On male public intellectuals of the Twitter age and gender

Woman: A man's "body" of knowledge?

We can trust the public intellectual – the voice of the zeitgeist, so to speak – to be clever, witty, sometimes rather sexy (because they’re clever and witty), and male.

Though it seems that lately being male is a crippling impediment to being the voice of the zeitgeist. Recently, Stephen Fry caused the chattering classes to gasp in shock when he mused rather publicly that women don’t enjoy sex very much. Trust an openly gay man to be the expert in female sexuality. But why the shock? Why did planet intelligentsia brake to a screeching halt on its axis?

Well, to begin with, Stephen Fry is royally endorsed as a kind of British national treasure. He is the repository of wit, middle-class bourgeois ideals, and unthreatening intellect. Therefore, everything that passes through his venerated lips is certified to be right and wonderful of the pristine order. But why did he think he could get away with talking about something he clearly has no personal engagement with?

Maybe it’s because he’s rather unofficially a public intellectual, and as a public intellectual he shares his sagely views on worldly issues based on his celebrated intellectual capacity, even when they’re stretched beyond his experiential limit. Public intellectualism is mansplaining par excellence. Liberal and enlightened male thoughts have the passport of privilege not to be examined first for sexism and misogyny. It’s only when they’ve made an ignorant gaffe that they’re called out and reprimanded with a velveted slap on the wrist.

This brings me to discuss Farish Noor’s recent talk on the changing concepts of modesty in Southeast Asia last October at the Annexe Gallery in Kuala Lumpur and his status as Malaysia’s “sexiest” public intellectual. Although I was sad to have missed out on what is a typically thought-provoking Farish Noor lecture, my heart sank to new uncharted depths when I found out that the lecture included a fashion show with “babes in Peranakan corsets”. This is particularly sexist and disgraceful for a cerebral warrior like Farish Noor. To his credit, however, Farish Noor has successfully made public lectures accessible and trendy. His well-received critiques on religion and politics traverse effortlessly across the Facebook universe making him an intellectual star of the social network age.

But by sexing-up critical thought for the Malaysian public, women become objectified as bodies to gaped at as they parade around in tight-fitting costumes. Women’s bodies become the vehicle through which Farish furthers what I believe are his political claims against hegemonic notions of modesty. The lecture on modesty thus becomes an exercise in irony and intellectual farce, as it appeases the unchallenged male gaze that underpins the very notion of modesty.

Should the sexist failings of public intellectuals come to anyone’s surprise at all? Certainly not. Public intellectualism is a male preserve disguised as a form of cerebral enjoyment for all. The views of public thought-artists like Stephen Fry and Farish Noor should not be seen as entirely objective or supremely above the biases of their androcentric perspective. But problems contravening their “rationality” arise when they inadvertently claim expertise in women’s experiences and gender.

By Angry Malay Woman

I like plants.


  1. Dear Alicia,

    You made good points and I, someone who identifies as a feminist, agree with them but could not disagree with your use of Farish Noor’s lecture to illustrate those points.

    It’s not fair for you to judge so harshly a lecture you did not attend.

    First of all, the “fashion show” was a visual presentation to that lecture. Several volunteers “modelled” Peranakan “corsets” – the kemben – which is a torso wrap of unstitched sarong fabric worn under the kebaya. Some of the fabrics were from his family’s archives/collection.

    Secondly, the lecture highlighted how society was not always afraid of active female sexual agency. Patriarchal society fashioned modesty to control their women. It also pointed out that our ancestors in South East Asia, once had a more healthy outlook on sexuality, rather than considering it a taboo subject and pushing all issues related to it under the carpet in denial.

    The talk was organised as a part of Seksualiti Merdeka – Malaysia’s annual sexuality rights festival. It does some serious advocacy and awareness raising; the latter requiring reach, and not just preaching to the converted. With that in mind, the fact that it is a festival that firmly has it’s tongue in cheek at times, and having attended the lecture and seeing everything in context, I a feminist take no offence to the “sexiest historian” and “babes in Peranakan corsets”
    Not everything has to be an issue.

  2. Dear Jo-Lene,

    Thanks your comments. I absolutely appreciate your thoughts. Perhaps it was unfair to make a comment on something I did not attend. But it wasn’t a review of a lecture that I had made, I was not commenting on the content of the programme because I wasn’t there. Rather I was commenting on the form of the lecture which included a fashion show with women in kemban, and the form of the lecture that was about female modesty.

