12/21/07

Breast cancer awareness, indeed.

How do you take something as grave and significant as breast cancer awareness and turn it into a shining beacon of repugnant misogyny?

Like this of course! (click on image for larger version)



Behold the imposing feat of raising crucial ‘awareness’ through a boobalicious mouse pad! If fondling gynormous rubber mammaries ensconced in a lacy blue number while surfing the interweb doesn’t make you well, lucidly aware of a pesky life threatening illness such as breast cancer and what it entails, then I can’t possibly imagine what will!

And what pray, is the infantile reasoning behind the achingly enlightening ‘creative’ ideas for this campaign?

This advertisement presents a tridimensional mouse mat with breasts made by rubber which positions females as target consumers. When you put hands on it and drag the mouse it seems like massaging breasts.

[Emphasis mine]

You see, since doing a self examination involves a certain amount of breast massaging, this mouse pad will immediately force people to ricochet off their seats with one gropey mouse click and have them actively massaging their breasts in a frenzied display of breast cancer ‘awareness’!

The clarity. The brilliance. It burns.

Oh, but it just gets better and better. This was made with women as target consumers. Maybe my propensity for being a harridan renders me incapable of anything but cynicism, but I would give my right hand to know what the creative heads at this agency were smoking. I mean, evidently they get their sublime inspirational leanings from your friendly frat-bro’s dudely guide to thrashing about in a cesspit of objectification and misogyny cause its FUN BITCHEZ, YEA! Or maybe they get their cues from manly websites* which are entirely devoted to the sale of mouse pads tastefully adorned with ergonomic boobs and ass cheeks peeking through a not-there thong which would have definitely made Sisqó or at the very least, Sir Mix-a-Lot proud. But oh, they care about you! These classily busty (and assy) pads are made specifically for reducing the risk of bodily injuries like carpel tunnel syndrome, by providing you with an ergonomic wrist rest in the form of the valley between the titties and butt cheeks. Imaginative, useful and exploitative! Now that’s a killer combination, if I ever saw one!

Some samples (possibly NSFW):





If anime floats your boat, then:



Right, so what are the differences between these mouse pads and the one made for ‘awareness’? Really, I’m on a need to know basis here. These mouse pads are marketing to guys who think exploitation and barefaced sexism is a bit o' fun for the bros and shit like this is oh-so-hilarious. So what really is the difference between the ‘awareness’ mouse pad and these uproarious nudge-nudge wink-wink protuberant ass/boobies and how does that translate into highlighting the importance of breast cancer self examination?

One can argue that the intent was noble of course (I think my eyes inadvertently rolled themselves into my skull), but isn’t that a contemptible way of excusing the obviously banal taste and design choices of the creative team behind this campaign? What really fuels my ire is the absurd sexualization of breast cancer in this instance. Because it concerns breasts see? We all know that boobies = sexay! Everyone wins! N.o.t.

And I can practically smell the apologist bull feces defending the mouse pad for its ‘witty’ and ‘subversive’ choices in dealing with a dreadful disease such as breast cancer.

So allow me to list them out myself.

1) But it’s done for a-w-a-r-e-n-e-s-s! Surely because of this righteous reason, the creative heads should be absolved of all responsibility and are above even a shred of criticism, even if they essentially mock and demean the female populace (the majority of folks who actually contract the disease y’all, go figure!) in the process.

2) Why don’t you have a sense of humor? Clearly this product has a sense of humor about it which is indispensable when faced with life threatening circumstances. So lighten up will ya? Jeebus!

3) Well, why do you find it preposterous that the mouse pad is marketed to women? You are a duplicitous bigot and you support heteronormativity because you cannot wrap your mind around the fact that women like breasts.

4) Why are you such a prude? I always knew that feminists hated sex and anything sexual and you just about proved my point. Aren’t you being hysterical about rubber boobs? Stop complaining, massage them and learn something in the process. They are made of rubber after all.

Have I left out anything else that a discerning boob/funbag/titty aficionado might find infuriating about my views on the ‘awareness’ mouse pad? Oh well, I tried.

What have we come to, when even a breast cancer self examination campaign is reduced to debasing women with its noxious objectification of the very body part plagued by the disease it sets out to raise awareness over?

Would it be acceptable to conceive of an awareness campaign for prostate cancer, with a phallic mouse pad adorned with an ergonomic bulging rubber scrotum/nuts/balls peeking out through a sexy not there g-string? No?

I’m just asking.

* No, I refuse to link to those websites.

12/6/07

The 49th Carnival of Feminists

First of all, I want to thank all my long suffering readers/lurkers/odd entities for putting up with my hindrances (ha, like you had a choice!). I do profusely apologize for the delay.

Now then, having drunk enough coffee to keep a herd of elephants comfortably awake for a week or thereabouts, let us dive headfirst into the 49th Carnival of Feminists, shall we?

Pop culture/media:

1. AverageBro guest posting at Racialicious writes about NBC’s patronizing, sensationalist ‘special’ called African-American Women: Where They Stand which ran on Nightly News with Brian Williams this past week, and is miffed (and rightly so) about NBC’s denigrating coverage:

The problem with such coverage is the medium itself. Trying to objectively present the dynamics of such a topic in 3-4 minute vignettes is a surefire recipe for failure. If NBC was so concerned about “the state of black women”, maybe they’d dedicate a few episodes of Dateline. Instead, these short segments, cleverly dropped at the end of each show (to make you watch the whole episode of course) go headfirst into misleading statistics that serve no real purpose other than further discrediting black men and magnifying a rift between genders that exists in every race.


2. Purtek at The Hathor Legacy critically examines the show Dexter in a two part series (which I happen to consider one of the most magnificent shows on television I’ve seen in a long while, even if I do frown upon some of its recent character portrayals) and its theme of trust issues plaguing the female characters when faced with gender violence (specifically male) and male privilege.

The theme that I really liked here was the impact that a culture of violence (both gender-based and otherwise) and of generalized male privilege has on the ability of the female characters to trust other people (specifically men) and to trust their own instincts about any given situation. One thing I really liked was that this questioning was portrayed as a rational, learned reaction to having been betrayed, violated and attacked by individuals (yes, usually men) that they had previously trusted, rather than as a paranoid attitude with no basis in reality.


3. This post at Feminist Allies was made by Jeff to honor the spirit of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, but since it was about violence in comic strips (oh how funny har har, not) I thought it was appropriate for this category.

Creepiest part of this strip is that you can't see anything below chest level. And this has a similar problem as the Monty strip, above: We're supposed to laugh at silly men who can't control themselves, who don't understand the signals women give off (even when those signals aren't signals at all, but rather, statements to get the hell away). Ha! Ha! Maybe next he'll follow her home! Or call her at work constantly!


4. Richie at Crimitism compares and contrasts The Wicker Man (1973) with its abysmal 2006 remake starring Nicholas Cage (why is he still allowed to act? Ghost Rider? Seriously?) , and unsurprisingly comes to the conclusion that the remake is one big cesspool of paranoid misogyny.

In the remake, oh Christ in the fucking remake, we get a little coda where two of the hot evil women from the island to go the mainland and pick up two guys at a bar. The implication is that they’ll deliberately get pregnant and then use those children at some point in the future to lure their fathers to the island in order to burn them or beat them to death with copies of Intercourse or whatever floats their man-hating boat that day. I can picture Neil LaBute fighting the studio executives for this scene to be included: “No, it’s vital! The audience might not realise that women are manipulative and evil yet!”.


5. Regulars of this blog will know that I happen to harbor a deep seated adoration for anime. But my feelings on the genre hasn’t blinded me to most of mainstream anime shows' deep flaws and disheartening portrayals of female characters. Sadly, Femtique, while examining a promising sounding show called Gunslinger Girl, exposes its blatant gender stereotypes and also offers ways in which this anime could be more feminist friendly without losing its pop appeal. Now that’s promising.

Gunslinger Girl is the type of anime where little girls are used to fulfill the desired of men. What do the men want? The men who “condition” them (i.e., brainwash) are assassins. That’s right people. Little girls brainwashed into becoming assassins. What a way to train those females! Train them while they’re young so they won’t rebel; that way, they’ll do exactly what they’re told.


6. Rachelle from Living Between Wednesdays has put up a gallery showcasing the Iron Man Annual 1, which features the wholly original premise of going undercover at a strip club. But of course.

Well, I mean, of course they have to go to a strip club. What mission in comics, movies or television doesn't take the investigators to at least one strip club?


Current affairs and violence against women:

Since this edition of the Carnival happens to occur smack dab in the middle of the fantastic 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, most of the following posts are entries made to honor the same.

