Links, odds and ends, etc

I’m still busy juggling article assignments and editing videos for my film workshop next week. In the meantime, here are some great links, videos, music, stuff.

Feminist literary critic Elaine Sholwater talks about her new book on American women writers, much maligned as ‘not important and canonical enough’ as the big boys of American fiction. Listen to her talk here.

Katie Rolphe talks about women who use their kids’ photos as profile pics instead of themselves. Another example of lost of personal identity?

The mystery here is that the woman with the baby on her Facebook page has surely read The Feminine Mystique in college, and The Second Sex, and The Beauty Myth. She is no stranger to the smart talk of whatever wave of feminism we are on, and yet this style of effacement, this voluntary loss of self, comes naturally to her. Here is my pretty family, she seems to be saying, I don’t matter anymore.

As someone who has fantasised about retreating from the world and living like a hermit on a hot, sunny island with my books, a grand piano and internet connection, this story intrigued me.

I moved into the cave when I was 33 and was very happy. In most places in the world it would be impossible to feel so safe and confident in isolation. We built up a wall to insulate it in winter, and I had an altar and a store room for food. It was simple but pukka.

I grew potatoes and turnips in the little garden outside. The day was very structured: four times a day I would sit and meditate in a traditional meditation box for three hours, and that’s where I slept, sitting up.

In Saudi Arabia, a contest that judges beauty “from within” sounds like a promising step forward.

As of tomorrow 200 veiled hopefuls will start a ten-week process to find the winner of “Miss Beautiful Morals”, including a workshop entitled “Mum, paradise is at your feet”, a reference to the Prophet Muhammad’s dictum that respect for one’s parents is a foundation of the faith. “The idea of the pageant is to measure the contestants’ commitment to Islamic morals . . . It’s an alternative to the calls for decadence in the other beauty contests that only take into account a woman’s body and looks,” Khadra al-Mubarak, the event’s founder, said.

Unlike other competitions abroad, there will be no men involved at any stage in Saudi Arabia’s only contest for young women and it will not be televised, allowing the competitors to take off the veils and black abayas that cover Saudi women from head to toe. “The winner won’t necessarily be pretty,” Ms al-Mubarak said. “We care about the beauty of the soul and the morals.”

An excellent video featuring stereotypes of female sex workers in Bollywood. Or watch it here.

Now, I’ve always been rather suspicious of the claims that burlesque shows are somehow feminist or something, mostly because it’s still about putting on a sexy show for the viewing pleasure of an audience. What’s so empowering about that? An article by Laurie Penny confirmed my suspicions.

Burlesque shouldn’t have anything to do with your inner minx. Done properly it should be uncomfortable to watch – even terrifying. It certainly shouldn’t be about ­reproducing gender norms, with women performing ­sexually, and submissively, for an audience. However, as my troupe became more successful, the managers ditched our most subversive acts. First to go were the cross-dressing, my favourite political sketch, and the reverse striptease (where a young woman ripped the clothes off a male plant in the audience). What was left was ­threadbare. Peeling off my fluffy underwear in front of the Edinburgh crowds, it dawned on me that my headline act was no longer remotely challenging.

The first Muslim was appointed as the BBC’s head of religious programming. Sunny Hundal comments:

Without much fanfare and to little surprise the BBC yesterday said Aaqil Ahmed had been appointed its new head of religious programming. This is significant for various reasons, not least because he is the first Muslim to occupy the post and the second non-Christian to do so.

Ahmed was also the target of a carefully choreographed campaign to undermine his suitability for the role. It was kicked off by the Sunday Telegraph, which hinted heavily that his Muslim background made him unsuitable for the role. Its religion editor George Pitcher later said of course his opposition to Ahmed’s appointment had nothing to do with his background, but his general unsuitability as a commissioner and programme-maker.

And finally, some pictures compiled by Laura Augustin (via Sociological Images) of unassuming ‘red light’ areas.

Am Sülzwall red light district, Lüneburg, Germany (photo by Claus Petersen)

Prostitutes’ vans in Lyon, France

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