censorship

Jaded's picture

Between The Lines

Recently I came across Sara Ahmed’s fantastic essay ‘Feminist Killjoys (And other Willful Subjects)’ and have been re-reading several sections of the essay since. I identify with more parts of the essay than I can count, but one line that never leaves me is “[As a feminist killjoy] you become the problem you create” –- a single sentence that probably embodies the essence of my grandmum’s journals. Part of why I wanted to learn to read and think in my native tongue is because I want to read my grandmum’s journals, written in a pidgin many Gujurati’s. Apart from accounts of food items, daily expenditure and some chants dedicated to Krishna, there are extensive notes on translation and literary criticism of Oriya, Telugu and Bengali women’s literatures — in a different tongue altogether¹ — and her research of many texts banned in the British Empire. Most of the texts that are listed in her journals were banned because of “obscenity” under Section 292 of the Penal Code — not that big a surprise that most of these banned and censored texts were written by women and especially by women of the “lower sections of the society”. I couldn’t find most texts she talks of, but luckily I found Radhika Santwanam written by the Telugu poet Muddupalani in a great aunt’s attic — sadly, the text is in English but there were translator’s notes along with it, explaining their choice of words and consonants. Loosely translated, the text can be called “Enticing or Appeasing Radhika”, an epic erotic poem that talks of Radha and Krishna’s love affair — a text that inverses the male literary tradition of supposing the “male” as a locale of power when speaking of sexual agency.

I spent most of the last month reading this poem, in its many parts and verses, simultaneously shocked and in awe of Muddupalani’s audacity to speak so explicitly about female sexuality, of Radha’s encouragement of Krishna and her niece’s love affair, of the various ways Krishna has to woo and appease to Radha, a text quite “queer” by today’s “re-readings”. While the text is beyond beautiful, with its many deviances and silences, sadly this text has always faced heavy censorship at the hands of the Raj — interestingly when Muddupalani wrote it originally two centuries ago, her autobiographical prologue mentions no objections to the content or her context as a distinguished courtesan of the Thanjavur court². The Empire banned it for “obscenity” and “shamelessly filling poems with crude descriptions of sex” — cannot thank K. Lalita and Susie Tharu enough for keeping a neat account of all the charges levied against Muddupalani, ranging from ridiculous to incinerating and everything else in between — and for about 150 years after the ban Indian scholars maintained the same views about Muddupalani. In many instances, grandmum calls Muddupalani “adulteress” as this is the name she was known by. The more time I spend with grandmum’s journals, her accounts of the Raj’s censorship, read this exquisite poem, the more angry and fascinated — where fascination is the new disgust — I get.

Jaded's picture

Tales This Tongue Didn't Twist

 

There is a story my father likes to tell when people ask him what his eldest daughter wants to do ‘with her life’. It seems that I was 13 and determined when I’d interrupted his important business call to say, “When I grow up, I’ll be a famous Lady Author” with hands on my hips and my eyes defiant. He says, almost always laughingly, that was the day he’d started worrying about me. Quite predictably, the writers I admired were White Ladies or Dusty Men — say hello to the child born on the brink of globalisation — and I had a grand scheme of writing a book by the time I was 25 and saying wise things like, “Oh writing is like breathing for me, I may have never consented to it, but it keeps my veins full”¹, appearing on TeeVee and inspiring little ladies everywhere to write, pretty much like Jo of Little Women, maybe with pants instead of frilly skirts though. And then, between all these juvenile fantasies, words and tongues I started opening up to, it became clear how alien and few Dusty Ladies were a part of my daily vocabulary, how little I knew of my culture and it’s deferential treatment to anyone who identified as female within its folds, or that I’d never really felt represented in words as much I could in this hued writing. It shocked me to see that I didn’t identify as strongly with Anne Eliot as much I had previously thought after reading Ismat Chughtai’s stories or that as much I suffered with Clarissa Dalloway, truth was she would probably never see beyond the hue of my epidermis tissue. This is where I stumbled into wonderful — feminine-identified — Indian writing, my world began to fill with names like mine, and people who too found themselves stuck on the fringe between being Western or Dusty, and of course the silences accompanied this writing too.

