Showing posts from July, 2009

100 Posts!

Yes, folks, this is the Acting Out Edition's 100th post! Woo! *hands out party hats*

I've decided to give blog-writing a rest for a bit. Ay-Leen and I will be co-authouring an essay on steampunk and I have a novel to write. However!

The Acting Out Edition will bust back with the 3rd Asian Women Blog Carnival! I am taking submissions until August 15! Do contribute, it will be great to hear voices from all corners of the Asian women diaspora.
If you need to get a hold of me otherwise, you can:
message me on MSN: catts_o_catti(@)hotmail.come-mail me: jhameia.goh(@)gmail.comfollow me on Twitter: jhameia check out my LJ (especially my Sunday Linkfests!) or MySpace or ModelMayhem. I can also be found on the Steampunk and She Writes Nings.So, see you in August, folks!

Steampunking: Eurocentrism

So, steampunk in its current form is Eurocentric.

I've been reading a wonderful book called Unthinking Eurocentrism and while it deals with Eurocentrism within cinema and other such visual media, the same principles apply to steampunk: that the subculture revolves around a Western culture, holds it up as a model, and ignores everything else.

I noticed this when I was speaking to a friend in England, and he said, "steampunk is Victorian, so it all starts here!" He meant well, but it wasn't what I was talking about: I was talking about steampunk manifestations in non-white contexts.

I also recall a discussion on Madame Butterfly, in which I denounced it as being Orientalist, portraying the titular character as a helpless victim. The person I was talking to said, "Oh, but Pinkerton (the Western officer who marries and deserts Madame Butterfly) is painted as an absolute cad!"

Not. The. Point. Was I talking about how white people are portrayed? No. I was talking abo…

What's In A Name? Gender Edition

Recently, Queen Emily pointed out at Feministe how a new women-only pharmacy was excluding, well, women. Namely, transwomen.

This is just another incident in a long pattern of ciswomen telling transwomen, "no, you're not really women, you're actually men, and we say so, no matter how you feel, because there are arbitrary rules you have to obey in order to be a woman, and you have to have obeyed them from birth and biology."

Then there are some crazy so-called feminists who attack transwomen, saying, that transwomen are upholding patriarchal values by buying into the gender binary, are tearing down efforts to get rid of the gender binary by using the terms 'male' and 'female' as they like without paying attention to biology.

And then there are just the plain ugly people who call transpersons "freaks" just because the latter group happen to dress in ways that they feel express their true gender which may not be consistent with how their gender ap…

Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

So first off, I would like to admit that I have never so much as read Pride and Prejudice. I read Sense and Sensibility for my CPU program and that was enough Austen for me. I've heard Austen's books described as "battles of wits" and great critiques of her time.

Secondly, I suppose I must point out once more that I don't come from that culture where middle-class and upper middle-class ladies sat around drinking tea, contriving to get their daughters married by attending balls and whatnot. Thirdly, I'm really not into that kind of thing. That period, for me as a woman, represents everything that is helpless for women about patriarchal culture. (Which is why I liked and hated the movie the Duchess. I just know what kind of period it's set in, and how since it's based on real events, things cannot be helped.)

Fourthly, I don't like zombies. I don't like the horror genre much, and even parodies can disturb me - Shaun of the Dead gave me nightmares.…

Let Your Girlfriend Take Nekkid Pictures Of You

My friend Tariq tried to show me this blog post at work and I didn't click it, because the latter part of the URL was "let-your-boyfriend-take-nekkid.html" or something similar and I knew what the gist of it was: some dewdly d00d telling wimmenz that they should let their boyfriends take naked pictures of them, because that is what good, sporting girlfriends do, dammit.

Putting aside the notion that this usually ends up in ill hands, particularly spread around as a form of revenge or just for kicks by said boyfriends, and putting aside that this is only another exhortation from some male to women at large to further cater to male interests, and putting aside the fact that pornography already exists, I asked my friend, so, does he advocate the opposite as well?

To which Tariq replied, with great regret on his side, I'm sure, for the iniquity of his sex, that no, said blogger is just generally blaming women. Although for what reasons, I cannot fathom! Nor did I bother ch…

Sometimes I Have Skin Trouble: Clothing Edition

So in my Racialicious essay, I said something to the effect, "corsets looked uncomfortable, and being Asian, I'd look dumb wearing Western clothing."

Which kind of made me do a trackback after a bit, because pretty much everything I wear is "Western". You know? T-shirts? Jeans? Blouses? Tank tops?