    Farish Noor had presented a thesis that the past seemed a lot more relaxed with female sensuality and the female form. While there may have been a greater level of female sexual agency in the past, women were not entirely liberated. Women have always been prized and measured for their worth in terms of how they looked, whether they were virgins, and whether they were sexually available (i.e. not married), or at least women from a specific class were. This is likely to have been no different in the specific past pointed out in the lecture, and I’m sure Farish Noor can tell you that.

    I do not object to his lecture being about female modesty because that is an important topic to problematise, but I object to the lecture being advertised as a lecture-cum fashion show with “babes” parading in kain kemban. I object to the latter because not only it is as if history is mythologised as more liberal in terms of female sexual agency, but it is history re-told and dressed up as eye candy for the heterosexual male gaze – this I object as a feminist.

    And no, I did not critique in any way or form Seksualiti Merdeka’s fine efforts. But whether this lecture will reflect badly on Seksualiti Merdeka’s ethos is perhaps disputable. I have attended their events and I applaud their activism, although I’m not sure if they’re trying to reach out to all Malaysians of various background outside the upper/middle-class, young or professionally established, largely highly and overseas educated class. But that’s outside the remit of this post.

    Everything has to be an issue if it is sexist or wrong. Just because something is for a good cause, the means to its ends may be sexist, homophobic, racist, or able-ist and that still makes it wrong. The same goes for breast cancer awareness and PETA campaigns – the cause/ends is good, but the means is sexist. The same goes for Farish Noor’s lecture.

  3. “Not everything has to be an issue.”

    Put that way, nothing has to be an issue.

    Objecting to the way a lecture is advertised is not problematic. In fact, framing is extremely important. Perhaps Farish Noor is not to blame in this scenario, but the people who created the advertising for the lecture.

    I understand the need for a populist approach in bringing in the public to such a lecture; I’m not sure we have to do that by playing to common tropes that objectify. That is a joke best reserved for those already in the know.

    Nothing and no one is sacred.

  4. Jha,

    You’ve made me realise something. Should Farish Noor be guilty of sexism simply by association here? If we take Jo-Lene’s comment into consideration, my critique of Farish is apparently a critique of the organisers of his event. The two are not mutually exclusive of the larger aims of the lecture. If we were to critique the advertisers i.e. Annexe Gallery for their sexism, is Farish part of that too? Silly question, but just wondering……

    1. To be honest, I don’t think it would be fair to Farish Noor to say he’s guilty of sexism in this instance if he genuinely did not know, or if he would have had a problem with, how his talk was advertised. So in this instance, we would need more information. Given my experiences, though (and not with him specifically, but with men in general) I wouldn’t be too optimistic.

      This, of course, doesn’t make him immune to criticism.

  5. Hey feminist Jo-Lene, come join Alicia & Co at our FB group for Malaysian feminists – the link of which you can click on my name. That’s where we feminists lurk and chat, it’s like a virtual mamak stall in there!

  6. Framing or otherwise,context is important. Witnessing first hand is important. I still find it wiser to be in attendance for something I am going to talk about (or critique). Substance is crucial.
    Avoid being coffee shop feminists. No one can take it seriously when it’s an opinion based on ‘framing’. And the ‘Perhaps it was unfair to make a comment on something I did not attend.’ is just bad form. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Anything in between is sheer pretense.
    And brushing off the opinions of someone who attended and presented facts to you is simply self-indulgent and, not particularly credible.

    Also, I’m sure a lot of work and thought goes into Seksualiti Merdeka. Sure it’s not perfect, but its doing more than most self-proclaimed feminists (at least the pioneers burned their bras) and activists are. Activism is good. Feminism is good. Any-ism which works to improve life is good.
    But I’ve seen and heard so many snippy activists who do absolutely nothing but sit around and self-righteously criticize others.
    As for the issue at hand, does this (if really Farish Noor has influenced or encouraged any sexism) really need a voice? I don’t hear many feminist voices when the government ignored the please of the Penan women and female children being raped. Or is that not cool enough a topic? A little too low-brow I reckon.