1. Iconoplastic has an eloquent post up, on the interconnectedness of nomenclature and the sexual violence against girls and women, amongst other things.

everytime charges of sexual assault and brutalization come to light, the nomenclature suitably modifies itself to indicate “maturity” of some kind, sexual preferably. However, the moment they need to portray the female of the species as cosemtically enhanced nymphos with ample amounts of silicone deposits, the sobriquet bestowed is entirely different. ”Girls gone wild”..Anyone?


2. Cara at The Curvature writes about two loathsome ‘toys’ which objectify women in the worst possible way. And I happen to agree with her that they are not ‘funny’ by a long shot, and they blatantly contribute to trivializing a crime as vile as rape.

That’s right. This “toy” is a plastic object that looks like a woman with a gaping hole in her crotch that symbolizes her vagina, and you’re supposed to shove pens into said hole while she screams for help or moans in pain. But hey, that’s only when she’s in a “bad mood.” When she’s not being a massive bitch, she totally loves it. Like all women, of course. Except that — haha — you can’t turn most of the stupid whores on and off at your leisure for your fucking/raping pleasure.


3. Anindita Sengupta at Ultra Violet has a scathing post up on the silence, or worse; the squirm worthy coverage of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign, by the Indian media.

Coming back to where I started off from, editors and senior journalists of prominent newspapers obviously do not think this is an issue worth discussing. So there is no series of columns giving insights into the various aspects and implications. No “Lead India”-like campaign in ToI. No railing editorials from aging and mostly senile columnists. (Shashi Tharoor, when you’re done with lamenting the fact that we Indian women are not wearing the sari any more, you think you could turn your attention to this?)


4. Zeynab from Muslima Media Watch speaks about Muslim women of color facing a ‘triple threat’ in addition to being caught between a rock and a hard place, in relation to the recent ruling of 200 lashes awarded to a Saudi gang rape victim, because she dared to speak out against her attackers and openly disagree with her sentence.

You’ve probably heard about the recent ruling given to a Saudi gang-rape victim: 110 lashes added onto the original sentence of 90 lashes because she protested her sentence to the media. It’s a horrible and vindictive sentence, and the callous treatment this woman has received as a victim is insulting to her, Saudi Arabia, and Islam.

Why Islam? What does her ruling have to do with Islam? Well, not much. Technically, the judge who sentenced her went by Shari’a law, but he added those extra lashes from his own judgment because she spoke out about her case. So he punished her.


5. Hops from Be a Good Human writes clearly and honestly about how the 16 Days campaign inspired her to act and do what she can when faced with a real, tangible problem and not hesitate anymore.

I've been feeling a lot of regret about this lately. I know that I can't control anyone else's actions. I can't make sexual predators, wife beaters, and child molesters change their ways. I can't force anyone to pursue an associate's degree. But I never tried. Sometimes sins of omission weigh more heavily than the ones we actually commit.


6. Fannie of Fannie’s Room has a long but comprehensive post about the politics and the reasoning behind hateful, aggressive and often, sexually explicit threats against women online.

What is disturbing to me, however, is that most of the blogs I read or link to have had some experience with internet coward/bullies who attack not the content of the blog, but rather they attack the blogger's gender, sexuality, race, intelligence, etc. in a vicious, aggressive, and shallow way. Blogs of all types have run-ins with internet bullies.

Yet, comments written by men and directed towards feminist women are particularly angsty, sexualized, and aggressive. In fact, women in general are targeted in a sexually aggressive way much more often than men are.


7. In a short post at Texas and Egypt, A.H.K.M succinctly sums up the patriarchal power dynamics and disparities between men and women, by describing an interesting incident in the metro.


8. Vibracobra has a post up at Mind the Gap, where she scrutinizes a question put forth by Julie Bindel in the Guardian which goes thus: “Who can say they’ve never feared rape?”

It’s an interesting question, because most of us do go round with that fear of being attacked by strangers, or of going down dark alleys, or getting into a car with the wrong person. Sometimes it can be founded. I remember an incident when some guy in Strasbourg tried to get me to go into some bushes because he had “something to show me”. I don’t need to tell you that I was very apprehensive about having to walk past the same place on the way home again - although why I should have been afraid of him says a lot too. After all, he was shorter than me and kind of thin and flabby, so I wouldn’t have been in much danger if he had tried to force me to go into the bushes.


9. Bendinggender has written a fluid and glorious piece about silencing and the shutting up of women’s voices in different degrees and contexts.

i may be being extreme in taking off from a drawing room comment and getting on to physical, emotional and sexual violence. yes, there are huge degrees of difference involved here. but underlying all of these instances is the shutting up and clamping down of a woman. the taking away or the attempted taking away of her voice. or the ridiculing of her possession of voice- on pettynesses of tone, pitch and the like.

10. Badly Drawn Girl pens a beautiful poem about the ghastly incident in Guwahati (Assam) where an adivasi woman was stripped, beaten repeatedly and paraded naked on the streets.

She runs on my television screen - while two neat black lines
Follow her, precisely hiding what we must ignore.

Simple mathematics in a glass building shows that it would be easy
For us to imagine her without breasts. A woman without a vagina.


Women and technology:

I may not talk about it on the blog as much as I want to, but regular readers must have obviously gathered by now that I am a gamer. A multiple console owning, game pre-ordering, been gaming from the age of 9 (oh yes, old school awesomeness of the NES and the SNES consoles, anyone?) type feminist gamer who happens to love the action adventure and survival horror genres, with RPGs being a close second. So this section will be solely devoted to something I truly love (and obsess over) and what I consider an indelible part of me (geek pride!)

1. Sexism in the gaming industry? How very shocking! Roy at No Cookies for Me talks about a Playboy December ‘special’ on women in gaming and the larger issue of the intersection of pornography and games.

Despite having to deal with the sale, ordering, and placement of magazines like Playboy for several years, I'd pretty much forgotten about this (nsfw) intersection of pornography and games). I had completely forgotten that Playboy runs an issue every year that features the "girls of gaming".


2. Jess McCabe at the F-Word examines the issues surrounding The Coolest Girl in the School which is being dubbed as GTA (Grand Theft Auto) for girls. Cringe.

When I write about games aimed at girls/women, I very rarely suffer any wish to play them. Yet there is something weirdly intriguing about Coolest Girl in the School, dubbed ‘Grand Theft Auto for girls’, even if it does raise lots of red flags. (Not least of which is obviously ‘don’t girls play GTA?’)


3. BomberGirl of Girl in the Machine, praises the gender ambiguity of one of Final Fantasy VIII's most despicably evil sorceresses, Adel.

In a genre with a deathgrip on its cookie-cutter female characters, the ability to make players question what they know about the binary sex and gender system is a huge plus. Pretty, feminine men are basically the norm in the Final Fantasy universe, but tough, masculine women still have little exposure. Perhaps Adel was meant to be a man, and something got lost in translation; perhaps this was an intentional choice on the part of developers.


4.
Mighty Ponygirl at Feminist Gamers takes a critical look at the number of downloadable songs by male bands and male vocalists vis a vis female bands and female vocalists in the game, Rock Band.

And this is my big quibble with the game: there isn’t a good split between songs for male and female vocalists (with the exception of Sabotage, which isn’t a comfortable range for either gender).


Feminist theory & history/first person accounts & observation/gender roles and socialization:

1.
Nevermind, in a thinking aloud kind of post, extrapolates on various conversations which are reflections of real exchanges, wherein the people participating in the scenarios exhibit narrow, often painfully gender stereotypical attitudes and world views.

“It’s her duty as a wife to live with him and look after him in his old age. What do you mean he was emotionally dismissive?”

Gender of speaker: Male in this case, and family; Context: Very Indian middle class.


2. Natasha at Homo Academicus expands on her reasoning behind calling herself a feminist and not a ‘humanist’ or an ‘equalist’ and works through the pros and cons behind the feminist label.

So, to address my questioners, as well as work through this stuff myself, here are lists of pros and cons for using and identifying with the word “feminist.” Just to be absolutely clear, I don’t need reasons for the fact that I believe women are equal to men, on the contrary I think you need to explain yourself if you don’t! These are my pros/cons for applying the label “feminist” to my beliefs rather than some other label.


3. Anita in an interesting and observational post goes through the challenges that women face in the workplace be it subtle or overt, and suggests sensible initiatives to move towards a more balanced and comfortable working environment for women, without being shortchanged due to their gender.

So men are slowly no longer treating workplaces like an old boys club. Yet we are far from achieving true equity. And in some sense, I would think equity is not just about equal representation of women. It is about women being women and not having to completely change themselves to fit into a professional life. It is about not having to pretend that you were ok with that client’s offsite in Thailand involving massage parlours lest you be seen as a ‘non-team player’.


