Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Shame, power and nudity

July 29, 2009 Leave a comment

huh. Who knew?

Naked girls plow fields for rain

PATNA, India (Reuters) – Farmers in an eastern Indian state have asked their unmarried daughters to plow parched fields naked in a bid to embarrass the weather gods to bring some badly needed monsoon rain, officials said on Thursday.

Witnesses said the naked girls in Bihar state plowed the fields and chanted ancient hymns after sunset to invoke the gods. They said elderly village women helped the girls drag the plows.

“They (villagers) believe their acts would get the weather gods badly embarrassed, who in turn would ensure bumper crops by sending rains,” Upendra Kumar, a village council official, said from Bihar’s remote Banke Bazaar town.

“This is the most trusted social custom in the area and the villagers have vowed to continue this practice until it rains very heavily.”

India this year suffered its worst start to the vital monsoon rains in eight decades, causing drought in some states.

(link via Confluence)

This is like that scene I remember from the TV show in the 90’s based on quaint South Indian stories set in the last century (NOT Malgudi Days, though this starred Girish Karnad, of course) . There was a Malayalee woman who was going to be beaten up by a man (her father-in-law, I think), and as he was menancingly advancing toward her she dropped her sari. The father-in-law, being a ‘respectable society man’ with ‘concern for ladies’ dignity’ (though not TOO much concern, since he meant to beat her up after all) instantly cursed her, and with a very disgusted expression, turned around and stormed away (thinking, no doubt, “how dare she defend herself in this reprehensible way from my beatings. Shameless women!“).

Female nudity has always been a powerful means of communication, of manipulation, and it was especially powerful when it was so rare. It’s just that in the Indian context, female nudity has taken on so many non-sexual or asexual connotations – remember Akka Mahadevi ?- that it bestows oblique power on the woman. Even though that power is derived from the basic premise that nudity = shame, at least there’s some karmic recompense for women who pay the price of that shame.

As opposed to, of course, the female form today and in the West always, which has nothing but sexual connotations (whether or not the woman is nude), and removes every stitch of power or control from the woman and bestows it to the viewer.


Cool FAIL by Burger King – again

July 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Russ Klein evidently spent his childhood ringing the doorbells of neighbors and running away and got caught plenty. Or John Chidsey, CEO of Burger King, had friends who did that, and he never got the guts to do so himself, so he’s making up for it now (no surprises here, apparently: “We want to stay on the cutting edge of pop culture,” says CEO John Chidsey, 44, whose office is lined with photos of himself with celebrities from Sheryl Crow to Tiger Woods.).

First off, you can’t be entirely cool-based if you’re aiming to be a high market share brand selling at a low price point for your category. That’s way too many things at once for too many people.
And second, One can be ‘kewl’ or edgy without falling off the edge entirely, really. Someone please show this awesomely written article to Burger King, stat:

Burger King’s MO: Offend, Earn Media, Apologize, Repeat

CHICAGO ( — How’s this for a global marketing strategy? Each month target a different international market with an ad that offends some segment of the population, then, after earning a lot of media attention, apologize and pull the ad.

That’s the pattern of offense Burger King has established in the past few months. Most recently, the fast feeder had cultural and religious groups screaming today in the latest installment of what has become a series of monthly melees. A few hours after an ABC News reported that ads in Spain depicted the Hindu goddess Lakshmi atop a ham sandwich — with the caption “a snack that is sacred” — Burger King announced that it would pull the ads. Many Hindus are, of course, vegetarian.

According to the statement: “Burger King Corporation values and respects all of its guests as well as the communities we serve. This in-store advertisement was running to support a limited-time-only local promotion for three restaurants in Spain and was not intended to offend anyone. Out of respect for the Hindu community, the in-store advertisement has been removed from the restaurants.”