    1. MTwain,

      I have conceded to the fact that not attending the lecture may weaken my arguments somewhat. But you have to allow the fact that even perception and persuasion based on advertising can be contextualised and taken seriously. For example, I have chosen not to attend a ‘reclaim the night’ march because it was advertised as an event for cis-women. I’m not sure whether there’s anything “in between” about one’s rejection to that based on how it is advertised. I have also been extra careful to not write Farish Noor’s lecture as a kind of review, but what I can definitely comment is the inclusion of the fashion show that exhibits women in skimpy clothing. And the fact that it happened matters a great deal. There is nothing grey or “in between” about my objections to that as a feminist. The parading of women as a matter of sexing-up the lecture-cum history lesson is as plain as day.

      And as for coffee shop feministing. Well, all I can say that I wish I can be everywhere when something important for feminists to take notice and report about it. But I can’t. And that probably has something to do with not many Malaysian feminist writers out there who are taking on more “serious” issues.

      Yes, there are clearly very many important issues and obvious injustices for activists to write about, and I am sad that activists are (probably?) not doing a good enough work of acting on their activism. But my line of writing and research as a feminist academic is concerned with the more insidious forms of sexism that people take for granted because people consider them not “serious enough”. And I wish I could represent every other feminist writers who should be writing more important, “low-brow” topics, but I cannot in every instance.

      I still respect your suggestion on writing more pressing and certainly more obvious matters related to women’s issues, but you have to realise that feminist concerns are multidimensional and not necessarily light weight.

    2. …. Context is part of framing though.

      I’m sure a lot of work goes into Seksualiti Merdeka. Does that mean they should be immune from criticism?

      Does sexism against women need a voice in general? Yes.

      Right is right and wrong is wrong. Anything in between is sheer pretense.

      This is a dangerous tack to take. Context, as you said, is extremely important. There is a reason why whole fields of ethics are developed, as opposed to relying on moral absolutes.

    1. Pang,

      Thanks for the publicity! Very much appreciated. Now people will be thinking, “Who the heck is this Alicia?? She’s attacked our gods!”. haha, kidding.

      But I can’t I find my blog posted on your profile. Maybe it has something to do with us not being FB buddies.

      1. You are right. My apologies. I didn’t realise I still had the default FB settings on privacy. I thought I was as shamelessly public and exhibitionist as I could possibly get. I have since a few minutes ago liberated my wall just for you. I warn you, some of the comments are not pretty. 🙂

  7. I feel compelled to step up to the plate for Mr Fry, at the very least.

    Your link between Stephen Fry and Farish Noor is quite weak. Am pretty sure that anywhere in the 12 universes – Stephen Fry is most categorically NOT a public intellectual. When did showbiz comedians with a healthy sense of wit and worldview qualify?

    Richard Dawkins yes, Stephen Fry no.

    Conversely, Farish Noor is also no comedian (unless you count unintentionally). As an academician though, he must be held to those standards.

    Mr Fry made some silly comments for laughs and kena “goreng” for it. But that’s his job, to entertain.

    I really worry for anyone who calls Stephen Fry a “thought artist” with a straight face.

    But then again, maybe there’s food for thought. Do feminists have a sense of humour?.

    1. Geord,

      Thanks for your comment. I think we might end up disputing the nature of categories and what would officially be an intellectually acceptable definition of “public intellectual” until the cows come home. But my two cents on how the two are linked is not based on rigorous and highly methodical approaches to “what is a public intellectual?” and “do they belong in the same kettle of fish?”. Though I sincerely wish I had the time.

      What is important to me is the way how certain important public figures are taken more seriously for their words and thoughts than others. Words and thoughts, mind you, and not necessarily scientific training or a PhD.

      Yes, Stephen Fry is a comedian, but not in the same ranks as Benny Hill, Peter Kay or Afdlin Shauki. The fact that he doesn’t just do stand-up or ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ anymore and is seen making keynote lectures and discussing credibly on the state of Catholicism in Britain with Christopher Hitchens seems to suggest something. Hint: he’s not just a clown.

      And to answer your question: “Do feminists have a sense of humour?”.

      My answer: Yes, we do. We find the world a very funny place.

    2. Are you certain Mr. Fry is NOT a public intellectual? He uses his platform to engage in social issues (mental health, queer rights) and has proven on more than one occasion he has a towering intellectual capacity which he does lend to social justice on a public level. Yes, he’s funny; yes, he’s witty; yes, he’s a comedian. That doesn’t mean he cannot fill the role of public intellectual.

