Monday, November 5, 2012

down under feminists carnival: 54th edition

Hello and welcome to the 54th Down Under Feminists Carnival! For your reading pleasure (or rage, I guess, there is some rage going on), I present this month's links; for your listening pleasure, I have also embedded a song at the end that is about presentation and jerks and shaking your fist. It is in Mandarin Chinese but I've included a super rough translation into English.

Sexuality and Society 

In the coming out post, Elizabeth at Spilt Milk talks about coming out, and divorce, and erasure. Pondering Asexuality and Living Arrangements sees Jo at A Life Examined looking at non-partnered living and options and relationships. And at My Scarlett Heartt: Narratives of Kinky Sex.


The News with Nipples shares how to respond when you see sexism happening, and Mary at the Ada Initiative shares what to do when there's a harassment report at your conference.

Luddite Journo looks at Imagining a World without Sexual Violence and Mike Tyson: the Undisputed Truth at the Hand Mirror. There's at the risk of sounding like *that* feminist, on violence and blame and Jill Meagher, by Danni at Crosslegged on the Front Lawn, and Justine Larbalestier writes about the Brad Pitt Defence of harassment. Stargazer looks at targeting young women and a culture of silence at the Hand Mirror.

On Prime Minister Gillard and Australian Politics 

Because there was a lot of it this month, I'm not going to include a description for every one of these links, and I haven't included every post on this, but I have included ones that I thought were particularly interesting or important or different.

 Some of Tony Abbot's Best Friends are Women at the News with Nipples; Yesterday in Politics at Ariane's little world; Bluemilk shares a lot of links about the prime minister's speech (including the video); Why Julia Gillard's Smackdown Speech was Brilliant at Mamamia; Raivans talks about the difference a good speech makes; and Now the Dust has Settled at HaT; Singing our Song 2 at A Bee of a Certain Age; and Perceptions of Gillard and Misogyny at Emma in Oz. Tigtog brings us a collection of links at Hoyden About Town about the media circus that is particularly relevant to ladies in Australian politics.

A few posts on silence, and anger: At HaT, Mindy asks When is Anger Allowed? There is some great linking and discussion in the comments as well. Bluemilk has a lesson in silencing women and the video of Penny Wong being awesome in OMG! Australia is discussing the nuances of misogyny, sexism, privilege, silencing and moral equivalence (and when I grow up I would like to be Penny Wong, or at least, a fierce, queer, intelligent, Chinese-Malaysian Australian woman who knows where she's at).

Flexing my mussel and the Real Gillard Hypocrisy at No Place for Sheep

Ada Lovelace Day 

For Ada Lovelace Day, Danni at Scrambled Tofu profiled colleague Elaine Miles, a researcher at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. The Bureau followed this with profiles on its FB page of four of its awesome Bureau Women (scroll to Oct 16 on the timeline). Mary profiled Marita Cheng, Robogals Founder, and Else Shepherd, leading Australian electrical engineer.

Representation and Women in the Media 

Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear discusses Kate Elliot's appearance on Q&A and how the boys are jerks. You can find An Open Letter to Usborne Books: who are you calling famous? at Jill in a Box; and So it's okay so long as there are no women around? by Mindy at HaT. At My Scarlett Heartt, Let me tell you a secret Chaka Khan…I am not every woman.

Performance and Art and Bodies

A review of The Wizard of Auslan at the UQ Wom*n's Collective; and a visit to Fat Stories: An Exhibition written up at Fat Heffalump.

Things about performativity and bodies: In pursuit of a political argument for exercise by Stephanie at Ginger and Honey; How not to Market to Fat Customers, Om Nom Nom and My Fat Body is Me at Fat Heffalump; A Frocktober Checkin and on bras and breasts in do they wobble too and fro at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist; Public Knowledge / Private Performances at Definatalie.

