The Alexia Foundation Supports Photographers as Agents for Change


Negar Yousafzai, 27, a British Afghan, at her home in Birmingham, UK. Negar is an educated and well informed young woman. Here she asks, “Who wants to hear the social or political opinions of a veiled woman like me. They only want to see pictures of oppressed Afghan women”. November 2, 2011. Bharat Choudhary/Alexia Foundation [Photo essay link]

The most important issues of our time – the most important events in history – many of us can recall the photographs in our heads and the stories that they brought to life. Pictures can capture our hearts, make us laugh, or provide a glimpse into a sobering reality of human actions and consequences through a language we can all understand. Photojournalists bring us these pictures, the indelible images that give voice to social injustice or shine a light on issues and focus attention on things that might otherwise go unnoticed, serving as catalysts for change.

The role of today’s photojournalist has never been more critical. Through grants, scholarships, and special projects, The Alexia Foundation is committed to supporting the work of photojournalists and their powerful ability to communicate through images and move each of us forward to a better understanding of the social injustice that exists around us.

Inspired by their dear daughter and sister Alexia Tsairis who was innocently killed at the age of 20 during the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the Tsairis family have worked to build Alexia’s legacy as a photographer through The Alexia Foundation. From its beginning as a memorial fund at Alexia’s alma mater Syracuse University, The Alexia Foundation has grown to become one of the most well-known and respected awards in the field of photojournalism, earning recognition and awards from World Press Photo, the Emmy News and Documentary Awards, the duPont-Columbia University Award, and a Pulitzer Prize; just to name just a few. The Alexia Foundation has given $700,000 to 110 photography students and 18 professional photojournalists producing 128 funded projects over the last 24 years. Photojournalists supported by The Alexia Foundation have had their work featured in prestigious media outlets such as National Geographic, The New York Times, TIME, Newsweek, LA Times, The New York Times, and many more.

Now, The Alexia Foundation is seeking to increase the impact of photojournalists and the stories they tell through targeted grant opportunities and partnerships with non-profit organizations that will enable the images created by Alexia photojournalists to bring awareness to problems, give voice to those who have gone unheard, and move people to take action – whether it is the impact of climate change on Bangladesh or the lives of those in The West Bank. The Alexia Foundation is actively seeing financial support from new sources – foundations, corporations, and individuals who have a commitment to human rights and a desire to drive change.

If you would like to learn more about how you can make a contribution to support the mission of The Alexia Foundation, or how the work of the foundation can raise awareness of your organization, please visit their website at

Also, check out their video on Vimeo!

I’m a woman

I’m a woman. I think. I hate. I lie. I cheat. I’m not a virgin. I’m not a whore. Because, you know, women aren’t either virgins or whores – they are a complex mix of both. We have vices and virtues. We are not White or Black, we are fifty thousand shades of grey. We are complex. We are human. We have urges, as natural as yours. Image

Sometimes, we don’t have them too. You cannot police us. We do not owe anything to you. You do not own us. We are beautiful, we are ugly. We are saints, we are murderers. We are everything; we can be everything, a complex mix of everything.

Accept it; deal with it, live with it.

This note is for those who resort to the popular (at least in India) tactic of silencing and policing women through “Women Are Goddesses, Therefore”*

* This phrase is used to deny women liberty and choice and they are made to fit into an “ideal woman” mould. For example – Give him another chance, be forgiving, women are the embodiment of goddesses after all (at the same time reducing men to grown up boy-children who Refuse To Mature And Must Be Mollycoddled By Women).

A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space”

 – Gloria Steinem

A short note asking us all to introspect about what we find funny

Laughing at misogynist jokes, such as those which promote slut-shaming (or racist, or any other bigoted jokes), doesn’t make us have a “great sense of humour”. It makes us actively participate in a culture of marginalisation. Raging against rape won’t do shit as long as you don’t change OURSELVES. We should question what has been drummed into us. 

The notion of “virginity” and “purity” is a shit one. It is THESE attitudes which play a big role in rape victims not coming forward and reporting crimes. 

Woman: I had Sex wid only 4 boyz in my entire
life & U had it wid 16 Girls, still, Everybody Calls
me a SLUT
Cal u a REAL MAN,
A Winner?
Man: It’s because,
when a Lock is Opened by many Keys,
it Becomes a BAD LOCK.
But when a Key Opens many Locks,
it becomes a MASTER KEY..  😉 😉 😉

And equating men with “keys” and women with “locks” is just so messed up, I don’t even know where to start. We are not locks or keys, we’re actual human beings. A woman being called a slut for having sex with four men and a man being called a stud for having sex with sixteen women has nothing to do with locks and keys, it is sexist double standards stemming from patriarchal mindsets. 

I, for one, have nothing against standing up in opposition to such “jokes” and this may make me a “killjoy feminist”, but, you know, fuck joy stemming from sexism.

