Monday, March 24, 2008

A Little Dhol for You

I saw this song/instrumental a while ago and just loved it. I love the way the dhol is incorporated with Western sounds - especially the drum. I love the sound of the dhol. Maybe it has something to do with me being Punjabi. I can't help but love it I guess. The dance beats of it can be hypnotising.

The song is Overload, group is Cursed (their name),they're from Pakistan and their preppy drummer is cute!


Sunday, March 23, 2008

I don't want to be anti-social but....

Sometimes I feel like being anti-social. I should be doing things, but I feel like I have to force myself to do those things. I'm not social as much as I'd like to be usually, and I worry that I may get into an anti-social rut. But I think if I'm conscious of it I can ward off hermit-itude. Today I'm deciding whether I should be anti-social or not.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Race Above Gender

As you know I am a feminist. However, I do need to qualify that. I am a South Asian, Muslim, feminist. And there is an important reason I must qualify this. It specifies, to a certain extent, where I stand on issues.

Western feminism has not traditionally been very good at including non-Western, non-White women. And although, wonderfully things have come a long way, and sincere and definite efforts have been made to include 'other' women, there are still serious problems.

Western feminism still makes assumptions about Western "normalcy." "If we can do it, so can you." And I am not even speaking of the age old dilemma of Western feminism imposing their views on other countries. Many Western feminists are working to rectify this attitude. I am speaking of Western feminism imposing it's views on minority women in North America.

There is a stream of feminists, and from what I understand a prominent one, which expresses disgust with their fellow feminists' choice to sleep with or marry men. The heterosexual relationship, especially marriage, is seen as maintaining patriarchy. Many feminists have chosen lesbianism as a form of protesting patriarchy. And to be honest I can see the relationship between heterosexual relationships and patriarchy very well. Heterosexual relationships do encourage patriarchal behaviours from men and women. However, why run away from the problem? Why not change the meanings of heterosexual relationships? Granted this will be an uphill battle but there are many foot soldiers in the ranks and from within we can try to change the meanings behind heterosexual relationships.

As a South Asian woman, for whose culture marriage and children are so important, this demand of many Western feminists is extremely unfair and yes, even racist. In South Asian, as well as many other "Eastern" cultures, family is central to life, and necessary to family is marriage. By demanding that we, to fight patriarchy, not get married to men is highly unfair and pretentious. How dare they?
The importance many of us place on family often comes in conflict with many Western feminist expectations. So many of us desire to remain close to family. Yet, many Western feminist scholarly agendas tell us to place career/academics etc as our first priority, not considering our cultural contexts. To not do so somehow makes us lesser feminists.
Additionally, Western feminism's critcisms of the men from our ethnic background places us in a very uncomfortable position. As a South Asian woman I cannot ignore the patriarchy in our culture. I cannot disregard the mistreatment of South Asian women at the hands of South Asian men. However, I refuse to 'sell out' my men so that Western feminists can further stigmatize my people. After all, I know many South Asian men who will stand by at every turn. I know many South Asian men who support me and love me. I know many South Asian men who care for and love the women in their lives. I refuse to sell out my father, brother, uncles, and friends so that I can unite with the Western feminists who will use the information against my culture. Yes, I am saying it now, that for me, my ethnicity and my race is more identifying than is my gender. I feel a greater connection with my counterpart men.
My race and gender cannot be separated. I cannot experience being a woman without experiencing being of colour. And in the world in which we live today, my colour and my religion stigmatize me much more than my gender.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I am woman; hear me tell you to screw off when you put me down

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a brief and introductory talk on Muslim women and the veil - images throughout history. The speaker, Dr. Shanaz Khan of Sir Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, provided a brief overview and introduction to the issues of orientalism and the harem girl image, the image of the oppressed Muslim woman, and finally the image of the terrorist Muslim woman. On the topic of orientalism she spoke of the hyper sexualized images of the Eastern Muslim woman in the veil, of which there were many examples; images which aided in demonizing and degrading Muslim people and further solidifying our inferiority in the minds of Europeans.

Her talk was very interesting though brief. The intent was to introduce the topic to an audience who, for the most part, would not have had any exposure to the ideas. Everything went well.....until......some self-righteous, arrogant and sexist men decided to assert their power and superiority over women.

Once Dr. Khan had completed her talk on the history of the veil, this one retired professor, who was of South Asian descent, and whom I assumed to be Muslim, decided to begin his attack. His was the first "comment." He began by telling Dr. Khan that she needed to clarify what the veil meant. He told her that she was misinforming the audience about the meaning of the veil. When she said she did not understand what he was trying to say, his response was "Well, that's why I'm teaching you!!!!!!!" That's why he's teaching her??!! That's why he's teaching her??!! She's the scholar on Muslim women and HE'S going to teach her. Oh yes, he is the almighty man and for a woman to claim to know more than him would be the equivalent to humans saying they know more than God. It's blasphemous isn't it? His version of the veil was a face covering. His claim was that the veil was not just a head covering but rather only the face cover. He blatantly displayed his ignorance. Within the literature the veil is used very generally to refer to various forms of covering. Luckily, the audience was filled with intelligent women, one of whom spoke up, related her research on the history of women in Christian theology, and clarified that the veil does indeed commonly refer to all forms of covering - not just the face veil.

