30th November 1997

Hey there, who’s the next heroine?

By Rajpal Abeynayake

So what’s the beef of the “feminists’’ now? There are
feminists of substance, and feminists of slogans. Prickly
feminists who feel that Shoba De was a “feminist’’ who broke the
glass ceiling of smut, need to have their airy heads examined.

Shoba De:Selling sexuality for cheap and fast buck
Though I never thought I’d live to write an other article even tangentially mentioning Shoba De, it wasn’t meant to be. Some moronic Sri Lankan feminist made me drag Shoba De out of the nether regions of my memory.

Somebody who thinks she is a Sri Lankan feminist told me last week that Shoba De should not have been trashed in an interview because “ the feminists did not like it.” Of all the lines of bull that I have heard recently, that has to be the longest, and the most bovine.

To make a long story short, this columnist interviewed Shoba De sometime back, and asked her why she writes soft-porn, thinly disguised as storylines. To say the least, the interview was stormy.

So what’s the beef of the “feminists’’ now? There are feminists of substance, and feminists of slogans. Prickly feminists who feel that Shoba De was a “feminist’’ who broke the glass ceiling of smut, need to have their airy heads examined.

Mira Nair: a true artiste
Their argument is that writing pornography ( or soft - porn ) was hitherto a male bastion. Then, along came that lusty gusty Indian lass, Shoba De, and broke that tradition and started writing smut herself. To takeover writing dirt from men, in the view of these feminists was a great achievement, especially for Eastern women.

If females can be this dense, no wonder there has to be something called “women’s lib”. ( Oops, a little residual chauvinism, unintended)

But, folks, seriously, when “feminists’’ think it is a great achievement to write the kind of smut that Shoba De writes, they make some great assumptions. ( I say “assumptions’’ because most of these “feminists’’ have not read Shoba De anyway. ) The fact that a male trashes Shoba De, is to them, a challenge to their primordial feminism. Their primitive instincts are aroused, and they lash out willy-nilly.

To be quite blunt about it, if a man trashed a woman like Shoba De among emancipated thinking feminists, he would have been in for a special merit award. Making a woman into a sex-object, for sale, is one of the worst forms of exploitation against women.

Exploiting women to make money is exactly what Shoba De does.

Spitting and screaming feminists wouldn’t understand that. Also, everything has to be spelt out to these prize - winning simpletons.

Shoba De is no trail-blazer who celebrates female sexuality like Kamala Das or Mira Nair, the director of Kama Sutra and Missisipi Masla before that. De writes pornography. Any feminist or a rational person with a thinking head screwed onto his/her shoulders will tell you that pornography ( gang rapes, lesbianism to titillate male readers, bondage and sado-masochist fantasies — such as burning women with wax candles etc., ) that Shoba De writes about is all about degrading womanhood.

So, hey there, feminists, who is your next male bashing ceiling breaking heroine? Is it the girl on the Penthouse center-spread or is it some Sri Lankan woman who is supposed to be running a sex-goods shop in the red light district of New York? ( What’s the problem she broke a glass ceiling as well, with a moan I suppose?) Or is it what’s her name, Desi K or whoever, the first Sri Lankan woman to star in a hard - core blue movie to be made in New York?

A sad comment about misplaced feminism in Sri Lanka is that women like Shoba De are generally reviled by truly emancipated feminists abroad. For them, the De’s of this world are the women who sell womanhood down the drain, by selling their sexuality for the cheap thrills of men in order to make a fast buck.

Back here, feminists don’t know the difference between sexuality in art, and sexuality in pornography and smut. With such feminists as their friends, Sri Lankan women don’t need enemies.

Of course, these feminists don’t have the gumption to go at the real chauvinist elements. For example, a bunch of boors have ganged up to harass females who turned up to see Mira Nair’s movie “Kama sutra.” “Feminists’’ have by and large protested only half-heartedly, probably because they feel it’s not quite politically correct for them to stand up for females interested in seeing a “sex movie.” For these same feminists, who never read Shoba De, but rushed cheetah-speed to her defence, the title of Nair’s movie “Kama Sutra’’ is like a half-used sanitary napkin. They don’t know quite what to do with it.

But Nair is no Shoba De, she is an artiste. Though her movies are about female sexuality as well, the difference between De and Nair is like the difference between, say, a Penthouse centerspread, and William Shakespeare’s play the “Rape of Lucrece.” Penthouse and “Rape of Lucrece’’ both dwell on female sexuality, but probably some of the Sri Lankan feminists won’t see the difference. I’ll let you in on a secret, they will brand Shakespeare a male chauvinist pig, and probably praise the publisher of Penthouse (if she was a woman), for breaking the glass ceiling of commercial sexploitation.

I can almost bet my bottom dollar on it, some of these feminists wouldn’t celebrate Arundathy Roy in the same way they display the hots for De. Arundathy Roy won the Booker, something her country woman ShobaDe couldn’t do even if she scrubbed her bath with Pynol, took a course in creative writing and wrote for another two thousand years.

But guess what, I heard one of these feminists say recently, on the record as it were, that the Booker is “awarded only to people who disparage their own native cultures.” So in effect they call Arundathy Roy a disgrace and a loser, because she won the Booker “selling her culture down the drain.” But they celebrate Shoba De, even if she sells her sex down the drain all the time, all the way upto the septic tank. There she probably meets people of her own kind with whom she can break bread over the sewage — hick Sri Lankan feminists.

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