Tag Archives: internet

What It Feels Like For A Girl

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I’m glad Meena Kandasamy wrote this piece, and said as much — although I realise there are some difficulties in the manner in which she expressed it — because I do understand what she’s trying to get at at the bottom of it all.

The same issues — of privacy, persona, being a public target — have come up repeatedly in my conversations with other women writers. Some have stopped blogging, restricting their truly meaningful insights and anecdotes to mass emails and Facebook notes. Some turn off commenting on their blogs altogether (the fact that the vast majority of hateful comments come anonymously or under pseudonyms is extremely telling). I moved to WordPress last year because of the flood of  virtually entirely anonymous hateful comments, death threats and frightening gestures I received in the aftermath of having spoken out about the Malaysian apartheid. I became painfully aware that there are people who in the non-virtual world would have tea with me, and then proceed to log on anonymously and try to tear me to shreds.

No one sums up more eloquently what it feels like to be a woman writing under her real name , putting herself out there as she really is and not as some Internet construct of self-portrayal, than my dear friend Petra Gimbad; I post an excerpt from her private note here with permission

“”But we make this choice because having our say is more important than all the fear in the world that assholes out there can create in us. Until you have experienced the fear of being stalked (which has happened), sexually harassed (yep), raped, criticised for being attention-seeking or being attacked personally for your political ideas, you have no fucking clue how scary it is to be a woman and to put yourself out there.”

So I think it’s about gender? Yes. I do.

The Venus Flytrap: Piracy, Privacy, Popularity and Poetry

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It’s not every day that one finds oneself as a subject of a social experiment. At the risk of being frozen out of polite poetic society, I have to admit: I felt just a mite gleeful at having my identity misappropriated for inclusion in a 4000-page pdf anthology of pirated poetry.

The idea was simple: collect together some 3000-odd names of poets, randomly generate cryptic and rather dreadful wordlists assembled into poetic syntax and misattribute one to each, publish the whole thing as a pdf without the authorization of those whose names are used, and watch a congregation of middle fingers go up in the blogosphere.

Now, most people don’t take poets very seriously. The word alone conjures up an image of a limpid-eyed, lily-livered, lovelorn loon. This may be why 20% of us die of suicide, overcompensating as usual for all that lack of attention. You see, poets take themselves very, very seriously. Nowhere better can this be seen than in the reaction to the For Godot anthology, put together by three self-described “poetry researchers”.

The personal contact details of one of the editors were distributed by a poetry community organizer. Comments flooded in demanding deletions (and yes, apparently lots of poets have Google Alerts for themselves). The word “anarcho-flarf” was invented for the new genre. Anarcho obviously referring to anarchy, and flarf meaning “avant garde poetry that mines the Internet with odd search terms, then distills the findings into verse”. The less offensively intelligent among us stuck to “pirated poetry”.

But with all due embarrassed blushes for some of my fellow poets, the fake anthology does raise some interesting questions. To what extent can one really control one’s public identity, and at what point does one’s name become public property? If one’s name is public property, does this by extension mean that the person is also fair game?

I’ve had a lot of secondhand rumours come back to me. Some have a vague basis in truth that has been distorted, while others are so far-fetched that they’re clearly the work of vicious minds. For instance, I am supposed to have posted pictures of myself in a bikini online, thereby blemishing my fitness as an appropriate role model for impressionable Indian girls. Trouble is, I have never owned a bikini. I am also supposed to have tried to murder my mother-in-law. Trouble is, I have also never owned a husband (and not because he was suitably disposed of too, either).

So I do see the point of some of the anger over this anthology. It is annoying, at the very least, to have one’s name misappropriated. Also, if the world is destroyed and all that remains is the Internet, those awful generated poems are going to be credited to us. We’ll be to aliens what Sarah Palin is to SNL.

But truth is, as far as the anthology is concerned, I don’t mind so much. I have a soft spot for guerrilla art, and it’s a backhanded honour in its own way, since piracy always means popularity. It’s also pretty unlikely that my name will be noticed amidst the 3,163 others, and I wouldn’t care about the hardcore stalkers who might find it anyway. It’s equally unlikely that I will ever again share space all at once with Dorianne Laux, Anna Akhmatova, Adrienne Rich, Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes. For the non-reader, suffice to say that they are also known as some of the frequent cameo roles in the modern poet’s wet dreams (and isn’t that too identity misappropriation?). And that little giggle is surely worth a terrible poem I didn’t write.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express. “The Venus Flytrap” is my weekly column in the Zeitgeist supplement. Previous columns can be found here.

Brilliant, Who Moi?

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The very kind Orange Jammies bestowed me with a blog award. Thankee, thankee! *Bows/curtsies* :)

The point is to carry on the tag, so here goes…

The Brilliant Weblog award is a prize given to sites and blogs that are smart and brilliant both in their content and their design. The purpose of the prize is to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogosphere.

The Rules of the Award say:

  • When you receive the prize you must write a post showing it, together with the name of who has given it to you, and link them back.
  • Choose a minimum of 7 blogs (or even more) that you find brilliant in their content or design.
  • Show their names and links and leave them a comment informing they were prized with the Brilliant Weblog Award.
  • Show a picture of those who awarded you and those you give the prize (optional).
  • And then we pass it on!

1. Maceo Cabrera Estévez — A beautiful, spiritual, poetic blog full of life and beauty. Maceo’s blog is like a balm — whenever I head there and see a new post at the top, my heart smiles even before reading it.

2. Nury Vittachi — The amazing humour columnist whose steroids I really want to get on. How can he do every day what I agonize over doing once a week?!

3. Kenny Mah — First up, for beautiful blog design, and then, for beautiful words. Kenny has such a knack for turning the mundane into the magical. A simple meal becomes a visual sonnet with his camera, a daydream turns into gorgeous prose. One of my favourite writer-friends/friend-writers (what comes first — writing or friendship? Maybe a post on that some other time, because I have thought about it in the past).

4. Krish Ashok — ‘Nuff said, I think. Not an unfamiliar name in the Indian blogosphere by any stretch. Madras humour at its best!

5. Michael Mata — Futuristic poet and artist. I think Michael Mata is a movement all on his own.

6. Sathya Narain — A gem of a Madras Week find (that’s not where we met but that’s how I “met” his writing). Funny, insightful, surprising. Read this!

7. Katia Dmitrieva — Girl comes to India. Falls in love with country and in lust with one or two fine local specimens. Leaves, writes about Eastern Experience and gets famous. Well, Katia is not this cliché, but I hope she gets a book deal anyway (and moves back to Chennai, in further defiance of the stereotype). Not least because of some marvellous misadventures which absolutely must be recorded! ;)

8. Thursday Love — I’ve already blogged about her, but she has hands-down the best sex and relationships blog I’ve ever read, and she’s only just gotten started (and trust me, she has a lot more up her sleeve). If you must only read one post, make it this one.

Okay people, pass on the link love! :)