Showing posts with label feminism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label feminism. Show all posts

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Panties for Peace

Yes, it's Valentine's Day. As we found out yesterday, some people have pretty strong feelings about this holiday. But there are few who care as much about this holiday as this guy:



What's up with scowly guy? His name is Pramod Mutalik and he's the chief of a right-wing Hindu group called Sri Ram Sene (Lord Ram's Army). The group believes that Valentine's Day is 'un-Indian.' They are threatening to attack any Indian couples celebrating Valentine's Day. That's right, if you celebrate a holiday that is about love and intimacy, they want to beat the snot out of you.

The group members consider themselves the caretakers of Indian culture, which of course means their own, very specific definition of what Indian culture is. They want to get back down to good old-fashioned Hindu values, by threatening to attack or expose couples showing affection in public. In Pramod's words:
Valentine's Day is definitely not Indian culture. We will not allow celebration of that day in any form.

What an old softy. He's not kidding. Last week, members of the Sri Ram Sene launched an attack on a bar in Mangalore, in India. Women were attacked for being in the bar, men were attacked for taking women to the bar. Parts of the incident were captured and are on YouTube.

But wait! There's more to the story. And it involves pink underwear.

There are those who agree with the SRS, but there has also been a huge amount of outrage expressed in India over the attack. Lord Ram's Army remains unabashed. They believe that they are in a cultural war for the identify of the country and that their tactics are fully justified. From SRS general secretary V.K. Rajesh:
"We are not against love. But we are against loose morals we see among the younger generation who are blindly aping the West. And we will not spare these people and we will take whatever action is needed within the law."

Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell V.K. that assault is not technically within the law. Several of the attackers were arrested but released on bail a week or so later. They continued to make threats against couples seen celebrating Valentine's Day, including threatening to force couples to marry (it's unclear how they were going to accomplish this. One can only assume they had a fleet of ugly bridesmaid's dresses, drunk uncles and 80's music on standby).

But the authorities aren't taking any chances on that either. Yesterday, police rounded up almost 100 of the activists and took them into custody as a preventative measure.
The detentions follow calls by federal Home Minister Palaniappan Chidamabaram urging Karnataka's Hindu nationalist administration to take "preventive and punitive" action to ensure law and order in the state.

So I guess they're within the law now, literally. But there's more.

My favorite part of the story is how a group of Indian women is responding to the SRS with a very traditional Indian approach. Gandhi first introduced the concept of Satyagraha or nonviolent resistance during the British occupation of India. Gandhi broke British laws by hand-spinning his own cloth and walking to the sea to make salt. The Consortium of Pubgoing, Loose and Forward Women is sending Pramod Mutalik pink underwear. In large quantities. Called the Pink Chaddi campaign, they are asking their supporters to send them pink chaddis (Hindi slang for knickers) which they will then forward en masse to SRS. After all, all armies need the basic necessities, right? The group is also encouraging women to go to pubs on Valentine's Day. Founder Nisha Susan says:
People have signed up to drop chaddis at collection points in their cities, which will be sent to Bangalore. Those who have signed up also plan to go to pubs with their partners or friends on V-Day. Most of the members don’t drink and some haven’t ever visited a pub, but the spirit is to band together against moral policing and curbs on women’s freedom.

Awesome. So, no matter how you feel about Valentine's Day, I encourage you to join the Facebook group and send some knickers to Pramod. Or a Valentine's Day card or a box of chocolate. Or even better, go to a bar and raise a toast to the Pink Chaddis. Best. Protest. Ever.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why "Twilight" is hurting America

Last night was date night. My husband and I decided to have dinner and watch a movie - just a fun way to break up the work week. Over Thanksgiving, my 13-year old niece had ordered me to go see Twilight because "It's awesome" and "Edward is hot." So, I figured I'd keep my promise and go see it. From what I had heard, this was a teen vampire movie consisting mainly of the lead characters looking meaningfully at each other and brooding about their immortality or lack thereof. And everyone knows, mocking a silly movie is one of the foundations of an excellent date night.

The Broody Bunch

The next thing I knew, it was 11 p.m. and I was so pissed off I couldn't get to sleep without writing this. This movie is just plain evil. And not because of the vampires. Let me explain. And yes, there are spoilers. Sorry. Join me as I walk you through all the blood-sucking fun. Or maybe just sucking...

For those of you living under a rock or not in the presence of pre-teen girls for the past few months, Twilight is the latest series of fantasy books. It centers around a teenage vampire who falls in love with a human girl in high school. Stephenie Meyer, the author, is being hailed as the next J.K. Rowling. Now, I haven't read the books so this review is based solely on the first movie. Here we go.

