Archive for April, 2013

Today’s Quote of the Day Brought To You By Melodrama

In the days since, the world has witnessed one sure and steadfast truth: Americans refuse to be terrorized.”

– President Barak Obama during his weekly address.

Indeed. We all know what happened last time such Americans “refused” to be terrorized: we got into two fraudulent, bankrupting wars that only benefitted the oil companies, George W. Bush and his cronies, the 1% and Israel.

“Americans refuse to be terrorized”? As opposed to everyone else who doesn’t? Here we go again with the “God bless America as we are so much more important and relevant than all of humanity combined because we are American” jingoist crap.

Obama’s definition of terror is a narrow one. After all, what about the terror from the Patriot Act, and the Spying-On-Citizens-For-National-Security Act or the TSA harassing people? Or Gitmo? And drones? What about those kind of systemic terrors that are being unleashed on people everyday. What about the terror of no job security – or any kind of security at all – despite that fact that most people making under 400k have to pay nearly 40% of their income in taxes? Forty percent of an income of which 100% go towards entities who do not need it.

America refuses to be terrorized, but we gladly terrorize others and even our own when convenient.

Thanks Obama for yet another full of pomp and posturing but truly devoid-of-content statement and lofty speech. As the Iranian government stated in a response to the attacks in Boston (and I never thought i would ever quote those criminals):

barry[When] children and women are killed by Americans in Afghanistan and Pakistan and by U.S.-backed terrorists in Iraq and Syria [it] is not a problem but if a bombing happens in the U.S. or another Western country, the whole world should pay the cost? […] The U.S. and others claiming to support human rights remain silent towards the massacre of innocent people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria but create global controversy when explosions occur in the U.S.

Indeed. When one or two or a handful of Americans die the world pays the price but when people in the world die at the hands of Americans or American policies  it goes unnoticed, such as the massacre of 16 villagers, over half of which were children, in Afghanistan by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales last year. Somehow that never seemed to have grabbed the President’s intention prompting him to hold an equally passionate speech about the atrocities committed by soldiers under his command as the executive in chief. 

With respect to the Boston perpetrators and all the rhetoric that is swarming around trying to dismiss their actions as atypical, as the works of some crazy, unstable people: it is easy to dismiss this act as the work of some crazy person who committed a senseless act for which there is apparently no explanation and rationale.

But remember that hate and violence don’t just happen in a void.  No one comes out of their mother’s womb with the desire to destroy. There is an entire culture that rewards violence and war, facilitates oppression and injustice, one that makes war profitable and romantic, glorifies brutality and guns,  devalues pacifism, cooperation and diplomacy, abets cruelty, inequality, injustice, and tolerates colossal amounts of bigotry under the guise of “fair play” where supposedly both sides have a valid point in a false debate that equates the devastating  consequences of marginalization, discrimination and subjugation with the discomfort of having one’s undeserved privilege challenged.

You cannot exclusively task criminals and terrorists and those who wish to do harm with harm prevention and dismiss their acts as the acts of marginally crazy people.  We have to acknowledge, define, critique and dismantle a culture of violence and war that abets violence on a systemic level, such as US drone strikes that kill 100 civilians just to take down one or two suspected terrorist leaders – among the myriad of other things we do to create vast amounts of privilege for a few at the expense of innocent people who are just pawns in this scheme; people such as the victims of the Boston bombing and thus, once again, people who are not part of the problem.

When, as a supposedly peace loving nation that refuses to be terrorized,  you engage in such conceited, we-are-better-than-everyone-else speeches and policies, you set into motion a series of actions by people who feel that the only way they can be heard is by engaging in such acts of unimaginable violence. Again, this shit doesn’t just happen in a void populated by a lunatic fringe. Remember, alienation, disenfranchisement, poverty and lack of opportunity make it easier for people to pick up a gun. 

Does the US really think it gets to create war and havoc around the world and kill countless innocent civilians in a jihad of its own without consequences? Do people really think this kind of stuff happens in a void? 

As far as I am concerned, Obama has as much blood on his hands as these two terrorists – only that he does it within the context of his duties as the executive in chief, and thus is justified by the powers that be, while these two did it out of the context of being at the receiving end of the atrocities and systemic disruptions the US creates, and thus not from an official position and therefore not justified. But such a line of arguing is pure sophistry. Violence is violence. Terror is terror, murder of innocent people is murder – no matter who does it under what authority. The two bombers had as much right to take away peoples’ lives in such a horrific massacre as Obama and the US armed forces have at killing hundreds of innocent people with drones. 

You reap what you sow and the US has been sowing lots of bad seeds around the world.

Just as with guns post Sandy Hook where we stepped back and began examining our gun laws and culture (not really, but for argument’s sake assume we did), we must use this terrible incident to examine our culture of war and violence, and especially foreign policy. 

Thanks Obama for yet another meaningless speech. And now I am really pissed too. And you know why? Because you are making me defend Iran!!

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“I Am Not Oppressed”

This is what Laila Alawa, Muslim American activist, blogger and supposed feminist has to say in response to Amina Tyler’s  images of her bare breasts in defiance to the religious patriarchy oppressing her in her native Tunisia and the support she received from the feminist organization FEMEN this past month (FEMEN is often billed as a “radical” feminist organization, even though they have not engaged in any kind of activity that would terrorize or hurt people. Demanding equality, fighting for it boldly and exposing flesh are hardly radical, unless you have an issue with the female body). Anyway, Alawa says:

I am a proud Muslim-American woman, and I am tired. I am tired of being told that I am oppressed. That I have no voice. That I need to be liberated.

