Sunday, December 26, 2010

brief sunday afternoon links

Australia-specific racism + intersections:

Silence down the generations of Aboriginal hearing loss
The older children range from kindergarten to Year 7. Out of the 21 screened, six have discharging, infected ears - almost one third. Anne O'Leary calls this "pretty shocking", but she was expecting even higher rates.
Ian is one of the worst cases. Kate says GPs prescribe antibiotics, but the infection persists. She had an appointment with an Ear Nose and Throat specialist in Perth, but it was cancelled. The waiting list is three years long.

"How Ian's developed academically I don't know. I don't know how he can be achieving anything," says Anne O'Leary. The infection means he's had impaired hearing for half his life.
It probably won't surprise you but I'm wondering what impact this has on the ability of Indigenous kids to study, and I wonder how this contributes to stereotypes of the Indigenous community.

Indigenous ATM fee burden revealed
A new study has found some people in remote Indigenous communities are spending between 10 and 20 per cent of their income on ATM fees.
In some cases, the fees are much higher than they would be in the city, but there is no competition, so locals have no option but to pay.
Worker decapitated in chicken factory after being sucked into machine. I mentioned this in the other blog, because I want to make clear the intersections of this: there are so many things contributing to these crappy working conditions, including but in no way limited to the crap conditions for immigrants, and the high processing speeds due to the cheapness of animal meat. It's totally uncool.

Things on Gender:
Movember: Good cause, poor execution at the Scavenger, on the sexist, heteronormative and classist (amongst other things) elements behind initiatives like Movember.

Women, Warriors, and Gender Policing by N.K. Jemisin.

Other Stuff:

Where climate and conservation collide

And finally, Glass Icarus and I are proud to announce: Potluck: An Intersectional Food Carnival. More details at the link.

[book review] Cordelia Fine - Delusions of Gender

I zoomed through Delusions of Gender this week, in an attempt to get it read and reviewed before I go away. I found this book a really interesting read. Delusions of Gender is a take-down of evolutionary psychology theories, and does it in an easily readable, well-referenced way. This was a fast read, at just over 200 pages it didn't take too long, and it was engaging and interesting, and though I think it's a good read, ultimately there was a level of intersectionality that was missing for me that I think limits it.

The book opens with an analysis of priming which I liked. It looked at the way priming is used in general, and as a way to trigger a response against stereotype (for example, wording that is used to prime women to be more empathic is appropriately worded to have a similar impact on men). It looked at social expectations, and how those expectations create a motivation gap. From this, Fine explored the ways the ideas behind the motivation gap can create ability gaps.

I really enjoyed this stuff on priming. I've not done a huge amount of reading on this stuff, so it was interesting for me.

Although Fine is a psychologist, she did not have a lot of regard for psychologists, particularly highlighting the way psychologists 'enjoy' exploiting stereotype threats. There was a bit of an exploration of stereotype threats, and the importance of role models and a 'sense of belonging' in increasing or removing stereotype threats.

The book concludes with a section on gender neutral parenting and the socio-cultural situation. It is an excellent takedown of those parents who claim to have tried gender neutral parenting, but had to give up because their daughter clearly just naturally preferred pink or whatever. My horror at unconscious prenatal gendered expectations meant I spent most of this section leafing through with a pen to make copious notes. I was especially intrigued (though not surprised) by the analysis of terms used before conception depending on the sex of the child, even by parents who honestly believed they were being gender neutral.

There is a thread through of other themes. Mention is made several times of the publishing bias, of studies and things only being published when they demonstrate a gender difference; studies that show a difference are rarely published (this can hardly be a surprise). Fine appears to have a significant issue with a book, frequently cited in Delusions of Gender, The Female Brain by Louise Brizendine. At the point where Fine begins to tear apart this text, the tone also starts to become very sassy. Not distractingly so, but it becomes very sassy. Fine also implies that texts, studies and experts who make neuroscience claims generalise far too much than should be accepted.

Other reviews have mentioned the white heterosexuality of the book, and I definitely have to agree, and add in the ciscentricism. There were a few references to studies which focussed on or touched on racism, or moved away from a heterocentrist or ciscentric viewpoint, but for the most part they were just side mentions to support the overall argument. In addition, in the final third of the book, a stand up example of binary-gendered transphobic essentialism was held up as an exemplary effort at gender neutral parenting. There was also a bit of essentialist speciesism in the book.

In general, I enjoyed this book. There were some new-to-me things, and I see its value as a first year Gender Studies text, but there is nothing really world shattering in it, particularly in light of its failure at real, meaningful intersectionality.

Monday, November 29, 2010

intersectionality 101: addressing racism and classism in animal rights activism (a talk) + USA-centrism

About a month ago I went to the Gold Coast for a few days to present at the Australian Animal Activists Forum. I presented, with Katrina Fox on intersectionality in animal rights. It was mostly a primer, a basic introduction to intersectionality. Going in, I assumed that it would all or mostly be new concepts for people, which is why I made it really basic and really casual, lots of chatty examples and things.

My talk has been up at The Scavenger for a couple of weeks: Addressing racism and classism in animal rights activism.

Overall I was quite happy with it. It was very condensed, as we only had thirty minutes between the two of us, so there were lots of leaps and gaps and so much covered, but still, I understand it's the first time this sort of topic has been brought up at the forum, and lots of talking came out of it, and I hope that it's a conversation that can filter through AR in Australia and keep moving, because I find that intersectionality is severely lacking in Australian AR.

Since this is, specifically about AR in Australia, it has therefore been of ongoing frustration for me that little criticisms have been filtering through looking at it from a not-Australian perspective. Such as someone posted my article at the PPK forum, where mostly the comments were fine but one person was like "Why single out "WASPs" and use a sort of derogatory word at the same time?" which I was frustrated by, because I worked so hard to make this as Australian as possible and then there the USians go, making it all about them again.* After some poking from Miss T, I may have committed the cardinal sin of responding to criticisms on the internet. It's interesting, because the comments on the original Scavenger article, whilst frustrating, didn't provoke me to response because it was so clearly trolling; but in the instance of Isa on the PPK I wanted to prove a point. AR (and many social justice issues) are so incredibly USA-centric in online communities, it is so frustrating and I just want to carve out a space where talking about Australian AR issues is legitimate and doesn't have to be dragged back around to USA issues. I realise that in my talk I used very USA examples, but that's because, due to the constancy of the USA discource, those are the big examples. I would really like to change that.

*apparently WASP is a derogatory term in the USA! Who knew! In Australia it is just a descriptor, there is no emotional or derogatory loading. But I felt a little bit odd about defending my use of the term WASP, because I was reminded of the strident defence of blackface after the Hey Hey thing, how everyone was like IMPERIALIST AMERICANS. But actually I think this is quite different, unless someone wants to enlighten me about WASPs having a history of persecution within the USA leading to the development of WASP as a derogatory term.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

on marriage

I am so grossed out by the hypocrisy of all of this. I am not like wooo marriage, but the ridiculousness of it all is just something.

Australians, do you live in the electorate of Gippsland? Please write to your federal MP, and tell him your thoughts on gay marriage (and that he's wrong), because:
Mr Chester says he speaks to Gippsland residents regularly and there is little support for gay marriage in the region.

"I don't need to do a survey to get a sense of where my community sits right now," he said.

"Like everyone, I've had emails and they are probably evenly divided. The ones within my community haven't been evenly divided. They've been quite strongly against the position of gay marriage.

"My community is one where I believe that I have a good sense of what it expects me to do and it expects me to stand up for the tradition of marriage as it stands today."
at the abc

A lot of people were upset by Penny Wong's apparent hypocrisy, what with her being gay and yet still toeing the party line, talking about how marriage is between a man and a woman, so it was intriguing to read in this article that maybe she was, in fact, part of some secret deal-making to set a timetable within the ALP for talking about/advancing the issue, and so her words were just a placeholder until she could effect change within the party. Certainly I am predisposed to always want to think better of her (like me, she is a queer Chinese-Malaysian and I one day want to be in parliament so we shall see), but it's an interesting thing to think about.