Of course, I was talking about stuff like Victorian dresses. Imagining myself in one, I feel silly. Wrong look, wrong shape, wrong skin colour, wrong phenotype, wrong everything-with-my-appearance.

But, well, look, it'sbeendonebefore.

This problem, of course, doesn't apply to aforementioned modern clothes. As part of the cultural assimilation process, we've all taken quite happily to T-Shirts and jeans (besides which, they're bloody practical).

It's when I get to the frilly stuff, the more outre clothes, like that worn in the goth subculture, that I feel weird. I know the Japanese have taken to these kinds of clothing quite swimmingly, but I am not Jap…

Body Issues: Makeup Edition

I wear makeup.

Yeah, not often, and not much, but I do.

I love makeup. I love how foundation evens out my skintone, and how eyeliner makes my eyes stand out. I love how lip colour, whether in lip liner (I use lip liner to fill out my lips sometimes) or in lipstick, fulls my lips. I spent a year looking for the right nude lip colour that matches my lips perfectly which still fills my lips, but looks completely natural. I love how blush and bronzer highlight my cheekbones - the first MUA (makeup artist) I ever worked with said to me, "you have nicely defined cheekbones. Makes it easy to work on you." I always get that warm glow remembering it.

I put on makeup without fail for every modeling shoot, even nudes. I have specific foundation that is waterproof for landscape nudes, especially when mucking about in water.


Here's the thing.

Painting my face this way is really just another way of making myself look as conventionally attractive as possible. It does play into common pa…

Seven Deadly Sins Remix: Lust Edition

So this should totally be obvious.

If I had to identify my brand of feminism, it would be sex-positive. Sex is, whenever I get it, pretty good. Not always great but not always bad.

I have often found myself struck by how downplayed sexual desire is, especially if it is female. I understand why we would downplay male sexual desire - it's not exactly the sort of thing we want to hear about on the street.

But Heather Corinna's idea about what "get lucky" should mean - two people desiring each other, wanting each other, wanting to get into the other's pants so much, when they finally get together into one big sweaty mess, it's....


That would indeed be getting lucky.

Certainly any feminist past their 101 would know the reasons for suppressing women's sexuality: by denying us our sexuality, it stops being our own, and it's for our husbands to do as they please, and besides, sexuality is evil and awful anyway, for... uh, no one could actually define why, but…

"Quintessentially Chinese"?: Costume/Clothing?

Is there any such thing as quintessentially Chinese clothes?

I don't mean, like, special occasion costumes, just like, clothes, dailywear sort of thing. Think about it along these lines: Costumes are worn when we want to be something other than what we are. Clothing are just day-to-day wear. Both have elements of how we express ourselves. Both have their times and places. But one is clearly Other-izing, and the other not necessarily so.

So, the samfu, the cheongsam, the, uh, strawhat with pointy top... these are not clothes. Are they?

I was thinking about this because I recently bought a pretty yellow blouse with a definite Chinese air to it - the way the line goes above the chest, the design. It's definitely not a costume, though. It's just a blouse. Not something I would wear for everyday use (and I was considering steampunking it up, but then, back in those days, yellow was a royal colour, and I have no desire to create some royal persona to match), but wearing it wouldn&#…

Cultural Appropriation: Stuff vs. People

Following up on a discussion I had with a friend on Sandip Roy's article on culturequoted at Racialicious, I've been wondering about the whole issue of individual representation of a cultural group, individual contexts, and where the line is drawn.
As has been outlined, the problem with cultural appropriation isn't so much the problem that "white people" are wearing "our stuff". That's simplistic and problematic. Firstly, cultural borrowing happens all the time. Secondly, no one of us can speak on behalf of our entire cultures (which in themselves may be splintered).
I note that many Asians who do not live in America don't seem to have all this cultural angst over appropriation, and it tends to be Asian-Americans who are particularly possessive of cultural artifacts. Either that, or it's Asian-Americans who are most vocal about it. I think one of the main issues we non-Americans should keep in mind is that Asian-Americans have a hard time not…

Review: Yes Means Yes!

So, this book, which came out earlier this year, is revolutionary.
It is chock-ful of discussions, stuff to agree with, stuff to disagree with - this book is thoughtful.

There is so much going on in here: discussions centered around young women, around immigrant women, around minority women, around transwomen. Discussions about legislations, about how larger narratives hurt women personally, about how women deal with their crises and the obstacles between them and owning their sexuality.