I am tired, and I am speaking out for the rights of my and other fellow Muslim sisters to be able to dress and be how they wish to be.”

She continues alleging that FEMEN was doing nothing but engaging in shameless Islamophobia with “sex appeal” and that she feels “offended and disgusted” by the outpouring of support for not only Amina but oppressed and subjugated women in all Muslim countries.

Well, it’s a good thing to know that after all the death and rape threats Amina has received this far, Alawa is disgusted by her bare breasts essentially.

In her article, Alawa goes on stating that FEMEN’s protests “display a blatant expression of orientalism and colonialism in their belief that there is only one way to be free: through the utter disrobing of all garments covering the body.” She assures us that men in the Islamic faith are sweet [and] supportive” and that rape and sexual violence are practically unheard of in her home country of Syria.

She, further,  insists that Muslim men do not hold women “back from speaking out” and goes on to reduce FEMEN’s and Amina’s activities to just the actions of a bunch of “condescending protesters, all skinny, white and fitting squarely into the acceptable media paradigm of ‘true beauty‘” trying to tell her what to do.  She concludes by stating that “[Her] choice to cover is [her] own.”

Indeed. The operative word here being choice.

Memo to Ms. Alawa: Yes, you do have a choice and are not oppressed because you are a Muslim-American practicing lite-Islam.

If you were a Muslim-Saudi, or a Muslim Iranian, or a Muslim-[insert oppressive Islamic state here] you’d be singing a different tune.

Or would you? It seems as if Laila Alawa, including all the critics of FEMEN and Amina, completely missed the point, namely that this is about choice.

As Inna Shevchenko, the leader of FEMEN stated “you can put as many scarves as you want if you are free tomorrow to take it off and to put it back the next day.”

On Choice

By definition, choice is “an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.”

Since when do Muslim women have an option to not wear the hijab?

Fact is that women in Islamic countries do not have a choice with respect to the hijab (and much less anything else for that matter). If they do not wear it, they get in trouble. It’s the law of the land. It is not optional.

If you have no choice but to wear the hijab then how can you, with good conscience, insist that you have a choice?

And more to the point, if you do not even grasp the concept of choice how can you proclaim to the world that you have one?

The difference between Alawa and Muslim women actually living in Muslim countries is that Alawa has a choice and they do not.  For her to speak out of a position of privilege – and having a choice is a huge privilege – and think she is speaking for all Muslim women or even a fraction thereof or that she represents the typical pro hijab standpoint is deeply problematic.

See that’s the thing with unexamined privilege: it assures you that things are good for everyone, when they really are just good for you. Alawa has relative privilege compared to other members of her community.  As her HP profile write up states, she is “a graduate of Wellesley College where she received her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in education studies and currently works as a research associate at Princeton University. During her time at Wellesley, she conducted and presented on a breakthrough social psychology study examining the gendered stereotypical perceptions of science careers.”

She is planning to pursue a graduate degree, is a fundraising chair and social media advisor, as well as the head of the alumni committee for the Muzslim Public Affairs Council Young Leaders. She also has a blog and you tube channel.

This does not sound like an oppressed woman to me.

It is also interesting to note that with all her (false) comparison of FEMEN to imperialist tools of the West, she is currently living in such a country and enjoying the freedoms that were fought for so hard.

Furthermore, Alawa sounds like a woman who has the choice to  do whatever she likes, such as get a higher education, hold leadership positions,  be an activist for controversial issues and even have her own you tube channel where she can show her face expressing her opinions, support as well as criticism for various political and social and cultural causes. I do wonder if she would be able to lead the same kind of life, and pursue the same kind of endeavors, if she were living in her native Syria.

No one, no one, can tell me that women in Muslim countries have a choice to not wear the hijab (for the sake of discussion we’ll disregard for a moment here that even her choice to want to wear the hijab is a result of her having been manipulated and conditioned into the patriarchy since day one).

FEMEN = Respects Choice. Islam = Does NOT Respect Choice

The difference between FEMEN/Amina and the regimes of Muslim countries is that FEMEN does not take away a woman’s choice to wear hijab or be nude, nor does it force anyone to do either.

The position of muslim countries, on the other hand, forbids women to be bare and makes them wear hijab.

There is a world of difference.

FEMEN’s position expands freedom; the Islamic regime/patriarchy limits it or takes it away completely.

The FEMEN position treats women as autonomous, rights-bearing human beings deserving of full equality; the Islamic regime/patriarchy treats women’s bodies as state property and women as second-class human beings, not just citizens.

FEMEN expands freedoms and autonomy, the regimes and governments if Islamic countries limit and take them away.

One of the hallmarks of oppression is the lack of choice. When you do not have choice – regarding many things in your life but especially as pertaining to your own body –  then you do not have a voice. When you do not have a voice, you are not free.

Oppression occurs when established laws, customs, and practices systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in social identity groups, such as being a woman. Oppressive consequences can be institutional in the form of laws, customs, or practices – such as wearing hijab and else having no say and autonomy over one’s own body and life.

Do women have a choice not to wear hijab in Saudi Arabia? In Iran? In Syria? In Lebanon? No. Then they are not not oppressed.

Choice is a fundamental aspect of freedom. If you don’t have a choice then you are not free and if you are not free you are in shackles.