On Families and Motherhood 

On homebirth as a feminist issue at Bluemilk and No surprise here: Family First doesn't really put families first and Paid parental leave: zombies/babies - they sound similar for a reason at Idealogically Impure.  Idealogically Impure also has a series of posts on anti-choice and abortion: Name the Dentists; Abortion in Southland: Alison McCulloch kicks ass edition; Irony in Action: antichoice whinge edition.

A, Miscellany 

I post about two short-film projects featuring Asian-Australian ladies that are currently fundraising via indiegogo.

International Day of the Girl links at HaT.

At Leftover Words, Sky Croeser asks that we please tell Labor not to excise the mainland from our migration zone. Continuing with Chally's Feminists of Faith series, we have anjum rahman. On the demands on time and marginalised users in what are all these cars doing on my road? at a Bee of a Certain Age. A collection of links on Pinktober at HaT.

On Privacy, anonymity, pseudonymity, outing, and accountability by tigtog at HaT. Sh*t this feminist says (that she shouldn't) by Katherine Klaus at Can be Bitter. Jo at a Life Unexamined writes on feminism as a way of life (and being a good feminist).

In I wonder if I am too weak to write, Utopiana talks about Anthony Mundine's comments and the media reaction to it.

Thank you for visiting the carnival! Next month's carnival will be hosted by the News with Nipples! Submissions to newswithnipples at gmail etc.

No No 你說的全都不對
紅頭髮 黑指甲
沒表情 話太少
被你說成 無可救藥
你喜歡 不喜歡 跟我全都無關 
算了吧 無所謂 隨便你 去說吧
好幾次 我試圖 對你微笑
可你覺得我在 強顏 歡笑
既然這樣 我只好 做自己
轉過身 還有 一大片天空
紅頭髮 黑指甲
沒表情 話太少
難道真的 無可救藥
你喜歡 不喜歡 跟我全都無關

算了吧 無所謂 隨便你 去說吧
你說對的 他說錯
都不在乎 let it be
他說對的 你說錯
都不在乎 let it go
Hey Hey Hey
來 瞄准我方向
我就站在這裡 微笑著 盯著你看
優雅的 轉過身 我根本不怕
我已經 受夠啦 受夠啦 受夠啦
無所謂 無所謂 算了吧

No no   you say it’s all wrong
Said my awesome self wasn’t worthy
These years, who have I insulted
Usually provoked by some gross mouth
Red hair, black fingernails
What’s strange, what’s surprising
No feelings, words missing
You say hopeless
This is the way I am
No way to please everyone
I can only be this way
You like me or not, it’s nothing to do with me
Forget it, whatever you tell me
Several times I tried to smile at you
You thought I was laughing (at you)
But that was just you
Turned the body in the sky
Red hair, black fingernails
What’s strange, what’s surprising
No feelings, words missing
You say hopeless
This is the way I am
No way to please everyone
I can only
You like me or not, it’s nothing to do with me

Forget it, whatever you tell me
You say he was wrong
Don’t worry about it let it be
He said you were wrong
Don’t worry about it let it be
Hey hey hey
Come, aim in my direction
However you want to treat me
I stand here smiling, staring at you
In the face of weak bullets
I shift gracefully, I’m unafraid
I’ve had enough had enough had enough
Forget it, it doesn’t matter, let it go

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

azn aus lady things i'm giving money to

I came across two awesome looking short movies starring Asian Australian ladies that are currently looking for funding. I'm planning to donate to both of them as soon as I find my credit card, and I think they sound super interesting. I don't know any of the people involved in this (though if they want to say hi, they should definitely do so!).

Blood for the Devil's Daughters sees three Asian vampires resurrected and threatening Melbourne's Chinatown. The vampires will allegedly mix Asian "vampire" themes with Western ones - like hopping ghosts, fox spirits, and flying heads, and will be battled by two ladies of Asian heritage. The fundraising for this movie ends December 1.

Hit Girls is an action girl assassin comedy. It's set in Sydney and looks amazing and I want it and it aims to help to fill a space in Australia where we're multicultural but our media is all white. And I want it. Their fundraising ends November 13.

