Here’s your world this week according to Finger.
Morning sakhis, sahelis and chellams,
If you have wondered what about India’s miserable gender equality can make you giggle, then it is time to read this interview with a *cough* India expert in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The piece, titled I Thank My Good Fortune That I Wasn’t Born a Woman in India has gems such as, “The Indians love food and have a high regard for it, and it’s not customary for there to be leftovers, so the bride has to learn the mother-in-law’s cooking and prepare fresh food three and four times a day,” and “Of course, we won’t refer to the wealthy who live in towers in Mumbai or Bangalore, and who are just as modern as we are. But most of India’s Hindu inhabitants are believers – there aren’t actually any secular Hindus.” Oh Edward Said, apparently you don’t need to go too much occident to be Orientalist.
While we are hanging around in that part of the world, we’ve had two hijab-travel-Middle East happenings this week.
Chess Grandmaster Soumya officially declined her invitation to upcoming Asian Nations Cup in Hamadan, Iran. Iran requires female participants to wear a hijab/headscarf during the event and she wanted nothing to do with this rule. Soumya wrote compellingly, “I find the Iranian law of compulsory Headscarf to be in direct violation of my basic Human Rights including my right to freedom of expression, and right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It seems that under the present circumstances, the only way for me to protect my rights is not to go to Iran.”
Then this week, the Indian government appointed its first woman Haj coordinator. Moina Benazir’s assignment has led to some strange descriptions. Such as, “She’s never worn the hijab before, but to perform her official duties, Moina Benazir, an officer of the Indian Defence Accounts Service, will don the head scarf as she sets out to mind nearly 1,300 women who will travel without their ‘mehram’ — male companions — to perform the Haj for the first time this year.” Or, “What is even more interesting is that Benazir will be wearing a head-scarf (hijab) for the first time while in Jeddah with the contingent. While in conversation with the Times of India, she jokes that even her grandmother never wore a hijab.”
Let us clutch our heads, hijabi or otherwise and try to understand what on earth is going on South Korea. This week thousands of South Korean women marchedto make the government take action against molka or spycam photography. Our lives are not your porn, they yelled. A longstanding reasonable argument that got extra juice after an incident in May when a footage of a male model was uploaded online without his consent. In that case, the woman who secretly filmed him was arrested with speed and lean. The university, where the incident happened, apologised. Korean women thought 그거야! Geugeoya, well then let’s have us some stuff that’s good for the goose that is so obviously so good for the techno-forward, fragile gander. And they are mad as fire about molka as you can see in this video.
So you know we ain’t getting any sisterhood from Haaretz, a very particular Israeli delight, but you know who isn’t short of sisters right now? Rekha.
This picture of Rekha and all her six half-sisters at the launch of Mahanati just made us so happy.
Speaking of drama (yes we are), here’s a rare and exciting find. Danish Sheikh has created a “Theatrical Rendition of the Section 377 Hearings”, which involves monologues from different queer people, and a dialogue between two Supreme Court judges and a lawyer. Delightfully, the play apparently “takes off from John Berger’s observation that graphic caricature is dead because life has outstripped it.” Hahaha. Haha. Ha.
Speaking of things you just can’t make up, life being more exciting than your imagination will ever be, etc, the Sirens Women’s Motorcycle Club of New York City, founded all the way back in 1986, has just been featured in this cool new video uploaded by Extraordinary People along with the fantastic caption, “This badass lesbian motorcycle gang delivers breastmilk to babies.” The bikers help connect women with extra breast milk to hospitals across the city and beat NYC’s notorious traffic jams on their bikes to get milk speedily to safe storage facilities.
Now who gets to decide whether our fav fictional characters are straight or queer as our hearts want them to be? What happens when the sheer heart-power of fandom creates a queer backstory and queer future for fictional characters BUT the creators of the fictional characters balk? This is what happened in the case of the BBC show Sherlock. As Willa Paskin writes, “But then in 2014, just after Season 3 of the show aired, a user posted a very elaborate fan theory online…The idea all this analysis led to was that John Watson and Sherlock Holmes were not only characters with gay subtext who should be together, they were gay characters who were going to get together in the show. Johnlock was going to happen, for real, most likely in the then-upcoming Season 4. This became known as the Johnlock conspiracy: TJLC for short.”