For Alawa or any Muslim woman to state that, despite all of the above –  which we all know to be true in all Muslim countries –  she is, in fact, not oppressed is mind blowingly ignorant and a testament to the extent of her manipulation and conditioning by said oppressors.

Alawa can cloak herself in chains or paint as far as I am concerned, but it has to be her choice. When I see women like Alawa and other Muslim women insist that they do not feel oppressed given that, unlike their fellow Muslim sisters in Islamic countries, they can choose to not wear the hijab, it really makes me wonder if they ever actually understood the point Amina was making, which is not just the showing of bear tits like this was porn, but to state that she should be able to do with her body whatever she wants, be it to expose herself or cover up every inch with cloth.  

Disgusted by FEMEN?

It is also very sad and somewhat unsettling to see Alawa be insulted, infuriated, and disgusted by FEMEN and naked, female body parts when Amina has been the one receiving death and rape threats from the so-called gentle muslim men Alawa insists populate all Islamic countries; where holy men like Tunisian imam Adel Almi, chair of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (a commission solely put in place to control women, not men)  proclaimed that Tyler “deserves to be whipped or stoned to death”.  

If I was an Islamic leader relieving myself on women’s rights on a daily basis and issuing death threats against Amina and I saw the outpouring of support for my cause essentially by Muslim women around the world, including Alawa, I sure as hell would not feel inclined to change my position and make women be anything else but subjugated, third class human beings deserving of only the things the patriarchy I perpetuate permits them to have.

Instead of standing in solidarity with FEMEN and Amina, recognizing the symbolism and meaning of their protests, these women are just shooting themselves in the foot by taking the side of their oppressors.

What is More Offensive: Breasts or Stoning?

So I ask you Laila Alawa and esteemed readers, what in the rational world is more offensive, a young lady baring her breasts or a man that calls for her to be stoned to death?

Is it more offensive to be born gay or to be killed for being gay?  Is it more offensive to be raped or having to marry your rapist?  Is it more offensive to write a few lines rejecting the faith imposed on you by your parents and culture or is it more offensive for 100,000 people to march calling for your death?

Is it more offensive to drive a car or be whipped for driving a car?  Is it more offensive to uncover your hair or to be imprisoned for it?  Is it more offensive to talk to a man in public who isn’t related to you or to receive 100 lashes and imprisonment if you do? Is it more offensive for a 14 year old to have a couple of boyfriends or being executed for it? Is it more offensive to make a film or to be killed for making it?

I have no beef with Alawa and Muslim women or anyone who chooses to wear hijab. I do, however, have a problem with someone claiming that they, in fact, have a choice, when clearly they don’t. I also have a problem with people who cannot condemn all of the above atrocities without reservation or hesitation. If you chose to be insulted on behalf of all Muslims, Laila, then you must also defend all punishments and policies in its name.

Alawa’s ignorance and sheer head-in-the-sand approach with respect to her and that of other Muslim women’s predicament  only underscores the need for people like Amina Tyler and FEMEN.  It is unsettling to see someone  visibly carry with herself the symbols and tools of oppression; someone who witnesses her Muslim sisters be subjugated every day to  the tyranny of the religious patriarchy and yet still have the audacity to say that she and her Muslim sisters are not oppressed. 

The manipulation, brainwashing and gas-lighting these women undergo is immense. And it is the ultimate tool of control, namely to really believe that you are not oppressed and that despite all evidence to the contrary the system is working for you and in your favor. 

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Fuck Your Morals

Amina

Amina

There exists a narrative among some human rights activists,  feminists and even progressives – in this country and elsewhere – that women wearing hijab in the from of burkas or any kind of other veiling in Muslim countries is a matter of cultural perspective and tradition that needs to be respected and is off limits to criticism.

This narrative, born out of a false sense of cultural relativism, insists that every woman who covers herself is doing so out of her own free will, is not  forced to do so and in fact lives a life of happiness and contentedness under a welcoming and warm religion and men who do not at all view women as less than their equals.The wearing of the hijab and the practice of veiling are, therefore, seen as mere cultural differences and any such criticism of the hijab and the (patriarchal) culture that stands behind it, constructs it, perpetuates it and propagates it are seen as arrogant, western ethnocentric attempts at imposing one’s owns values onto others.

Frankly, that’s a load of crap.

No one is patronizing Muslim women with respect to the veils they have to wear as a direct result of the oppressive religion and patriarchy they live under. Being under the yoke of an oppressive religion and a stringent patriarchy that views women as second class human beings is a matter of cultural difference the same way slavery is.

A woman saying she enjoys wearing the hijab is like a slave saying he enjoys his shackles.

Yes, muslim women have such a great track record of protecting their freedoms and rights. They have the right to  not talk to any men. The right to get beaten by their husbands and any male relative.The right to not go to school and get an education. The right to be obedient and quiet. The right to let their bodies be treated like state property. The right to have no rights at all.

Yes, muslim women have such a great track record of protecting their freedoms and rights. They have the right to not talk to any men. The right to get beaten by their husbands and any male relative, really. The right to not go to school and get an education. The right to be obedient and quiet. The right to let their bodies be treated like state property. The right to have no rights at all.

Muslim women who say they are ok with it and do not mind it don’t know any better and are speaking out of ignorance following a lifetime of socialization, manipulation and indoctrinated into believing that the oppressive patriarchy they live under is working in their favor and was just part of their culture.

It is not.

The hijab or any kind of other covering and veiling requested of women are not cultural artifacts or traditions that need to be respected and preserved any more than any kind of other act of oppression of and discrimination against women is.

