Posts Tagged With: music

Rock and Redemption – Prince

Prince Rogers Nelson 1957-2016

Prince Rogers Nelson 1957-2016

“I said life is just a game
We’re all just the same”

– Controversy

I have to say that between the death of Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie and now Prince, 2016 is shaping up to be the year the music died for some of us….
I’m still reeling from news of Prince’s death but for those of you who are interested, David Icke just posted a fantastic video explaining in detail what made Prince the magus of music that he was (Prince apparently was also into Icke’s books and work and invited him to his show and a meeting afterwards). And he was indeed a magus, albeit one decked out in purple velvet, assless chaps, lace, killer high heels and a bevy of biracial beauties like Apollonia, Vanity, Sheila E and Mayte Garcia surrounding him.
Prince and Vanity rocking the cover of Rolling Stone magazine

Prince and Vanity rocking the cover of Rolling Stone magazine

If you read some parts of esoteric literature, they say that the most gifted artists, whether they be musicians, scientists, writers, actors, sculptors, painters and dancers are usually those who are channeling something from a different dimension and bringing it into our awareness to understand and learn from and I believe it. All you have to do is really sit down and listen to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, look into Nikolai Tesla and his work, read the works of Rainier Maria Rilke, look at the acting work of thespian heavyweights like Sir John Gielgud, study the sculptural work of Michelangelo, examine the paintings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti or Salvador Dali or look at the dancing of Gene Kelly and it becomes fairly obvious that the inspiration and talent is otherworldly. In my mind, Prince’s constant dedication, “tuning in”, connection and immersion to music and music alone, places him in that category.
I don't care what anyone says, prince had a fashion sense all his own and it worked. A classic case of the man wearing the clothes and not the clothes wearing the man. You need a massive personality to be able to swing the kinds of threads Prince did.

I don’t care what anyone says, Prince had a fashion sense all his own and it worked. A classic case of the man wearing the clothes and not the clothes wearing the man. You need a massive personality and supreme confidence to be able to swing the kinds of threads Prince did.

Some people think Prince was weird. I don’t think so. Like Bowie, he lived on a completely different frequency, one that only he could understand and most dull human ruminants never will, not in a million years of evolution. So of course when you compare Prince to people like that, he’s far from “normal”.
You have to have a certain kind of swagger to pull this off.

You have to have a certain kind of swagger to pull this off.

If you either listen to or read the lyrics to most of his songs which he performed for himself or wrote for others, it’s very clear that Prince’s two main preoccupations were around spiritual angst ( like “Controversy”, “Let’s Go Crazy”) and of course sex (“Cream”, “Darling Nikki”, “Sexy MF”, “Nasty Girl”“Sugar Walls” and my favorite, “A Love Bizarre”). In all honesty, I don’t think he was a sex pervert or a  musician with a dirty mind like some journalists have written about. No doubt about it: he enjoyed sex and truly loved the company of  women, not merely as sex objects and window dressing  but as women and all they are capable of doing. Just by going with his lyrics, never mind the provocative dancing, costumes and tongue-lashing on stage, women understood automatically that here was a guy who REALLY understood women. By every account, all his former lovers have nothing but praise about him and his gentlemanly treatment towards them. That instantly makes him a class act in my book.
In fact, given how sex-positive he was in his lyrics (“Darling Nikki” is about female masturbation. When Tipper Gore – Al’s wife – heard her daughter singing it, she went apeshit crazy and tried having his music censored), I’m almost certain that Prince understood that sex (when done right and with the right partner) , isn’t just a fun, hedonistic, pleasurable  thing to do, but could be a major gateway towards a profound spiritual experience capable of taking you outside of yourself completely, something which the Indian Tantrists having been saying for thousands of years already. He just tried to explain that publicly through his music.
Sexy MotherFucker indeed.

Sexy MotherFucker indeed.

