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Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Deoliwallahs: A conversation with Yin Marsh and Joy Ma

On Friday, October 9th, Yin Marsh - author of the upcoming Zubaan book Doing Time With Nehru - visited the Zubaan office with her friend Joy Ma. Yin and Joy are part of a community of Chinese immigrants who had settled in India. Starting in 1962, about 2,000 members of this community were incarcerated in an internment camp in Deoli, Rajasthan, as a State reaction to the Sino-Indian Border War. Though the conflict only lasted one month, many internees were kept in the camp for up to four and a half years after they were first interned. Doing Time With Nehru is about Marsh’s experience of being incarcerated in Deoli when she was a young child.

In the camp, they had minimal access to basic amenities like electricity, food, etc. There was no schooling. Many people were separated from their families in the camp and after being released. Some families were new immigrants, with only a couple of generations settled in India; however, some had come as early as 1780, and a community of labourers arrived in the 1800s to work on tea plantations. So when many Chinese-Indians were forcibly deported to China, it was a land some had never even seen. Some Chinese Indians were citizens; they had their citizenships taken away. A community that, as Payal Banerjee says in her Introduction, had a “long and enmeshed socio-cultural belonging” in India, was almost overnight cast as foreign, “alien”, and dangerous in the national imagination.

After the internees were released, they found that their property and land had been confiscated by the State; they were forced to go and make a home in unknown parts of the country, starting with nothing. However, in their new homes, things did not go back to how they were before. Social and institutional discrimination against the Chinese-Indians was now rampant.

Many members of this community eventually left India, finding life too difficult in the country they had once called home to continue living there. This is also the case for Marsh and Ma. Both of them now live in the U.S.

They are back now - along with two other ex-internees, Steven Wen and Michael Cheng - “to seek closure, to ask for an apology from the Indian government, to talk about a history that has gone unacknowledged for so long” (scroll.in). They call themselves “The Deoliwallahs” and recently got a campaign partially funded on Indiegogo, called “Voices of Deoli”. They wanted to raise financial support for travel to India, and also for a new documentary film being made by a supporter of the community - Rafeeq Ellias - in order to spread awareness of a story that was systematically suppressed from Indian national memory, and therefore, one that very few (especially in the new generation) had heard. The documentary eventually did get made, and was recently screened at the IIC in Delhi. It is called Beyond Barbed Wires: A Distant Dawn.

 

Yin Marsh (left) and Joy Ma at the Zubaan office in Shahpur Jat October 2015

Yin Marsh (left) and Joy Ma at the Zubaan office in Shahpur Jat
October 2015

 

An Interview

I ask Marsh and Ma how they found the ex-internee community.  Marsh says that for her, she completely lost touch for a while - until 2012. She didn’t really engage with the past before that. She was so angry at India that she completely rejected that part of her history. Marsh’s daughter, Nicole Marsh, writes in the Foreword to the memoir that although occasionally her mother would talk of her past, there was no real exploration of those memories within her family. However, when she was in college, she studied oral history, and that made curious about her own family’s history - specifically her mother’s history. Eventually, the conversations between Nicole and Yin led to the idea for a memoir.

The memoir kickstarted things. When it was published, members of the community started reaching out to Marsh. She says that once Nikki (as Nicole is fondly called) met a travel agent. She told her mother that the travel agent made her think of her. When Marsh asked why, Nicole said that the man grew up in Darjeeling and his uncle was interned. Nicole invited him to the book launch, where he bought a book and sent it to his uncle. It turned out that the uncle was someone Yin Marsh knew - a man named Ming Tung Hsueh. The travel agent was also in touch with a writer named Kwai Li, who wasn’t an internee but had written about life in Calcutta, and told her about Marsh’s memoir. Li got in touch with Marsh and asked her if they could meet. When they met, she gave Marsh Joy Ma’s business card, who Li was supposed to meet on her trip to San Francisco but couldn’t. And that was how Ma and Marsh ended up meeting.

