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)