Monday, January 31, 2011

Dissertation note: Failed attempt to reduce social distance

I am adding this entry to use in my dissertation later. This sort of social distance measure is useful in illustrating the phenomenon of language register that is such a huge part of discourse in all societies, but even more so in Arabic speaking countries.

Misogyny catalyzes unrest...but this time it isn't the feminists protesting...

Slap to a Man’s Pride Set Off Tumult in Tunisia

I will begin the way the NYT article ends: an investigation found that Ms. Faida Hamdy never slapped Mohamed Bouazizi. Her brother calls it "the lie that toppled a dictator."

Destitution and critically low morale contributed to that initial self-immolation on 17 December that has brought the Arab way a long way forward in a short amount of time. But ultimately, it was the alleged slap on the face from the female municipal inspector that drove Mohamed Bouazizi to set himself on fire.

Allegedly, he physically assaulted her. Her colleagues beat him, twice. She is the one to blame though. Naturally. She, and her vagina, humiliated him. It makes for a good story to mobilize downtrodden, destitute people on the brink of believing they have nothing left to sacrifice.

Yes, in the 21st century, rumors based on sexism and misogyny can trigger events that cascade into pan-ethnic and international reaction of yet unknown consequences. This article is called "Faida Hamdy...the spinster the set Bouazizi on fire." Alas, it is just the translated NYT article from above.

What more can one do than sigh...deeply? That and write about it.

Let me extract one win out of this. You can read a translation of the NYT artilcle in Arabic here. This one has a less amusing title.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Open letter to a misogynist from a member of the weaker sex

Dear Abdeslam Bouhani,

Your book, Sauvez la femme sauvez le monde. 2010. Les Editions Maghrébines. Aïn Sebaâ, Morocco, is terrible. So, so terrible. For so many reasons.

Let’s start with the title. While waiting for friends to arrive at Mohammed V airport last July, I came across your turd of a book. The title thrilled me, which is perhaps my own mistake, what with the cliché and all. But still, I mean, what feminist wouldn’t be excited about a book title about saving the world through saving women! Alright, sure, it IS inherently problematic to frame women as ‘needing’ to be saved. Nonetheless, the title had me thinking, ‘what a food for thought, what a great idea to make the title both provocative AND possibly even make it the focus of a larger debate about women as empowered instead of women as being ‘in need’ of liberation or whatever.’

But no. No, no, no. Your book is not about women. You hate women, whom you repeatedly refer to as the weaker sex.

Bouhani asserts that women, as the ‘weaker sex,’ are particularly vulnerable to the pressure of advertising, as they struggle with libidinous weakness (98) [way to go all Old Testament, guy]. The uneven way in which advertising affects women motivates unhealthy behavior in them stemming from narcissism (such as bulimia) and sows discord instead of cohesion between men and women. His analysis is not only heteronormative, but frightfully essentialist. For him, somehow women’s desire to elevate her social position is perverse and narcissistic. Bouhani further describes women narcissists, with ‘profound megalomania’ and ‘immense interest in themselves, their appearances, and their images’ (99). Bouhani criticizes women for complaining about violence against them and not being accountable for the violence that WOMEN perpetrate against men by exposing their bodies. Furthermore, women enjoy suffering, and suffering is a part of their nature. The proof is the pain of childbirth, which women willingly and enthusiastically repeat over and over again (101-102).

I am too traumatized to say any more on this point, because your misogyny pissed me off so bad last night at 3 AM that my roommate and I had a taut, heated discussion on women abusing men. Shoot me in the face. Roommate—don’t worry, we’re cool.

Your book is about railing against advertising, without offering any prescriptions. The suggestions you make are hollow and shallow at the same time—thoughtful solutions require feasible plans with explanations about how to achieve them. Instead you offer up commentary about the way the world ought to be. Anyway, it’s a relief that you don’t burden the reader with the substance of how to achieve a ‘world according to you.’ It’d be awful.

Even though the title implies that the book is about women, women almost don’t factor in at all, but for the one chapter. Otherwise you your silliness in no way applies an explicit gender analysis or critical commentary about how women fit in. Useless.

While you condemn advertising in all forms for the ways in which it victimizes the world, you, like so many others, totally waste the opportunity to talk about how the greater interconnection of individuals across society and the growing affordability of access to new technologies are improving the lives of the poor, marginalized, and voiceless of the world. But why would you?

Your real problem is with the ubiquity of images of women’s bodies in all postures. Your title to ‘save women [by] sav[ing] the world’ is totally divorced from the notion of equality between the sexes. Rather, the title, and the analysis within the book, refers to saving men from the ‘abuse’ perpetrated against them by the widespread use of women’s bodies in advertising. By sparing men this abuse, women too will be spared. Fucking ridiculous.

