Category Archives: Entertainment

Taheyya Kariokka

“I love my work. I love it, really. I don’t love anything in my life but my work.”- Tahia Carioca, 1994

Sometimes in between the mundane and insignificant things in this life, such as musings over how Rachel Brice manages to move her body as though she were an actual snake, or how much of a gymnast one truly has to be in order to pull off a back-bend like Nejla Ateş, comes a truly fascinating story that, among other things, showcases how little human nature actually changes over time and across national boundaries. One such fascinating (perhaps even somewhat sad or tragic) and one-of-a-kind story can be found in one of the darlings of Cairo’s golden age, Badaweya Mohamed Kareem Al Nirani.

Badaweya Mohamed Kareem Al Nirani (1919(?)-1999), professionally known as Taheyya Kariokka (Tahia Carioca), was an Egyptian actress and dancer, primarily in the 1930s and 1940s. Though largely unknown to the Western world, she starred in somewhere around 300 classical Arabic films and is known as a pioneer of sorts to true studied students and enthusiasts of belly-dance.

Coming from a respectable family, Taheyya was the product of a marriage where her mother was forty years younger than her father. Her father apparently went through a few marriages within the family, being left swiftly widowed before settling for marrying an outsider (Taheyya’s mother). Despite her youth, it took Taheyya’s mother a full four years to conceive a child (fertility issues on the behalf of the aging husband, perhaps?), and then- much to her father’s dismay- the child was a girl.

Taheyya’s mother fled to return back to her family soon after Taheyya’s birth, leaving Taheyya to be raised primarily by her paternal grandmother. Soon after her father’s death, Taheyya’s much older brother took custody of her, imposing discipline whenever he would catch her dancing [being a dancer was- is- generally looked down upon in that part of the world, with one of the worst insults you could hurl at a man being to call him the “son of a dancer” and you’d be hard pressed to find many Arab women willing to become dancers as most dancers in the Middle East are actually Western imports] on her in a manner that would be considered extreme child abuse by today’s standards. (Taheyya’s mother reported to the authorities about this behavior, attempting to get her daughter back, though they refused to intervene). She eventually fled from her brother at a young age, leading to a series of events and interactions that would make her one of the most famous dancers of her day.

By all accounts told about her, Taheyya was a rebel and perhaps even the perfect example of the quandary of the modern-day woman. She was famous for her sharp tongue and had quite a reputation for debauchery, having an (admitted) fourteen husbands.

“No, what was clear and unalterable: men had made her life hell! And perhaps the fault was not all theirs. Even when she was young, even when she was broke, I defy anyone to find a picture of Madame Tahaya which doesn’t show her eyes alight with mockery. What love can withstand it’s glare? And as she herself told me in so many words, men did not desire her. At first I heard deserve, but no, desire was what she had said, and desire was what she meant. A soft clap of disdain followed, washing her hands of all men. No, the husbands, all thirteen of them, were in love with “Tahaya Carioca,” whoever she was! And, as if to underline the point, Tahaya treated all of them with a man’s directness, divorced them like a man, paid them off like a man. It was as if only by playing the tough little businesswoman could she underline the gulf between who she was on the screen and stage and who she was in reality.”[1]

Like many modern women, she had a career. Above all, her career always came first for her. That combined with her sharp tongue apparently drove all the men away one by one. Like many modern women, she could attract many men to her, but she could never hold onto them. (Supposedly) not believing in having sex before marriage, she instead engaged in what could be termed as serial monogamy, marrying and divorcing one man after the other in a series of relationships that never lasted very long, until her final marriage to a much younger man finally bankrupted her after an 8-year long court battle.

She was superior in her relationships, and fiercely independent. She took the initiative to divorce and always paid her own way (even with her numerous divorces). One of her marriages was to an American Air Force officer. She followed him to America for a short time before she then apparently became bored(?) with American life, divorced him, and headed back to Egypt.

Her political life was quite interesting. I guess you can’t really expect that a fiercely independent woman like Taheyya would just sit on the sidelines in times of war or political upheaval. But no! She gave asylum to political allies (some even members of her own family), did some time in jail for conspiracy against the crown and even helped in weapon smuggling and training to join the resistance in the mid-50s.