We have willingly joined the world of latoo-paagal-paithyam fans this week when we went to Kaala and lost our tiny minds in its epic splendiferousness. Then we looked about for other people who were equally obsessed and found this wonderful Sowmya Rajendran essay on the Women of Kaala. Watch the movie and enjoy the hell out of the essay. And then you will be as irritated as we were that loads of peeps went and copied her piece.
Filmmaker and super girl-crush Ava Duvernay recently said in this fascinating interview that “Activism is inherently a creative endeavour—it takes a radical imagination to be an activist, to envision a world that is not there. It takes imagination and that’s not far from art.”
We loved, loved this quote and our friend promptly reminded us of the bell hooks quote, “When radical activists have not made a core break with dominator thinking (imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy), there is no union of theory and practice, and real change is not sustained. That’s why cultivating the mind of love is so crucial. When love is the ground of our being, a love ethic shapes our participation in politics.” (BTW, we know that bell hooks would have given Kaala ISI mark coz love as activism as beauty, sisters.)
And while we’re talking of a perfect union of art, love and activism, have you seen this wonderful Al Jazeera video on Pakistani activist and dancer Sheema Kirmani? Kirmani has been dancing and inspiring young women in Pakistan to claim ownership of their bodies through dance (specifically Indian kathak) for over 35 years now, and intends to persevere in this endeavour despite receiving assorted death threats. Kirmani, of course, was also the activist who gave us this lovely visual of herself dancing a dreamy “dhammal” at the site of a terrorist attack the day after the blast at a dargah in Pakistan back in February 2017.
Aaaand now switch gears, to musical resistance in the form of female punk rock! As this cool new essay in Open Culture on four female punk rock bands says, the advent of punk changed women’s role in rock, and “introduced aggressive, all-female bands who never had to play vulnerable objects, desperate seductresses, jilted lovers, femme fatales, etc. and yet still manifested their power in their sexuality as well as in their fierce intelligence and fury.” Don’t miss the 1977 video of The Runaways performing Cherry Bomb to their most dedicated audience, apparently the Japanese.
“Are children the enemy of writing?” 14 authors caustically ruminated on this idea for Lithub in a cool set of interviews inspired by Michael Chabon’s original essay in GQ titled, you guessed it, “Are Children the Enemy of Writing?” Please read for excellent gems like Alice Walker saying women writers having kids is a good idea as long as they have just one, and Jane Smiley thinking things like, “My inner mom says, Oh my God, what if a car comes screaming down the street right over the kids? And my inner author says, Wow, that’s an idea.”.
Speaking of wicked thoughts, this week, Emily Temple tried to answer the pertinent question, “Why is Bad Behaviour So Good?”. Her particular essay wasn’t, as we first quite naturally assumed, a general and reasonable query to the world at large, but a meditation on the 30th anniversary of Mary Gaitskill’s iconic debut collection of short stories on urban loneliness, life and love, Bad Behaviour.
But we and Emily Temple aren’t the only ones with bad behaviour on our minds this week. Tamara Pletnyova, a lawmaker in the Communist Party and head of a state congressional committee on children and family affairs, advised Russian women not to indulge in any funny business with visited World Cup fans and players. “It is one thing if the parents are of the same race,” she said, “quite another if they are of different races”. We have no doubts that Pletnyova is a huge fan of the hit Russian song One Like Putin, which describes the singers’ longing for a man “who’s full of strength, who doesn’t drink, who won’t make me sad: a man like Putin”.
Yes, that is the visual we will leave you with as we run off to greet this holy Saturday.
Recommended reads for your weekend:
💥 Looking for “something to feel about”? Look no further than this thoughtful read on Zora Neale Hurston’s book Barracoon, that talks of the journey of Oluale Kossola, the last known survivor of the middle passage, the deathly journey from Africa to the Americas through the “slave trade route” across the Atlantic Ocean. Read.
💥 Rafia Zakaria has written an excellent essay about the comeback of modesty and what that does to the inclusiveness of American feminism. Taking off from the Miss America contest ending its swimsuit round, Zakaria writes, “the move to covering up and speaking up also points to the comeback of modesty, a concept that until now has been rarely taken seriously by feminists.” Read.
And one listen:
💥 Listen to writers Tayari Jones and DaMaris B. Hill in gripping, seriously fascinating and slightly depressing conversation with V.V. Ganeshananthan and Whitney Terrell, in a podcast on the “effects of mass incarceration on American communities and democracy”.