For Ma, her family always talked about that part of their history. As a result, they were in touch with many of the ex-internees, and they knew a lot of people. However, everyone was busy with work and their own lives. Marsh’s book, though, “really led to the resurgence of something - everybody was ready to do something more.” This was the chain of events that led to the Voices of Deoli movement.

Joy Ma is a very interesting ex-internee, because she was born in the camp. Her mother was pregnant when the family got arrested. Therefore, she is the youngest member of that community. Marsh, too, was young when she was interned - she was thirteen, just transitioning into adolescence. What was it like, being that young and being incarcerated by the State?

“As a teenager, I was just so angry,” remembers Marsh. “I was really mad when I got away from it. I had lost everything, I had lost my identity. All of a sudden I wasn’t Indian anymore, I didn’t know what I was.” Her parents never emphasised their Chinese identity that much - and besides, she was in boarding school most of the time. She didn’t feel Chinese. But, according to the government, nor was she Indian.

Her brother - Bobby - who was around eight at the time, loved the camp, strangely enough. He had a “grand old time,” says Marsh, smiling. He thought they were on a camping trip. He would have stayed there another two months.

Joy Ma reflects, “When you're a teen so many things are going on. One thing I think made them so angry was being treated like prisoners. In the beginning they weren’t angry. Anger came later. In the beginning there was guilt, and shame, and humiliation.” And fear, Marsh adds. What had they done wrong?

The anger was after they were released. They weren’t allowed to go home, they lost everything, their families were split up. At an age when identity and a sense of belonging was paramount, these very things were stripped away from Marsh. “For years I didn’t want anything to do with India, with the food, or anything,” Marsh reminisces. “It was just a total rejection [of India],” adds Ma.

Ma’s parents tried to shelter their new baby from the fear and the deprivation of the camp, and showered her with love and warmth. Her brothers - one a teen, and one eight - had lived a comfortable life before the camp, but at Deoli they were made to do chores - not only to help out their mother, but also to keep them busy. There were no schools in Deoli.

Catching up to school was hard after they were released. Ma, who joined Class One then, didn’t have much to catch up on, but her brothers had great difficulty getting admission to school. Not only was post-war society now xenophobic towards Chinese-Indians, but they had also missed a significant amount of schooling. There was one volunteer who tried to teach children in Deoli, and parents tried to homeschool their kids, but it wasn't the same as going to school. Ma’s mother went around begging priests at missionary schools to take her sons. They finally got into St. Xaviers, which the Ma family was very grateful for. But it took “some clawing” for Ma’s brothers to get back to the standard. Michael Cheng, one of their fellow Deoliwallahs, has a “real stigma” because he was never able to catch up. He lost three really important years in the camp.

Both Ma and Marsh feel like the schools, except for a handful, were not at all sympathetic to them. “Missionary schools, for all their preaching and saying come to me whenever you have trouble, and then when you had trouble, they turned away,” says Marsh. She has very negative memories of her Loreto Convent years. Ma adds that her mother never sent her to Chinese school after the camp. It was just too hard, trying to catch up at regular school; and also, the released families simply couldn’t afford any extras.

It was just hard to resettle after the camp. Ma’s original home was in Alipurduar in North Bengal, but her family was released into Calcutta. “My dad, he just loved everything in his old home and he tried his best for us to go back. All the time we were staying in Calcutta, he was trying to figure out to go back, but we were never allowed to go back - and he was questioning, why? And never got an answer.” Her mother would have nightmares of the barbed wire and wake up crying.

Before the war, Ma says, “It was a Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai time.” Indian people felt warmly towards the Chinese; diplomatic relations were great. “But the change after the war - it was almost…overnight.” After her family’s release, she ended up going to Delhi University. Although the level of sexualised racism towards women who look Chinese, or Tibetan, or Northeastern, were not even close to what they are today, she says, she remembers getting racial slurs yelled at her by boys on the streets when she was in high school. That’s why she started thinking that India was not a permanent home for her - she did not want to live in a place where people were allowed to say such things to her face. She went to New York for her Master’s (she’s a journalist). “But you know, they say that in the United States too…”

“United States is racist too,” affirms Marsh.

