Again, please don’t actually take a shot every time I say it.
Again, please don’t actually take a shot every time I say it.
Don’t actually take a shot every time I say “It” because you might die.
I was quite upset last year when I found out there would be no more new episodes of Sense8, especially when the last episode ended on such a kickass moment. But a year on, I realized an issue with the show that I hadn’t noticed when actually watching the show. There were glaring issues that were present in my mind as I watched the show. But this one that I’ve more recently thought of is quite possibly the biggest issue in the crafting of the show. And that is the issue of the whitewashing of Kala’s experience in India to be basically the same as any privileged American woman. Spoilers below.
Some characters had very personal issues while others had issues that dealt with major national and global issues. Sun, who lived in South Korea, had to deal with the fact that no matter how good or capable she was in her life, she was often seen as inadequate based on her sex alone, and her brother could be the worst person imaginable and still be considered better than her. We see this in her decision to sacrifice herself to the law to hide her brother’s embezzlement of the family’s company funds. We also see this in the fact that to compete in her favored martial art, she had to do so under an assumed name and eventually quit competing altogether. Nomi was a trans woman, who had to face her family’s rejection and even the rejection of other women of her identity. Her mother continually dead named her whenever her family deigned to contact her. And some feminists saw Nomi as a man trying to take more from women. Riley’s issues were much more personal. She had to deal with the underbelly of club life, but most of all, she had to deal with her grief over losing her husband and child. Wolfgang had to deal with the gang life of Berlin, trying desperately to both stay alive in a dangerous world and carve out a place for himself in it. Lito, living the predominantly Catholic and highly toxic masculinity soaked Mexico, had to hide who he was from the world in order to continue the career he loved. This was definitely the most turmoil filled of the character issues. Capheus had to deal with the difficult task of getting his mother AIDS medication and surviving the very dangerous violence of poverty-stricken Kenya and possibly corrupt government. Will, a Chicago cop, had to deal with the very adversarial nature of policing an area that hated the police and divisive community that both wanted help and was suspect of it. Kala was asked to marry the son of an affluent man who owned the company she worked for and deal with meshing her religious family with his non-religious family.
Some of these storylines grew and development or were dropped entirely by the end of season two. Eventually, Sun just worked to murder her brother, Nomi spent most of her time in hiding from the law but also developed a better relationship with her sister, Riley had a pivotal moment wherein she had to at least stop suppressing her memories of her deceased family but then simply spent season two helping Will, Wolfgang continued to try to find himself a place in the organized crime of Berlin, Lito was outed and his Mexican film career was ruined but his career was opening up in the US after giving an amazing speech at a Pride parade, Capheus was pushed to run for a political position to help his community with integrity, Will developed a heroin addiction but also spearheaded the fight against the shady organization after them, and Kala married her wealthy paramour and found out that many of their poorly produced meds went to the areas that needed them the most, such as Kenya.
Gender Inequality and Violence in India
Back in college, I took a course in Global Women’s Issues which covered problems that women faced the world over. For example, FGM in Africa or Bride Burnings in India. If like me, you’ve paid attention to the gender violence that goes on in India, you would notice that it hasn’t slowed down much. First off, women are not highly valued in their infancy but many communities in the country cannot afford numerous children. As such, there aren’t currently many women in India. Counter to most statistics elsewhere, men outnumber women in India. Recently, the NYT covered this subject, but the number of women there is trending upward. But not only are women outnumbered by men, but due to the lack of plumbing infrastructure, there are many public bathrooms throughout major city centers that require people to pay for their use when defecating. Last I read, men’s bathrooms far outnumbered women’s bathrooms beyond the male to female ratio, and since it is hard for a woman to prove whether or not she had only urinated without a major invasion of her privacy, going to the bathroom costs women money more often than men. These two things seem minor, however, in comparison to the violence perpetrated against women in India.
First of all, I had previously mentioned Bride Burnings which involve the killing of a young woman recently married for either her family not paying a dowry, not paying enough or more in the dowry, or when the husband dies and the husband’s family does not wish to pay or care for the young bride. These women are not killed and then their bodies burned. They are burned alive. Unfortunately, the India government, mostly local courts, has turned a blind eye to most of these murders, with a conviction rate of only 33% in 2008.
