Cover Up Kareena!

Never one to be a Kareena Kapoor fan (let alone a Saifeena one), when the Shiv Sena took out a ‘morcha’ against the new poster of Kareena in Kurbaan, with her back in nude, I momentarily agreed to not just cover her back but the whole poster. Just get the ungodly and offending sight of her away from my eyes.

A Shiv-Sena activist said:

“We objected to the posters as they showed the actress semi-nude and we found to be in very bad taste. It violates our Indian culture.”

Well, a semi-nude Kareena is certainly bad taste but I am not sure it violates our culture. Maybe all our other senses. Still, it is a wonder how and why the Shiv Sena is attacking the posters a whole month after they were plastered all over the city.

My ragging on Kareena is in jest. She has the freedom to pose with her back nude. We have the freedom to avert our eyes. The Shiv Sena has a right to take to the streets for our pure entertainment, and as a result, create more publicity for the movie that they are ‘morally policing.’

What is disgusting about claims of ‘bad taste’ by the Sena is that Kareena is the one being morally policed even though we see no ‘offending’ parts of her body. Why is Saif Ali Khan allowed to show his bare-chest? Why isn’t anyone covering him up? Double-standard much?

Gunda-gardi (gangster tactics) is not new to the Sena. A month ago, the Sena objected to the use of Mumbai’s name, Bombay, in Wake Up Sid (another Johar production), and he bent over backwards to insert a disclaimer in the film.

Wake Up Sid turned out to be a hit. I wish the same luck to Kurbaan.

Maybe the Sena is lucky for Johar after all.

I wonder what they think about L word posters.

EU putting an end to 'sexist adverts'

I don’t know how I feel about this. Are we going to get women bodybuilders as opposed to men, commercials about Viagra with women, and male models in facial cosmetic adverts? That would be a nice change, it may actually spark conversation about the social construction of gender.

At the same time, there is a “free speech” consideration, a danger of becoming too ‘politically-correct.’ Who gets to determine what constitutes a ‘sexist advert’ and what does not? Should a ‘brand name’ not have the right to market its products using gender stereotypes if it wants to? Is it not up to us to reject these stereotypes instead of government regulation doing the critical thinking for us?

I suppose any ‘ban’ on advertising is probably a good one in my book since I don’t run a marketing business like Yeah! Local and I certainly have no interest creating promotional campaigns that may be offending large populations. In a ‘free market,’ the sales of goods and services are supposed to correlate with supply and demand, not consumer manipulation via simulation on the idiot box. Of course, companies will argue that advertisement is a way of spreading word and putting out information about their products, but if a product is good, does it really need to be artificially ‘sold’ to the consumer?

I don’t have the answer. I shall wait to see how this one plays out.

London: Advertisements that use sex to sell or promote gender stereotypes could be banned by the EU. Members of European Parliament want TV regulators in the EU to set guidelines which would see the end of anything deemed to portray women as sex objects or reinforce gender stereotypes, reported the Telegraph.
This could potentially mean an end to attractive women advertising perfume.
Such classic adverts as the Diet Coke commercial featuring the bare-chested builder, or Wonderbra’s Hello Boys featuring model Eva Herzigova would have been banned.

The new rules come in a report by the EU’s women’s rights committee. Swedish MEP Eva-Britt Svensson urged Britain and other members to use existing equality, sexism and discrimination laws to control adverts.
Svensson said: “Gender stereotyping in advertising straitjackets women, men, girls and boys by restricting individuals to predetermined and artificial roles that are often degrading, humiliating and dumbed down for both sexes.” AGENCIES

Sarah Palin – Quite an Expected Pick but No Cracks in the Glass Ceiling

If you are like me and believe that politics is merely simulation, a female politician picked up for the McCain vice-presidential ticket should come as no surprise. Barack Obama gave John McCain an opening by not picking Hillary Clinton, and he expectedly capitalized on it to call the liberals on their own “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” masquerade and hypocrisy. He picked Governor Sarah Palin despite her inexperience and lack of foreign policy understanding to appeal to both socially conservatives and maybe some of the Hillary bloc, but the fact that she bears a striking resemblance to Tina Fey (voted #1in the Top 100 Hot Women on is as close she is getting to being pro-women, pro-choice and pro-gay — and the Hillary voters.

Lets face it – Picking her is a smart move at first sight, until you consider what a hard-core conservative Sarah Palin is — she is a life-long NRA member, staunchly against a women’s right to choose to the point where she is a member of Feminists for Life, opposes same-sex marriage and even civil unions. Seeing her wielding a gun on national television had me a tad-bit disturbed (after hearing about President Cheney using his friends for target practice in the woods, I don’t want to see another aimless rifle-wielding politician). Her ecologically footprint and anti-environmental policies are just loathsome. It’s certainly not appealing to independents and Hillary voters. A better choice would have been Christine Todd-Whitman or Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Do see this post at Culture Kitchen on this note who says Republicans cannot even get their feminists right–Yes, they aren’t looking for ‘feminist’ women, they want a ‘real woman‘–whatever that means!

Make no mistake, Governor Sarah Palin is a McBush/McCain in a skirt that is neither a signal for ‘change’ nor breaking any ‘glass ceilings’ for women. Picking a woman for office, especially a woman with a track record such as Sarah Palin–is no guarantee for the advancement of women’s rights or the destruction of the gender-regime that oppresses all of us. It is actually a step-back for women and a reification of the gender-regime so firmly entrenched in our society.

