There’s something wrong if we’re having to default to a cultural script rather than following feeling.
Who likes to show Valentine’s Day a bit of love? Show of hands. I, for one, never have, because it has seemed to me that squishing expressions of love into one day of socially-approved heteronormative fluff is pretty empty. Apparently, however, you were in want of some musings on this holiday, readers, and in my journalistic strivings to bring it to you, I have, can we say, thought about it a little harder? This year, I’m going to overcome my dyed-in-the-wool side-eyeing cynicism and give Valentine’s another chance. That’s because what I resent is not actually the day itself, but what it represents about how culturally stagnant ideas of love are.
The Hindi soap transforms the everyday into the spectacle. Done well, they capture the quiet frustrations and tired dreams of a cross-section of Indian women. Done badly, they are prolonged cat-fights.
Deciphering the universe of Hindi soaps demands an astute eye for the texture of relationships within joint families. A few clarifications, hence, for folk unfamiliar with the nuances of an Indian family. A home holds several generations of kin, sorted into couples and children, and authority is usually delegated by position rather than personality. A SAAS (chief villain) is a mother-in-law, a BAHU (doe-eyed acolyte) is the daughter-in-law.
This relationship is the primary conflict in most soaps, and the hierarchy is buttressed by assorted aunts, daughters, grandmothers, and sisters. Wise and virtuous husbands are objects of fawning exaltation; all husbands are the arbiters of this avid tussle between wife and mother to nurture them. Lower than a new bahu on the domestic totem pole are widows. A widowed saas, free of the baleful influence of needy men, will often hoard power and become a matriarch. Younger widows are bait.
Most despicable of all is the snide aunt who couldn’t snare a man (and a life) for herself. ‘Emancipated’ spinsters – careerists, hedonists, divorcees, the implacably indifferent – have no voice in soapdom, which likes its women fertile and undemanding. Across genre and trope and theme, girls are penalised for challenging chromosomes. Women are killed cos they’re pregnant, cos they’re not, cos they’re pregnant with the wrong sort of baby. There is even a soap imploring us to stay away from this cruel country.
“The absolute limit of what bourgeois feminism can offer us is terminal exhaustion and a cupboard full of beautiful shoes.”
Laurie Penny is an English journalist who came into the public eye last year with her gripping coverage of the student protests and occupations. She writes a column for the New Statesman, as well as appearing in The Guardian and the Evening Standard. Her first book Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism is out on Zero from April 29th. I caught up with Laurie recently to talk about her book, and the situation facing women today.
When we think about royal weddings, a prince and his male partner or a princess and her female partner are still far from the imagination of our popular culture.
Though Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14th, this year perhaps our greatest celebration of love will occur on April 29th when Prince William, son of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, marries his fiancée, Kate Middleton. The story goes that Prince William carried his mother’s engagement ring around for three weeks before building up the courage to propose, and from the moment the engagement was announced, the world embraced their supposed fairy tale romance. After all, young children are indoctrinated early on to believe that one day, a handsome prince will marry a beautiful princess. This upcoming wedding is the completion of the discourse specifying the Royal Family’s compulsory gender and sexuality roles.
Commemorative items like comic books, China, replicas of the engagement ring, and even the controversial Crown Jewels Condom were quickly marketed to a public that has been consumed with royal wedding fever. The rush to create a profit from this event shows the heightened importance of the marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton as symbols of the nation as a whole.
Billions of people throughout the world can find themselves in solidarity: weeping as you wept, mourning as you mourned, praying as you prayed, marching as you marched, rejoicing now as you rejoice.
Even here in my corner of the world—a little spot in the Southeastern region of the United States—everyone seems a little different today. A little bit kinder, maybe. A little bit more patient, even a little more peaceful. Out on the interstate, people are driving calmly, remembering to operate their turn signals, and making sure not to tailgate their neighbors. We are thinking of other drivers on the road as our neighbors of all things. Probably these observations can be dismissed as the product of an overly sentimental imagination. Maybe in a couple of days when I finish basking in the joy I see projected in the images of Egypt that pervade the popular imagination, I will be embarrassed by the emotion I expressed here. Maybe I’ll even regret blowing the opportunity to provide some kind of sophisticated theoretical analysis. But for now I have to ask: Could anyone have known after the devastating presidential speech of February 10, 2011 that in less than 24 hours you would remake the whole world?
Urban Alienation in Mexican City
Laura is a single journalist living and working in Mexican City for “Your Business” magazine. Correction, lives should really be replaced with exists. Her one bedroom apartment is her home, prison and universe combined. Butterflying those age-old metaphors for transformation, escape and beauty adorn the walls and mirrors, fakes poised to take off destined to go nowhere fast.
I too don’t want to be someone who doesn’t believe in any kind of magic.
Hey girl in the strobing light
What your mama never told ya
Love hurts when you do it right
You can cry when you get older – Robyn
Last weekend, an old friend of mine was in town. I jokingly introduced him to people by saying “I broke his heart in high school,” but that’s not exactly true even in the metaphorical territory of broken hearts.
He walked me home from the subway after drinks with a crew of other friends old and new and we talked about all the times we’d really had our hearts broken in the intervening years and at one point I shrugged something off and he told me I sounded like I’d lost the idea of magic. (more…)
A girl walking down a street in the dark and crying appears to be somewhat of a rarity.
I was clicking my boot heels (autumn has suddenly decided to make its appearance in formerly heat-struck Moscow – with a maniacal vengeance) down the broken pavement, splashing through the puddles, my hand over my mouth, my eyes raining harder than the weather that had already managed to spoil everyone’s Saturday.
“Who hurt you?” Two security guards getting off their shift at the corner grocery store asked. I shook my head without taking my hand from my mouth, and kept walking. “Whoever hurt you is an idiot!” One of them shouted at my back. I shrugged, and kept walking.
Still, I couldn’t help but notice that their small intervention made me feel better. (more…)
The media has fixated on the N word, because quite frankly, it is easy to say that a racial slur is wrong.
The internet recently went into an all-out furor over a segment of Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s radio program, in which she used the N word repeatedly, while telling a Black woman who had called for advice about her interracial relationship that she was “hyper-sensitive.” I could probably spend 10,000 words talking about why what Dr. Laura said is wrong, but since the media has spent so much time dissecting her use of the N word, I believe that perhaps someone should address the purpose of the call. The caller originally reached out to Dr. Laura because she felt that her White husband ignored the racist comments their so-called friends made.
Anyone who has ever been in an interracial relationship will tell you that they are very difficult to negotiate — whether it is two people of colour, or a person of a colour and someone who is White. Though segregation is no longer the law of the land, many people still lead very segregated lives and this means interactions are often fraught with difficulties. Though we are supposedly post-racial, each day people of colour are assaulted by racism — even from those who we may call friends, because they have not learned to challenge their undeserved privilege. (more…)
This very same independence would be praised in a man.
Erykah Badu lives her life without apologies. In a White supremacist patriarchal society, such an approach to life immediately comes under scrutiny, because it threatens the hierarchical order that we have created.
When I first became aware of Badu, it was not because of her music, but rather the public furor that erupted when she announced that she was pregnant for the third time. Badu now has three children, and each has a different father. She was forced to respond to the slut shaming that followed the announcement of her pregnancy with the following public statement: (more…)
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