Yesterday there was lots of commentary (at least on twitter) about an opinion piece up at the Herald Sun that didn't make everyone really angry: Time for gay marriage to get the nod in Australia. It's not a bad read, and I wonder how much of the discourse has been about people having to say why they don't support it. And also, if supportive pieces are getting published in the Herald Sun, then surely it is obviously time for legislation to catch up.

More ridiculousness, also yesterday, an excerpt from Hansard, pg 97, of Phillip Ruddock's chatter in parliament:
All [the Marriage Act] does is recognise that marriage has always been seen to be different and that that basis ought to be kept, primarily because marriage deals with issues that arise when children can possibly be conceived.
People who cannot marry under this definition: Some people with disabilities. People who have gone through menopause. What about people who will have trouble conceiving, but could potentially conceive, but might be best if it was done with assistance like IVF? People who choose not to have children. People whose circumstances mean they can't have children. People for whom giving birth might cause severe injury. People who are infertile.

h/t to danni for finding the right page in Hansard and reading through Ruddock's rant.

Monday, November 8, 2010

not a definitive definition

At yesterday's rally to end the mandatory detention of refugees, I encountered a chant which goes 'refugees are welcome, racists are not.' This chant, and many others like it, are predicated on the belief that racists are easy to spot, and that their racism is obvious. And it's incredibly unhelpful.

"I'm not a racist," thinks an hypothetical bystander (or someone saying the chant). "I think we should end mandatory detention." Woo, we're all okay then! OR ARE WE. Statements like this deny the insidious nature of racism, the institutional nature of racism. Just wandering through the crowd, listening to the comments of people chatting before the rally, I can tell you for a fact that there were people who certainly fit my definition of holding racist beliefs. Being racist isn't always about turning people back from our shores, it's about a whole lot of other stuff that everyone reading this probably already knows, because that's 101.

That's not to deny, of course, the incredibly poor turnout of the rally, and how much of that is due to racism, unconcious or not.

In other news of things that are racist when people think it's not: unchill azn bro. My non-azn friends, even if it is a joke being made by an Asian person, it's still playing on racist, offensive stereotypes! So don't go around saying how obsessed you are with it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

misogyny and racism in one super handy app

Spendthrift Studios have developed a 'design your dream Asian girl' iPhone app. John at 8Asians purchased the app before commenting on it, but I've got no such claims to being unbiased (and also no iPhone): I'm happy to make my comments without checking it out.

With this app, you can cater to your Asian fetish! Your Asian lady fetish! Because those exotic Asian ladies are just waiting for your callsuper sexually available! As Asian ladies should be!

This is so gross, the only thing that surprises me is that there are actual choices of ethnicity. No wait, two things, because Japanese isn't an option (you can have a Chinese, Taiwanese or Korean lady), and that surprises me, too. But I'm surprised that it's not just generic Asian, because that's all we are, right? Ladies to be looked at, women to be constructed, a mish-mash of cultures that, in our Western zeitgeist, are there to service people, sexually or not.

From the app page:
Make your dream girl look like someone you know, like your secret lover or ex-girlfriend. This app produces beautiful faces that will blow your mind away.
And then you can share 'your girl' with your friends! Never mind the problem of Asian women being forcibly trafficked in order to be subject to someone else, never mind the history and reality of Asian women having to conform to unrealistic and/or Western beauty standards, oh no, create your own available young Asian lady just for you!

I would say that this is indicative of how misogynist a lot of tech culture is, but it's not that at all; because I'm pretty sure this is going to sell well to non-geeks, and it's indicative of how misogynist culture is. It's yuck.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

reviews and commentary on tomorrow when the war began

The Tomorrow, When the War Began movie came out earlier in the month. I ranted about it a few months ago, in preparation, and have been reading some reviews and commentary and things, in lieu of actually subjecting myself to this. For your reading (dis)pleasure:

Opinion in the Age: Unsettling echoes of yesterday, when the yellow peril hysteria began:
As the Longford silent demonstrates, Australia has a long tradition of xenophobic fears of being swamped by Asia, whether by Indonesian armed forces or, in more recent years, by boatloads of refugees from Vietnam, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

Even though it could not have been predicted by the filmmakers, it's hard to ignore the fact Tomorrow has been released directly following an election campaign in which one of the parties' main slogans was Stop the Boats, aimed squarely at Asian refugees.
On LJ, butterscotch711 reviews it in more of a movie-style (less social justice style).

This SMH article had me keyboard mashing: The fight for Australia:
But the political and cultural landscape is now very different. Since the book was first published, we've had the Bali bombings, terrorist arrests and Australian troops have served in East Timor, Iraq and now Afghanistan, where 18 soldiers have died. Could Tomorrow, When the War Began escalate from a piece of entertainment to a political touchstone?
And this article was okay: Invasion of the Asians is fiction, not a fact:
When I complained about this to a journalist friend, he said, quite sensibly, that I should not get too anxious about the invader issue in the movie. The film is pure escapism and they needed a credible candidate for invasion. The alternative, he suggested ironically, was New Zealand.

But that's the point. Apparently, we think Asian invasion is credible.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

japan ken + barbie

A new Barbie has been doing the rounds, and it's amazing:

I don't even know what's going on here. This toy website tells me that Japan Ken wears 'Japanese-styled clothing and a samurai-inspired sword.' Japan Ken, if you are Japanese, why is your clothing Japanese "styled" and your sword samuri "inspired"?

A (former doll collecting) commenter in this Racialicious post comments that apparently Mattel intentionally went with a futuristic look, which I can dig - but then why are they Japan Ken and Barbie?

There is definitely a whole lot of fetishisation and exotification in here, and not that I want to be all 'hey Asian skin doesn't look like that' because of course there are light-skinned Japanese people, but I feel like it is not going out on a limb to say that those Barbies, if they were sans their Japanese-style future clothes, would look awfully Caucasian.

You know. Just like all the others to come before (except for Geisha Barbie and Chinese New Year Barbie, of course, who were no less exotified but at least...kinda looked Asian?).

Monday, September 13, 2010

WORLDCON: Or, what these panelists need is a trans academic

I went to Worldcon last weekend. It was good, I guess, I don't know, I was pretty sick. I spent a lot of time sitting around feeling miserable for myself. On the Thursday, though, I managed to drag myself along to two panels: queer themes in SF; and trans representations in YA SF.

A word on going to panels: I avoid panels on race! Because usually they make me angry! Dr S has, for example, a write up of a panel she went to that devolved into lots of excuses for Joss, what a fucking surprise. It was just like another panel we did that one time, about representations of 'the other' in SF, that devolved into lots of excuses for Joss (from our audience, not from any of the panelists). Anyway now I only go to panels on race and ethnicity in closed safe spaces.

Trans panels are probably going to be the same, I think (not that I, as a cis person, would necessarily or automatically be welcome in a safe space, depending on the requirements of that space), but I'd never even seen trans issues on a panel description for an SF con before, so I thought, why not? See what it is like.

It was like this:

At the queer themes in SF panel, I had to walk out. It was almost as if (and this is a bigger issue I had with Worldcon overall), the panelists were on the panel because they were queer, rather than because they had any intellectual, authorial or otherwise reason for being on there. To my knowledge, all of the panelists were cis. There was talk of sexuality, and then any time they tried to talk about issues of gender or, specifically, trans things, it would come back around to sexuality. Gender and sexuality were constantly conflated, and I came away feeling as if they were trying to talk about trans issues, but completely and totally lacked the language to do so. Better trans-related discussion came from the audience; in fact one of the panelists kept sensationalising the descriptions of trans reveals in stories. I don't know how better to describe this (and my notes at the time didn't elaborate further) - it was all just very odd.

As a cissie, I cannot make this call, but I sort of felt like, if they weren't going to do it with any sort of competance, maybe they should have just talked about sexuality and left the trans issues out of it.

The second panel I attended, on trans representations, was a much more (for me) positive experience. The chair was Cheryl Morgan, a trans academic. The panel was composed of two cis authors, both of whom have written well-received trans characters (Alison Goodman, the author of 'Eon,' and Hazel Edwards, who co-wrote 'f2m: the boy within,' with Ryan Kennedy but who coincidentally also wrote 'There is a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake,'). Cheryl Morgan was really great about flagging whether there needed to be a quick trans 101, and then went in to defining sex and gender terms, just to be clear.

