Is The Door to Recognition Blocked?

The Global Other is universal; humans tend to fear the unknown, which often manifests itself in fear of people who are not in their direct communities. Though many can relate to such a phenomenon, it is outdated and we have surpassed a need for such irrational fear. In more recent years, the work that has been done by progressive groups in order to aid immigrants and dispel some fear has made differences in the lives of many.

In order to completely dispel these ideas, a level of mutual recognition must be reached within the relationship with the “Other”. In Exit West, this Other is the immigrant, the refugee. In this power structure, the Nativists/Natives are in power and must break this by seeing their new neighbors as equals. However, this goat in itself would be a feat to achieve. To recognize someone is to see, but it may not be possible to understand people who have undergone such trauma. Hamid writes, “…when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind” (98). The Natives cannot even fathom a world in which they have to leave their lives behind, the door most immigrants came from. Though the dominant in the power structure can imagine and attempt to relate to such instances, there is no way to truly understand the life of another, and any claim to is equal to an insult.

Instead, the dominant in this structure should aim to appreciate their counterparts, to hear their stories with an open mind and heart, and understand that though they can recognize, they cannot fully empathize.

Exit West: We are all The Others

In the novel Exist West, Mohsin Hamid comments on the concept of the “others”. He demonstrates that anyone can be seen as an other depending on factors such as time and space. As Nadia and Saeed travel from place to place throughout the novel, Hamid depicts their journeys as empty and unfulfilling because they are seen as the outsiders. Who makes them feel this way? And why? 

We have all experienced this feeling (although possibly less drastic than this case) at some point in our lives. Vacationing in another country, moving to a new school or town, even walking in to school on the first day as a freshman. As I think more about this, I have realized that in some of these cases, we decide we are the “other” and therefore act as one in an effort to avoid intrusion. However in the case of Exist West, Nadia and Saeed are not at fault and are unable to control what someone else perceives. They come from a different country, a different background, a different culture, marking them as different, even when relation is not exclusive to where we were brought up. 

Hamid touches on this subject again towards the end of the novel through the maid.

“…and she felt she was a small plant in a small patch of soil held between the rocks of a dry and windy place, and she was not wanted by the world, and here she was at least known, and she was tolerated, and that was a blessing” (Camus, 224).

The maid is describing her experience towards being an “other”. Feeling unimportant and unwanted in the large world, she finds security in her occupation as she feels needed and appreciated. 

We all may feel like the “other” at some point, and that is almost unavoidable. We cannot control how we are seen, but what we can control is how we act in those situations. We can either accept our fate or turn the tables in discovering a new part of ourselves in appreciation for human connection despite the differing odds.

Otherness

How do we define the “other”? Is it by the color of their skin, the language they speak, the place that they call home? Or is it by the stories that they share, the experiences they’ve had, who they are?

In Exit West, Mohsin Hamid takes the stance that we are all the “other”. On page 197, he states that “nativeness [is] a relative matter”, yet on page 209 he confirms that “we are all migrants through time.” It is hard to see the way in which one can hold both of these beliefs, but Hamid does so.

Because the “other”, like nativeness, is relative. There is no “us”. Every person is alone in one way or another. We are all migrants, so none of us are. We can relate to one another because of the shared groups that we cannot relate to.

There is no mutual recognition when it comes to the “other”. This is because we only become ourselves when the “other” becomes part of “us”. We find ourselves through the people we are grouped with, not the people we are pitted against. And in a world where everybody is a migrant, we can, at any point, be grouped with those people that were once the “other” to “us”.