Spiritually, Prince was a Jehovah’s Witness (in theory) but given his sensual lifestyle, I don’t think he followed the teachings to the letter but just made it his own. He was definitely plugged in, he understood a conspiracy and a scam when he saw one. That was part of the reason why he turned his back on the record companies and their vulture-like darlings for a while. Like Ickey pointed out in his video, Prince followed David Icke’s work and openly discussed chemtrails on the Tavis Smiley Show in 2011.
I think because he was so aware of how negative psychic, subtle and energetic influences could wreak havoc on one’s creativity and in one’s own life, he was intensely private, very selective about who he spent time with and only surrounded himself with people he trusted and who wouldn’t hinder his creative output. History is rife with examples of artists and creative types settling with a spouse or partner who is either emotionally demanding, a psychic drain or just not on the same frequency and thus having their work and art suffer for it terribly (Actor David Niven and philosopher Bertrand Russell immediately come to mind). Prince understood that keenly and I think that’s why he was even more selective about his various muses and their rapid succession.
Prince with first wife, Mayte Garcia

Prince with first wife, Mayte Garcia

What’s also amazing about Prince was that he had, by far  the most diverse and broad base of fans and listeners among most musicians today. The thing with many musicians is that many of them only appeal to a specific audience, like Led Zeppelin appealing mostly to those who like hard rock. Or R & B artists like Sly & the Family Stone and Earth, Wind and Fire appealing to a largely African-American audience. Not so with Prince. He had legions of fans around the world, across genres, cultures and languages. Even if he did play funk and jazz, he counted many hard rock musicians as admirers. Even if he did play the electric guitar like Jimi Hendrix, he still had a huge fan base among African-Americans. It was this kind of musical intersectionality which appealed to almost everyone in one form or another. That kind of universal appeal across a broad spectrum of tastes and genres is very rare and it takes a special kind of genius to pull it off with panache and class.
I first got into Prince when I first heard “Controversy” as an 8-year-old and dancing to it with my babysitter. Not long after, when he hit mainstream success all his biggest hits came on the airwaves and MTV in rapid succession during my tween and teen years. You know what I’m talking about, songs like “1999”, “Little Red Corvette”, and basically the entire soundtrack to the autobiographical film “Purple Rain” and his more funk-based work like “Cream”, “Kiss” and “Raspberry Beret”.
Of course this was his more accessible work but the truth of the matter is that he never stopped producing music. It was in his blood. There’s still a ton of music he’s never released publicly and never got airplay because it was either too experimental, jazzy or different. We’re talking thousands of hours worth of music here. I also saw him last year in concert here in Montreal and all I can say is that when you attend a Prince concert, it’s literally a joyful, non-stop all-night dance party involving thousands of people. It’s not just a show, it’s an experience.
I think Prince’s basic message is that you have to stay true to your gift and true to yourself, in whatever form that may be. You cannot compromise on your art to suit other people’s tastes and inclinations, that as an artist it is your sacred duty to remain as true to it as possible, to stick to your own vision. As long as you remain true to yourself, the work will speak for itself. It certainly has for Prince.
Truthfully, I’m not as upset about Prince’s death as I was about Bowie’s. When you have such rare, talented souls, you begin to understand that their presence among us is a blessing, a transient one, but a blessing nonetheless. There are some Facebook threads asking which star or galaxy he’s returned to. Some say the Pleiades,  others say Arcturus. I say who cares. He was here for a while, gifted us with his amazing music and talent and now he’s gone back home, where ever that is.  I’m sure he’s happy and jamming like crazy at whatever star he’s gone to.
Stay well, sweet Prince.
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Categories: Pop culture, Rock and redemption, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rock and Redemption – David Bowie

The Thin White Duke aka The Best Dressed Rock Star Ever

(Note: Some NSFW links included)

I was and truthfully, still am extremely hesitant about writing this blog post given that social media sites are awash with Bowie articles and tributes after his untimely, recent death and I really don’t want to add to the overblown nature of how the media and music poseurs (who never liked Bowie before but suddenly do now) have been reacting. So I’m going to try to keep this as simple as I can. Wish me luck.