4. Vidya from The Mountaintop asks if the presence of a divine feminine, irrespective of her representation as being egalitarian or otherwise in goddess worshiping cultures, contribute to an uplifting effect on the status of women; and proceeds to examine the connections between the two.

The Hindus and the Greeks had a rich pantheon of Goddesses. The Abrahamic religions had none (or almost none). Going by these assumptions one would think that the women in India and Greece would be as fearless and free as Kali or Athena, and the Jewish and Christian women would be at the lowest rung on the social ladder.


5. Swatie writes a fascinating post about feminism and Indian nationalist politics. In my opinion, this is an area which is severely lacking in any sort of blogular (eep) discourse, and I’m glad that she has gotten the ball rolling.

Much of feminist theorising in India, with its insistence on historically locating various feminist movements, has felt the need to examine the nature of women’s movements during the struggle for independence from British imperialist rule. What has also, most pertinently, been taken into account has been its relation to the prevalent Indian nationalist discourse.


6. Veronica is dismayed at the transformation of Dora the Explorer from a spunky, adventurous, happy go lucky traveler to the recipient of a sparkly Disneyfied princess makeover, complete with scary, abnormal thinness and the like.

When Dora was princess-ified, I was ticked. NOT because I hate princesses - I eat my Almond Vanilla Special K every morning from a Little Mermaid bowl. Honest. Well, unless I grab the Tigger bowl. I was ticked because Dora was the princess alternative. She flew through trees, climbed mountains, and flew in Tico's plane all without a thought to her hair or how dirty her white sneakers would get. I came to be ok with the princess thing only because Dora kept going on adventures.


7. Cerebral non-matter writes a post I wish I had written, on the barefaced differences in parenting when it comes to daughters in comparison to sons, from an Indian perspective.

Parents' (however irrational) instinct to protect their children from harm is understandable. Also, one imagines that the fact that girls are generally perceived to be more vulnerable to a host of serious crimes such as abduction, rape, sexual harassment or abuse, would naturally augment these protective instincts. Plus, since this is Indian families we're talking about, we have yet another evil considered almost as bad as the abovementioned crimes – the sullying of a woman's reputation! This can potentially arise out of trifles ranging from the clothes she wears to pretty much any lifestyle choice she makes that involves alcohol or men.


Women and science:

This week, the sciences was particularly filled with awesomeness. No thanks to Isha Himani Jain, Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff who walked off with top honors at the prestigious Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. A big congrats to these girls is in order!

1. Happy at the girls’ achievements in the Siemens Competition, in a post which immediately struck a chord with me, Snarky Repartee reminisces about her own experiences in high school with boys being mollycoddled and encouraged to pursue the sciences while the opposite was true for girls; and an incident revolving around a science talent discovery fair.

I remember the day I first heard about the Intel Science Talent Discovery Fair. Of course the school being what it was, I did not hear about it directly, but a rumor passing around the class that our chemistry teacher had asked two of her favorite students to prepare a project for entry in the fair. These students were, of course, boys.


2. In the wake of the Siemens Competition results, Womenstake challenges the likes of Larry Summers and his ilk about their sexist and woefully gender essentialist statements and beliefs.


3. While Science Woman is thrilled that these young women took the top prizes at this year’s Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, she is understandably tired of the gendered headlines blaring about their win, and hopes that a day will come when gendering of a headline becomes a thing of the past and science headlines are treated as just that- neutral gender-free science headlines. And for the record, I am inclined to agree with her.

That's awesome with no qualifiers. These students are being rewarded for thousands of hours of effort and research that is graduate-level and publication quality. I've got a certain fondness for science fair competitions and their winners, and I wish these women every success as they go forward in college and beyond.


4. Zuska explores the idea of parthenogenesis using Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s vision of a utopian all female society in Herland as a point of reference of sorts.

In Herland, the best that modern science (circa 1910) has to offer is pitted against Gilman's vision of an all-female society where crime doesn't exist and the forests are treasured, manicured sources of nourishment. Three men bumble their way into this Utopian society and adapt to varying degrees. There, they are befuddled by their inability to engage the residents of Herland in the "normal" social dynamics prevalent between males and females in their home society.

-------X-------

And finally, I shall leave you with Aishwarya's post on privilege and the Aaja Nachle lyrics. While not being directly relevant to this carnival, it is applicable when a parallel is drawn to male privilege and the insidious gender disparities prevalent in our society.

Happy reading denizens!

-------X-------

The next carnival will be at The Jaded Hippy on December 19.

For more information, make your way to the Carnival of Feminists blog for updates.

12/4/07

49th Carnival of Feminists: Final call and updates

Attention denizens, as of 12:00 am EST, I will stop accepting submissions for the carnival. You have about an hour and a half, so chop chop!

When do you plan to put up the carnival?

The carnival will be up at 9:00 pm EST on December 5th. I have a final presentation and a fifteen page final paper which I should be diligently working on (ahem), that are both due tomorrow. So once I'm done wrangling with that, I'll post the carnival.

IMPORTANT UPDATE (December 5th):

I have just finished my final presentation, and I have slept for a total of say, two hours in three days. Yeah, you read that right. I said two hours in three days.

So my patient readers, I will have to implore you to wait a bit longer. I really don't want to put up a sleep-deprived, half assed, shoddy excuse for a carnival, just because I said it'll be up by 9:00 pm. I don't think thats fair on you, or me.

So please wait a bit longer and it will be up. I do promise that it'll be up before 12:00 am EST today. You can hold me to that.

Many many apologies for the delay.

12/1/07

The 49th Carnival of Feminists: Call for submissions

(postdated to make this sticky)

I am going to be hosting the 49th Carnival of Feminists on December 5th and before I launch into a hyperactive version of my customary happy dance, I must extend a call for submissions. You can send your own posts if you want, as this is a great opportunity to get your writing linked to this large carnival, or you could tip me off to other fantastic posts by following the instructions below. I do not want to constrict the flexibility of this carnival by attaching a theme to it, but I would love it if you could send me or tip off posts related to privilege and the politics of gender roles or both, but please, other posts are equally welcome! This is in no way an official theme, but more like a guide if you find yourself having a brain aneurysm or something.


How do I submit posts? Is there a deadline?

You can send me your posts to wannabe[dot]punkster[at]gmail[dot]com

or,

You can use the Blog Carnival submission form here.

The deadline for submitting posts is December 4th. Please make sure that the posts you submit are written after November 21st, as they have to be fairly recent.

The carnival should go up on December 5th.

If you need more information, please visit the Carnival of Feminists blog, where you can sift through all the previous carnivals and get a better idea of what this is all about.

And frankly, I am seriously ecstatic that I have this opportunity to showcase great big globs of awesome feminist writing on my blog. I would love to see all kinds of posts on issues affecting women’s lives, so get a move on and start sending!

Post Script: In the meantime, please check out the fantastic 48th Carnival of Feminists put together by Debs at Feminist Fire. Go on, you know you want to!

11/20/07

autarchy and the divine feminine

I have never hidden my compulsive fascination with Hindu mythology, specifically with respect to the countless goddesses situated in the Hindu pantheon. This fixation of mine may very well seem like a side effect of my feminism, but it is not as simple as that. I do admit to feeling an out of place, illogical warmth in my gut at the existence of goddesses (and powerful ones at that) in my culture. However, I am not that distanced from reality to comprehend the fact that the status of the divine feminine is far removed from the status of the Indian woman, be it socially, religiously or otherwise. And that is one of the (many) reasons why I can’t help but insistently question and deconstruct the varying identities of the goddess figures in Hindu mythology.

Interestingly enough, while I will not deny the existence of dominant and often autonomous goddesses, there have been a few intercutting themes in their representation and the legends pertaining to their identities which I find quite unsettling.

Inevitably, I would have to start with Kali. If this elicits a collective gasp from certain folk, who refuse to stomach the possibility that the representation of Kali may not be as egalitarian or transcendental as one would expect, then allow me to extend a caveat lector. For now, I will only outline the core narratives, representing each of the influential, powerful and vastly popular goddesses I have in mind.

Kali:

Kali’s iconography as we all know is synonymous with pure, unadulterated wrath. Almost all her representations and core stories involve her indulging in indiscriminate destruction, without any thought to her surroundings or victims. The basic, core narrative involving Kali follows a familiar theme: Kali goes on a wrathful rampage, the gods beseech Siva to intervene and Shiva basically lays prostrate in her path. Kali being wholly absorbed in her anger does not notice him lying in her path and fortuitously steps on him. Doing so, she automatically realizes her folly (stepping on her husband) and experiencing acute ignominy at her actions, bites her tongue to control herself and calms down.