Life is not a gift

This is just my current perspective, it’s completely subjective, and it definitely stems from self hatred and projection, so there is no real philosophical validity in my thoughts. Regardless, here they are: There is this thing called optimistic bias that overrides any potential validity to an existential argument. Claiming life in general is a gift is a very selfish mindset. claiming that the overwhelmingly incomprehensible amount of suffering on this planet is a gift just because you are alive is straight sociopathic. We all claim to look for the best in life while still wearing our “good person” hats just so we don’t have to accept the actual unbearable pain that others go through. The human ego is unbelievably disturbing and the internal reactions you have in reading this is proof. The feeling of, “oh but I’m not like that, I truly care” No you don’t. You feel empathy, yes, we all do, but you don’t truly care and I don’t truly care. My proof is that I’m here typing this and you’re here reading it when we both know this accomplishes nothing and helps absolutely no one but yourself (also myself) and your ego for thinking your perspective on the world holds some magical levity that makes you a good person. This isn’t calling out anyone in particular because it’s all of us. We simply cannot care about anything more than our own lives for survival. I am a hypocrite, we all are. The counter argument to this is that “you can’t just decide that for everyone.” And you’re right, I didn’t decide it, your biology and internal subconscious defense mechanisms did. Why did my parents have me? To give their lives meaning? Why do we all want to have kids? To give all our lives meaning? It’s selfish to ignore what’s going on and pretend you’re above your biology. It’s literally engrained into us to reproduce like every single animal on the planet, we just attach some “deeper meaning” to it because we don’t want to accept the fact that this decision was made for us when we were born. There is no reason to have kids that doesn’t involve the parents desires. But what if you want your kid to have a good life? What if you’re going to raise him well and give him a happy environment? This is where our ignorance comes full circle; there is still all the unbearable meaningless suffering in the world. It didn’t go away just because you were able to ignore it and focus on your kid. Again, I am not better than anyone. I suck as much as everyone else, but trying to force “self love” into my head as an excuse to not think about the truth in front of me is so conflicting. Yes! Amazing! Why didn’t I think of that? I don’t have to think about it all the time! I don’t have to constantly have the weight of suffering I could never understand on my shoulders because it’s not happening to me! I can stare at my phone and feel like a good person because I’m “against bad”. This article is meaningless, it accomplishes nothing. Our thoughts on how the world works and should be perceived are meaningless because of the infinite amount of experiences we’ve never had. I don’t know why I’m sharing this, It goes against the basis of what I’m saying, but it also goes with it as I also suck. I also think that my privileged view of how the world is meant to be perceived is correct. It’s something I can’t control and you can’t either. The ego hates to be wrong. It denies it but it absolutely hates it. At least our generation is wasting time online rather than having eight kids because they were bored. Moral of the story is I literally don’t know anything and your interpretations on the morality of the subject are completely valid as to pretend I understand anything is narcissistic; also, please adopt.

Equilibrium

In the story “A Conversation About Bread”, by Nafissa Thomson-Spires, two young black men by the names of Brian and Eldwin, are studying anthropology. In their grad program Brian and Eldwin felt out of place, they were 2 ‘unicorns’ among a pack of horses. It is outrageous that Brian and Eldwin have to feel so out of place just because of their race, in an environment where they are trying to learn and become better.

Similarly in the NBA lockout, race played its toll when a dilemma sparked between 2 sides, the 100 percent white ownership, and the players union that is 85 percent black. During the 2011 NBA season 22 of the 30 teams lost money so NBA players argued salaries were not high enough and other problems piled on. NBA players were not going to put their body on the line for entertainment purposes while the owners upstairs were making double their salary. So in an effort to break the impasse and start the season, the dispute reached a more complicated and sensitive disagreement when the race factor began to situate itself. These players felt out of place at their job, they didn’t even want to step on the court and play basketball because they felt controlled, they felt like they had no say.

The Man’s Desire for Money

During the summer, I had the pleasure of reading Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The story follows two sisters named Constance and Mary-Katherine Blackwood. They live with their paralyzed Uncle Julian in their late father’s house. They live in their own little world ignoring reality and their money-hungry town. The rest of their family is dead.

Constance and Merricat (Mary-Katherine) keep their father’s money in a safe that sits in his study. While their late father had managed the money, Merricat states, “I was not allowed to open the safe where Constance kept our father’s money. I was allowed to go into the study, but I disliked it and never even touched the doorknob” (83). In contrary to their father, the sisters disregard the importance of money completely.

It is until their cousin Charles arrives, the sisters are introduced to greed and capitalism.

When Charles finds Constance and Merricat’s father’s gold watch chain in a tree, he is shocked that a valuable item could be mishandled and forgotten about:

“In a tree,” he said, and his voice was shaking too. “I found it nailed to a tree, for God’s sake. What kind of a house is this?

“Its not important,” Constance said. “Really, Charles, it’s not important.”

“Not important? Connie, this thing’s made of gold.”

“But no one wants it.” (77)

While Constance and Merricat ignore money, their male relatives take an obsession to wealth. Throughout Charles’s stay, he is insistent on finding the safe and the girls’ money. Their safe takes the place of the capitalist patriarchy of America. Charles and the rest of the world are addicted to money, so when safe remains in a house where no one cares about money, its a success for the sisters over a world that embodies masculinity and capitalism.

If the Blackwoods’ masculinity relies on their wealth, and Constance and Merricat reject the desire for money, they have destroyed the Blackwood men and their oppression.