As well, you’d dare not insult a woman like Taheyya, and even royalty were not immune, as it is said she insulted King Farouk and his second-wife, refusing to dance at their wedding by exclaiming “I have already danced at the wedding of the Queen of Egypt!” In yet another instance, reports say that she also slapped the former king across the face as well (some reports say it was because he threw an ice cube down her dress).

Taheyya would grab her shoe anytime she was offended or felt threatened and wave it in the person’s face, and, again, neither royalty nor Hollywood A-listers of the day were immune. Husbands weren’t immune either, apparently. In at least one known instance, she caught one of her many (soon to be ex-) husbands, Rushdy Abaza, with another woman. Off came Taheyya’s shoe as she then began to teach the other woman a lesson before proceeding to obtain a divorce from Abaza and move on to the next man.

But despite her success, fame, and marriages to A-list celebrities and directors, her life was a hard one, and not exactly one to be recommended. She could never conceive children of her own (something that apparently saddened her greatly), but instead adopted a daughter. By all accounts she was well educated, proficient in French and English as well as her own native Arabic. She also had a kind heart, despite her fiery ways, always willing to open her doors to the poor and needy. As she began to age, however, she began to put on a lot of weight, becoming very heavy and, by some accounts, also very crude and vulgar, no longer being the suave seductress that she once was. Later pictures and films that she played in showed her to be very heavy, and the final divorce that she underwent took a huge financial and emotional toll on her, leaving her to seek out whatever menial roles she could find for herself in an attempt to rebuild her life. Towards the end of her life in an interview she was asked by members of the press, “How many husbands?” to which she then replied “Five right ones. I never was happy. My work always came first. For this, they run away. I took two months vacation every year, the rest I worked.”

At the end, in her final years, she returned fully to her Muslim faith, donning the veil before passing away at the age of 80(?) from a heart attack in a Cairo hospital.

Taheyya:

 

More about Taheyya:
http://thebestofhabibi.com/vol-13-no-3-summer-1994/tahia-carioca-and-samia-gamal/
http://thebestofhabibi.com/vol-17-no-4-dec-1999/tahia-talks/
http://thebestofhabibi.com/vol-17-no-4-dec-1999/farewell-to-tahia/
https://raseef22.com/en/culture/2016/10/04/amazing-life-legendary-taheyya-kariokka-dancer-actress-rebel/
http://www.hossamramzy.com/articles/the-stars-of-egypt/taheyya-karioka/
http://www.gildedserpent.com/art43/sausanTK.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/22/arts/tahia-carioca-79-dies-a-renowned-belly-dancer.html

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“Can’t Hold Us Down”

The Christina Aguilera video below is the stuff I grew up on. Of course, I never had a mother or mother-figure to tell me what exactly was wrong with this video and that those “double standards” actually served a purpose. I remember me and my husband talking once and we were talking about how neither of us had ever even heard the word “illegitimate” growing up. We never even knew what it meant. The only thing I ever heard from my mother growing up was the importance of birth control and that I needed college and a good career and not to have babies until I had finished college and was “ready” or “in a serious relationship” or something. I was never quite clear on when exactly it was OK to have sex or when babies should ideally come along (or if they were ever even supposed to).

This song actually strikes right at the heart of patriarchy, but none of us girls belting out the lyrics to the song could have possibly known that when we were growing up or understand the significance of it. It’s very confusing when you’re told on the one hand to express yourself sexually and do what you want yet on the other hand when the consequences of sex (i.e., babies) inevitably follow all of a sudden you’ve done something wrong and nobody can quite understand “how this could have happened” and how things became so messed up. On the one hand young women and girls are sexualized by the media and taught free sex is OK yet on the other hand she’s done something wrong by actually following what the media teaches (and nobody ever teaches her how she should act as the media, the Hollywood stars and her peers are her primary- and sometimes only- teachers). That should probably be termed the real double standard; the double standard in expectations as if actions have no consequences in life. Older women would rather be hostile to the younger women rather than teach them the right way to behave and be loved and happy in life and the men generally stay silent on the issue.

