Tag Archives: India

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

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Arundhati Roy

By Andrea Plaid

Arundhati Roy. Photo: Sanjay Kak. Courtesy: pcp.gc.cuny.edu

If Arundhati Roy was a rock star and I was at her concert, I’d be that fool who’d shout, “I LOVE YOOOUUU!” from the cheap seats while she was doing her between-song banter.

Well, Roy is a literary rock star. I fell for her writerly riffs when I caught up with her 1997 semi-autobiographical debut novel, The God Of Small Things, a couple of years ago:

May in Ayemenen is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The rivers shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun.

The nights are clear , but suffused with sloth and sullen expectations.

But by early June the southwest monsoon breaks and there are three months of wind and water with short spells of sharp, glittering sunshine that thrilled children snatch to play with. The countryside turns an immodest green. Boundaries blur as tapioca fences take root and bloom. Brick walls turn mossgreen. Pepper vines snake up electric poles. Wild creepers burst through laterite banks and spill across the flooded roads. Boats ply in the baazars. And small fish appear in the puddles that fill PWD potholes on the highways.

The God Of Small Things brought Roy, who previously worked on screenplays and movie criticism and trained as an architect, incredible acclaim in the US. She also won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997 for the book, though some folks threw serious shade about it. However–perhaps presciently–she had to answer for obscenity charges back in Kerala, where she grew up, for the book’s descriptions of sexuality.

Continue reading

DISGRASIAN OF THE WEAK! Vagina Whitening (That’s Right, You Heard Me)

By Guest Contributor Jen Wang, cross-posted from Disgrasian

One year I vacationed in Mexico and spent the entire time in the water, body surfing and boogie boarding. My skin got really dark, which I don’t care about one way or another, though I am afraid of sun damage and skin cancer, in that order. I made one mistake that trip though, and it wasn’t forgetting sunscreen (always, always remember sunscreen). My mistake was going to see my grandmother right after. The first thing she said, once she got over the shock, was “How did you get so dark?!” For the rest of the visit, she introduced me to her friends as “My Granddaughter-Who’s-Normally-Not-This-Dark.”

Light skin is still prized in Asia for a number of reasons that have to do with longstanding notions of race, class, and gender. Good thing then, that there’s a booming market for skin whitening creams, many of them manufactured by Western companies! And good thing the companies who make these creams also make commercials, because quite a few of them–beyond their creepy, disturbing premise–are kinda hilarious.
Continue reading

A Critique Of Sociological Images’ ‘India As A Magical Negro’

By Guest Contributor Colorblue

I’m still trying to work my way through my discomfort and analyze exactly where my discomfort of this Sociological Images post is coming from, so if this critique seems a bit scattered, it’s because my thoughts about it, at the moment, are that way.

First: I agree with where the post is coming from, in that the disenfranchised rarely ever have a voice of their own in mainstream Western culture, are always portrayed as the Other, which is defined as everything that said mainstream Western culture isn’t (at best as something that props it up and provides an aesthetically pleasing contrast, at worst as something that must be exterminated). And this leads to remarkably similar cycles of dehumanization and disenfranchisement. As so many minority thinkers/activists have noted, manufactured binaries between the privileged West and everyone else, even seemingly positive ones, ultimately end up reinforcing destructive hierarchies.

Where I disagree with the poster is the framing, which I feel makes the post, in some ways, as reductive as what it’s critiquing. Because there are different contexts in which the above cycle/process of exotification occurs, and those contexts matter and shouldn’t be handwaved, even (and I would say especially) if you’re taking the pov of the white outsider and attempting to deconstruct it. Social justice discourse loses its meaning when it becomes divorced from one of power relations.

Continue reading

Quoted: Mandeep Chahal at the U.S. Capitol

My mom and I went to ICE last Tuesday, and as ordered we reported to be taken into custody. For a fleeting moment, I thought I might never see my friends again. But we were there less than two hours before ICE changed their minds and let us go.

And so I’m here. We’ve been granted a stay for one year. But that doesn’t change the fact that last week I was just hours away from being deported from my home.

As a student, I work hard. I’m in the honors program at one of the country’s top public universities, and I’m on track to go to medical school. I plan to spend my life working for the public good in the United States of America.

If it took this, for me, to stay in my country, then something is wrong. It shouldn’t be this hard.

President Obama has made it clear that he fully supports the DREAM Act. He has even said that its failure to pass has been one his biggest disappointments as President.

And yet, he hasn’t acted. He has the power to stop the deportations of people like me. He can bring relief so that no family has to go through what mine has. He can end our pain, but he is still deporting DREAMers.

Full transcript available at America’s Voice

What Went Wrong With Outsourced

By Guest Contributor Monique Jones, cross-posted from moniqueblog

Before I get to the huge review of “Charlie Curries a Favor from Todd”, I figure I should have a post where I analyze Outsourced as a whole, particularly becasue the show has been cancelled. Will NBC listen to what I have to say and use my suggestions as valid input on what to do or not do in their next culture shock office sitcom? No. In fact, I’d be shocked to pieces if someone from NBC even knows I, and Moniqueblog, exist. But at least my opinions will be here for the record.