Monday, October 29, 2012

movie review: tai chi hero / 太极2

My short review on twitter immediately after seeing Tai Chi Hero:
[text of tweet: love flying machines & kung fu machines; sideeye at sudden & unexpected sideline of ladies; enjoyed the humour.]
The longer review (some spoilers):

Tai Chi Hero follows immediately on from Tai Chi 0, and has been released in China (and in Australia) with only a month between. It's easy to view them as one long movie, but it's easy to see where the original rumours of a trilogy would have come from. It's a duology with an epic story to tell, and just not enough time.

In Tai Chi 0, Yang Lu Chan ("the freak") comes to Chen Village to learn the Chen family style of Kung Fu. Lu Chan has been born with a natural advantage, the "Three Blossoms Horn" which both gives him awesome powers and is slowly killing him, hence his need to learn the more even Chen family style. The problem is that Chen family style is only taught to members of the Chen family, and Lu Chan is desperate enough to try anything to learn this style.

Tai Chi 0 features lots of fun action, videogame style sequencing and introductions, and lots of elements that I loved (including great machines and action sequences), as well as some awesome characters such as Yu Niang, who is not only the village apothecary but also completely stone fierce; brother Tofu; and the overly dramatic Fang Zijing, a family member with the wrong name who has never been allowed to learn the Chen family style.

In Tai Chi Hero, we are introduced to the remaining characters, some who have been given elevated importance in the trailer and some who weren't really introduced at all. The Inventor and the Silent Wife turn up, and I really hope that the Silent Wife's parts were originally there but later cut because otherwise what we have is a mysterious sidelining of the ladies, after they were all so awesome in the previous instalment. Yu Niang, who was so amazing in Tai Chi 0, and becomes Lu Chan's teacher in this instalment, is later resigned to standing on the sidelines as Lu Chan battles to prove that they are truly from the Chen family. This is obviously done for story purposes - it is, after all, the story of how Lu Chan becomes one with the yin and yang and with himself, therefore it must be he who demonstrates the style for the story - but Yu Niang, as daughter of the Chen Grandmaster, is surely the more logical demonstrator here? And the Silent Wife has so much potential, does some excellent kung fu, and then runs around looking sad and being threatened with torture. As this follows on from British agent Claire Heathrow's death in Tai Chi 0, which motivates Fang Zijing to become Truly Evil, it is unfortunate.

The switches between English and Mandarin are fun but sadly lacking. Mandy Lieu, as Claire Heathrow, is great in Mandarin but not so much in English. Peter Stormare turns up as another agent of the British East India Company and chews the scenery in both English and Mandarin. Eddie Peng (as Fang Zijing) is dramatic in English and unsympathetic in Mandarin.

It's not all criticisms. In fact, it's barely any criticisms, really, I criticise because I care. Tai Chi Hero continues to be a great (if heavy-handed) look at the impact of Western influence and modernisation in China at the turn of the century, and how that conflicted and contrasted with the desire to keep things as they are, for whatever reason and by whatever means necessary. It's a look at government corruption and the interpretation of history. I loved big brother, the inventor, who wanted to revolutionise China and his family by taking western machinery and ideas and developing it to take advantage of their best assets - in the Chen family's case, by making their kung fu even better. The revelation of his kung fu-aiding machine vest was probably the greatest moment of the film for me, a commentary on modernisation and adaptability and family and tradition and being Chinese in a five minute sequence. 

I really loved the moment when we found out why the movies are called Tai Chi X; and every moment featuring the Prince.

This instalment also continued with the humour and self-reflection, and I'm sorry to tell you that the translations didn't manage to capture all of the humour in the dialogue, so if you thought it was funny and you don't speak Mandarin, let me assure you that it was actually (intentionally) even more hilarious.

I loved it, I will definitely own this one, and I hope this new-ish trend of Chinese kung-fu steampunk movies continues. I just wish all of them had awesome ladies, is that too much to ask?