Some things I wrote down in the panel: often in SFF, 'trans' isn't used, instead some other term is used; Hazel Edwards highlighted how people always wanted to see a picture of Ryan Kennedy if he wasn't present (what a fucking surprise, people want to know if he's masculine enough urrggghhh); lots of SFF assumes that in the future, 'changing' gender will be easy (I am reminded of that Neil Gaiman short story, with the rebooting); heavy emphasis on collaboration/talking to people (this comes from a cis perspective, I think, and a clarification that there is no one trans experience).

Anyway, what a surprise that the panel that I felt dealt better with trans stuff (using my arbitrary measurements of better) was the one that centred (or referenced) actual trans experiences and voices. I know that wasn't the point of the queer issues panel, but it just felt so kind of hack job that...yeah.

books or stories (not necessarily SFF) that ended up on my 'check out sometime' list due to these panels:
'Luna' - Julie Anne Peters
'Questors' - Joan Lennon
'Eon' - Alison Goodman (I understand that there might be some cultural appropriation issues)
'f2m: the boy within' - Ryan Kennedy + Hazel Edwards (which actually was already on my toread list)

Friday, September 10, 2010

cross post: isms in our vegan

I'm talking about racism and classism in veganism over in the other blog.

Also just a reminder that I have a tumblr; I've not abandoned this blog! Just having trouble writing big posts at the moment.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


So, I've missed crosslinking some posts of me about the place.

I've made two link posts about animal rights/ethics issues at the other blog: one and two; and at vegaroo I've blogged about vegan adventures in perth.

I went to a Greens' fundraiser on the weekend, and, though the Greens are an environmental political party, I was disappointed to see that there was a higher emphasis on 'happy meat' than on vegetarianism at the fundraiser.

Also I have a new tumblr. I am still using my original tumblr for social justice commentary and pretty pictures; but I am also tumbling at fuck yeah lgbt batman, about, you guessed it, lgbt happenings in the batverse, fannish or otherwise.

what a jerkface

via lauredhel at Hoyden About Town, is a really great graphic about the election promises so far, and why Tony Abbott is a jerkface. You can click the link for a transcript of the jpg.

More election links soon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

reading the internets

I'll write an actual post again one day, honest.

Genderbitch has an awesome post up: Feminist Disavowal of Cissexism, taking down three common arguments that are used when Genderbitch tries to talk about Feminism's problems. This post is totally awesome, but it's also relevant across the board - it's not just a problem when talking about cissexism in Feminism, but also racism and ableism (to my experience). Go read it!

Following on from that, CL Minou writes at TigerBeatdown an ALSO very excellent post, Left Behind: About the Failures of Feminism. Highly recommended!

NY: 17-month-old baby killed by man 'trying to make him act like a boy instead of a girl'. What it says. :o(

Cara writes about Emergency Room Allegedly Denied Treatment to Woman Because She is Trans. Ugghhh people suck. Filled with good links for reading.

Israel to expel 400 children ISRAEL will expel 400 native-born children of non-Jewish foreign workers to help safeguard the country's Jewish identity.

Tom Cho writes I’m Chinese-Australian but...
What I want to ask is: why is it really so astonishing that a young Vietnamese-Australian can write convincingly and intensely about this Colombian scenario? Which is to really ask: Is it me or is there something faintly patronising about this compliment, as well-intentioned as it is?
Population debate hides an ugly racism
The day after the election announcement, several newspapers featured front-page photos of the Prime Minister, garbed all in white, and her (male) deputy - each bearing an exceptionally robust looking, if slightly bemused, white infant in their arms. If the central issue of the election is population, these images of the - reconstructed and thoroughly contemporary - white heterosexual family underscore that the lowering of the birth rate is off the agenda.
Totally romanticised but: The melting pot that is modern Australia
The final six MasterChef Australia contestants emerged this week, two of them gay, three of Asian heritage. Two were lawyers who would rather be cooks. And all were crowned national heroes by decree of the viewing public: about 2 million a night and perhaps twice as many for tomorrow's grand finale.

These wannabe chefs are a snapshot of modern Australia, an ark among nations. They also represent a shift in social trends that were evident before MasterChef but which have been ''crystallised by the show and perhaps accelerated by it'', says Rebecca Huntley, director of the market research firm Ipsos Australia, which has tracked the impact of the program.
Islanders plead for help as homes sink

Saturday, July 31, 2010

on more than one language

Hey so, I speak some languages! And I am very interested in the structure of languages, and how they work, and how languages contribute to our thinking! I am one of those people who enjoys learning many languages. (I speak three, from time to time, four if 'a sort of Manglish-Malay patois' counts as a language. And I enjoyed learning German for a year and a half! But then I moved and didn't find a new class. Anyway.) I like being able to communicate with lots of people! I like reading about languages! As if I was some sort of language nerd! Also, I lament that I didn't do linguistics at university (sometimes I wish I did chemistry, too).

So hey: this is a post about languages (as opposed to language, which will be another post later).

A few blogs have been linking to and/or discussing this New York Times article: As English Spreads, Indonesians Fear for Their Language. The article itself talks about Indonesians who cannot speak Bahasa Indonesian, or speak it badly; speaking English instead. But as Michel S at Ruminations on a Distant Homeland* points out, there are reasons why this is a little less dramatic than the article articulates. Bahasa Indonesian was adopted as the national language only in 1928, so for huge chunks of Indonesia, the official language is not actually their first language anyway.

Similar issue in Malaysia. I have friends (or family of friends) who, despite growing up in Malaysia, never learnt Bahasa Malaysian (BM) very well. When you grow up in a house speaking (for example) Cantonese, and go to an English speaking school, and all your friends speak Mandarin, well, BM becomes just another subject you have to do, and some people are good at it, and some people aren't.

That's not me passing comment on whether one should have to learn the national language. That's just, you know. An anecdote.

Speaking of national languages, in the USA there's some concerns the opposite way, that sometimes people don't speak English in public, and therefore English is at risk (?!) and maybe it should be the national language. My word, what a fucking outrage. So What if Nobody Speaks English Anymore at is a look at that, and asks the question: does it matter?

THIS MAY SHOCK YOU (note: if it does, I am very concerned), but maybe speaking more than one language is kind of cool, and possibly even useful! The WSJ has an article up that doesn't say anything new, but is a nice summary of research that demonstrates that language shapes the way we think: Lost in Translation. Here is a large excerpt:
Do the languages we speak shape the way we think? Do they merely express thoughts, or do the structures in languages (without our knowledge or consent) shape the very thoughts we wish to express?

Take "Humpty Dumpty sat on a..." Even this snippet of a nursery rhyme reveals how much languages can differ from one another. In English, we have to mark the verb for tense; in this case, we say "sat" rather than "sit." In Indonesian you need not (in fact, you can't) change the verb to mark tense.

In Russian, you would have to mark tense and also gender, changing the verb if Mrs. Dumpty did the sitting. You would also have to decide if the sitting event was completed or not. If our ovoid hero sat on the wall for the entire time he was meant to, it would be a different form of the verb than if, say, he had a great fall.

In Turkish, you would have to include in the verb how you acquired this information. For example, if you saw the chubby fellow on the wall with your own eyes, you'd use one form of the verb, but if you had simply read or heard about it, you'd use a different form.

Do English, Indonesian, Russian and Turkish speakers end up attending to, understanding, and remembering their experiences differently simply because they speak different languages?
In fact, here is a 2009 essay on exactly this research! How does our language shape the way we think? I highly recommend this piece, it is a good essay and I refer to it often.

I think it's really cool and interesting, the way that language shapes thought. And I mean, I think about this all the time in another way (removing ableist, transphobic, homophobic, racist, etc, words from casual use), but talking about the impact that grammar patterns have on thought construction is really cool too. What influence does language have on our personalities? On our cultures and traditions?

