“This is us” proclaims Toby Morris, a white New Zealander graphic artist. His most recent comic dissects precipitating microaggressions, political actions, and popular inaction and purposeful ignoring of the growing Islamophobia, xenophobia, and white supremacy in their country. “This is us” is a rallying cry for a truly inclusive unity that requires a mindshift of every level of society.
Earlier this week, the hastag #AintNoCinderella went viral in India following an incident of a young woman being harassed and then victim shamed. Varnika Kundu went out on the town on Friday night, August 4. At the end of the night, she was harassed by two young men who then followed her when she fled in her car, attempting to make her stop and trying to enter her car several times. She wrote about the harrowing experience in a public Facebook post, thanking the police who helped save her from being kidnapped and urged women to be vigilant against attacks. One local politician victim-blamed her by stating that she should not have been out late at night.
Public outcry against misogyny and classism was immediate, and only increased in fervor once it became clear that one of the two young men allegedly involved was the son of another local politician.
The viral hashtag #AintNoCinderella, often accompanied by selfies of young women in clubbing outfits, has become a rallying cry by young Indian women to exercise their basic human right to safety no matter what time of day. Every tweet is a micro-effort to battle violence against women, and the overall effect is bringing to light the persistent issues of classism and sexism in a country that had elected and reelected a female head of state in 1966 and 1980.
- Varnika Kundu FB post: https://www.facebook.com/VarnikaKundu/posts/10155759250396282
- LeMonde: “#AintNoCinderella: une aggression ordinaire en Inde racontee en ligne” http://www.lemonde.fr/asie-pacifique/video/2017/08/09/aintnocinderella-l-agression-d-une-jeune-indienne-declenche-une-vague-d-indignation-sur-les-reseaux-sociaux_5170647_3216.html
- BBC: “Ain’t No Cinderella: Why Indian Women are Posting Midnight Photos” http://www.bbc.com/news/40872788
While ISIS attacks in Syria escalate, a Syrian-American is dropping truth bombs in music form. Mona Haydar, a Syrian-American who first attracted international attention in 2015 with her “Ask a Muslim” interviews, recently released “Wrap my Hijab,” a pop rap song with lyrics that invoke women’s empowerment and global sisterhood. The chorus lifts up “women [of] every shading,” while the final verse joins together “Somalis,” “Iraqis,” “Punjabis,” “Egyptians, Canadians, and Americans” who still “wrap [their] hijabs.” Tumblr is exploding with clips of the song and “Wrap my Hijab” is on track to become an anthem for unity and women’s empowerment.
While tumblr and social media are particularly resonate on the “make a feminist planet” soundbite and the lyrics are positive, upbeat and uplifting, the grating zurna accompaniment may be a barrier for this tune ever getting radio play or breakthrough popularity. On the other hand, this musicvideo echoes the call for peace and reconciliation not only in war-torn Syria, but in countries across the globe where culture wars continue to divide and destroy global citizenship.
Read more about Mona Haydar and her new single:
- The Daily Good article by Pip Usher: https://www.good.is/articles/hijabi-viral-video-muslim-syrian-american-rapper-mona-haydar
- HufPost’s article on the song: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mona-haydar-hijabi-music-video_us_58e051b6e4b0ba3595959130?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004
- NPR’s article on Mona Haydar’s “Ask a Muslim” interviews in the wake of the Paris terrorist attack. http://www.npr.org/2015/12/27/461124403/faced-with-fear-a-muslim-woman-makes-a-stand-by-setting-one-up
- Mona Haydar’s website: http://www.monahaydar.com/mona-who
“We don’t discriminate against people based on what countries they come from — we discriminate against them based on their age and weight,” Jimmy Kimmel stated in his opening monologue. His audacious claim whizzes right by racism and sexism– Racism being the elephant in the room that magically stole the card for “Best Picture -Moonlight” in an unprecedented Academy slight towards a critically-acclaimed film.
Despite the historic amount of “black” films being nominated (18, with 5 winning,) there is real, constructive criticism about how “black” these films really are. A look at the white directors, white producers, white writers, and a majority of white crew behind the cameras of these and virtually all the other films nominated reveals that we are not as far in fighting racism as we would like to see ourselves.
A perfect example of this racism erasure is the insertion of a fictional white saviour into Hidden Figures, as pointed out by Da’Shawn Mosley. While this film is acclaimed for its historical accuracy, the white screenwriter of Ms. Margot Lee Shetterly’s book decided to take creative license in making it more palatable to white audiences. In his adaptation, the boss, Al Harrison, takes a crowbar to the segregated bathroom at NASA and also invited Katherine Johnson to the control room to view the historic space flight. In reality, and in Shetterly’s book, these doors remained closed to Ms. Johnson for the entirety of her career at NASA.