Intellectual Superiority as a Power Structure

In Flannery O’Connor’s Good Country People, one element of the complicated storyline focuses on the conjunction between Hulga’s non belief in “everything” (though her human feelings of privacy and connectedness to her identity are highlighted) and the impact it has on her perceived dominance. It at first appears that she is the definition of negative: she was dealt a bad lot in life and, to cope, made herself into a miserable person with no belief in the world. She thinks of herself as inherently enlightened for realizing that nothing matters and that, as she puts it, “We are all damned” (70). It also appears at first that the Bible salesman is her complete opposite: he has a similar condition, but instead of wallowing devotes himself to positivity and God. Hulga prides herself too much, however, in her power as a superior person because of her education. In the binary she sees herself as “educated” and him as a “country boy” with no real substance. She allows this view, which is only what she wants to see, to cloud her judgement; it opens the door to him to scam and take advantage of her. However, by parading as a foolish Country Boy, the boy takes her position of power and leaves her helpless, furthering the power cycle.

Power in “Dry”

This summer, for my summer reading book, I choose to read Dry, by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman. This book, set sometime in the future, details the events following a massive drought and subsequent water shortage in California.

Throughout the book, the authors illustrate the power dynamics at play within this water shortage. Those who have water have the power; those who do not are at the mercy of those who do.

While this is a central and reccuring theme throughout the book, it is most clearly demonstrated in Chapter 18, regarding a character named Henry. While everyone scrambles for the little water left in the area, Henry has a stockpile of water bottles in his home, and has been trading this water to his neighbors in return for expensive items. Henry holds all of the power in these negotiations; he does not need his neighbors’ items, but they need his water. When one of his neighbors makes a deal he doesn’t like, Henry acts as if the negotiation has ended and says, “If you’re not serious about this, I’m gonna have to ask you to leave” (Shusterman 188). Instantly, the neighbor scrambles to give Henry what he wants, so that he can gain access to the precious water Henry has to offer.

Henry and his negotiations are just one example of the power dynamics that play out throughout the book. Dry is an example of how important systems and dynamics of power are to storytelling, and how nearly every story is connected to power structures in one way or another.

The Belles: How social media can affect self esteem.

In the novel, The Belles, Dhonielle Clayton explored the way that people viewed themselves through the world of the belles. Since the world needed the belles to help correct their physical flaws, the belles were constantly covered in the news. The news in this world, however, was not factual news. The news was all gossip and rumors. “Lady Francesca Carnigan, of House Helie, rumored to have a beauty addiction. Queen might lift sailing restrictions, opening kingdom to trade. Some hair textures don’t catch the beauty- lantern light” (44). This newspaper is very similar to the way that social media works today. Many times, social and beauty standards are assumed from what famous people post online. This newspaper is exposing that about our society with these rumors and trends that nobody could ever keep up with. So the underlying message of the story is to just be yourself, and do what makes you feel beautiful, not what others think.

Sylvia Vs. Miss Moore

In “The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara, Sylvia and Miss Moore have an odd relationship. Miss Moore seems to fully recognize Sylvia and the kids as individuals but Sylvia does not. In the story, Miss Moore calls the kids by their first names rather than their nicknames (111 & 114). Calling someone by their own name is special and defines their identity. She treats them as human beings rather than as delinquents or trouble makers as others might. Even though Miss Moore is anything but rude to the kids, they still treat her awfully, especially Sylvia.

One can tell from the beginning that Sylvia has lots of contempt for Miss Moore when she thinks, “I’m really hating this nappy-head bitch and her goddamn college degree” (110). This disrespect is expressed again when Sylvia thinks, “… though I never talk to her, I wouldn’t give the bitch that satisfaction” (113). Sylvia probably does not have much power in her life, being a poor, black girl, so she acts rude and bossy trying to maintain any sort of power/control she can get. However, Miss Moore constantly attempts to break down this power struggle by treating Sylvia properly and not putting her down. Miss Moore strives for mutual recognition while Sylvia wants to remain in control.

How are they trapped in the spiderhead?

While reading the story “Escape from spiderhead” I was truly shocked while reading the story. The whole idea that they were stuck in a science experiment because they were criminals or did wrong in their life was interesting. For example, Jeff was a criminal and he told the story about his crime ” Nearby was a brick. I grabbed it, glanced Mike in the head with it”(77). We also never knew exactly what were all the crimes each person committed. There were a lot of questions about the story that we did not get the answer too. Like how long they would be in this experiment ? Does jail even exist anymore? But having all these unanswered questions made you think about the story more when you were done reading the story. But I love a good ending where all the ties are wrapped together and I get all my questions answered.

