Monday, 17 February 2014

POST-BAFTAS 2014: A FEMINIST PRESPECTIVE



source: indiatimes.in
Well we applaud the winners for this year's BAFTA awards. Once again, award ceremonies continue to highlight the sexism and misogyny prevalent within the film industry. Host Stephen Fry referred to Emma Thompson as 'piece of offal'. Fry is a man who advocates against homophobia, but his compassion does not extend to giving women some dignity. Thompson took it in good stride but I couldn't. There are far too many misogynists out there, with women constantly demeaned and rated in relation to their appearance.

source: mondo-digital.com
The BAFTA Fellowship was awarded to Helen Mirren. The award was presented by the gut-churning miscreant Jeremy Irons, sycophantically standing with Prince William, who understands as much about the real world as these overpaid Hollywood actors. Irons says he first became aware of Helen through her theatre work: 'it was always worthwhile... and because of her it was always intrinsically sexy', quips Irons followed by an eye-roll from Helen. Irons goes on to note that, as the lead in Prime Suspect, Helen was 'middle aged and tough without having lost any of her immense sex appeal'. Thereafter, a retrospective of Helen's film work is played. The first clip 'to remind us of her talents' consists of a young, scantily-clad Helen in Herostratus, the focus on her plunging cleavage, her years of commitment as an actress reduced to her breasts and 'sexiness' as Irons drools.... 

Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave won Best Film. I regard McQueen as an incredibly talented director. Ever since his debut film Hunger, it has been clear that he is a cut above the shallow rest. His films are poetical and reflective on the human condition. Above all, he gives dignity and compassion to his characters. Lupita Nyong'o was ignored for her outstanding performance as Patsey, a slave. As McQueen points out in his acceptance speech, a star is born. I applaud her grace and ability to embarce her natural beauty, illustrating that your skin doesn't need to be bleached or your hair straightened  to achieve merit. It is refreshing to see a woman celebrating her natural beauty. McQueen is right, she is a star in the making. 

'Best Actress' Jennifer Lawrence. source: heavy.com

Lupita Nyong'o's heartbreaking performance in 12 Years A Slave. source: youtube.com

I want to see more women applauded for their intellect and acting merit, not for their 'sex' appeal. For her portrayal of the hateful stereotype of the 'gangster accessory' that we have seen all too often by the likes of Martin Scorsese (this time channelled by the despicable David O Russell, winner of 'Best Original Screenplay' and who remained grinning smugly throughout the ceremony - have we all forgotten that this is the man who verbally abused Lily Tomlin?), Jennifer Lawrence beat Lupita Nyong'o in the Best Supporting Actress category for her performance in American Hustle. All nagging, big hair, copious amounts of cleavage and scenes of bending over so as to reveal said cleavage, Lawrence was deemed more worthy than Lupita's outstanding, heartbreaking portrayal of an enslaved African woman, as depicted by an African woman. 


Stroking the fragile ego of powerful Hollywood men that have the option to make or break a film, the BAFTA awards allows us to see the kinds of men behind the superficial glitz: we observe Harvey Weinstein sitting smugly in the audience with his trophy wife, Georgina Chapman.
source: contactmusic.com

Well the circus is over.. last night's parade of elitism in the film industry is over as dust settles over the superficial glitz and glamour in the Royal Opera House. The winners exit the stage and leave nothing but a bitter taste in my film buds. BAFTA is nothing more than a self-congratulating industry that bows down to the parochial world of American cinema. BAFTA insults the hardworking British film makers that struggle to get their films into the cinema, ignored by the Brits' sycophantic fascination with Hollywood. Where were all the female directors? If I came from another planet I'd assume that the BAFTAs were American? No?


Some of you might be looking at the stars. I'm reflecting from the gutter....




Sunday, 16 June 2013

Support Deric Lostutter

http://didprinniedoit.files.wordpress.com
Deric Lostutter faces ten years in prison for leaking the names of rapists online, while the rapists themselves face merely a fraction of that. Please follow the link below to sign the petition to free him, and to spread the word.

http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/3270?ls=z9nHbds5kMs

Saturday, 25 May 2013

THE POLITICS OF HAIR




A six-year-old girl undergoes hair 'relaxing' treatment, source: sometimesbeautifulalwaysimperfect.com

I recently watched Chris Rock's 'Good Hair' (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjqyt4vUCkM) and felt it was a tame response to the burgeoning issue of painful hair treatments. Amiable and pleasant throughout the film, Rock gently probed without forming judgment on women who undertake dangerous chemical treatments and tortuous weaves to create a 'desirable' European look. I remember back in the seventies, I had several Afro-Caribbean friends who would never display their Afro hair. One of them commented that 'the world isn't ready for my hair'… When I did occasionally see an Afro, I wanted to have one. Without hesitation, I went to a hairdresser and had a perm…  after having a chemical treatment, which left my scalp with sores and hair loss, I started questioning the very nature of why we are compelled to change the beauty we're born with.
The beautiful Lauryn Hill, source: hiphopzeal.com