This has all become familiar. In April, Burger King pulled and said it would revise a European TV spot for its Texican Whopper that had proved offensive to Hispanics. In it a small, masked wrestler draped in a Mexican flag was carried around by a tall gent in jeans and a cowboy hat. Parents expressed dismay in the chain’s online promotion of “Star Trek” in May, in which the chain’s iconic King character kicked a succession of people in the crotch. Last month brought “The 7-incher,” a promotion in Singapore for a long, fat burger that was sure to “blow your mind away.” A woman’s head with an awed, open mouth accompanied the picture of the sandwich.

Emphasis mine above. So they did put out and them withdraw the ads that were offensive to Hindus and to Hispanics. Good for that. Of course, they never withdrew the advertisements that were offensive to women (Pshaw! Our ‘superfan’ is 18-34 MALE, y’know!) – e.g. the woman’s head ad (also called the ‘blow-up doll’ ad: here), or the pedophilic Spongebob Squarepants ad (here).

My issue here is not just that the advertising is provocative, or that it’s really insulting – my bigger problem here is that the advertising is SO pointless! It’s (A) bad, (B) ineffective advertising that is (C) NOT built around a solid insight and (D) does not communicate any real benefit. The (E) drama is all misplaced, and the (F) branding is really non-existent. Finally, (G) there’s really poor benefit vizualization – and the (H) execution is poor – the food looks unappetizing!

Any one of the eight strikes above, and at P&G – or where I work now – we’d’ve been forced back to the drawing board. I can just imagine the Burger King ads being shown at a advertising workshop as an example of ‘how to spend Millions of $$ and not communicate effectively’.

Look at the Spongebob ad, for instance – at the end of 30 seconds all you remember are square butts on little girls, and a sick Spongebob going around measuring the girls with a measuring tape. They’re not advertising a square burger, or a larger burger (to explain the tape) – they’re advertising their version of the Happy Meal. There’s no logical link (unless it was a convoluted pun on measuring tape = ruler = king = Burger King. Really?). I didn’t even recall that it was a Burger King ad until I went to register my outrage.

Or the Lakshmi ad mentioned above – how is a ‘sacred snack’ a meaningful consumer benefit or drawn on an insight? Do you eat more of a sacred snack than one that’s not? Do you plan for it and schedule your day around it, like you would for a religious event (uhm, isn’t it supposed to be fast food)? And if you HAD to go with that benefit, isn’t there a more effective, relatable way to depict ‘sacred’ to Spaniards than via Lakshmi? If you wanted to show a new Asian line, or spicy food, or new exotic items, I can imagine this kind of an image making some convoluted sense to a small-town, unsophisticated, untraveled creative director. But a Hindu goddess to sell a hamburger? Massive FAIL.

It’s gotten so bad I can’t be bothered to put out an action alert – I can just sit here and laugh my ass off at these idiots working in the ‘Miami-based Burger King’

General White Stupidity

June 3, 2009 Leave a comment

After having stayed here in Southern US, and having resigned once triggered by a racist, ignorant and offensive comment by my then-manager, I’m obviously seething at the Australian
attacks on Indian students.

These are on the heels of months of mounting tension here in the US, too: Over the last twelve months, ~10 students from Andhra Pradesh have been violently attacked and killed, most in seemly unrelated petty-crimes-gone-bad situations.

A 21-year-old Indian student has been attacked by a group of males in suburban Melbourne after they stopped him and demanded cigarettes and money. […]

Police said Mr Singh told the men he was a non-smoker. The men then demanded money and when the student refused, he was slashed across the chest.

Mr Singh made his way to a police station where he made a statement about the attack. […]

Today’s incident also comes after a vandalism spree at a Sikh temple in Shepparton, in central Victoria, yesterday.

Shepparton police tonight confirmed the attack but told The Age they had no further details.

But worried as I am, I had to laugh at this:

However, website India Today reported racist graffiti and a swastika were painted on the walls and a car driven into a fence around the temple, smashing it.

