Art is the proper task of life

{September 17, 2007}   Models, Anorexia, Ramadan

Its not a closed secret that diss skinny models so before I shift my focus to matters which should be closer to heart in Ramdhan, I decided to revisit this topic one last time before Ramdhan goes in full swing. Its not just ironic but its rather strange that there are literally hundreds of millions of people on this planet who do not have enough people and there are now also tens of millions of people on this planet who are obese. Then there are of course those super skinny stick-figure models. Looking at these three groups of people on can see the reason behind the prescription for fasting. The obese, the skinny and even those models can learn something from the spirit of Ramadan. May be some of those models should try fasting instead of starving themselves to death. It just may work. As usual I leave you people with the following excerpt from the Forbes Magazine.

The furor began in earnest last year with the deaths of two young models from anorexia nervosa and has since escalated, prompting fashion-show bosses in Europe to ban girls under a certain body mass index from working the shows.

In mid-January, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) issued its own “Health Initiative,” stressing voluntary measures to “create an atmosphere that supports the well-being of these young women.”

But that may not be enough to protect models — and the millions of girls and women who emulate them, critics charge.

Too often, “guidelines are things that people just hang on a wall,” said Lynn Grefe, chief executive officer of the National Eating Disorders Association.

While she’s pleased that the CFDA has “opened a dialogue” on the issue, Grefe said she’s waiting to see how these voluntary rules get implemented.

“Right now, I’m not sure how they are going to handle it if they have an anorexic girl in the shows,” Grefe said. Given that most eating-disorder sufferers hide the problem, “How are designers going to know about it? And who’s going to tell the girl?” she said.

The issue gained renewed prominence with the eating-disorders deaths in 2006 of two young models — Luisel Ramos, of Uruguay, and Ana Carolina Reston, of Brazil, who was 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 88 pounds when she died. Reston reportedly lived on a diet of apples and tomatoes in the weeks before her death.

The outcry over these deaths led to a move in September by government officials in Madrid to ban models with a body-mass index (BMI) of less than 18 from performing in city-sponsored fashion shows.


{September 10, 2007}   Spears, Spears, Dis-spears

Little miss Aliana goes to Yahoo News to find out what’s new in the world i.e., things of importance, things that matter to humanity but what is the top news? Scantly Clad, not really clad Britney Spears. Its gets even “better”, most people were concerned that she looked fat and un-hot (I know that’s not a work, Ok!). First of all why should one be concerned with Britney’s next move or how fat or how thin she looks and secondly can we please get a break from raunchville on television. Consider the following excerpt from a news story.

Stripping down to just her smalls, Britney performed a raunchy dance routine and lip-synched to her new song with a team of back-up dancers that ended in a mock-orgy.

A mock what? Did I read that correctly? There you have it people, apparently this is the most important story in the world these days, a mock orgy. It says something about the media doesn’t it. Or may be it also says something about ourselves, as a people!

{June 18, 2007}   The No Honor Killing

The source of the story is the good folks at AltMuslim.

On April 28, 2006, 20 year-old Banaz Mahmod Bakabir Agha’s body was found hacked to pieces and packed in a suitcase in a suburb of London. Her crime was leaving an abusive arranged marriage and wishing to marry a man of her own choice. Finally, on June 12 of this year, her killers were brought to justice when a British court convicted her father Mahmod Mahmod and her uncle Ari Mahmod of her murder.

So what’s really going on here?

Archaic and misogynistic cultural beliefs, on the one hand, reduce women to objects of ownership and control, whose family members have no qualms in obliterating them for imagined sins against tradition. On the other is a host foreign culture suspicious of a ghettoised and economically disenfranchised Muslim minority, and hence slow to provide protection.

The following really caught my attention. It makes me wonder that the Muslim community should stop worrying about the the “big” things and start thinking about the “small” things in life.

Finally, also blameworthy is the persistent silence of the Muslim Council of Britain, and other Muslim groups who jump to organise protests when Muslim women are denied the right to wear niqabs but choose to ignore their plight when they fall prey to the brutality of their own families.

What do I mean by this? FHM an the likes have arrived in the Middle Kingdom. As I have stated before women can wear what they want but promoting a highly sexualized image of women is just plain wrong.