But wait, this didn't end with this comment. At the end, when everyone else had asked their questions, this man decides to teach the audience what Dr. Khan has just said. By starting off by saying, that his comment is in her favour (as if he was some sort of judge), he set the stage for his humiliation. He then proceeded to summarize for us women, because of course we were too stupid, what Dr. Khan just said.

It was ironic, that at a feminist talk, patriarchy and sexism displayed their ugly and hateful faces so clearly.

First, by claiming to teach her about something she does research in, something which pertains to women only and which only women could understand, he tried to claim his superiority in intellect and knowledge not only over Dr. Khan, but the rest of us women as well. "I'll tell you what this clothing that only you wear really is."

Second, by summarizing what she said he dismissed her completely. By doing such he stated that she was not capable of explaining the issues to us. She, with her inferior woman brain, was incapable of forming intelligent thoughts. Therefore, he, as the superior man, would come to her rescue and help her explain her points to the audience. Additionally, as I said earlier, he also dismissed our intelligence.

And what makes this even worse was that he wasn't the only one. Another man, a professor of Arab descent, decided to tell her, in front of everyone, that the talk was not what he expected and how disappointed he was. Wow! The nerve. There are many times when we attend talks which are not as we expect. But we do not complain to the presenter. It is not the presenter's responsibility to cater to every individual at the talk. There is an overall topic which has to be addressed. The fact that he did not get what he had expected was his own problem, not hers. She had no responsibility to ask him, beforehand, what he would like to see in the talk. But he had a responsibility to find out what the talk was about. Therefore, the problem was his. However, because the presenter was a woman, and this man as well as the other seemed to have no problem trying to humiliate her because she was a woman, he felt that he was entitled to let this 'stupid, inferior' woman her place. "You tried to be scholarly but you failed woman. Go back to the kitchen!"

I can bet anything that if the presenter had been a man these men would have kept their inept and rude mouths shut.

Now people wonder why some women hate men and are so vocal. As a Muslim when I face Islamophobia, I have an intense desire to declare my Muslim-ness. I want to display that I am a Muslim and I am proud. If you have a problem with it, just too f-ing bad you.

But it's the same when I encounter sexism. At those times I too want to declare my pride in being a woman. I want to say "I am a woman and I am proud. Wanna make something of it??!! Screw off you sexist jerk!"

However, Dr. Khan handled herself very well and with a lot of grace. And those men made complete fools of themselves.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Budding Feminist on Obama (radio-edit version)

It has been a few days since I've written and I apologize to any readers I may have. So much seems to have happened while I have been toiling away at my stupid cognitive psychology presentation.

So former democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro said Barack Obama is lucky he's Black. That, according to her, is why he has gotten so far and why Hillary is being left behind. So now Ms. Ferraro, who I am sure claims to be a feminist, is fighting sexism with racism. Classic isn't it. As a feminist I have been increasingly infuriated with the way women have been supporting Hillary Clinton because she's a woman. Yes it is historic that a woman is running for president. A little behind the times of course considering countries like the UK, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Argentina, Chile, Finland, Ireland, Liberia, The Philippines, Germany, New Zealand, Mozambique, The Netherlands, Antilles, Ukraine, The Ă…land Islands, and Canada have all had female heads of state, either as President, Prime Minister, or Governor Generals (this list may not be exhaustive). The fact that Hillary Clinton is being left behind could not be because of her political policies, and apparently supporting her for many is not contingent on her policies either.

Perhaps, you can tell that I am a supporter of Obama. There really is no point hiding my agenda. We all have agendas but pretend not to. If there is one thing feminism has taught me (it has actually taught me many things) it's that we all have agendas and it is better to acknowledge them so that others can engage with and challenge us accordingly, rather than pretend not to have any and thus avoid any real discussions and progression. I do like Obama and if I were an American I would not only vote for him but would most likely be actively working on his campaign.

Having said all that, I do have reasons for supporting Obama and staying away from Clinton. Though they may not be politically impressive reasons. Obama is new. I know many people are saying that his inexperience is a liability. But with our neighbours being ruled by a Bush or a Clinton for so many years, I think someone new would be wonderful and very refreshing. And America, you need some major refreshing - you're getting really stinky.

Additionally, Obama, I do believe, is much more liberal - or as liberal as an American politician can be. I believe, that he would be just, he would be egalitarian, his foreign policies would be diplomatic and amicable. Perhaps I am being idealistic and perhaps I've gotten caught up in the hype around this political rock star they call Obama. He is quite infatuating, charismatic, handsome, intelligent, and well spoken. Hey, I'm Canadian. I don't need to look at the "real" issues. Even if I did I am so in awe of the man I think I would like his policies. Wait. this post is getting more and more teenage girl crush - ish. Back to the topic.