Other reviews: Margaret and David review Tai Chi 0 and Margaret interviews Kuo-Fu Chen and Tony Leung Ka-Fai*; Ay-Leen the Peacemaker reviews Tai Chi 0 at Tor; James Marsh at Twitch Films reviews Tai Chi Hero; an article on how it's a return to more traditional WuXia and it's a box office success for doing so (Zh).

*David and Margaret are Australia's favourite movie reviewers. Margaret's earrings have a Facebook page and my favourite Facebook page ever is called "When David Stratton from At the Movies gets shirty about handheld cameras." I love them. A lot.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

54th Down Under Feminist's Carnival

Okay, wow, the last time I hosted the Down Under Feminist's Carnival was the eighth edition, and now we're up to the 54th! Nobody point out to me what a terrible number that is.

The next edition of the Down Under Feminists Carnival is planned for 5 November, 2012 and submissions can be made up until November 2, though it would be excellent for me if you would submit before that. Submissions can be sent to yiduiqie [at] gmail [dot] com for those who can’t access the blogcarnival submissions form.

Submissions must be of posts of feminist interest by writers from Australia and New Zealand that were published in October. So submit early and often, please, and tell your friends!

There is no official theme for this edition of the carnival, though the unofficial theme of this blog is always race and ethnicity representation, so please definitely feel free to use that for guidance! (Do you sense a post brewing on exoticism and feminism and my experiences in China? oh yes indeed)

The 53rd edition of the carnival is available now at Opinions @ and is filled with all sorts of awesome and interesting posts.

Friday, September 7, 2012

book review: the fat years by chan koonchung

When I moved back to Australia three weeks ago (!!), the first book I picked up was my copy of The Fat Years (《盛世:中国,2013年》), which I'd left languishing on my bestie's bookshelf. I bought it when it first was translated into English, and then promptly moved to China. As it is a banned book (proclaimed in large print on the cover!), I left the book behind in Australia.
Part satire, part dystopian imaging, part road trip, part political thriller, The Fat Years seeks to establish reasons for erasure, and reasons for acceptance, and whilst it explores these issues it never places the blame in any one area, and never really comes to any conclusion. The government does things; the people do things; the government accepts some actions; the people accept some actions. The structure of the novel means there is a direct opportunity for the government to defend its actions, and defend it it does, in a way that makes such cold (but boring) sense in a Chinese context. It also includes warnings about the path China is taking, at the same time as providing support. It’s a clear indictment of the government system, at the same time as accepting what was done as needful.

Read the full review at my China blog!

citation needed

It was quiet when I finally made it to the path lab, and the tests I was getting meant the phlebotomist could guess I'd been overseas, and ask where I had been. China, I said, and explained that I had been working and living there, and then I waited for the question that is always asked, not only from strangers but from people who I feel should know better.

"Do they have free-thinkers, then?"

 I'm still working on my elevator pitch, but it goes like this:

 Of course they do. I have my issues with the system (I always say this, lest they disregard my opinion as biased or something, though I don't know what would be regarded as biased) but there are writers and artists and scientists and discoveries and awesome things happening every day.

People think that mainland Chinese are still living under the yoke of Mao's wooden farming equipment, wearing their Mao collars and starving, completely unfamiliar with Western media and consumed by their communism. Sure I have a list of issues with China that's longer than I care to actually write down, but there's social media and access to foreign websites and this phlebotomist so clearly thinks that the media we get in Australia tells us everything, that they're not keeping anything out or picking and choosing what stories are spun. There is reporting of a quality higher than Today Tonight in Beijing, I want to say (I rarely do).

The Chinese education system doesn't encourage a deep analysis of media (or referencing and verification, as I can elaborate on at length, with a lot of flailing and waving around of reports I've edited half a dozen times and ask me about the google citation one time), but many people I know work on the assumption that while they're not necessarily being told lies, there's a possibility they're not being told the entire truth. I have a friend who has never lived anywhere other than China, but his first holiday overseas he googled 'Tiananmen Incident' and read and watched everything he could find; and after all of that he went home again.

