April 1 2014: Three killed in the first strike on Yemen in twenty days. The attack reportedly hit at Al Qaeda camp, meeting or vehicle around 1pm local time. #drone #drones #yemen (at Mahfad, Abyan Province)
Mya Gosling's three-panel summaries of literary classics – the best thing since Kate Beaton’s literary comics and those pictogram visual summaries of pop culture and historical events.
Pair with The Graphic Canon, a compendium of classical literature reimagined in comics.
It’s easy to look at something like Monáe’s mythos and see only the obvious metaphors. Her android’s struggle for the freedom to love after all paralells the struggle of American slave women to marry legally, to keep their children, to control their very bodies, in a system that cruelly commodified these activities. But it’s wrong only to apply an historical, and racial, lens to the work of any modern black woman. We have spent generations sharing the struggles of other opressed groups, collaborating with and occasionally being betrayed by them, and progressing nonetheless. We’re the ones who (literally) wrote the book on intersectionality. And it’s clear that Janelle Monáe feels no sense of threat from the others with whom our future will be shared. She welcomes, after all, with love and dancing.
And yet. When I watch her videos and listen to her lyrics I’m SHOCKED to see so much of myself in this ultra-technological future - despite my own writings, despite my own knowledge that black history and myth abounds with techies and innovators, despite my LIFE and my long-held desire to see this very thing. It’s not Monáe’s ability to imagine an inclusive future that’s remarkable, but my subconcious resistance. What the hell is wrong with me, that her vision feels so strange?
Too many years of ‘The Jetsons’, maybe. Too many white-supremacist Medieval Europes. I’ve spent years swallowing these bizarro world versions of humanity, and they have become a toxin poisoning my imagination. But Janelle Monáe is a tiny, fast-footed, pompadour’d antidote to all of that.
When I decided to stop writing about five years ago I [sat] down to reread the 31 books I’d published between 1959 and 2010. I wanted to see whether I’d wasted my time. You never can be sure, you know. My conclusion, after I’d finished, echoes the words spoken by an American boxing hero of mine, Joe Louis. He was world heavyweight champion from the time I was 4 until I was 16. He had been born in the Deep South, an impoverished black kid with no education to speak of, and even during the glory of the undefeated 12 years, when he defended his championship an astonishing 26 times, he stood aloof from language. So when he was asked upon his retirement about his long career, Joe sweetly summed it up in just 10 words. “I did the best I could with what I had.”
New anti-corruption graffiti in Kabul City centre. General view is nice idea, but so ingrained in Afghan culture never going to happen.
Who’ll watch the watchers?
Dear Abu Eesa Niamatullah,
You’re in the crosshairs and it can’t be easy. I mean, here you are just sharing some jokes, being your usual authentic straight-talkin’ scholar self and some bloody feminist cabal is trying to rain on your parade. But you clearly have a great deal of support as well. Those witticisms you posted on Facebook and Twitter mocking International Women’s Day and tossing out casual barbs and sarcastic jabs at women, not to mention the racist trolling – were clearly misunderstood by the narrow-minded masses. I mean, lol jokes, amirite! Scores of men are ready to defend you and, clearly, what you say is hilarious because women – so many young women – laugh right along and defend you. They have your back, Shaykh, telling their offended sisters to chill and relax and show respect.
I have to admit, I don’t “get” the humour. I’m not a “young” person and your following seems to be made up of people closer in age to my children so maybe I’m just too old. I decided to show your jokes to my daughters and see if they could enlighten me. They were repulsed. Possibly, the fact that they’ve been raised to know they have value keeps them from “getting” your humour too.
You’ve posted hundreds, maybe thousands of words, to your Facebook page (you really should make that thing private) defending yourself. And that, of course, is your right. But your tone seems increasingly panicked. Like maybe you’re feeling cornered and the hysteria is creeping in. The more the public is outraged by your casual misogyny, the more ferocious your defense is. I wonder if you regret what you said but feel like backing down now would mean you’ve lost the war you think you’re fighting. Humility doesn’t come easy. Sometimes we learn it through compulsion.
But here’s the thing, Abu Eesa (If I may): I really don’t know why I am having such a visceral response to your cheap comments. Better people than you have said worse things in more eloquent ways. And Muslim women are certainly used to the endless stream of invective that comes our way from both non-Muslims as well as, disturbingly, our Muslim communities. We’re berated and belittled and humiliated in the streets and turn to our communities for comfort only to find some Muslim men — and their chummy female supporters – ready to mock and insult us. When we protest we’re told we should know our place.
