Brown Finger’s Pointing at You

I think it’s safe to say that today’s #MusicMonday is brought to you by the letters M, I, and A. She might have had only 18 seconds of screen time as a Madonna backup hook girl out of the 13 minute halftime Superbowl show, but M.I.A. made every one of those seconds count.

…a member of M.I.A.’s camp, speaking Sunday night from the Super Bowl host city of Indianapolis, said M.I.A. was struck with “a case of adrenaline.” “She wasn’t thinking,” said the source, who requested anonymity but was with the artist at Lucas Oil Stadium. “It wasn’t any kind of statement. She was caught in the moment and she’s incredibly sorry.” [link]


So, it wasn’t a political statement – she was caught in the moment. She has yet to issue an actual apology. The song itself, as I mentioned before, is pretty lame and a brown middle finger was the highlight of that tune. The full SuperBowl halftime show was, on the other hand, pretty awe inducing.

As for M.I.A. and her brown finger. Well, everyone is stumbling to point the blame finger at someone else.

NBC has apologized for airing footage of M.I.A. flipping off the cameras while delivering the line “I don’t give a shit” during Madonna‘s Super Bowl halftime show. “The NFL hired the talent and produced the halftime show,” NBC said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. “Our system was late to obscure the inappropriate gesture and we apologize to our viewers.”


The NFL have also issued an apology for the incident, but placed the blame on NBC’s censors. “There was a failure in NBC’s delay system,” spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. “The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing, and we apologize to our fans.” [link]

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A conversation with Unladylike’s Radhika Vaz

In her one-woman show Unladylike: The Pitfalls of Propriety, comedian Radhika Vaz tackles subjects like “proper” female behavior, modern relationships, and the ubiquity of bikini waxes. Having recently returned from touring India, Vaz will be performing Unladylike at the The Producers Club in New York City on Friday, December 9 (more details below). I recently had the chance to ask her a few questions about the show.

What inspired you to write Unladylike?

I had been doing improv for a really long time and then I started writing monologues. I always wanted to do a one-hour show on my own for a few reasons. I was auditioning for parts and wasn’t getting anything. You know, I am practically 40. I am Indian with an Indian accent, I’m not even an Indian with an American accent, so I wasn’t fitting into any of the roles. Writing the show was what really pushed me out there.

Stories about your husband and family often appear in your work. Have any of your relatives ever told you that something was off-limits?

No, they haven’t. I definitely do believe that I have to at least show them the piece before I post it to my blog. Most of my pieces start out on the blog, I usually post it before it is performed.

I remember I posted something once and my husband was like, “You really should have shown me this before you posted.” If it is something related something like alcohol abuse or anything embarrassing, I show it to them. When writing about my friends I change names a lot.

Do you consider Unladylike to be a feminist show?

I hope it is. I am certainly not the first person to talk about these things, but I definitely hope that people look at it that way. To elaborate a little bit, I definitely think that I speak a lot about the wide disparity in the way that men and women are viewed.

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Is Chippy Nonstop Swag?

I’m slipping in a #MusicMonday in right at the last minute – because Tasneem hit me up on gchat with a (crude) gem of an Oakland artistChippy Nonstop. She’s named Chippy cuz she likes to eat chips, no kidding. And she’s Desi. She’s like a Desi-fied version of Kreayshawn meets Peaches.

I kind of the dug the sound above. Then I started finding her other videos. And then, well… I’ll let you be the judge of that. Here’s her latest with Andy Milonakis. And since it’s with Milonakis, you better know it’s NSFW.

And then there’s this video. With the Desi languag-ed hook and the (overused) multi-handed dance move. Continue reading

I Want the World To Know

Today is National Coming Out Day and when I used to live in L.A., I’d join the annual parade of South Asians walking down Pioneer Blvd. chanting, “We ‘re here! We’re queer! We’re on Pioneer!” As you can imagine, the South Asian community is not quite so accepting of ‘The Gays” in the community. I supported as an ally because I wanted to be a supporting Desi face even when their family members couldn’t be.