When I told the story about Kuai (his name is not Kuai, but let us call him that), the phlebotomist paused. "Oh, they can go on holiday?" she asked. Imagine me restraining from throwing my hands up in the air. Going on trips overseas is very encouraged. Domestic tourism is massive but international tourism is growing and growing and growing and if I wanted to change my career to tourism the first thing I would write on any cover letter would be that I speak Mandarin, that I lived in China, that I have connections in China's tourism industry.

Representations of mainland China in English-language media are all dire, post Cultural Revolution gritty stuff. Despite a wealth of Chinese fantasy, science fiction, romance, and comedy being written, the stuff that's translated from Chinese into English and held up as authentic Chinese experiences are those that look at the desolation of the Opening Up of China, or life during the Cultural Revolution. Sometimes there are stories about the materialism of modern China and how it's ruining China (and the world). And let us not forget for a moment that the critiques and summaries of life in China that are given weight are also the ones written by foreigners.

This article at NPR suggests that censorship in China is less about specific issues and more about collective action. Certainly it speaks to my experience - news about the Occupy Movement, for example, was easy to access up until the narrative started to project being about organising against one's own government.

I have a sort of recoil now, a distaste when Westerners ask why Chinese people don't get active about [insert issue here]. Well, I try to say, why don't we? Active in Australia is so specific, characterised as protests and rallies about things we can see, but what brought this up was the pollution in the air in Beijing, and how you just get used to it. She asked, why don't they get active, get something happening about the pollution? I explained that China is developing fast, and there's this idea that in order to catch up with Western, developed countries, China must be like those countries in terms of manufacturing and development, and that the preference, for the most part, was for keeping that manufacturing in-house (this blog post has been at least partially debunked but has some links about this stuff). At least China is taking responsibility for its pollution, I said. Where do you think ours goes, when we import all of our manufactured goods?

Mind blown.

I'm currently reading Gaysia, by Mr Benjamin Law, and I have plans for an extensive review when I'm finished but what stood out for me in the section on China was the concept of self-censorship, and the idea that some censorship was needed, self or otherwise, otherwise there'd be anarchy.

The level of censorship is frustrating and sucks and is all about the national government's obsession with stability, or at least it claims to be. There are ways around it, like hosting websites overseas, getting info from overseas, pointed self-censorship or my very favourite, memes using coded words. The meme in this style that you might of heard of outside of China is the grass-mud horse, both a way of expressing a vulgarity and a political comment. Commentary about China is so obsessed with free speech but often people don't really know what that means (particularly as Australians! This article on Anita Heiss' Black enough has some really gross comments exemplifying that - yes, free speech has been curtailed when we can't 'say anything that could be deemed offensive'! Yes, that's right, miscellaneous Australian).

I self-censor. I self-censor for different reasons. I self-censored before I considered moving to China. I avoided using certain T words while I was living in China. I self-censor now.

Living in China has changed me in ways I didn't expect. I don't know if I would have had all of these attitudes or thoughts before I lived there, but I certainly have them now. When you know a thing, when you have lived a thing, and it is a thing that works, then it is a thing that works. And it frustrated me before I went, and while I lived there, and definitely now, that people can't see the connections between the things they were supposed to complain about, because China, and the things in their own daily lives.

Sometimes it surprises me that I have to explain some of these things; sometimes, it doesn't surprise me at all.

Friday, August 3, 2012

personal positives: experiencing my mistakes

Maybe my answer will be different in two months' time, after I've moved home to Australia and settled back in to Melbourne. But right now, here in Beijing, far away from my home and my loved ones and loving (and hating) my life here and this city, the thing I do to make a difference is share.

Not share my opinions, though I'm perfectly capable of that. I share my experiences. I've made so many mistakes and I've done so many things right; I've tried so many new things and so many old things and some have been good and some have been bad and some have been anywhere in between. I've moved countries and cities and navigated new problems. 

I feel shame when I do something less than perfect, whether that thing be mix up jiao and mao (they are, in fact, the same thing), or misunderstand someone when they speak, or turn the wrong way down a street and have to come back again. What if someone notices? I feel horrible and terrible and wrong, which is almost certainly a marker of my anxiety. 