Bowie in the famous Masayoshi Sukita pantsuit. Bowie had a love affair with avante-garde Japanese designers.

Bowie in the famous Masayoshi Sukita pantsuit. Bowie had a love affair with avante-garde Japanese designers.

I’m going try to attempt to look at Bowie’s spiritual evolution in a nutshell (a real examination would be worthy of a PhD dissertation), the influence it had on others and then end with how he affected me and the indirect contact I had with him. I know there’s a lot of dirty laundry about him coming out now, but if anything it paints him as an extremely complicated individual and a reminder there really is no such thing as black and white when it comes to individual souls and personalities.

It would seem that from the very beginning, right with the midwife who delivered him, he was acknowledged as an old soul. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. If you look at his earlier work and his obsession with outer space, being an alien and the emphasis on stars, alienation, isolation, being an outsider and of being utterly alone and disassociated from humanity, I think deep down inside he knew he really wasn’t from here either.

Bowie as the Starman

Bowie as the Starman

First Nation’s people maintain that we originally came from the stars, recent theories on evolution and the origins of life seem to confirm it and I think Bowie knew it too in his heart and tried channeling it through his work. All you need to do is listen (or read the lyrics) to songs like “Starman”, “Life on Mars”, “Space Oddity”, “Ashes to Ashes”, “Moonage Daydream”, watch “The Man Who Fell to Earth” or even when he decided to tackle “Elephant Man” on Broadway. The clues and hints are all there if you look for them.

Bowie in all his Mephistopheles-like beauty in the Nicholas Roeg film, "The Man Who Fell To Earth".

Bowie in all his Mephistopheles-like beauty in the Nicholas Roeg film, “The Man Who Fell To Earth”.

This very lengthy and thorough essay is probably the best thing you can read on Bowie’s interest in spiritual matters and the occult. It’s all there. Like lots of English rock stars from the hedonistic 1970s, Bowie was obsessed for a while with the works of Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune and her book “Psychic Self-Defense”, Fortune’s assertion that the Glastonbury area is intimately associated with the Arthurian legends, how he studied Hebrew Kabbalah and the Sephoric Tree of Life (and even inserted a lot of these ideas in his 10th album “Station to Station”).

The Kabbalistic Tree of Life in Jewish mysticism, with the different energy centers and expressions of God's energy

The Kabbalistic Tree of Life in Jewish mysticism, with the different energy centers and expressions of God’s energy, the 10 Sephirot

This was at the height of his cocaine addiction in the 1970s, which fueled a cocaine-induced paranoia in many areas of his life, when he was going through all sorts of weird phases like his all-white diet (which consisted of drinking milk and snorting coke and eating a few peppers), when he had an exorcism performed on his LA swimming pool by a mysterious New York City white witch named Walli Elmlark, how he stopped performing live for a while because he was convinced someone from the audience was going to shoot him, how he feared flying and would take the Trans-Atlantic Queen Mary 2 ship liner instead of airplanes or the Concorde. Later in life, after he had cleaned up and gone sober, he took to Buddhist meditation, supported the Tibetan cause and married Muslim-Somali supermodel Iman Abdulmajid.

The supermodel and the rock star - and one of the best looking biracial couples in the world.

The supermodel and the rock star – and one of the best looking biracial couples in the world.

I even suspect he had a bit of the earth energy reader himself, meaning I think he picked up on ley lines and places on earth which had higher-than-normal frequencies. His taste in real estate shows that. In the 1980s, he fell in love with Bali, long before it became the obnoxious tourist hub it is today, when it still was considered a spiritual place to be. In fact he re-created a Balinese villa on the exclusive Caribbean island of Mustique.

Bowie in an Indonesian sarong, at his Balinese-inspired retreat on Mustique.