There were 27 essays, all about women on some level. Three directly, clearly addressing men and men's role in turning around the sexual narratives we currently have for a true sexual revolution.

Some quick thoughts about each:

Essay #1 by Jill Filipovic of Feministe: This is a great introduction to the general ills which face women today, whether consciously or not. I find it to be quite North America specific at some points, but there are definitely carry-overs to other cultures and countries -some of…

Malaysiana: No, A Colourblind Politician Isn't Ideal

So, Farish Noor is really smart. Just making sure that's out there: I respect him, I respect his work, I know how important he is in Malaysia. I haven't come across much of him, seeing as I tend to read in different circles, but occasionally my dad sends me stuff written by him, and other friends pass on links.

But occasionally, because the man isn't perfect, he will say things that get my goat. Case in point, this post.

Firstly, we don't even know what being Malaysian means. I assume, in my readings and discussions on nationhood and identifying and immigration and other such subjects, that being Malaysian, much being Canadian, means having been born in Malaysia or otherwise attained citizenship in Malaysia, living in Malaysia, abiding by Malaysians laws, as per expected as a Malaysian citizen.

However, every citizen will have different experiences of these limits within Malaysia itself. The priorities of a Malaysian-Indian will be different from the priorities of a Malay…

Safe Space From Hate; Safe Space For Anger

So this is kinda but not quite an entirely new concept for me, stemming from this discussion at Questioning Transphobia on some waah-waah-being-called-cis-is-insulting dipshittery going on at Pam's House Blend. I can't seem to find the comment within which I found this concept, but it struck me as being perfectly relevant, in light of the tone argument:

We need a safe space for anger.

There will be times when we will find it an inhuman request for me to contain the rage that is borne from daily abuse and we want to let it out. Is it too much to ask for a space where the marginalized can go to vent their anger? To be as rude as possible in order to express their frustrations with the dominant, oppressing groups?

Without members of the dominant groups getting pissy and offended?

Taking into consideration that members of dominant groups get to troll around being hostile to members of marginalized groups, abusing them, anywhere, pretty much everywhere, there're so few spaces where…

Language Disconnect: Appropriation vs. Assimilation

So I read somewhere, I can't remember where, "The Japanese do not appropriate, they assimilate".

This meant, of course, a Great Long Think on what the difference is.

No one can yet define what cultural appropriation is, but from the discussions I've seen, it's a common theme that appropriation happens when a dominant culture takes a cultural artifact from a minority (or subordinate) culture, strips it of its meaning and takes it on as part of its own cultural identity. Hence why, in this day and age of globalisation and underlying fear of white supremacy, minorities are holding their heritages tight to themselves, wondering how much they should share, and if they do, whether the dominant culture appreciates it or sees it as just another source of empty amusement.

This is, of course, the issue of cultural appropriation from my point of view. There have been many discussions on this very fraught topic, for example at Racialicious, What Tami Said, and the Angry Black W…

We Visit America

I was in a bookstore today, and I saw a book called Stephen Fry In America.

I was piqued by this, certainly, because I love Stephen Fry, and I think he is the Oscar Wilde of my generaton. Also, that he's travelling through the States is so very similar to Wilde!

Sometimes, I get the sense while reading that some people, when talking about "the West", really mean "America". So this book really got my attention. I opened it and flipped through a few pages. In each state, he has a table with digestable info on each state: "Initials" and "capital" and "flower" and other inane stuff like that.

It amused me, seeing America treated like a tourist spot, because it reminded me that America is, after all, just another country on this planet, and for all its cultural imperialism, for all its superpower status, for all its cultual exports - it's still, for many people in the world, a country we visit, and don't live in, a country full of …

Steampunking: Finding L'Acadie

It's been pointed out to me by my friend Tariq that there is a problem with one of the statements I made recently:

Being accepted is not the same as being actively welcomed.

He responded, and I paraphrase him, being actively welcomed still has that sense of being invited into a space that is not our own, and part of the challenge that PoC face is to find spaces where we are not the Token Minority, and seek (or create) spaces where we feel at home.

Not just tolerated, not just accepted, not just welcomed - spaces where we belong.

You know, places where we can go home to.

When my parents were last in Canada, we went to PEI, and ended up at a museum of sorts, and stayed to watch one of those multi-layered shows which combined film, light and backstage flats on Acadians, how the British and the French tussled over the land, unsurprisingly with few references to aboriginals at all, and how some of the Acadians were deported to places like New Orleans.