Also, you SUCK at citing. Absolutely, miserably fail at it. Your spelling and punctuation also are sad. Why didn’t you edit your turd?

And finally, I hate you and your turd for annoying me so much that I write this letter when I could be working on my dissertation chapter on gender relations in Morocco. At least you didn’t make me barf by adding some sanctimonious religious facet to your nonsense.

Ugh….fine, I will admit that your fondness for Marxism is charming, and your way-too-brief coverage of the impoverished is insightful…but I must temper even this paltry praise with more criticism. Where is gender in all this? Where, I ask you? You seem to believe what you wrote about the new matriarchal society. Now that IS fresh! I want more of that, even if it is total fantasy.

And the bit at the very end about replacing sex in advertising with laughter is precious. But your book is still crap. I wish I had stolen it instead of having contributed financially to your inanity. Now here is something to make you smile: why isn’t turd in the MS Word dictionary?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Al Jazeera Missing out

NYT redeems Al Jazeera a little bit here...but it is still a partisan bête noire, like all mainstream media I suppose.

I wrote about this back on 11 January, but Foreign Policy magazine has a great story on what Al Jazeera isn't covering.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

**Updated**Riots in North Africa and Middle East

Discontent and unrest have been breaking out across North Africa and the Middle East as economically-inspired protest movements, especially concerning unemployment and rising food costs, take life in response to on-going, unmitigated deprivation. In November 2010 in Laayoune, Western Sahara (administered by Morocco), rioters clashed with armed militias, resulting in approximately 10 deaths, in addition to dozens of injured. In December 2010, riots in protest of unemployment started in Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia, and are on-going and spreading to other cities. Likewise in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait, violence has been erupting around issues of deteriorating government services, unemployment, marginalisation, and shifting power dynamics since new year 2011. In all cases, the consequences, as well as the deprivation, are on-going. "This time around, the waves of discontent originated more often than not in underdeveloped rural areas rather than major urban centers, signaling discontent among more-traditional layers of society over shifts in power due to inequitable economic development."

ot challenging the autocratic regimes to reform amidst rioting YET Al Jazeera is kowtowing to the regimes in Kuwait and Jordan by overlooking rioting in a similar vein occurring there, and in Syria to in reaction to minority rule.

*Background of unrest and protest movements






*Morocco/Western Sahara


*Saudi Arabia



So far the ONLY news source (really, information aggregator), that provides comprehensive information on the interconnection of the MENA riots is the NATO Civil-Military Fusion Centre (CFC) [Full disclosure: I work there]. For even more information about the riots, the region, and Civil-Military Cooperation, visit the CFC Mediterranean Basin page. You will need to register, and you can use my name as your sponsor.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Moroccan Vegetable Pie

Traditional Friday couscous in Morocco takes half a day (at least) to prepare. I developed this recipe in order to enjoy that delicious dish and economize time (gotta finish that dissertation!). The vegetables and spice blend is the same as that in the wonderful Moroccan couscous.

This is now a pie!+++++
Moroccan Vegetable Pie (any combination of these vegetables is great, depending on seasonal availability)

2 cups fresh pumpkin, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 small zucchini cut into 1-inch cubes

1 turnip, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup baby carrots

1 small red potato, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup cabbage, chopped

½ cup onion, chopped

2 tbsp. olive oil

½ tsp. each, salt & pepper

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp coriander

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp turmeric

1 pinch saffron

1 cup vegetable broth

1 tbsp ghee or smen (optional)

1 tbsp. cornstarch

2 tbsp. plain oatmeal, ground in coffee grinder or food processor (or plain breadcrumbs)

1 pkg. refrigerated pie crusts

1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water

1 Tbsp cilantro (fresh is best)

Heat oven to 450°F.

Coat a large baking pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, add pumpkin, zucchini, turnips, carrots, and potato. Toss with olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Spread out on baking pan in single layer.

Bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through the cooking time.

Place the broth in a medium-sized saucepan. Stir in cornstarch, onions and cabbage. Bring to boil. Lower heat, simmer for 1 minute, until thickened. Stir in cinnamon, cumin, coriander, saffron and remaining salt and pepper and ghee/smen.

In a large bowl, gently toss roasted vegetables, oatmeal (or breadcrumbs) and sauce. Fit 1 of the pie crusts into a deep-dish 9-inch pie plate. Spoon in vegetable mix and cilantro.

Place second pie crust on top, crimp. Pierce a few times to vent. Brush with egg-water mix.

Bake for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 425°F and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Serve it up with a glass of cold buttermilk. Yum!