Bowie in an Indonesian sarong, at his Balinese-inspired retreat on Mustique.

When Mustique became too much, he bought a place in the most mystical of all the Greek islands, Patmos, where the Cave of the Apocalypse is and admitted to the island’s charms. (I’ve been there and I can attest to it to). While he mostly lived in New York in the artistic (but now completely gentrified) Soho district, his favorite spot in NYC was Washington Square Park but to escape the summer heat, he also had a mountain retreat in hippy-dippy Woodstock, NY, site of the famous music festival.

Bowie in three version of drag in the "Boys Keep Swinging" video.

Bowie in three versions of drag in the “Boys Keep Swinging” video. Bowie’s female muses which he based these personalities on included Marlene Dietrich, Katherine Hepburn, and Greta Garbo.

Much has been said and written about his sexual experimentation and quasi-bisexual lifestyle, how his gender-bending androgynous personas like Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane, helped many persons from the LGBTQ community to either come out, or accept their orientation or anyone accept their own personal weirdness.

Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

In my opinion, his basic message was that its OK to accept your own inner freak and be comfortable with your own weirdness and uniqueness as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, you don’t need to justify it to anyone else. After all, there is no such thing as “normal” since normalcy is completely relative. Bowie however made it cool to be different and if you were someone who was different, whether because of your sexual orientation, your ethnicity, your race or even if your interests, tastes and preoccupations were different from everyone else in your cultural milieu. Somehow, Bowie and his music made you feel like someone really understood you and had your back and that it was all OK.

That meant a lot to me. My adolescence was spent in an annoying-as-fuck, socially claustrophobic, peer-pressured, cookie-cutter, affluent, white suburban ghetto of Montreal known as the West Island, where all the girls were generic, indistinguishable, white, blonde, dime-a-dozen idiots with names like “Kelly”, “Jennifer” or “Heather” who had identical clothes, hairstyles and opinions, all the guys were jocks who were into hockey or soccer, listened to Bon Jovi and all the supposedly cool kids hung out at the pool or park and “got wasted”. When you don’t fit that mold and couldn’t stand living in such a dead-end cultural cul-de-sac, Bowie was a Godsend and a sign that real life, real art and real music existed outside of those walls.

Bowie is the only man I know who can pull of a pompadour and a yellow suit of all things, and still manages to look amazing.

Bowie during his GQ phase – Bowie was the only man I know of who can pull off a pompadour and a yellow suit, and still managed to look amazing.

In my experience, it’s the people who corner themselves and their personalities into neat, square boxes, identical haircuts, identical suits and act out what being a conformist “normal” is supposed to look like who end up being the craziest, creepiest people in private – just look at Republicans and Conservatives.

It was also one of the worst-kept secrets Bowie spent A LOT of time hanging out in Montreal during the late 1980s and 1990s. He recorded his 1984 album “Tonight” up in Morin Heights, at Le Studio, about 70 km north of Montreal. He befriended Edouard Locke, creative director of Montreal’s legendary modern dance troupe, La La La Human Steps. Locke and principal dancer Louise Lacavalier were instrumental in choreographing Bowie’s 1990 “Sound +  Vision” world tour.

Bowie during the Sound and Vision tour

Bowie during the Sound + Vision tour

Bowie also liked hanging out in Montreal’s various underground music clubs, notably La Sala Rossa and Casa del Popolo where he first got wind of local musical heroes Arcade Fire which then led to the friendship and numerous collaborations between him and the band later on.

As for me, I came to Bowie indirectly. I was 10 years old when I first heard “Let’s Dance” and freaked out when I watched his naughty “China Girl” video where you could see him having sex on the beach. When I became a teen, all, and I mean ALL my favorite 1980s alternative bands cited Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Marc Bolan of T-Rex and Roxy Music as their primary influence. Everyone from Depeche Mode and The Cure to The Smiths to Def Leppard to Bauhaus worshipped Bowie.