Whenever someone asks, I always try to say yes. This works for me and against me, at times. Sometimes I feel so guilty when it comes time to say no, because I do genuinely want to do as much as I can. Sometimes I think I want to share these experiences so badly because I wish someone else could help me from making any mistake ever. Sometimes I forget that part of learning and living and experiencing is making mistakes and mixing up mao and jiao and walking the wrong way down a street and learning to be okay with having those experiences yourself.

It pleases me to make a difference in this way, to help others avoid feeling this way and to maybe help others have awesome experiences the way I feel I have been able to. I feel like this is my personal positive, but maybe it isn't always a personal positive?
batman! in a piece by ns harsha

Sunday, June 24, 2012

three names

I have had three legal names, and the name I am happiest with, as it turns out, is the one I gave myself. I know it shouldn’t surprise me, but it does, because coincidentally that name was also the one I already had.

The hardest thing about going through the process of changing my name is what a hassle it is, every time. There are questions that I don’t want to answer (questions like: why are you changing your name?). It costs a lot of money, especially the bit where I need to get a new passport issued, and I have to send off to N.S.W. to get my birth certificate reissued again. It’s inconvenient. The transition period especially is a pain, and due to being overseas I’m still in that period, where my chosen name is where I can put it but that other name is all over everything that my passport touches. One of the first things I’m doing when I get back to Australia is changing my passport, again.

But this is the most comfortable I’ve ever been in a name. I didn’t realise how uncomfortable I was with my own name until I changed it and changed it again, and suddenly it fit me. And every moment of annoyance that came before has been totally worth it, because it’s my name and even thinking about my name makes me feel good, even though it’s been my name my whole life and it didn’t fit until I shifted where it sat.

I use my legal name now a lot more than I ever used to. Before this name, I defaulted far more frequently to Steph or Stephie Penguin, and I'd never put my family name on things, not any of the ones that came before, not for privacy reasons, but because it didn't fit. I seriously considered making Penguin my legal name, but whilst that, too, is part of the name that makes my identity, I don't think I could sign it on a credit card with a straight face.

There are discussions that we have, about names, whether we want to or not. After picking this name, I've chosen not to have any of these discussions. But there is a propriety there, from strangers and from not-strangers, a request for information and explanation that I don't want to give, because I picked this name for my own reasons and unlike the previous name change, there were no expectations, there was no assumption that I would do it or not do it. And I don't want to explain it.

I made my Chinese name my family name, and picked myself a brand new middle name. It means I don't share my family name with people who are my family. It means I don’t have a Chinese name anymore, not officially (though my business cards say ‘绿叶’, I kind of borrowed it from my Apore and that’s good enough for me), and sometimes I get people who are like ‘Oh...I thought you’d be Chinese...,’ or ‘...but that’s an individual name, not a family name,’ but it’s exactly right for me. And everyone else can just deal.

Monday, April 30, 2012

queering beijing

When I was preparing to come to China, at training (provided by the Australian government) it was made clear that coming out as queer in China was probably not a thing that I should do.

At work I say 'my partner' and the singular 'they' in English; in Mandarin 她 (she) is pronounced the same as 他 (he), so I just don't correct people. Someone (a native English speaker) heard my slip up one time in English, saying 'she'; they took me aside later, and told me not to come out at work, because 'they' (my Chinese colleagues) just wouldn't understand, and maybe I should consider actively using 'he' in English. I feel crappy enough as it is hiding my queerness for the first time in a long time, there's no way I'm using the pronoun he to refer to my wonderful beautiful girlfriend.

Incidentally, the verb for coming out is the same: 出柜, or 'to go out of the closet'.

Despite these warnings I've received from Westerners living or who have lived in China, however, what I see doesn't necessarily match up with what I've been told. There's a local lesbian centre (the only reason I haven't visited it is because it's a bit of a distance from where I live), and a number of queer bars, and regular events with queer authors and movie makers, and I know these links are to expat sites but it's not only expats who are involved in these things. And then last week Anthony Wong came out, and it was all good!