More commonly, rape is a very prevalent crime in India, despite the idea that it has one of the lowest rates of rape of all countries. This is because rape is not often reported in India. One of the most known incidents was the rape and murder of a student on public transport back in 2012 in Delhi. A male friend of hers was badly beaten during the incident and all six other men, including the bus driver, raped her. She was also violated with a metal rod, severally damaging her internal organs, leading to her eventual death. After this, the public outcry against this kind of extreme gender violence broke out into protests, the demands of which included better safety for women in India. Fortunately, the court did convict the rapists of multiple charges, including rape and murder. All levels of the Indian government got involved, including the parliament. But this didn’t change too much, as not even a year later, another student was gang-raped. But the men who raped this woman in 2013 got the death sentence, so the government was trying to make rape less and less appealing to gangs. But even as recently as this January, an eight year old was raped and murdered by eight men including two political party members. There have even been reports of mass rapes, which included children and elderly women. The anger over all this gender violence once came to a head in 2004 when a crowd of about 200 women lynched a rapist who called one of his victims a prostitute. The women had stated that he had been bribing the local authorities to prevent arrest or prosecution.
In cultures where women are not valued as equals to men, rape tends to be pretty common. Rape has a much worse impact on women and communities where women are not valued as equals, because a woman’s body and virginity are the way by which the majority of the society values them and how they are able to create livelihoods, not as prostitues but as wives. Rape damages their worth in the society and lowers the number of women considered viable for marriage even when the overall number of women is already too low. One would think that the act of rape would result in the worst possible punishment in communities that bases women’s values on their bodies’ worth as wives and mothers, and while India, the nation, is trying very hard to fight against rape, local governments are fighting against the tide to punish rapists to the maximum limit. The tide is shown below. It shows absolutely and without a doubt what rape culture looks like when it runs amok.
The American Gaze
The average American has no idea about any of those issues in India. Feminists tend to know about it, and some other people have a general vague idea about these problems. But American news tends to focus nearly entirely on the United States. A person typically really has to dig to find out what’s going on in other countries. It’s not because interest in other nations went down. It’s that a wider American audience was wanted for the news so more US stories tended to get a wider view. So when most Americans hear about another nation, they tend to put an American cultural context on it. And the American cultural context is almost impossible to untangle from slavery, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights movement. The United States literally sees most things in Black and White, even though those aren’t the only races in the US, let alone the world. Sometimes jokes that are meant to be about regions are seen as racist against Black people. One great example of this is the Brittish conductor’s firing from an American music festival for making a joke to his long-time friend from the South about his possibly wanting grits. This friend happened to be Black. A White woman overheard the joke, which was long-running between the two who traded barbs on a regular basis about what the other one culturally was more likely to consume, assumed it was about his Blackness, then reported it. The music festival never once asked the person who was supposedly subjected to this so-called racism what he thought about it. Their administration made a unilateral decision and fired the conductor. This is far from an acceptable way of handling an accusation of racism. If one simply ignores the cultural differences between Americans and Brittains, but just looks at the fact they didn’t ask the Black person if it was racist, but decided for him that it was, that can be considered racist to the extreme. But the fact that the conductor was Brittish is important. We hardly acknowledge that other countries and cultures have a different and unique history with Black people, let alone consider the interplay between other races. We often don’t pay attention to those issues that affect other minority groups in other countries. We don’t hear about them either, because the US media focuses almost all its minority attention on how Black and White people interact in the US only. As such, the average American tends to apply this filter to all issues in all countries without knowledge or context. You can see such reactions to the attempt to protect women on transport through segregation below. I’m not sure if this will actually help, especially considering the aforementioned victim who died was also raped by the bus driver, but I understand that they are trying something.
I appreciated the fact that more informed tumblrs were willing to share their information. But since we don’t know the sex of anyone on tumblr, we can’t say for certain that those who brought up segregation were all male nor that all of those who were informed were female. It’s surprising who is and is not informed of other nations’ issues and violence against women. To me, the funnist and most ethnocentric comment is that it reminds them of something “everyone” has learned in school. Do people truly believe that all the intricacies of US history is taught in all other countries in the world? Because that’s just ignorant.
