gender

Interview on the Headscarf ‘Ban’

Penny Sized Thoughts

As a short Asian woman (5ft 1in) belonging to one of the largest demographics on this here planet of ours, representation matters. We’re an easy target, we’re smaller so we can’t get away quick enough, or we’re more visible because we are child sized in an adult world, frequently fetishised by orientalists and predators who think we’re easy pickings. Everyone has a go, and I mean EVERYONE, because we’re traditionally submissive and scared of most people. The penalties for deviating evident on this very blog, as a notoriously small yet unusually loud and ‘aggressive’ south Asian woman I’m a shock to most people’s systems because I refuse to play to type, not that it matters, people only see what they want. We never have legitimate concerns, we’re merely acting out, throwing a tantrum.

Perhaps this logic can be applied to some people, just not all. The equally diminutive Laurie Penny has since deleted the offending tweet but I gather it went something like this:

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Here’s the thing Laurie, there isn’t a niche market for little Asian lady clothes, we live in a society that almost exclusively caters to white people, with their big bones and flat bodies. We are masters of the wunderweb or else we have our clothes professionally altered, it’s always been more expensive to be a little Asian lady on Rainy Fascist Island, unless you manage to find a child sized garment with enough room for woman sized boobs and bums.

We’re the same size more or less, Laurie and I, in height that is. Our bodies are completely different, as you would expect. I suspect Laurie, whilst similar in stature, has a fetishisation for bodies she would deem exotic, the curvier silhouette of a woman of colour for example. It is perhaps why, when she overheard me bemoaning the severe lack of smoochable comrades at a party, she offered her own mouth. What was I going to do, put on the spot like that? I couldn’t exactly reject her (I’m much better at saying no these days, beware)  so I obliged. It was nice enough but I couldn’t shake off the feeling it was a bit awkward and entitled and she walked away straight after, if it wasn’t already weird enough.

Thinking on it now, with my more rounded view of Laurie and the world she inhabits, she probably did it just so she could say she’d kissed an Asian girl and she liked it. It’s not the first time she’s gotten into trouble for saying inappropriate things about woc, specifically small Asian women.

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Or you could just be a white woman with an orientalist fetish, and enjoy the relative privileges being white gives you. You can dip into short people’s oppressions when it suits, and also the ways in which you are perceived, for instance, I think you play on the infantilisation people impose on you. We’re expected to forgive the awful things you say because you haven’t eaten, when people like myself are expected to never make a mistake even when we’re on opiates for ill health.

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Frankly, I’m sick of this petulant brat. She is beyond reproach, schmoozing Nazis, helping to rebrand white supremacy for the 21st century and her sycophantic audience laps it up, time and time again. Laurie has many opinions on womanhood and how we use performative femininity to attract men, completely ignorant of the various cultural reasons non white women have for keeping their hair long. She thinks of herself as enlightened, almost Godlike (a white supremacist trait) in her analysis of other women.

I don’t care what she meant, or whether she thinks her words are being taken out of context, every interaction Laurie has with the wider world speaks volumes about the kind of person she is; irresponsible, self absorbed, entitled and ultimately, a predictable bore.

 

The Unabashed Racist Sexism of Twitter

Twitter has locked me out of my account today because of this tweet:

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They say it violates their rules and I have to delete it before they’ll reinstate me but I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to delete it because Twitter allows these people even after they make personal threats against me:

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I get emails informing me that personal threats to find/kill/rape me and racist/sexist bullying doesn’t violate anything to their mind so I’m not going to play this game where they want me to submit despite the many levels of hell I’ve endured.

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Twitter is a platform for entitled white men. They’ve used it to racially sexually harass me ever since I first joined. I stopped expecting their outrage on my behalf a long time ago, what I am perplexed by on this occasion is the insistence that I can make it all go away if I just delete what I said, to take it back, to erase it. No, I will not. That tweet was in response to a white male who wanted to take pictures of my ‘pretty Arab feet’ from which I might make more money than my ‘crappy self named blog’ who’d referred to me as a cunt and a whore and other racially motivated slurs yet managed to retain his account.

I had threatened to raise hell if Twitter took issue with my use of the phrase ‘kill all men’ as it did when it blocked a woman of colour for using it recently so Twitter chose to make an example over a different sentiment.