Sexism is not cool, and that includes sexist jokes.

We’re not making fun of sexism, you’re actually endorsing it, even if unintentionally.

Reflections and musings

“Sign the cause! Join me!”

My Facebook wall is littered with Causes petitions and requests with over 20 people asking me to sign the petition to stop gendercide (among others). While this is well and good – and I’m certainly happy to see people taking the initiative to sign the petition and recruit people to do so as well (in fact, I’ve done those myself), perhaps the time has arrived for some deeper reflection. And a few confessions.
Until a few months ago, women’s rights and outrage against sex selective abortions were distant concepts for me – difficult to fully grasp. I knew foetuses were aborted simply because they had vaginas. I knew females were murdered simply because they were females. I knew the reason was son-preference – a honking red light signalling the existence of patriarchy. I knew women still had a ways to go with regards to their rights. I knew of feminism. They were theoretical concepts – ones you had to learn for exams or a word (feminism) you looked up in the dictionary because you didn’t know what it meant. And promptly forgetting it a couple of days later. I couldn’t relate to them. I didn’t think that many aspects of my everyday life were sexist. I thought it was normal. And, much to my shame, I was sexist as well.
I think most people who grow up in a patriarchy without explicit teachings against the sexism so prevalent in such a culture are sexist. Unknowingly so, or perhaps they know of the differences in the ways women and men are differently treated and socialised but they think “this is the way things are supposed to be”. This is not an excuse, but perhaps a reason. I did not think that the unstated assumptions with which I worked were wrong. That most girls like pink. That pre-marital sex is a sign of being a “bad” girl – that all boys are sex-maniacs, so why should they be subject to the same rules for categorising girls into a “bad” folder? After all, it is the girl’s responsibility, isn’t it? Because all men just want sex and women families? To pass whispers about that girl in a short dress – “Oh, look at what she is wearing!” After all, these were the messages I got from the society, the media, my peers, my teachers as well.
I had homophobic and transphobic tendencies as well – “haha are you gay?”, “omg is she a lesbo?”; “hahaha look at that he-she!”, “run awayyy it is coming!!”. These were how I was taught to respond – how everybody around me responded. There was no talk of rights. I felt it was natural and OK. Suffice it to say, I was pretty bigoted.
Anyway, I was aware of sex selective abortions. I felt it was wrong, of course. But, I couldn’t relate to it. I didn’t feel outraged over it. I see cries of “Why aren’t people outraged??” “Why does the educated middle class not care about this??”. That is why I am typing my own story. Why I wasn’t outraged.
To put it simply, I was (and am) pretty privileged. I had class privilege, caste privilege, cisgender privilege, heterosexual privilege, the privilege of being born in a family where nobody would go to the extent of aborting a female foetus or killing a female infant/girl child. The reality of people actually doing that was a distant concept for me. It was statistics I had to learn for class. Numbers. I thought of it as just another thing I have to learn and write in a test.
Nobody talked of it any more than that – not in schools, not in family discussions. Perhaps the only time I talked about it with anybody was when another gruesome incident of females being killed on account of their sex was televised. It was forgotten within a couple of days – until the next incident was talked of.
And, moreover, the reasons behind it were not talked of. Talking of the whys of son-preference might actually force us (the educated, middle class who like to believe our society is equal now) to accept the cause (patriarchy), yeah? And, horror of horrors, it might actually make us think the many other ways in which patriarchy affects us all! It might even give some the idea that we should actually work towards equality. A break-down of the Indian Family, damn it! And we can’t pretend that our families are somehow excluded from the bigotry prevailing in the society? Thinking of it makes us shudder, I’m sure.
Anyway, back to the point – it was nothing more than a numbers issue for me (and I’m sure many others). Perhaps, if it was talked of as a human rights issue, I would’ve actually thought about it? If it was talked of as a severe violation of human rights (which it is)? If there was more importance on rights rather than numbers when talked about?
I would’ve certainly thought about it more. Yes, numbers and stats are important – but so is the human rights perspective and talking of the broader social reasons.
I’ve confessed much of my previous bigotry here – if you want to judge me, or hold something against me, go ahead. I can understand. The point was that most people growing up in a bigoted society are bigoted when they don’t have anything negating those influences and making them aware of the sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, casteist, classist, ageist, ableist messages which are rampant. And that if people are willing to change, they can. And, most importantly, we need messages which make us question things we hold as “normal” in “mainstream” culture – not simply restricted to fringe groups with social awareness. And we need to work toward it – all of us.

This entry was posted on December 4, 2012. 2 Comments

What is liberation?

When we talk of [women’s] liberation, what are we talking about? What is liberation? Some people seem genuinely confused. Is liberation universal? Or, more precisely, is my idea of liberation the same as yours? Should it be? Is it natural for ways of liberation to differ? Is it only patriarchy we need to be liberated from (speaking from a gender perspective)?