They are tools and symbols of oppression and control of women that need to be exposed for what they are and abolished.

Body, Autonomy, Agency, Equality

The best and most effective way to control a woman is to control her sexualityand with it her body, thus stripping her off her autonomy and agency. A deeply dehumanizing act.

Controlling a woman’s body by policing what she wears and else does with it is treating said woman’s body and the woman herself like the property of her husband who then effectively just becomes her owner and proprietor.

It is a deeply misogynistic, not to mention offensive and invasive custom.

A man seems to be the extension of the state in such Islamic countries – as he does not respect a woman as an equal and thus as a self-governed, rights-bearing, autonomous individual human.

Subverting another human being’s agency is a very serious offense.

"My Body Belongs to Me and is Not the Source of Anyone's Honor"

My Body Belongs to Me and is Not the Source of Anyone’s Honor

Hijab and veils in the form of burkas are symbols of oppression used to police women and their bodies to conform to norms established and created by men in  a deeply patriarchal system.

Women do not cover themselves up because they want to. They cover themselves up because they have no other choice; because the patriarchy and the oppressive religion they live under dictates that they do.

Furthermore, the belief that policing women’s bodies and reproduction is acceptable and needs to be respected accordingly as part of someone’s culture is deeply problematic with rather dire consequences as the track record of how women are treated in such countries shows.That is nothing that deserves to be respected.

Tunisia Progressive?

Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, has, according to Human Rights Watch, “long [been] viewed as the most progressive Arab country with respect to women’s rights.”

The evidence does not support such an assertion unless one considers not stoning women to death, not making them marry their rapists or allowing them to have driver’s licences, progressive. Arab Spring my ass. Tunisia is apparently only considered “more progressive” vis a vis places like Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran. Being a notch better than the worst of the worst does not make you a progressive.

Men and politicians in Islamic countries, and yes I am lumping them all together because this is one rare instance where there are no exceptions,  want to limit choice and marginalize women so as to be able to better control them. Just because in Tunisia they don’t stone women to death and allow them to have an education past fifth grade does not make them pro women. If you set the bar pretty darn low, it is not hard to exceed it.

A-TOPLESS-Flag-BurningWhat all this ultimately boils down to is that there is nothing about how Islam views and treats women that serves  a decent purpose, and certainly nothing that advances women’s agency or autonomy. Not even in Tunisia.

The Veil As A Symbol of Patriarchy and Oppression 

It is dehumanizing and insulting to be a woman navigating in a society in which you are not, uncompromisingly, respected as a man’s equal. It is terrible to be the sister, mother, daughter, student, friend or coworker of people who treat you like second class human beings.

It is demeaning to be raised in a world in which everyone around you, including your own father and brothers and partner hold the view that you not deserve equal opportunity and equal access. People who believe that you deserve less respect, less dignity, less agency,  less autonomy, less opportunity, less voice,  less ownership of self, less of your humanity.

A-FREE-AMINA-Maryam

The truth is that women in Islamic countries have to cover themselves up because of men who wrote the Koran and dictate the moral code of the nation, with devastating consequences. These women have no choice, which is the ultimate form of control and oppressions. 

Not being stoned to death, being allowed to attend school and even university or  being allowed to walk around without a head cover once in a while is not being liberal and woman friendly. Those are nothing but token gestures by Islamic oppressive patriarchs who are not really respecting a woman’s agency and humanity and much less really believe in it. These men are just allowing women, no permitting them, to do such things based solely at their discretion.

A permission that can be revoked at any time as the patriarchy sees fit.

There is nothing autonomous, liberal and feminist about men permitting women to be free and navigate through society without shackles once in a while and only in places and spaces they are willing to let them navigate without the threat to bodily harm.

If women are to ever gain any kind of autonomy and are to rise from the oppressive patriarchy that has been and continues to enslave and oppress them  – overtly and covertly – they, first and foremost need autonomy over their bodies.  They need to be agents of themselves rather than the subjects of the patriarchy around them where they are at their mercy and discretion, only allowed to behave in ways they deem acceptable and appropriate.

This is a crucial, if not the most important step towards independence because nothing robs a person of their personhood and humanity than not being able to make decisions pertaining to their own body. It cannot be emphasized enough. 

This is what Amina Tyler was symbolizing and protesting when she posed nude on her facebook pic, the words “Fuck your Morals” painted on her bare chest.

Takei-sulu-wiht-sword

Amina Tyler and FEMEN

This March, a Tunisian woman named Amina Tyler posted two topless photos of herself on Facebook. In one, “Fuck Your Morals” is painted across her bare chest. In the other, she is wearing eyeliner and bright lipstick, scrawled down her chest in four lines are the Arabic words ”My body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honor.”

Tyler founded a Tunisian chapter of the feminist group FEMEN in February after seeing photos of the group’s activists online. Based in Kiev, FEMEN counts over a hundred and fifty thousand active members and has become famous—to quote the organization’s Wikipedia page—for its “noticeably erotic rallies,” strictly topless, against groups and individuals it perceives as corrupt, including the sex industry, the Church, sharia courts, Vladimir Putin, and Silvio Berlusconi.

After Tyler’s photos went up, an Islamist activist hacked the Facebook page of FEMEN’s Tunisian branch, posting religious videos and verses. One divinely inspired message read  “Thanks to God we have hacked this immoral page and the best is yet to come.” Another said, “The page has been hacked and God willing, this debauchery will disappear from Tunisia.” In the meantime, news agencies frantically reported that Tyler had been committed to a psychiatric hospital, that her parents had disowned her.