If that is true, then these attackers are fools indeed. Someone please, please let them know that painting a swastika on a Hindu or Sikh (or Buddhist or Jain) temple is actually auspicious.

Only in India…

March 17, 2009 Leave a comment

…can a Hindu husband and a Muslim wife together get a Jewish symbol tattooed on their forearm and no one (not even the gossip-sniffing-out journalist) blinks an eye. Awesome.

ECHO and Mira Nair’s film

March 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Not sure if I’ve blogged about this already, and I’m too lazy to check, but I did register my outrage elsewhere, so FTR:

Top film-makers focus on poverty, despite U.N. row

By Silvia Aloisi Silvia Aloisi – Thu Oct 23, 2:51 pm

ETROME (Reuters) – Wim Wenders and Jane Campion are two of the acclaimed
directors behind a collection of short films on the United Nations’ fight against poverty, but the U.N. agency meant to sponsor the project has pulled out of it.

“8,” which premiered at the Rome film festival on Thursday, brings together eight film-makers to illustrate the eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals, set in 2000 and aimed at halving the number of extremely poor and hungry people by 2015. Each director takes a different angle to show how poverty, climate change, lack of access to education and basic health facilities are affecting the world’s needy but also those living in the rich West. African film-maker Abderrahmane Sissako looks at an 8-year old boy being taught about the U.N. goals in a bare school in Ethiopia; actor-turned-director Gael Garcia Bernal shows a father in Iceland explaining the importance of education to his son; Campion explores the ravages of drought in Australia.Gus Van Sant, author of cult movies like “To Die For” and “Paranoid Park,” plays on the contrast between carefree American skateboarders and the dire statistics on child mortality in poor countries. Dutch-born Jan Kounen follows a pregnant woman in Amazonia desperately trying to find a doctor while another of the film’s chapters, by Argentinean-born Gaspar Noe, focuses on AIDS.

But it is Indian director Mira Nair’s take on gender equality that sparked a row with the United Nations Development Programme, which eventually withdrew its support from the project.

“AN INSULT TO ISLAM”: Nair’s short film portrays a Muslim woman living in New York who decides to leave her husband and young son because she is in love with a married man. “In April 2008, the UNDP came to us and demanded that we pull Mira Nair’s film or they would withdraw their logo from the project. They said it risked insulting Islam,” French producer Marc Oberon said after a press screening in Rome.”We decided we could not take it out, so they pulled out.”

UNDP spokesman Adam Rogers told Reuters the agency had felt Nair’s work “would get caught up in controversy.””We were afraid it would bring the wrong kind of attention to the cause of promoting gender equality,” Rogers said by phone from Geneva. He said the European Union had also backed out of the project.

Nair, in Rome to promote “8,” defended her choice, saying it was about a woman’s right to express herself. “It’s a storm in a teacup frankly. It’s not what the film deserved,” she said. “My film is inspired by a true story and was written by the person who lived that story. Freedom does not come neatly packaged. It comes with pain,” she said.”I also wanted to make the film because of the reaction in the West to any woman who lives under a hijab or a burqa. They are usually identified as women who have no rights and are submissive … which is completely untrue.”

Oberon said the UNDP had put pressure on some film festivals, including Cannes, not to screen “8,” but the UNDP denied this. Controversy aside, Wenders said he hoped the film as a whole would raise awareness about poverty, especially as the global financial crisis risks diverting aid and developments funds. “We are full of the best will, but the solution is only with governments,” the German director said, speaking in English. “(The crisis) might make some nations even less willing to fulfill what they have promised and signed. I am very much afraid that the bill will again be paid by the poorest.”

This is again one of those situations, like Aaliya Hassan’s, where discussions of intersectionality and concerns with not offending racial/communal/religious/cultural sentiments trump basic human rights for the victims, often women. Peeps, it does not matter what someone’s culture is, what a tradition says, what a set of people believe – if it is against anyone’s fundamental rights, it is bad. Simple.