      I like Mr. Fry myself, because of his passion (and his gaffe was drawn from old material). I’m sorely disappointed with his non-pology. One does not have to cancel out the other.

      Do feminists have a sense of humour?.

      Oh please, how old is that canard?

      “Have a wheel. I just invented it.”

      1. @Jha
        1) Being in the public and being an entertainer with a few smart things to say does NOT a public intellectual make. Stephen Fry is a showman.

        Gee, I don’t see him (or any other entertainer with a few smart things to say) anywhere on this list along with the esteemed ranks of Noam Chomsky – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_100_Public_Intellectuals_Poll

        Well, I guess we could then go back to inventing our own definitions to draw weak parallels to weaker points.

        2) A reason as to why questioning feminists’ sense of humour is the old mainstay? Merely take a look at this article and the resulting comments.

        3) Extrapolating from point 1) & 2).
        I wasn’t going to comment to the Farish Noor issue, but you’ve drawn me out 🙂

        Just love how it went from bashing Farish Noor to bashing said event and organisers (both here and on Pang’s FB). Looks like Pang’s attempt to qualify and pre-empt Seksualiti Merdeka as irreverent fell on deaf ears. As if the cross-dressing and technicolour wigs weren’t clue enough.

        I don’t think you’re doing your cause any favours by going from knee-jerk to full-body cast.

        4) PS Alicia – I hope you’re enjoying all the traffic this post has been drawing 🙂

    1. Kartina,

      Whose passive-aggresive smiley? Pang’s? He’s the only one who’s been smiling all along. Perhaps he’s relishing my crucifixion on his FB page.

  8. I dont feel it was sexist. He was displaying the fashion which he was very passionate about – he only spoke about the clothes. He needed skinny models because of the size of the corsets, and he wasnt commenting that this was good or bad, just that this was.

    1. Veena,

      Sexism can come in all forms. Sophisticated sexism is incredibly subtle and does not advertise itself as such. Beauty contests never ever present themselves as bad or sexist, but it only takes the discerning public to realise that. When women are exhibited for a fashion show or beauty pagaent, they are used for their bodies to help make a point, whether it’s to show that women’s worth are measured for their looks or to show how sexy women in the past were.

      If you can tell me if the models had other intellectual roles to play in the lecture i.e. participated in a debate with Farish Noor, then I may need to reassess the sexism of his lecture. But at the moment I don’t think I’ve said anything to invalidate my points.

  9. Pang,

    I still can’t see anything. Yes, I am aware that I am slaughtered alive by Annexe Gallery and Farish Noor groupies.

    So I’ve done something I don’t always do i.e. requested to be your Facebook friend.

    1. I think it is fair to acknowledge that on my thread alone quite a number of them seem to either support your points or were against those who reacted against you. So not everyone agreed with each other — it is a rather diverse discourse.

      It is not fair to say however that whoever who “slaughtered” you were from Annexe Gallery or were Farish Noor groupies. By doing that, you dissmiss the validity of their points for a bias that you can only assume.

      I must say I found it rather lazy on your part not to first investigate the outcome of the actual presentation before critiquing it.

      1. She wasn’t criticizing the outcome. She didn’t say something to the effect of, “Farish Noor gave a sexist lecture” – she merely said “Farish Noor being called the sexiest historian and giving a lecture accompanied with women referred to as ‘babes’ is problematic.”

  10. My point is that she SHOULD have criticised the outcome too as they would have played a role in substantiating her view of the sexist nature of it all. She is criticising the “form” of the lecture, which included a fashion show, billed as “babes in peranakan corsets”. The critique then would need to include if said form did transpire as was advertised or if it took place in a manner that might have subverted conventional notions of a fashion show.

    She said: “If you can tell me if the models had other intellectual roles to play in the lecture i.e. participated in a debate with Farish Noor, then I may need to reassess the sexism of his lecture.”

    Why did she need to reassess it after roundly calling someone “disgraceful”? Why couldn’t she find out first that yes Farish asked the models what they thought of what they were wearing (they didn’t all like it), yes, the floor was invited to ask question to the models, and yes the models were rather covered up.

    1. Pang,

      I think I have every right to re-assess if I wanted to. But I would still find the format of the lecture a little suspect.

      And all this about what I SHOULD do… Sigh. whatever.

