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.