In the span of 24 hours recently, I came across several vastly different experiences of women regarding feminism, choice and the question of women's control over their bodies.
I saw this post by That Ghoul Ava where she disowns feminism if it means being forced to switch from her identity being defined by men to that of being defined by women - with both excluding her own voice and choices for their own agenda. Her framework for articulating this, is her experiences in the work force and the rest of her life. Her point is that she is a woman because she says she is and not because she meets someone's definition. In her life, she wants to be judged on her merits and that is how she defines herself.
Before you start screaming discrimination, make sure actual qualified people didn’t get denied. Wouldn’t that bother you, knowing you got hired or promoted because the company was required to get women and wasn’t based on your qualifications? That would piss me off. I’m not good enough, but my tits are!!! YAY!
Ava claims to write when she's drunk, pissed off and sarcastic. Much like Liberating Porn, she expresses herself with a foul mouth and a sense of humor that is not universally shared. Many could debate whether her language helps or hurts her point. She clearly states that she's talking about her own experience and there is no debate in that.
By Sujoy Dhar NEW DELHI, Sep 9, 2010 (IPS) - Instances of ‘honour killings’ in Indian communities still steeped in traditional beliefs continue unabated. Yet the government has not enacted tougher laws that will deal a decisive blow against this societal scourge.
For bringing dishonour to the family, couples defying time-honoured traditions in many orthodox Indian villages must flee for their lives lest they become victims of ‘honour killing’ committed by kin or members of their own caste.
Some of the couples on the run were either caught unawares or hounded out and killed by their families who were determined to restore honour to the clan.
"Young couples live in fear. They are often driven to suicide, if not killed," Nishi Kant, who runs Shakti Vahini, a non-governmental organisation researching honour killings in India, told IPS.
Marrying outside one’s caste or within one’s lineage (‘gotra’), or outside one’s religion is still tabooed by many Indian families, who believe such "aberrant behaviours" deserve the most brutal punishment, often in the form of death.
Over the past months, horrific reports of honour killings have been pouring in. About 45 people have died as a result of such killings in the past 19 months, according to Shakti Vahini. Despite the spike in honour killings, the state remains a mute spectator, said Kant.
The ruling United Progressive Alliance has condemned the killings but has not acted decisively on the sensitive issue, fearing a dent in its traditional vote banks.
Marketers are increasingly using Retro Sexism to sell products. This form of advertising uses irony and humour as a way to distance itself from the sexist and/or racist representations and stereotypes they perpetuate.
Retro Sexism (n.): Modern attitudes and behaviors that mimic or glorify sexist aspects of the past, often in an ironic way.
As a Lady who is more often than not publicly and loudly UnSubtle (why yes she speaks!) (when she is allowed to that is), I get my fair share of thoroughly silly people who will sprout the most ridiculous reasons for the most inane things. Last week I had to convince someone that I didn't kill people who disagreed with me, that I can talk about things beyond feminism without being entirely sarcastic and the fact that I am still capable of (perhaps?) making jokes despite 'cutting off my fallopian tubes in exchange to be let into the uber cool club of the world's humourless feminists'. Sometimes I just have to say, "I like puppies" and I'll still get some nincompoop call me a 'man-hater' as a sort of reflex to using as little common sense as possible. I am sure you know the type, the one who will cower the moment you give them your MedusaGlare for insinuating you can't be a feminist, simply because you are not lesbian or aren't as hairy as the yeti or have an inordinate liking for bras or so many inconsequential reasons. What actually struck me today when someone accused me of not being feminist or feminist enough because I'm not particularly fond of body hair -- call it the parting gift of colonisation if you will -- is how deeply Western this slur was.