  11. Republishing my comment on Pang’s FB thread. Btw, where is this FB group on “Malaysian feminists”? Link please!

    Wow. What a thread. Thanks to Sharon & Sonia for slashing away much of the defensive-offensive ping pong strokes and bringing up (for me) the substance of the points raised that needed to be addressed. I am a feminist, and part of the SM planning committee (albeit not as actively as I’d have liked to be, but I’m very glad I managed to play a part). Funny, but in cool way that there is a need to locate oneself in this thread ey?

    I think that Alicia raised really good points that very rarely get raised – especially in activism such as SM which is trying to do the really tough thing of broadening the space for debate and activism on sexuality and sexual rights issues in the space that is Malaysia. We can’t brush away the power relations and differences between us by saying that we mean well, because our intentions are necessarily limited to what we know, and I don’t think any of us would dare to claim we know everything. And I hear what Alicia is saying about taking responsibilities over our own power and privilege carefully, especially if we clearly do intend to engage in activism, or transformation. I think this is so important it bears reminding over and over again. And if someone is able to cast a critical eye and say hang on, check what you’re doing here, there’s a problem with it because let me show you what it can mean based on my experience and what I know, it’s really our responsibility, duty even, to listen really carefully and reflect. Otherwise, we might risk repeating the same kind of discriminatory acts/attitude we are struggling against, albeit in different strokes or ways. It’s not about censorship, it’s about critique. And we fight really hard for the right and the freedom and the spaace to critique in Malaysia, kan?

    So saying that, I didn’t attend the lecture. Had I have read about the fashion show, I would have heard the same alarm bells ringing and stifled an internal sigh. But being one of the people invested in building SM from the very beginning, I would have also taken the extra step to find out, actually, what did take place, in what way was this subverted from objectification to speaking subjects, and how did it also directly really addressed this first, clear and obvious reading of re-objectification of female sexuality? Scopophilic pleasures, as Alfian said. A lot can be lost in copywriting. So Farish, I’d like to ask for your reflection on this. How do you think it did? And please don’t be patronising and ask someone else to be a feminist on your behalf because you have no time to read books. Tak baiklah. And kinda annoying too hey?

    I’m really happy that this discussion is taking place btw 🙂 Thanks for opening this up Alicia, Pang. It’s really great that there are so many passionately argued opinions about the subject of feminism and sexuality and activism in a Malaysian public. More!

  12. Yes, thanks to Pang, important issues concerning power, privilege, and ethics in the sexuality rights movement were raised to the attention of those present in the rather heated debate. Taking on Pang’s suggestion that the “outcome” of events, even this debate, should be taken into serious consideration, I hope this will in the end achieve in self-reflection and change in the right direction. Even a smidgen of change in attitudes and perspective is monumental in the long run. Malaysians in general have been known to have a short memory, so let’s hope something like this won’t be forgotten in the months and years to come. One of these days I’ll come and visit your visit your events and hopefully we won’t treat each other like strangers. So yeah, lots of hope going on here….

  13. There will always – always – be someone who pops up in discussions of this nature to ask the inevitable question, “Do feminists have a sense of humour?” I mean, I think asking that question just reveals your lack of brain and creativity. Seriously, please try to come up with a better insult; the effort will be appreciated by feminists sitting around with nothing to do. We’re all just dying for a good joke.

    @MTwain – so we can’t talk about the injustices of say, street sexual harassment in KL (relatively lightweight to you, no doubt), unless we’ve all marched in protest of the Penan rapes? What? No one picks and chooses their battles this way. There are plenty of folks who *do* activist and social work on these issues, and you could be applauding and publicising their efforts, yet you choose to saunter over to this blog to leave behind snarky comments. I think we need to move past these ridiculous binaries of “low brow vs. high brow” in relation to feminist activism and social work and academic discourse that attempts to study, analyse, and make sense of systemic inequality and oppression. All of this feeds back into each other – it’s pretty annoying when someone comes riding in on their pretty high-brow high horse accusing others of being elitist or fashionable when everyone, it seems to me, is just doing their bit by focusing on different aspects of what is the larger issue of feminism.