In this post, I will try to clear up some of the confusion Indians (esp.) seem to have (no, I’m not being racist – it is a matter of awareness in the society as a whole. Most are not sure if marital rape should be a crime? No kidding. I will try to answer some common FAQs about that some other time).

First of all, what is [women’s] liberation? The most common accepted definition seems to be “equality in social, economic, and political spheres”. Some would specify the necessity of having the ability to make “free” choices. Some may talk about smashing gender roles. For some, it may be not having the social pressure to put makeup and “be pretty” before everything else. It varies, as I’ve said.

Freedom from gender-roles is freedom for men too, but this post is women-specific. (For eg, putting makeup may be liberation for some men – although, pressure to put makeup might not be. Just like pressure to have muscles).

Is liberation universal? Or, more precisely, is my idea of liberation the same as yours? The answer is – no, apart from “equality in social, political and economic spheres”, it’s not. The finer details vary according to a woman’s social position, i.e. a woman’s location in the larger map of society.

Confused? Let me give you an example – for a “higher-caste” woman, liberation may well be not wearing a bra (given the fact that upper-caste women are exhorted to maintain their “purity”, be docile, and not let their breasts hang out like “rowdy” women – women who “ask for it”) – a symbol of rebellion against patriarchal restriction(s) and oppression. By not wearing a bra, by being liberated, she may seek to define herself on her own terms – rather than being defined by patriarchal norms of how a “good [upper-caste] woman” should be.

On the other hand, for a Dalit woman traditionally not given the right to cover her body in many parts of India (it is reprehensible that such inhumane customs are STILL followed due to social pressures in a country which, ironically has “banned” untouchability and the like), WEARING a bra might be a symbol of liberation. By wearing a bra, she will be doing the same thing as the upper-caste woman in the previous example – that is, defining herself on her own terms rather than being defined by patriarchal norms of how a “lower-caste” woman should be.

It must be noted that in both these examples, caste – along with patriarchy, comes into play – which is why the “liberation” is so different. Also, caste is not the ONLY thing except patriarchy which comes into play in influencing a woman’s liberation.

Should it be? Is it natural for ways of liberation to differ? Yes, it is natural for ways of liberation to differ according to a woman’s social position. Above paragraphs have cleared this up, I believe.

Is it only patriarchy we need to be liberated from (speaking from a gender perspective)? Ah, now it is kind of complicated (at least for me).  Yes, OF COURSE we need to be free from patriarchal BS of what it means to be a “good woman” but we also need to be free of pressures to conform to a particular form of liberation, which while making complete sense to another woman – may not be what you want, even though you both may belong to the same socio-economic class. Not wearing bras may be liberation for a “upper-caste” woman but it may not be liberation for you, even if you’re “upper-caste”. For you liberation may be related to some other aspect and that’s normal. If you like doing things assigned to your gender, that’s OK too and that’s where it gets tricky (again, for me). I believe that if you like doing something which doesn’t hurt yourself or others, nobody has any right to force you or shame you into doing something else. Of course, we shouldn’t discount the part socialisation has to play. We don’t make choices in a vacuum. So, in a way you have to be liberated from the “expectations” some feminists may have of how to smash the patriarchy.
This quote describes what I want to convey –

“Let me reiterate that to you: If facials or any other sex act makes you feel bad, gross uncomfortable or degraded, then you should not do it ever. That is wrong. But men aren’t the only ones who like things they see in porn. In my case, there’s nothing degrading about receiving a desired sex act I’ve asked for as a consenting adult. Sex acts are degrading when they make you feel degraded — and nobody gets to decide that but you, not even feminism.”
— Emily McCombs

The point I want to convey is – your liberation shouldn’t be dictated by anyone or anything. Liberation can differ and that is OK.

However, there is another thing I wanted to write about here. I have seen many feminists on the www shaming other feminists for their life choices – sometimes it is because they are “too radical” and sometimes it is because they are “not radical enough”. In fact, this post itself was inspired by a comment by a feminist about how she is “not the bra-burning type” and told “upper-caste” women who are so eager to not wear bras to think about how they got the right to wear it when many lower-caste women don’t even have the right to cover their body.

While it is certainly true that “upper-caste” women are far more privileged than “lower-caste” women, it does not mean that UC women should forget about challenging how patriarchy affects them in their own ways (be it wearing a bra or not or something else entirely) and it does not change the fact that dalit women, facing the disadvantage of both caste and gender (often referred to as “double dalits”) will fight patriarchy and casteism in their own ways, separate from how UC women fight.Image


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Not Islamophobia

Not Islamophobia

It’s not Islamophobia:

* to condemn unequal treatment of women in Sharia law, genital mutilation and stoning in some cultures

* to defend their right to choose whether or not they would like to wear burqas and veils

* to be surprised that the ‘honour’ of a prophet who died in the 7th century should matter more than the freedoms (or even lives) of writers, cartoonists and such

* to be surprised that this prophet married a 9 year girl called Aisha

* to ask yourself why Muslim countries do so little science today when their culture thrived so much on it in the past

* to think that cultures are not static and can change from the inside

DISCLAIMER: I do not own the image used

Yefon – the movie

Hi, y’all! When was the last time you saw a film which not only portrayed the problems of a society historically oppressed by colonialism and whose members still face racism today but also portrayed them truthfully without playing into or pandering to the shitty attitudes of today?