Feminism as a concept isn't one that is inherently Western. Of course, the feminist cannon, where you can see Beauvoir, Mary Wollstonecraft, J. S. Mill and perhaps even Elizabeth Cady Stanton (conveniently excluding Sojourner Truth) dancing around or playing cards while (existentially!) pondering over The Woman Problem In Their Respective Time Zones is as Western as the concept of SystematicCulturalDomination LiberalHumanism itself and just as problematic. Contrary to popular myths, feminism did exist in other 'culture-less' places, even in the very heart of supposed darkness, even in places as far off as India. I remember hearing about Meera Bai as a part of cultural folktales growing up, who rejected her husband and worshiped the idol of Lord Krishna. Today, beneath the QueerLens, we can assert judging from her poetry that this was a conscious decision, involved full agency and choice. She addresses her husband's impotency in a 'religious' couplet to Krishna -- always under the larger umbrella of religious movements such as the Bhakti movement so as to escape harsher punishment -- even talks about his (small) penis and articulates the exact way she'd like to be loved. All of this addressed to a piece of stone -- her Krishna idol -- or to the ideal man of her dreams enters the realm of a Queer framework. Doesn't she fit, rather squarely the definition of a 'feminist' as we have today? Where she identifies the dominant ideology, subverts and perverts it by mixing erotica with religion. And she is a cannonised voice of sorts herself as she is seen as one of Krishna's most devout followers (no one mentions her sexual transgression though). What about those countless Meera Bai's who never recorded their thoughts, who never wrote or sang out loud? So because of lack of documentable proof, do we exclude those mutated muffles?
“Yeah, but I don’t wear much….” were my first thoughts, when I thought of running this experiment. No Make-up Week: the idea was good, I thought, but my heart raced a little as it sank in. “But I don’t wear much.” And I realized I was a little quick to run to the defense of my palettes and powder.
It’s not about taking a week off because make-up is somehow bad or because not wearing it is better. It’s that by taking a week off, I should be able to understand my relationship to cosmetics more clearly. Why do I feel I need to sketch on eyebrow pencil before going to the grocery? To shellac my face before seeing a friend? And if I am going to a networking event or party, can I feel comfortable in anything less than contoured cheeks and caked on lashes?
When I think about not wearing make-up for a week, a voice inside of me screams, Noooooooooo! And this is exactly what I want to explore. I mean, the thing is this: Make-up is a powerful tool, it has the ability to transform, to incite imagination and creativity. But, when an option turns into a necessity, I don’t know it it’s still a tool. At the least, it loses it’s spark.
And then, there are the social reasons that push us to wear make-up. A study online claims that 8 out of 10 women prefer their female colleagues to wear makeup and the same number of women said they would rather employ a woman who wore makeup than one who didn’t. Because of these expectations, I think it’s hard for any woman to have a good relationship to make-up.
For me, a good relationship with make-up isn’t a given, but it is something to work towards. Because of these strong social ideas about make-up, it seems most women could not naturally have a healthy relationship with our cosmetics. Whether you wear make-up or not, there is a story there. I often feel like I *need* make-up. And when there is not a real feeling of choice, this needs to be explored.
THE EXPERIMENT AND WHERE YOU COME IN
The experiment is to go entire week without make-up. To do the naked face to work, meetings, dates, networking events and all in between without a balanced complexion or darkened lashes. The idea is to explore why I wear make-up and my relationship to it.
I’m asking you to conduct your own experiment. To go a day or a week without make-up, to upload a no make-up photo online or simply explore the relationship through writing or whatever feels right. Make it your own.
I’ve asked some bloggers to make the experiment their own, but I want to shout from the rooftops that everyone is invited to join in, the more of us out there doing this, the better.
It should also be said this isn’t just for people who wear make-up daily, or who don’t wear at all. This is for everyone. I think everyone can find some personal depth in the question: how does make-up impact you? What personal care products do you use, why?
When we start unraveling the threads, we see a lot of issues are embedded. There is the input of our families and friends–we all have a history with make-up, some not as pretty as others. There is the feminist question of why and for who? Who are we trying to impress? And in many offices, it’s scary to consider, what the reaction would be if one showed up sans-make-up. There is also the issue of toxins in our make-up. Carcinogens that are laced into many mainstream products.
These issues and more are the things I’ll be tackling during No Make-up Week.
I am inviting you to explore your relationship to cosmetics. To explore why you wear it, what it does for you and maybe, to rediscover some spark about yourself, your looks and your cosmetics.
The Official Home for No Make Up Week is http://rabbitwrite.com/no-make-up-week/This is where I will be updating all No Make up Week happenings and is a good resource to point people to, so check back often!
The past few days have been emotionally as well as physically taxing, as I prepared for a seminar, re-wrote, re-edited and then wrote again my paper. Then deleted it and started all over again. A few years ago I had the nasty habit of never saving any of my writing, so I went along and got me an auto-saving program. Now all I need is a program that will swat my hand away every time I try to delete my writing. So you can understand, dear reader why I didn't want to open or even read any of my TrollMail. Turns out, had I opened it earlier I wouldn't be comatose in front of the computer screen, losing the battle against writer's block. Some days, the universe just provides you fodder, while on other days it spews slander all over you and your virtual space.
