywood mega star and bad boy Salman Khan argued in an interview — each movie has a good guy and a bad guy. It isn’t Bollywood’s fault that people choose to follow the villain. The superstar also added that if not the death penalty, rapists should be sentenced to life. Others, like director Anurag Kashyap, agree with the general sentiment that Bollywood, being such a huge influence for Indian society, has a responsibility to produce movies that show women in progressive light, but hold that censorship is not a viable way to achieve this goal, tweeting that moralising censorship would create “another kind of Taliban”.

While the film has obviously found its supporters, backlash against it continues to grow. Yesterday, director Kathryn Bigelow defended her film from charges it promotes torture in an Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times . Bigelow claimed artistic license writing, “those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement.” While this is obviously true, the film goes further than depiction. AsDeepa Kumar wrote the film promotes extra judicial killing and the drone warfare that has become the hallmark of the Obama administration’s “war on terror.”

People like outsourcers and Jeremy Scott greatly affect non-Native people’s perceptions of Native American art and aesthetics. They also impact our economies.

Back in the 1920s and 1930s, non-Native ‘friends of Indians’ noticed that the creation and marketing of Native American arts could have a positive economic impact in Native communities. Thus, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act was enacted to protect Native artists against people who falsely suggested that their artwork was Native-made. This act sought to help protect Native artists who were working to bring money into their communities from companies who would mass-produce cheap knock-offs, and thus produce unfair competition and redirect money into the pockets of a few versus back to where the money was needed to continue these important living artistic cultural practices. Over the years, the IACA hasn’t always been supportive of Native artists and has lost a lot of clout – big companies with big lawyers find ways to circumvent our rights to our cultural capital, imagery and names. Furthermore, the jury is still out on whether or not ‘fashion’ is considered ‘art,’ adding another potential loophole to the mix.

I apologize for the longwindedness, but this legacy is important to note since it continues to affect us today. When companies like Forever 21Urban Outfitters, or Adidas put out tacky images like this, they perpetuate the idea that Native art is in the free bin (as if we have no sense of ownership or artistic legacy when it comes to our art), and anyone can reach in and grab it, tack their name on it, and make a buck – all the while putting forward the idea that our art is ugly and cheap.

Sania Mirza: A Pride Or Disgrace To Indian Muslims

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:

  1. Win a WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) tour title of any kind
  2. Win a Grandslam Title
  3. Surpass $1M in career earnings

Tennis player Sania Mirza on the cover of  Time. Image via idiva.com

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. )

Continue reading

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Mira Nair

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.”

Continue reading

“People Don’t Want To See Problems On The Screen”: Why The West Won’t Watch Bollywood

By Guest Contributor Margaret Redlich

Kajol (l) and Shahrukh Khan in Dilwale Dulhania le Jayenga. Courtesy: planetradiocity.com

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?

Continue reading

Suit Or Sari? On Professionalism And ‘Ethnic’ Dressing

By Guest Contributor Sayantani DasGupta, cross-posted from Stories Are Good Medicine

I had the pleasure to attend a women’s leadership conference this past weekend. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet innovative and dynamic women from seven different decades, and I was so inspired by much that I saw and heard.

But it was a lecture by a popular professor–an expert in public speaking and issues of gender and communication–that left me unexpectedly troubled. And it’s taken me a couple days to figure out why.

I last saw this professor lecture more than 20 years ago–and she’s still the same funny, sharp-witted, and insightful speaker I remember from back in my college days. She urged us conference participants to be assertive, not aggressive, in our speech, to think about standing and sitting with confidence, to avoid lilting upward at the end of our sentences, to resist being cut off by others while we’re speaking.

All of this made a lot of sense to me. I know that women are often taught to defer to others in conversation (“no, no, you go ahead”), that we may unconsciously adopt physical postures of passivity or childishness (the cocked head, the crossed leg stance while standing), that we may sound as if we’re apologizing, for even our names (“my name is Sayantani??”).

And yet, when the lecture got to the issue of dressing for presentation success, I began to feel distinctly uncomfortable.
Continue reading