My real issue with Sense8 in connection to all the above problems is that Kala’s story is whitewashed. It’s about a woman feeling pressured to marry an affluent man (something that still happens in the US) while she’s in love with another man (another thing that happens in the US) and dealing with a pharmaceutical company’s unethical practices (definitely happens in the US). We get a glorified love triangle. To not even mention the very real physical dangers that women in India face, when the show seemed to pride itself on showing the issues facing people of specific demographics around the world, is an unforgivable oversight. And if it was a conscious decision to do so, then the show wasn’t nearly as progressive as it liked to appear. We need more awareness of these issues in India, not to have them glossed over in a TV show that could have exposed a global audience to the gender violence in India.
Maybe they were planning this in another season, but the show was cancelled and I don’t believe that they were planning it, because it’s not even in the background. Kala behaves as if rape isn’t a possibility in her life, going to public places alone and without some kind of defensive device all the time. Even most of her clothes are very Western by comparison to what some of the women in India wear on a day to day basis. I just can’t help but think that this is a great disservice to the women of India. I’m not saying Kala needed to be raped on the show. I’m saying that it should at least have been a topic and fear that she had to deal with on daily basis. Instead, her experience and story feels very Western, and while Western women still worry about rape and rape culture still exists in Western societies, the degree to which Indian women must deal with both is in a much greater extreme. This needed to be shown. Realizing how much this subject was ignored in the show in favor of a love triangle really bothers me and I will most likely not watch the show again, as I have other cancelled or completed shows, because it is just plain bad writing, which is sad considering that Jessica Jones deals with rape in such a poignant fashion.
But What Do You Think?
Were there any other topics that you felt this show ignored that were ripe for showcasing? Were there other shows that ignored a major issue in a culture? Do think it’s purposeful or an accident? I’m interested in what you have to say on the subject.
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I remember once during my grad school time, I took a class on creative writing theory. One essay we read was by Langston Hughes, and in it he said that the young black writer who doesn’t want to identify himself as a black writer is wrong. Of course, discussion followed. I was against this idea. My professor hit the nail on the head when he asked me if I want to be identified as a “female writer”. I gave a very quick and very loud, No! in return. I’ll explain why this is so important to me.
To Be Identified Is To Be Qualified
We don’t say that Stephen King is a white writer or a male writer. We say he is a writer. Some may say he is a horror writer, and that is a qualifier of a different sort, but with all the minimization that the genetic qualifiers are used with. Identity social protest and politics are very in right now. I’ve never been behind them, and I’m not behind them in art either. When our identity is put before everything else, it pigeonholds us. It’s a qualifier. “Miceli is a female writer” vs “Miceli is a writer”. It’s clear to me that one of these implies that as a writer, I’m not on equal footing with others. It implies “less than”, a niche, a special case. We get the same thing with athletes and scientists. It’s not necessary to say a person is a woman. Let other people figure it out on their own.
To say that Stephen King is a male writer is to suggest that we can’t expect good women from him. But his first novel blows that theory out of the water. To say that he is a white writer is to suggest that we can’t expect him to understand the issues that ethnic minorities face. That’s also disproven. To say that I’m a female writer is to suggest that you can’t expect good male characters from me. Empathy is supposed to bridge these gaps. It is a writer’s greatest tool and we can stop qualifying people at any point.
The Womanly Effect on Writing
Well, being a woman has an effect on my writing in the same way that being a man effects a male writer: minimally, if you wield empathy correctly and well. I have no control over the sex I was born with, nor even with the sex I identify with; however, I’m a strange person. I don’t get along with most women. We often have less to talk about. I don’t wear makeup, and I get haircuts every two years. I hate fussing with my appearance and don’t like kids. This is basically the opposite of most women I know. I do identify myself as a woman, but about as much as I identify myself as a human being. All of us are human beings, and a little more than half of us are physically female. It’s what I am. It’s not who I am. I have other things that I feel make up who I am a little stronger than those two things. Those are foundation, not home.
I have a learning disability. It made me incredibly different those around me. It made learning how to read and write so much harder. Yet all the rewards were so much sweeter. I am an atheist, not by choice (it’d be easier in this world to believe and I tried), when everyone around me was devout. I had to discover Christianity and discover that I didn’t believe in it, nor anything else resembling creation, the divine, or an afterlife. I more recently discovered that I suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and had to learn how to deal with that. These things more greatly explain the kind of person I am and explain the kind of writer I am a lot better than simply being a woman. Being a childfree woman has more of an effect than just being a woman.