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I don’t want to use a platform that is so blatantly skewed towards entitled white men. Like fuck them. I do however want to hit them where it hurts. Solidarity can be costly, it can keep us from doing all the things we so enjoy, in support of our principles, but it’s one of the only good things we have right now. I urge you to log out, if not for me then yourself, because this medium is a means of white supremacist control. It was an ordeal ridding myself of my FB account some months ago now but it was the best decision I ever made, standing up to an enabler of racist/sexist abuse. They justify their behaviour because of our continued reliance on their services despite the ways in which they use and sell us out.

As @qqasim89 says in his letter to Twitter “Banning a few prominent “alt-right” users is simply not good enough because you are now doing half the job for them by banning the active resistance. Please reinstate @SamAmbreen_ and make it clear that defending yourself is not a crime” because if they do not do this and I comply with their unreasonable request they have disempowered me and reinforced the message that entitled white males are free to do as they wish with the rest of us and there isn’t a thing we can do about it. Is this our reality now?

(If we normally keep in touch via Twitter, leave me a message in the comments below instead, I will be here for the foreseeable)

Traditionally submissive.. bollocks

I cannot be the only woman troubled by the audacity of white men. I cannot be the only person in the world to feel contempt for the white men who target brown and black women in racist crusades to provoke the men they ‘belong’ to, a retaliation that would be deemed fair and necessary if men of colour were targeting white women (see Rotherham). These tit for tat childish penis wars must stop (and it is white women alone who can make it happen).

The prime minister of Great Britain has commanded ‘traditionally submissive’ women do xyz in a bid to curb terrorism. They must learn to speak English because apparently not speaking the language can fire wannabe terrorists into action. This idea can be applied universally, after all there are many ‘native’ English speakers who cannot write/speak English very well at all, and you tend to find them at fascist demos where their sole purpose is to strike terror into the hearts of ethnic minorities but the key difference is we don’t blame the mothers of the EDL for their brutish comical ways, we lay blame squarely at the feet of the government which knowingly incites violent hatred between marginalised groups.

This attack on women of colour (mainly) has been relentless of late. Muslim women are ‘traditionally submissive’, they do not have agency so cannot make decisions on how to dress themselves, and if they do not learn English they can be held personally accountable for the radicalisation of their kids. It’s like feminism died and made white man ruler of the world. White feminists think this is a separate issue because they agree with white men that woc are submissive and downtrodden. They treat us as such themselves. They, like white men, want to tell us what to do and how to do it. Not only do we need saving but we must bow to the superiority of white feminism and let them do things the way they always have. This domineering behaviour is the fault of the control freaks in power not the people who are trying desperately to avoid conflict for fear of another war. Given the escalation in actual incidents of violence against (primarily) Muslim women, the narrative trickling down from the top ensures this will continue. If there were any cowardly racists unaware of the traditional submissiveness of Muslim women, the PM has issued a timely reminder they are there should one feel the need for an unprovoked racist misogynistic attack. They are in effect blaming women for the abuses carried out against them, and setting the stage for all future attacks.

All feminists, whether corporate or otherwise should be outraged at this.

We live in times shockingly reminiscent of a past we were not there to see yet heard about in great detail because learning and raising consciousness was supposed to free us from the evil perpetrated against humans by other humans for being a little different. ‘Never again’ loses all meaning when yet again, the most vulnerable in our society are being marked out for easy identification. Asylum seekers – another group of humans forsaken by Fortress Europe – need our love and space to heal not wristbands and red doors, markers that have already seen violence inflicted on these people we should be protecting. The Jewish people who perished in the Holocaust wore yellow stars, an eblem for the purpose of easy identification, which is how authorities are explaining away the modern day symbols of oppression. Do not be the person who tells their grandkids “you just did what you were told”, that excuse does not fly in a humane and civilised society. Nor does “we didn’t know” because we have been telling you this will happen for some years now and instead we were vilifed, silenced, marked out as bullies. It doesn’t change the fact we were right.