The Deoliwallahs are back to ask the Indian State for an acknowledgment and an apology for what happened to them. Marsh outlines their reasons for why they want an official, public apology: “If the Indian government does apologise it would significantly begin the process of healing and closure…the Chinese community will begin to trust the government again, and that at the same time, the local Indian community will start looking at Chinese Indians, not as enemies, but as fellow citizens who were wrongly treated.”

Doing Time with Nehru cover

 

 

 

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Infiltrating the master's house: why is Fifty Shades so popular?

Two things happened recently that made me think about Fifty Shades of Grey.

E. L. James released another book, called Grey, which is apparently written from Christian Grey’s perspective, and last month I came across an essay on Guernica on the original novel. And it struck me that although it has been ages since Fifty Shades and its sequels came out, I don’t think I have ever had a week go by without an article, ad, listicle or some paragraph tucked away in an article about it. Earlier this year when the film came out, intervals of life without Fifty Shades shortened considerably, and for a while it was hard to read news online without having ad columns pop up on the sides with Jamie Dornan’s constipated sexy-face in a thematically grey suit. While I do not appreciate the broad strokes of vitriol that are normally directed at Fifty Shades for reasons that form this essay, I do find it a little strange that it is so consistently visible, even though I am an Indian woman, writing this in Delhi, and the social milieu that I inhabit – newly (and in this case barely) employed hipster graduates with little tolerance for romantic fiction – is as far from the target audience of the novel as possible. It turns up everywhere: bookshops, airports, railway stations, pavement stalls, not to mention Facebook and Twitter.

It was still surprising, even jarring, to come across the book on Guernica Magazine. Guernica is where I have found gems over the years: pieces like Mirza Waheed’s ‘The Torturable Class’ (my introduction to Kashmiri politics) and interviews with people like Habibe Jafarian and Hayv Kahraman. I trust it to come up with interesting, well-crafted, occasionally life-altering prose.  I should add that this essay on Fifty Shades, by Aya de Leon, was also political. It went deep into the origins of E. L. James, born Erika Mitchell, and speculated about the effect of Pinochet’s dictatorship on her Chilean immigrant childhood. In a nutshell this was the argument: ‘While some feminists have argued that Fifty Shades is a tale of domestic abuse wrapped up as a love story, it can also be understood as a romanticized allegory of Pinochet’s dictatorship.’

Once I got over my surprise, it struck me that my initial reaction is exactly the kind of problematic relationship most feminists and students of literature have with Fifty Shades of Grey and its immediate predecessor Twilight. We cringe, we do not deign to read; at best, after reading a few pages – which are obviously awful – we throw our arms up. We agonize over the fact that people like these books. The Fifty Shades series has three books in total, and Twilight four. These are books of medium to heavy thickness, and it continues to surprise/worry many of us that they are devoured with appetite and shown hysterical devotion by a large number of people. By mid-2014 it had already sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. I have no idea what the figures are now, after the film. In my case it manifested most recently in incredulity that Guernica should publish an essay on Fifty Shades. I have seen the same dismissal in many published pieces, especially those written by respectable, well-known feminists on respectable, well-known platforms. Most of these authors wear with pride the fact they have read either a few pages or, at best, the entirety of only the first book of either series. They also wear with pride the fact that they do not understand its appeal, as if this incomprehension is also a protection against accidental stupidity, or internalized misogyny, with which every adoring reader is charged.

