Four on Friday: The Second Edition

20 May

CONTINUING with this blog post format (see the inaugural post here), here are the four things I think you should know about the world from the past week.

1. Roseanne Barr’s kick-ass piece in New York magazine about sexism in television. For those of you who don’t remember, she was the star of the ABC sitcom Roseanne about a working-class family in Illinois. It was one of the most-watched shows on television in the nineties, and often dealt with taboo subjects such as pornography, abortion, domestic violence and gay rights. It was ahead of its time when it aired, and remains pretty radical now. When’s the last time you saw a blue-collar, woman-centric show with nary a platinum blond or a pair of stilettos in sight?

Here’s a choice quote from Roseanne’s must-read commentary to give you a taste of who this bossy, brassy comic is and what it means to be a woman in the show-biz:

When the show went to No. 1 in December 1988, ABC sent a chocolate “1” to congratulate me. Guess they figured that would keep the fat lady happy—or maybe they thought I hadn’t heard (along with the world) that male stars with No. 1 shows were given Bentleys and Porsches. So me and George Clooney [who played Roseanne Conner’s boss for the first season] took my chocolate prize outside, where I snapped a picture of him hitting it with a baseball bat. I sent that to ABC.

2. Attention seems to be momentarily diverted from air strikes in Libya, a possible accord between Israel and Palestine, and U.S. suspicions of Pakistan to the recent arrest of “DSK” aka Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French (now-former) head of the International Monetary Fund, who was arrested earlier this week on charges of attempted rape, forced oral sex and an effort to sequester another person against her will. Everyone knows the story by now—he assaulted the hotel maid in the Sofitel Hotel where he was staying; on believing the room to be empty, she entered to do her job, whereupon he apparently grabbed her and forced her to perform oral sex on him until she managed to flee—so I won’t go over all the details.

But here are a few things I feel compelled to highlight: The incredible courage of this woman, an immigrant from Guinea, to press charges against an incredibly rich and powerful man (perhaps the fact that she belonged to a union bolstered that courage) when Kahn’s other victims didn’t step forward. The fact that we keep seeing this pattern in our supposedly evolved, apparently equal society. (For recent examples, see the cases of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Roman Polanski.) And when powerful men are accused of sexual assault and worse, their equally powerful supporters (kudos, Kirstie Alley/shame on you, Whoopi!) step forward to say things like, ‘I know him, he’s never been violent with me, he would never do something like that!’ or ‘He’s so rich and important. Why would he need to force a woman?’ First, even axe murderers are perfectly capable of being nice to some people. And second, rape is not about sex, people. It’s about power. And for some people, the power of controlling a country’s economy or moving an audience to tears is simply not enough.

Additional reading: this open letter on the website of Women, Action and the Media and this New York Times article on the corrosive culture of the IMF as an institution.

3. The discrimination Roseanne faced in her TV career and the apologists of rapists and child-molesters perhaps have something to do with ads such as this one—and the portrayal of women in popular culture as (fill in your adjective of choice here). The photograph says it all (thanks to Marissa for snapping it):

Dos Equis ad on the corner of 18th Street and Park Avenue South

Dos Equis ad on the corner of 18th Street and Park Avenue South

Never drinking Dos Equis again.

4. If you weren’t having a depressing enough Friday already (thanks for NOTHING,!), here’s the latest news from Mumbai’s Golibar slum:

Today, after over a year of fighting for our rights, the bulldozers entered our compound. Its not enough for them to simply break our houses, they must now raze them to the ground. 12 people got arrested for trying to defend their houses. One woman, Sunita Gurav, braved a grievous head injury in a lathi-charge. Today, 20 more homes are rubble. Tomorrow on the 20th, they plan to take 52 more.

Today, our lives are tied up in jute bags, littered under the open sky. We stay hungry all day, and there are whispers. Who is this Anna Hazare, who fights against corruption? Who are these people, who light candles and go hungry for him? Perhaps they will hear of us, and come stand with us. Perhaps then, we will know where to go from here.

If you’re going “Goli-what?” then read this article and then this one and watch this documentary film. This is the slumdog story Danny Boyle isn’t telling you.

2 Responses to “Four on Friday: The Second Edition”

  1. Arzanne 21 May 2011 at 12:22 PM #

    Jayu, you write brilliantly! Keep on at it!

  2. Jayati Vora 21 May 2011 at 12:25 PM #

    Thanks Arzanne!

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