Being a woman is so simply a part of me that it is hard for me to focus on it. Just as I imagine being a man is hard for men to focus on. I think only people who want to simplify themselves focus on their genetic differences. It’s easier to feel like you’re part of it all when you can pick out others who look like you and feel the same things you do. But I identify with no one and everyone, because everyone feels differently and feels the same. I think that’s what writing and art is supposed to show us, which is why what the writer is doesn’t matter, just what they write.
Proud to Be a Woman and My Name?
First of all, my name is Alex. It is not Alexis, Alexandrea, Alexa, or Alexandra. My first name really is just Alex. Yes, people have thought that I was male before meeting me on occasion. This doesn’t usually bother me too much. I am not proud of what I didn’t accomplish. I didn’t accomplish being a woman. That doesn’t mean anything. I didn’t control it. Genetic chance doesn’t seem like something I should be proud of. I’m proud of the things I do. I’m also not ashamed of things out of my control, like genetic chance. It doesn’t make any sense to me to be so. I feel like pride and shame should be wrapped up in actions, not chance. So I’m proud of this blog, my Patreon, my published play, the awards I’ve won, the stories and poems I’ve written, the actions I’ve taken to help others.
I Am Woman; Hear Me Roar?
I care about women’s issues. I also care about men’s issues. I care about poverty issues. I care about animal cruelty. I care about messed up beaucracity. I care about everything that feels like it is hurting another living creature. Some are higher on the list of emotional response, such as women’s access to sterilization in the US and animal cruelty or the treating of animals as property. I don’t necessarily let these things guide my writing however. Instead, I let my writing guide itself. Will it be effected by these things? Of course, they are all in my head, and what’s in my head invariably comes out in my creations. I don’t sit down and say, “I’m going to write about animal cruelty”, unless I’m writing here in this blog or for a paper. In my creative work, I’m writing from an image or a character first, not an ideal or an injustice. Let the work be interpreted as audiences are wont to do. I know I interpret work I experience.
I’m Simply a Writer
The end goal of equality should be to be seen no different than someone who is different. Of course, that doesn’t apply when I go to the doctor, except that the doctor should still see me as someone who is smart enough to make decisions about my body. Overall, though, I am simply a writer. This is who I am above all things. I’m reading about Jonathan Swift right now, and I keep having some eerie feelings while doing so, because his attitude is so much like mine (Everybody can fuck off, but I worry that you’re being treated like shit). He lived centuries ago, in a different country, and with a different set of sex organs, but I keep getting the idea that I would have loved this man and also never hung out with him, just as I never hang out with anyone. I don’t like people when they are in front of me, but I certainly care about them. This seems to be something a lot of other people feel, and it doesn’t seem to be effected by gender. It’s an example of how characteristics transcend obvious genetic differences. They can also transcend cultures and times. We can all find something that connects us to someone else. Anyone else. We can all empathize, if we try, with everyone in the world. And that effects my writing more than my sex.
Tags: ashamed, creative writing, effect, empathy, female characters, Feminism, fiction, gender, Genetic, hughes, identity, king, male, men, poetry, pride, proud, qualifier, Sexism, shame, woman, women, writer, writing
I keep seeing articles about how Millennials aren’t buying homes and how it is hurting the housing market. Most of us know, however, that the reason most Millennials are not buying homes is that they aren’t in a place of financial security to justify making that kind of leap. So many of them just keep renting. I, myself, have rented five different homes and bought one home, but when I first got the idea for this blog post, I hadn’t gotten into even considering purchasing personal property for a myriad of reasons. Having now been on both sides of this issue, the benefits and detriments of each is pretty obvious. Here’s why renting or buying may be the best option for a person.
Benefits of Renting
You Can Leave a Little Easier
When you rent, the time that you’re stuck there is wholly dependent on the lease you signed, but there is always a clear end date. So if life changes on a person, as it is wont to do, such as a new job, a job loss, neighborhood goes to crap, or the rent goes up, a person only has to holdout until a specific date and after that date there are no more strings tying the person to the rental. Some people see this date as a detriment because they may not be able to hold out until that date, but it is better than owning a home in that regard because when a person needs out of the home they own, offloading that home could be immediate or take years, and in all that time the person will still have to pay their mortgage or property taxes, insurance, and utilities, even if they aren’t physically in the property anymore. So renting is definitely for people who are not sure about where they will need to be in the next year or even the next five or ten years.