Amina-supporter-Curpo-Mio-uncensoredIn late March, Tyler told Italian journalist Federica Tourn that she believed she would be beaten or raped if Tunisian police tracked her down. She claimed that “nothing they could do would be worse than what already happens here to women, the way women are forced to live every day. Ever since we are small they tell us to be calm, to behave well, to dress a certain way, everything to find a husband. We must also study to be able to marry, because young guys today want a woman who works.”

But women, she said, are ready for change: We “have reached the height of self-determination: we no longer obey any authority, neither family nor religious. We know what we want and we make our own decisions.”

Tyler has received numerous death threats and stated that she is afraid for her life and the lives of her family.

In Tyler’s honor, protesters declared last Thursday, April 4th, Topless Jihad Day. A petition in her defense had fifteen thousand signers, including outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins. In capital cities, university-aged women with crowns of orange and lilac flowers painted their torsos for solidarity: “Bare breasts against Islamism,” “No sharia,” “Free Amina.”

Muslim Women Against Freedom

As to be expected, there has been a barrage of protests and objections to FEMEN’s and Amina’s approach. Islamic cultural centers all around the world, even those that claim to be supposedly pro women’s rights, and Muslim women themselves have protested,  calling FEMEN’s approach “highly counterproductive and detrimental to Muslim women across the world.”  As one Muslim woman and so-called activist wearing hijab on her profile pic on the Huffington Post statedtheir [FEMEN] tactics are a part of the ideological war that is going on between neo-colonial elements in the West and Islamic societies. Their aim is not to emancipate us from our presumed slavery, but instead reinforce Western imperialism and generate consent for the ongoing wars against Muslim countries.”

As Muslim Women Against Femen spokesperson Ayesha Latif told HP, she finds FEMEN’s approach “racist as well as evidence of colonial feminist rhetoric that portrays Arab/Muslim women as oppressed.” She added:

“It is incredibly inappropriate and offensive that they’re taking advantage of the stereotype that us Muslim women have to face in order to further their questionable cause.

The assumption they promote is that we are subjugated creatures controlled by men, who need to be liberated by a group of perfectly groomed white women posing nude and using shock tactics.

For them, the more you strip the more of a feminist you are – that’s Western feminist ideology. That’s not liberation for us, but that doesn’t make us anti-feminist.

We wonder how many Muslim women they have actually spoken to?”

o-TOPLESS-JIHAD-DAY-570

Questionable cause? Presumed slavery? Being pro hijab does not make us make anti-feminist? Not Subjugated and controlled by men? Don’t need liberating?

Exactly what Planet are these women from? And how intellectually comatose at best and deeply manipulated at worst do you have to be to believe that wearing your shackles in the from of veiling does not make you anti feminist? Or a slave to your men and religion? Or controlled by men and unliberated?

Women like Latif are precisely the reason this movement and the work of FEMEN is so important as clearly the oppressed do not see themselves as oppressed.

It is also amazing to see that amidst the death and rape threats Amina received, among others from Tunisian imam Adel Almi, chair of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, who proclaimed that Tyler “deserves to be whipped or stoned to death”, the problem seems to be FEMEN, Amina’s bare breasts and Western feminists. 

Instead of acknowledging their  horrible situation and use this opportunity to bring attention to the cause of oppressed women in the Muslim world, all people like Latif  vest their energy in is condemning efforts by FEMEN to give their cause a voice, publicity and direction.

After all, as we all know, Muslim women have such a great track record of protecting their freedoms and rights. They have the right no not talk to any men. The right to get beaten by their husbands and any male relative really. The right to not go to school and get an education. The right to be obedient and quiet. The right to let their bodies be treated like state property. You name it.

Complete Control

You know you have mastered the art of complete control when those you do control have come to believe it is not only in their own self interest but that in fact no control is taking place at all. Just take one look at North Korea and the true, fanatical devotion of North Koreans to their leader as example of believing the lies one is told.

Amina-Hippie-Man-Boobs

Who knew that a pair of bare tits, which are completely natural and normal body parts used primarily to nurse a newborn,  and something so fundamental such as demanding autonomy over one’s own body, refusing to be subjugated and passed around like state and male property, demanding equal opportunity, equal access, respect, dignity, agency,  a voice, ownership of self and thus more of one’s humanity could threaten self righteous, god loving and god fearing and supposedly moral people and their minions such as Latif to feel so threatened that they have to issue death threats.

Sometimes you have to engage in a radical, symbolic act to force the issue. And I am not talking anything violent but radical enough to rock the boat. Thirty of foorty years ago something like that would have been unheard of.  But today people aren’t shocked.

Amina was making a statement. And given how autonomy over one’s body is the number one tool of oppression in Muslim countries, it is understandable why she  chose to expose her breasts.

Making a woman wear hijab and cover herself up – at the request of a man, under the threat of violence if disobeyed –  in ugly, shapeless wear that obliterates her femininity by, literally, covering up every inch of her womanhood in cloth is as oppressive and disrespectful and as quashing to autonomy and agency it can get.

The hijab tells a woman that not only is she not given a voice in the political and professional sphere but that her entire womanhood, including her body parts, are under the control of a man who ultimately seems to be serving as the proxy for the institutionalized oppression of women by the state and its religion, Islam.