Jeff’s Stockholm Syndrome

In “Escape from Spiderhead” by George Saunders there seems to be a sort of Stockholm Syndrome scenario between Jeff and Abnesti. Instead of going to “real Jail”, Jeff’s mother paid for Jeff to go to Spiderhead. However, this might not have been the best choice because Spiderhead is deceivingly an evil institution. Jeff seems to adopt a friendship with Abnesti and have a pleasant time at Spiderhead. Jeff knows that he is a prisoner, but he is manipulated by Abnesti without knowing. This can be seen when Abnesti tells Jeff, “You know me … how many kids do I have … what are their names” (68). At that moment Abnesti tries to persuade Jeff into hurting Heather by bringing up their “friendly” relationship. Abnesti attempts to build a connection so Jeff remains complicit. Another reasong Jeff falls for Abnesti’s tricks is because Abnesti creates a false sense of security by leaving the door to Spiderhead unlocked, remembering birthdays, and giving medicinal creams to Jeff. Abnesti tries to seem like a friend to Jeff but he sees Jeff as a criminal, like all of the other “participants”, and could never truly be friends with Jeff. Abnesti believes he is the outstanding citizen while Jeff is just another low life criminal.

Towards the end, Jeff starts to realize that Spiderhead and Abnesti are corrupt. When Verlaine mentions that he refreshed Jeff’s MobiPak, “While he was sleeping”, Jeff starts to understand that he his a prisoner and tries to break out of Abnesti’s hold (66). Jeff tries to be a good person but Abnesti refuses to let him. Abnesti manipulates Jeff into giving Heather Darkenfloxx but the results push Jeff to his limit. Jeff finally escapes from Abnesti’s evilness, when he kills himself on Darkenfloxx, not wanting to kill again.

Escape from Spiderhead-Relating it to life.

Throughout Escape from Spiderhead, the story mentioned some very thought provoking ideas that apply to the lives of both those in the story and the readers. A quote that really stuck with me was towards the end of the story, “At birth, they’d been charged by God with the responsibility of growing into total fuckups.” (79). This quote was very striking to me. They way that it challenges an idea that we often hear while growing up made made me think whether it is true, or just something that we are told as kids. A predetermined destiny is often something that we are not taught. While growing up, we are taught that we can accomplish anything that we want if we work hard enough. And while this may be true to a certain extent, hard work can only go so far, some people are dealt with bad cards and it is nearly impossible to turn them into a winning deck. All of the people in Escape from Spiderhead study were ex-convicts. While we do not know all of their stories, it can be questioned if they were all determined to end up in this life, or if other things are factored in. Jeff was only nineteen when he killed his Mike (76), was Jeff born a killer or did he just get too angry and aggressive in that moment. Many moments in this story make you think deeper into the story.

Autonomy and Power in “Escape from Spiderhead”

Spiderhead, as an establishment, is inherently about power. Abnesti tries to make himself seem like a hero, like he is working towards a greater public good. When he explains to Jeff the new drug they are developing, he talks about the ability to stop wars, help people find love, etc. But it is clear that it is not these results that he necessarily cares about, but rather the control that this gives him. He tells Jeff, “‘No longer, in terms of emotional controllability, are we ships adrift. No one is. We see a ship adrift, we climb aboard, install a rudder'”(58).

In this way, he admits that it is power, rather than conflict resolution, that they are actually after. This is reinforced in the way that Spiderhead functions – with Abnesti and Verlaine in control of all of the prisoners at Spiderhead. This power dynamic is recognized by the prisoners trapped in Spiderhead. The use of the word “acknowledge” implies that there is no real choice for these prisoners. When Jeff begins resisting the commands of Abnesti and Verlaine, they have systems in place to ensure his compliance. The prisoners at Spiderhead lose autonomy as a punishment for their crimes. Upon first read, Spiderhead seems very different from any prison we, as readers, are familiar with. But one has to wonder: is that really the case? Or is the power struggle and lack of autonomy as described here a part of our prison systems?