Anyway, given how cool it is, it's funny, then, that there's a rumour getting around that the Chinese government is looking to limit the amount of Cantonese on Chinese TV. Almost as if there's an attempt to impose a national language that was only made a national language in the last hundred years. It's been kind of a concerted effort. And here's an oldie but still relevant: Language is Power; Let us Have Ours:
Much of the evidence the world over suggests that bilingual and multilingual language processes accelerate one's capacity to acquire English. So why are Aboriginal children being treated as if this were not so? Why is the role that parents and grandparents play in teaching their children being diminished?

Aboriginal languages, for the most part, are not officially recognised and, therefore, sit outside the nation's formal structures.
So here's the thing about Mandarin, and also Bahasa Indonesian and Bahasa Malay, and in fact English, too: they're kind of dialecty. Sometimes they're not what you're expecting. Mandarin in Beijing is different from Mandarin in Xi'an. The Cantonese my family speaks (being from Malaysia) is totally different from the Cantonese spoken in China. The English I speak in Australia is quite different from the English I use in Malaysia (sometimes referred to as 'Manglish').

Which is why I like this article: Standard English and the Literate Argument.
Is literacy so important to credibility here? Or, let me rephrase: Is Standard English literacy so important to credibility here? Or, let me rephrase again: Is white, upper-or-middle class English literacy so important to credibility here?

When we discount people and their arguments because of their command (or lack thereof) of grammar, what we are really saying is: Your thoughts are useless because you don’t use the kind of grammar I’ve come to expect from literate people on the internet. What we are also saying is far worse: You don’t have the privilege to have learned the “correct” way of writing or speaking, and, therefore, your ideas are worthless.
OH SO MAYBE, just maybe, a push to a national language is some sort of defensive bullshit thing? Maybe there's some racism and/or classism involved? What an unexpected and surprising conclusion to my post!

I don't want to hear anything from anyone about how learning a second language is a privilege or any crap like that. Because I think it's pretty clear that learning a second language is, in many cases, something so built in to a society that you don't even notice - many people know more than one language before they go to school (if they get to go to school). And for many people, learning the 'national language' (official or not) is already learning a second language. Or a third language. My mum was speaking five languages before she started attending school, and she was from a really poor family. So you know, the argument is at the least very erasing. I'll accept 'in a poor urban white monolingual family in the middle of Perth it's hard to attend language classes,' or something. And I'm certainly not accepting 'it's hard to learn another language so therefore we need a national language and no-one can speak anything else in public or have tv in any other language' or anything. That's crap. Also 'omg we all need to communicaaatteeee.' Often, that argument is used against people who already went out of their way (or, to be honest, could hardly avoid) to learn someone else's language.

Some further reading and anecdotes on the things I have discussed above:

*please note, the blog I have linked to has only one blog post on it! And no introductory! So I don't know anything about it, other than that I liked the solitary post.

Friday, July 30, 2010

ikea hacker badger haj

I like checking out Ikea Hacker, because it's Ikea! and it's mods!

I don't need to do any Ikea hackery right now, so I did the next best thing:

badger haj

badger haj, a badge of our Ikea klappar haj.

This is basically my nerdy winter hobby.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

tuesday morning link town

Disclosure, Trans Panic, and Ciscentric Narratives of Honesty at Questioning Transphobia.
But I think this story touches on somewhat larger, more encompassing issues that trans people have to deal with. Thomas’ mother, for example, insists that her son didn’t know that Nikki was trans and separated from her shortly before his death, and that Nikki herself married Thomas for the money – that she’s a gold digger. Nikki, on the other hand, says that Thomas knew all along and was fine with it.
I believe Nikki’s telling the truth. I believe Thomas’ mother, Simona Longoria, is appealing to the narrative that will ultimately purchase cis sympathy for her plight. Simona’s claim makes Nikki out to be an opportunistic predator, a stealthy deceiver, a liar who wormed her way into Thomas’ life in order to not only feast on his assets while alive, but to cackle merrily on the way to the bank after his death. It is dependent upon (in addition to the Littleton precedent), painting Nikki as someone who deceived Thomas in order to not only get into his bed, but also into his life.
This is how many cis people love to paint trans women.
And also at QT; New York Times says Trans People are Ethically Required to Out Themselves on Dates.

Givenchy's Transgender Fall Campaign Model Posed Nude for French Vogue [NSFW] at NYMag. I can't decide (based on what I have been able to find out) if this shoot is all 'ooh, a trans woman!' or 'oh cool, a trans woman.' I link to it anyway. And the article, if you can read French.

Here's What White Privilege Sounds Like
Here’s what white privilege sounds like: I’m sitting in my University of Texas office, talking to a very bright and very conservative white student about affirmative action in college admissions, which he opposes and I support. The student says he wants a level playing field with no unearned advantages for anyone. I ask him whether he thinks that being white has advantages in the United States. Have either of us, I ask, ever benefited from being white in a world run mostly by white people? Yes, he concedes, there is something real and tangible we could call white privilege.

So, if we live in a world of white privilege – unearned white privilege - how does that affect your notion of a level playing field? I asked. He paused for a moment and said, “That really doesn’t matter.” That statement, I suggested to him, reveals the ultimate white privilege: The privilege to acknowledge that you have unearned privilege but to ignore what it means.
Free Advice: A Bargain at Double the Price
Too often Nice White People are far more interested in being perceived as non-racist than they are in actually working to do something that might address the structural inequities racist beliefs and assumptions are built from and reinforce.
I know because I’ve been that Nice White Person. I still have my moments of it.
The only way to stop being that Nice White Person — if you’re interested in actually stopping — is to start with acknowledging two things:
Geek feminism as opposed to mainstream feminism, at geekfeminism, on the differences and conflicts between "mainstream" feminism and geek feminism.

FacePainting, on white-washing in movies.

Doctor Treating Pregnant Women with Experimental Drug to Prevent Lesbianism. ?!?!

On Dismissing Sexual Violence Against Some Women as 'Cultural' at the Curvature.

Why are social inequalities reproduced online?
When creating online avatars, people reproduce the racist, sexist and ableist structures of real life, writes Dr Eve Shapiro.

Many early utopian theories of computer-mediated communication asserted that as people “moved online” they would cast off gender, race, class, and body limitations to exist as undifferentiated equals.

But the suggestion that race, gender, class, and nation or any other embodied characteristics will cease to matter online ignores the fact that biases such as racism, sexism, and ‘ableism’ are not only individual prejudices but also structural inequalities.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

awesome ladies and not-white dudes in science fiction and fantasy

My Little Catwoman Pony

So I was making a flippant tumblr post (yes! I have a tumblr! It is fun!) about SFF My Little Pony Mods. And I love the mods! My Little Han Solo is great! Love the My Little Cthulu! Am totally all there for the My Little Aragorn! But I noticed that, of the fifty My Little SF Pony Mods, only nine of them are lady ponies (and two of them are Princess Leia - ANH white flowy dress and slave outfit). Nine fierce SFF presenting as women ponies, and forty-one not. Also, coincidentally, no humanoid-and-not-white ponies (Cthulu and the My Little Predator Pony don't count), except perhaps for a Klingon pony in blackface (And don't talk to me about how ponies are purple and blue and shit, you know what I mean).

That sucks, SFF. That sucks, and so does the fact that I was compiling a list of ponies I would like to see, and started to struggle a little bit. This is why I've been trying to expand my SFF, give preference to SFF where the characters are women and/or not white; mostly, I have been trying to find SFF featuring some awesome not-white-dudes. And it may not surprise you to learn that it is hard!

What I have so far read this year that fits into this category:
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, NK Jemisin
The Gaslight Dogs, Karin Lowachee
The Circle of Magic Series (four books), Tamora Pierce
Code Noir, Marianne De Pierres
The Ladies of Grace Adieu, Suzanne Clarke (this sort of fits into this category)

What I am hoping to read this year:
Dragoneye Reborn, Alison Goodman
Herogiri, Mainak Dhar
A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts, Ying Chang Compestine
The Dragon and the Stars (eds Derwin Mak and Eric Choi)

And I'd like to get my hands on a copy of the Apex Book of World SF, and So Long Been Dreaming: postcolonial Science Fiction + Fantasy, but I don't know if I'm going to be able to do so.