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The denial of power and control dynamics by our ‘lefties’ who are really ‘righties’ has enabled the shift in public consciousness so that it’s ok to dehumanise a whole race. I haven’t been a Muslim for decades but have always hoped I’d find my way back to God, largely due to the atheist scene. However I will defend Muslims as though I am practising as one myself because the white supremacists sees me as one of them. We’re all exactly like the others. I do not wear a hijab and I speak perfect English in as standard an accent as you can get but I am still targeted by racists. It is with this in mind, I call to the white feminists of the 21st century in a plea to shut ‘their white men’ the fuck up. I’d really rather not play this ownership game but white people seem determined to target women when it is really the men they are afraid of so I’m gonna give it a go.

Words lose all meaning when you are confronted by the reality of this world. We can pretend the privileges afforded to a handful are representative of the world in general but sincerely, from my rung all the way down here, we have broken this world with our bullshit. The cheek of this man to suggest it is Muslim women who exemplify traditionally submissive women.. have you seen his wife?

The Politics of Violence Against Women

As a survivor of domestic violence and a repeat victim of online harassment and abuse, neither of which were acknowledged by the authorities or the commentariat responsible for throwing me to the trolls in the first place, I am angry but also demoralised by the display of ignorance and entitlement our feminist women MPs have treated us to the last few weeks.

Lucy Allan the Conservative member of parliament for Telford was found to have lied about the death threat she allegedly received in response to the fact she’d voted to bomb Syria. Similarly Stella Creasy lamented the ‘call doxxing’ she’d clearly imagined being as there is no such thing. Doxxing is what happens when someone trawls the Internet for your home and work details, pasting them online so that anyone can access your private information. Trolls and those with actual criminal intent (to rape or kill) are then free to hunt you down and hurt you. This hasn’t happened to Stella and even if it did the police would do their jobs, unlike the reality for the majority of victims who are not permitted to even defend themselves with words because it shows they weren’t frightened or intimidated by the perpetrator. Victim blaming aside, in my personal experience the authorities pass the buck on whose duty of care it is to safeguard vulnerable people online. If you’re an MP though, the cops are answerable to you, it’d be more than their job’s worth to treat the elite the way they do the rest of us plebs so to use this language not only incorrectly but to suggest there is no recourse is a blatant lie, especially when someone has already been jailed for getting on Creasy’s privileged side.

Siobhan McDonagh, another Labour MP claimed the attacks on her were comparable to domestic abuse, using emotive language in order to appeal for sympathy because we do care about victims in this country. Domestic abuse is so called because it happens in the home. It is where one person lives in fear of another, a relation, intimate partner, regardless of gender. It is not at all comparable to the righteous condemnation that goes hand in hand with being a representative for the people, particularly when you’re not doing a very good job of listening to your constituents. How do these MPs suggest we behave given that we’re being sold down the river for objecting to more war (and a million other policies) by these elitist warmongering neolibs?

However their words have not had the desired effect, instead survivors have expressed their dismay and unease at this appropriation of survivor language by women who should definitely know better. Why aren’t they trained in women’s issues, how can they be unaware of the ways in which patriarchy denies justice to victims on the basis that “women lie”? When one woman makes a false allegation of anything that is viewed within society as a women’s issue, it has a knock on effect for us all. It’s sad and unfair but a fact that whenever we do make progress we do so for the whole of womankind. Similarly when one of us fucks up, we make things difficult for all.

When Jeremy Corbyn was voted in as leader we were told how unfeminist it was to overlook the female candidates but the feminists themselves don’t understand how unfeminist it is to use these particular words in the wrong context, when so many women are denied justice.

Please stop using the words we use to describe our lived experiences. As marginalised people we need them to describe the actual things we suffer without justice and for people to understand what those experiences mean. To undermine this language is to undermine the work we do in the community and online to raise awareness of violence against women, something of which I’m sure the capitalist fems haven’t the slightest clue.

(To bomb Syria, where there will most likely be women and children is a feminist issue but then white feminism was adamant race wasn’t a feminist issue at all so they’re hardly going to join the dots here)

Shout your abortion

Following the campaign to defund Planned Parenthood services in America (state funded), abortion activists took to Twitter with the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion to counter the arguments made by zealous anti choicers. If you’ve ever followed the ever present attacks on family planning or been involved in actions to support your local abortion clinic you’ll have been confronted by some very strange people indeed. With this in mind I knew that tweeting in solidarity would provoke a backlash, I just wasn’t as prepared for the kinds of things completely random people on the internet would say to me (and me, a seasoned survivor of trolls).