So I did what I tend to do when my feelings are knotted in my stomach: I complained. I kvetched to my daughter, I regaled a friend online, and then another friend, and another. It was this last friend who suggested I write this letter. I agreed. Letter writing is cathartic.
I’m trying to figure out what it is that’s made me so upset. I’ve been a journalist for a long time. I’ve seen and heard a lot of things. I’ve spent a good deal of time working in places where women – Muslims — barely possess the freedom to have their own thoughts, never mind the right to express those thoughts out loud. I’ve met women beaten senseless for wanting to make some small choice. I’ve talked to young girls, already hopeless about life at the age of 9 or 10. I’ve talked to men – too many to count – who were absolutely certain of their own humanity and yet carefully explained to me why education is wasted on women.
So why does your petty and juvenile nattering get under my skin?
One reason, of course, is the fact that you’re a person of influence and supposed learning who chooses to so ostentatiously display his callousness. I looked at your Wikipedia page and it was a hodge podge of educational credentials. I noted that it didn’t say “graduated from” anywhere in the list of places you’ve studied. But that could just be semantics. I’ve always seen “studied” as code for “took some courses but never finished up.” My grandmother used to quote an Urdu idiom that translates as “a half-learned doctor is a threat to health and a half-learned scholar is a threat to faith.” Maybe that’s applicable here. But please don’t be offended. Jokes, right?
Maybe I’m old school but I think it’s not just what we say that matters, it’s how we say it. Provocation is not necessarily a bad thing. It pushes people to think, to investigate their own feelings and biases, to open themselves up to a variety of ideas. But your provocations just seem mean-spirited. And your vociferous defense of your words comes off as arrogant and supremely unaware – and unwilling to be aware — of the damage you’re doing.
Your sarcasm and insults are things diametrically opposed to the spirit of scholarship. Your unwillingness to admit that you’ve caused harm by creating discord and anger seems to be less about arrogance and more about a fierce pride.
But, again, more scholarly people than you, people whose credentials actually say “graduated,” have said and done more hateful things. You’re not the first supposed scholar, and sadly probably won’t be the last, whose education has not translated into learning. “Like books saddled on the back of a donkey,” my grandmother might say.
So, again, why does your particular disregard for women bother me more than the disregard of more well-regarded people?
Truthfully, I think the answer is more basic than I’d like to admit: you remind me of the men I admire. To be perfectly clear, you remind me of them in the most superficial way only. The colour of your skin, the darkness of your beard remind me of my brothers. My older brother is the father of four daughters. He likes to say living among women has made him a better person, one who is willing to check his own assumptions. He doesn’t feel belittling women makes him more of a man.
Your brown face is a reminder of my uncle’s – a judge, now retired, in Pakistan who has had to patiently explain to an illiterate farmer that, no, he cannot trade his daughter for livestock. He’s clarified to men who choose to abandon their wives and children that Islam is not a whim and a game, that their maleness does not bestow some special favour on them and they can’t simply disregard the feelings of the women around them because they want to. He doesn’t treat women like the butt of a joke just to get some quick, cheap laughs.
Your evident Pakhtoon pride reminds me of the men I’ve met in Pakistan and Afghanistan who have decided that enough is enough and, risking ridicule, work with women to end the daily humiliations.
It bothers me that you look like these men who take women seriously. It bothers me that your immature and thoughtless “banter” has made brown men look like clowns. You must know that people of colour are always representatives whether we want to be or not. We are a teeming mass. Your voice is louder than my brother’s or my uncle’s and it’s the one heard coming from that faceless crowd.
You call yourself a scholar. For those that take you as an authority, Islam is what you say it is. But what you say isn’t limited to your classes. The terms don’t suddenly change just because you’ve moved over to Facebook or Twitter. You are that authority regardless of where you are. It doesn’t matter how many dozens of words you write on Facebook absolving yourself of any responsibility for the things you say. You are responsible.
You call yourself Abu Eesa, the father of Eesa. I can only assume there is a mother of Eesa as well. I have no idea of the atmosphere in your home. Does your wife laugh off your casual misogyny or secretly burn inside at the digs and insults? Has she shut herself off or do your words needle her too? A son’s first role model is his father. The man he becomes is because of or in spite of his father. I can only hope that young Eesa shows more respect to his mother than you’ve chosen to show other women.