You may have watched The stoning of Soraya M, It’s a Girl, or a few other films – because only few films can not mess up the responsibility they take by wanting to depict such problematic issues.  In this post, I want to talk about Yefon – a film that continues in the proud tradition of socially conscious, Africa-based cinema like Hotel Rwanda, Beat the Drum and Sarafina!—but unlike those movies, its producers will come from the ranks of generous Kickstarter supporters.

“Yefon” is the brainchild of 22-year-old actress and filmmaker Sahndra Fon Dufe. Broken-hearted by the sad reality of too many similar, true stories from Africa of women being denied education , she and the production team have pledged to use a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the film, a companion documentary, books and related merchandise to build an all-girls school in Nso, the Cameroon village where “Yefon” is set.

Based on true events, the movie, YEFON, tells the story of a young African girl’s pursuit of education, and how she stands against a male government that crosses the line to protect their ancient traditions and political interests. It is a story that shows that one little person can be the beginning of not only a change, but a revolutionImage

It has already attracted the attention of Hollywood stars like Jimmy Jean-Louis (Tears of the Sun, Heroes), Adriana Barraza (Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee, Babel) and Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Hotel Rwanda). The film is being co-produced by Justin Massion, the director of the Kickstarter campaign for “Space Command,” which brought in $75,000 in just three days, and ended with over $200,000.

Education for women is a problem that has plagued women in some rural parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East  for decades. These women face the challenge of being refused an education on the basis of being women. Yefon will tell their story.

I have blogged about the problems in speaking up about such issues publicly here. I have also posted a response here. I believe this is a great project – one which may force people to think deeply on the problems plaguing women in many “developing” countries and not brush it off with cries of “racism” when somebody brings it up; at the very least – one which may initiate debate.

The goal of this movie is to depict the African culture through the use of a variation of color and excruciating detail, as was done beautifully in movies like Slumdog Millionaire. There is authentic use of African fabric with an intention to bring the audience a very powerful and visually compelling film.

The story of Yefon is not particularly any one’s life, the story seeks inspiration from the true life story of millions of women around the world including, but not limited to : The Stoning of Amina Lawal (Nigeria), Tererai Trent’s strive for education (Zimbabwe),  the inspiring story of Wangari Maathai (Kenya 1940- 2011),  Freidoune Sahebjam’s 1900 book ‘‘La Femme Lapidee’’ and its movie version ‘’The Stoning of Soroya M’’,  Princess Sultana (Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia), the words of Ali Ghadur (Kirkuk, 2008), the story of Huda Ahmed ( Iraq, 2008), Reports on African women’s’ battle for equality by Gumisai Mutume, the story of Irene Godonou in Cotonou, Benin, the voices given to women’s’ grievances by Catherine Beecher (1800- 1878), Sarah J Hale (1788- 1879) in the USA, the story of Judith Sargent Murray ( Boston, USA).

The Documentary will follow the lives of three women from different socio- economic backgrounds, and their attitude towards education, and follows in the style of’ “Day in the Life”. Team Yefon intends to create a massive compilation of footage shot by the team, interviews, footage and uploaded videos from followers in order to create a loud voice for women’s education. This will be submitted to festivals. YEFON The Movie will be telling this beautiful story with a choice of exotic locations that represent both the culture and history of Nso people; the tribe where the character Yefon comes from.Image

The YEFON team is raising these funds via Kickstarter to make a film in Cameroon, Africa, a virgin country for film, where this will be the first major production, a film they can proudly showcase around the world. Due to this, resources are limited and they need to bring help from all over the globe to make this movie possible, and to make history. The Kickstarter goal is set to $50,000 and can be funded here.Image

Please back the project! Only 12 days to go!

Dear author

This is my response to a letter I got in response to my previous post about racism and marginalisation of the experiences and issues of women of colour in the feminist movement by the person who actually made the comments which I talk about there. The whole letter is shared here, part by part (and enclosed in quotation marks), and my response right below each part, with a note of my own at the end – not included in my response to the letter writer. I thought I should share since it deals with a few questions many might have. The letter started with “Dear author of [the name of my post]”

“I’m sorry that I made those claims that were so offensive to you about the image of the young woman of South East Asian decent being Islamophobic and later Orientalism, while also accusing you of white privilege. I’m truly sorry that I allowed my white privilege to get ahead of trying to understand your social location.”