Akilandeshwari:

Akilandeshwari is the goddess situated at Tiruvannaikka (an urban-ish town/village at the outskirts of Tiruchy), and she is said to be even more formidable than her consort Jambukeshwarar from the same temple. Of all the numerous legends surrounding the conception of the temple, one of the most celebrated narratives revolves around Akilandeshwari and Adi Sankara. It is said that when Sankara set foot in Tiruvannaikka, people entreated him to save them from the inescapable rage of the goddess. Sankara unsurprisingly controls Akilandeshwari’s ferocity by presenting her with a pair of tatankam or large earrings.

Meenakshi:

As Meenakshi does not really require a droll, catatonic introduction, I’ll save you the trouble and jump right into her core story. In her proto-narrative, before her expected transmutation into a coy bride, she was a fierce warrior and a valorous heir to the throne of Madurai. According to legend, the ruler Malayadwaja Pandyan and his queen Kanchanamala were childless, and therefore heirless. As heirless couples in Hindu mythology are wont to do, they inevitably slid into the tried and true modus operandi of performing elaborate yajnas, begging for an heir to the throne. During one such ceremony, a baby girl miraculously materialized out of nowhere and the royal couple instantaneously took this as a sign and brought her up as their own child and named her Tataatakai (or Taatakai). Tataatakai was not like other children however, she was markedly unusual as she had three breasts.

Extra mammary gland notwithstanding, Tataatakai grew up to be a skilled fighter and a valiant princess, whose excellence in combat was unsurpassed. As her power and strength as a warrior grew, she embarked on a Digvijaya or a tour of conquest and triumph across the subcontinent. When she arrived at the Himalayas however, she set her eyes on Shiva and underwent a curious transformation. Her third breast vanished and she felt herself feeling bashful, a sensation she had never known before. As Shiva held her gaze, the proud, courageous warrior who was unaware as to how to feel self conscious or disconcerted, averted her gaze and looked at her feet demurely for the first time. And the conversion of the peerless, independent warrior Tataatakai into the blushing bride Meenakshi was complete.

If the intercutting themes in all these narratives or core stories or proto legends aren’t glaringly palpable by now, allow me to point them out.

a) They always feature a ferocious, independent and an autocratic goddess at their core.

b) A goddess’s intensity, her rage and her dangerously ambiguous self will never be an ideal paragon for women to emulate. While these traits may be feared and/or respected, they are not considered to be the goddess’s final calling.

c) Extrapolating from the previous point, a goddess’s self-determination or freewill may be valued as a desirable characterestic. But if you look really closely, in actuality, those identities are distinctly impermanent.

d) Each core narrative features a treacherously subtle but common insidious theme: Control.

This theme of control rears its noxious head repeatedly in these proto-legends, but it's brilliance lies in the simple fact that it does not explicitly denounce the goddess for being autocratic or unfathomable. What it does is much much worse. It leads you on, using the above mentioned characteristics like the proverbial carrot; cloyingly patronizing the goddess figure in the process and ultimately setting the stage for putting her in her place.

After suffocating through a miasma of exuberant descriptions of the goddess figure’s transcendence, her sovereignty and so on, you eventually stumble upon the true crux of the narrative, wherein the goddess is made to realize her spousal duties by experiencing lajja (in the case of Kali), or bowing down to the power of a mortal man * (in the case of Adi Sankara and Akilandeshwari) or seamlessly transforming into the subdued, blushing bride from a fearless warrior (in the case of Meenakshi).

It is interesting albeit in a disheartening way, to witness the process of Sanskritization rear its crafty head over and over again; swallowing fierce, local, independent goddesses without any connection to a male authority through wedlock or otherwise, into its gaping maw by immediately proclaiming them as an aspect of Parvati (also by marrying them off to one form of Shiva or the other). This process, in one fell swoop achieves two different things, 1) It places Parvati, a spousal goddess, firmly at the top of the Shaivaite goddess pantheon and 2) It ingeniously allows the local goddesses to have their original attributes but perfidiously adds subversive elements of control and subjugation to their core narratives like the examples I have given above.

It would be dishonest of me to deny the fact that I feel bizarrely letdown by the relentless overlaying of traditional gender roles onto these narratives. Would it kill the patriarchal forces that be, to not paint over every autonomous goddess core-story with a stertorous legend saturated in the panacea of patriarchal womanhood a la the wife and the mother?

Actually, don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.

Post script: To be perfectly clear, this is not a dour, historical post discussing the semiotics of the narratives in the Devi Mahatmya or the Soundarya Lahiri or any of those texts. This is me, being my cantankerous, nitpicky self, basically thinking aloud about popular narratives associated with certain goddesses. This post does not point a blameful finger at wifehood or motherhood or any of those factions. That is all.

PPS: A big thank you to those of you who left comments or dropped me a line after reading my admittedly disquieting previous post. And to those of you who didn’t, may Ceiling Cat smite thee. Ah, the pleasures of being a termagant.

* Some people may argue that Adi Sankara was an avatar of Shiva. To those of you who do, please realize that in principle, he was mortal.

11/8/07

Implosion

I’m sorting through a pretty dreadful personal crisis right now. But rest assured denizens, posting will resume shortly. Until then, I leave you with this video (thanks Aishwarya), which happens to be all sorts of awesome.



Have a great Diwali, peoples.

10/26/07

Photo 51

I don’t want to lose this anger. I don’t want to not feel anymore and shake my head dejectedly and cave in to being acquiescent of the status quo. I don’t want any of it.

What triggered this fury, this swooping white heat at the pit of my stomach?

When I came across this on PBS. And more importantly, this appalling interview, given by James Watson.

Basically it comes down to this. (And caveat lector. This post might get theoretical with a healthy dosage of scientific joo-joo. You stand warned)

Remember the Watson - Crick Model? If you are a Biology major or if you have taken courses in genetics, molecular biology, or at least dabbled in high school biology, this model would be mighty familiar to you. For the uninitiated, let me break it down for you, to the best of my ability at least.

In marginally simple terms, their model proposed that the structure of the DNA was a cross linked double helix with alternating links of deoxyribose and phosphate. The two strands of the double helix are cross linked by purine and pyrimidine bases which basically project inwards from the deoxyribose sugars. More importantly, the bases were held together by hydrogen bonds where a pyrimidine base on one strand always paired with a purine base on the other. And this was further demonstrated chemically, by exemplifying the fact that Adenine always paired with Thymine, and Cytosine with Guanine.

Now nobody wakes up and finds a profound and brilliant biological discovery knocking at their door. I am in no way undermining the indescribable amount of work put in by both Crick and Watson in their groundbreaking discovery. But as I said, nobody wakes up and fumblingly trips into a breakthrough of such magnitude. Obviously I do not know James Watson and Francis Crick personally, but I would surmise that there was a long and a painstakingly methodical process involved, where they used work previously done in their field of research to understand and expound on their theories or models before they came upon their breakthrough discovery.

Indeed, Watson and Crick used the work of Erwin Chargaff (Chargaff’s Rules, to be more specific), Linus Pauling (suggested that deoxyribonucleic acid may have a helical structure) and last but arguably the most important, one Rosalind Franklin; to expound on their ideas and extrapolate on their own theories about the structure of the DNA.

Who is this rank nobody, and a woman at that, while of course, everyone knows that there are no women in the upper echelons of science? * She was a British scientist (physical chemistry) and a highly gifted crystallographer who was given the task of researching and working on the X-ray diffraction of DNA and nucleic acids at King’s college, London. She was supposedly assigned to work with Maurice Wilkins, who was also the deputy director of the lab, but she, not being aware of this piece of information (as Wilkins was away on vacation when she arrived, and the information in her hiring letter was markedly ambiguous) and the DNA work being on hold in the biophysics lab in the recent past, almost all the work was assigned to Rosalind Franklin. When Wilkins arrived, given the not-so-subtle sexism at the time, he immediately assumed that Franklin was one of the technical assistants, a glorified lackey of sorts. And this set the stage for their strained relationship, from then on.

Now things got fairly drawn-out and convoluted when Watson attended a lecture in 1951 given by Franklin on her work on the DNA, thus far. She had taken excellent, hitherto unseen pictures using her expertise in X-ray diffraction techniques, and had come to the conclusion that DNA could exist in two forms, a ‘wet’ form and a ‘dry’ form, depending upon the relative humidity in the air. This led her to correctly deduce that the phosphates were on the outside, thus situating them in the backbone of the helix. Watson did not take any notes and equipped only with nebulous recollections, explained what he has seen and heard at her lecture to Crick. They then built an unsuccessful DNA model with a triple helix and invited Wilkins and Franklin to comment on it, whereupon Franklin straightforwardly pointed out the fallacies in their model. The head of their department immediately ordered them to stop their research, but as we all know, that really did not stop them.

