If South Asians only respond to racism when it is directed at them, rather than when it is wielded against people more vulnerable than them, they will forever be held hostage by the need to assimilate into white supremacy.By Sangeetha Thanapal Recently, Priyanka Chopra, the lead actress of ABC’s Quantico, was told she was “too ethnic” for a movie role in Hollywood. This understandably upset Chopra. She took it “very personally” and stated that she hopes to change the way the industry functions in time to come. Chopra has lived in the United States, speaks fluent English, was 'Miss World 2000', is able-bodied, thin, light-skinned and has 11 million Twitter followers. All of these should mean she is a shoe-in for major movie roles in Hollywood. Unfortunately, racism within the industry has limited her opportunities, and in her reaction, she pointed out the inherent stereotypes of people of color that plague Hollywood. Interestingly, this was not Chopra's position just a year ago. When the controversy of #OscarsSoWhite erupted in 2016, Chopra, who was asked about it at the Oscars, gave something akin to a white, liberal answer. She said that “casting by race is a very primitive idea to (her),” and that she believes she got her role in Quantico simply because she was the best person for the job, despite the fact that the producers have made it clear that they wanted to cash in on her existing fame and reach. Furthermore, her answer is fundamentally anti-black. #OscarSoWhite was started by black activist April Reign, and much of the writing and commentary on the racism of the Oscars was by black intellectuals. Many of the actors and actresses that refused to attend the show that year were also black. To glibly deny that they even had a reason to point out the racism of the Oscars and to boycott it is essentially anti-black.
I could no longer ignore a glaring fact about Lynch’s new Twin Peaks: It is fueled by troubling cultural appropriation.I’ve been a serious and passionate Twin Peaks fan since the 1990s. I’ve written a weekly column on a popular fan site since before The Return. I founded my own Facebook Bookhouse of old-timers that I hear tell is one of the most productive and decent fan communities with almost zero trolling and wonderful discussions. As a woman of color — and one of an even more niche community of Twin Peaks fans of color — I’ve been a vocal and staunch defender of David Lynch’s work as not racist and sexist, and I’ve theoretically situated The Return in the framework of Brechtian theatre principles and socio-cultural satire. I’ve done my part to feature the voices of other fans of color, as well as actively advocate for rape and trauma survivors through my writing and participation in fan communities. I watched Twin Peaks: The Return from an unabashed female and feminist gaze, and found much of Lynch’s commentary to be powerful and empowering. Twin Peaks has been like an imaginary home to me for decades, and a place where I was able to accomplish a great deal of healing and self-development. But after the surreal and disturbing finale, and slowly coming out of the haze that has been these past three months, I could no longer ignore a glaring fact about Lynch’s new Twin Peaks: It is fueled by troubling cultural appropriation.
If I am to live through an afterlife it should be as a churel demon, so I can seek vengeance on behalf of mistreated women across the globe.By Sarah Khan Like all other cultures, South Asia has its own selection of other-worldly monsters to scare children (and even some adults). None of them really ever frightened me because they all seemed to have a reason for being the way they are. The one that intrigues me the most of them all is the churel. While in Pakistan, churel is also the word for a living witch, I’m going to talk about the ghostly demon in this piece because this female demon is the man-hating, anti-patriarchy, badass ghost that I kinda hope to become when I pass away.
Who Is the Churel?The legend of the churel reportedly started in Persia, but is currently most prominent in South Asia, specifically India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. She is said to be the ghost of a wronged woman, usually one who dies during or just after childbirth. A woman can also come back as a churel if she was mistreated by relatives during her lifetime or if she was sexually dissatisfied. Because of this fear, families were encouraged to take extra good care of women relatives, such as daughters-in-law, especially pregnant ones.
Why Is She So Scary?The churel is an ugly, horrific-looking creature who can take any shape she pleases. In Pakistan, it’s legend adds on that she cannot change her feet, which are pointed backwards. For this reason, she’s also known as pichal peri, which literally means “back footed.” Generally, the churel will take the form of a traditionally beautiful woman in order to lure men into secluded forested areas. Some say that she’s not malicious while most folklore about her say that she’s vengeful and returns to kill the men in her family, starting with those who wronged her when she was alive.
How Does a Woman Become a Churel?The most common reasons women come back as churels is if they die during childbirth (sometimes also if they die during pregnancy) or in the 12 days after childbirth, when she is considered “impure”, according to Indian superstition. Other reasons a churel is created is if the woman is unfairly treated by her relatives and even if she is not sexually satisfied. For this reason, when a woman is pregnant, she is taken extra-good care of in order to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy and birth. It’s also the reason why families are likely to actively be humane to the women in their families.
Why Is the Churel My Feminist Heroine?The fact that people need to be scared by an urban legend into being decent to the women in a family is appalling in itself, but I like to think that the legend of the churel was created by women in order to scare men into treating them like human beings. Women have long been considered second-class citizens and little less than incubators for babies, so I don’t blame women for potentially creating a terrifying demon to scare people into treating them with basic humanity. The idea that a witchy demon who can shape-shift and lures men to their demise exists in a culture that is so blatantly misogynistic is refreshing. While there are those who are deeply engrossed in the misogynistic cultures of South Asia, and even women who have ingrained misogyny they’ve not unlearned (or are simply unaware that it’s there to begin with), will still fear the churel and think of her as something evil and unsavory, I myself find her a breath of fresh air.
The future is color. When the dominant visual media paradigm is one of hegemonic whiteness, there are a limited number of choices for women of color. Submit yourself to the hegemony and take whatever scraps casting agents, directors, producers throw at