I’m still adjusting to this shift, from the open prose of George Eliot, which is ‘open’ and ‘free’ in the way only a few people in this world are allowed to be, to the heavily veiled writing of Dusty Ladies. I’m still haunted by Abburi Chaya Devi’s protagonist in ‘Sleep’ who grows up in such a restrictive environment that she doesn’t know what to do when she wants to laugh. I can replay the scene in my head when at the climax of the story she wakes up her mother to say anxiously, “Mother, I feel like laughing. The laughter is bubbling up, what shall I do?”. Years later, I realised it was a snippet of her own life where she was punished for laughing by her parents for laughing at a professor’s joke. I’ve always reveled and lost myself in Emily Dickinson’s verses — to an extent, I still do — and then I stumbled somehow to Eunice De Souza whose verses give silence quite an another underbelly altogether. This silence intrigues me as sometimes it enters my writing too, it’s something a lot of women have noticed and re-negotiated. It seems if you identify as a Lady out here, some people just cannot wait to bind you in rules and borders, asking and clearly specifying the lines you are not allowed to tread. Last year I attended a writing workshop where the speaker started with asking about things we, as the current youth demographic of India, wrote about or were sensitive to. The most common answers were politics, religion and sex. Then the speaker asked how many people would fearlessly write about these topics, and it was quite telling that most people who raised hands were dudes; most girls in the room and I shared guilty looks², for not letting that part of us out, as if we’re betraying ourselves in some strange way. Of course, then the speaker went on to explain how we should ‘break free’ from these cultural chains and just give in to writing urges with the loathsome self-assurance that only Upper Caste Hindu Dudes in India enjoy. The truth is, we can’t wipe away gender — whether assigned or taken — as if it’s a dark stain, scrub away till it lightens its way to disappearing completely; in fact the more we try to hide it, the more it reeks up the prose³.

arvan's picture

Trigger Warning?

I was recently asked to provide trigger warnings for some images and links we posted on the SexGenderBody Tumblr and Twitter feeds. 

This is a topic that I have struggled with since we started this site.  We don't get many requests for this, but when we do - I take stock of what we are doing, how it might impact people, where we are accountable (or want to be) and what choices we make as we go forward.  So, I thought I would share my thoughts and open it up for discussion.

I take such requests very seriously.  SGB is designed to honor the terms of our individual identities and that is no easy thing to do.

We cover a lot of ground here at SGB: anything to do with sex, gender, body.  This includes not only the first things you might consider regarding these topics, but everything else.  Including but not limited to: sexuality, asexuality, age, gender, queer, body mods, tattoos, kink, vanilla, celibacy, non-monogamy, relationships, family, frienship, politics, feminism, rights, advocacy, activism and a zillion other expressions and conversations about the human body. 

Every person on the planet has their own definition and terms that they use to define their own sex, gender & body.  Some of these are common and some are less so, making for a very large (almost 7 billion) sample of variations.  Additionally, we each have our own ideas of what we like / don't like / are attracted to / offended by.  These too come in common and uncommon variations.

Many of us are survivors of assault and when we read about such things it can be very difficult for us.  We may wish to avoid such things or at least know that they're coming, so that we can manage it in some way.  Even if someone is not a survivor per se, they may simply wish to avoid such topics for some other reason.  Certainly, the desire for such advance notice is a reasonable request.  So, on one hand I would like to honor that request.  That's one element of this issue.

The elusive standard.

My struggle is in addressing a pair of considerations. 

One problem is: what is offensive? what is a trigger?  What words or image qualify as "offensive" in their mere existence? 

The next issue is: What is it to cause offense or trigger?  What actions does a writer take that are by definition - an offense or trigger?

James Turnbull's picture

Korean Sociological Image #51: Male Objectification & Double Standards

 

What would be your reaction if this flashed on your TV screen?

Mine was thinking that abs aren’t exactly the best analogy for airbags. But my mistake: they’re not supposed to be. Rather, Hyundai needed something to signify the number of airbags as the voiceover went through various specs of the car.

Which to be fair, is much clearer in the full commercial.

How about if a proper airbag analogy had been used instead, like BMW did back in 2006?

( Source )

If you found that objectification distasteful however, then consider the following from Renault/Samsung in 2008 below also:

Which uses the same analogy, but is clearly quite a contrast to BMW’s puerile effort. Nevertheless, some commenters on this earlier post did still have some issues with it, whereas nobody on this blog at least has had any with all of the men’s 6-packs that suddenly started appearing in Korean commercials from last year.