It is the ultimate oppressive act, robbing a woman of her autonomy, agency, and the ability to consent dictating that women cannot and should not be their own best decision-makers, their own best advocates, and their own best protectors.

If you aren’t even allowed to wear what you want, how can you expect that you will ever be granted anything else? Such as equality?

Therefore, women’s liberation in the muslim world, much like any kind of other liberation, is not going to happen only through diplomacy and negotiations. Diplomacy only works with reasonable people who are willing and ready to have a discussion with you as their equals. Entities who are interested in engaging in good faith discourse to amend their ways and get rid of systematic, institutionalized misogyny.  There can be no discussion had with entities, in this case men, whose response to your protests against subjugation is that you be stoned and raped. You don’t negotiate with Sith.

You Do Not Free Yourself  From the Shackles of Oppression by Nicely Asking For It

It didn’t work when this country was founded and our ancestors fought the Revolutionary war.  It did not work when the French Revolution took place. And it did not work during segregation. Some uprising, albeit peaceful, is needed.

Women in the West had to fight tooth and nail for their freedoms and rights (and we are still lagging in many ways). Burning of bras anyone? Protests? Marches? It happened in act of defiance, not by nicely asking for it.

The male leaders of Muslim nations are neither interested in nor do they care to sit down and have discussions on how to treat women as fully autonomous, right-bearing, equal human beings. They don’t believe that women are their equals. If such men were to ever grant them any freedoms it will be at their discretion and on their terms and only in the form of something like “you can get an education” or “you may get a driver’s license.” It will not be real equality. Not as long as Muslim women act like fucking minions unwilling and unable to stand up and fight back.

Amina is a symbol for standing up to religious oppression and the patriarchy that informs it and I stand in solidarity with her when I say, Fuck Your Morals. There is nothing moral about oppressing women and stripping them of their humanity and dignity.

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Countdown: Top 10 Twilight Zone Episodes

1. The Masks

(Season 5, Episode 145)

The masks

I love the depth and subtlety of this episode as well as its powerful message and brilliance.

It is about an old, extremely wealthy man lying on his death bed and receiving a visit from his pitiful, selfish daughter, her greedy, spineless, husband, their disturbed, dull, stupid sadistic son Wilfred Jr. and their vain and vacuous daughter, on Mardi Gras.

They all know he is about to die but still give the impression of caring and indulge him. He requests that they all wear masks that are the antithesis to their real personalities and only take them off after midnight. They reluctantly agree but knowing his impeding doom they join him as he puts on his mask and waits with a plan in mind that is even more diabolic than the combined callous efforts of these caricatures.

Mr. Jason Foster. A tired ancient who on this particular Mardi Gras evening will leave the Earth. But before departing he has some things to do, some services to perform, some debts to pay. And some justice to mete out.

This is New Orleans. Mardi Gras time. It is also, The Twilight Zone… 

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On Don Draper

A Man's Man: Don Draper

A Man’s Man: Don Draper

After watching the entire first five seasons of Mad Men in two weeks I  realized that I fucking hate Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and that despite all the talk about how cool and suave he is, I have found him to be nothing but a philandering, obnoxious, selfish, disloyal, sexist, unpleasant asshole incapable of love.

He is handsome. He is sexy. He is a panty creamer. Absolutely. But that is were the fascination ends.

Let’s recap Draper: he cheated on his first wife Betty (January Jones) at every opportunity and when he got caught he only apologized because he did not want to mess up his perfect little white picket-fence life with the good, gorgeous and dutiful wife and the model kids by his side (and not because he really regretted what he had done).  As a matter of fact, he kept cheating on her while he was temporarily moved out and supposedly regretting what he did and he continued to sleep around when she forgave him.

After she eventually found out about him and his secret past and his affairs, he threatened her and called her a whore. When she had gained weight due to emotional problems and a health condition, he called her a fat whore.

He uses people and treats them, especially women, with the same care as the cum stained tissues amidst his luxury satin sheets. For years he took advantage of and disrespected Peggy (Elizabeth Moss), talking down on her and letting her do all the work while taking the credit for it, including awards. Despite her stellar work he  pays her a fraction of what he pays his other, mostly untalented, male copy writers; she landed them account after account and when she asked for a raise or at least recognition he reached for his pocket, threw a handful of dollar bills in her face, literally, and patronizingly told her that she would go to Paris after all. He never apologized to her and on the same day he threw a wad of money at her face like she was a whore, he made Joan (Christina Hendricks) partner after having her sleep with the head of the Jaguar account

He is a lousy father to his three children whom he treats like puppys in a pound he occasionally agrees to take for a walk and he is never there while their mother dearest goes psycho on them.

After all the quality women he has met so far, he chooses to make his sweet-brained secretary Megan (Jessica Pare) his wife whom he pretends he is totally in love with (as if he could) and who of course gets billing before Peggy at his firm for the sole reason that she is pretty and fucking him.

Yes, the 50s Sucked for Everyone Who Wasn’t a White, Straight, Male

This is what the culture was like in the 50s and 60s. I understand. However, it seems as if the admiration for the magnetic, charming sexist, straight, white, racist homophobe Playboy was not just confined to that era.

A Hard Drinker - err Thinker too

A Hard Drinker – err Thinker too

Don Draper today is a source of fascination and admiration in our pop culture. Ask Men asked why people want to be like Draper.  The answer was evident: he is, after all, a real “man” because he is so unlike the chronically unmotivated, sexually clumsy, socially inept, economically immobile, and childish boys in most of today’s movies such as Knocked up and The 40 Year Old Virgin; movies filled with “men” who are really boys and obsessed with fast food, video games and bodily functions.