Millions of women both in the UK and the United States go through extraordinary lengths to either straighten their hair (relax) or spend thousands to have a weave. Judging by the number of women that Rock interviewed, they seemed to loathe what they were born with. I applaud Tracie Thoms, the one woman he interviewed who refused to straighten her hair. If only Rock had interviewed more woman who embrace their Afro hair and inspire others… 
Tracie Thoms: 'I'm gonna be strong and resist all the forces that are gonna try to get me to straighten my hair', image source: starpulse.com

Some of my Afro-Caribbean friends argue that having their hair relaxed or weaved is no different to white girls having a perm or tan... it's a way of being creative. But I disagree. Looking at Rock's film, model Melyssa Ford spoke of her childhood anguish as the daughter of a half Swedish/half Russian mother, and how she would spend her youth lamenting the fact that she hadn't inherited her mum's straight blonde hair. I blame her mother; if Melyssa's mother had praised her and told her that her curly hair was beautiful, then she wouldn't be wasting her precious time feeling inferior, undergoing intense weaving processes. Equally alarming, Rock interviews a child, aged six, who was having her hair relaxed. Once more, I blame her mother for encouraging her daughter to self-hate and loathe what she's born with as opposed to embracing her beauty. Shame on you. 
embracing natural beautyfeminspire.com
 
Women need to question the very nature of the system that makes them feel bad and it extends beyond having an Afro. It's for all women, all races, all who are anxious about their appearance... For every woman who clutches her stomach and proclaims she is fat, she needs to challenge why the media perpetuates pre-pubescent images of grown women. Likewise, every woman who wishes to control her Afro needs to question why the media propogates images of women with straight highlighted hair. It's a way of socially controlling you. Passive, starving women with relaxed hair are no threat to the big fat industry that keeps them enslaved to a false ideology of beauty.
lohudblogs.com

We need to become politically aware and stop scrutinising other women's hair and bodies and to stop contributing to the media that panders on our insecurities. Look at Rock's film and see how these cold, corporate men amass billions in profit every year.  As if a weave or a relaxer is the answer to your crushing lack of self-esteem. But in your mind, it's going to make you more 'acceptable', more 'desirable', but it won't take the sting out of the poor girls who are exploited for your deluded sense of comfort/ acceptance by the malicious Western world. Have ever questioned why you need to change your hair to be accepted? Whose terms, values are you basing your worth on?
A little girl in India has her hair shaved off; the hair will then be sold for profit and sold to women in the West, image source: abc.net.au

Look at the poor Asian girls who have their hair cut while they go to the movies, or their locks snapped by a heartless shit as they sleep. And it's not just in Asia that girls' hair is being ripped off their scalps for a corporate fast buck, impoverished Eastern European girls are experiencing the same cruelty. But they don't count... or do they? Reflect…

Remember, natural beauty is priceless.

source: tumblr.com

Esperanza Spalding, source: curtjazz.files.wordpress.com


Angela Davis, source: dornsife.usc.edu
Marsha Hunt, source: callmeredtelephone.blogspot.com
Solange Knowles, source: thecoilreview.com
Yaya Dacosta, source: tumblr.com

Sunday, 14 April 2013

MARGARET THATCHER- NO CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION


 
icnetwork.co.uk
The death of Margaret Thatcher has stirred up unpleasant memories on a national level. The mere mention of her name evokes a divided nation where you either loved or hated the woman. Even her own party ultimately chose to boot her out of power. As a woman who lived under her government, I remember back in the eighties and nineties when many of my female acquaintances hailed Margaret Thatcher as a feminist icon, an uncompromising, strong leader. Subsequently, the sentiments echoed by many women at the time were that she was being heavily criticised for her actions because she was a woman. I disagree. Her gender has nothing to do it it. She was a cold, racist individualist driven by momentary greed at the expense of destroying so many people's lives. A feminist woman does not subscribe to androcentrism and self-interest, nor does a feminist create hateful policies that target and stigmatise the poor, and destroy the foundations that were built to protect them.



As a cabinet minister in the early seventies, Thatcher stopped primary children having free milk. It's not surprising that she was known as, 'Maggie, the milk snatcher'. But her attack on the poor and lone women was only the start to her egocentric vision of the UK. The changes in welfare policies targeted towards lone parents was the start of the demonisation of 'welfare lone parent mothers'.