While we have seen a sweep of nominations of films with black protagonists this year, I can only wonder if we will see a “white-lash” as we have recently in culture, politics, and society. First with the Hugo awards. Then with the post-Obama white-lash that carried and inflamed (still ignites) xenophobic violence across the US. Now we have a step in the right direction for Hollywood, and one can only hope that we do not see a similar pattern of push-back.
- Transcript of Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue for the 2017 Oscars, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/jimmy-kimmel-s-opening-monologue-transcript-oscars-2017-980304
- “A discussion of Blackness in 2016 films and this year’s Oscars,” facilitated by Foundry UMC’s Racial Justice Ministries Team. Panelists: Tim Gordon, Oscar-winner Russell Williams II
- “Hidden Racism” by Da’Shawn Mosley, https://sojo.net/articles/hidden-racism
ABC News has been monitoring and reporting on the situation in Syria since peaceful protests, inspired by the Arab Spring, escalated into civil war in 2011. More recently, concerns of the impact of war on the civilian population, particularly children, have been the focus of international media and war journalists. Despite a call for increased transparency into war torn areas and the need for aid organizations to be permitted there, many times foreign entities, including press or NGOs, are turned away at the border.
Since this past January, ABC News has been texting with a 30 year old, mother of five who lives in the sieged town of Madaya. This “Madaya Mom” has been an informant for ABC News, giving journalists glimpses into her daily life via text message as she tries to secure food for her children, waits eagerly for UN involvement, and simply tries to ensure the survival of her family in devastating circumstances.
After their video crews were turned away from Madaya a final time, ABC News decided to go a different route to bring visual representation to the story of “Madaya Mom,” which has been documented like a diary on their website. The news conglomerate reached out to Marvel Comics, the graphic novel company who is responsible for the Avengers, Iron Man, and Captain America franchises, to create a visual accompaniment to Madaya Mom’s story. Instantly invested in the idea, Marvel was eager to go “where the cameras can’t.” They recommended Deadpool and Avengers: Civil War artist Dalibor Talajić, who survived the Yugoslav wars in the early 1990s and currently resides in Zagreb, Croatia, to draw the scenes from Madaya Mom’s life “with skill and authenticity.”
The debate over the rights of women to wear modest, full-body swimwear is spreading like wildfire over social media and news sites. Twitter and Facebook posts reached a fever-pitch after a well-documented incident involving a French Police officer ordering and forcing a woman to disrobe on a beach. Images and commentary are trending across all platforms, and mainstream media including CNN and the New York Times are offering more in depth journalism on the topic. The Times article interviews the Australian designer of the Burkini, who defends her design. She is not alone–Italian author Barbie Latza Nadeau examined the duplicitous nature of the argument, pointing out that Catholic Nuns have never been shunned from beaches for wearing conservative garments while enjoying the sea and sand.
Worldwide outrage and censure of the “Burkini Ban” continue to gain momentum, and the tide does not seem to be turning anytime soon.
Facebook: Image of French Police Officer and Woman he ordered to disrobe https://www.facebook.com/Thei100/photos/pcb.986202944825665/986202511492375/?type=3&theater
Twitter: “The Burkini Ban is Sexist and This Poignant Tweet Shows Why Its So Awful” http://www.bustle.com/articles/180372-the-burkini-ban-is-sexist-this-poignant-tweet-shows-why-its-so-awful?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=owned&utm_campaign=feminismbustle
New York Times article “Burkini is ‘Freedom and Happiness’ Australian Inventor Says” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/25/world/australia/burkini-ban-france-aheda-zanetti.html?_r=0
CNN: “Police in Nice Force Woman to Remove Part of Clothing” http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/24/europe/woman-burkini-nice-beach-incident-trnd/
Italian Author for The Daily Beast: “Where is the Outrage over Nun Beachwear”
Over ten years ago, a Muslim woman created the “burkini”- a full-body, loose wetsuit that would allow active Muslim women to swim while upholding ideas of Islamic modesty. Today, the burkini is a point of contention and debate across Europe. Outright bans in Germany, backlash in Britain, and, a few days ago, runaway public censure in France, all center around the conservative swimsuit.