I came out to my Chinese tutor (she's about the same age as me), and she didn't seem to care.

My warnings came from older expats, being given directly to me, a young decadent Westerner working a cushy office job in an international organisation, and I wonder if there's a reason for that. I recognise things would be different if I worked in a different kind of situation, or if I wasn't from Australia, and didn't have this assumed right to privacy (or not privacy), as I see it, that we have in Australia (another post for another time, the difference between privacy in China and privacy in Australia).

I haven't quite been brave enough to come out at work yet, and I mean, I'm not going to take out an announcement or anything but last week a colleague asked me if I had a boyfriend back home and I said no, which is technically true, and left it at that.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

queer australian teevee

I’m not watching much Australian television at the moment, because I’m in China and sadly ABC iview isn’t available outside of Australia, but I have been making an effort to watch two shows: Outland and The Newtown Girls. Coincidentally, these are both humourous shows about Australian Queers.

Outland is a six-part series that just finished on ABC1. It's a comedy about a gay science fiction club in Melbourne. I’ve been watching it via iTunes (AUD2.99 an episode; AUD16 for the lot).

The Newtown Girls is a ten-part webseries, a dramedy about the dating lols that accompany "returning to the scene." I didn't realise dressing up as Xena counted as a part of returning to the scene but it's all good. I’ve been watching it on the website (no cost).

Both of these shows are not only Australian and set in queer communities, but my favourite characters on both are queer ladies of colour. This makes me so happy.

Rae is an Indigenous sci-fi fan in a wheel chair. She wears awesome clothes and is a little insecure about her body but she’s not afraid of calling bullshit when it hits her. She’s played by Christine Anu, who is a super awesome TSI with a twitter.

Alex is a young Asian woman living it up in Newtown. She’s addicted to coffee (looks like an espresso) and she’s cheerful and forthright and she wears awesome clothes. She’s played by Renee Lim, who is an Asian actress from Perth who is a doctor in her spare time.

How could I not love them? I love them.

It took me a long time to become comfortable with being a queer Australian woman of an Asian background, and sometimes it’s still something I have to fight with other people about (more on that later), but it is my identity and I love it. And I’m so happy that there are two queer Australian women of a not-white ethnicity on my television (well, on my laptop), who speak like me and are portrayed by actresses I already liked and also one of whom is a science fiction fan like meeeee.

Friday, March 30, 2012

queer chinese things!

Zooming in on LGBT issues, about a program in Beijing designed to train lesbian, trans, bi and gay people in creating documentaries about their queer lives.

An article kind of about fear, homophobia and expectations in Chinese culture: Wives of gay men: not an easy job in China.
About 80 per cent of homosexuals in China get married to avoid social pressure. Their wives, who number about 24 million, are not having it easy, but they have started organising themselves.
A talk in London: Activist and film maker talks on gay life in modern China
Gay activist and film maker Xiaogang Wei will be giving a talk in London on how queer activism is changing the face of modern China.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

[books] the secret history of the mongol queens, jack weatherford

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens is an attempt to fill in some of the gaps that can be found in Mongolian history. It’s a comprehensive look at the role of Mongolian Queens in the ruling and establishment of Mongolia and how they advanced its borders over the centuries, starting from the early years of Genghis Khan through seven hundred years of history. It’s a compelling illustration, looking at not only Mongolian history but also touching on the role of historians in erasing those histories of which they don’t approve (here, ladies in ruling and making decisions and being awesome).

I really enjoyed learning about Genghis Khan’s wives and daughters, and the critical role they played in the division and governing of the Mongol Empire. The book gave a lot of insight into Mongolian history centred around Genghis Khan, and not knowing a lot about Mongol history it was a nice introduction for me. And I like lady-centric history!