David Bowie and Queen's Freddie Mercury backstage during 1985's Live Aid concert. They killed it when the performed 'Under Pressure" together.

David Bowie and Queen’s Freddie Mercury backstage during 1985’s Live Aid concert. (That’s Coco Schwab in between in the blue shirt. She NEVER left Bowie’s side and was literally his right hand person from the 1970s right to the end.)

I also had older cousins who had all his albums from the 1960s and 70s so it made me listen to his earlier stuff with a newer and deeper appreciation. While I was listening to “Hunky Dory”, The Berlin Trilogy or “Scary Monsters”, the suburban cretins in my high school were listening to Poison or Michael Bolton. (I’m also fairly certain Bowie, along with Rick SpringfieldDuran Duran in their heyday and The Professor from “Gilligan’s Island” , molded my preference for very tall, thin, chisel-featured, hyper-intelligent, intellectual but cultured, worldly men. Bonus: The fact that a stunning rock god like Bowie absolutely LOVED women of colour – yes!)

Bowie was in the short-lived band Tin Machine.

Bowie was in the short-lived band Tin Machine.

I saw Bowie twice in concert, first during the “Sound + Vision” tour and then when he came to Montreal as part of the group Tin Machine and I saw him play in a club instead of a stadium or arena. I almost met him once since I used to work as a very prominent rock radio station in Montreal while I was a university student. I was the morning receptionist and Bowie was coming in one afternoon after my shift. One of the stipulations by his manager and personal assistant, Corinne “Coco” Schwab,  was that there should be absolutely no one there, no fans, no extra staff, just a skeleton crew when Bowie came for his interview, which meant that I couldn’t hang around and wait. So I left some of my copies of his various album covers with the station manager to get autographed including a rare copy of his earlier work with his early bands, The Manish Boys and The Lower 3rd. He signed everything except the rare album because it turned out to be some kind of bootleg, which I honestly didn’t know at the time. Oh well.

David Bowie when he was still David Jones. I have a copy of this EP but Bowie wouldn't sign it. I wonder if his fingerprints are still on it.

David Bowie when he was still David Jones. I have a copy of this EP but Bowie wouldn’t sign it. I wonder if his fingerprints are still on it.

I’ve written this before but Aquarius IS the sign for androgyny and nonconformity and I do think on some level Bowie was a forerunner of the incoming Age of Aquarius when gender lines, gender issues and gender identity are going to get even more blurred than ever before. At the end of the day, we’re human, that’s what counts. We just need to treat each other as such. Bowie knew it too. He just used his art and his life to show it.

Rest in peace, Goblin King . (Bowie in the Jim Henson film "Labyrinth")

Rest in peace, Goblin King. Bowie in the Jim Henson film “Labyrinth”.

And if you ever doubt that Bowie wasn’t connected to something otherworldly, have a listen to this. It’s what he chose to be played during his wedding to Iman, a Bulgarian folk-song which sounds like angels could be behind it. He’s probably jamming with them now.

Godspeed David Robert Jones!

Categories: Ch-ch-ch-changes, Pop culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Eye Does Not Have Permission To Own

(WARNING: Explicit and NSFW images and links included in this article)

Diana Vreeland, probably the most powerful and influential fashion editor of all time, once said that, “the eye needs to travel” especially for sources of inspiration, ideas and creativity. I would largely agree with her, but to that I would also add, that unfortunately whatever the eye sees, it also usually wants to take or own and that it takes enormous discipline to train it.

Vreeland in her famous red room, a study in excess if you ask me.

Vreeland in her famous red room, a study in excess if you ask me.

I bring up this quote because of the latest kerfuffle involving Miley Cyrus, her online fight with Sinead O’Connor, the latest video by Rihanna which leaves very little to the imagination and has feminists of all stripes and shapes in a twist.
Rihanna, in one of the more "sedate" shots from her "Pour it up" video.

