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Monthly Archives: November 2009

What’s wealth got to do with it?

Aaaaaw, makes you feel all warm and fuzzy doesn’t it. Love by the spadeful and dollar bills by the barrelful. Shilpa Shetty marries her wealthy love.

Now this is not a cynical attack on Shilpa. I wish her enough happiness and perfume deals to last a lifetime. I am, however, intrigued by her choice – a millionaire. Why do wealthy women choose wealthy men?

She is rolling in it, admittedly not really from her films but from the Shetty Empire, and probably hand-outs from well-meaning British people with ‘We aren’t racist really, we love lamb bhuna’ scrawled on post-its. She’s released a yoga DVD, the perfume and she’s invested in restaurants and health spas. She is rich and she has chosen somebody rich – as she says, “we are used to a certain lifestyle and it’s practical to choose a spouse who can at least match those luxuries, if not more.” Ah, la vrai romance.

This is about money – undeniably – but it’s ultimately about power. The classic struggle between a woman and a man who earns less than her. The ubiquitous need for a true match in a relationship, for some it’s race or religion and for some it’s power. For Naomi Campbell it’s billionaire Vladislav Doronin, for Salma Hayek it’s Francois-Henri Pinault, another billionaire. It goes without saying that many high-profile Hollywood stars choose to date their counterparts, rather than mere mortals who can’t afford a gold-plated elephant the size of a two-storey house.

But this isn’t just about the galaxy of stars, it affects us all. The woman with the well-paid job might look twice at a hot window-cleaner, she’ll harbour Diet-Coke appropriate fantasties about his low-slung jeans but will she make a go of it with him, will she unfalteringly introduce him to her soiree of well-connected acquaintances? It’s possible, yes, but it’s not common. The woman wants her relationship mirror to reflect power back to her – mutual, balanced and shared.

Of course this is unquestionable seen in Asian communities, where the first question usually asked of any prospective suitor is ‘How much does he earn?’ (Often followed by ‘What do his parents do?’ which is a polite way of asking how much they earn as well). The idea of marrying beneath you is shunned. This is the very same principle behind the outdated caste system and this is very much alive.

So what’s wrong with that, you ask. It’s important to feel like equals. Yes, that’s true but this need for balance has worrying implications. Where does it stop? Does race need to be the same in a relationship, so that culturally the couple is on the same level? Do you need to have the same kinds of friends, for your two selves to harmoniously engage with each other? Do religion and beliefs need to fit identically?

What has happened to the notion of two colliding personas, from different backgrounds, different salaries, different opinions on whether their child should eat beef , but who ultimately unite in that perfectly imperfect way?

Yes, you can’t help who you fall in love with and maybe it’s just a happy coincidence that the love of your life and your soulmate also happens to be the CEO of Merrill Lynch – fantastic for you. But let’s not let the obsession with balance outweigh the amazing attributes of those who being missed by that selective radar.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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Is this most hilariously awful advert ever?

This is an advert I’ve just stumbled across on http://bitchmagazine.org/post/every-kiss-begins-with-fear. I don’t know what is more offensive – the mind-staggering sexism behind it, the numbingly shocking acting with extras from ‘Sunset Beach’ or the product that is being sold (an ugly diamond necklace). Please watch:

 

So next time you perform a flying leap into a man’s arms because there’s a bit of lightning outside, you better hope you’re lucky enough to be ‘surrounded by the strength of his love’ with a gold band and a diamond.

 

And how wrong is their slogan – ‘Every kiss begins with Kay?’ – that’s right, get your woman a diamond (cos it’s always the man buying it for the woman. The woman is at home, too scared to leave the house because a leaf might blow in her path) and you’ll get a big old smacker. If you get her a really big diamond, you might even get more. Quick fellows, rush! And check the weather report, there’s allegedly a thunderstorm next week.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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Paul Giamatti, the ordinary hero

I’m going to see the new film Cold Soul tonight with Paul Giamatti. I love him, particularly in Sideways which is possibly my favourite film of all time. The comically muted despair of his character really strikes a chord and also it’s damn hilarious. The scene where he goes insane at a civilised wine tasting and pour a pot of spit-out wine over himself is one of the funniest and poignant I’ve ever seen.

We need more actors like him – forget the buffed, sheening George Clooneys. Acting should be about scooping out what is inside people and displaying it for people to really see, however subtle or bizarre this may be.

 

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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Tradition vs Reality – how should we care?