After being taken care of and provided for by a man for so long it was a bit unnerving to see this video after so many years and see how both the men and the women were up in each other’s faces and looked as if they might even physically attack each other at any moment. Also interesting (and I’m sure completely insignificant) is that the video appears to be set in a dirty poverty-stricken ghetto neighborhood. A woman is even carrying around a young child at the end of the video. (The significance of that, I’m sure, is anyone’s guess. Maybe her baby will grow up to be a good feminist man who follows orders).

“Sisterhood” of course is promoted in the song and video. The women appear to be just as immature as the boy-men in the video whom they are criticizing. The in-your-face sexual perversion in the video is crude and uncomfortable. The video is a wonderful display of the lawlessness, perversion, poverty and antagonism between the sexes that feminism and sexual promiscuity creates. If he attacks you, attack him back girl…We got your back…

No, the males shown in the video and described by the song are not men- and they never will be so long as the girls are sexually free.

Oh Yeah, You’re Bad 

I’ve seen often of men in MRA circles thinking themselves so high and mighty and going to extraordinary lengths to find any area where they can put down women or claim themselves to be superior in some way. There seems to be this innate jealousy among them that women have the upper hand in sexual matters. But they just love to expound on the theory that it won’t last forever, that women are only attractive for a very short amount of time and then are nothing more than old hags who are “on the shelf” and forever forgotten about while they, the almighty male creatures that they are, continuing being hot stuff for the rest of their entire lives. 

They seem to think that women (young, hot women) are still going to be chasing after them even when they are senior citizens. I’ve also seen a lot of complaints that older and middle aged  men who do online dating will put down that they are willing to date a woman who is even as young as eighteen years old (even though women rarely are willing to date a man so much younger). I’ve seen a lot of young women complaining about this as well, exasperated that these men think so highly of themselves to really think young women of that age are going to all flock around them or even be interested at all. 

The one thing that we hear all the time (now that women are putting careers before marriage and children) is that female fertility will hit its peak early on and that youth is important for women who want to have families. We also hear that women having babies when they are older can put their offspring’s health in jeopardy. While all of this is true, the one thing that nobody ever focuses on is that men, even though they don’t go through a kind of menopause where their fertility officially ends, become less fertile as they age too. Actually, male fertility starts to decline around the same time female fertility does. Although most men can still father children throughout their entire lifespans, their ability to do so lessens as they age and men take just as much a risk as women do that their offspring will be unhealthy if they father children at middle age or later. This isn’t to say that men or women can’t procreate healthy children later in life (after all, my mother had two healthy children in her forties without any problems) but is just simply to say that youth is important for both males and females who want to have families, not just for women. If, evolutionary speaking, men would be attracted to younger women because they could bear children, then would not too women be sexually attracted to younger men who would be in peak physical shape and also be able to father healthy offspring? 

Of course, part of a man’s attractiveness is what he accomplishes in life. A younger woman might be attracted to a man who has status and who she perceives to be an authority figure. It’s not really all that unusual but unless the guy’s extremely rich it’s unrealistic to think that hot twenty-something year old females are going to flock around him even when he’s a senior citizen. Contrary to the narcissistic beliefs of many men in the “manosphere,” men do have a “shelf life.” Let’s get real, no woman wants to date her grandpa. Unless the guy’s Hugh Hefner (and even he’s not so virile anymore), it’s unrealistic to think he’s really going to still “have it” when he’s a senior citizen and his b*@ls are sagging to the ground. There have been a lot of older men (like kings and other powerful men) with younger women (sometimes a lot of younger women) throughout history but these women often didn’t have any choice in the matter or, once again, were with the man because of the extraordinary riches and influence he had. Once again, this simply doesn’t describe your average Joe out there in the dating/marriage market.

The way I see it is that women are instantly attractive when they reach physical maturity. A woman doesn’t have to accomplish anything to be attractive to men. She can offer a man her body and promise to have his children. She can offer herself to a man. A man, however, can’t just walk up to a woman and go “here I am baby, what you see is what you get!” Oh please.  Men have to achieve status in life to up their value in the dating and marriage market. Generally I think it takes men about a decade longer to really up their market value but men probably have another decade longer than women of being more attractive. But that attractiveness will decrease with time and men delude themselves if they really think otherwise. Besides, most couples are around the same age and it’s generally the exception to find older men with much younger women and older women with much younger men. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen or that it can’t last, but simply that it isn’t the norm. 