Questions like, "Must you use such harsh language, when you talk of your body or anyone else's body?" or another states "It's not proper for Indian women to talk of the body in such terms. You sound Western when you do write like this. Indian women don't and shouldn't talk of their private organs so blatantly. This isn't our culture". And I edited this one, because I distinctly remember my LadyBrain slammed itself shut after these lines. Forgive me for not reading any of her remaining eight e-mails for my eyes blurred over as soon as she started defining what "Indian women" should do or rather shouldn't do. And just as I start to write this, another e-mail scurries forward bearing the words, "What is the point of breaking up your body to show what you mean? Aren't you mutilating yourself, under the name of using poetic devices? Also, isn't this an extremely Western method of articulating ? Doesn't this stand against everything you supposedly believe in?". As I mentioned before, the Interwebes can smack any semblance of the Writer's Block right out of you, on a day like this.
"A lot of women didn't know it was wrong that they'd been sterilized."
JOHANNESBURG, 30 August 2010 (PlusNews) - Veronica* did not realize she had been sterilized while giving birth to her daughter until four years later when, after failing to conceive, she and her boyfriend consulted a doctor.
"I was like 'Okay, fine', because there was nothing I could do by then, but I was angry. I hate [those nurses]," she told IRIN/PlusNews. Veronica tested HIV-positive during a routine antenatal visit and was given a form to sign by nurses at the hospital where she went to deliver.
"I didn't know what it was all about, but I did sign," said Veronica, who was 18 at the time and had been scolded by the nurses for being unmarried.
She vaguely recalls being unconsciousness and then coming to and giving birth to her daughter, but did not ask questions about the cut on her abdomen. "My aunt - she's a nurse - went there and asked them what the cut was all about. They didn't answer her; they said it was private and confidential."
Veronica, who is now 28 and working for an HIV/AIDS home-based care programme in Orange Farm, an impoverished township south of Johannesburg, is among a growing number of women in South Africa and other countries in the region who have come forward in the last few years with similar stories of forced or coerced sterilization after an HIV-positive test result.
Local rights groups in Namibia, with the support of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, have helped uncover 15 such cases, and a trial involving three HV-positive women who say they were sterilized at public health facilities without their consent is due to resume on 1 September in the High Court.
The conceptual background relates to the eponymous book by Hannah Arendt who, back in the 1960's, argued that the condition of human existence, robbed of the traditional, transcendental, religious and moral standards employed to bridge the abyss between past and future, lost direction. Artists and theoreticians with various views, experiences, approaches, backgrounds and cultural milieu will challenge audiences between 8th and 17th October with their reflections and responses to the relationship between past and future that we confront today.
The events will be held at most various venues, such as Cankarjev Dom, the Kino Šiška Centre for Urban Culture, the Old Power Station – Elektro Ljubljana, Škuc Gallery, Kinodovr, Glej Theatre, Ljubljana Dance Theatre, Grubar Palace, Tromostovje etc.
The following artists are participating in City of Women 2010:
Ditka Haberl, Marcella and The Forget me Nots, Hana Makhmalbaf, Andreja Rauch Podrzavnik, Lauren Newton & Joëlle Léandre, Helena Hunter, Eleanor Bauer, DakhaBrakha, Oreet Ashery, Perry Bard, Stefania Bonatelli, Katharina Hesse & Lara Day, Jessica Lagunas, Vesna Miličević, Nandipha Mntambo, Katarina Mootich, Maflohé Passedouet, Kira O'Reilly, Petra Reimann, Yvonne De Rosa, Judith Witteman, Meta Grgurevič, Miya Masaoka, Antonia Baehr, Nicole Beutler, Tanja Ostojić, Marina Gržinić & Aina Šmid, Ana Hoffner, Isa Rosenberger, Sophie Déraspe, Sonja Heiss, Mia Engberg, Shalimar Preuss, Charlotte Ginsborg, Birgitte Staermose, Manon de Boer, Stereo Total, HK 119, Guerrilla Girls on Tour, Nataša Živković, Katarina Stegnar
City of Women – Association for the promotion of women in culture Kersnikova 4, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia Office: Metelkova 6, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia Telephone: +386 (0)1 438 15 80 Mobile: +386 (0) 40 816 448 E-mail: info(at)cityofwomen.org