To clarify a few points here: I have no doubt that both Twilight and Fifty Shades are extremely violent and misogynist. I have read all the books in both series. They are both about young, naive and vulnerable women who enter into highly unequal and dangerous relationships with men who are (in one case supernaturally) older and stronger than them. These women face forceful confinement, possessiveness, threats against their life and finally enter into marriage – an institution steeped in the tradition of seeing women as property and disposable reproductive instruments. These books are also homophobic: both Edward Cullen and Christian Grey baulk at the thought that they may be seen as gay. Indeed, there are no LGBTQIA characters in either series. Besides, masculinity is repeatedly written into the text as the male’s right to infantilize, stalk, dismiss and abuse his female partner. In both cases, the protagonist loses her (male) best friend in the process of fusing with her partner. And both series are awfully written: endless repetitions, banal diction, rickety, purposeless sentences, primary-school expression and, of course, the terrifying ‘inner goddess’.

The point of this litany is that it eases the way to a question: since all of these things are obvious, why do so many women – intelligent, adult, and competent – read these books? When I was interning at a car sales showroom in the summer of 2012 (a horror story in its own right; I was terrible at it) I found a copy of Fifty Shades lying in my boss’ car when she dropped me home one day. The significant bit was that it was lying hidden under the seat, heavily dog-eared. This was not just a pleasure; it was one that was self-conscious and covered in shame. This makes sense, since most of my attempts at discussing these books have been tedious things dominated by frantic avowals of not being a fan in order to be taken seriously, and then a petering out, because there was no interest in the absence of fandom. These two attitudes –vicious dislike and surreptitious copies under car seats – sum up how these books have been received, to the point that any conscious, unapologetic reading became a rare thing. Amy Jenkins writes in the Independent: ‘Fifty Shades was always said to be the book that took advantage of the new-found anonymity of Kindles – you could read it on the train and no one would know.’ But Jenkins’ essay too stops with the limited observation that the books are quite, quite badly written and violently sexist. Again, no attempt to analyze their popularity.

This is why Aya de Leon’s commentary was refreshing. I did not really agree with the argument; while E. L. James’ Chilean heritage is certainly very interesting: the idea that the plot of Fifty Shades is a metaphor for the sexual violence and human rights abuse under Pinochet regime seemed both too convenient, and a bit simplistic in its A-Level quality of biographical criticism. However, what it did was treat Fifty Shades as a delayed cultural effect. In doing so it raised the parameters of commentary from entertainingly hateful to soberly critical. The only other piece of writing that, in my knowledge, subjected the books to a critical eye has been Eva Illouz’s ‘Hard-Core Romance’ (2014). I have not been able to get my hands on it yet, but a useful summary of its explanation as to why Fifty Shades continues to be popular was found in a book review. Bestsellers, Illouz contends, "are likely to be texts that encode problematic social conditions – that is, social conditions that threaten individuals' capacity to pursue certain central goals, be they satiety, happiness, or material wealth". This is an analysis I accept without hesitation.

And for me, although Fifty Shades is ostensibly about sexual pleasure and satiety, the trajectory of desire throughout the books is underscored by questions of wealth and class distinction. There is a scene in Fifty Shades Freed where Ana and Christian talk about the pre-nup. It is quite predictable: the billionaire protests against safeguarding his empire, to which Ana apologetically replies, “I’m bringing nothing to our marriage but my student loans.” This admission is perhaps what lies behind the phenomenon of Fifty Shades as a bestseller.

We live in a world where there is no free education, no real possibility of class mobility beyond a certain point (I am not even going into the question emancipation from class itself). As women, we also live in a world where a pervasive aesthetic tyranny pressurizes us to live up to punishing standards of beauty that often require mutilating and arresting both the body and its natural desire for food, rest, growth and ageing. Think about it: dieting, threading, waxing, working out, bleaching, labioplasty – the list goes on. And the endgame, the promised reward, is a monogamous heterosexual state-sanctioned partnership with a man who either provides us with all of the above, or at least offers sexual fidelity and importance, elevating us from oppressed, undesirable objects to colonized, valued objects. Now, if my reading is harsh and unrepresentative of many marriages and partnerships, it is because this is not descriptive of how most human beings end up navigating the hot-coal intersection of gender and class expectations. It is rather the description of what norm expects us to follow in most urban cultures.

And this norm is never more reified and normalized than in the genre of popular romantic fiction.