I’ll tackle this in four parts, starting from the broadest to smallest of issues: 1) How the premise of the show was tackled, 2)How the characters were developed (with a subset on the sartorial choices the characters made, as the clothes also tell a bigger story-and perhaps one of the most egregious mistakes-of where the show veered the wrong way), 3) How relationships were handled, and 4) The character of Todd: how his characterization could’ve been saved mid-season. Let’s jump in, shall we?

Continue reading

Jonnie Lewis Brown: Outsider In Bollywood [Culturelicious]

By Guest Contributor Filmi Girl

I was beyond thrilled when I got word that the first African-American actor to have a major role in a Bollywood film, Jonnie Louis Brown, was willing to speak to me for this interview series. However, when I mentioned to some friends that I was going to be interviewing Jonnie, the responses I got were all some variation of, “He’s so scary!” In the United States, Jonnie is best known for his portrayal of the sadistic Officer Eddie Walker on HBO’s The Wire, a standout performance on a show packed with talented actors. Bollywood fans will know Jonnie from Apne, in which he played the toughest, fiercest boxer in the world.

Jonnie laughs when I tell him of my friends’ reactions. “You want to hear something funny?” Filmi Girl always wants to hear something funny. “What’s funny about all those roles is that I almost did not land any of them because the directors and writers thought I was so nice that I could not do it!” The good-natured man on the other end of the line certainly doesn’t sound as if he would steal money from kids, as Officer Walker did on The Wire. “It was just completely ridiculous, they were like, ‘He’s too nice, too clean looking! How can he… I don’t believe it.’ And then when they see me perform it’s like, ‘OH MY GOD!’”

Bollywood audiences also cried “Hai Bhagwaan!” when they saw Jonnie in Apne. For those of you who missed the 2007 Deol family film, Apne is, naturally, the story of a father and his two sons. Dharmenda plays an ex-boxing champ trying to repair his family ties by training up his son, played by Sunny Deol, to become a boxing champ. Jonnie plays the World Champion Sunny must defeat to gain closure. A Bollywood hero is only as tough as the villain he defeats and Jonnie’s performance in the ring allowed Sunny Deol to give the audience a victory that meant something.

“My first impression of Bollywood films was that I didn’t have one,” begins Jonnie. “I didn’t know quite what to make of the films; I had to really sit down and absorb and concentrate on what I was seeing, on what my senses were actually feeling.” But unlike some of the less enlightened film critics who enjoy mocking the filmi style of Bollywood, Jonnie’s years of acting experience allowed him to see past the cultural differences. “I came to realize right away how good the actors and actresses were in Bollywood. They are so good at what they do and they are so centered in the fundamentals of acting that it almost goes unnoticed because the creativity in their films is so high and their dance numbers and sequences are so large that their acting often gets overshadowed by that.”

It’s an astute observation from an actor who is used to thinking outside of the box. When I ask Jonnie why he decided to audition for a Bollywood film, he explains, “Being an African-American male in the United States, the work is very sparse, very difficult. Most of the writers and screenplay writers in the United States are Caucasian and they’re also male, so African-American males are mostly thought of, when it comes to screenplay writing, like an afterthought. The roles for us are sidekick or best friend until you reach that status of, say, a Denzel Washington or a Will Smith. The new opportunities are not necessarily there for us like there are for other ethnicities, unfortunately. So the chances for me playing Superman out of the blue will not happen. It’s one of those things where that’s just how it is.” He laughs. “What’s funny is that I hear my Caucasian actor friends say that there are so many more of them and that the competition is so fierce. But what I tell them is that there are more jobs for you, too. The experience for us [African-American actors] is a little bit different and because of that experience, that’s when you start considering things outside the box.” Continue reading

Which Images Represent India?

By Guest Contributor Gwen, originally published at Sociological Images

On her blog, Deepa D. posted about what she calls the “Slumdog Shooting technique,” using this video from Greenpeace about climate change:

Deepa says,

Ishan Tankha, photographer…sitting in casually imperial isolation on one of the many historical monuments peppering Delhi…

Meanwhile every other shot? The gaudy, public, and exotically poor street life of Delhi. At most we get some middle class women shopping, some Metro commuters, and Ishan riding his bike in front of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

But even as he is saying climate change spans all classes, there are no other young, upper class people like him, no rich people, no half-naked out of fashion rather than poverty women, no fat cat industrialists or cavalcade-riding politicians, no indication that there are any of the Westernised English speaking people on the streets, even though Ishan has been chosen spokesperson.

I’m calling this the Slumdog Shooting technique – use English because you don’t want to alienate your Western audience with subtitles, but keep the local colour full of attractive yet needy children, crowds that look struggling, and picturesque poverty.

Also check out our posts on “starving African kids,” juxtaposing wealth and poverty, the white woman’s burden, the “we are all African” campaign, making charity recipients look gross, tourism in Brazil, us and them, Burger King’s Whopper Virgin campaign, India needs western technology, and de-racializing the modern/traditional binary.