Thank you for apologising. I appreciate it. I was apprehensive you would ignore it and jump in to defend yourself. I should’ve expected more than such a negative response, you being a feminist would know more than most others about different forms of privilege. However, I have met many feminist women who did not accept any privilege(s) they might have due to race, class, being cis, etc; I think it is not wholly unwise of me to be wary.

“My misinterpretations of your intentions has all to do with reading your imagine solely from my social location and set of beliefs. I strongly believe in questioning the dominant culture, but I try to be wary of colonialism in my own words and the words of others. I would never say one culture is better than another, never demand another culture end its cultural practice, and maybe that’s too politically correct of me, but I’ll take the risk.”

Yes, I can understand why you (and countless others) do that. You are entrenched in privilege; you are used to seeing things YOUR way, you and your problems being the default – be it on social networking sites, blogs, discussion forums, etc – with a token piece on Asian/African problems. Sometimes. And even then, can’t be too harsh, can it? I also appreciate that you try to question and be wary of your own privileges. That is good – and more than most do. Yes, all cultures are different. And of course you shouldn’t go about telling cultures to stop their practices (I sure wouldn’t go to a beach and tell people “dress how my culture dresses, you indecent people!”)
Not that they are, I don’t judge people on their clothes and I wish most people thought that way. However, there is a difference between a “cultural practice” and human rights violations. I won’t say “Hey, y’know what? That pro-life stand? It is totally American culture. Let me not condemn it or try to raise awareness of the horrible laws being passed.”

Perhaps it will not matter much, because online feminist spaces are largely monopolised by first world countries and you may say “OK, go on – do it. I won’t stop you”. See, it won’t matter much to you – you are privileged enough to know that even if I don’t speak out, there will be many more who will because (and I’m repeating myself) the online feminist spaces are largely monopolised by first world countries. And here is the basic difference. You can afford to have a few people not speak out. I can’t. I can’t afford to have every attempt of mine to talk about my issues silenced, I can’t afford to have my culture’s issues not talked about, I can’t afford to have people, even if they are not willing to talk, shut me up from talking and not giving me enough space to have my voice heard. I can’t afford any of that. I can’t afford to NOT have a voice when a woman in India is raped every 30 min, a crime against a woman is committed every 3 min, where a woman dies a dowry-related death every 70 min (approx) [and these were the statistics in 2006], apart from marital rape STILL not being criminalised because apparently Indian families would be shattered, foetuses are aborted everyday simply BECAUSE THEY ARE FEMALE, infants are killed right after their birth (or within a few days or weeks at the most) because they are female, the mortality rate for girl children (up to 5 yrs of age) in India is 40% higher than boy children, a vast majority of females are not sent to school because they are females, even in “privileged” classes, and of that small minority who are educated, few become qualified to the extent males are (“who would want such an educated girl?”), even poverty-stricken people somehow send the boy child to school, but not the girl (because, after all, the boy is going to look after and earn for the parents in their old age, and will also “bring a wife” to do all the housework, she will be a baby-making machine and a sex slave, with sexual exploitation by family members as well, and even if she DOES complain, which she probably won’t because it is a matter of her “honour”, the Indian judicial system will do bullshit to help her, i.e., IF it goes to the judicial system and does not remain stuck in the “I filed an F.I.R” stage and the consequent moral lecture by the police – the girl is the property of her husband and his family) and add to that the pay gap, constant objectification as a sex object, being thought of as lesser than human who needs her husband/brother/father/son/closest male relative to make her decision for her, her “honour” being associated with the family’s – more specifically the males in the family’s “honour”, stricter gender roles than you can ever imagine, more internalised misogyny than you have ever seen, forced to marry, conceive, abort if the foetus is female, conceive again, abort again, sold off if she turns out to be “useless” or killed, harassed constantly for dowry, forced to put her needs after everybody in the family (and the larger society’s ideas of propriety), and SO MANY OTHER THINGS. I don’t even know from where I should start addressing these issues. And unlike in first world countries, such restrictions are not mostly psychological restraints, these are REAL, material restraints where you can be KILLED for deviating from social norms, where most women do not even have the basic means for emancipation, do not even know they have human rights, that their life is valuable too. Add to those MRAs and Save Indian Family foundation, an “organisation of harassed husbands”, who wish to turn the clock back on WHATEVER LITTLE HAS BEEN ACHIEVED.
You would never demand that other cultures’ practices end even when they so grossly violate a human life’s integrity? Forget about the whole race issue for a while; do you not feel that you have an ethical duty to protest against this? Please don’t endorse these crimes, because that is what you’re doing under the guise of “culture”. This is what plenty of people in India do too, they endorse it in the name of “culture” and “tradition”. You have a voice, an elite minority here has a voice. They do not. Please do not inadvertently support the misogynists, patriarchs, and sexists here.
Now, I’m not asking you to be patronising to women of colour, or speak for them but at the very least you can support them? And by the way, protesting against human rights violations does not mean patronising. Protest against them, listen to us on how we protest, what ways we figure out to fight such practices (telling us how to fight The Patriarchy – unique in its manifestations in this part of the world – more violent than most other places, how to solve these issues is patronising), but fight we must, protest we must, not endorse it with “culture”.