I tweeted:

I didn’t say I’d had an abortion or that I agreed or disagreed with termination (for the record, it’s your body, your choice) but I knew it would reach those people whose lives it had saved, at least those who acknowledged the established life within the pregnant person carrying a promise of potential life (20% of first time pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion, 80% of those before 12 weeks gestation), which is in no way a baby or a person (person being a societal construct). When a foetus is squatting in your uterus it does not cancel out the life already in existence, without which the foetus wouldn’t exist at all. Bizarrely this fact seems to have escaped these people.

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Nope, not what I said at all

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Logic clearly evades you for refusing to accept there is life in the person carrying the foetus.

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This tweet is particularly interesting because it feeds into the idea that pregnancy is essentially a woman’s fault. By opening my legs I am consenting to a foetus being installed in there. If this person could acknowledge the sperm provider and the condom issue many men have (yeah sure, they’re ‘too tight’) and spread that responsibility about a bit I’d be less inclined to believe they were woman hating scum.

For example all these people with their righteous war on people who carry foetuses (I doubt very much any of these people has even considered the fact that other genders are also capable of pregnancy, this is a specific hatred driven at cis women for not being masculine/male/patriarchal).

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The idea that all unwanted pregnancies can be attributed to selfish promiscuous women is entirely misogynistic and anti woman. These people would probably accuse a woman of entrapment if she happened to get pregnant and wanted to *keep* the foetus. Similarly there is no sympathy for women choosing to abort because their life depends on it. Going back to my original tweet, I said it because I used to work as an advocate for women in abusive relationships and have seen firsthand the violence inflicted on women for being pregnant in the first place. 30% of all domestic abuse begins in pregnancy. This is because the pregnant partner is suddenly vulnerable and dependent. Controlling abusive people use this to their advantage. It’s not uncommon for perps to threaten forced miscarriage, the idea that they put the foetus in there and they can also take it out should the victim refuse their every whim. There are people who cannot grasp the complexity of human relationships, and crisis points, relationship breakdowns, never mind the systems we have created to control people according to kyriarchy so it is a bit of a reach on my part to expect compassion.

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You are not representative of almost 8 billion people worldwide.

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76% of women faced a further incident of violence for having the audacity to leave. The period after a survivor leaves the perp is the most dangerous, “if you leave I will hunt you down and kill your kids”. 

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This guy thinks we should run all decisions by him because it’s all about him. It’s not and he is nobody.

This assertion that complete strangers have of themselves as the saviours of the unborn would have more merit if they were willing to consider the life of the pregnant person but they cease to be human from the point of conception instead acting as a vessel for the precious new life everyone’s going to forget about once it moves out of the uterus. The pregnant person will be left with the foetus they did not want.. What’s that you say?

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Complete strangers think it’s ok to tell me to sacrifice my body and wallow in the guilt of my unwanted pregnancy which I’ll then have to hand over to a stranger, the system, uncertainty. Pregnancy can be life threatening, from the phsyical difficulties to the mental strain it can put on a person, no one has the right to torture you for having the misfortune of being born with a uterus. If pregnancy doesn’t kill you then labour might. Cis men have no say in the abortion debate because they will never carry a foetus or suffer the fallout if things go wrong. The reason they are so vocal on the anti-choice scene is because they are redundant if they do not exert patriarchal power and control. They won’t ever create life so they control it.

From the frightening to the downright ridiculous, opponents of bodily autonomy reveal more about themselves than the people they target, they’re nosy and perverse, poking around in strange uteri.

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Ah, Americans.

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I keep looking for the illegal thing I’m supposed to have said but to no avail.

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If a person is feeling suicidal cos they’ve been forcibly impregnated, an abortion is life saving and I would go as far as saying therapeutic in terms of their recovery, and regaining control of their own life.

Every single one of these people and the many I didn’t document failed to see the hypocrisy in their words. The life of the foetus cancels out the life of the person carrying it, without whom the foetus wouldn’t exist at all. Personally I’m not here to change your thoughts on abortion or bring you round to my superior way of thinking – something anti-choicers may want to examine in themselves – but to ask you to cast the first stone only when you can say you are completely sin free.