But I’m sure you’re already well-aware of that double-standard, so the purpose of this post is not just to draw your attention to it. Nor is it to simply pass on that juxtaposition of advertisements, however interesting. In combination with a recent development in the Korean media though, what that juxtaposition did serve to do was make me realize both the rapid mainstreaming and dogmatic nature of that double-standard here, and which is a combination that I think is pretty unique to Korea too.

Let me explain.

James Turnbull's picture

“Want to Sleep With a Foreign Woman?”

 

A provocative article title from Yahoo! Korea yesterday, yes?

Alas, actually it’s only about one lawmaker’s concern over the growing number of “lewd” internet advertisements these days, among which presumably that’s a common slogan. But that does underlie some of the street harassment and groping that many foreign women experience here, so it’s interesting in its own right.

As is the irony and hypocrisy of Yahoo! Korea posting such an article in the first place too. For Korean portal sites are virtually like The Sun newspaper in their content, tone, and adherence to journalistic ethics, like I said of them last year:

Unlike their English-language counterparts, you have roughly a 50% chance of opening Naver, Daum, Nate, Yahoo!Korea, and kr.msn.com to be greeted with headlines and thumbnail pictures about sex scandals, accidental exposures (no-chool;노출) of female celebrities, and/or crazed nude Westerners.

And indeed, scroll to the bottom of Yahoo! Korea as I type this, and just today’s “image galleries” below include lingerie photoshoots and “beautiful Russian news anchors”, let alone the links on the rest of the site.

arvan's picture

FSC Issues a Call-to-Action for the Adult Online Community

ICANN has posted the Revised Proposed Registry Agreement and Due Diligence Documentation for public comment on the ICANN website.  FSC has responded to the Board with a letter of requests and has filed a Documentary Information Disclosure Policy for additional information.

We need your help!  FSC is launching an industry-wide call-to-action.  It is imperative that you speak up now! 

ICANN’s .XXX current comment period closes Thursday, September 23rd so ACT NOW!

There are two ways in which adult industry professionals can be counted on the public forum:

1. Click on the link below and respond to the statements of opposition.  FSC will compile the data and report it to ICANN

http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22B6YZULW6R

2. Or better yet, PLEASE write your own statement of opposition to ICM’s proposed .XXX sTLD.  Below are some issues you may want to stress. 

Comments can be posted on:

xxx-revised-icm-agreement@icann.org

Public Comment Suggestions

Make sure that you mention that you are a professional member of the adult online community-the party most impacted by the ICANN Board’s decision.  Write to the Board about any of a number of issues as demonstrated below. 

Let the Board know that you are concerned…

… that ICM is pushing unnecessarily for a “responsible” global online community when the adult entertainment community already has an entity through which Internet publishers and others can self identify as a responsible global online adult entertain¬ment community through the Free Speech Coalition and its Code of Ethics.

… with companies that have pre-registered .XXX domain names but are in opposition to a .XXX sTLD .  By ICM’s own definition those companies do not qualify for a .XXX sTLD because they do not voluntarily agree to the .XXX sTLD and thus believe that ICM’s proposed .XXX sTLD would be detrimental to their business.

… with the lack of transparency surrounding ICM’s submissions in the omission of the names of IFFOR Board members and Policy Council members who will develop regulations for the .XXX online industry. 

… that adult businesses would be required to agree to comply with “IFFOR Policies and Best Practices Guidelines” that have yet to be created by boards and councils which have yet to be revealed.

… that information provided for public comment is insufficient.  Members of the adult entertainment community require more information about the application in order to provide the appropriate level of feedback to the ICANN Board for it to make an informed decision. 

… that if additional information is provided, the community most impacted by .XXX, the adult online community will not have sufficient time to respond and therefore request that the public comment period be extended 30 days after additional information that has been requested has been supplied.

Thank you.  Your time and effort are greatly appreciated.  If you have any questions or require additional information contact diane@freepeechcoalition.com.

Comments can be posted on: xxx-revised-icm-agreement@icann.org

Remember…. ICANN N’s .XXX current comment period closes Thursday, September 23rd so act now!

James Turnbull's picture

Presumed Causes of Racism Against Interracial Couples in Korea


( Sources – left: GR X Hermark; right )

Over at a recent post on Noona Blog: Seoul, an excellent blog written by a Swedish woman in a relationship with a Korean man, currently there’s several interesting comments about the sources of racism often directed against Korean female – Caucasian male (KF-CM) couples in Korea.