“I posted on that image because I have seen numerous images like it held up by white people here at home, I have heard there meaning behind it and there is nothing subtle about it. I am a racist because I am white in a white-privileges society and could do so much more to speak out against racial oppression and discrimination when all to often I fall silent. I am sorry that the time I thought I could speak up, was the time I was absolutely wrong to do so.”

You know what? In India, we have Muslims and Hindus at each others’ throats all the time (“oh, look at the criminal’s name! Those Muslims/Hindus are all like that!”). I know how it feels when another community is targeted and it is implied (and sometimes said out loud) that whatever misogyny/sexism, etc is prevalent is due to some intrinsic vice the community has. Like no amount of laws, education, change can help the society be anything BUT misogynist/sexist/racist/casteist, like it is something inextricably moulded into the genes of the people from a particular community. It is wrong, and liberals realise it. What often happens after that is that we try to defend any/all actions done by the community in the name of “culture”, “traditions”, “who are you to say they can’t do that? Bigot!”. That is also wrong. The right way to approach it would be to recognise that there is nothing biologically wrong with the people of a particular community which influences them to act this way, but that currently, the community/nation/religion does act in a misogynist/sexist/bigoted manner, and the violation of human rights is socially sanctioned by the particular group, and it is our ethical duty to protest that, to fight that, to support our sisters in the fight.
Will you see me saying “oh, FGM is in their culture, I do not believe in telling other cultures to end their practices, I’m politically correct, I can’t help it!”?
Absolutely NOT. I also do not believe in telling other cultures what to do/wear, etc. I do not believe in saying “just stop wearing dresses, STOP IT”. You know what I also don’t believe in? Endorsing human rights violations in the name of “culture” and/or turning a blind eye towards it. It is not only you (unknowingly or not) who does that. Many people in this part of the world also do that. And that contributes much to the tolerance of such abominable violence.

“You are absolutely right to call me on my limited knowledge, and cultural biases — I know they exist. I am sorry for offending you, and by extension all women of colour who have fought to end there unique gender and racial oppressions. I’m truly sorry at how misdirected my comments were.

In future, how do you think I should react to such imagery?”

I hope you did not take anything as a personal insult (saying this feels weird, you should not be insulted by me expressing my views on how such violence is endorsed by first world feminists too [other than the usual people who simply do not care about a woman and her struggles], just like a man should not feel insulted when he learns about male privilege and how he knowingly or not, endorses the current social order).

I think you will find the answer to that question in previous paragraphs. Hopefully, we feminists can work together in the future, supporting each other and women of colour will stop being silenced, their issues will stop being marginalised, the misogyny they face will stop being endorsed.

A note:

I have often read about how “warm and welcoming” the “arms of feminism” are, but.. does that hold true for only white, cis women?
I used to feel joy and pride whenever I read such statements – when I didn’t speak about such issues. But, now? I don’t know… is this whole “feminism realises and includes the experience of women regardless of whether they are lesbian/trans/women of colour etc “ just a sick pretence where basically very few things have changed in practice from the time it was mainly a white, heteronormative, middle-class movement?
I’m starting to wonder.