Rihanna, in one of the more “sedate” shots from her “Pour it up” video.

My own opinion is that all this physical exposure is going towards the slow but inevitable complete and total ownership of the female form in the public space. Very little is left of the mystery and the power of it. Some might argue that calling your own shots in how you expose your body, with whom and within what medium is actually self-empowering. While I do think what a woman decides to do with her body, where and with whom is completely and entirely her decision, I do think that controlling the level of that mystery and privacy around your own body is even more empowering.
Another display of the genius of Dov Charney, the president of American Apparel. Do we really need shots like these to sell SOCKS? (and no, I don't find this sexy at all)

Another display of the genius of Dov Charney, the president of American Apparel. Do we really need shots like these to sell bloody SOCKS? (and no, I don’t find this sexy at all)

I don’t mean hiding female bodies behind a niqab or hijab (or nun’s habit in the West) but rather that women should be able to share the most private parts of themselves when THEY choose, that their bodies are not just a given to be shared, shown and given to any eye, like a public billboard sign.
Burqas and niqabs are the other extreme. I think it's possible to find a balance between these two extremes.

Burqas and niqabs are the other extreme. I think its possible to find a balance between these two polar extremes.

That’s largely the debate in the West however it has major implications and spill-over effects in the East and  the rest of the developing world.
India is now in the midst of an epidemic of rape.
It’s not like it never existed there. It’s always been an undercurrent of life particularly for women of low caste (check out the life of Phoolan Devi, the Bandit Queen to see what I mean) . However because of recent well-known rape cases going public and the unprecedented protests and serious soul-searching in their wake, the issue is being talked about more than ever.
4 of the 5 Delhi rapists (the 5th hung himself in jail). from left to right: Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta, Mukesh Singh, Akshay Thakur

4 of the 5 Delhi rapists (the 5th, Ram Singh hung himself in jail). from left to right: Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta, Mukesh Singh, Akshay Thakur

Last winter 5 thugs boarded a bus and brutally raped a physiotherapy student on her way home from the cinema with her male companion. It wasn’t bad enough that they all took turns raping her, then raped her with a 4 foot long iron rod which caused such horrific internal damage that it eventually killed her. It was the fact that the gang rape lawyer representing the 2 of the men recently came out and said “If my daughter was having premarital sex and moving around at night with her boyfriend, I would have burned her alive. I would not let this situation happen. All parents should adopt such an attitude,” (This is a lawyer folks, someone with more than a high school education, living in a major urban area, the guy who is supposed to put the bad guys in jail, he’s not some toothless village hick.) While these comments and attitudes are really, truly repugnant and belong in the Stone Age as far as I’m concerned, it touches an issue few have yet broached.
Rapists' lawyer, A.P Singh = First class douche nozzle

Rapists’ lawyer, A.P Singh = First class douche nozzle

No one has really discussed this but I think these gang-rapes and the nature of how violent they have become in recent years is largely due to the prevalence of free porn on the internet.
Before the internet, Western pornography was something that circulated in the hands of very rich, discrete Indians who secretly brought them in either via the West or from Japan. Due to India’s very strict obscenity laws,  that stuff was and still is, illegal. Getting caught distributing a copy of Playboy, Penthouse or Hustler would definitely land you in jail. The culture is extremely conservative despite what Bollywood movies, posh yoga retreats, globalization, friendly call-centers and neo-liberal policies may lead you to think.
That for many men in India and in other parts of the world, there are only two types of women in the world, the kind you enjoy and the kind you marry and the two are NOT the same. So of course this creates a double standard in Indian society which continues, in much the same way we have on this side of the Earth (The “why is it a guy can sleep around and be stud but if a girl does, she’s a slut?” type of arguments). Only in India they openly admit it and don’t deny it in the least. (Check out Mira Nair’s documentary “India Cabaret” if you can if you want to pursue this topic even more.)
One of the dancers from "India Cabaret" and how she's treated by her clients.