Obama, seems to time and time again display sincerity (as sincere as a politician can be). With ease he dodges all the fireballs thrown his way. And some of these fireballs have been thrown by the Clinton camp. Some very Islamophobic ones at that. And that is the main reason I do NOT see Clinton as a feminist and I do not support her. Obama fits much more into the feminist ideology as I see it. Hillary, with her wishy-washiness on the decision to go into Iraq and her low and implicitly Islamophobic attacks on Obama, has turned me off for good.

On a quick side note: Of course race is playing a huge role in this article but I did not realize how racist this campaign had gotten until Obama had to distance himself from a pastor who, in no uncertain terms, stated that racism in the US was alive, and well - and quite robustly healthy. It is unfortunate that Obama would have to downplay and distance himself from a Black man's legitimate experiences with such intense hate. America, you need to face it, you have a serious racism problem.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Still Islamophobic

Just as a follow up to the last post:

Today I caught a little bit of The View on TV, a show I never watch because those women give a bad name to women as far I'm concerned. They discussed the Republican politician who said that Obama as president would make the terrorists dance in the streets. The women were disgusted by his comments, calling him an idiot. The politician's reasoning was that because his middle name is Hussain he would have Muslim sympathies. But NO ONE at ANY POINT asked why it was such an insult to imply or suggest that Obama was a Muslim!! Why is being Muslim so offensive?? Why the hell is no one saying SO WHAT??!!

Oh dear goodness. What is happening??

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Nervous and Ranting Canuck

Last weekend I went to Chicago. A Canadian in the United States of America. Well, one of many. First of all, let me say that Chicago was absolutely wonderful. It's a beautiful city with wonderful people. Being a tourist I visited the Sears Tower, the waterfront, and went to see the musical Wicked.

However, I must say at this time that as a result of my, and friends' visits to the land of the free, I have realized how absolutely ignorant the people are and how messed up the American system is. Now this will come across as offensive to many. And it should. But it should also be known the impression the American people have on those visiting their country.

First, as I was entering the US I was harassed by American customs. I wonder why that could be. Even my bags were scanned. Again, I wonder why that could be. What a wonderful way to say welcome to America. The racist asshole at customs figured I must be up to no good because I have brown skin and a Muslim name. Makes sense doesn't it.

The rest of the trip was fine though I have to admit I did at times feel like a fish out of water. That could be because the US is not home, and as they say, there's no place like home. As a Canadian who visits the US, I can attest to that. There really is no place like home.

However, when I was there, the stories I heard from a fellow Canadian living in the States about the American people annoyed me. How they don't know anything about Canada, the country next door. How they don't know that they are the only country in the entire world with embargoes on Cuba, still whining about Castro becoming president. Seriously, get over it. It's been what, 4 decades! The rest of the world has moved on.

And I was shocked, absolutely shocked at the level and acceptance of Islamophobia in that country. Before I went I knew this existed though. The Islamophobic accusations toward Obama and the way that no one challenged them was completely shocking!!! How is it possible that overt and explicit racism like that is acceptable? But when I was there, I felt like I could not talk about being Muslim. I could not talk about how I hated the extreme individualism of the culture. I couldn't talk! Unheard of in a "free" country. Waiting in the Chicago train station watching Fox news (sorry piece of crap excuse for journalism) I felt that if I were to say "I am a Muslim" people would panic and run away from me. Being a Muslim in America is a stigma it seems. Perhaps the Muslims living in the US don't see it that way. But as a Canadian Muslim visiting the US that is the way I read the situation.

My experiences combined with my friends who visited the US at the same time:

Louisiana: Where the poor people have not had their houses rebuilt yet and are completely neglected by their government - the richest in the world. It's been over 2 years! I guess they have more important things to spend the money on, liking killing people in Iraq.

NY: Where two women were overheard saying they would never vote for Obama because his name rhymed with Osama. Great strategy there morons. And these women were teachers!

DC: Where at a conference, attended by academics and community professionals, they did not know what diversity meant. Nor did they know what "the West" meant. Oh, and many didn't know what Western feminism was - and this was a violence against women conference!! Apparently they've been doing research on violence against women without looking at the ecological model (the environment impacting our behaviours). How is that possible?

Anyhow, enough of my rant. Those Americans reading this are probably a little pissed off now. However, don't be. Just take this as an example of how your country is read from a visitor's point of view.

However, I must say that although we faced some harassment at the Canadian border when returning I have never felt happier and prouder to be Canadian (stupid customs people - racism sees no borders eh?).

God bless Canada!!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

No posts this week

As you can tell I have not been posting this week. I was away for a few days and the rest of the week I must spend catching up on school work. Posts will resume next week. Thank you for reading. Do check out some of the other blogs I have listed.