A lot of rentals include extras. Perhaps water and trash are included. Perhaps they include internet and/or cable. If these things are important to a person, it can be helpful to shop around for those things per rental. But pretty much universally included is maintenance. Nearly every rental property comes with at least one maintenance person who will come to fix issues as they come up, like plumbing issues, broken large appliances, heating and cooling problems, and such. They often also include pest control. The reason these two things are most often included in a rental is that they help prevent the rental from being unrentable once the current tenant moves out. It is to the rental management’s benefit to maintain and keep the place free of infestations. Especially in the day and age of the internet review. One review that mentions flooding, heating, cooling, or infestation issues can drastically lower a rental’s value. Homes do not usually have this kind perk. Nothing is included. Maintenance and pest control are completely up to the owner and no home includes a utility. The middle ground for an owner is to get a home warranty, which is basically an extra cost that covers most pest control and plumbing, appliance, and heating and cooling. Depending on what a person is willing to pay, it may include more. This is must for the buyer who doesn’t know diddly-squat about home maintenance, but that doesn’t change the fact that the home owner has all their utilities and entertainment costs on top of their monthly mortgage.
A lot of rentals come with a few things that cost a lot of money to lay out in a home, such as landscaping, a gym, a playroom, a pool, or a hot tub. These are great things to have, but to put them in a home, a person needs a lot of extra square footage and acreage. This adds to the price tag of a home and getting all or any these into the home also costs a lot of money. Even buying a home that comes with a pool preinstalled costs more than a home without a pool. But there is more than just a financial cost to set these things up and maintain them. There’s also the time cost to maintain them. Pool and hot tub maintaince takes a lot of time, and knowledge. A rental can push all this financial and temporal cost off of a person with all of the perks of being able to use them.
Some rental properties come with a security patrol and/or gated access. This can make it harder for something to happen to your car and can make you feel safer walking to the mailbox, gym, or pool. To get this in a purchased property, the price tag on the home goes way up. Most rentals have to have one or both of these to be competitive, especially in major metropolitan areas. In this same vein, delivered packages can be taken to the rental office to be picked up later, which helps prevent said packages from being stolen by neighbors. Homes often face issues with package delivery, but a big part of this is the delivery service itself. Some companies have no problem leaving packages at doors, whether or not there is an office at which to drop off the package instead. But a rental has a higher chance of safe package delivery with an office involved than a home without a secluded front.
Benefits of Buying
Rentals come with so many rules. To some extent this can be a benefit to the tenant, but some of them can just be frustrating. You know those perks I mentioned? Well, guess what? You can’t use the pool or hot tub after eight at night and you have to wait until eight in the morning to use them. They even lock up the pool area at night. What if you want to swim laps before you go to work? Well, too bad. So sad. Hate your kitchen? Better move. Would like a garden? You can have a max of three pots on your balcony. Want more than one pet? Not at this place. Purchased homes usually come with way less rules. Homeowners’ associations care about the front look of a home, but inside a private yard and inside the home, the owners can do anything they can afford. General laws still apply, so no loud parties or meth houses still applies.
Make It Your Own
There’s basically no reason to paint your walls in your rental. You’re going to have to repaint them when you leave or pay out of your deposit or above your deposit for the rental owner to do it. Even if you hate those beige walls, they will haunt you for months and months until you can’t stand it anymore and unfortunately, you know that every freaking rental you look at has those same beige walls. Look! There’s one that isn’t, but hey, they are prison grey, so that’s not really an improvement. Rentals are quite possibly the most average and least unassuming residences ever. They lack character. Nearly all of them. And there’s no reason for you to change it because you don’t own it. When looking for a home to buy, you can focus solely on the look of the outside because that’s the only part you most likely won’t be able to change. The inside? Paint the walls as black as your soul if you want; it doesn’t matter. Even if the previous owner painted all the walls chartreuse and your eyes feel like they might burn out of your skull, it doesn’t matter because before you move in, you can just paint them that lovely chocolate brown you’ve always wanted. Also in a rental, any minor damage you cause is immediately a castrophe. “They’re going to make me pay for that hole in the wall from me tripping on my bag!” Versus, the same minor damage isn’t great but doesn’t feel like a parent is going to come screaming out of the woodwork at you, demanding money to fix it. You can fix it at your leisure. It still sucks, but it doesn’t make you feel like a child.