I read a lot of books in a year, and that I'm hopeful to hit such a small number by the end of the year says a lot, I think. It says, I don't know that many not-white-dude protagonists in SFF. It says, there are not that many not-white-dude protagonists in SFF.

I don't really have an answer to this. It's just something that bugs me.

Some reading:
The White Male Nerd & his Cult of Awesome.
Sirayn asked me to comment on John C. Wright's latest fail (warning for all kinds of gender/trans/feminist fail), and when i asked who he was, she told me he was "a multi-published Nebula finalist SF author with Tor." And I thought, gee, what a surprise, another random asshole on the internet turns out to be a highly decorated white male SFF author. It's not the genre's fault that when the general standard of male behavior often defaults to "asshole," it's going to attract a lot of red-headed stepchildren.
When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?
Critics have called alien epic Avatar a version of Dances With Wolves because it's about a white guy going native and becoming a great leader. But Avatar is just the latest scifi rehash of an old white guilt fantasy. Spoilers...

Whether Avatar is racist is a matter for debate. Regardless of where you come down on that question, it's undeniable that the film - like alien apartheid flick District 9, released earlier this year - is emphatically a fantasy about race. Specifically, it's a fantasy about race told from the point of view of white people. Avatar and scifi films like it give us the opportunity to answer the question: What do white people fantasize about when they fantasize about racial identity?
Space: One More Imaginary Frontier
Not because, as she implies, SF has a long and noble tradition of AUs, which the SF tradition has taught her not to take personally, ("Men get killed all the time in comics, how is it sexist if a woman is?") but because SF has carefully cultivated a space for a myth that is steeped in racism: the frontier. Terra Nullius, the new world, the edge of the map, the discovery of new lands, all of these have been a lie for all of human history.
Shame is an essay by Pam Noles on whitewashing in SFF stories.
Dad had his own names for the movies.

What's this? 'Escape to a White Planet?
It's called 'When Worlds Collide.' I'm sure I sounded indignant.

'Mars Kills the White People.' I love this one.
Daaaaad. It says it right there. 'War of the Worlds'. I know I sighed heavily, but was careful to turn back to the tv before rolling my eyes.
And the followup; The Shame of Earthsea: A Public Response To What Some Folks Are Saying About That Essay
My identity as a black person is challenged every day in genre. But what my parents took the time to do (once they realized they couldn't do anything to cleave me from genre), was help me question why me and my kind weren't in those fantasy worlds. That question, once recognized, evolved into my finding ways to take action and claim my right to exist and participate in those worlds."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

cross-cultural superstitions

I love Chinese superstitions. Actually I love everyone's superstitions, but my own most of all. When I was a kid I was told a lot of them, and I was never sure what to believe and what not to believe. We had a rule that we weren't supposed to talk about them outside the house, because we couldn't expect the not-Chinese people to understand. Which I think is not always true, because there are many superstitions which seem to cross boundaries.

Via haohao report, I have come across this list of 31 Ridiculous Chinese Superstitions, of which I am familiar with ALL OF THEM. Oh, wait, all but one. But I leave you to guess which ones I actually believe now, it should be obvious if you know me, I think.

Tell me your superstitions, or your cultural superstitions! It's intriguing to see what superstitions cross cultural boundaries. I'd like to know why - if it echoes to something common, or if it's because of trading or colonial relationships centuries ago, or what. Like black, for example. That's pretty standard. Owls or crows indicating a death, that feels familiar for more than just Chinese stuff. I admit, particularly when my mum was pressuring me to eat all my rice, I used to wonder if the finish your rice / bad luck to play with your chopsticks stuff was just a way of imposing obedience or politeness at the dinner table.

Number 17 (Never comb your hair in front of the mirror after midnight because you might see something with a long hair from the reflection. That I mean not human.) is one of my favourites, not because I believe it but because it's creepy. You know some of the horrible Chinese creatures that could be staring out at you in that situation? CREEP TOWN.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

commitments in activism

So, here's an assumption I make in my work pretty much all the time: if I want random people to change something (I work in behaviour change), I can't just lecture them on the benefits of a meat-free diet or taking shorter showers or whatever; I have to, somehow, ask them to first a) agree with me, and then b) agree to do it.

It's called 'making a commitment,' and I used to laugh but it totally works.

Erik at made a post Animal Advocacy and The Power of Asking, and it reads like maybe he didn't know it! So I've put together a little reading list that's applicable to any activist, internet or otherwise, who is trying to make people change. I know this seems really formal and theoretical, but it's actually really applicable right down to the little things.

Commitment approaches to behaviour change can be seen in all sorts of things - buying a whatevercolorribbon is actually used as a commitment to the cause, and sometimes as a point of escalation (towards more action, more money, etc) by many charities and groups. And stakeholder commitment is considered an essential step to any organisational change, especially policy stuff.

Recommendations for behaviour change programs to reduce greenhouse impact in SA, a 2005 report written by the Conservation Council of SA. This is a broad overview of issues.

Quick Reference: Community-Based Social Marketing. CBSM is sort of the hip new thing that everyone is getting in to in behaviour change, and its premise is this: analyse people, educate people, normalise what you want them to do, then make them commit to it.

Community-Based Social Marketing as a Planning Tool, a 2002 thesis, chapters five and six in particular.

And one from outside the enviro/sustainability sphere:

Commitment to Change Instrument Enhances Program Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation, The Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, 2004.

So it basically boils down to this: give them something specific to do. Then get them to say it, written or whatever. It helps.

linkies of local stuff

"local" hee

Here are some links about things going on in Australia:

Aged care forcing gays 'back into the closet': Australia's homosexual population is being sorely neglected when it comes to aged care, according to new research.

Trans death in custody: inquiry demanded

A different indigenous death in custody: Aboriginal Legal Service 'flabbergasted' by death in custody decision

Deep in the heart of Adelaide with Tony Zappia, on street corner politics.

Is Mining Truly Good For Indigenous People?

Sleepless in Canberra, written pre-spill, on Rudd being a workaholic.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

white not whatever

When I was younger, I used to laugh at all the skin-lightening ads I saw. I still remember them, the close up of a Malay or Chinese woman, her hair shiny, and her skin light, and the green bottle, or the white bottle. I remember them in magazines and on bus shelters and sometimes on tv.

I used to laugh because this was another segmented aspect of my life - yet another thing that was part of my Malaysian life and not part of my Australian life, because I'd only see them in magazines in Malaysia, on bus shelters in Penang.

As a light-skinned Chinese woman living in Australia, I feel the pressure to be light-skinned at exactly the same time as I feel the pressure to be tanned. As a woman I'm more beautiful if I'm tanned! (also perhaps more attractive and fit? beachy-sporty-Australian-culture and all that) But my word, those dirty Asians, migrating here and blah blah blah. Like Carmen says in Ethnics, Ethnics, EVERYWHERE:
We really can’t win, can we? When we try and integrate by having the same interests and hobbies, maybe marrying or having kids with white people, we’re “taking over”, but when we try and stay out of it, set up schools to not tread on the toes of state school education or put adverts on dating sites for Asians only, we’re “not integrating”. Make your bloody minds up FFS or fuck off back to your imaginary white island.
Never be white enough to not be a horrible foreigner or an exotic Asian woman; never be tanned enough to be beautiful; there are so many intersections here sometimes I don't know where to start to explain. How can I explain why it is this way? It doesn't mean I want to lighten my skin or darken my skin, but these messages, they're just always there and always make me want to roll my eyes until they fall out of my face.

Or something.

So there's a facebook app to lighten your skin in profile pics:

Vaseline launches skin-whitening Facebook tool for India
In 2009, a poll of nearly 12,000 people by online dating site, revealed that skin tone was considered the most important criteria when choosing a partner in three northern Indian states.
AND WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS, EXACTLY? I don't know where to start. I don't know where to START.

WELL, I DO. COLONIALISM AND MISOGYNY, THAT'S WHERE. And then maybe we'll talk about appropriation again later.

Friday, July 2, 2010

dear sbs

Dear SBS,

Souvlaki to star power, the changing face of SBS
THEY have made sense of Inspector Rex and Ingmar Bergman, translated Mongolian yak herders and Zulu warriors. But it seems the show will soon be over for SBS's internationally acclaimed subtitling unit.