To cut a long story short, Franklin started working on her X-ray diffractions alone, keeping her findings to herself and an assistant. Through her work, she came to realize that in the ‘wet’ form of the DNA, the water would be attracted to the phosphates in the backbone, leading her to of course, comprehend that the bases were inside. In 1952, she arguably took the best picture of the ‘wet’ form of the DNA through her X-ray diffractions (in other words the B form), which clearly illustrated all the marks of a double helix, and she suspected it as so, but she refused to release her work until she had further proof of her findings. She turned to the ‘dry’ form instead, which she knew, with persnickety and convoluted calculations and measurements, might lead her to work out the structure of the DNA. This sidetracked her completely, and this most likely turned out to be her downfall, in plain terms.

Meanwhile Watson and Crick, specifically Crick with his understanding of Chargaff’s Rules and Pauling’s ideas that proteins may have a helical structure, came to similar conclusions as Franklin, but he did not possess the type of data that Franklin had so painstakingly collected, to back his theory up.

All that changed, when in 1953, Raymond Gosling, a graduate student who had assisted Franklin in producing the then extraordinary photographs of the ‘wet’ form or the ‘B’ form of DNA in 1952, handed her results to Wilkins, without her consent. Through a curious turn of events and a set of uncanny circumstances, Wilkins handed over her groundbreaking work to Watson, again, without her knowledge or her consent. Watson and Crick also received a Medical Research Council report authored by Franklin in 1952 which contained almost all of her work on the DNA thus far. It was also meant to be strictly private. This particular report illustrated the Watson and Crick’s model’s basic mistake, where they had repeatedly put the bases on the outside. Through her work which was detailed in the MRC report, she had not only mentioned that the phosphates were on the outside but she had also mentioned the interphosphate distances. Watson and Crick immediately knew that they had all the information they needed to make a double helix model; indeed, Crick comprehended that her data pointed towards an antiparallel double helix DNA structure.

And the rest is history.

Rosalind finally came to realize that she might be left behind in the DNA race and produced a draft paper, where she had expounded on her anti- parallel double helix structure for the ‘A’ form on March 17th 1953. She did not pay attention to the fact that Crick and Watson were racing to publish their findings. For all she knew, their department head had forbade them from conducting any research on DNA, and she just did not bother to probe beyond that. Watson and Crick published their findings in Nature, in 1953 on March 18th, where they suggest a structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid, providing minimal experimental proof. In 1962, Watson, Crick and Wilkins (yes, Wilkins) accepted the Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine. Franklin had passed on by then. She succumbed to cancer in 1958. She was 38 years old.

Why am I doing this? Why am I indignant? Because Watson, in his portentous interview, states that,

He smiles.”Rosalind is my cross," he says slowly. "I'll bear it. I think she was partially autistic." He pauses for a while, before repeating the suggestion, as if to make it clear that this is no off-the-cuff insult, but a considered diagnosis. "I'd never really thought of scientists as autistic until this whole business of high-intelligence autism came up. There is probably no other explanation for Rosalind's behaviour.


Yes, because undermining a woman whose data you took and used without her knowledge or consent, by calling her autistic, is absolutely kind and gracious. ‘Considered diagnosis’, I’m sure. Now I do know that the term ‘autistic’ is not and should not be used disparagingly. But by Watson’s statement, it is clear that he was obviously trying to besmirch her and insult her memory by his usage of that term. And let’s not forget that Watson is also a racist bigot to boot.

And then there is this gem,

He adds: "Francis didn't think Rosalind was a great scientist. That was Francis at his most honest. The truth was she couldn't think in three dimensions very well."


Ah, but of course. Being a brilliant crystallographer, she must have been woefully incapable of thinking three-dimensionally. With her bumbling ignorance and her utter ineptitude to process anything with an extra plane, she perfected the art of X-ray diffraction and took the most extraordinary picture of the ‘B’ form of DNA (photo 51), for her time. Oh yes, it makes perfect sense.

Is there anything else left in Watson’s kitty of fantastical and desperate lies about Rosalind Franklin? I am astounded at his determination to frenetically try and insult and undermine her, even after all these years. She has passed on, hasn’t she? In Watson’s own words, he says,

No one thought about Rosalind [Franklin], because she was dead.


So why can’t he leave her alone? Is it because of the fact that none of the three: Watson, Crick or Wilkins, bothered to cite Rosalind Franklin at all in any of their Nobel lectures, while they managed to cite 98 other references? Is it a gnawing sense of guilt because of that? Or it is resentment at the scores of scientists (including Watson, who begrudgingly admitted that she deserved to win) who believe that Rosalind, had she been alive at the time, deserved the prize too?

What do you think? If she had been alive, do you think that Rosalind Franklin would have gotten the Nobel Prize for her work along with Watson and Crick in 1962, instead of Wilkins?

* For those of you who think that sexism has all but disappeared in the upper echelons of science today, I'm sorry, but you must be having a different grasp on reality than the rest of us. It has reduced, from Rosalind's time, but it has not disappeared. Oh no, it hasn't.

10/24/07

A ridiculous emergency

And we're back. Phew.

Now scroll down for normal programming.

10/18/07

Let chivalry die, please.

Definition (s) of chivalry shamelessly filched from dictionary.com:

1. the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms.

2. the rules and customs of medieval knighthood.

3. the medieval system or institution of knighthood.

4. a group of knights.

5. gallant warriors or gentlemen: fair ladies and noble chivalry.

6. Archaic. a chivalrous act; gallant deed.

The above definitions bring about some bizarre grandiloquent imagery where a Galahad type character comes thundering about on his snow white steed and swoops down and rescues the fragile-as-glass damsel in distress from a fire breathing dragon or something equally hackneyed. In all seriousness though, chivalry (as the classifications above clearly illustrate) basically stands to represent the ‘ideal’ qualities that a knight should have like courtesy, generosity, bravery, honor and all that claptrap. But, that applied to the knights. During, let’s see, around the 13th century. When feudalism had it’s stranglehold upon the masses and the status of women was appalling, at best. Also, knights don’t exist anymore (please don’t use ‘Sir Paul McCartney is a knight’ as a dazzling example of a counter argument. You’ll only end up doing Sir Paul McCartney disservice).

So I would think that I am right in wanting chivalry to die a painful death as it doesn’t really apply to the 21st century and it’s basically a lite version of chauvinism. But I do realize that my stance on chivalry is a tad unpopular. It also earns me the magnificent ‘cantankerous’ feminist tag, for which I am eternally grateful.

Every time I start a conversation on chivalry, I get the ‘chivalry is dead’ moaning, and then the discussion veers off into how the world would be a better place if only men followed a chivalrous gentlemanly code and learnt how to behave in front of a lady (eyeroll). And god forbid if I try to get a word in and say that chivalry really isn’t dead, a bastardized version still exists today, and that’s not a good thing. I get piled on for not supporting good manners and I also have to put up with feminism and feminists like me being blamed for our self-centeredness and promoting ‘meanness’.

As I have stated before, this blog helps me resolve my anger management issues. Instead of blowing up at chivalry-apologist’s (CA) face, I will painstakingly expound on my reasons to kill chivalry once and for all (using CA’s accusations) over here, and send the said chivalry-apologist the link to this post. See? I’m nice like that. And in all fairness, CA is a nice person too. I’m pretty sure CA will see the sagacity (ahem) in my decision to post this on my blog instead of having a shouting match over good coffee.

First accusation: You are against good manners.

This is utterly specious. I personally think that there is some sort of disconnect happening here, where a person confuses or equates chivalry with good manners. Nobody’s saying that being respectful of other people, or opening doors for them or pulling a chair for another person or putting your hand out and protecting someone from passing cars or whatever on the sidewalk is bad or unnecessary. I am all for good manners and courtesy. But helping people and being respectful of others should be universal and practiced by everyone for everyone irrespective of gender and gender expression, age and/or other differences. Chivalry is not just about common courtesies, it is common courtesies with a set of gendered built in stipulations like a) as a man, I’ll open doors for you and be generally courteous because you are a woman and I’m supposed to be nice to women, and b) I will follow this code which tells me what to do because I’ve been taught that women need to be treated a certain way.

See the difference? While I have nothing against politeness and everyone practicing common courtesy and being nice and respectful all around; I do have a problem with a heavily gendered set of rules which makes me out to be some sort of delicate creature, and which singles me out for ‘special treatment’ because of belonging to my gender.

Second accusation: Chivalry is romantic. What is wrong with sitting back and being pampered by your partner? Don’t you like to be pampered?

