Blog Post 9: Romani Proverb Poetry

The proverbs of a culture are often a great way to gain insight on a foreign culture as they can usual reveal part of the collective conscious of a group and open your eyes to their beliefs and morality. Romani proverbs are very metaphoric and allegorical in that they are never directly talking about what is being indirectly implied. Many Romani proverbs have to do with poverty or being in bad situations, most likely due to the poor hand they have been dealt by the predominant cultures in the areas they have immigrated to. However these are often related to striving to overcome these problems for example: “A righteous man will profit even in a poor town.” This profit is stating that even in bad conditions out of one’s control, a good man can prosper and survive. Also, “A dog that wanders will find a bone.” Meaning that those who put effort into bettering their situation, will reap what they sow.

I have chosen to write my poem about the Romani proverb, “A dog that wanders will find a bone.” This proverb reflects the idea that those who work hard will be rewarded. This saying shows the strength of spirit in the many Romani people today who still fight for equality and for the survival of their culture in spite of the fact that they have been systemically put at a disadvantage for a millennia. The proverb also strikes a personal note with me. In the past several months of taking college classes and working for a couple of years prior, I have come to the realization that the idea of “Good things come to those who wait” is completely untrue. The dogs that wander truly are the ones who find the bone.

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Blog 6: “Gypsy Mafia” and the “Tough Guise”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v46T1241Gpk

In this clip from the movie Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Gypsy characters play a very stereotypical role as thieves. Before getting off the carriage, Holmes says to Watson “Brace yourself, we’re about to violated.” Once out of the carriage, the two of them are immediately being swarmed by gypsies, literally having the clothes taken off of their backs, and everything is stolen. The fact that Holmes says that they are about to be violated is actually pretty racist. Saying this is almost the equivalent of saying that when walking through a group of Mexican people one can expect to be showered in tacos and burritos, which is absolutely absurd. While stealing everything from Watson and Holmes, they are also being very misleading about the location of “Madame Simza”. When asked about her, they point at a goose and say “This is Simza”. Obviously, that is not Simza, so Watson asks again and the man replies, “I am Simza.” The man in being very misleading and deceptive which falls in line with the gypsy trope. In this scene, the gypsies are necessarily gypsy, as they are just going by the stereotype that they are deceptive thieves. This is a very shallow portrayal of Romani people that I feel could be taken offensively.

When the gypsy man takes Watson’s scarf saying with a smile, “Nice scarf. I like.” Watson immediately responds by punching him in the face. As a man he is supposed to have a violent reaction instead of a calm approach, right? That is the way that plenty of movies show how men are supposed to act. Sure, the gypsy man had taken his property, but there were many other ways he could have dealt with the situation. This is an example of the “Tough Guise” that Katz talks about, how the media says that men are supposed to be tough, intimidating and violent. Although Katz published his documentary Tough Guise: Men, Violence, and the Crisis in Masculinity in 1999, there are still movies coming out a decade later portraying the same image of a violent man. 

Hancock, Ian . “RADOC.” RADOC. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014. <http://www.radoc.net/radoc.php?doc=art_f_bias_profiling&lang=en&articles=

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Going to Paris Scene HD.” YouTube. YouTube, 25 Apr. 2012. Web. 21 Feb. 2014. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v46T1241Gpk>.

Katz, Jackson. “Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity.”YouTube. YouTube, 4 Oct. 2006. Web. 21 Feb. 2014. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3exzMPT4nGI>.

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Blog 4: Tokenism, and The Smurfette Principle.

Token characters are those that are portrayed in often stereotypical roles. Examples of these roles are roles like the stereotypical “black guy” in movies or TV shows with predominantly white casts, or the portrayal of gypsies as thieves, witches, or scantily clad women. These characters fall under two categories: Necessarily Gypsy where their role is entirely based on their ethnicity and have almost no other character traits, and Incidentally Gypsy where a Romani character is portrayed in a legitimate role not fueled by stereotypes and racism. Unfortunately, the Necessarily Gypsy characters are much more common than the Incidentally Gypsy characters. If it were the other way around, perhaps movies starring gypsy characters would have much more depth, and in turn society as a whole would hopefully have a more reasonable opinion on the people as a whole.

The Smurfette principle is the idea that in many movies even today, there is an unproportional representation of men to women, even though there are the same amount of women as there are men in the world. Not only are women vastly outnumbered by men, the women are usually sexualized and have very minor or stereotypical roles. Many times when a female gypsy character is involved in a story or movie, they fit in line with this idea as they are often portrayed in a sexualized manner.