News that 10 members, or one-third of the unit, will soon be made redundant has been greeted with disbelief by staff and viewers, who see it as one more step in the Anglicising of Australia's once proud multicultural broadcaster.
SBS, you have always been my favourite. When I see that the translation on the thing I am about to watch was done by you, I have faith that it will be an accurate translation, both linguistically and of intent. I know that when I turn to you, I will get to see non-Anglo faces, hear non-Anglo words, regardless of whether I can understand them or not. I know that you will give me things that are difficult to find in our Anglo-monoculture.

When I was tiny, you gave me Akira, and the Ninja Scrolls, and all those Chinese Ghost Stories; as I grew older, you gave me news in languages I was learning, and Inspector Rex, and movies that allowed my mother to use languages she'd spoken well before she'd learnt English. Now that I am grown(ish), I don't watch you so much, but you're my first stop when I'm buying movies in languages I don't speak. I want to give you money for these things, to support you in these endeavours, because the things you give us back are so important; by which I mean, translating the world for Australia, ensuring that those of us from non-Anglo cultures can share ourselves with our friends, or ensuring that we can learn about and access cultures not of our own, and not of Anglo-ness.

If I wanted to watch that other stuff, I'd turn to some other station.

SBS, I am going to miss your awesomeness. Sorry it had to end this way.

All the best,
A Penguin

Friday, June 25, 2010

awesome chinese ladies part one: i will not go quietly

Recently Tiger Beatdown had a post up about Sei Shonagon, then just this week Isabel wrote about the Disney version of Mulan. These are posts about two of my favourite Asian ladies of all time! Sure, there is some speculation as to whether Hua Mulan ever existed, but that doesn't stop her from being a fierce inspiration to me during my life.

Hua Mulan is Chinese, and Sei Shonagon was Japanese, but she was a total Sinophile. And they are pretty famous! But there have been other awesome, inspiring Chinese ladies, and I would like to share them with you! Feel free to find them inspiring and/or amazing, and to share stories of other ladies in the comments!


empress dowager cixi looking fierce and draped in pearls, this image isn't mine but I'm not sure where I got itEmpress Dowager CiXi (慈禧太后) was defacto ruler of China for about a billion years (okay, 47), bringing one male relative after another to the throne so she could be the fearsome power behind it. She was a super politician, being fairly expert in balancing between different factions. She was pretty famous for being a) a despot, and b) really in to luxury. She used funds from the navy to build a summer palace, held 150-dish banquets, and had lots (and lots and lots) of jewellery. She also had A LOT of names. My favourite representation of her is a steampunk one by James Ng, as the immortal empress. There's lots to read about her at Wikipedia, IF YOU ARE INTERESTED. Also there are lots of books about her! (I don't recommend the Anchee Min books, they bored me)

Ching Shih (郑氏), also known as Zheng Yi Sao and Shi Xianggu, was a PIRATE ADMIRAL. She was at one point a prostitute, and she married in to a famous pirate family. As Big Pirate Boss, she commanded (at her peak) 400 ships , robbed from lots of people and sometimes imposed taxes on them, and evaded capture for decades, and when she retired from pirating she opened a gambling house. A pirate running a gambling house! MAYBE SHE SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, I AM JUST SAYING, SHE COULD HAVE BEEN PLAYED BY JOAN CHEN AND IT WOULD HAVE BEEN AMAZING. It would have been amazing. You can read more about her in this article.

Guo Zhenshun (郭真顺) stopped an army with a poem. WITH A POEM. What can you do with a poem?! (My poetry is nowhere near that magnificent). You can read more about her here (in Chinese) and here (also in Chinese).

Huang Guigu, also known as Lady Sima, was (maybe, probably, it was two thousand years ago so it's hard to tell okay?) a military commander under King Zheng of Qin (who later became the first emperor of China). She was super fierce, strong, and good at military campaigns.

Zhao-Hong Wenguo is sometimes referred to as the grandmother of the anti-Japanese resistance. When she was sixty, she would charge in to battle with A GUN IN EACH HAND. I can only hope I'm that fierce when I'm sixty! She was a commander of troops!

wuzetian holding her arms out and calling to the viewer or something - this image isn't mine but i'm not sure where i got it fromWu Zetian (武则天) was the only woman to ever be Empress of China. AWESOME. She was defacto ruler for a while (and Empress Dowager), but established her own dynasty (the Zhou - 周), and was known as the Sacred and Divine Empress Regnant. She started out as a lesser, not-favoured concubine, and later was Empress for fifteen years. She promoted Buddhism over Daoism (uuhhh) and tried to increase the importance of women in Chinese history by commissioning a lot of biographies of awesome Chinese women. She also had heaps of secret police, and some people think that her efforts meant that there was better gender equality in subsequent dynasties. Also she promoted a lot of women to positions of power, including Premier. When I was looking for links for you to read, I stumbled across someone asking for Famous Chinese Women, 'I can only find out about Empress Wu and she didn't seem very nice,' this person wrote. Well, we can't all be nice, but we can all be fierce? I SUPPOSE. You can read about her at Wikipedia, and at women in world history.

FURTHER READING FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR COMPUTER (it's raining, so I certainly don't want to go outside):
Mad, Bad and Dangerous Women of the Han: The Shocking Story of Lady Dai (not that shocking, really)
Chinese women in history - soldiers, pirates, scholars, sages and rulers

Thursday, June 24, 2010

#spill #spillard


I'm so excited, but I'm also worried. I don't trust people, my own country in particular. I don't trust the ALP, not any more. I'm worried about the people who will think she's doing a bad job, and assume it's because she's doing a bad job and not because of their unconscious misogyny.* I'm also worried because of the number of people, main stream media, who think 'Will you vote for Julia Gillard?' is a valid question. WE HAVE THE WESTMINSTER SYSTEM, unless you live in Lalor she will NOT BE ON YOUR BALLOT. Seriously. Our system is not that difficult to understand.

I liked lauredhel's summary:
Walking out to speeches, Gillard looked strong, happy, composed, and ready to forge ahead to contest Abbott in the election. Rudd, suppressing obvious emotion, wore a long, loose navy blue suit, hands thrust in his pockets and with the slightest smile as he sashayed towards the speeches, shoes shined beautifully but his silver locks just a little disheveled at the front. Wayne Swan, who has outie genitalia and is on the cusp of Cancer, left his three children this morning to accept his new position as Deputy PM.
I was in classes all day, so I don't have many links yet, but I had the drum's twitter running all day in the background, and I'd check in every so often. Danni also kept me updated, which was excellent.

At Something Changed, Thank You, Kevin, because, well, you were certainly better than the last guy, and for that I'll always be thankful. I quote it almost in its entirety, because I like it:
We can’t focus on the instability. If you have to throw over a sitting PM, is there any better way than being disciplined for months, calling a meeting at 7pm and having a spill at 9am? Labor’s a tight as a drum. The Liberals mustn’t be allowed to say “if they can’t govern themselves, how can they govern the country?”

We can’t focus on the manner in which we got our first woman PM, as extraordinary as it is. We can’t even spend to long patting Julia on the back because she broke the glass ceiling and - sure, with no kids herself- just taught every Australian woman and their daughters that we can do anything. The Libs will say she’s a puppet of the factions or a backstabber. But Julia will become Prime Minister today because she’s the smartest, hardest working woman in the parliament.

Lastly, we can’t forget the good stuff Kevin has done for us. The Liberals will want to paint Kevin Rudd as a complete failure. Rudd the Dudd. All talk no action. What little he did, he messed up. They’ll taint the whole Government with how Rudd left the Prime Ministership, and hurt Julia because she stood by and let him do it.

But think of what he achieved in his two years and seven months. The Apology. Killing WorkChoices stone dead so we can do our jobs without the uncertainty that haunted everyone under John Howard. Signing Kyoto. And - with Wayne Swan, Lindsay Tanner, and Julia- getting us through the global financial crisis. Our economy’s not perfect, but we’re okay and getting better.
She's athiest, she's living in sin, she's childless, she's left,, she's our first female prime minister, she's not going to take your Old Boys Club shit. I welcome our new OverLady.

