Masq Magazine - Curry Scented Bitch

A big thank you to Masq Magazine for featuring me on their page and creating these gorgeous illustrations for curry scented bitch, imperfect punjabi and cultural appropriation. 

http://www.masqmag.com/…/curry-scented-bitch-and-other-poems

[Masq Magazine is a recently launched magazine based in Copenhagen. They aim to increase the representation of marginalised narratives and artists of colour, by focusing on art-related content around issues like identity, belonging, diaspora and migration. You can read a bit more about them at www.masqmag.com]

http://www.masqmag.com/blog/2017/2/6/curry-scented-bitch-and-other-poems

Behind the Netra Book Review - Robert Greene's '48 Laws of Power'

BEHIND THE NETRA BOOK REVIEW - I'd like to think my thoughtfulness and kindness is one of my best assets but Green definitely wouldn't think so! As my naivety has decreased over the last few years, I have become more switched on to the less wholesome aspects of some human behaviour and 48 Laws of Power has helped reiterate some of those behaviours. Understanding how to be the most powerful man (or woman!) in the room sometimes means you can't always play nice. Green's 48 Laws have been organised in an easy to read handbook, supported with historical evidence from some of the most tactical leaders in history. If you're up for a bit more fruitful Machiavelli advice then you'll definitely like this book. I can't say I agree with all 48 Laws, e.g ' Pose as a friend, work as a spy' (haha!) and much of it can be considered common sense but some of the following quotes have definitely been noted for myself; 1) Always say less than necessary. 2) Win through actions, not through arguments. 3) When you show yourself to the world and display your talents, you naturally stir all kinds of resentment, envy, and other manifestations of insecurity, you cannot spend your life worrying about the petty feelings of others. 4) Re-Create Yourself - Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define if for you. Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions – your power will be enhanced and your character will seem larger than life.

Behind the Netra Book Review - Laura Bates' 'Girl up!'

BEHIND THE NETRA BOOK REVIEW - I met Laura Bates last year when we were both performing at the EMPOWER HOUSE show at the Theatre Royal. I already thought she was phenomenal after reading ‘Everyday Sexism’ and seeing her talk at the show. And now that I have finally had a chance to finish reading ‘Girl Up,’ I have nothing but more praise for this woman. I could only wish that I had a book like this as a teenager and I could give it to all my students. She has highlighted all the important life lessons that young people should be taught (and are so often not), about consent, self-pleasure, unrealistic beauty standards and the importance and empowerment behind feminism. The text was inclusive of nearly all on the gender and sexuality spectrums and she was refreshingly honest and witty in her approach. She has entertainingly weaved opinions, statistics and real life examples throughout the book. I would love to see more intersectionality within her writing but perhaps this wasn’t quite the audience for it. It is definitely aimed at more of a teenage audience but it is still a must read for anyone who is raising / teaching / being a girl or for anyone that needs to be better informed on gender issues here in the UK. If you haven’t read ‘Everyday Sexism’ – go read that first - then get on this one! It’s an unapologetic feminist voice that needs to be heard. Laura will be talking about ‘Girl Up’ as a part of the British Academy's season on Inequalities later this year. Check it out!

Behind the Netra Book Review - Bell Hook's 'Teaching to Transgress'

Behind the Netra Book Review - Firstly, Bell Hooks is one of my favourite black feminist writers so this review may be slightly bias. Hooks' writings on intersectionality of race, capitalism, gender, systems of oppression and class domination have inspired my own writing greatly. This particular text, Teaching to Transgress, is Hooks' exploration on how we can rethink teaching practices in the age of multiculturalism. She offers a theoretical framework and practical skills that she has successfully used to create an engaging, inclusive classroom. She discusses the prevalent issue of teachers who do not want to teach and students who do not want to learn. She also discusses how we can deal with racism and sexism in the classroom. Reading this book reminded me at a critical time that I am not the only one who believes education of marginalised people can - and should - be something more. I found that Hooks had articulated many things I felt and experienced but could not name, which proves her point about the power of theory. We as educators are compelled to confront the biases that have shaped teaching practices in our society and to create new ways of knowing and different strategies for sharing the knowledge. By doing so, Hooks hopes that education can therefore be the practice of freedom. As it stands, it feels everything but free. We fear to make mistakes, doing things wrongly and are constantly evaluating ourselves that we will never make the education system a culturally diverse place where scholars and the curriculum address every dimension of that difference. As budgets are cut, as jobs become more scarce and new policies are introduced many of the few progressive interventions that were made to change education, to create an open climate for cultural diversity, are in danger of being undermined or eliminated. I've tended to think about anti-oppression education in terms of the content that the teacher presents and that the class learns. Hooks also argues that *how* you teach and the dynamics of the educational space you help create are just as important as content in creating a classroom where education can be...well, freedom.
If you're passionate about education, teaching, transgression, coaching or anti-oppression then this one is definitely for you.