As I clearly illustrated above, I have nothing against being nice, respectful and courteous. But being nice, respectful, and courteous should be practiced universally, by, and for everyone. If my partner opens doors for me or rushes to pull out chairs or walks on the outer side of the sidewalk, I should be able to do the same things for him without question.

But if your idea of romance is to be treated like a fragile, diaphanous blossom, and you don’t consider it insulting to be treated as such without question, then well, you’re on your own.

Third accusation: It’s about being helpful. Don’t you think you are being a tad inconsiderate?

I may be overstating, but I see a deliberate omission here. If it’s not deliberate, if it’s just an innocuous brain fart, then well I’m willing to accept that as well. But that doesn’t take away the fact that there happens to be a pretty glaring faux pas in this accusation. If chivalry is just about being ‘helpful’ then why does it involve ‘helping’ only one particular gender? Will the ‘chivalrous’ guy who pounces to the door to open it for you and insist on you going through the door first, do the same for another man? When his ‘chivalry’ dictates to him to pull a chair for you, does it tell him to do so for other men as well? Not bloody likely, especially with the chair pulling or insisting on walking on the outer edge of the sidewalk to ‘protect’ you from passing ‘dangers’. I’d like to see a guy try that with another guy and not be derided or scorned for it.

Last evening, I tried to hold the door open for a guy entering my apartment building. He refused to walk through. I insisted on holding it open, and he insisted on letting me go through first. After a few moments of this wearisome charade, I finally gave in and went through the door (I would have been late for work, otherwise).

And it is not the first time that this has happened to me. A fair share of men I know, who are ‘chivalrous’ simply refuse to accept my help when I try to reciprocate and it’s irksome, to say the least.

So why have I earned the ‘inconsiderate’ tag, when I get offended with ‘chivalry’? Why am I called ‘unreasonable’? Why are women like me, and not these men who refuse female help, asked to suck it up and just be appreciative of fine manners?

The way I see it, chivalry as it is practiced today still reinforces the archaic but pervasive and insidious gender roles which holds women to be virtuous, fragile and naïve, in need of ‘special treatment’, whether the women at the receiving end of the treatment really want it or not. It puts us on a pedestal and we all know what I think of pedestals. Pedestals are woefully crippling and restrictive. Being pushed on a pedestal somehow renders us incapable of taking care of ourselves, in need of protection from the ‘big bad world’ out there, oh noes! And cue the ‘chivalrous’ guy swooping in to save the day with his masculine sensibilities.

Clichéd imagery to illustrate larger point aside, I will still maintain that I am all for,

a) Being respectful.

b) Being helpful.

c) Being all around courteous and polite.

d) Being a decent human being.

This though, should be practiced by and for everyone, irrespective of what gender you or they, belong to. Supporting a ridiculous, antiquated system which tells you to be courteous to a person based on their gender or needing a system rooted in chauvinism (why yes, that’s exactly what I said) to remind you to be nice to women, is where I put my foot down.

Firmly.

10/3/07

Why are you always so angry?

I am told that I possess a temperament which would put a corpse to shame. I am told that my ability to take shit transcends all human capabilities and I am also questioned about whether I truly do belong to the human species from time to time. Unfortunately yes, I was not beamed into the earth’s atmosphere from the distant reaches of ESO 325-G004 and I am quite certain that I am made of organic matter just like any other human on this planet.

So now that we have established that I do indeed belong to the sub tribe hominina, I cannot help but possess some characteristics befitting my species, like say feelings for instance. That I will get bitter or angry or upset or just plain irritated in accordance to my mood and also to the situation I am presented with.

Which brings me to the two subspecies (only for classificatory purposes, before you burst a vein) of folks who visit this blog, the openly hostile troll/ psychoanalyst/ culture and heteronormativity warrior and the slightly sneakier faux concern critters. While the formers' agenda can be easily deduced by their rationally challenged comments, the latter is quite proficient in their knavery at least for a little while, until their well-known underskirt starts to show when they lose control and expose their bigotry to all and sundry.

Now I usually don’t get bogged down by either of the above mentioned subspecies’s tomfoolery, but as I have previously tried to establish, I am human. I haven’t holometabolized into a higher species, yet. And that involves getting upset or angry or incensed and amused, especially when someone comes along and points out the obvious as a stunning example of a counter argument, like say “oh wow you must be really angry” or “you are so bitter, how can you live with yourself” and so on. While I do agree that I may very well be bitter or upset when it comes to certain issues; that does not mean that the critters’ (the word critter will be used to refer to the folks populating the troll/ psychoanalyst/ culture and heteronormativity warrior and faux concern type subspecies from now on) angry/bitter woman charge is particularly ingenious or even necessary. It is not an utterly new discovery that a feminist (like me) is wow, bitter or unhappy with certain situations or issues. That someone like me identifies as a feminist because I’m not happy with the status-quo. That for anybody to identify as a feminist, it is probably not a stretch to surmise that they are dissatisfied with the existing state of affairs.

What really gets my proverbial goat however, are some of the reasons thrown around by the said critters as to the cause of my distress or acrimony which led me to become a feminist. And so, this brings me to,

[All exhibits are provided with examples. All the examples I have used are real comments I have gotten and published on this blog. These are actually the milder ones of the lot. And you haven’t even seen the unpublished ones, yet.]

Exhibit number one: The lesbian charge.

“R u a lesb or divorcee ? i dont mean to hurt u, but seriously asking.”

So there are feminists who are lesbians. Does that automatically mean that all feminists are lesbians? Not likely. This point however, is quite interesting as it gives us a valuable insight into how the critter’s mind really works. It shows us the gaping insecurities and the fears that the said critter may have when he (yeah, I said he) realizes that he is in fact, not god’s greatest gift to women, and that women can find love and sexual fulfillment with each other. It shows us how terrified and how irate the critter really is when he tries to wrap his mind around the radical notion that women don’t exist for the sole purpose of turning him on. So critters, as an embittered feminist, just because I don’t agree with you or refuse to indulge in your patriarchal wet dreams, that doesn’t mean I’m averse to men. That means I am averse to assholes.

Exhibit number two: The shrill/ hysterical/ whiny/ manic-depressive feminazi charge.

“now you can get shrill and scream at me or send your fans on me…”

“your blog is painful to read....depressing why cant you write about something positive..”

First of all, a note on the erroneous and cringe worthy feminazi branding. It is a spectacular straw-feminist created and promulgated by sexist, homophobic and all around sanity-phobic critters to besmirch and scare away people from learning what feminism really is about.

As for the hysterical/ shrill/ whiny/ manic-depressive charge, the average critters usually have themselves thoroughly convinced of the fact that women are not supposed to have any emotion unless it has been passed through the patriarchal test of approval. This is to say, women are not considered capable of or allowed to show any kind of strong emotion unless a) They’re mothers ferociously protecting their kids or b) They’re self-righteously reacting and fielding off insults meant for their ‘man’. If, as a woman, you don’t meet either of these wholly impracticable standards for proper displays of emotion, then any other emotional expression will automatically be branded as a hysterical/ shrill/ whiny/ depressing ‘outburst’, or ‘flare-up’.

Exhibit number three: The temptress/ whore/ slut charge.

“punkster... bura math manna.. u need some discipline in your life. Maybe someone who can discipline you. Therey garwale blog nahi padthe kya ? besharam ho thum. you are too provocative. Thank god you just write and not post pics.”

“And you need a man to impregnate you. Othewise your womanhood is incomplete.”

“.so slut is just a female version of a stud..u shud wear that on ur collar instead of complaining!!”

“Jus becos ur parents r liberal that does not mean that u go and remove clothes and smoke on 100 cigs.”

This happens to be, to no ones surprise, my favorite accusation of all. This attitude is exquisitely representative of the critter’s inner demons wherein he dreads the fantastical notion that women can actually be in complete control of their sexuality and they don’t need or want a dudely male of the species to subjugate them or to show them who happens to be the ‘cock of the walk’/ studmuffin/ insert suitable phallic phraseology here. What gets these critters’ chaddis in a twist however, is the fact that feminists throw out the notion that sexual autonomy should only be exercised by the heterosexual male of the species. That women don’t really prefer sub-letting their sexuality only for the purposes of baby making or pandering to the male needs within the extremely dismal heteronormativity construct. Yeah, we’re whores like that.

Exhibit number four: The frigid/ spinster/ sex hater charge.

“Neway its quiet apparent that you havent seen the heights of sexual ecstasy as all your living waking moments ahve been spent on analysing issues on a feminist standpoint. All hope however is not lost. The next time someone fucks you try talking politics, that might get you to cum.”

“Lets know your sex mantra ? If you have none, just cock up and stop criticising others who have.”