As if there were only two kinds of men: the chic, suave, handsome selfish assholes like Draper who treat getting married or being a father like it’s doing someone else a favor, or the Seth Rogen, stoned-all-day slacker with no motivation or checking account. Uh-huh.

A Man’s Man

AskMen praises Draper’s “masterful manhood” and most importantly his professional and upward mobility above all, because god knows upward mobility and “the accumulation of wealth” as someone once told me after I asked them what they wanted out of life, are the things that truly matter in this country and define one’s manhood. 

It doesn’t surprise me that despite all his other very serious character flaws such as his infidelity, his disloyalty, his lack of compassion, his misogyny and cowardice the one thing people know him and admire him the most for is the fact that he is good with hot women and upwardly mobile. Nevermind that he regularly fires people for things that are his fault or things that he does himself but judges others for.  Or that he fired a gay employee because he did not want to sleep with a client, or when he made his secretary and long term friend sleep with a client to get the account, and when he drove a business partner and close friend to suicide by refusing to give him a break after that friend had a temporary laps in judgment.  Nope, that is no big deal. As long as he is sexy and rich doing it, it’s endearing. 

The only things he is criticized for are his chain smoking, his alcoholism and generally unhealthy vices. He is rarely, if ever, criticized for his deep misogyny and just the shitty way he treats people in life. Ironically, his wife Betty is considered the least popular character on the show while Don the most popular, even though he is the philandering asshole.

A Woman’s Man

As AskMen put it “even those who consider themselves died-in-the-wool feminists — admitted that Don Draper represents just about everything they want in a man: not only is he tall, dark and handsome, but he is commanding, enterprising and always — always — in control. When we have, on occasion, pointed out to these same women that he is inwardly unavailable, hopelessly uncommunicative and serially unfaithful, many of them have conceded that, as one friend put it, “he would probably make a lousy husband and a bad dad in real life.”

Umm…no. I don’t know who all those legions of feminists are that AskMen is referencing here but no feminist would find a manipulative, abusive man like this “everything they want in a man.” In fact, I doubt that any woman with an ounce of self respect and aversion to abuse would want a man like Don Draper in their lives.

Aside from his aforementioned blatant and obvious misogynistic and cruel ways (qualities I cannot imagine many people finding attractive or enticing), Don Draper – as a partner – a husband – insistently wants his women to be someone that they manifestly aren’t, which is classic emotional abuse dynamic. Draper does not respect his partner’s agency and consent and he is someone who continually asserts to know their partner’s needs and desires better than themselves. Thing is, someone who is emotionally manipulative, sexually coercive, and conditionally affectionate will never just be okay with accepting their partner’s feelings for what they are, or respecting their boundaries.

When you watch Don Draper interact with women – his lovers, girlfriends and wives – what you really see is a horror scene, set to romantic music.

So, when AskMen asserts that Don Draper is what women really want, especially feminist women I a) highly doubt that the editors over there at AskMen know diddly about what either women want or what constitutes feminists and b) I am horrified that there are young men, lots of young men (and even women) watching this show and then reading articles like this thinking that this is what women want, that this is what women should want and that this is how men should behave because… this is what women (allegedly) want.

They walk around thinking that these kind of relationship dynamics are the norm, healthy and desirable. That if you are a man and you act like this, you are cool  – and that if you are a woman accepting a man acting like this, you are romantic, when in reality Don Draper and his behavior isn’t a model for romance. It’s a blueprint for abuse.

It is certainly not what woman want. Or what women who want to be in emotionally healthy relationships with men who respect their agency and boundaries, should want.

It is ironic that the editors at AskMen agree with one of the male copywriters in the show who once told Draper that women basically just want a man and that they’ll buy anything that’ll help them get a man

Apparently assholishness is very complicated

Apparently assholishness is very complicated

Of course AskMen portrays Draper as the kind of guy not only all women want, whether they know it or not, but also as the kind of man most men wish they could be. You know, being “able to drink and smoke with abandon, womanize with impunity, […] rule over everyone while being ruled by no one [despite being] an alcoholic, a chain-smoker and a depressive introvert.”

Note again, that nowhere are Draper’s misogyny, lack of compassion and bigotry mentioned as character flaws.  Apparently in the world of Men, that is a non-issue.

So Why Does Everyone Want to Be Don Draper? 

Because in essence not much has changed from the 1950s/60s with respect to the patriarchy and how our culture sees the two genders. I bet a lot of men watch this wishing things were that way again.

It is not surprising. After all, we live in a culture that considers “men” who are self-reliant, shrewdly ambitious, emotionally inaccessible and philandering misogynists to be the ultimate hallmark of masculinity.

draper 4

The article laments manhood and white, male privilege of the 50s as a lost opportunity; a fall from greatness that still somehow appears to linger in the hearts and minds of men today who look at it fondly exclaiming that “if only things hadn’t changeda man could still be a man“.

Ah, the 50s and 60s – the decades where men could be men instead of human beings who are no better, or less, than any other human being around them, male or female, black or white, straight or queer, thin or fat, handsome or ugly.

Progressive Masculinity

That is, of course, a very outdated and primitive notion of what constitutes masculinity. Or is it?

The patriarchy teaches young men, even today, that anger is safe and manly. Hurt equals weakness. If anyone questions your masculinity you must fight. Be assertive, be in control. Only a sissy pussy is not in control and so forth.