One of the more awkward moments of my undergraduate life as an English literature student was when I had to write an essay on Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. Published in 1740, this novel is as triggering as it gets. The plot revolves around a poor fifteen-year-old girl who is sent to look after the household of a young squire called Mr. B, who is a sexual predator and entirely a product of his new-found inheritance. He confines Pamela to his manor, intercepts her frantic letters to her parents when she asks to be taken back, and by turns threatens and bribes her to sleep with him. Since I am quite sure you will not pick it up for weekend reading, I will keep the spoilers: the full title of the novel is Pamela; Or Virtue Rewarded. The ending, therefore, consists of Pamela’s brief escape from this house of intimidation and sexual harassment, when she is interrupted by Mr. B’s contrition and proposal for marriage. Of course, Pamela promptly forgives him and there is a marriage, followed by some more drama with B’s snobbish family and a happy ending. Virtue, then, is coded both as a gesture towards accepting the norm, but also in a self-protective mimicry of that, i.e. chastity in the face of a financially exploitative deal and swift acceptance in the face of a more profitable one.

Would Pamela have accepted this proposal without the manor, the money and Mr. B’s position in society? To put it more correctly, would Pamela’s acceptance of the proposal have been a believable fantasy – bestseller material – without those things?

Similarly, from the very first time they meet, the interaction between Ana and Christian has been marked very carefully and explicitly by class difference. Ana receives presents that she needs quite badly, but keeps reluctantly.  During the course of their relationship in the second and third books, Ana’s dependence of Christian’s wealth increases, as she participates in his family life with its improbable conveniences, including a housekeeper, chauffeur and even a helicopter. She is bought expensive clothes, makeup, laptops – everything needed for a plush, urban, middle class life; the precise kind of life that a young American graduate (perhaps graduates everywhere) both craves and finds unaffordable.

It is even worse when you aspire for these things as a woman. While queer, trans or BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) women are in many cases erased from the narrative of such achievement itself, even for a young, cis, white woman, it is more difficult than for her male counterparts. As Ana demonstrates in her first meeting with Christian, she thinks of herself as plain, and inadequate because of the plainness: a feeling that Bella in Twilight, Jane in Jane Eyre, and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice all share. Fast forward to Fifty Shades Freed, we find Ana congratulating herself:

I gaze at myself, trying to absorb how I look. My body is so different these days. It’s changed subtly since I’ve known him . . . I’ve become leaner and fitter, and my hair is glossy and well cut. My nails are manicured, my feet pedicured, my eyebrows threaded and beautifully shaped. (p.47)

Money, specifically Christian’s money, changes Ana’s self-perception and material existence. The price? The above passage is succeeded by the discovery of bite marks all over her body, not made out of pleasure, but specifically to mark her body as Christian’s property.

This is a typical moment that highlights the problem with this book. That the need to mark a woman’s body is seen as an irritating but understandable, to be resolved by hurling a hairbrush at the man and then forgiving at the first sign of contrition.

I would like to go a bit further and attempt a slightly different reading – one that sees Ana’s reconciliation with her abusive partner as not a naïve lack of self-respect but as a clear-headed and necessarily unacknowledged compromise. In the beginning of the series, we read Christian as a man who is not interested in a relationship. He desires an (unfair) contract-bound, purely sexual relationship which Ana refuses to be part of, seeing it as counterfeit and less valuable than a romantic relationship. Instead she wants “hearts and flowers”, a recurring phrase through the series, standing in for monogamy, traditional rituals of romance and marriage. By the second book of the trilogy, Christian has forgotten all about his original parameters. He has morphed into Boyfriend Proper, and proceeds to propose in a room full of flowers on a boat:

“You wanted hearts and flowers,” he murmurs.
I blink at him, not quite believing what I’m seeing.
“You have my heart.” And he waves toward the room.
“And here are the flowers,” I whisper, completing his sentence.