Also, this stance on abortion seems to be as far as they’ve got in terms of a world view and how that actually works in practice. They’re all ‘save the foetuses’ but how many of these advocates shared the same enthusiasm for the precious lives of Syria’s existing children, rejected by Europe, asleep in the freezing cold, barely surviving? Or the fully formed babies with given names blown to pieces in Palestine? How about the severely disfigured infants of Fallujah? Selective outrage makes a mockery of the whole pro-life movement. The planet is exhausted by our reproductive efforts, live viable children are treated as though vermin, domestic abuse blights the lives of some of those foetuses saved by those ignorant of life in its entirety, yet hellbent on power and control. That’s all it is.

OITNB and Islamophobia

It’s rare to find a piece of popular culture that isn’t hugely problematic in some way. The mainstream media caters for the mainstream, an audience that finds humour in human suffering. If this sounds a bit far-fetched, consider the ways in which comedians hit back at victims of abuse when we have asked them to stop giving rapists the green light with their rape ‘jokes’, those witty bantz where the punchline is like a blow to the stomach, knocking the wind from unsuspecting victims of abuse further victimised by those extracting joy from their pain and calling it comedy, and then some more, by defenders of free speech but only the sort of speech that maintains existing structures of power and control and hierarchy; hate speech most often espoused by the white middle class commentariat, framed as genuine concerns for the maintenance of society, for the betterment of us all, yet translates into violence against the most vulnerable; women of colour, trans people, Muslim people.. Those voices we never hear because they are so marginalised, the ones who cannot defend themselves against the charges made against them because the white middle class heteronormative media controls our perceptions on all.

This is why Orange is the New Black was such a resounding success. Women in prison as a genre is a sure fire way to pull in the viewing numbers; if you’re old enough to remember Prisoner Cell Block H (or have been watching Wentworth – a 21st century spin off based in the same Australian prison), this has been a winning formula in reaching a specific audience because they are so frequently overlooked; those working class women doing time for survival in a patriarchal world. There are the shoplifters; women criminalised for stealing food or nappies, serving disproportionate sentences when comparing with males because women are not supposed to commit crime and are therefore punished more harshly to serve as a deterrent, but there are also those women encumbered by their acts of resilience, those who finally snapped and stabbed their abuser to death. We may not have served time at her majesty’s convenience but we do know what it is to suffer a woman’s lot in life, and this exploration of hardship and injustice keeps us hooked.

It should be easy to maintain focus on the inequalities women face without resorting to microagressions; however I was disappointed to find that my latest fave is threatening to be just as problematic as the rest. Before I begin to take it apart I feel it is relevant I make a full disclosure about my beliefs because I am frequently told I have only reacted in this way because I am a Muslim.

I am not a Muslim. I was once but I ran away as fast as I could. It took many years for me to come to the conclusion that I could not blame every last Muslim for the horrendous ways in which God was used by some of them to control me. It is not God who demands murder and rape, rather humans using the authority of God to justify their abusive practices. God, in any religion, acts for peace. It is with this fair conclusion I judge the writers of OITNB for being so disingenuous in their not so subtle reinforcement of the mind-set that Muslims are there for the ridiculing.

SPOILER ALERT – The prison is infested with bedbugs, all soft furnishings and books must be incinerated to prevent the pests from spreading further. A small gathering discusses the books that were burned, the Catholic nun character is on hand to correct Morello when she states all of the books were gone. “Not true” she asserts “there was one book they were afraid to burn” which Sister Ingalls immediately follows with a dramatic sigh as though she was suggesting that even she, as a Catholic – with all their pomp and ceremony – thinks it ridiculous to consider it a sacred text exempt from the rules to which we must all adhere. Morello responds “I stand corrected – there is a bug infested Quran.”

