Monthly Archives: November 2015

Strong woman

Still partaking in the seemingly endless process of sorting through my bookmarks and came across this:

What the Hell is a Strong Woman Anyway? , a video reflection for the Guardian on the representation of women in film by director Chanya Button. It was timely, produced to coincide with this year’s BFI film festival.

The theme of this year’s festival  was Strong Woman – prompting Button to probe what we mean by that. It’s an oft over-used term which can sometimes imply that strong women are the exception rather than the norm.

I like her video. I also feel a bit of ambivalence towards the term. I love films and TV shows with a strong female lead. I could write ode’s to Saga from the Bridge or Patti in Damages or Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder.

I gravitate towards media with interesting images of women, in particular those who are allowed to be three dimensional. Perhaps that’s it – what so many of us are yearning for is complicated female characters, because we are all complex in real life. We use the phrase “strong” because so often women are the foil for male characters, caricatures and stereotypes; so often they were just objects to be desired or rescued. What’s great is that in TV especially, we are seeing a range of characters – the sort of roles that men have taken for granted for decades.

Just – women.

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GOAT

Lomu1Jonah Lomu truly was one of the Greatest of All Time. I remember first seeing him at the 1995 World Cup, which was particularly special because of political events in South Africa. I was only about 11 and although I didn’t know all the details, I had grasped that it was a significant time. I had seen the lines of Black people queuing to vote for the first time, waiting for hours in the sun, long lines snaking out of polling stations.

I also didn’t know much about rugby but I was blown away by Lomu’s prowess and athleticism. That World Cup was also significant and young as I was, I knew I was witnessing history when South Africa won in its first major sporting event following the end of apartheid.

Looking back now I realise that was only the third World Cup ever and Jonah Lomu was arguably Rugby Union’s first superstar. This morning on BBC World Service his ex coach revealed that even then Lomu was having kidney trouble and speculated at what might have been had illness not cut his career short. Even so, Lomu was absolutely outstanding. An athlete who was definitely one of rugby’s – and sport’s -GOATs.

On an unrelated note, I am not too familiar with Aussie rules, but an article by the BBC last month caught my eye because of the striking image accompanying the story. It was about indigenous star Johnathan Thurston – or more specifically, his daughter’s doll, brought onto the pitch at the end of the Rugby League final. The doll caught everyone’s eye because it was a Black doll and while it was lauded as an inclusive image, it also sparked more conversations on an issue that was already bubbling under – the plight of indigenous players in the game, and indigenous Australian’s status in the country more generally. Sport does have this transcendent quality to it, like poetry or entertainment. Lomu was one of its best ambassadors.

doll

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Drunk History

I can’t write about what I want to write about; my head is full with thoughts about terrorism, solidarity, media coverage, consumerism and lament. I think I’ll write it all out but not yet.

I’ll just let that cook.

But in the meantime, I’m going through my bookmarks. One of these was an episode of Drunk History, one of my favourite comedy shows.

The premise is simple: people getting drunk. And recounting history while actors act out their drunken rambling. It appeals to that part of me that’s eating crisps and sniggering to South Park at 2am.

The best UK one was Romesh Ranganathan recounting the story of Tutenkhamun but the US one is the first I encountered.

This one with Octavia Spencer as Harriet Tubman is an excellent example.

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Paris

I won’t add much more to the reams and reams of analysis on the Paris attacks except to say:

It’s possible to mourn Paris and Beirut at the same time, while being cognisant of the fact that all around the world, hundreds are dying in events that aren’t marked by the media, let alone facebook – and to feel angry about that. I didn’t change my facebook picture to the French flag overlay but I don’t judge those that do. What do you do when the world is full of horrors? You do what you can and what your conscience demands. I don’t think self-righteously denouncing those that do change their facebook status makes a difference to the structural issues that mean a French flag is available but a Lebanese flag isn’t. Others put it best:

warsan

 

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Respectability Politics

Why don’t we have our own version of Code Switch on the BBC or another major platform? For the views of PoC we have the Voice and other publications, and to be fair there is the BBC Black stream of programming, but there is something about Code Switch’s exploration of issues from a slightly nerdy political science/social studies perspective that I really wish we could apply in the UK.

I found myself thinking this again while reading a fascinating discussion on Respectability Politics , which I had heard of, and the origin and evolution of the concept, which I had not – all in the context of #BlackLivesMatter

As NPR put it, respectability politics [is] the notion that problems in the black community spume from within, and that by adopting a certain lifestyle, black people can inoculate themselves from discrimination.

But the origins of the term are much more nuanced.

As For Harriet explains: The rejection of respectability is central to the organizing of the Black Lives Matter movement. References to “respectability politics” are often used as short hand to signify standing in solidarity with those most marginalized in Black communities. But rarely is context provided for the phrase, and its origins are almost never mentioned.

Historian Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham theorized the concept of “the politics of respectability” in her 1993 work, Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920. Therein she articulates a politic in which Black church women with few resources are empowered by embracing a moral authority that is rooted in self-determination rather than shame or blame.

It’s fascinating to read about how the term has changed in meaning – and what respectability politics means in the era of Black Lives Matter.

What a time to be alive.

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