Don Draper is the opposite of that and according to AskMen, those are the hallmarks of not only real masculinity but also success, attractiveness and sex appeal.

The brilliance of the show is that no matter how redeemable Don Draper is made out to be and no matter how much sensitivity and vulnerability he is shown to possess, at heart he is a sexist and a bigot and overall terrible human being who does not believe that women (and gays and blacks) are deserving of and entitled to the same rights as men. He does not see them as equals, no matter how much he may ultimately care for one of them on the personal level – such as Peggy or even his own daughter Sally.

His misogyny is so rooted in him, such a fundamental part of his core, that he cannot part from it. And the writers don’t try to. They do not try to all of a sudden make him an advocate for equal rights or an enlightened man who really  stops to check his immense white, male, straight privilege.

For Draper, women being nothing but child bearers, sexual conquests, housewives and neat accessories at parties to show off are a given that will never change.

The fact that our pop culture of today looks at someone like Draper and laments his greatness and masculinity that somehow seems to be amiss amidst all the equal rights mumbo jumbo, says a lot more about how far we have come (or not come) in that area rather than how bad things used to be.

When people look at a black man like Obama running this country and yell “we want our country back“, Don Draper and the world of Leave it to Beaver and housewives like June Cleaver are what they are referring to. That’s the America they want back. The America that was great for no one but straight, white men; for the Don Drapers of the world.

The truth is that the masculinity of men in the 50s and 60s and thus of Don Draper  – much like the masculinity of men today – is a mask; a facade hiding a person deeply out of touch with who he is on the inside.

It is also a mask that allows them to navigate the world unhindered and thus without ever having to question the status quo. After all, why would you question a world that is so perfectly suited to and tailored towards your needs as a straight, white man?

draper 6

On a personal level, feelings and emotions are tools that help you deal with life and when you constrict them the results are people like Don Draper in the 60s and a culture that considers everything Draper stands for, some 5o years after he stood for them,  as the gold standard of masculinity and success ultimately.

Mad Men is a brilliant show and I thoroughly enjoy it, but the hype about Don Draper is just that. He is nothing but a pretty face in a nice suit attached to a big dick.

I enjoy following his journey but boy, I can’t stand the guy. Especially after he got married to his office bimbo and penile-equivalent Megan – whom they are trying to pass up as a really interesting person – I lost whatever little hope I had that there may be a worthwhile human being behind that spineless, quivering soul of his.

In Mad Men, Draper is portrayed as a complicated man. Even Hamm, in his recent Rolling Stone interview, admits that Draper is a “complicated man”. Someone lost in the woods, halfway through the journey of his life, who ends up exploring hell. Only that Draper is not that complicated man going through hell.  Unlike Dante, Draper is part “The Inferno” – including, and especially, his fucked up sense of masculinity which – more than anything – is the source of his ruin and distorted sense of self,  rather than its consequence.

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Quote of the Day

“I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.”  – Roger Ebert, Esquire, February 2010

I have already posted this quote in my entry yesterday. But it is so relevant, brilliant and beautiful, I feel it went under in the text and deserves a Quote of the Day entry. The first time I read this I was blown away by its wisdom and truth. Then again, this is just the kind of man Roger Ebert was: wise, brilliant.

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Goodbye Roger Ebert

ebert

Rober Ebert died today at the age of 70 due to complications from cancer.

I feel a great sense of loss and sadness and I must admit that his death is affecting me in more ways than I thought possible. It seems surreal because it feels like this is a friend who I have lost as opposed to just a famous person whose tragic death I am witnessing from a distance.

His reviews have always been more than just reviews to me, they were exposés into the human heart and psyche. I almost always came out of them feeling that I had learned something; that I had gained a deeper understanding for the human condition and life with all its intricacies, moods and whims. His words always lingered on my mind long after I had finished reading them and they challenged me to see things from a perspective I had not considered before.

Roger Ebert Quote

Roger Ebert was a brilliant man gifted in the art of communicating with his readers on a level that felt personal, engaging and wise. He was not speaking at us, he was speaking to us, from the heart. He communicated intelligence, wisdom, compassion, kindness and humor on a level that remains rare, if not unsurpassed. He wasn’t just critiquing movies, he was immersed in his passion and drew his lifeline from the art of movie making. As he once said “I am, beneath everything else, a fan.” 

If you have ever read his blog and/or his reviews: they are a revelation. 

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It takes a strong person, and a fortunate one, to retain one’s self, one’s mind and humor when being treated for, and in the aftermath of, this insidious disease. But Roger Ebert did it with grace and style. He was brave and quietly kind.

Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz

Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz

I knew this was coming, especially when he earlier this week announced his “Leave of Presence” after  his cancer had returned – and I always dreaded the day the same way one dreads the loss of a parent.

And here it is.  He is gone. One less amazing person walking this Earth among us.

As I write this, I am reminded of what he once said about death and I feel a sense of calm washing over me as I do: I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.”

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Yes, that! I take comfort in the fact that he was in that frame of mind when he passed.  And boy, what a wise way to look at this certainty that is awaiting all of us one day. I have always been in awe of Ebert’s wisdom and it is that wisdom I shall miss the most.

So, before We Assume Our Respective Roles in This Enduring Drama, Just Let Me Say That When these Frail Shadows We Inhabit Now Have Quit the Stage We’ll Meet and Raise a Glass Again Together in Valhalla. 

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