    I thoroughly appreciate most the *other* responses here to what I think was a brave post by Alicia. Rightly or wrongly, she did not attend the lecture before commenting on it, but I think the essence of the matter was to critique and bring to light the ways in which we’re all complicit in issues of power/privilege, even when we’re insanely-smart and articulate and Farish Noor. Credit to Farish for all the work he’s done in bringing to light interesting and varied aspects of Malaysia’s history, culture, and politics, and society, but that doesn’t mean he’s above-critique. I do also appreciate the way in which Jac has engaged with the substance of Alicia’s post, and I do agree with most of what she said in that comment.

    Also appreciated Pang’s comments, even if he did get a little feisty. I don’t suppose Pang is now interested in becoming Facebook friends with a whole bunch of humourless feminist bloggers? I clicked on the link he provided above to see the comments thread on his wall, but can’t seem to find it at all. Would love to read it to see what others (who attended) have to say. Also from Jac’s comment above it seems that Farish Noor has also responded – albeit in a flippant way that already makes my heart sink a little – but perhaps I misread that. I can’t be sure of this until I read that thread, which I can’t. Alas.

    1. Subashini,

      Yes, Farish did take part in the thread. But from the outset, he got the impression that he cannot respectfully write about women’s issues simply because he is a man. He was convinced that my article was an indirect call for censorship against him. And from there it went downhill. Unfortunately, I did not directly engage with his comments because I thought they were as flippant as some of the other attacks against my character, style of writing, and perhaps most hurtfully, my commitment to feminism. So I chose to engage critically with Pang instead, and although he was as you said “feisty”, he appeared genuinely interested in finding out why I wrote the article the way I did. The thread, if you could read it, is long (79 comments) and goes through phases which ends with Pang and myself declaring a truce.

      I was deeply disappointed too about Farish’s reactions. But then, a little might’ve been my fault for even daring to use the words “sexist” and “disgraceful” to critique such a respected academic like Farish. Because super-clever, liberal, and articulate men like him should not be, right? Like Stephen Fry and his comment on female sexuality, he did really not own up to something that may be problematic to women. Well, that’s kind of the point I wanted to make in my article above, and I’m really sad that it has somewhat fulfilled a prophecy.

  14. I find this a fascinating thread yet it gives me reason to fear the state of feminism in this country.

    Firstly, @MTwain Of course the pioneers could afford the time to burn their bra’s! They had exploited female slaves in the back rooms to make more for them! But to the slave women in the back room who struggles to make ends meet so that she can feed her family, does it make her any less of a feminist because she is not out there burning her only bra? My point is that there is no single definition of feminism. It might be a fight for equality but what type of equality it is would be different to each woman. And feminism is about speaking out, breaking the silence that has been wrapped around women. And once again, the means of doing so maybe different, by activism, academic or even blogging but the act of it still carries weight.

    But all that aside, the depth of content in alicia’s blog has remained, sadly undiscussed and I personally am tired of dealing with childish questions like ‘are feminist funny?’ , ( incidently no, the smoke from our burning bra’s makes it difficult to laugh)

    I think it’s time to engage more critically with the article ( taking a cue from the excellent response by jac)

    Alicia, firstly thank you for the article, I enjoyed it. It got me thinking and I was wondering, in your opinion, what would be an alternative method to this form of lecture? Because it is about clothing, would a mannequin have been more suitable? Or images? It begs the question of the signifying presence of the female
    To anyone who was present at the lecture: would it have made much of a difference if the clothes had been shown, via slideshow? Any thought?

    1. Sharenee,

      The alternative method – that’s an excellent question and if anything a killer gambit to this discussion. There are many things that add up to the lecture that I feel uncomfortable with. It’s not just a fashion show that I object. I don’t normally object to a typical fashion show per se. But when it’s advertised as a fashion show with “babes in Peranakan corsets” in a politically and intellectually meaningful lecture about female modesty, the power of the intended aim of presenting a thesis female modesty and sexuality from a bygone era from an enlightening perspective diminishes a little because it is quite simply, and perhaps disrespectfully, tarted-up.

      I welcome the idea of a slide-show, with real images of the women who actually wore them. The image establishes the context that the models may not be able to achieve just by walking around in the clothes.

      Interestingly, the image used to advertise the event – the lady in the sarong wrapped around her body is very likely to be an Orientalist relic – a postcard bought by specifically European men in the colonial frontier to send to home images of colonial subjects – usually women in very little clothing or next to nude. The reasons why the postcards were made and why men bought them I’m sure are many, but they’re not wholesome. If Farish Noor acknowledges this, I don’t think we’d have a problem.

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