I hope she's awesome.

xkcd comic. a guy does some maths; another says wow, you suck at math. a girl does some maths; a guy says wow, girls suck at math

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

wednesday linktastic

Things I am apparently currently bad at: link posts.

I don't like to group these link posts, because their inherent intersectionality makes grouping hard, but I'll never post if I don't.

things to do with gender (including gender norms, and trans* issues)

Love It/Shove It?: Dan Savage Can Shove It at the Jaded Hippy:
This constant conflation of sexual organs with sex identity and gender identity is one of the major obstacles, in my experience, with acceptance of and real respect towards trans people's identities. The idea that penis=man and vagina=woman is so entrenched that (cis) people just do NOT question it, even when contradictions of that assumption are staring them in the face. Oh, you look like a woman, talk like a woman, etc. but if I find out you have a penis under that skirt you are clearly "really" a man, or, at the most generous, "were a man once." That you could have been a woman ALL ALONG is not even up for consideration.

And that dynamic is being reinforced here.
This is old, but I think is a good summary of things, Tracing this Body: Transsexuality, pharmaceuticals & capitalism.

A Series of Questions, a photography series.
Many documentary photographic projects that deal with trans issues exploit the genders of their subjects, pointing to an "otherness" or inappropriately exoticizing their bodies. A Series of Questions seeks instead to make visible the transphobia and gender-baiting that can become part of everyday interactions and lives, forming a fuller picture of the various lived experiences. In so doing, this work contrasts with the dehumanizing approaches that predominate the images made of transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and gender-variant people, which often focus solely on their gender or trans status, or use them to further a specific point about social construction and gender.
People I know are in it! ♥

At 8Asians, No More Girly Boys: Chinese Elementary School Teaches its Boys to be More Masculine.

I love this article: Consuming pop culture while trans: Disney's The Little Mermaid

stuff to do with ethnicity, race and culture

At Native Appropriations, Nudie Neon Indians and the Sexualization of Native Women.

What Kind of Card is Race? by Tim Wise is an old but good article.

Glass Icarus writes inscrutable, about yet another form of exotification and frustration and stereotyping.

At Overland, White Australia has a blackface history, by Maxine Clarke. What it says on the tin; something many Australians deny.

On Reverse Cultural Appropriation at the Merch Girl Tumblr.


this is not gonna be coherent by unusualmusic:
Well, wasn't he fucked? Black teen male with Asperger's and mild autism who wanted to GO READ A FUCKING BOOK ends up ABUSED BY THE MOTHERFUCKING POLICE AND IN JAIL WITHOUT LAWYER OR MOTHER FOR 11 DAYS because some white asshole feels UNSAFE with him SITTING DOWN UNDER A TREE OUTSIDE OF A MOTHERFUCKING LIBRARY. I can't even. I cannot... He paid. He PAID for making some suburbanite racist human incarnation of vomit feel unsafe and so he/she made he PAY. Unleashed the power of the state to make him UNSAFE by MAGNITUDES of proportions that... goddamn. And at Wiscon, all these brown people who come to squeal with joy over media...we come to indulge in joy and you (letter writers and their brethren) claim that our very fucking existence makes you unsafe.

other stuff

Cyborg rights 'need debating now' OH YEAH.

An interesting discussion at Remade on The Politics of Fashion: Can you be smart, informed about world issues, and still think your personal style is pretty damn important?

Cadbury shies away from Aussie cynics , suggesting that Australians don't understand ethical branding.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

june 19th

two things about yesterday:

it was the anniversary of Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, a commemoration of the abolition of slavery in the USA.

it was the Helen Keller blogswarm, which features some interesting links and discussions.

consumer electronics and the full cost

A couple of years ago, a worker in a factory making iPhones was photographed being adorable. The photo became quite famous, and it was cute and lovely, what a great time those Chinese people have making those iPhones!

I will never buy an iPhone, as much as I covet one. I want a smart phone so much. My current phone is second hand, from Danni; my previous was second hand from my sister. Before that, I had my phone for five, maybe six years, before it gave up and I could no longer repair it. I am aware that this requires other people to buy the first hand phones, but I'm just trying to use things for as long as I can, reducing my impact as much as possible, and this is why:

12 Worker Suicides at Apple Factory Rock the Sweatshop Supply System: This article talks about in installation of safety nets to catch people jumping, and notes that all those who have committed suicide have been between 18-24 and are migrant workers. It also talks about some of the stresses of working in the Chinese factory system, both physically and psychologically.

Factory workers were later asked to sign pledges that they wouldn't kill themselves, which, I hope is obvious, doesn't really address the underlying problems.

Aside from the long hours and stresses that plague many workers, it's important to understand the issues related to being a migrant worker in China. This doesn't mean they're from another country, it means they've moved domestically to the factories from other provinces.

The hukou (户口) system is a household registration system. In really simple terms, it identifies a person by their province/county, and (again in really simple terms) it governs where people can go for work. It means that if you can't get approval to move domestically, you're stuck where you are. It is a huge factor in migration patterns within the PRC, and it has an impact on why the factory system is so critical. (You can read a bit of a better explanation of hukou in this blog post: hukou system in China)

Some of the things that happen might not be directly related to the corners cut, the sacrifices made, or the pressures exerted; but sitting here in my beanbag, how can I know? Via Chinahush, we can learn that whilstcleaning iPhone screens, 62 Chinese workers were poisoned.
It is reported that the factory manager decided to use n-hexane over alcohol because n-hexane dry faster, and he made workers directly using n-hexane in inadequately ventilated places. The factory has already dismissed him, and paid the medical expenses of the workers. It was reported that 44 workers already hired lawyers to make claims against the factory.
Although Apple is not responsible for the incident, some Hong Kong labor organizations thinks that Apple products are not cheap, company should spend a little more money to ensure a safe working environment for the workers.
Revealed: Inside the Chinese suicide sweatshop where workers toil in 34-hour shifts to make your iPod lists the conditions in the Foxconn Shenzhen factory network; 15 hour shifts, triple bunk beds, 35 degrees inside, bugs, discipline building, pressure to achieve targets.

Recently, you may have read that Foxconn was going to increase wages for factory workers. This helps address some of those problems, right? Sure, if you can also keep the factories in those areas with the wage hikes. Foxconn is moving away from Shenzhen (which is a SEZ, and where the wage hikes are taking places), and up to Tianjin, Yantai and Wuhan, where they can maintain the same wages because of the differences in minimum wage.

Why do you think our electronics are so cheap? Like so many of the consumer goods available in affluent Western countries, we're not paying the full cost. But that price is paid somewhere.

Recently an acquaintance came back from the USA. Restaurants are so cheap! she exclaimed. I tried to explain the differences in labour laws between the USA and Australia, but she didn't really get it. Did you tip? I asked. Sometimes, she said.

She only came to Australia when she was in school. Like me, she has loved ones who have been in/are still in the factory system (though my loved ones were in the factory system in Malaysia). But still, she didn't really get it, because we're so used to this idea that cheap things are wonderous, are to be grasped, are totally expected.

We need these things, phones, I mean, and consumer electronics, for so many reasons, but we shouldn't have to sacrifice people to get them.

Things aren't magically cheaper. Someone pays the price.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

of a wholly inappropriate length

I don't really have any opinions on uniform codes, though I did enjoy flaunting them when I was at high school. So I don't have any intention of critiquing the decision of St Aidan's Church of England High School in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, to ban the wearing of skirts by female students under year eleven.

What I do want to critique is this (via the BBC):
[C]hildren were "clearly wholly unaware of the signals they are giving out" by wearing short skirts.
This is elaborated on further:
"[We have been] seriously concerned now, for a number of years, that girls as young as 12/13 years of age are placing themselves at risk by wearing skirts of a wholly inappropriate length[.]"
This is a lovely piece of victim blaming right here. It's their fault for giving out signals they aren't aware of. Wearing short skirts because they want to (or, alternatively, because of the hypersexualisation of tweens through the media, but that is for another time and not the point of this post) totally indicates their sexual availability! Just like wearing a mini skirt automatically means a woman is saying yes to you!


That's the extent of my critique.