This entry was posted on August 30, 2012. 2 Comments


Hi, everyone. I uploaded a picture on my page the other day. Pretty normal, huh? I run a page on Facebook. Yep. Normal. Please check out the image I posted. I was accused of… wait for it… ISLAMOPHOBIA!!!!!
Yep, you heard that right. Apparently I was being Islamophobic when I posted that (because, duh, she is totally wearing a burqa… or wait… is that a hijab?!!).
When asked what made her think the post targeted Muslims or Islam, she said “I take back Islamophobia, on first glance the vale blended into her hair and I thought I saw a burqa. But I will not back down that this still is charged with a lot of ethnic imagery. Going out on a limb here but this image has a whole lot of white privilege. Furthermore, by displaying a woman of SE Asian decent you are perpetuating Orientalism — making Eastern cultures seem crude and barbaric.”
Ok, first of all – even if the vale blended into her hair, that would not be a burqa. That would be a HIJAB (protip: do your research). And yes of course this is charged with “ethnic” imagery! That is because in the countries where females are denied education due to institutionalised sexism, most of them dress this way. What would you prefer? Shorts? That is an option, obviously, if you want to exercise White Privilege by dictating how other cultures be represented in social media. Guess “ethnic imagery” is too sensitive for your tastes, huh? Are you unwilling to accept and/or recognise the brutal and violent sexism present in other countries? Scares you? Makes Eastern cultures seem “crude” and “barbaric”? How did you come to that conclusion from that picture? I do not think the picture in any way insinuated that. I think it insinuates the sexism present in Eastern cultures is crude and barbaric. Don’t you agree? You don’t? Why? Scared of being “politically incorrect”? Maybe a lot of people have jumped on you claiming ISLAMOPHOBIA when you were criticising Islam or “Eastern” cultures’ sexism. Maybe someone said you had White Privilege (therefore, you OBVIOUSLY can’t talk about it as well).
Here is the thing – I can speak out and it is really FRUSTRATING that I can’t speak out without all these allegations.
See, when they accuse me of “white privilege” it is really funny ’cause according to me they’re biased in thinking mostly white people run sites on FB and only first world feminist problems can be talked about without such criticism. Why don’t we see Christianophobia (is there a name for this?) as much as Islamophobia? Truth be told, I have seen people engage in virulent attacks against Christianity and they are encouraged (yay! Speak up! Someone needs to tell them the truth, whoopee!!) but whenever people criticise Islam, we see cries of ISLAMOPHOBIA, ORIENTALISM, WHITE PRIVILEGE.
I mean, yeah, I know, Islamophobia and stuff are problems – I’ve seen it a lot of times. BUT people just need to accept the truth about what happens in other parts of the world without tagging it as some form of hate. Like, most people do know the difference between hate propaganda and criticism, you know. This article, for instance.
There is also a difference between discriminating against someone because of their religion and criticising aspects of their religion.
I feel so angry when I see all this. Like, what’s the point of being active on the net if the problems in India and such can’t be spoken about without being “politically correct” when I DON’T WANT TO. INDIA IS WAY WORSE THAN FIRST WORLD COUNTRIES.
I have no interest in being “politically correct” if it means sugar-coating issues.
How can the problems be corrected if no one is even willing to acknowledge the true extent of the problems and most attempts to address such issues are silenced (almost)? STOP shaming people for speaking out against such issues. STOP marginalising women of colour and their lived experiences. I have LIVED this stuff. Yeah, I know I was born in a comparatively privileged class BUT it is only COMPARATIVELY.
For example, my father’s friend’s wife told my mum not to let me be educated much when they were talking about their children’s future plans regarding education (she has three daughters), or I might get “out of hand” and my mum was totally shocked (she’s a moderate feminist).
If even the so called privileged class think this way, think of the majority of the population living in such countries where virulent misogyny is acceptable, ironically under the guise of “culture”. Do you still say a “culture” which condones such sexism is not “crude” and “barbaric”?
If you’re not comfortable speaking about it (for whatever reasons), please DO NOT SHAME OTHER PEOPLE FOR DOING SO. It marginalises me because right now, my experiences are “othered”. People automatically assume pages on Facebook are run by white people and “we” shouldn’t talk about “their” issues. I’m a woman suffering under patriarchy too. This attitude does a disservice to me by saying my problems are too “complex” and “politically incorrect”.
Obviously, I don’t want anyone acting like a saviour, and I’m not asking for that. I just want you to recognise that my experiences are just as valid as yours, my problems are just as valid, and criticising the culture which promotes such misogyny IS JUST AS VALID. I never heard someone tell me I cannot criticise Republicans because I’m not white or not American.
We better fix this if we want people to rush into “the warm and welcoming arms of Feminism”.

Concluding this with a few comments from an awesome person I friended on Facebook.
“..This innocent photo is Islamophobia? As a woman of color, take your white privilege elsewhere and stop condescending to us women of color. How dare you deny patriarchal oppression of eastern religions under the guise of orientalist pretentions?”
“…among the top 10 places that are horrible for women–Islamic country figure far more prominently than others.

//Going out on a limb here but this image has a whole lot of white privilege. Furthermore, by displaying a woman of SE Asian decent you are perpetuating Orientalism — making Eastern cultures seem crude and barbaric.//

Ever thought that the admin here is actually a woman from a South Asian country who isn’t white? Stop imposing your shitty ideological hackery on us women of color. Don’t tell us how we protest patriarchy in our cultures”
“…so naive, uninformed, dripping with white privilege and ridiculous that they think any brown woman with a dupatta/chadar is automatically a Muslim.
Racist stereotyping much here btw? How do they know this isn’t a Sikh, Christian, Hindu or Bahai girl? I guess all us brown people are the same!
We shouldn’t be protesting the oppression of women of color in own culture even though the misogyny is far more prevalent than anywhere in the west, and comes in the most violent, virulent form that most westerners can’t even fathom?”

I’m really angry. And I don’t give a flying fuck if you think this post is “too angry” or I seem “too angry” because I am ANGRY at the marginalisation of my experiences and assertions that all oppression is the same – there are varying degrees of oppression! It is not going to hurt you to accept that. I’ve always considered Feminism as empowering and cool and beautiful. But I guess nothing is perfect.