Behind the Netra Book Review - Naomi Wolf's 'Vagina - A New Biography.'

Behind the Netra Book Review - I finally got around to finishing Naomi Wolf's 'Vagina - A New Biography.' Firstly, don't let the title scare you into hiding. Wolf shares her personal journey in an attempt to analyse the intersectionality between sexuality and creativity. Much of her findings are backed with a range of interesting scientific evidence that suggests that the vagina is not merely flesh, but an intrinsic component of the female brain—and thus has a fundamental connection to female consciousness itself. As much as I loved Wolf's infamous 'Beauty Myth' back when I was a teenager, this text was sadly a bit of a let down. The book claims to be tackling a social taboo that is the Vagina but I feel that Eve Ensler dealt with it much better in the Vagina Monologues two decades ago. The book hardly liberates women, I feel it gives public intellectuals a legitimate reason to have a good laugh at female genitalia and makes a parody of mainstream feminist debate. I'd put it under the collection of celebrity faux-feminism that aims to titillate and make sales but does nothing for feminist debate. I'd still recommend to read it if you're up for some interesting analogies and wordplay but if you're really interested in important issues of sex, power and suffering then have a look at Butler, Banerji or Valenti. 

Addiction and male sexuality

How much do films reinforce gender norms of sexuality?

I think we have started to consider how movies and pop culture reinforce gender norms for women but how much do we talk about men’s sexuality? Last year I wrote an interesting piece on Steve McQueen’s ‘Shame’ and how the movie has used addiction as a form of reinforcement of gender norms. Have a read if you’re interested. 

Look forward to your thoughts.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6IOlYxwv4cXWHJZclJlc3NfWnM/view

What was the role of religion during the Uprising of 1857?

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6IOlYxwv4cXOE92TEo1bEowOGs/view

The role of religion in colonialism and the British Raj has always been an interest of mine. Within this article I have considered the role of religion in the Uprising of 1857. There occurred a rebellion of the native regiments against the East India Company which soon escalated into various other agitations across India. It has been argued that this event signified the beginning of the fall of the E.I.C, and the reversion of outright governorship to the British crown. 

In this prose I have considered how much credit can be given to the role of religion as the root of the Uprising or whether the fall of the Raj can be traced to a series of on-going conflicts and tension.  

You can read the article by clicking the above google drive link. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. 

Nationalism and Women.

Within this particular essay I have briefly discussed the ongoing gendered debate within the history of nationalism.  Women have, without a doubt, ‘sacrificed their desires for the sake of a male-led collective’; even when they have suffered abuse at the hands of racist colonists, they have often been treated more as symbols rather than as active participants by nationalist movements organised to end colonialism and racism. However, I have also discussed some particular examples where women have not passively sacrificed their desires, and have instead played a very active role not only for the nationalist movements, but also for their own gender rights. 

Comments welcome.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2dhIHpUmRxXSmhaLV9qNGZqT1U/view?usp=sharing

Je suis Charlie

This is a very interesting piece written by my brother, Randeep Sangha, on the flawed nature of our ‘western’ media. You can find more of his work at 

https://theramblingmedic.wordpress.com

Please read and share….

Like the majority of the world, I was shocked and devastated to see the news transpiring from Paris this last week. An innocent life lost at any point is a travesty, but in the name of religious extremism, it feels a little bit more damning.

Understandably, there is a sense of national unity, dare I say ‘International Unity’ – we all saw the pictures of thousands of people marching in the streets of Paris, and what a wonderful sight that was, to see so many people ‘protesting’ in unison. So much so, a number of international leaders had joined in – and good on them.

But the dust has almost settled, and France itself will no doubt become a lot more stringent on its defence policy, fighting terrorism etc. I’d be surprised if the UK’s terror threat alert levels aren’t set to be raised. However, interestingly, I’m just a tad more intrigued in the news coverage of this whole thing.

On the day prior to the 17 people being massacred in Paris, 3000 miles south, another act of ‘terrorism’ occurred. A girl, identified no older than 10, detonated an explosive in a busy market place in the Borno State of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.

20 people died, dozens more critically injured. Media attention? Minimal. In fact, whilst the horror of the Paris killings still dominate BBC News headlines, the killings in Nigeria aren’t even covered on the BBC web page.

Furthermore, only a week ago, Boko Haram pretty much desolated Baga, a city in the same aforementioned Borno State. 2000 people are reported to be dead, with an approximation of 30,000 now homeless. It got to the point such that people actually swam into nearby rivers and lakes, some drowning along the way, just to escape their homes.

On Sunday, a front page spread of an unnamed national broadsheet covered the events in Paris in detail, but allocated the terrors in Nigeria to an A6 spread – on page 7.

