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A special blog post from our colleague, Persa:

It’s not easy being a Muslim female university student in the Arts and Social Sciences these days. I speak of those classes that among other things study the “other” through cultural productions from “there”, circulated to North American markets, through various mediums such as, film.

So there I found myself,once again, sitting in a classroom, looking all Muslim, being a Muslim in Canada – one thinks it gets easier after twelve years- yet I sit there still, ready to watch Deepa Mehta’s film “Fire” along with my classmates … and, I was having some kind of reaction to the film. I wasn’t happy.

I found myself having to work through yet another sign of resistance to something … it’s always some thing … never clear, never named … which happens so many times during my education, this time because of what I was seeing in this film.

So, to answer my body’s “bat signal”, and in order to do something about my negative feelings — what were they? why? for what? — I wrote an email to my professor. Wanna read it?

_____Dear P:

Here’s what I was talking about earlier, your comments made me think.

After the film “Fire”, during the discussion, you mention the columnist from ” The Globe” who is against the flows of immigrants to Canada, because she fears these issues of “thirld world peoples” will “infiltrate” into Canada. You argue that the Indian family in the film is liberal minded, so one can imagine the issues of the film happening to an Indian family in Canada, or a white family or South Asian in which a family member “comes out of the closet”.

Here’s where I flipped out. Perhaps I misunderstood you, but what angered me is that, yes, these isssues of gender, sexuality, honor, religion, belonging, displacement — can be transnational, global, and studied or imagined elsewhere, outside of India, but, there remain the individual gender issues at hand: what happens when an ideology like Lesbianism comes out in an Indian community anywhere in the world, and what counter-forces are created in turn on the rest of the women in that community?

As a woman, Muslim, and “thirld world” by enthnicity, I react when my professor opts to speak of the “political” side of this film, like its issues with colonialism, and doesn’t even mention such a controversial and highly important thing such as the tension between women who “come out” and those who don’t — both belonging to the same category of Muslim Indian women living in India under the same sky, and are represented in film for audiences out here in Canada, including the academic classrooms. How do we come to understand women living under the same national, religious and state rules, and how do we uphold their diversity and complexity without lumping them all under one category of “poor Indian women oppressed by patriarchy”? — and even worst, how does a Muslim student deal with it, when the question of gender and religion is not even raised in class after watching a film that is so obviously about gender and religion? How shitty a situation it is, when the film is discussed just from the angle of colonialism in India!

I was even expecting something along the lines of a discussion on the “proper” female behavior in relation to the national and patriarchal communities who feel the need to “morally discipline” these women. Remember that this “discipline” process leads to violent outcomes; remember that both men and women were violently protesting Mehta’s film in India. I guess I was expecting more feminist criticism, alongside a conversation on the politics of neo-colonialism.


… of course, the letter ends with a note of nice-ness, and a tinge of apology for being blunt.