In the following weeks, you will undoubtedly here ‘identity politics’ playing out in the form of ‘gender-speak.’ The Republicans will show her as a ‘ballsy’ even Thatcher-like strong-armed yet strong-valued woman from the conservative base who knows how to successfully play hardball with oil/energy companies, fit the ticket and be an alternate to Clinton’s ‘whiny’ self. She will be masculated in all the right ways and feminized in all the right ways. Get ready to hear stories about her workout routine, moose stew dinners, how she rides a motorcycle and calls her husband the “first dude.” And before, after or during these stories, get ready to hear about Palin as a beauty queen, as a working-mother of five children and a dedicated wife to her husband, and salutes to her ‘soccer mom’ or ‘hockey mom’ persona. So gear up to hear an endless exploitation of Sarah Palin as a “woman,” some disparaging comments about Catherine McKinnon-type feminists from the Republicans and consequently, the amplification of the oppositional (male/female) discourse of gender. If these Presidential elections are not about black/white, then they may be about male/female–where both major parties skirt around the real issues and try to pretend to stand for ‘change.’

Just remember, as Obama declared yesterday (in a speech that even moved me), it is not about him or any candidate, it is about YOU. Of course, the media would probably repeat and regurgitate the fact that for the first time in the history of the United States, either a ‘black’ man or a woman seems poised to serve in the two highest offices of this country. It makes for a great movie, the total entertainment package.

'Fair and Lovely' No More – Bollywood Star blasts Fairness Products

Accolades for Akki – Bollywood star Akshay Kumar slams ‘fairness products’ and endorsers of such products at a news conference.

Rani Mukerji, Priyanka Chopra, Bipasha Basu, Konkona Sen Sharma are all the dusky leading ladies of Bollywood that may have succumbed to the ‘Fair and Lovely’ fever at one time or another–even images of them found on the internet are substantially lighter in tone than their actual skin color.

While my mother in the United States of America is haggling me about my ‘sun-burnt’ skintone wondering when it would get better and my 75-year-old grandmother ruins her face with yet another facial product in her efforts to lighten her skin color (‘fix’ her face as they put it in my family), thousands of other Indian mothers across the world buy fairness and beauty creams for their young daughters. Darkness is a curse in our culture–it is likened to ‘evil’ — one need not look further than Diwali, “Festival of Lights” — the victory of good over evil, light over dark. Even Hindu Gods are depicted as light-skinned contrary to texts that write about their androgyny and darker tones.

The persistent importance given to ‘lightness’ and ‘light-skin’ is not just Indian culture but across the world. The global economy of whiteness employs fairness creams that exacerbate and thrive on the kind of racism that privileges light skin over dark and you will even find them in markets across the Middle East and Northern Africa, in villages of Southern African countries and beyond.
Read More …

Feminization of Migrant Labor – Situating Migrant Women in a more Global Context

There is no doubt that women bear the brunt of the toughest and lowest-paying jobs (not to mention UNPAID housework). From sewing garments in sweltering factories to changing dirty diapers to wiping counters to doing the dishes to serving as “sex slaves” — the overwhelming majority of workers in these occupations are women.


Take a look at the recent ICE raid at the Houston Action Rags USA plant–in effect a sweatshop rag factory where migrant workers–mostly women–would sort through used clothes that would later by exported to “Third World” countries. ICE officials said of the 166 workers they detained, 130 were females, including 10 who were pregnant.

The Houston Chronicle picked up on the gender disparity here:

Juana Maria Olvera, 35, was one of those detained at Action Rags USA and released because she is expecting a child.

”There are a lot of undocumented women working here, and a lot are single women who are working to support their families,” said Olvera. ”What is happening is a lot of the men come here and don’t go back to Mexico. They either bring their women, or find someone here.”

When ICE cracks down on migrant women workers, they devastate the mainstay of the family unit. But we need to situate the random detention of migrant women workers by the ICE in a more global context, as a global oppression of women. It is ironic that these migrant women were working in a “First World” rag-factory to produce clothes for “Third World” countries–countries that they have fled due to “First World” (neo-liberal) policies. For the most part, they would probably do the same jobs at home if the multi-national corporations came to them. Capital will go where it can seek the most profits–and what is more profitable than earning millions on the backs of women who have very little institutional support? Multi-national corporations like DKNY, Levi Strauss, Jessica McClintock to name just a few, have a mutable gendered labor workforce.

In coming to the United States, there is no hunt for the ‘American dream’ but sheer desperation for dollars. As Cynthia Enloe eloquently states in her seminal work Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics, women who travel are not creatures of comfort or privileged. These migrant female underclass of workers do not get institutional support, work in increasingly deplorable conditions and are more susceptible to sexual harassment and abuse. Just take a look at this story about an Ecuadorean family suing a bakery over working conditions–

Antonio DiBenedetto [the employer] groped the female immigrants and pushed one woman into an office where he tried to take off her clothes and sexually assault her, but the woman escaped by calling for the help of a co-worker, the lawsuit alleges.

DiBenedetto also forced female employees to watch him undress and walked around naked in front of them, the lawsuit alleges. He was also accused of telling the female employees that he would loan them money or not charge them rent if they engaged in sex.

This is a rare example of an undocumented immigrant family coming out of the shadows to jot down abuses in the workplace. For the most part, women who are sexually abused, harassed or treated inhumanely, simply stay quiet and stay in the shadows. Sometimes they are compelled to do so in order to protect their families and keep nurturing their young, no matter what the costs. And with the ICE, IMF, World Bank, workforce and exportation laws, it is harder for female workers to unite and unionize.

What is the main point of this blog post? Any movement for the advancement of women’s rights or gender equality, MUST address the needs of women who are victims of neo-liberal globalization.