Just imagine the outrage, if thousands of Parisians – men, women and children, were fleeing into the River Seine. Imagine the newspapers the next day. But at the time of writing this, I’m struggling to find one major news organisation to have any events in Nigeria spread through any of their respective leading stories.

Work that one out.

In no way am I stating that one particular act of inexcusable terrorism should take more precedence than another, but I wholly agree that no life is more important than another.

I also want to know why it is deemed a hell of a lot more newsworthy that what happened in Paris should overshadow completely what happened in Nigeria. Or why anything that happens in ‘the West’ should in any way overbear what happens in the ‘3rd world’. In my opinion, the BBC should have ran with ‘Paris Killings: You could have been on holiday there…”.

Satire much?

We, unfortunately, live in a generation of ‘hash-tags’ and ‘likes’. Depressingly, it doesn’t take a genius to work out which countries’ devastation would garner more shares and likes on social media.

I’m not even going to go into what is happening in Syria, or in Israel/Palestine. Or why no-one talks about the kids that died in the school in Pakistan anymore. Or even if anyone even remembers the girls that were abducted by the Boko Haram a few months ago. The list is pretty much endless.

I’ve read a lot of articles stating that it the fault of the Nigerian authorities, as to the reason why there isn’t much reporting. I’ve also read, cynically, that the victims were ‘black’ and not ‘white’, or that Africa is thousands of miles away whereas France is a stones-throw away.

Irrelevant.

The media, or the ‘free-press’ not only have a duty to report, but also to inform the masses. Something, in my opinion, they’re not doing.

Imagine if you’re home was incinerated, your loved ones burnt in front of you.

Terrible right?

Imagine if the world turned a blind eye and didn’t want to care.

Sorry Nigeria, but no one is marching for you.

The Witch to The Bitch

Break down the Bossy-Intimidating-Tempered-Cunning-Hysterical.

Sometimes I think to myself, are we going backwards in time? In sixteenth-century England and seventeenth-century colonial America, there were a number of interesting reasons why a woman might have been accused of being a witch. The most popular characteristics included:

a. Being female

b. Being middle aged

c. Being married but with few or no children

d. Being a widow

e. Being contentious and stubborn with a turbulent reputation

f. If a woman led, and I quote, a ‘naughty’ kind of life…

g. If a woman spoke out of turn (outspoken)

Overall, if you were a woman that was considered ‘different’ or who deviated from the norm, it is likely you would be considered a witch. 

I know we might not be running around calling masses of women witches, but it now seems to be commonplace to refer to such women as bitches. Today, if a woman is stepping outside of the norm—her stereotypical role as a quiet, submissive female—then she is considered a bitch. If a woman in today’s society is freethinking and assertive, she is sometimes deemed a bitch. If she is ‘demanding’ or ‘bossy’ she’s considered a bitch. This might be in the workplace, in the home or in general social settings. We have transformed from The Witch to The Bitch

It might be a bit much to ask sixteenth-century society to accept these women as independent and freethinking, but why today, in 2014, are we not considering these women as powerful or assertive? It could be suggested that this view of powerful women being ‘bossy’ starts at a young age. Many young girls are conditioned and socialised to believe that the way to get others to like you is to be ‘nice’ and ‘sweet’. One should avoid being confrontational. One should most certainly avoid hurting other people’s feelings. In addition to these traits, we’re taught that it would be wrong or even worrying for a young girl to express too much anger; this is in fear that the young girl might be deemed wild or, god forbid, even ‘crazy’. But what do we teach our sons? To stick up for themselves? To stand their ground? To stifle emotions and not to cry because these are things that girls do? Yes, this is what we teach them. These are damaging thoughts that are absorbed into the brains of our young. Of course, this is not representational of all contexts and cultures, but we can still see these traits seeping into the modern day.

Since I was young, I told myself I wanted to change the world. I wanted to change lives, be it through my teaching career, through my business ventures, or through my charity work. I knew that during these endeavours I would have to be authoritative and formidable. If I was not, I knew without a doubt that I could not succeed. But if I am considered a ‘bitch’ for upholding such characteristics solely because of my gender, then I wonder what on earth I am fighting for. 

I was watching an episode of Scandal the other week, and Kerry Washington’s character, Olivia, hit the nail on the head. One of the male protagonists enters the room and exclaims “So, Abby’s kind of a bitch,” as soon as he walks into her apartment. “Don’t say that!” Olivia immediately hits back. “The words used to describe women! If she was a man you’d say she was ‘formidable’ or ‘bold’ or ‘right’.” Olivia’s reaction couldn’t have been more accurate. The continuing double standards that we allow to be upheld in society and in our language need to change. We need to change the way we speak about men and women. We need to stop such gendered language tropes that have been living with us for centuries. 

I am definitely not a witch, and my valiance should not make me a ‘bitch’.