I was struck by a BBC article on an Asian woman who was a full-time carer for her mother-in-law who was not mobile and needed round-the-clock care. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8351290.stm. Leena Thakrar did not know who to ask for help and in the end was on the verge of a breakdown, feeling physically and mentally shattered.

In our Asian communities looking after an elderly parent or relative is completely expected. Of course it is seen as the children’s duty – “I looked after you, now you look after me.” And more often than not, this is completely fine and children are happy to do so. But in some cases the rising tensions and strain from tradition duty reach explosive point.

I’ve seen this first hand. There seems to be a circus-level juggling act between all my uncles, to take care of my ageing grandma. Tradition imposes that she must stay in one of her son’s houses. The problem is that the wives, for various reasons, don’t want her there. One wife, who will not be appearing as a nominee for The Carer Awards anytime soon, has made my grandma’s life a muted hell because she didn’t want her there. My uncle was trapped in a quagmire between wife and mother. Everyone watched helplessly.  

Now as a sort of compromise, my grandma has had to play a form of musical houses, rotating between them like a shawl-wearing satellite floating around the Middlesex region. Why can’t she stay at our house? Because she would rather eat a McDonalds 100% beef Big Mac than stay at her daughter’s house – tradition prohibits it. The issue of who cares for my grandma has become a dynamite stick to be thrown to the next person in the room – and then to promptly run out of the room.

It is in these cases when you wonder whether the long running traditions can become messy webs tangling people and damaging relationships. I don’t condone the behaviour of the wives who treat their mother-in-law badly to get her out of the house – it is heartbreakingly pathetic to exercise power over an 84-year old woman. But I also question my grandma’s refusal to live with her daughter, choosing a life in misery to a house where she would be welcomed. The dense maze of Asian family duties sometimes weighs down on us, springboarding common sense out of the picture.

The question is – what is the solution? Breaking down years of tradition into modern-sized chunks doesn’t happen in a day. More focus should be on reaching out to British Asian families caring for elderly relatives. As many of them don’t speak English, this should be taken into account to minimise unease and the sense of intrusion. More apartment complexes exclusively for Asian elderly people, with workers and wards who speak the same language are potentially another solution. I’m not suggesting ageing relatives should all be put in care homes – there just needs to be recognition that when a situation has reached a certain point then alternatives must be found.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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Here come the girls? I don’t think so.

Is anyone else completely and utterly, bottom-clenchingly, soul-destroyingly, teeth-shatteringly cringed out by this year’s Christmas adverts?

 

I for one have never felt the urge to hammer my head in with a carped swordfish more than watching the Boots advert with ‘Here come the girls’ screeching out at helicopter-landing volume. Charlie Brooker’s column this week captures the essence perfectly: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/nov/16/charlie-brooker-christmas-television-adverts

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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Belle de Jour’s unveiling shows lack of class

belle de jourSo a lot of talk today is about the unveiling of Belle de Jour, the upper-end prostitute portrayed by Billie Piper in the TV programme you may have seen.

The  picture of the real Belle de Jour, an elegant blonde woman, dressed in a coffee-coloured silk dressing gown, adorns the pages to a mixed response. She is now a scientist, specialising in childhood cancer, and explains that she worked as a prostitute to fund her PhD.

Now I know prostitution is a very tricky issue, with the constant balancing act between freedom of choice and exploitation.  Hers is clearly meant to be a freedom of choice demonstration and she profited immensely from it, admitting she was “very lucky” to have had no bad experiences.  The problem is this misrepresentation that she comes from a higher caste of sex workers. Yes, it is a very different ball game to wear a Valentino dress and sit poised and confident in a hotel bar until your C.E.O appointment turns up. But the idea is the same and the act is the same as those sex workers on the streets of Ipswich, just swap a plush leather chaise-lounge for the back seat of a Ford.

It is the class system which seperates these women, certainly not anything else. An activist from the International Union of Sex Workers said: “Loads of people who work in the sex industry are academics – education is a very expensive habit.”  Getting to university itself is expensive enough and not achievable for many. Getting a PhD is a luxury available to a further minority.

Looking at this woman in her dressing gown with her coiffed hair does annoy me, because she is not the truth. The truth is the masses of women, the world over, who find themselves in exploitative and very dangerous situations, due to sheer desperation. Whether its the desperation of drugs or feeding their children and family, they are not afforded the luxury of being desperate for education. Education is a dream beyond the perameters. Cycles of poverty and low aspirations mean this carries on.

The idea that this woman was ‘desperate’ enough for her PhD to put herself into their shoes willingly is a mockery to all the women fighting to be given fairer chances to education, careers and most importantly, freedom.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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