This entry was posted on August 22, 2012. 9 Comments

What feminists fight against

What do feminists fight against? Teh menz? Teh wimminz who are straight? Teh natural ordrz?

If you’re like my mom, you’re a little confused. As a matter of fact, she was the inspiration for this post.

She told me “I know you’re going to be offended by what I have to say, but really, you’re not a man – nobody will cook and clean for you while you do your job”.

I admit, I was a little irritated – like, what was the point of saying that? She apparently meant well. The meaning was something like this “yeah, I know you want equal rights for everyone – but the world ain’t all that rosy. Men ARE in a position of social dominance – don’t think the world is equal yet”.

To which, my flabbergasted mind could only respond “I KNOW!”. Most feminists know that. Oopsie. Looks like my mamma didn’t get the hang of this whole feminism thing. She was scared I’d get angry because I had a royal fit when her sister told me once while my legs were dangling, “Stop doing that! It is still acceptable when boys do that, you’re a girl!”

Seems like she didn’t get the difference between these two things.

If you’re confused like my mum, this will be helpful for you. Disclaimer: when I use the term “feminist(s)”, please put [many] in front of that.


Feminists do know that in patriarchal societies, men as a group are privileged. See? Even my mum knows this. If I was a man, my wife would automatically be expected to cook and clean for me while I go about doing my job (what? All men don’t want to do a job, you say? Blasphemy!)

Anyway, feminists know this. This is what we fight against. Patriarchy. [All] gender roles. Gendered expectations. Gender binary.

Also, you know what we hate? Obstacles. What are the obstacles we face while doing our bit to smash patriarchy? Sentences like these – “Stop doing that! It is still acceptable when boys do that, you’re a girl!”

Why? Because these sentences (and the attitudes which come with it) UPHOLD and PERPETUATE the essence of what we are against.

A century ago, most people would not accept the fact that the group of people termed “women” could have many individuals who would find fulfilment in jobs and would not find much satisfaction in raising children or marriage (in fact, many people have much difficulty now as well).  Likewise, is it so hard to imagine that the gender “men” has many individuals would live to stay at home and raise children? Who would love to cook and nurture a family? Is it? Why? Have you ever considered the fact that maybe so many men and women, girls and boys fit into this stereotype we have of both genders is more due to the fact that they are brought up to be this way rather than nature? That girls are brought up to love pink and boys blue? That girls and boys are taught their respective roles by the society, toys, films, books, comics, fairy-tales, actions, etc and are restricted from exploring their full potential due to the same? No? Then, why are so many people intent on creating this gendered environment? If it were really the work of nature, then why are so many people scared of bringing their children up in an androgynous environment where children would have a chance of honing their talents and finding what they are really interested in? Are they afraid “nature” will get screwed up?

It is easy. They KNOW it is not nature, that is simply an excuse, nature can’t be outwitted as easily as they would like us to be believe.

It is NOT nature. It is socialisation.

I have seen many posts and images disseminating the message that feminists hate masculine/feminine* qualities (depends on the website – some say masculine, some say feminine). Ok, here’s the thing – we DON’T hate masculine or feminine* qualities. We don’t. Really. We only hate this whole socialisation process we have right now which restricts us on the basis of our sex (which is associated with a gender) as to what we should wear, which movies/books/stories we should like, which colour(s) we should love, the way we should act, the emotions (or lack of the same) we should feel, etc etc etc.

Feminists are often very aware of how our choices might be affected by how WE were socialised as well. Like, I love a particular thing but how much of it is my own choice and how much of it is influenced by gendered socialisation? For example – I’m a woman and I absolutely LOVE (shades of) purple and I like pink as well. BUT I realise that my likes might have been affected by the expectations/environment in which I grew up in, by the media – the cartoons I watched, the stories I heard, etc. I also consciously make an effort to explore different colours and combinations of the same (and movies, and books and loads of other stuff). Why? Because I might miss out on a totally awesome (for me!) colour (and movies, and books and loads of other stuff)!!!

Yes, I realise, it may seem a little frightening to some. Like, you’ve spent most of your life liking/loving a particular thing/colour/etc and then you find out that if not for the conventional way of gendered socialisation, you may have liked different things??? Uhmmm…

Yes, you may not start luvinnn’ something you’re not so keen on (I still don’t like science or math much), BUT you may discover awesome stuff too!

Feminists also don’t like how people are judged on conventional norms and ideals of beauty which are socially constructed. I will elaborate on this in a different post. Also, Hygiene =/= conventional norms of beauty (many people have these two confused). And we don’t hate people who are conventionally attractive.

Feminists believe in the full humanity of people while acknowledging that there are certain social structures in place which prevent us from reaching our full potential, from being fully humane, from being US.

So, I hope you have a rough idea of what feminists dislike/fight against by now.

I had a great time ranting, hope you had a great time reading as well!

* qualities thought of as masculine/feminine [which change according to different cultures and time periods]