I was going to link to some awesome discussions re: victim blaming, but apparently I read a lot but never save any of them.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

tomorrow, when the war began and the myth of the imminent invasion

So, the remake of Red Dawn, where USAmericans beat up Chinese Communists, has been delayed indefinitely. I'm totally cool with that.

A movie project that has not been delayed is the Tomorrow, When the War Began movie. It comes out later this year in Australia. I had thought that maybe I would have to explain for ages and ages my issues with this movie, but then I found an article to explain it for me:
“If I named a country, it wouldn’t be that book; it would be something else entirely. What the book and the movie are about is these eight teenagers and what happens to them when their country is invaded, not who’s doing it or why. The ethnicity just makes common sense. If anyone is going to invade Australia, it’s not going to be Europe, and it’s not going to be Africa. It won’t be Antarctica or New Zealand. It’s going to be someone in Asia. It’s the logical thing. It’s common sense enough for an audience to say ‘ok, that’s who it would be’” he explained.
Okay, wait, here is my explanation: as much as I loved this series for giving me a young Asian-Australian who wasn't 'exotic,' who was just struggling with stuff and living his life and having romantic teenage entanglements with people who weren't Asian, I hated this series for giving me an agressor who fed into the Australian zeitgeist of imminent invasion by the yellow hordes to the North.

This idea that permeates this country, imminent invasion by the hordes to the North, is not new and it's not yet gone; Prolonged Symptoms of Cultural Anxiety: The Persistence of Narratives of Asian Invasion within Multicultural Australia is a paper that looks at just this idea. It's a good read, and highlights basically everything I dislike about the genre (including his use of racial stereotypes, and his erasing of Indigenous Australians with White (settler) Australians), and this series in particular;
The popular reception of Marsden’s invasion narrative signifies the historical continuity of Australian invasion anxiety within changing cultural contexts.
Shouldn't we be past this by now? Can't we be past this? I've had to deal with this for so long, and this idea is a key element of the undertones of xenophobia so many of us have to put up with (regularly or irregularly), and it's so frustrating that it's the basis of this Australian classic that doesn't even have the excuse of being written during Federation or whatever. It was the big text when I was a teenager, when I was trying to figure out what it meant to be Australian and Chinese and all the rest of it.

If you think this is an over-reaction, that people don't seriously believe this stuff - well, check out the comments on any online Australian paper when there's an article on immigration, any country in Asia, or border crossings. Or sometimes crime involving people of Asian descent. It's awesome reading.

At least we always had the ambiguity, in the book, teeny tiny though it was.

And now we get the whole freaking movie.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

no english = no babies

I don't want to be accused of leaping to wild conclusions here, especially because I already have such huge issues with adoption, but I'm actually too busy keyboardmashing with rage over this article to do the usual linking/research to prove my point.

Adoption approved, despite wrongful removal at birth
THE NSW government's welfare agency seized a baby girl from her Chinese immigrant parents and, against their wishes, adopted her out to an Australian-born couple, prompting a judge to observe that the infant may have been "wrongly taken away".
BECAUSE THE MOTHER DIDN'T SPEAK ENGLISH. The article also goes into the fact that the mother was distrustful of government processes. So when the baby was finally discharged from hospital four months later, that's a great reason for DOCS to foster her out.


The article doesn't really mention the father, except for this: Her father, who is also Chinese but speaks better English, has not seen her either. So would this outcome have been the same had it been the mother who spoke 'better English'?

Mothers who can't speak English are bad? OR SOMETHING, I don't know.

And if you think the comments don't contain things like, 'sounds like the kid is better off where she is' then YOU ARE VERY WRONG. And if you want to say, 'maybe it wasn't racially-motivated' you are also very wrong.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

on this blog; or, what is this penguin doing here

So, it occurs to me that this blog looks like it is brand new! In fact, it is something I should have done a long time ago. For several years, I have been social justice blogging in my private blog! But that time is past, and now I am blogging here, where you don't have to see me talking about tea, or the books I'm reading, or whatever.

If you want to catch up on some of the other stuff I've written, you can find it here: in particular you might be interested in previous mid week linky posts; isms; racism; or my favourite, on being chinese.

Friday, June 4, 2010

六四运动 / 六四屠城

This is always a great day. The June Fourth Incident, also known as the Tian'anmen Square Protests of 1989, was big and gross and horrible, and the events need to be remembered and acknowledged, but every year on this day I spend the whole day cautiously tip-toeing around as the blogs I read slowly fill with anti-Chinese sentiment. It's lots of fun. Where by lots of fun, I mean :o(

Check back later in the day. I'm sure I'll update this post with links and things.

Tiananmen mothers fear history will die with them
The man was in his 80s and dying. The woman was 73 and held his hand. They each lost a son in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and fought for decades to get China to acknowledge the deaths.

But Duan Hongbing wouldn't live to see that day.
There's a rumour going around that a cartoon got published in a major paper for Children's Day, of a little boy drawing a line of tanks on a blackboard, with a man standing in front. It was passed around online, but removed a day later. I haven't seen it around, and would be interested to see it/see confirmation of this.

21 years: Modern China is too busy to remember

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

hua mulan; or, on passing the bechdel test with only two women

Hey, so, maybe you're familiar with The Ballad of Hua Mulan. There have been many movie versions (good chance you've seen the Disney movie), but there was one that came out last year, starring Wei Zhao, that was pretty awesome.

Mulan is so fierce, she is one of my favourite women ever, though there is a lot of debate over whether or not she ever existed which I don't really want to get in to. But she ran off to war in her father's place, and she became a general, and she was fierce and awesome and I love her.

In the 2009 movie, she was particularly fierce. The movie spends so little time fretting about her hiding her identity and debating whether she'll go to war - the movie opens, she does it, and she moves on. It's all about her, her journey and her awesomeness and I have always considered her one of the greatest role models for women to come out of Chinese history/literature.

Anyway, in a movie about a woman who lives her life as a man in order to go away to war and fight, where the movie emphasises that bringing a woman in to the camp is death (just to highlight that there aren't going to be any other female characters hanging around), and that is all actiony and stuff, it still passes the Bechdel test. Yes, that's right, in a movie where there are only two female characters at all, they still have a conversation that is not about a man.1

And there's another version being considered (uh, in 3D). So maybe, I dunno, if a movie with only two women and lots of swords can pass the Bechdel test, maybe more movies could do so? OR SOMETHING.

1SPOILER SPOILER there may be some debate about this, given the end point of the conversation is Hua Mulan promising the princess that she can marry Wentai, but the ACTUAL point of the conversation is what can these two women do in order to bring peace to their warring factions, so I will defend this as not a conversation about a guy, it's a conversation about politics and warfare. END SPOILER

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

checking out the media

I want to really quickly comment on this article, SBS warns of foreign media risks to social cohesion. At first I was like NO SBS NOT YOU TOO but thinking about it, it's a valid point that international media is not necessarily going to pick up on local details; but it's important to note that neither, necessarily, is the local media. All media outlets have their biases.

Just as an example, I read half a dozen social justice blogs that are in the PRC, and quite a few Malaysian politics blogs (as well as the Star Online, it's practically like reading the West), because I assume that the bajillion Australian and USA blogs I read aren't going to give me the information and the nuance I need in order to keep up on what's going on. Hell no if you think I'm trusting someone who isn't Malaysian to report on some of that stuff, they're not going to get it.

What country or area specific papers/political/social justice blogs do you read?

(how else would I get to read about a pontianak haunting a police station? nb pontianaks are female ghosts who were usually killed in very unpleasant ways, some of the description of which is in the link)

Monday, May 31, 2010

i don't have no fucking button nose

I know, it's so passe to be outraged over a facebook group, but seriously (these links via @jennifergearing):

This Thursday is apparently Hug a Half Asian Day! and if any of you even think about it THERE WILL BE TROUBLE. BIG LOTS OF TROUBLE.

And also: I Have A Eurasian Friend, possibly the coolest, buttoned nosed, friends to have.

This had better be a joke. Because I know that I, as a Eurasian Person, really appreciate it when my friends exoticise me. It cements our friendship. It shows they respect me. Etc.

Also, I don't have a fucking button nose.