If this was the first mention of the Quran and a bonfire in western history you may be forgiven for thinking I am seeking issues where there are none, but you’d have had to been living on the moon to deny the continuity of this theme, especially when it’s a bunch of Americans alluding to it. Not a week goes by without another story of some Yankee yahoo threatening to buy up all the Qurans and burn them, a flagrant attempt at fanning the flames of bigotry, because those sorts of people actively seek war and know which buttons to press. Burn a bunch of poppies and see the calm Christians and even secularists fired up for vengeance because burning a book or a paper flower isn’t the random inconsequential act antagonists profess it to be.

Later on in the show, Vause is seen reading the Quran and makes an unnecessary statement about how she is probably forbidden from touching/reading the Quran but she washed her hands and figures an omniscient God would appreciate this. Just a suggestion but perhaps the show’s producers could have asked a Muslim queer for the lowdown on what is and isn’t permissible? They could even look into the positive things Islam does and encourages in its followers, for eg, recognising that trans people have a right to state funded surgery because Allah has made it our duty to save all people and treat them to good health if it is within our power to do so. This doesn’t fit western narratives though.

Yes, the Quran is a sacred book to its followers. Yes, it is given the respect one affords to a sacred artefact, it is kept in a safe place and one must be ritually cleansed in order to touch it. This is a fact. Similar could be said for the Bhagavad Gita or even the bible. That’s the thing about religious texts; they are sacred to their followers. Just because that Catholic nun thought it preposterous the Quran was given special treatment doesn’t mean there aren’t evangelical Christians who’d justify killing you for disrespecting their holy bible. Again, it is people who are fundamental in their interpretations of religion and like there are some Christian fanatics murdering abortionists yet failing to see the incongruence between their beliefs and their actions there are Muslims who will use God to justify misogyny and violence. There are also atheists demanding the culling of religious sorts because they allegedly cause war and stuff without an awareness of how ironic their solution to dehumanisation and depravity is to mirror those things we protest in extremists.

This is the crux of my ill feelings towards the framing of social narratives in the 3rd season of OITNB. The Quran and its followers have not only been posited as these people who consider themselves above the laws governing everyone else but also as the worst offender. Consider the makeover given to Pennsatucky. Be reminded that she was actually a homophobic bible bashing snitch who was employed by prison staff to rat out inmates suspected of lesbian activity. Suddenly she’s a reformed ally and lover of all things LGBTQIA, supporting Boo in her butchness? Don’t get me wrong, I like the fact that Pennsatucky isn’t so violently racist and sexually shaming as she once was, I just object to the fact she’s elevated to a human position where she is capable of empathy and being part of a system even if it means completely demolishing her belief system and replacing it with an idea of what an acceptable human should be; the two are too far removed from each other for it to be a natural process, especially when they’re driving home the message that Islam is the one to watch. Instead I believe this to be an intentional move in which the writers, or whoever, get their childish jabs in at something they don’t understand or care for, in a bid to improve their ratings, reaching out to the mainstream they’re appealing to by confirming prejudices, showing solidarity to those on the same side (because Muslim queers don’t exist and therefore won’t be offended because they wouldn’t have seen the show cos it so full of sin or something).

I loved OITNB for its portrayal on the diversity of women and sexuality. For every racist, sexist trope the show explored there was a positive character to speak out for that way of life but as time goes on the characters fall into lazy racial stereotyping; homophobic Latinas and white queers, as though queer women of colour do not exist in equal numbers. Trans women for eg found a beautiful representative in Laverne Cox, she gives as good as she gets (the transphobia doesn’t let up much, even in the 3rd season) making her a perfect role model for those seeking out idols. The same cannot be said for Muslim women, perhaps because in reality they’re immediately shipped off to Guantanamo without trial, whatever the offence.


Only four episodes in, but this new series is way worse so far. The points you mention seem symptomatic of it reaching out for some mainstream populism which is totally diluting what made it great. I find it quite bizarre that we’re supposed to want the prison stay open, and cheer when it survives due to privatisation! I don’t want the prison to stay open, I want a work strike which unites everyone against the authorities, or I want the place to burn.

Adam Ford

(Since writing this piece I have seen a little more of the 3rd season and it doesn’t get any better. Soso makes an entirely irrelevant reference to stoning women in Iran and various characters join in with antisemitic remarks, no doubt triggering for some considering the nature of the ‘jokes’, and later on we get a reference to a Somali pirate thrown in for good measure. The disparaging comments against Jews don’t let up either.)