Another issue is older women in the media. It’s true that older women are not quite as represented in movies and television as older men, but let’s examine the facts of life here. Most movies and shows, unless they are strictly romance, have a male lead (and where there is an exception to this I’ve found that older women are just as represented as younger women). I’ve also seen that a lot of shows and movies tend to cater to the younger generation, which means younger male and female leads .That’s just how it goes. Most men don’t want entertainment in the way of movies, television or music that is female dominated. Women routinely will listen to music sung by men or watch shows dominated by male actors (in fact sometimes they prefer it) but most men won’t. Look at any man’s iPod and, unless the guy’s a complete fruitcake, you probably won’t find a lot of songs sung by women. You might find one or two, but for the most part men like listening to music sung by men; they like movies and shows with men doing masculine things. I guess that’s because men need to have an area of life that is all theirs, that women are mostly excluded from. 

Nothing lasts forever. All things fade away in time, and a man’s virility is no exception. There are some men who are still attractive even as senior citizens, but then again there are some women that are too. A young woman might feel an attractiveness to an older man because she perceives him as a father figure, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she wants to date him. 

Swiss Family Robinson

The other day me and my husband were looking for something to watch and while he was pointing out one movie I saw down below a movie I haven’t seen for a very long time, Swiss Family Robinson. It is an old Disney movie and one I remember watching in my childhood. It is about a family (father, mother and their three sons) who become shipwrecked close to an uninhabited island. The captain and crew have apparently up and abandoned the ship, leaving the family trapped inside. Since the ship was abandoned they now have legal claim upon it and upon reaching the nearby island safely the father and two oldest sons go back to the ship to start bringing its contents on shore and use the materials they find to build a treehouse and other things that the family needs.

The movie has always been kind of a fantasy to me. I have always had vivid memories of the movie but had kind of forgotten about it over the years and I was very happy to see the movie again. It’s a movie that children can enjoy, as there is nothing bad in the movie and children undoubtedly would like all of the animals in the movie but there is also a lot of action, adventure and romance making it a good movie for adults to watch as well.

It’s kind of interesting how this movie has stuck with me over the years. It seems as much a fantasy to me now as it did when I was a child, only in a different way that I couldn’t really perceive as a child. What really stands out for me about the movie is how old-fashioned the movie is. From the very beginning of the movie it is the father and the oldest sons who are responsible for getting the family to shore safely. The oldest two sons have a very strict sense of duty to protect their mother and the youngest son (who looks barely older than maybe ten years old and is not really old enough to do the work the men do yet or make any big decisions). It is the father and oldest two sons that go back to the ship to salvage its contents and it is the father and oldest sons who build the tree house and do all the work Western society has always traditionally assigned to men. As well the father and oldest son always carry the guns to protect the family.

There is a clear hierarchy, which is also clearly stated in the movie, in which the oldest son takes charge if something happens to the father and then it goes down the line to the next son and so on. None of the men in the movie ever talk down about women. They never push any woman around nor treat any woman in a disrespectful way in the slightest. The mother’s position in the family is clearly one of dependence upon her husband and sons but she holds a high status in the family. Her opinions matter and she does have authority within the family. Nobody challenges her nor overrules her when she states that she does not want her youngest son up in the treehouse until it is finished and safe. She and her youngest son stay on the ground while the men are building the house. It is also the mother who ultimately decides that it is time to go ahead and let the two oldest sons travel around the island to see what they can discover and see if they can possibly find help. At every step of the way the mother’s opinion matters and is highly valued.

Later in the movie the two sons set out to sail around the island. They eventually run into the pirates from earlier on in the movie. Their boat gets wrecked and they help to free two captives of the pirates. They are only able to free the youngest of the two captains, who they believe to be a young boy. They lose the pirates and have to make it back to their home on foot. On the way, however, they discover that the captive they freed is actually a girl. Her grandfather (the other captive they didn’t free as he insisted there was no time to free him and to leave him there as he was worth ransom anyways and they wouldn’t touch him) had made her cut her hair and disguise herself as a boy so the pirates wouldn’t know she was a girl. From then on this changes things a lot. The boys insist that if she would have just said she was a girl they would have made things easier on her, which they now do.

