Thrilling an Arab

As an Arab who always feels the bias of the Western media, please accept my deep thanks and appreciation for Lamis Andoni and Sandy Tolan's special report on the crippling of young Palestinians by Israeli soldiers ["Shoot to Maim," February 27].

It was one of the very few articles that had enough courage to uncover the reality of Israeli army tactics used against unarmed demonstrators.

Ayman Haykal
Damascus, Syria

Say it Loud

Re Sharon Lerner's "Clit Club" [February 20]: According to my Webster's, "feminism" is the theory of the social equality of the sexes, and organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests. (Sounds like V-Day's mission statement to me!) Sadly, it has become a dirty word with so much baggage and stereotyping that women are afraid to make the declaration for fear of being pigeonholed. Glenn Close can scream the word "cunt!" but can't whisper "feminist"? Amazing!

Emily Barracano
Princeton, New Jersey

Say it Proud

As pleased as I am that The Vagina Monologues made it all the way to Madison Square Garden, I'm disappointed that today's women of power and influence are so incredibly far off-base with the term "feminism." Why are these women afraid of the term? Are we stuck in the era where standing up for your rights means that you don't like men? Why are these women subscribing to generalizations created so long ago?

Let go of the misconceptions that feminism is somehow not feminine, that feminists are butch, and that feminists don't like men. I am a proud feminist, I love men, I wear makeup and dresses (sometimes tight), I have a career and enjoy my power suits (skirt or pants), and I appreciate any man who opens my door or pushes in my chair. Heck, I even got a box of Godiva from a secret admirer today! Trust me—men who are worth having find a woman who owns her own thoughts, positions, body, mind, and self far more sexy than one who does not.

Susan Detering


Regarding the position taken by some of the so-called white homeowners on the proliferation of Korean churches in Flushing, Queens ["Holy Land," Sajan P. Kuriakos, February 20]: I must say it is a threadbare disguise for suspicion of the "outsider." Currently living in South Korea, I have come to understand Koreans as very warm and hospitable people who try to avoid confrontation, preferring social harmony. They, and their churches, could hardly be a threat to the peace and well-being of any community. I would suggest that three factors may be at work in keeping these Korean Americans separate from other members of the Flushing community.

First is the language barrier. Second is a cultural cohesion that is rooted in Confucianism. In Korea, social obligations pretty much extend to only those within the everyday social circle—employers, coworkers, and family. There is no need to link hands with anyone else.

The third factor is the stereotyping of Asians known as "Orientalism," which attaches vague notions of mystery, mistrust, and backwardness to them. I suspect that this is what the majority of the white community has been consciously or unconsciously engaging in. To the people of Flushing, I say, meet your neighbours. Say hello. They will respond.

Calvin P. Rhys
Seoul, South Korea

Indian Bummer

As a person who teaches literature to American undergraduates, I found Kai Friese's review of three recent novels by Indian diaspora writers ["We're So Sari," VLS, February 13] glib and clever at the expense of actual critical sensitivity or intelligence. I find the explanatory details in these novels indispensible in bridging the gap of cultural difference my students struggle with upon entering into these works. Friese's Hindu-centered readings evidence considerable blindness to the problem of religion.

For example, Friese completely misses the point of Shauna Singh Baldwin's reference to Vayu in What the Body Remembers, stating it is used "as a device to breeze through a potted history of India." He disregards Baldwin's boldness in giving primacy to a non-Sikh religious image in a narrative centered on Sikh women in the Partition. Vayu is an interesting figure with a complex lineage (part Vedic and part Zoroastrian), with an important role in Baldwin's nuanced examination of the pluri-religious currents in modern North Indian religious culture.

Also take Friese's conflation of "Hinduism" and "India" in response to a passage in Vineeta Vijayaraghavan's Motherland: "This is India by numbers. Hinduism 101." India is not, I would insist, synonymous with Hinduism. Friese repeats this error even more gravely when he suggests, responding to Manil Suri's appropriation of the Hindu pantheon for non-sacred ends in The Death of Vishnu, that "Hindu fanatics are slightly less doctrinaire about the written word than their Islamic counterparts." To this absurdity, I simply respond by invoking the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, which was torn down by literalist Hindu fanatics some years ago.

Perhaps Kai Friese is aware of this event, but from the text of his review, I cannot be sure.

Amardeep Singh
Department of English
Duke University
Durham, North Carolina

Kai Friese replies: Yes, my review was clever. It may for the same reason have failed to bridge the gap of cultural difference with literalist readers. I might have explained that India and Hinduism are not one and the same, but somehow I thought that was obvious. To suggest there is anything daring about Baldwin's breathless invocation of Vayu is risible. Regarding fanatics and the written word, I was alluding to the fact that Hindus are not strictly people of the book. However, Singh and I are clearly in agreement about the value of these books as undergraduate primers.

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