But sometimes, coming out to your family may not be right for everyone. I came across a touching story from Nancy Haque titled Coming Out About Not Being Out from the Western States Center. It addresses the complexities of understanding your parents enough to know when and what to share with them. Despite the fact that mainstream LGBTQIA community may encourage coming out, it may not be the best thing for every family, particularly immigrant Desi parents.

I’m not out to my parents – the gold standard of being out. I haven’t done it and don’t actually plan on doing it. The truth is I have a very complicated relationship with my parents. I’m not particularly close to them and haven’t been since early childhood. I’m the youngest of four and was raised by my sister and two brothers as much as I was by my parents. I came out to my siblings 14 years ago and have always been supported by them. I love and respect my parents, but beyond my sexuality, they don’t understand the work I do, don’t know my hopes and dreams, don’t know the majority of my friends, and have never visited the home I purchased three years ago.


Yet my relationship to them is important. It’s important for me to be able to go home. I know in my heart my parents can never accept me having a female partner. It’s beyond their life experience to understand it. It’s not because they’re bad people, it’s just the way it is. I don’t feel like I’m living a lie because I’m not. Yet by not telling my parents, I’m taking a very unpopular stance in the general queer community…. I know that I’m not alone, that we all find our own ways to navigate our lives. I know that being queer and being raised Muslim is who I am, and it’s a complicated way to be. That’s why it was important to me to share my story… [westernstatescenter]

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Facebook’s First Female Engineer, Ruchi Sanghvi

Huffpost Tech writes about Ruchi Sanghvi, who was Facebook’s first female engineer. Its profile portrays Sanghvi–who left the company last year to start her own company Cove soon after marrying a fellow Facebook engineer–as an example of the success of startup meritocracy. But it also shares her views on what she calls the boys’ club and the difficulty of breaking into it at Facebook.

Sanghvi, who didn’t use a computer regularly until college, went on to launch such features as News Feed, which defines the user experience for many people on Facebook. Her rise at the company from when she was one of the first 10 engineers hired illustrates the potential and possibilities for a bright young engineer in the tech field. Given her vantage point and success, her impressions and suggestions stemming from her experiences carry a certain weight.

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Seeing Lal

prerna Lal.jpgThis weekend, Desi youth will be convening in Oakland, CA and Washington DC for the primary purpose of getting activated and politicized. DCDesi Summer will be holding it down for the East Coast, and I personally have been involved in getting Bay Area Solidarity Summer (BASS) off the ground here on the West Coast. Not only am I excited about the FUNraiser we have scheduled, I am particularly excited about the opening keynote speakers for the weekend – author of Desis in the House Sunaina Maira and dream activist Prerna Lal.

I met Prerna Lal last summer at Netroots Nation in Las Vegas. I quickly learned that she was a quite the firecracker. Desi via Fiji, Prerna is a founder of DreamActivist, a current law student, a writer, a SAALT Changemaker, queer, an activist and… is undocumented. Her journey as a struggling youth trying to navigate the broken immigration system is one she is very vocal about sharing, whether on blogs or on twitter. Her tenacity is one to be admired and bravery is one to be inspired by.

Just a few months ago, Prerna was served deportation papers – but being who she is, she’s not leaving without a fight. Here’s what she had to say.

Taz: What made you tweet this?

Prerna: It’s how I feel on most days. We are always asked to prove our worth to our countries. But I have yet to have America prove its worth to me.

T: What is your legal status?

P: Out of status, allegedly accruing unlawful presence that could lead to a 10 year bar from the United States if deported.

T: Where are you from? How did you end up in the US?

P: Fiji Islands. Father brought me here when I was 14, kicking and screaming.

T: Your grandmother is a citizen, your parents are greencard holders and your sister is a citizen. How is it possible that you are considered undocumented?