The Remote in Escape from Spiderhead

Escape from Spiderhead is all about power dynamics and binaries. There is a very clear power dynamic from the very beginning: Abnesti is in the position of power, and Jeff is required to submit to him. This power dynamic is reinforced by the technology of the world in which the story is set, as it states early on in the story, “Abnesti used his remote. My MobiPak whirred” (45). Abnesti has the control in this situation, because he has the remote. As the story continues, we see the way that Abnesti exercises his power over Jeff and other subjects and finally, at the end of the story, Jeff takes back power by using the remote himself. The remote in this story is a tangible representation of the power dynamic regarding Abnesti, Jeff, and the others.

Baby Kochamma’s role in The God of Small Things

Baby Kochamma is an essential character to understanding the impact of social status and class on the characters in the novel, The God of Small Things. Baby Kochamma has always strived to belong in the highest social class possible. Her image is extremely important to her which is why she needed to have Velutha taken out of her life when she found out about Ammu’s affair with him. Her pure Syrian Christian niece was not allowed to have an affair with an untouchable because it would hurt the family’s reputation and look negatively upon her.

Baby Kochamma is similar to a lot of older people in America today. She is unwilling to change with the times even though the caste system was abolished about 15 years beforehand. However unlike in our world today some Americans believe that they are superior to other races but the civil rights act was passed 60 years ago. Just like Baby Kochamma’s treatment towards Velutha they try to put themselves above others and continue to oppress humans because of the color of their skin which puts them in a lower class. The book teaches the importance of social classes and even when abolished the prejudices held against people that were once considered lower class.

Baby Kochamma believes that she is superior to everyone else because of her superiority complex that being a Syrian Christian gives her. Roy portrays her as a negative and unlikeable character since she possesses old fashioned ideology that needs to be abolished.

The Role of Gender in “God of Small Things”

In the novel The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy the mastery of women is a typical topic that is showed by every generation in the novel. Roy expounds on the loaded social issues that plague Indian culture; she composed The God of Small Things after the corrupt system had been removed in India, yet it still controls the country. Roys views serve to see the imperfections within Indian culture, and therefore composed a novel with a message that demonstrated the issues that exists and still goes unmentioned. Through the significant subject of gender identity, Roy passes on a message that all individuals ought to be equivalent regardless of the sex of an individual. The idea is that sexual orientation is only a presentation since society has created. The figment is to suppress their internal wants and adjust to society’s optimal picture and portray the issues that make up a lot of restrictions.

Gender is a constrained job for the characters in The God of Small Things, and it exists essentially as a characterizing social develop. The genuine sexual orientation of the characters is created, on the grounds that the characters in the novel would be thrown out of Indian culture on the off chance that they acted in a way other than the one that was anticipated. The women of the novel are compelled to remain consistent within Indian culture, or, the results are unsuitably unforgiving. Gender identity should come from the acts and gestures that a person chooses to perform, not by the sex they were biologically assigned at birth.

The abuse that Mammachi endured by her husband influenced her in a strange way,

At Pappachi’s funeral, Mammachi cried until her contact lenses slid around in her eyes. Ammu told the twins that Mammachi was crying more because she was used to him than because she loved him. (49) 

The static nature of Mammachi’s life is evident, making it clear that she hated the idea of change, regardless of whether that change was the passing of her spouse or something else. Mammachi proceeds as a lady who lost her caring husband at his memorial service essentially in light of the fact that she was used to her job as a compliant lady who brought herself down to acknowledge her significant other’s disparaging nature towards her for the sum of their marriage. Mammachi had the chance to begin a real existence that would not be constrained by her significant other, however she would be unable to genuinely get away from the maltreatment that was perpetrated intellectually on her by Pappachi’s physical beatings and the end he put to her as a musician.

Numerous individuals despite everything stick to customary thoughts that people ought to carry on in manners that fall into explicit classes decided exclusively on their sexual orientation. However, male or female gender-specific identities are irrelevant in modern, civilized society. Gender roles are social builds created after some time and are not founded on normal human conduct. This is on the grounds that gender roles have advanced as an approach to arrange the vital errands done in early human culture. Some may state that because of the way that customary gender roles have been portrayed for such a long time, they ought not be changed, and are currently a key component in human advancement. Nevertheless, in many of the modern societies today, there is no need for traditional gender roles, because both men and women are able to do many of the same necessary tasks, thereby making gender-specific behaviors irrelevant.

Colorism Lies Everywhere

It’s really interesting for me to be reading God of Small Things and also this book called The Blacker the Berry for my African American History Class. One book highlights the disparities between those in an Indian culture, and the other highlights the disparities between those in an African American culture.