One of the dancers from “India Cabaret” and how she’s treated by her clients.

However with the internet, any sort of access is now possible. Viewing any sort of pornography is a few keystrokes away. There are no airport security, police officers and disapproving family members and public shaming to worry about. You can see anything you want, any time you want.  And it’s not just well-traveled Indian business men, university educated engineers and doctors, wealthy urbanites who can view this stuff. It’s also the poor migrant rural worker who left his village , who has never gone to school, who has never touched a girl in his life (except maybe a prostitute if he can afford one) because the public version of the culture he comes from does not allow it. It’s the uneducated rickshaw puller who has never seen nor talked to a woman from the West or even from within his own life aside from his mother or sister but has access and watches these porn videos and  videos of singers like Rihanna or Miley or Madonna or Christina and because he doesn’t know any better, then thinks that ALL women from the West naturally behave that way, are naturally that easy and are naturally that sexually open and voracious as implied in the images they create themselves or participate in.
One of Madonna's favorite dance moves.  Thankfully not every female hangs out like this in public all the time.

One of Madonna’s favorite dance moves. Thankfully not every female hangs out like this in public all the time.

“Maybe,” he might even venture to think, “perhaps all women deep down inside are like that so if I just isolate her and get a chance, she’ll do the same things for me which I see the women in those videos do. I get what I want, she’ll never speak up and no one will be any wiser.” (I mean I remember when Dynasty and Dallas were shown there. I had cousins come up to me thinking that I must live in a similar kind of house!)
As if I would ever live like these folks....

As if I would ever live like these folks….

When I was living in Turkey and specifically in Antalya, a very high-end holiday resort city which these days is full of very wealthy Russians, I had a weekly ritual, of buying either a copy of “The Guardian” or “The International Herald Tribune” every Sunday morning, have my breakfast at a local café and then walk over to one of the lovely public parks which looked over the Mediterranean sea, sit down on a park bench and read my newspaper. Guaranteed, within 5 minutes, some Turkish maganda-type (a sleazy guy) would sit himself down and try coming on to me. When I started yelling at them that I was a teacher, a hojam, they freaked out, ashamed and quickly fled.
You can't even have a serene moment to yourself even in a park like this in broad daylight.

You can’t even have a serene moment to yourself even in a park like this in broad daylight, if you’re a woman on her own.

Why did he act that way towards me?
What did he assume about me?
Turkey, unfortunately is known for sex-tourism for women, in much the same way Thailand is for men or Morocco or the island of Mykonos is for gay men. Usually older, lonely European ladies, from Germany, Russia, Holland, Denmark, Norway and England come with their girlfriends and “spend time” in holiday towns like Bodrum, Alanya, Antalya, Marmaris, Kemer and there are unfortunately thousands of male Turkish hotel workers or workers in the tourism industry who are there to serve them. I even heard stories from some of my students who specifically wanted to learn English so that they could get a job at a hotel so that they could meet a “rich Western lady” and once saw a 50-something British lady, have a 20-something Turkish lad move in with her in Fethiye and bought him a car. That jerk who tried coming on to me, just naturally assumed that because I was not Turkish, and like the other 98% of other non-Turkish women he probably has encountered, I was obviously there looking for a bit of action and so he tried to make a go of it. He spoke perfect English so clearly he wasn’t completely stupid. This was also Turkey, not a poor, developing nation by any stretch of the imagination, say unlike Bangladesh.
19 year olf Turkish boy-toy Cihat Haciveliogullari, with the dogs of his 53 year old wife Julie Haycocks.

19 year old Turkish boy-toy Cihat Haciveliogullari, with the dogs of his British  53 year old wife Julie Haycocks.