I was struck by a scene wherein some of …

Steampunking AND Star Trekking at Once!

CaitieCat said,

... it occurred to me last night that the Borg?

They're steampunk zombie Fremen. How's that for meta? I am so extraordinarily pleased at this intersection of my two favourite nerdy realms in the world.

Quick 101 / Turning From Religion: Of Gods and Men

This is derived from reading Marilyn French, particularly Beyond Power, although it comes up in From Eve to Dawn. I also found it in a book called When God Was A Woman.

I have been expressing it in many ways in order for me to really condense it into something more cohesive and so I don't fucking stutter when I talk about it, but the theory does come up often. Namely, what do the Patriarchy, monotheistic religion, men, and power have to do with each other?

So, it's posited that way back when, the earliest civilizations were matriarchal and worshipped an Earth Goddess.

The Earth Goddess is irrevocably tied to the Earth and all phenomena on Earth - she waxes and wanes with the moon, with the seasons, with stuff that humans do on her soil.

Back then, women giving birth was a specific gift, magical, because nobody had figured out how men figured into the whole thing yet.

I'm guessing at some point they did, but nobody really gave a shit. A child belongs to the whole community, afte…

Steampunking: Inclusivity, Not Merely Acceptance

One of the themes that crops up at the Racialicious essay I posted runs like this:

"In my experience, steampunk accepts all races!"

Usually, this will be said by someone who's, well, white. Occasionally it will be said by someone who's not, and thus, clearly not my audience, who are PoC and feel all the attendant baggage.

So, in my fucking experience, as a person of colour who will definitely be affected by race issues, it could do a hella lot more.

This is what I'm emphasizing. Do I see that steampunks can be very accepting of various races? Hell yes I can see that. Most other subcultures are the same.

Being accepted is not the same as being actively welcomed. Especially in a subculture that has roots in what is something coded as exclusively very white. Whether or not you mean for the subculture to be exclusive doesn't matter - here's another 101 for you: Intent doesn't matter.

Here's another 101 for you, when you say "in my experience" and …

Rick Rolling Is A Joyful, Joyful Thing

Until last November, I did not know what Rick Rolling is. I knew who Rick Astley was, certainly. I knew his signature song, "Never Gonna Give You Up".

I came across the concept of Rick Rolling a little after NaNoWriMo '08, when I was leading my merry crew of NaNo-ers back to my house for a TGIO party. It started with a couple of us singing "Gay Or European?" and then went to the whole group singing "Bohemian Rhapsody", and someone started singing Rick Astley, and one of us said, "OH NO I'M NOT GONNA GET RICK ROLLED."

Recently, I came across this clip:

There's absolutely nothing wrong with this picture.

Nothing. There is no coercion involved. There is no violation. There is some little resistance. But it all eventually breaks out into a joyful chorus of song. It's like pushing someone to do the right thing which will result in excellent benefits for all.

Steampunking: From A Former Colony

So, I'm from Malaysia, which was Malaya. And I moved to Canada to study. Most of the communities I engage in (or observe) are comprised mainly of North Americans.

One thing I've noticed about North American steampunks is a general Euro-centricism. This isn't really relegated to just the steampunk subculture - it's also seen in other communities I participate in.

But what spurred me to write this post was Ay-Leen's essay on colonialism, a kind of exploration on what America would be like if it had remained a British colony for longer than it was. I was struck at the starter conversation. Struck, in the "let me go get my facepalm on" sense.

In another essay of hers, this time on Orientalism, Ay-Leen highlights one of the things that [American/Euro-centric] steampunks like to do: imagine a time when the world was ripe for exploration, and there were empty spaces on the map to explore.

My country is probably part of that blank space on that map that these fellows…

Language Disconnect: The Point Is! Edition

Here's a question that comes up occasionally regarding fandom and subcultures and whatnot. "Isn't that the point?"

I saw this come up a few times in the comments to my essay at Racialicious, and maybe I'm being a pedant, but it seems kind of silly to declare what the point of certain things are.

Here's something that occurred to me:

There is no point.

I don't mean this in the "there is no spoon" sort of way, but, declaring what the point of steampunk is - "the point of steampunk is to re-invent the past!"

Well. Not really. It's certainly the purpose of some of its participants, but I hesitate to name that the whole point.

Now, I recognize that it's possibly useful as a rhetorical tool, but the more I see it, the more confusing it gets.

Some things... just are.