Culture is allowed to flourish, rituals should be allowed to thrive, if they are (A) equal for all in degree and kind, (B) by choice: have no repercussions for choices of opt-in or opt-out, (C)humane, and (D) not hurt/harm freedoms of others who’re NOT meant to participate. That 4-way metric should be applied every time, for every one, every where. An evaluation needs to be done if you have a question on whether it is okay to do an all-night bhajan, or if (god forbid) someone’s husband passes away and she/he wants to commit Sati, or if your friendly neighbourhood Talib wants to close down a girls’ school because they teach girls ZOMG science!, or if you’re wondering whether to publish an article criticizing FGM in Palestine. Or anything else.

Culture needs to be E.C.H.O. – equal for all; free choice; humane; not impose on others. And I say this as a big, huge, curious fan of almost every ritual I’ve encountered in my life. So far.


February 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Immense, immense pride at this:

The nine are the Pakistani Muslim terrorists who went on an utterly senseless killing rampage in Mumbai on 26/11 ….are still in the morgue because the leadership of India’s Muslim community has called them by their real name – “murderers” not “martyrs” — and is refusing to allow them to be buried in the main Muslim cemetery of Mumbai, the 7.5-acre Bada Kabrastan graveyard, run by the Muslim Jama Masjid Trust.

The only effective way to stop this trend is for “the village” — the Muslim
community itself — to say “no more.” When a culture and a faith community delegitimizes this kind of behavior, openly, loudly and consistently, it is more important than metal detectors or extra police. Religion and culture are the most important sources of restraint in a society.

The fact that Indian Muslims have stood up in this way is surely due, in part, to the fact that they live in, are the product of and feel empowered by a democratic and pluralistic society. They are not intimidated by extremist religious leaders and are not afraid to speak out against religious extremism in their midst.

It is why so few, if any, Indian Muslims are known to have joined Al Qaeda. And it is why, as outrageously expensive and as uncertain the outcome, trying to build decent, pluralistic societies in places like Iraq is not as crazy as it seems. It takes a village, and without Arab-Muslim societies where the villagers feel ownership over their lives and empowered to take on their own extremists — militarily and ideologically — this trend will not go away.

Awesome. Take that, Ram Sene and all the idiots who support them. Even the minority community, the Muslims have the guts to stand up to stupidity in the name of religion. Where’s your courage?

Now if only women around the world could get the same courage up for themselves.

Spiritual spanking

August 12, 2008 Leave a comment


And I’m dying to, but can’t send this link to P, because that’ll just mean that I want him to spank me.

“She has even brought you information that talks about corporal punishment; however, I will not broach that subject here. So what is she REALLY saying? What is she really asking for? What does she really want from you?…..Here are some examples: your wife doesn’t exercise, then you add thirty minutes to her routine and do it with her, she doesn’t eat right, says she doesn’t have time, you help her make a menu, a meal plan, she sticks to it, or she writes you a thousand word essay on the dangers of unhealthy eating; she gets a speeding ticket, then she doesn’t drive for a set amount of time, she goes over on the checking account she looses access and lives on what you give her, she becomes disrespectful or argumentative she can go sit alone in a quiet room, and think about it, and have an answer for why when you decide she has had ample time to think about it, she endangers her life, the life of the children, the security of your home, becomes irrational, a screaming monster, abusive, or absolutely out of control, or when other consequences just don’t seem to be making the point, then it may be time to consider that corporal punishment she brought up.”

And I just remembered what my little sister was told all those years ago, so very often by everyone: “elder siblings can & will boss you around, and you have to listen, ‘coz you’re younger. But in return for ceding control, you get so much more love. From everyone. And those elder siblings will love you even more!”
I knew that was creepy, and I wouldn’t’ve traded places with her for anything. Even though, of course, my lovely kid sister would have none of this and did exactly what she wanted to, always.

I’m SO proud of her today. Blub.