However, some critics say what it proved most successfully was that sex and sexuality sell in China just as they do in other countries. In fact, the magazine puts pictures of scantily clad models on the cover and, of course, a lot more inside.

And when they talk about content, they really do not mean text or articles they mean pictures and not just pictures but that kind of pictures.

“We offer content that will interest men,” said Wang Xiaofeng, the executive editor. “Most of the staff are men. And they know too well what content they want.”

Regarding my last comment about the articles well I take it back, consider this.

With pictures that are considered quite “bold” by Chinese standards and with such topics as “having sex while standing up”, the magazine’s editors know too well that they ought to be careful.
“We censor ourselves in terms of how far we can go,” said Jin.

Censor ourselves? Excuse me but that’s not what it looked like?

Pan Suiming, a sociologist at Renmin University in Beijing, says the magazine reflects the overall trend in Chinese magazines toward sexual explicitness. He said the trend has been noticeably evolving and intensifying over the past five years. While acknowledging that Chinese women are more confident today in displaying their physical beauty, the trend is predominantly driven by commercialism, he said.

Commercialism, of course what else. Sometimes it feels as if commodification of the consumer will be the ultimate height of commercialism and consumerism. Rest assurred, all is not lost.

Another cover girl, Shao Yuhan, received much media attention because her mother became very indignant about the magazine after seeing her daughter’s pictures and wrote an open protest letter, criticizing the magazine for leading a promising singer like her daughter in the wrong direction. That protest eventually earned an apology from the magazine, which said it was not like Playboy magazine.

This particular excerpt form an article in the NYT made me mad, I mean really really mad.

“Pussycat Dolls Present” is about female empowerment, the show’s producers explained to a group of television writers and critics here in January,

“Everything the Pussycat Dolls are is everything that I’ve developed myself into being,” said the rap star Lil’ Kim, who is a judge on the show and who served a prison sentence for lying to a federal grand jury about a shooting outside a radio station.

For the uninitiated, the Pussycat Dolls are a female singing group whose six members slither through their music videos dressed like Barbie’s nasty cousins.

Pussycat Dolls as role models for girls? Female Empowerment? WTF. They are not dolls, they are like witches. Yes, I said Witches, Witches and Witches! (I had to get this out of my system.). Here is another excerpt.

When another male writer asked what kind of women truly aspire to the Dolls’ aesthetic, McG responded: “You must understand the fundamental paradox of a gentleman of your age asking that very question.”

He added: “Being a step backwards for women suggests it’s in the service of men. Under no circumstances is this in the service of men.”

This is what I call twisted semantics and this is exactly what Ariel Levy talks about in her book. These $@#% people have hijacked feminism. Sexuality may be one form of power but making it is the only form of power that a woman has is absurd. This is the kind of mentality that leads young girls to display themselves on debased shows like Girls gone wild. Its not the girls that have gone wild but rather the %@#$ rampant consumerism.

Although this story comes from New Zealand, it is much relevant to our lives in America and increasingly in the rest of the world too. First of all let me say that even though I dress somewhat conservatively but I do not have any problem with women dressing in (almost) any manner that they want however I do have problem with behaving in a certain manner so as to turn themselves into objects. Many of my friends are not exactly prudes and really do dress like stars but they use the special thing about them is their brains and not their looseness. The most damaging thing is that many women themselves do not consider such acts deplorable and objectification of women is being passed as the right of a women to do whatever she wants. The following except about pole dancing is disturbing to say the least.

Young women, far from sternly rising up to form feminist action groups to throw Burger King and the bikini girls off campus, appear to be themselves enthusiastic players in the slapperisation of New Zealand. In bars, managers have found that if they provide poles they don’t even have to hire pole dancers, because female patrons will do it for free.

Advertisement seems to have been reduced to sex, sex and sex.

In an environment such as this, the twin objections of feminism and moralistic concerns have become muted, leaving advertisers with a free hand. Only the most ludicrous or awful displays of women’s bodies arouse complaints, such as a recent Auckland billboard for muesli featuring a pair of giant female breasts. The tagline was “need something real?”

Of course the advertisers use such tactics because they know how to exploit the hard-wired instincts of men and women.

Ads like these, says Starr, capitalise on what is known as the “involuntary attention” phenomenon. Like a train wreck, there are some sights you cannot not look at.