It’s a shame then that in all the reviews I read of The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, not a one mentioned that the writer was patronising and condescending. Ordinarily when I make these claims I like to have page numbers, but I was reading on my iphone so alas page numbers are not to be. However the author did make a number of sweeping unsubstantiated claims such as the lack of a son was ‘one of the cruelest blows of her life’ (I didn’t note which queen this was in reference to), and the entire epilogue was just about how shocked and surprised he was that Mongolian people knew something about their history that he didn’t, and how he constantly dismissed tales of Mongolian Queens (and Manduhai) as folk tales. Definitely an epilogue that makes me respect him as an historian and researcher. He comments that there were a number of contradictions in the Secret History whilst rarely specifying what they were. The Secret History, incidentally, is an historical Mongolian document, and maybe it was just my epub version but at no point did the author mention what the Secret History was, so there were lots of confusing references to things in the Secret History.

The book also veers from history, and things actually verifiable, to actual made-up storytelling, or at the very least, poetic license, with little distinction between what is what. And rather than this elaboration making what could be a dry historical document interesting and compelling, it just makes it longer and boring.

I’m glad this book exists, I just wish it was written by someone else.

five out of ten penguins

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

[books] women of letters

Dear Women of Letters (the book);

I know you've probably received many reviews in the guise of letters; this has probably been done. BUT I AM DOING IT ANYWAY.

I read you recently, and I found it a very pleasant experience. I only started attending your events about twelve months ago; in fact I believe 'A letter to my turning point' was my first event (and in fact my first visit to Thornbury Theatre). I was pleased to hear you would be a book, and you were a good read. Easy to read, engaging stories, different emotions and glimpses into lives, and a chance for me to experience the letters I was previously unable to know. I liked the layout of you, and your selection of letters, and I liked that some authors were repeated. I liked that you chose to include some Men of Letters. I loved how familiar some of the letters were, despite me not knowing the author nor the situation; but then, I guess that's why so many people love you.

I loved Amanda Roff's dystopic Melbourne, of course I did. Dystopic Australia is one of my favourite things! And I don't deny that fiction can be a source of reality, just as any true story can; and any true story can be made up, exploring nothing but the author's imagination. But I can't lie, Women of Letters: every work of fiction that someone chooses to share instead of an actual letter leaves me a little disappointed. Maybe Roff really is dying of boredom. But her choice means I choose to think it was all made up. I feel a little bit cheated, but I'm willing to accept it's just me.

I remember the first time I heard someone read a letter and it turned out to be a short story. It was the same day I first saw the note to Angie Hart and her greatness in the toilets at the Thornbury Theatre, and in the queue for the loo I took a poll about the fictional story thing. People were divided. So it's a personal preference, I guess, and I don't hold it against you.

I cried twice whilst reading you, Women of Letters. Once when Fee B-Squared wrote about her Nanna at her Pa's bedside, and again when Karen Hitchcock failed to meet Deborah. I'm fragile right now, and I was tired, and eight hours into a fifteen hour transit, and I was on the plane taking me away from beloved Melbourne back to Beijing for another six months, and maybe that has something to do with it, but those moments hit me where I was most vulnerable. And that's part of the reason why I love you, Women of Letters.

You're not perfect, Women of Letters. There are some letters in there that I don't like, and there are some words and attitudes that bother me (ablist things, mostly), but when I think about how you'd go about censoring your contributors I sort of go around in circles. I haven't worked out how to deal with this yet, but I'll get there, and I hope you will, too.

I laughed, too, you weren't all doom and gloom and sadness and vulnerability! And I rolled my eyes a few times, too, but I came out of it pleased I read you. As always, I loved that you were about women, awesome or otherwise. That's the thing I love the most about you, Women of Letters, that you're about celebrating women (and not, sometimes, and that's okay). I've already promised to pass you on, to another Melbunnie here in Beijing (who told me with glee of the time she saw Marieke Hardy on Sydney Road. She's very excited to read you, and I look forward to bringing her to visit you in your new home when we both return to Melbourne. I think she'll like you).

Yesterday was your last show at the Thornbury Theatre. I wish you all the best in your new home, and I hope to see you again soon (in book form or otherwise).

Best Regards