We start out with Bella, our would-be heroine, leaving her mom and stepfather to go live with her father in Forks, Washington. We don't really know much about Bella but that's OK because her personality really doesn't factor into the movie at all. On her first day, Bella meets Edward. Edward is pale and ripped and clearly interested in her because as soon as he sees her, he retches and leaves class. He then disappears for several days, leaving Bella to do nothing but swoon and wonder what she could have done to offend him.

When he finally comes back, he starts toying with her - one day being friendly, the next day blowing her off. Bella puts up with this ... presumably because he's totally dreamy. This goes on for a little while and teen angst isn't all that surprising in a teen movie, so let's fast forward.

Bella slowly discovers that Edward is vampire. She learns this because he saves her from a car accident (demonstrating his strength) and then from a group of thugs in the street. She confronts him, he admits to it and tells her he's a dangerous monster who can never be with her.

They then proceed to date.

Let me pause here to caveat this review: I understand that this is a story of teen romance. I therefore expect some amount of angst to factor in. And maybe I'm spoiled by the Hermione Grangers and Eowyns of the past few years. But I've come to expect more from female characters. It really bothers me that this movie depicts a girl who falls in love within days and then proceeds to spend the rest of the movie supressing everything about herself for this boy. And the worst part is that this is considered as a 'happy ending' for her.

The boy, in turn, never even shows any level of interest in Bella as anything more than physically attractive. He follows her around because he feels 'protective' of her. This works out well when she's being attacked, but she doesn't consider it even a little creepy that he's following her, sneaking into her room at night and WATCHING HER SLEEP.

Bella never makes any attempt to stand up for herself. The day she's attacked (and subsequently rescued by Edward), her father gives her a can of pepper spray to protect herself. She rolls her eyes and laughs at him, saying she doesn't need it. Never mind that hours earlier, she was in danger of being raped. She has a boy to protect her now, so she doesn't have to worry about it.

But protection and safety comes with a price. Edward is constantly on the edge of control. His attraction to Bella means that he wants to consume her (literally). So, when they finally kiss, Edward has to stop, pull himself away and stay back. So, Bella has to suppress her own sexuality for him as well. Because, of course, sex is bad and can lead to the guy going into an frenzy and losing control. "I can't lose control around you," Edward says. And of course, that means he has to keep control at all times. Of himself and of her.

This movie makes me sad at so many levels. But most of all, it makes me sad that thousands of teenage girls, including my niece, think this is one of the greatest movies ever. That this is how love is supposed to be. That it's romantic to subsume your entire being for a boy with a spiky haircut and awesome abs. And that the only way to attract said man is to look a certain way. Edward never fell in love with Bella's mind, her kindness or her wit. He noticed her because of how she looked and, moreso, how she smelled.

At the end of the movie, Bella asks Edward to turn her into a vampire so she can be with him forever. Ok, probably not the best decision and it's probably for the best that Edward refuses. But even so, it is the only time she actually stands up and displays any independent thought for herself. And Edward makes another decision for her and refuses her - presumably relegating her to a life of watching herself get old while he stays young. Not to mention, no sex. (Yes, I know they get past that in later books in the series but this is about the movie and she doesn't know that at the time.)

Twilight may seem like a harmless teenage flick. And maybe it is. Or maybe it's just another Red Riding Hood or Cinderella fairy tale created to force young women into a stereotype of how to behave, how to act and how to fall in love. Trust me people, take your kids to see Bolt instead. All it has is scientologists... :)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

She is woman, here's her woo...

I happened to catch this on the morning show last week. Helen Reddy, who co-wrote and sang "I am Woman(Hear me Roar)" - the great rally cry for feminism in the 70s. She won a Grammy for the song and famously thanked God during her acceptance speech "because She makes everything possible."

35-odd (apparently very odd) years later, she's doing the morning show tour, talking about her new autobiography and the fact that she's a licensed hypnotherapist. She also support psychics, Loose change(the 9-11 'Truther' nutjobs) and a slew of liberal conspiracy theory types. (See the sections on her site with her recommended reading and links).

Now, I'm the first to admit that just being a celebrity musician or actor doesn't mean you have to be a role model or, even smart. But it is sort of sad that the woman who sang the liberation anthem of a generation of women support pseudoscience, half-truths and woo.

Oh, well, we'll always have Gloria Gaynor... and, of course, my personal favorite feminist, Ms. Piggy... :)