“Pretty much anything involving bodies of either sex is going to have some involuntary attention because it’s hard- wired in,” says Starr.

Ads that grab attention are particularly effective for products that people don’t much care about, called “low- interest” products, says Starr. For a “high-interest” product such as a computer, consumers will research their purchase, carefully weighing up competing products before making a decision.

But no one spends much energy deciding which burger or beer or muesli bar they will buy. For low-interest products such as these, advertisers have to attract attention and create a buzz by using colour, sound or imagery. Or bodies.

The following quote is telling since it says that girls LEARN such behavior. I was in a store the other day and came accross the Bratz dolls that the article mentions, I mean the dolls are ugly. Its not just what you are dress but how you are dressed makes a difference. I mean look at Princess Arial, she looks cute innocent but for Bratz, I hope they burn in hell.

Girls “learn to treat themselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated for their appearance”, said the report.

The cultural influences are everywhere – from highly sexual music videos, to Bratz dolls dressed like hookers, to girl mags with their focus on boys and “crushes”, to sexually exhibitionistic celebrities such as Britney Spears. In school playgrounds, eight-year-old girls can be heard singing The Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’tcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me”.

{February 23, 2007}   Speaking of Divorce

Women in difference communities of the world have different problems and for different reasons. Here is an example of Jewish Orthodox sisters fighting for their rights.

With strident calls for action and threats of “taking to the streets” if the issue is not soon resolved, participants in the 10th anniversary conference of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) ratcheted up the rhetoric around the plight of agunot, “chained women” whose husbands refuse to grant them a religious bill of divorce.

“Let this be the last JOFA conference where we need to ask if there’s a halachic heter [permissive legal ruling] for agunot,” Tova Hartman, founder of an Orthodox feminist synagogue in Jerusalem, told the approximately 1,000 people, mostly women, who attended a conference earlier this month in New York City. “The time has come to stop kvetching.”

For many Muslims the following may sound familiar but as they say, misogyny has no religion.

In the worst cases, husbands have refused to grant religious divorces to their wives for years,

The following was shocking for me as I had never seen something like it before.

…. sometimes issuing the documents only in exchange for sizable ransoms.

Let me make it clear that women can be as chauvinistic and as bad as men when it comes to gender relations. Regardless of whether one calls it ‘liberation’ of women, being ‘comfortable’ with one’s sexuality or other nonsense, the fact of the matter is that women like Paris Hilton and Britney are not emblems of feminist emancipation. In fact they represent the worst excesses of a compromised feminism i.e., objectification and reduction of women to one dimensional objects, sexual objects to be exact. Consider the following excerpt from an article in the Wall Street Journal.

In fact, Britney was following to its logical end what has become the first rule of contemporary American girlhood: to show that you are liberated, take it off. Liberty means responsibility . . . to disrobe. Paris Hilton, Britney’s BFF (Best Friend Forever), taped her sexual escapades with an ex-boyfriend, though even she was tactful enough to pretend that she hadn’t meant for the video to go public. Courtney Love, Lindsay Lohan and Tara Reid have also staged their own wardrobe malfunctions. But flashing is hardly limited to celebrities. The girls-next-door who migrate to Florida during spring break happily lift their blouses and snap their thongs for the producers of “Girls Gone Wild,” who sell their DVDs to an eager public.

Is it just the men’s fault? Many of them are more than happy in this state of affairs but in this case I think some of us women are to be blamed as well, as Ariel Levy calls them Female Chauvanist pigs. Here is another excerpt from the same article.

Some people believe that it is lingering misogyny rather than naive exhibitionism that leads the public to define women by their sexual anatomy and proclivities. Perhaps there is something to that. But the exhibitionism surely doesn’t help. It seems that men, despite their reputation as braggarts, actually don’t find self-exposure all that appealing. Where are the male counterparts to Britney Spears and “Girls Gone Wild”?

I am not a prude but the media and even people’s (men and women’s) obsession with celebrities like Paris, Lohan and Anderson just makes me sick. I mean aren’t there important things in life. May be all people are shallow and go for looks. So may be there is some shallowness in me as well but there is a limit to shallowness and our contemporary culture is on the verge of crossing that limit.

et cetera