“Hate Commentary” in the German Language

"Hasskommentar" facebook ad from Duden

Last week, Duden (the Merriam-Webster of Germany) upped their social media game with their ad campaign for the latest edition of the comprehensive dictionary. “Hasskommentar,” which translates to “hate-commentary,” has officially been added to the German language. Their website defines this new word as “commentary containing hatred and threats, characterized by strong rejection and hostility, especially on social networks.”

As German speakers are more empowered by their linguistic tradition to create their own words and compound words, the German language is quick to adopt new words (especially technological terms) into its formal lexicon. For example, Germans used “ich google”/”du googlest” about two years before it became common practice to verb the proper noun in American English. (I noticed this personally while living there in the 2000s.)

Hopefully, the adoption of this new word does not start a trend in other countries, as formalizing such concepts makes them more valid and stable in culture and society. On the other hand, having a formal term for this oppressive behavior may help in creating practices to deconstruct it and policies to restrain and restrict it.

Thai Protesters use Harry Potter Symbols to Rebuke Government

Image of Thai protesters with Wands Up Harry Potter gesture from The Guardian

Image from Photograph: Sopa/Rex/Shutterstock via The Guardian

A series of protests and rallies have spread across Thailand, condemning the government. The protesters, many of them high-school and university-aged young people, are using art to circumnavigate the lèse-majesté laws in place, making it a crime to defame, insult, or simply criticize the royal family. By using the images, symbols, and narratives in Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, protesters can critique a government which has acted in eerily parallel to the books’ plots:

  • King Maha Vajiralongkorn was crowned King Rama X of Thailand in 2016, and later the Palace led a campaign that changed the constitution to give the king increased emergency powers.
  • The Thai Crown is closely linked with the Thai military, as the king now has personal control over several influential army units and the Prime Minister previously led a military coup
  • Police have increasingly harassed activists
  • Nearly ten dissidents who have fled the country have “disappeared,” and at least two are confirmed dead
  • Public school students face stricter behavior and personal appearance guidelines set forth by the government.

The imagery and language of Harry Potter are being used by the protestors to call out their government. Many protesters use “Wands Up” gestures using prop wands or glowing cellphone flashlights to evoke imagery of the final battle for Hogwarts against the Deatheaters in the penultimate book. Some dress in Gryffindor colors or witch/wizard robes. A few dress as Deatheaters and hoist gilded gold framed images of Lord Voldemort– gold being the color of The Crown in Thailand.

The youngest protesters also use other art forms to tell their stories. The New York Times published a photograph of high-school-aged children performing the Mockingjay Salute. Their article also explains a piece of performance art by one such child protester: she was tied to a chair, a pair of scissors on her lap. Audience members (fellow protesters) are instructed by a nearby sign to cut her hair to the government-mandated crop length– even with the bottom of her earlobe.

Hundreds of young protesters use pop culture iconography, imagery, and narratives to indirectly criticize their government that limits free speech. It is indisputable, at least in Thailand, that art continues to be a powerful tool against oppression.

 

Sources + Read More: 

 

BTS and #BLM: Kpop Fans are Not New to Political Organizing

BTS at the 2020 Grammy'ss

Last week, Kpop band BTS (formerly known as Bangtan Boys and Beyond The Scene) and its fans made global headlines as they raised over $2 million in donations to the #BlackLivesMatter campaign. The band itself donated $1 million and has been vocal about denouncing racial oppression. On June 4, they tweeted, “We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I, and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together. #BlackLivesMatter” (Source) James Corden even covered how BTS fans are diluting white supremacy hashtags by drowning out hate with their love of the band.

Reporter Yim Hyun-su points out in a Washington Post article that Kpop fans have a well-established history of social justice initiatives and wield social media hashtags with lighting strike power. Their social media campaigns have not only a global reach but also activate global collaboration in a matter of minutes. The online activism of Kpop fans is not to be underestimated.

Hyun-su continues to analyze why the many stories of Kpop fans mobilizing don’t get the coverage that similar stories of streaming/vlogging fans or videogame fans do.  While acknowledging the often problematic landscape of fandom communities, he posits that the barrier to Kpop fans being recognized is classical sexism: the popular image of a “fangirl” is not in alignment with that of a social justice warrior.

Maybe one day, perspectives will mature to a more holistic comprehension of these fandom identities.

To read Hyun-su’s article, visit here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/11/surprised-seeing-k-pop-fans-stand-up-black-lives-matter-you-shouldnt-be/

Webcomic Tackles White Supremacy in the aftermath of Christchurch

“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.

A cropped sample of the This is Us webcomic.

A cropped sample of the This is Us webcomic.

Read “This is Us” here: https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/18-03-2019/this-is-us/  

#AintNoCinderella: The Power of a Selfie and a Slogan

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.

 

Sources:

Syrian-American’s Pop Rap Music Video explodes on Tumblr while Syrian conflict escalates

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:

White Erasure of Racism and the 2017 Oscars

 

hidden-figures

“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. 

Sources:

  • 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

 

 

Marvel Partners with ABC News to Raise Awareness of Syrian Siege

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.”

Continue reading

The Burkini Debate Spreads to Italy, Australia, and the USA

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.

Sources/Links:

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”
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/08/21/where-s-the-outrage-over-nun-beachwear.html

 

Fashion vs the Government: The Burkini Debate

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.

Getty Images Burkini Stock Photo

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. 

 

Sources:

 

Additional Links:

  • 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