The movie is just really old-fashioned all the way through. Traditional gender roles are promoted in the movie. Neither of the two women ever express any desire to do any of the things the men do. The men never ask for assistance from the women in any of their masculine tasks. You don’t ever see the women fighting men twice their size or chopping up wood or doing any of the things the mainstream media today shows women doing. Roberta (the girl they rescued) actually cried when the boys discovered she was a girl because she did not want to have short hair or dress like a boy. The boys take care of her and never act indecent towards her or try to push her to “man up” and get over her circumstances or fight like one of the boys. They even rescue a zebra so that she won’t have to walk all the way back as she was very tired and was having a hard time keeping up. When they make it back to their treehouse Roberta is overjoyed at getting to finally wear a pretty dress again.

There is also some fighting between the oldest two boys over leadership, and predictably, over the girl too, in which the oldest son always wins. Roberta expresses her desire to be back in Europe but in the end she stays on the island and plans to marry Fritz, the oldest son. The boys fend off snakes (Fritz actually wrestles with one) and wild animals on the journey back to the treehouse. Both Roberta and Ernst (the second oldest son after Fritz) actually challenge Fritz’s leadership at one point but end up following him anyways. Although the two sons fight to win Roberta’s affections, Fritz always comes out ahead. Ernst is more studious and Fritz shows more traditional masculinity and it is Fritz that Roberta ends up with, in contrast to today’s romance movies where the girl always falls for the more “thoughtful” or “emotional” type of guy.

This movie is just a rare find. It was just wonderful and traditional all the way through; a very innocent and happy movie. I don’t know that I can recall very many movies at all like this one that was just wonderful in every way or that was so old-fashioned. Even most movies and novels set in the past still find a way to write in feminist heroines and modern-day values. But there was none of that in this movie and I guess that’s why it’s stuck with me so much over the years and why I still love it so much to this day. It’s just something to forever dream and fantasize about.

**Update: The movie I’m referring to is the original Disney movie made in 1960

Guns- A Man’s Best Friend?

I was watching this episode called The Anvil Chorus of the 1950s-1960s TV show, The Rifleman, starring Chuck Connors, the other day. The marshal of the town, Micah, goes out of town and the local blacksmith, Nils, temporarily takes over as deputy marshal for a couple of days. He decides to make the town a “peace-loving” town and institutes a policy that nobody can carry guns in the town. It sounds all good and reasonable (no guns= no violence= we all just get along and live peacefully and there’s no need to ever fight) until three wanted murderers, escaped from prison, show up in town. They see that all of the men in the town are unarmed and realize that it presents them the perfect opportunity to cause mischief. In the end Nils ends up needing Lucas’ help as Lucas refused to give up his gun and instead just stayed away from town. Nils admits that the murderers probably wouldn’t have ever tried anything if the people had been armed and could defend themselves.

I haven’t seen the whole series of this show but instead have just seen a few episodes but there was another politically incorrect episode that I saw as well where Lucas taught his son Mark after an accident that guns themselves are neither bad nor good but instead can be used for both good or bad, depending on the intentions of the person using them. After all, take the guns away from decent law-abiding citizens and criminals, already intent on breaking the law, will still have guns and use them to harm others and take away the life, liberty and property of others.

It would have been nicer in a lot of ways to live in those days where men were actually men and women were actually women. Men actually had to be real men then and were expected to be the protectors and providers and they definitely sacrificed a lot and worked hard to fulfill those roles too. It was inconceivable that a woman would be called upon when the local law enforcement was forming a posse to hunt down criminals and it was also inconceivable that a woman should act as a law enforcement officer, be drafted into the military or that a man shouldn’t have the right to head the household and protect it. The gun in reality is a symbol of masculinity. In those days women definitely needed the protection of men but it is a mistake to think that women no longer do, as the world is no less dangerous now than it ever was.

Anyways, I just thought it was thought-provoking. It’s definitely not the kind of thing you see these days. I like watching older TV shows as they are often a big improvement over whatever you see on TV these days, not always though.

Related:

Can Violence Solve Anything?