P: That’s simple. I aged out at 21. You see, when a visa petition is approved, a family has to wait many years to actually get a “priority date” in order to immigrate legally. I was 24 by the time my parents received their priority date. Regardless of the fact that my name was on the original visa petition filed for my family, I was automatically castigated and separated from my family. My parents were no longer considered my “immediate relatives.” I find it morally repugnant, but I’m sure there are many young adults who have experienced the same horror of family separation due to an arbitrary age out of our control. Continue reading

Literate sex ratio, 2011 census of India

Poking around the 2011 provisional data from the Indian census I noticed that literacy rates had gone up across the board. But, in many states there was the long standing disjunction between male and female literacy rates. So I decided to create some plots, what else?

First, below you see a simple plot of female vs. male literacy by Indian administrative unit. There’s a strong linear relationship, where variation in male literacy explains ~75% of the variation in female literacy. But again I’m a little wary of unweighted plots like this, since urban areas are not representative of the Indian society as a whole. So I also generated a bubble plot in R, where the size of the bubbles is proportional to the total population surveyed. Continue reading

The girl dearth

Update: I put this post up before a very long road trip. When I checked the comments on my smartphone 10 hours later at a truck stop things had clearly gone in an unproductive direction. So I closed comments. In the future I understand that it will not do for me to put up a post when I won’t be able to monitor initial comments, as excising inappropriate ones after the fact fragments the conversation too much. Live and learn.

For the record, I have no issues with being impolitic on the substance of matters. But thread-jacking as occurred below when there’s so much low hanging fruit to discuss is not acceptable. Speaking of which, in response to S. R. Datta’s mooting of the issue of hepatitis as the reason for sex ratio distortion in China, that hypothesis seems to have been rejected, including by the scholar who originally forwarded it. Obviously that may not be true generally, though let us note that sex ratio imbalances are well known from the historical record, and they often vary as a function of time and class (e.g., medieval European nobility seemed to exhibit son preference, while peasants did not, at least as adduced from the ratio of the sex of buried infants). I think the Trivers-Willard hypothesis may explain some of these trends across human history.

End Update

Several readers have pointed to the recent, unfortunately predictable, story coming out of the Indian census, Selective Abortions Blamed For Girl Shortage In India:

Dr. C. Chandramouli, India’s census commissioner, says the numbers don’t lie: The girls are missing.

Among children under 6 years old in India today, there are only 940 girls for every 1,000 boys. Worldwide, it’s around 986 to every 1,000.

Chandramouli says this is a continuation of a trend that was first seen clearly in the 2000 census — but the new figures show the problem is spreading.

“It has to be said that what was predominantly a North Indian phenomena of a few states has now spread across the country, and we see a uniform decline all over the country, so that is what is more distressing,” he says.

First, in the short term economic development can lead to the spread of practices through emulation of dominant elites. But, in the long term one can see a reversal of the preference for boys to girls. In Japan the shift occurred 20 years ago. In Korea the change is happening now. One hopes that the same switch will occur with China and India, though it seems unlikely that these nations will become as wealthy on a per capita basis as Japan or Korea in the near future, so it would have to be driven by non-economic factors as well (the drop in fertility in some nations preceded economic growth, to the surprise of demographers, so it can happen).

But it must be remembered that regional differences persist, as is evident in this map: Continue reading

‘I, Nikki Randhawa Haley’: An Inaugural Moment

Governor Nikki Haley’s inauguration last Wednesday felt like a glimmer of light in a political landscape darkened by the recent tragic mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Republicans, Tea Party supporters, Mama Grizzlies, crack-the-fiscal-whip types, Haley’s family, friends and community–all these people and others had reasons to feel happy on the occasion of her inauguration. But what made my day was seeing the young girls who braved the freezing weather in Columbia to see the first-ever inauguration of a woman and minority governor in the history of South Carolina, a history that spans at least four centuries.

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