“Honestly, you should consider roleplaying a slave, nurse, or an officer beaten to submission by a dungeon lord. You got to get your sloppy tushy whooped back to shape.”

Now this type of bunkum logic takes a special sort of non-aptitude. It is wondrous, but not entirely implausible to see that the average critter accuses feminists of being whores, harlots or floozies one minute, and then turns right around and calls us frigid or cold or man-hating asexual bitches, the next. How can a feminist be frigid and a slut at the same time? The answer lies in this altogether brilliant patriarchal construct called the Madonna/ whore dichotomy (yes yes I’m flogging the undead horse, again) which beautifully categorizes women as either strumpets or virtuous baby machines, thereby eliminating the vast middle ground between these polarized classifications, entirely. According to these critters, a woman should either be an orifice for them to stick their phalluses into i.e. exist solely for male sexual gratification or, she should be an acquiescent, heir producing machine. In plain terms, if a woman openly rejects this insidious dichotomy altogether and takes her sexuality into her own hands, these critters are utterly incapable of processing such an occurrence. If you’re lucky you’ll witness a full blown implosion and that’s when these nut jobs combine the two extremes of the dichotomy and start calling you an ‘asexual whore’ or a ‘frigid cunt’ or a ‘passive prostitute’. Its entirely magnificent in all its oxymoronic glory, I kid you not.

It is problematic for critters like the ones displayed above, that feminists continue to be angry or bitter and openly state their displeasure with the status-quo.

And I understand why.

With brains like theirs and a singularly nonsensical logic to boot, why wouldn’t they actively try to shut outspoken women up, who go against the compulsorily heterosexual patriarchal ideal of what a woman should be, irrespective of whether she identifies as a feminist or not?

Post script:

1. This post was inspired in part, by Broom’s and Rohini’s posts.

2. I don’t want anybody coming along and chastising me for being too sensitive or for giving the trolls ‘what they want’ or any variation of ‘why can’t you ignore them, don’t waste your time’ claptrap. I understand where you’re coming from and forgive me for not being particularly appreciative. I am human, as I have painstakingly tried to prove at the beginning of this post and when you get rape threats on an almost daily basis, at some point the straw will break the camel’s back, so to speak. And no, I refuse to publish those threats. However, you are welcome to browse through my 2006 archives to see live examples of what I’m talking about, in the comments.

3. Finally, a big thank you to Nits and Rohini for prodding me out of my blogging inertia. I really needed it.

9/16/07

Get off the Britney Bashers Bandwagon, please.

Boy, am I stark raving mad. And personally going through the two worst days of my entire year does not bleeping help.

Anyway, I sat through the VMA’s and I’m thinking god, how awful was this year’s ludicrous we’re going to stick a camera in different rooms and watch OTHER people get wasted and have fun, yo excuse of a legitimate theme, even for an award show as laidback as the VMA’s.

[And I have to say that that’s really not the reason for my ire. Oh no, it isn’t.]

So I watched Britney’s over-hyped opening performance and it was basically lackluster and banal and frankly I thought she looked a little wasted and possibly a wee bit high. Even her lip-syncing was atrocious, and how disoriented must you be to truly botch lip-syncing? But nowhere and I repeat nowhere, did I look at her and go OHMYGAWD SHE’S OBESE, GROSS!

But apparently there are a lot of folks out there, who are bent on doling out harsh and unforgiving critiques on her oh-so-flabby body along with criticizing her performance.

If you refuse to believe me and mulishly choose to state that none of the critiques on her performance mentioned her weight, then slither out of your hole of denial and do a simple exercise. Google search her performance. Watch any news show. Case in point: Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. Watch clips on YouTube. Look at the comments if you can bear to stomach them.

And if you still don’t cringe, and maintain that all this is just marvelously funny, then read on, buttwipe. This post is for the likes of pond scum like you.

It is apparent that Britney does not look like she did before. This is obviously a huge crime in Hollywood land and in the eyes of the general populace; because how dare she not maintain the scarily taut fembot-like body she used to sport as a teenager and actually look healthy and fertile. Since she has curves now (oh the horror), and however good or lovely her curves may look, curves = miserably fat by popular standards these days. Who cares about the fact that she, with her so called fat-ass, in her bikini, would still look better than 99% of the hand-wringers sitting on their couches and howling derisively or having convulsive fits at her imaginary rolls of fat, can ever hope to look. Heck I’ll go all out on a limb and say that she probably looked better and hotter than any of us for that matter in her sparkly bikini.

By all means, I have nothing against critiquing her performance at the VMA’s, but pond scum, this does not mean that you get to pile on her for being ‘obese’ or for ‘being a bad mother’ or even saying that she’s worse than that fucking tool K-Fed.

So here’s how you criticize her performance:

- Pick on her dancing. Or the lack thereof.

- Observe that her lip-syncing went awry.

- Get nitpicky about her tacky outfit and her evident lack of practicing her song or rehearsing her moves.

Here’s how you don’t criticize her performance:

- Derisively howling at her so called rolls of fat or indignantly claiming that she’d better start hitting the gym and working on losing her paunch. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Where is this apocryphal paunch you seem to be rabidly harping on about? And why the fuck doesn’t anyone pick on a male artist for sporting a jolly old paunch or flab or a double chin? Screw all of that, when was the last time someone criticized a male musician or pop star for not having washboard abs and a chiseled physique? Reuben Stoddard anyone? Or Dave Matthews from the Dave Matthews Band? Oh, I can feel the outrage already, how dare I call Dave Matthews fat, he looks so normal blah blah, spare me the sermon, please. If I judge Dave Matthews by the unrealistic and execrable standards with which you pond scum trash Britney, then he’s positively schlubby and gross. Do you see it now?

- Calling her a bad mother. So, she’s not a perfect mother. Who the fuck is? She is as good or as bad a mother as any other mother is. Just because she’s a celebrity and just because buttwipes like you can’t leave her the heck alone, that doesn’t make her a bad parent. That makes her human. *

It’s positively disquieting to see how it’s all fun and games now, when somebody crashes and burns in front of our eyes. How it’s A-ok to point contemptuously and roll with mirth at a woman who has clearly become a victim of the very Madonna/whore dichotomy she was made to represent, by being the teenage dewy eyed innocent virgin with the taut body who sang songs like ‘hit me baby one more time’.

As soon as she grew out of the virtuous but dirty schoolgirl image, hand-wringers and pond scum and men who paroxysmally threw a fit at her supposed fat ass while gleefully jacking off to her 17-18 year old image, climbed on to the disingenuous Britney Bashers Bandwagon.

We put her up on an unrealistic fembot pedestal and now that she’s proven herself to be human, we snigger mockingly and heap piles of shame on her. Yeah, this is what we’ve come to.

Now lets howl at Britney's fat ass.

Not.

*For more reading on how Britney's actually human, make your way to these excellent posts by Sue and the Mad Momma.

9/7/07

meme-fication

School has begun and I can’t be happier. I am one of those uncharacteristic freaks who thrive on rigorous multitasking. Yes, driving myself up the wall while trying to stay afloat like a pochard on roid’s in a deluge of work and classes, actually makes me happy.

If you’re even thinking about going ‘ha ha, what a lamebrain, she likes to WORK’, then don’t say I didn’t warn you. Thrashing about on a couch littered with Dorito crumbs like a sedated walrus does not really scream ‘thatz tha shit yo!’ to me. Well.

Moving on, I realize that I’ve been woefully neglecting my memes (4 at last count?), and yeah, roll your eyes and tut tut all you want, but I do squirm with guilt and remorse if I amass a gargantuan meme backlog. Really.

So without further ado, let me dive headfirst into this simple, nice and positive tag (yes suckers, there’s something positive on this blog! Eat that!) that requires me to list the things I like the most, which Pri has ordered that I must do. And since I’m inherently non-gladiatorial and pacifistic, I shall comply meekly.

And before I begin, just because this tag is positive, that doesn’t mean that I won’t butcher your sense of positivity or what YOU associate with the word ‘like’ with my bizarre quirks or sadomasochistic undertones. Ok? Ok.

1. I absolutely adore abysmal grocery store romance novels and ludicrously campy erotica. You know the books which you wouldn’t be caught dead in public with? Like say Humper County Vampires or the Oklahoma Space Odyssey. Reading books about down home countrified vampires not your thing? Then how about a ‘classy’ romantic novel which indulges in banal stereotypes about Native Americans, like say, Gentle Rogue or A Loving Scoundrel? Of course, books with Fabio on the cover are a shoo-in for taking campiness to unscaled heights. They’re pure gold, I kid you not.

