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.
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!
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 memen 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.
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 circleemployers, 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
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.
Department of English
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.
A 'Voice' Valentine
I am in tears . . . and unsure of where to start. While skimming the February 13 issue of the Voice, the "Sex in the First Person" articles caught my eye. I started reading the excerpts expecting a few humorous Valentine's Day stories and maybe some stereotypical (forgive the term), mushy love poetry. Instead, what I found warmed my heart. Not only were these passionate, beautiful stories about this "crazy thing we call love," but love celebrated by allheterosexuals, homosexuals, Jews, Catholics, men, women, geeks, and poets. Indeed, we all love, to some degree. We should appreciate love for what it is, not for what it is supposed to be. I thank the Voice for opening my eyes. I will be forever changed.
I am a draconic soul within a human body who is concerned about the Otherkin article by Nick Mamatas ["Elven Like Me," February 20]. As a member of the Otherkin population, I am moved to say that although the article was well intended, it made overgeneralized statements, using the opinions of a few to represent the entire community. For example, Mamatas wrote, "The Otherkin are both a sign and portent of a widespread dissatisfaction with the modern world." I can safely say that not all of us are particularly dissatisfied with the modern world; though most of us do long for our true form, we are content with where we are for now and believe that we're here for a purpose.
Although some Otherkin may be, as Mamatas put it, "trying to get back Home," it is quite unfair to claim that all of us are. I believe that I am in this human form for a reason, perhaps to learn more about how humans live, or perhaps to try to promote peace between species. Or perhaps it was an accident.
One more thing: In the statement "elves are now what people once were," Mamatas classified only humans as people, while any sentient being (i.e., Otherkin) is a person. I'm sure he meant no harm by this, but if he means "human" he should say "human," and let Otherkin be people too.
Nick Mamatas replies: My comment doesn't mean that all, or even any, Otherkin wake up in the morning and announce, "My God, my alienation from the means of production stinks! I'd better be a pixie!" It means that identity is formed partially as a response to social pressures. What Otherkin believe Home to be is often part of this identity, and Home is often a notional state of being rather than a location. As for the distinction between "people" and "human," I'd need better evidence that elves and dragons actually exist before I suggest that there are lots of nonhuman people running about.
Dear Chief Justice Robert Christgau or whomever: What happened to the "reissues" list, always one of my favorite parts of Pazz & Jop, and a gold mine source for great gifts and guilty pleasures? Any chance of posting one as an addendum?
Robert Christgau replies: As I wrote in my Pazz & Jop essay, we canned the reissues category because it had "degenerated into a dick-size contest for well-promoted luxury boxes and tokens of retro hip, and expanded to 40 singles from 25."
After reading Marc Weisblott's article about Shaggy ["Like, Zoiks: The Shag Who Lied to Me," February 20], I would advise him to refrain in the future from analyzing an artist's lyrics unless he has an understanding of the relevant dialect and vernacular.
In criticizing Shaggy's popular dancehall rap "It Wasn't Me," Weisblott misquotes his lyrics! One key line"To be a true player, you have to know how to play/If she tells you that it's night, convince her that its day"was printed in Weisblott's review as "To be a true player you have to know how to play/If she say you're not convince her, say you're gay." If Weisblott had any familiarity with the dancehall scene, he would know Shaggy would never say that.
Another mangled lyric was printed as "Whenever you should see her make the gigolo flex/As funny as it be by you it's not that complex." Actually, the line is: "Tell her say it wasn't you a make the gigolo flex/A somebody else who favor you inna the complex" (meaning someone else who looks like you in the housing complex). Weisblott apparently finds Shaggy's narrative "convoluted" because he does not understand it.
The "Jewish Jordan Update" [Jockbeat, February 13] completely missed the incredible achievements of Tamir Goodman. How many Division I teams have a freshman starting at point guard? It is nearly unheard of, except among the most highly thought-of point guards in NCAA historyKenny Anderson, Omar Cook, and Stephon Marbury come to mind. Goodman has gone from a timid, uncomfortable rookie early in the season to a calm floor leader in recent weeks. His scoring and assists are up, and the team's record is a huge improvement over recent years. His presence is also felt in the stands, where Towson has experienced its biggest crowds in years.
In the February 27 issue of The Village Voice the cover photo was miscredited. The actual photographer was Heidi Zeiger.
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