Many of which were written by Jake of Asian Male Revolutions, who has the admirable and very necessary goal of challenging the racist and emasculating images of Asian men in the US media through that website.

But in the process of – in my view – very much contriving to paint racism against KF-CM couples in Korea in those terms, as well as global racial power relations, I found he made many extremely sexist assumptions about Korean women, which I’d like to challenge. As technical issues prevent me from doing so at Noona Blog directly however,* then – assuming that you’ve already read his comments – I’ll post my original response here instead:

Dear Jake,

it’s difficult not to sound offensive when critiquing someone’s opinions so harshly. But still, however legitimate your concerns about representations of Asian men in the US media are, you are completely mistaken in assuming that these are also perpetuated by the Korean media, in a culturally imperialist sense.

Indeed, it is simply apologist to ascribe anything but the most minimal of roles to that in attempting to understand racism against KF-CM couples in Korea. Much more seriously though, in so doing you also rely heavily on some extremely patronizing and sexist assumptions about Korean women, let alone racist ones against Caucasian men. Let me explain.

Christina Engela's picture

X Spots The Mark

On Saturday I was at a canvassing table in my voting district, asking people to sign a petition against the governments proposed new legislation which will gag the media. Surprisingly, a broad base of people of every language, race and political affiliation, signed the petition and commented freely about how bad this law would be for everyone. This was encouraging, but what still shocked me though, was the number of people who just waved me off - or laughed, as if there was something actually funny in asking people to exercise their democratic right and sign a petition against something which would strip them of their freedom to access information.

"I don't do politics" one smart looking dude told me. "But politics will do you!" I replied, while he and his girlfriend stared at me as though I were from another planet.

Others commented about what a rush their Saturday morning was, that they "didn't have time" and how much more important that rush to buy a loaf of bread or bottle of milk at the store was than securing their democratic freedom to an independent Press. In fact, I wonder if any of them even knew what "freedom of the Press" even means, even after taking pains to translate it for them. Others said they would come back later, or just said "not now" - prompting me to think that they would probably worry about their civil rights AFTER they have lost them, which makes no sense, does it? Yes, laugh about it - politics is "uncool", isn't it? Laugh it up, folks- but will you still be laughing on the other side? I hope we don't have to find out.

And some of them will definitely sit on the side lines, or in front of the idiot box, being fed only good news, as they do in the Arab countries - asking out loud why "somebody" didn't do something. Needless to say, this ignorant, condescending "don't be silly, why should I give a flying fuck about my (or your) civil rights" attitude frustrated me to the nth degree. After all, how dare I bother them to protect their own democratic protections, "what's wrong with me" that I take this move to take away my right to know what's going on in the world around me seriously, and don't want to go through life oblivious to reality? Couldn't I see the lovely pair of blinkers they were wearing? Very cool. No actually, I couldn't - because their heads were stuck so far up their own asses they disappeared from the neck up. Grr.
Christina Engela's picture

What Is Happening To Our Democracy?

I doodled about the matter surrounding the government's current assault on South Africa's democracy on my white board last night, and found what I'd come up with rather thought provoking, so I thought I would build it into a Powerpoint slide and share it with you.

You see, currently we are facing the brunt of a broad-based attack on the freedom of the press as well as the civil rights of the ordinary citizen - in the form of the Protection of Information Bill, the "Pornography Bill" being pushed by the Dept of Home Affairs - and the newly newsworthy "Employment Services Bill" - all of which would turn democracy on its head and steer our country on a course which could only lead us to disaster.

Feel free to look it over, I think it says more than a 1000 page article could at this point. After all, it basically says what I've been shouting and waving my arms about the past 3 years. Feel free to pass it on and publish it if you will. Just get is out and warn people to get off their apathetic rear ends and take an interest in their own well being.

Both the "Protection of Information" Bill and "Porn Bill" (although I've been led to believe this is still only a three page conceptual document at this stage) could lead to far more invasive laws and practices than those thinking they will be "protecting children" and "sensitive information" may expect. Who knows what some elements would deem necessary to "protect children" or the "security of information"? Wire tapping? How private will your phone calls be under such a law? How about reading people's emails? ISP's would have to install censoring software as used in China to block IP adresses, or to block content - will they be able to read or censor your outgoing emails as well? It's very clear to me that there would be some degree of overlap between these two Bills, justifying the two-way arrow I placed between them, covering a wide scope of things that the increasingly paranoid, power hungry government-slash-ruling party would find interesting.
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