I think the reason that this series is a bestseller is because Ana achieves the transformation of Christian, and not because of the appallingly-written descriptions of what claims to be kinky sex.  What Ana rejects in the first books is not sex on the basis of contract, but sex on the basis of an inadequate and exploitative contract. She chooses to aim higher and assimilate Christian’s sexuality into an arrangement that benefits her on a permanent basis, and makes her the sole beneficiary of his financial, social and emotional capital. And never once is this conscious. The text itself tries as hard as it can to suppress any suggestion of a motive on Ana’s part that is not romantic love. It is rather that the popular model of romantic love itself is a product of necessities and compulsions imposed by a system where the fantasy of a billionaire who offers wealth, status, convenience and validation is a soothing balm to the unsolvable problem of being (un)equal to the most successful man.

There is, of course, a much better answer to the problem. The answer lies in emancipatory feminism. Not a feminism whose highest goal to mimic and outdo the most powerful man, but to shake off the very structures that allow for a Christian Grey to exist in the world and be seen as something enviable and cool. Emancipatory feminism would point out that Christian, even at his best, kindest self, is brutal to the invisible workers in his company whose cheap, unrewarded labour affords him his helicopter and other outrageous displays of self-aggrandizing generosity to a single person.

Audre Lorde’s famous, overused formulation comes to mind. A black lesbian feminist, an outcast in most narratives that occupy popular imagination, she said, “the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house.” For her and many other feminists, the solution lies in revolution and not resignation to an elaborate game of assimilation and capitulation, the aspiration being freedom from the need to be needed by an able-bodied, rich, cis, heterosexual partner to validate existence. But that dream comes with the risk of losing the plot. Choosing to love someone not assigned to us by the norm is to court social rejection at best and murderous violence at worst (see the history of interracial and inter-caste love).To resist the entitlement of a stalker is often to risk verbal and physical violence. And bestsellers point to the problem, not the most ethical or inclusive solution. Instead, they give us calming little pellets of fantasy that solve the question of unequal opportunity, unchecked privilege and male entitlement by giving women strategies to manipulate and tip the game in their favour. The most comforting component of these strategies is perhaps the fact that they read like anything but strategic: Anastasia, like her literary predecessors, practices a degree of open-mouthed naïveté that very few women in real life can afford. We have to worry about making the ends meets, and our decisions can never have the moral neutrality (or vapidity) Fifty Shades, and indeed, most popular romantic fiction so casually flaunts. And this is why they are are popular: they offer a way through patriarchy that is not about dismantling the master’s house, but infiltrating it and taking over.

ON TOPIC: THE DADRI LYNCHING, DALITS AND FOOD/FARMING AUTONOMY, THE POLICING OF REPRODUCTION/MOTHERHOOD, U.S. MILITARISM AND THE MEDIA, WORKING-CLASS PEOPLE AND LITERACY

Regarding the recent Dadri lynching, Tarun Vijay of the BJP attempts to convince us why the lynching was un-Indian and un-Hindu.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta rebuts:

“Lynching a person merely on suspicion is absolutely wrong,” Vijay informs us with all sincerity. It is almost as if lynching is fine so long as it is not based on mere suspicion. It is saying, in effect, that if Akhlaq had actually been guilty of eating beef, it would have been fine to lynch him...[he says] differences [are] tantamount to provocation to murder.

If you read one thing from today's On Topic, read this. Gautam Bhan writes on Kafila -

Mohammad began to die a long time ago. When violence against particular bodies becomes legitimate, becomes a series of “misunderstandings,” it is not violence at all. It is the order of things. It is not prejudice but probability. Beef, property, a panchayat election, love jihad, a job, an argument, a WhatsApp message – these are not causes, they are just modes. The last circuits in a motherboard whose pattern is set in place.

Mohammad began to die at least as early in 1992. When we speak of his death in September 2015, it is already too late. The violence is not his death. The violence is that his body lost its right to be murdered because it has slowly been stripped of its life, bit by bit, for years.