Comparing a mortgage payment to a rental payment for a place in the same area for the same square footage, a person can see how buying can be financially better. A thousand dollar rental can have a five hundred dollar mortgage. Of course, that doesn’t include any utilities, but does often include homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and sometimes the home warranty. It does take a lot of research and a lot of smarts to make sure that the mortgage is the best one for the home and for you. Predatory home loans swept the market leading up to the housing market bubble burst and far too many people got taken for a ride. Mortgages are not something to be entered into lightly and a person should really get a smaller home to be able to cut their housing costs in half to make the purchase worth it. If done right, this switch can be very beneficial. Some may wonder why rental prices are so high. It’s not just what the rental may include, but the risk involved in renting to people. Another current issue effecting the prices of rentals is AirBNB and similar companies. People with the cash can make a hefty profit by renting a bunch of apartments and always have them on AirBNB. This lowers the turnover rate on rentals, resulting in a scarcity issue. With the same or possibly more people wanting to rent fewer properties, the value of each one goes up. AirBNB was not designed for this secondhand market wherein this was the only way some people make a living. It was designed so that people could rent out their homes more easily for short term stays as an alternative to hotel rooms. Rental companies are seeing a piece of the pie too, so they aren’t against it. In fact, some of the people doing this on the side work for the rental companies. This is mostly happening in major metropolitan areas, so rentals in smaller areas are only seeing the normal property tax and maintaince hikes that come with rising values and older properties.
Renting a House
A standalone rental house can give a tenant a little more privacy from the rental owner and neighbors. It still gives the benefit of maintenance but takes away the typical rental benefits of included bills, perks, and security. If privacy and a quieter environment are more important than those things and the ability to leave by a certain date is still a requirement, this can be a good choice.
Renting a Room
This is often done without contracts. I suggest that you demand a rental agreement with rules of conduct anyway so as to not get any surprises and that the person renting the room can’t just kick you out. Getting those two things will lock both the tenant and the owner into following the contract. It’s better for everyone if the lay of the land is clear from the beginning. A room rental also comes with nearly all lack of privacy. A bathroom is usually shared with other people in the home and parking is often a problem. It’s more like living with family or roommates in college and often results in arguments. However, it is usually cheaper than renting an actual apartment or a mortgage payment and can still come with some perks, such as a pool or some gym equipment if the owner has it.
Buying an “Apartment”
In other words, purchasing a condo or townhome. Some of the responsibility of maintainance falls on the HOA, and they do enforce some rules. Certain specific renovations might be against those rules and some may need to be approved. It may also come with a gated community, a pool, a hot tub, a playroom, landscaping, and trash service. The home owner gets the benefit of the lower mortgage payment, the “make it your own” mentality, and sometimes even a yard at smaller condominiums. It’s like buying a mini-home, except it also usually comes with the close neighbors. HOA fees go up and down depending on how much they have to maintain; gates and pools cost more, so the fee is more if the community has those things. The only utility that’s usually included is trash. Everything else is up to the homeowner. A middle level of privacy and enforcement of some rules are the biggest factors in if this is right for a person.
What Should You Do?
At different stages in our lives, we are ready for different characteristics from our homes. Figuring out which is a higher priority and what we really want is a very personal thing. It is effected by the market and what you need right now. Still in college? Rent. Looking for a job out of state? Rent. Got your dream job? Start shopping for a home. Dream job doesn’t pay that well? Shop for less square footage. Want all the perks but don’t want to take care of them yourself? Get an apartment. Want privacy and need to be able to leave? Rent a house. You can see how it really depends on you. I do not suggest buying a place unless you are financially ready and are settling down. People often say that buying a home is the right thing to do once a person is out of college or once a person gets married. That is typical, but if you aren’t typical, there’s nothing wrong with that. It is okay to not ever buy a home. It is okay to wait to do so as well. It’s really up to you. Make the decision that is best for you.