In Germany, the mayor of small town Neutraubling banned the swimsuit from public swimming pools under the guise of “hygiene concerns.” His claim was undermined by the rest of his statement, as he segued into victim blaming, questioning women’s choice to wear the modest wetsuit: “Why it is necessary to wear a burkini at a ‘ladies only’ evening? I don’t understand.” (Source: Express)
Earlier this year, British multinational retailer Marks and Spencer came under attack for stocking the burkini. Politicians from the EU reprimanded the marketing decision as bowing to “misogynists.” One politician, Laurence Rossignol, stated: [Marks and Spencer] are shirking their responsibilities and are promoting women’s bodies being locked up.” Domestically, there was a similar backlash in the press. Telegraph reporter Allison Pearson opined, “It is yet more dismaying evidence that our own culture has failed to stick up for itself and is allowing misogynist attitudes to sneak in under the radar.” (Source: Telegraph)
These instances of xenophobia and religious intolerance, masked by “anti-misogyny” language, only result in the further enslavement and disenfranchisement of a group they allegedly seek to “free.”
Just this past week, a French waterpark (SpeedWater) in Les Pennes-Mirabeau was sharply criticised for its “Burkini Day,” which sold out. The mayor of two nearby Marseille districts, Valerie Boyer incited protest to this event. In a tweet, she called out anyone who “let” the private event progress as planned as “accomplices.” (Tweet source). Boyer has also alleged, “Accepting this so-called fashion means we accept communalism [communautarisme] in our country.”
It is important to note that Boyer is not a member of the National Front, which has international infamy for its xenophobic platform, but from the more moderate center-right group called The Republicans, which is currently headed by previous French President, Nicholas Sarkozy. Her views are reflective of that party, even when she states that allowing women to wear a burkini “is…a question of women’s dignity, a question of our most fundamental principles.” (Source: BBC )
Most succinctly, a French citizen retorted to reporters, “Today in France, you are free to sell your body but if you just want to hide your curves to go to the beach, it’s a problem and requires a veto. What’s all the fuss about?”
In “free” Western Europe, Muslim women are disempowered and disenfranchised by those who claim that their clothing and fashion choice is incorrect, divisive, or even “unhygienic.” It is a long road to pluralism, and the amount of hate and debate surrounding a simple swimsuit is indicative of the amount of work to be done for Europe to be truly multicultural.
- German town’s ban of the burkini: http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/678469/Christian-mayor-bans-burkini-swimming-pools-complaints-Neutraubling-Germany
- Civic group Smile13’s private “Burkini-Day” event at SpeedWater waterpark: https://www.facebook.com/events/1596181074008464/?active_tab=posts
- BBC’s article covering the negative reaction to Burkini Day: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36973212
- Valerie Boyer’s tweet condemning the event and those who “allow” it to happen: https://twitter.com/valerieboyer13/status/760817038080311296
- Marks and Spencer sell burkinis despite criticism: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/03/30/france-says-marks-and-spencer-burkini-irresponsible/
- My previous engagement on the idea of “communautarisme” in France: “Is France Allergic to Multiculturalism?“
- BBC’s overview of European opinions on the Veil: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-13038095
Pokemon Go fever has lit up the United States and countries around the globe. Several Syrian graphic designers have manipulated scenes from the game to juxtapose the cuddly “pocket monsters” with the horrors of war.
At ground zero, the Revolutionary Forces of Syria is using the game to solicit Western aid. Their media office released a series of photos of children, holding images of pokemon with the caption, “I’m from Kafr Nabl in Idlib province. Come and save me.”
Syrian emigrants abroad are also using the game to bring attention to struggles of Syrian people. In Denmark, Saif Tahhan photoshops the game’s interface to draw a harrowing comparison of the the developed world’s challenge to capture digital images of Japanese fantasy creatures with Syria’s real challenge to capture resources for survival of its citizens. (Image at top.)
In Sweden, another Syrian emigrant, Moustafa Jano, inserts the pocket monsters into images documenting the refugee experience to inspire compassion for those struggling to escape Syria’s bleak and dangerous status quo, only to face barriers when arriving to Europe.
Source for article and graphics: “Pokemon’s Tears for Syria,” BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-36859636 . Accessed 7/29/2016.
Today, NHK and BBC are running stories about young adults in politics, but the pictures are very different. In the UK, Millennials are feeling the Brexit burn, while 20-somethings in Tokyo are disengaged from politics and passive towards policy changes.
The US House of Representatives are singing “We Shall Overcome” in call-response style, lead by Civil Rights Leader John Lewis. This interlude comes during the middle of a Democratic Party “sit in” to make headway on gun control legislation.