Rural farming collectives run by Dalits reduce dependence on, and therefore subjugation by, the upper castes:

What is really remarkable is that Dalit girls are leading some of these agitations. In February last year, Sandeep Kaur, a 25-year-old diploma holder in computer applications from Matoi village in Sangrur, floated an Ekta Club along with a group of 10 Dalit girls. They launched a two-month long agitation, and managed to convince the Dalit families of Matoi of the need to bid collectively for the land..."Now we don't need to beg upper caste farmers for even cattle fodder. This land is enough to feed cattle of all Dalits in Matoi," says 45-year-old Amarjit Kaur.

Unwanted, unneeded hysterectomies performed on marginalised Indian women without their informed consent show the intimate connections between modern medicine and patriarchal, class, and caste oppression:

...women reported going to private hospitals in Gulbarga or cities close to the border in Maharashtra and Telangana complaining of lower abdomen pain or menstrual irregularities. The doctors would tell women that their uteruses were damaged, swollen, had worms, were stained, or had turned green or black. The women in Chapla Naik said that doctors had told them that the uterus “kharab hua” (Hindi for “had gone bad”)—and had to be removed...“Others who are educated can look at the report and say this operation has to be done for this kind of pain. What do we know? If someone tells us to get an operation done, we will get it done.”

A report in Vantage about tuberculosis and the pregnant body:

The 30-year-old told me that she had never had a regular menstrual cycle since her periods first began when she 13 or 14 years old. She was married soon after. “When I got married and came to Mumbai, I realised that my sister-in-law was getting periods every month. I had no idea we were supposed to get it every month. I have been taking medicines to treat this problem. Socho—Think!,” she said. Soon after, she began visitng several doctors...to try and understand why she was not able to conceive. More often than not, she would be faced with condescending practioners who did little to help her predicament. “My neighbours taunt me and say I am not able to bear a child. My family also scolds me sometimes, out of love,” she said, before adding, “They are bound to say some things to me, aren’t they?” After she was finally diagnosed that day, she told me that she hoped her disease would not infect others in the house, even though the doctor had informed her that extra-pulmonary tuberculosis was not infectious.

Should Virginia Woolf have had children? Rebecca Solnit questions why women who devote their lives to things other than birthing and raising children are subject to constant interrogation:

People lock onto motherhood as a key to feminine identity in part from the belief that children are the best way to fulfil your capacity to love...[b]ut there are so many things to love besides one’s own offspring, so many things that need love, so much other work love has to do in the world. While many people question the motives of the childless, who are taken to be selfish for refusing the sacrifices that come with parenthood, they often neglect to note that those who love their children intensely may have less love left for the rest of the world.

An app that tracks American drone strikes is banned from the Apple App Store for being "crude".

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports on the suspected U.S.-led bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan...

...and the Intercept reports on U.S. media sources' obfuscation of the U.S.'s role in the bombing:

In its own special way, the New York Times has been even more craven [than CNN]. Its original article on the attack opted for this bizarrely agent-less formulation: [Airstrike Hits Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan]. Some airstrike, traveling around on its own like a lost tourist, ran into a hospital in Afghanistan.

This article engenders conversations in the office. U.S. centric, but interesting:

...academic Marxism tends to view working-class people abstractly, leaving college-educated revolutionaries unable to speak plainly to anyone outside of academia. As soon as they step out of school, they discover that no one understands a word they speak unless they speak plain. This further deeps the idea that revolutionary theory is not for the working classes. These college educated revolutionaries have fundamentally accepted, in a-historical terms, the profound devastation of the working class... It is accepted as eternal that working class people cannot read, do not like to read, do not like to think, etc. This ignores the fact that the weapon of theory has been vital to oppressed people's liberation, from illiterate slaves risking their lives to learn how to read, to Malcolm X discovering the power of knowledge while sitting in his prison cell.

A conversation between Angela Davis and Toni Morrison on the importance of literacy, and public access to reading material (through libraries that are available to marginalised classes, in prisons, in rural areas) in the revolution.

See you next week! Or whenever we get around to the next On Topic.

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