I remember when she won the election in 1979; her speech was jingoistic and centred on the 'Middle Englander's' fears on immigration. She was a racist who created fear mongering towards immigrants. Her rhetoric on the (white) demoralised petite bourgeois aspiration's for a safer and better life set in motion restrictive immigration policies, targeting people with 'colour'. But this was the start of numerous aggressive acts...
jeffreyhill.typepad.com


Hell-bent on reinforcing her right wing agenda, Thatcher set out to privatise the welfare state, through the closure of numerous hospitals in the eighties. I recall a local hospital on the Harrow Rd, close to Westbourne Park, London which was knocked down and later rebuilt as a luxury housing development. Not content on destroying the welfare state, she privatised our public transport services into a commodity. Profit before people. Our buses and train fares soared under her premiership and Unions were eroded of their power.



But why should she stop there? She was also responsible for selling off council homes, for many people this enabled them to get on the property ladder and finally own their own home. Sounds good in theory? Not really; with the selling of England by the pound, came a price, abuse of power and more homeless people as the property market soared. As an activist, I recall the anger and frustration as she eroded everything that we valued: humanity, compassion and a sense of justice. And what did we do?

 
socialistparty.org.uk

It took the contentious implementation of the poll tax to spark a riot into the public consciousness, an unfair taxation, which was based on the number of people living in a household. So if you lived in a leafy suburb with no dependents, you paid less tax than a family of four with elderly dependents. Unsurprisingly, this sparked off riots and caused the demise of the poll tax. 
guardian.co.uk


 Bur her agenda of creating tensions between the police and local ethnic communities through intrusive stop and search laws further fuelled egomania. The Toxteth and Brixton riots, sparked off by dispossessed locals, spoke volumes about the sense of alienation and frustrations that poor people felt… Oh, and let's not forget her hateful depiction of the miners who fought for their jobs as she destroyed local mining communities in the North of England and placed so many people on the dole.
peterfeld.tumblr.com
 

Not content with demolishing the British morale, Thatcher's ego required refuelling on a global scale; by supporting apartheid in South Africa, hailing Nelson Mandela as a 'terrorist', her involvement in the sinking of the Belgrano, her public support of Pinochet…. Dare I go on?

openparachute.files.wordpress.com


And now she's dead. The media claimed that thousands of angry protesters were going to march in Trafalgar Square to celebrate her death on Saturday 13th April. The government spent an exorbitant amount on security, wasted on several hundred protestors who simply wanted to make a point. But it doesn't end there, as her funeral (which costs the taxpayer £10m in security) looms upon us this Wednesday,  even in death Thatcher will cost us…
guardian.co.uk
 
Yes, let's celebrate her death but let's lament her legacies that are still prevalent in the UK and we, the living, have to live by the consequences of her heartless actions.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

SKIN IS A SENSITIVE ISSUE

lovelyish.com

When I was a teenager, I had a cousin who loved Bollywood films. We'd watch them for hours, well my cousin did, and she'd gaze in awe. Years laters, as I became more aware of the Bollywood industry's obsession with 'light skinned' actresses and skin lightening potions, my pleasant memories faded.

There is a trend in Bollywood to pressurise young men and women to either bleach their skin or have the colour of their skin airbrushed over with a white coat. The absurdity of the situation is incredibly hateful. It means you are of no value unless you're fair skinned.

Shahrukh Khan was heavily criticed for this advert:


 

The message is clear; you can't get the girl unless you're fair skinned. It's evidently discriminating against something that you're born with. Furthermore, it assumes that you are only of worth if you're pale skinned. Why? I believe that idealised notions of 'white' beauty are embedded in religious discrimination, the notion of 'whiteness' and purity. Furthermore, racist discourses become embedded in everyday culture and place absurd pressure on men and women's fragile self-esteem to look a certain way. Cultures built on self- loathing. Cultures and the media plays on these anxieties by capitalising on insecurity and self-loathing.  And if you've never had a problem with your skin, don't worry, they'll create one for you.

uk.fashionmag.com

You may argue that a lot of paler skinned Western women are equally obsessed with tans. But dark skin is still a taboo, as you can see from the suspiciously light skin of stars such as Beyonce, Rihanna and lil Kim.

tumblr.com
blackcelebrityenergy.com
skincaretalk.com
vibe.com

Look at Beyonce, a beautiful African American woman reduced to a plastic, Barbie image. How can she possibly think she looks more beautiful now compared to what she was born with?  Rihanna appears to have deep issues about herself, coerced to conform to an idealised cultural construct of what constitutes beauty. It's highly negative as it gives out shallow, destructive messages to her fans. 
 
You may say that as humans, we are being creative in re-creating ourselves. We all want something different. Something we don't have. But have you ever questioned why? How would being lighter or darker improve the quality of our lives? Think about it.
 
These are negative, hateful depictions of men and women. The day we stop contributing to these evil skin lightening corporations, we will see a demise in the capitalist machinery that exploits, degrades and destroys both men and women's self-worth. Contrary to belief, the world does not revolve around white, western notions of beauty. All of us are people of colour. We need to embrace and celebrate our uniqueness. Learn to see ourselves for what we HAVE. WE ARE SENTIENT CREATURES, our beauty is distinctive and not reducible to shades of white, tan, brown or black.