Another time, during the summer holidays in elementary school, I was shipped back to the old country to visit and stay with relatives. I must have been 10 or 11 at the time and still basically a kid. I was on a shopping expedition in Dhaka with two elderly aunts and some female cousins. Under normal circumstances, we had a driver who took us everywhere we needed to go but for whatever reason that evening, he couldn’t fetch us in time and we had to take the bus which caused a lot of consternation with my aunts though I didn’t understand why at the time.
Gulistan bus station did NOT look like this when I was there. Imagine this picture but with people teeming everywhere instead.

Gulistan bus station did NOT look like this when I was there. Imagine this picture but with people teeming everywhere instead.

Gulistan Bus Station in Dhaka is literally hell on Earth. It’s crowded, it stinks,  it’s teeming  with wall-to-wall people, mostly poor men, migrant workers from the villages. An older cousin quickly told me before we entered the crowd that no matter what happened, I just had to keep walking fast and not look at or talk to anyone until we got to our designated bus platform. So I listened to her and followed her in. Not even 20 seconds into the mêlée, was I suddenly feeling hands trying to grope me in places where I still didn’t have any places to speak of. I couldn’t tell who was doing it because it was just a constant stream of people all around us and they all looked the same. After a minute, I was ready to scream. By the second minute my disgust had turned into pure blood-red rage. I couldn’t take it anymore and that blasted bus platform was still 50 feet away. I grabbed the wrist of the next hand I felt on me, saw the arm it was attached to, saw the shoulder and then saw the face and then duly punched it without hesitation. He was shocked and fled. Bangladesh is very conservative socially and Muslim. Women are generally quiet and submissive so for a young girl to punch a man publicly is unheard of. The people around us saw what happened, my aunts were mortified but we got to the bus stop without another hand touching us.
A pretty good facsimile of your's truly as a kid.

A pretty good facsimile of your’s truly as a kid.

How women carry themselves and how they behave here in the West, whether they realize this or not, has a direct impact and even deeper implications in the way women are viewed and treated in other parts of the world, even if it may seem there is no visible relationship at first glance. The digital world changed all of that forever. So when Miley decides to fellate a sledgehammer or have a noted sleazeball (and unfortunately, influential fashion photographer) like Terry Richardson direct her videos, or Rihanna decides to open her legs wide open for all and sundry to look in, it may very well be their form of empowerment in the confines of the photo studio or the tiny video screen or their personal handicams, but it certainly isn’t for millions of women out there in the rest of the world, who board buses at night or who want to enjoy their Sunday newspaper in peace at the park or just want to get home safely.
What is this really saying?

What is this really saying?

It isn’t empowerment in cultures where male eyes don’t just travel but feel the right to own anything it sees. I think that’s the main reason why so many men in the West feel uncomfortable around women who wear hijabs, because it forces them to realize that these are women who are not and never will be sexually available to them and I’m near positive that’s what pisses them off the most. (It’s a totally different discussion and beyond the scope of this blog post, but Islamic feminism does exist and I have a few Muslim friends who do wear the hijab as a form of protest and as a feminist statement. In short it’s their way of saying to men “Look at *me*, deal with *me* as a person and nothing else. Not as someone who you can daydream about, not as someone who you can try to make a pass at eventually.  Just a person, and nothing else.”)
Wearing a hijab can be a political statement. For some women who are forced to wear it, it can be a sign of male domination. In other instances, it can be a form of rejection of male-imposed standards of beauty and sexual availability.

Wearing a hijab can be a political statement. For some women who are forced to wear it, it can be a sign of male domination. In other instances, it can be a form of rejection of male-imposed standards of beauty and sexual availability.

It isn’t body-acceptance when there are hundreds of millions of men who view a largely uncovered female form as permission towards body ownership.
I wish some of these artists would finally understand that sometimes showing more doesn’t always mean more. They may be showing more, but it’s hurting others even more. That when it comes to the female body, the excuse of cultural context is now forever gone thanks to the digital world. Sometimes showing less can be just as artistic and powerful.
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Categories: Politico, Pop culture, Raise your EQ, This is why the planet is screwed up | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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