I’m pretty sure God of Small Things never fully said that the Paravans were all dark in complexion, but based off of the descriptions of the paravans in comparison with the Mol family it seemed that their color also had a play in the caste system.

In Blacker the Berry, the basis of the book so far is colorism and how a dark skinned girl is continuously discriminated against and seen as less than just because she is dark.

It’s so interesting to me that even when people of color have to deal with racism and general discrimination and oppression of their people, they even create ranks inside of their own culture. And much of it is based on how light your skin is.

I know that being more fair was seen as more attractive in white people as well in the past, and there is a degree of colorism in almost every single ethnic group. It really makes me wonder how the idea that being lighter is better even came about it in the first place. Colorism is still very much alive and well today.

Jeremy Lin: Life of an Asian Athlete

I’m not saying that it is hard to grow up in Oak Park as a half white half asian boy, but our bubble isn’t always as perfect as it is made out to be. There have been times where I have felt the pressure of orientalism; most notably when I have played sports.

There are many prejudices and assumptions I’m sure people unintentionally make when they hear that I am asian. I’m sure the possibility of me being smart is pondered. I’m sure my height might come into question. One thing that is probably not assumed is my athleticism. Since I could stand, my parents had me playing soccer and baseball. My love of sports only grew when I began to understand the competitive nature of winning and losing.

This continued into elementary school where I began to hoop. Basketball has been one of the great loves in my life. My interest has risen and fallen over the years, but back in fourth grade, when my love for basketball was at maybe an all time high, I began to really follow professional basketball. Coincidently and almost simultaneously, one of the greatest runs of any professional athlete of all time occurred. Jeremy Lin had one of the best two weeks of basketball anybody has ever had. He scored points, hit game winners, and he even beat Kobe.

If you look at professional sports today, I could probably list all of the professional athletes in both the NBA and NFL that are asian without running out of any fingers. It was even worse back when Linsanity happened. Linsanity was huge for me. I was finally able to see someone who like me is asian and was able to make it.

Ever since Linsanity, one of the go-to things my opponents have called me on the court is Jeremy Lin, which I would retort “[expletive] you, I’m Kobe.” But nowadays, when I hear it I’m proud that at least there was an asian good enough and famous enough that when people talk to me on the court there is somebody’s name they can call me.

Sex, Gender, and Orientalism

Typical examples of Orientalism, at least historical examples, seem to have a preoccupation with gender, power, and sex. In the interview with Edward Said, many paintings are shown depicting women in positions of sensual weakness, either being generally exposed or being aggressively handled by men. This idea of women being sexual objects to be used by men carries over into many of the more popular concepts in Orientalism. The concept of the harem, for example, is one where several women are in a sense owned by one central man and are used by him for sex, often existing in addition to the man’s wife or wives.

There is also the concept, popular in times of over conflict between the United States and the Middle East, of the ravaging Middle Eastern man sexually assaulting women and children in battle. This concept is not exclusive to Oriental/Middle Eastern stereotypes, but it goes hand in hand with depictions of Islam in Middle Eastern countries being one with female oppression and assault at its core.

Finally, I want to talk about the concept of Middle Eastern women being commodities not only for Middle Eastern men to consume, but for Western men to consume. Even in children’s films such as Aladdin, the main woman, Jasmine, is shown in clothing that is often associated with belly dancing. Belly dancing itself is largely considered sensual, centered around the movement of the hips. Its typical clothing involves a low-rise skirt and something to cover the chest, with flowing fabric that moves with the dancing. When Googling belly dancing in order to write this, I found YouTube videos with “sexy” and “hot” in the descriptions. I also found some Halloween costumes for children, which I don’t have much to say about as an intellectual point. Just thought it was weird.

What is up with this preoccupation with Middle Eastern people as either sexual objects or sexual aggressors? As to the sexual objects, I think it has something to do with how India and the Middle East were (and still are) viewed as commodities themselves. Colonialism views the world as full of things to be taken and owned. Often times, those things include people. White, straight men traveled around the world and took everything they possibly could. In a way, portraying these women as scantily-clad, sensual women that were regularly dominated by the men in their countries already made it seem as though they were asking for it. Asking to be dominated, abused, and owned by the white colonialists. For the men, I think it has something to do with similarly justifying the violence and ownership of themselves, their possessions, and their land. When we portray people as savages, less than human, it makes it that much easier to abuse their rights.

Check out this video by Lindsay Ellis if you’re interested in Orientalism and musical theatre; it’s a fascinating breakdown of one of the more obscure, yet fetishized characters from Phantom of the Opera.