Gypsies are often portrayed in such a way in not only mainstream films for the general public, but also in children’s movies. A child is going through a process in life where they are taking in as much information as possible as their minds are being formed by their environment. Exposing children to racist stereotypes such as the Gypsy trope that is commonly portrayed in Western culture can be very harmful to the child’s developing psyche in that they will have ill informed opinions.

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Blog 3: Antigypsyism

Today there are 503 million people living in the European Union, 6 million of them being Romani. A sizable minority totaling to around %1 of the population who are only just now getting representation in the European Council. As many minorities have been, the Romani people have been persecuted by the majority by limiting their opportunities, and unfortunately much worse in many cases. However, even today, despite international efforts to eliminate racism and unfair discrimination, many Romani people throughout Europe are living in segregation and experience systemic racism. Schools in Slovakia are segregated, something that seems like it would only appear in a US history book.

 

If we look back in European History, we have can find an explanation as to why Romani people live in such conditions today. Romani people migrated from India to Europe hundreds of years ago and spread throughout the European continent, and many other regions of the world. The Europeans enslaved them, and those that they did not enslave, were forced to live in ghettos. Poverty struck especially hard in these ghettos which pushed many to a life of crime in order to feed themselves and their families. The oppressed Romani people were not able to assimilate because the reputation of the Roma had been wrongfully tainted by the actions of the few. Today in Europe they are still thought of as thieves and whores, and treat them as second class citizens. 

 

However, the Romani people have a new hope. Viviane Reding is a Commissioner in the European Union who is sympathetic towards the Romani people’s plight. Recently she has caught the French wrongfully deporting Romani people back to Bulgaria, and Romania “Where they came from.” Not only is this morally wrong to completely uproot the lives of French Romanis, it’s not even where they originated! 

 

Citations:

“Reding slams France for using Roma as election scapegoats.” EurActiv.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2014. <http://www.euractiv.com/elections/reding-slams-france-roma-electio-news-530711>.

“Roma: Demanding equality and human rights | Amnesty International.” Roma: Demanding equality and human rights | Amnesty International. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2014. <http://www.amnesty.org/en/roma>.

Hancock, Ian F.. We are the Romani people = Ame sam e Rromane dz̆ene. Paris, France: Centre de recherches tsiganes ;, 2002. Print.

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The Sexy Gypsy: Gypsy – Shakira

In this song released in 2009, Shakira shows the “sexy gypsy” stereotype clearly. The music video released for the song alongside it features her in clothing that leaves little to the imagination, staring slyly into the camera. The scene changes to her meeting a man and in just a few moments is already dancing for him, which brings him to a sweat just by watching. The image of a gypsy that she portrays is seductive, and has little respect for Romani culture.

The lyrics support this as well. “Take the top off, and who knows what you might find.” Shakira is saying that Gypsy women are tempresses, and don’t care if they share their bodies with anyone if it brings them closer to another person. Not only does she portray gypsy women as sexy, floozy people, but she also outright calls them thieves. “I might steal your clothes and wear them if they fit me.” She calls them thieves and untrustworthy people, “Never made agreements just like a gypsy.”

According to the song, a gypsy woman will seduce a man, sleep with him, and then steal the clothes off of his back because they are untrustworthy people. I’m sure that many Romani people would be very offended that this is how their culture is being shown to the world, and upset that it’s popularity signifies it’s perpetuity.

This portrayal of gypsy women is problematic because throughout history in Europe and many other regions of the world, Gypsy women have been mistreated sexually. In nineteenth century Europe, there were many slave holding estates that kept Romani people and forced them to do hard labor, while some of the fairer skinned Romani women were used for the “practice of offering female Romani slaves as unwilling sexual entertainment to visitors”. Shakira’s song “Gypsy” intentionally or unintentionally refers directly to the sexual enslavement of many Romani women.

Isabel, Shakira. Gypsy. Shakira. 2009. Metrolyrics.com. Metrolyrics, 2009. Web. 15 Jan. 2014. <http://www.metrolyrics.com/gypsy-lyrics-shakira.html&gt;

Hancock, Ian. “RADOC.” RADOC. RADOC, Apr. 2007. Web. 16 Jan. 2014. <http://www.radoc.net/radoc.php?doc=art_d_identity_sexualization&gt;.

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