2. Gaming. Yeah, I’m a gaming geek. If you paid attention to the description in my profile, the word ‘gamer’ silently and innocuously appeared alongside my other blogger profile descriptives, a few months ago. Now I’m not talking about the sports games like Forza/Madden/MLB etc. while I do enjoy a sports game every once in a while, that’s not what I *really* play all the time. And a note to people who go around calling themselves gamers and play only the aforementioned sports games. Get over yourself. You.are.not.a.gamer. Yes, now go ahead and have that hissy fit.

Coming back to the gaming genres *I* like (god, I can’t not rant, can I?), I love the action/adventure genre, followed by over the shoulder shooters and then RPGs and then first person shooters. Right, didn’t I tell you I was a gaming geek? Be happy, I haven’t started listing out the games. By console. Yet.

3. I love food and I also love to cook. I have a manic fondness for foie gras (I have only had it four times. Four, glorious times). I know, I'm vile and dreadful and yes, I’m currently sort-of vegetarian, but FOIE GRAS!

4. Swimming.

5. Coffee. In almost all its glorious avatars. Especially Tanzanian Peaberry and Jamaican Blue Mountain, brewed just right and drunk black, of course. Without sugar, though. I hate sugar.

6. A clean house. With clean, dry, restrooms. And before you go oh ‘like you’re so clean, miss spoilt brat’ let me remind you that I am possibly the most anal person on this planet. Yes I am ‘that’ clean and I cannot survive otherwise.

7. TV and rubbish reality shows. I can actually watch ‘I Love New York’ without wanting to fling something at the telly. Although, I must admit that I felt the urge to vomit every five seconds or so. But hey.

8. Anime. Good anime and manga. Please, don’t confuse anime with hentai or borderline hentai type anime or manga with big globs of tentacle porn or questionable sex with lizard men, for god’s sake.

9. Whips.

10. Winter. There’s something about cold weather which makes me deliriously happy.

There. One meme down, three to go (eep!).

I’m not going to tag anyone specific, BUT since this post has become a haven of positivity and all, I want it to reach orgy-ish proportions (see, I want to share the love!), so what I want YOU to do, O’ long suffering readers/ commenters is to leave comments listing out the stuff you like. Yeah, it’s that simple. This way, we can all bask in the saccharine positivity of this post! Woot!

And silent readers (if I have any, bah), this is your opportunity to delurk. So delurk away and tell me what you like. Go on, leave a comment.

8/29/07

Dichotomies, double standards and everything else in between.

Bite me, I’m a slut. No really, I am. By popular standards anyway (including desi), I would probably be the empress of slutopia or at least a high priestess of sorts. Well.

So what constitutes slut-like behavior? Lots of sex? Being promiscuous? Tight clothes? Polyamory? Pre-marital sex? Talking to a guy? Merely acknowledging a man’s existence? First base? Second?

What is it?

What does one have to do in order to be identified as a bona fide slut?

Based solely on the benchmark in the yoo yess, I would surmise that a woman who is comfortable with her sexuality and really enjoys sex and has sex regularly on her own terms would probably fit the slut descriptive.

When you bring in the desi angle for the arbitration of whoriness/ slutiness however, this opens a whole new can of muculent worms. The desi yardstick for whoriness can range from being woefully feudal (a girl who talks to anything or anyone without a vagina = whore) to putting up an outward appearance of flighty non-prejudice but are quite the opposite (a woman dressing in western clothes = fine, but drinking/smoking/male-friends/social-life = whore) to being grudgingly accepting of certain behaviors (drinking/smoking = fine, pre-marital sex =no-no or vice versa) or even to being generally accepting but subscribing to the popular western points of reference for slutiness.

Of course I am not denying that there are desi’s out there who transcend these sort-of-microcosms and don’t really care and do their thing (myself included, yay sluts!), but I think that I am not inaccurate in stating that such desi’s belong to a pitifully minuscule and underrepresented minority and it also stands to reason as to how many desi’s belonging to this minority are truly liberal and non-judgmental when it comes to female sexuality and sexual behavior as a whole be it heterosexual or homosexual or both.

Almost inevitably, this brings me to the virulently noxious and all pervasive slut/stud (or whore/player, oy) double standard.

The omnipresence of this double standard astounds me. Which is a bit silly really, as discrimination and double standards being actively promulgated with respect to women is a given, but I can’t help but balk at it. It is possibly the oldest stereotype in the world and yet, it is also the most insidious and deceptively oppressive, in part due to its sheer prevalence.

The slut label also ties in with the Madonna/whore dichotomy which is a masterstroke of patriarchal genius, I have to add. This dichotomy adroitly dooms women to fail, irrespective of the mantle they choose to don: the chaste, immaculate virgin or a woman who dares to have sex outside of marriage. It is an ingenious ruse, a set up, designed to make women feel insecure, guilty and shameful about themselves, no matter what extreme they try to portray. For, the Madonna/whore dichotomy is nothing but two extremes, its brilliance lies in the fact that there is no middle ground. Think about this the next time you ask someone ‘are you a virgin’ or talk about ‘losing your/her/his virginity’. All you need to do is to have sex once*. And for that, within this repressive dichotomy, you will be pushed off the precipice of purity so to speak and land squarely in whore territory. The cycle is never-ending.

[I also have to add that dismissing the Madonna/whore complex as non-existent or as a rabid by-product of some crazy fundies, is utterly inaccurate. It exists everywhere, in every medium, in every society; the difference being that it manifests itself in varying degrees in different cultures.]

Indeed, all a woman has to do is to have a social life and the slut/whore tag faithfully and parasitically attaches itself onto her and gnaws at her self-worth, like a cancer.

The judgment of men however, based on sexual activity, is diametrically opposite to the wringer which women are put through. Men are actively encouraged to pursue as many women as possible, ‘scoring’ women becomes a fun pastime. Even in seemingly conservative households, a boy who sleeps around might be reprimanded, but not severely chastised. The more women a man sleeps with, the more he is praised, his peers look up to him and his actions set the standard for other men/boys to follow and emulate. There is no question of him being sullied, he hasn’t fallen off his precipice of purity (there is no precipice of purity in his case), and even the thought of him being called a ‘whore’ or ‘skank’ or ‘slut’ seems laughable.

But why? Why does it seem laughable? Why don’t we judge men with the same stifling standards with which we judge women?

I think there are a number of reasons, many of them if not all, quite incredible in their fallaciousness but are dangerous in their pervasiveness all the same. For instance,

- Men are presumed to be the possessors of an irrepressible sexuality and sexual instinct. Therefore, women are automatically pushed into gate-keeping the sexuality of men.

- Tied in with the earlier point is the notion that women are almost asexual in their sexual preferences, and yet it is curious to note that women have very little control over their sex or sexuality, it is the society which imposes rules and regulations on restraining and ostracizing women for their sexual activities. If women are so uninterested in sexual activities as a whole, why are their actions and sexual preferences judged? Why are their actions open for intense scrutiny?

This brings us to another paradox, a miasmic spawn of the Madonna/whore dichotomy which expects women to not only be pure and virginal, but also sexy and approachable at the same time. This is what we come to, after years and years of sorting out women as either virgins or whores, we fuse both the identities together and expect one woman to embody both, as an example of a balanced personality. Am I the only one who sees the odious absurdity of this?

As for judging women, I too am not blameless. I’ve called a fair share of women sluts either in anger or for their perceived ‘slutty’ behavior, which is contemptible and wrong, I know. And I am not without regret. It is that regret which hovers over me and makes me check myself before I brand any woman with the slut tag. After all, my actions make me a slut too. And you know what? I’ve learnt to accept it. Hell, I was called a slut in 9th grade because, are you ready - I was taller than the other girls. I kid you not. I even yelled at one of the boys who called me a whore, and his reasoning unearthed such gems like:

Oh, because you wear shorts under your skirt.

You have short hair, and you are taller.

You are not shy or quiet.

You are friends with so-and-so.

You girls wear makeup (makeup = chapstick).

You talk a lot/go to tuition/ live next to a group of boys from our class.

Thinking back to that confrontation, I can’t help but shrug with acceptance at the fact that being a virgin is no safety net for being called a slut. Lack of interest or experience does not automatically cast a protective shield around us.

And the sooner we learn to accept that, and move on and live our lives the way we want to, without gleefully judging women and conferring titles on the men for the exact same actions, the better it is for all of us.

But what do I know. I am a card carrying member of the sluts-for-evah! party after all.

* Pre-marital.

A note to trolls and their ilk: This post is not a free pass for you to call me whore, slut, bitch, cunt or any derivative of the above mentioned words. And this post is not a green signal for your 'will you have sex with me slut, I asked nicely har har' type propositioning. Such comments will promptly be ignored and/or not published.