Monday, August 31, 2009

Steampunking: Hello From the "Mysterious Orient"

To my esteemed peers, the children of Victoriana,

Whilst I deeply appreciate how the Industrial Revolution has greatly affected your knowledge of lands beyond your little island on the western side of the European continent, I must object to your calling of the lands of my origins as "the Mysterious Orient".

To be perfectly frank, I have never understood this term as being applicable once your empire began to colonize the Orient. In fact, it was never truly applicable as your various East India Companies (in the plural, for the British East India Company was never the only East India Company in existance) had been trading with us in the Orient since the 1700s - earlier, even. I can hardly fathom how we were so mysterious to you if you had already been visiting our lands since then.

However, I can forgive this slight - if we were still travelling between continents by great ships and using paper for communiques.

In this day and age, with the advent of the Internet with which we utilize for self-education and the search for knowledge and other persons (or one would hope), I should hope that you would no longer use the term "Mysterious Orient" because, after all, everything you want to know about the damned Orient is right there at your fingertips.

Let me be sure to have you know this: we are not waiting for you to discover us or our "mysteries". In fact, we are not so terribly mysterious today as we may have been in Victoria's time, and I am sure we have demonstrated time and again, just how very un-mysterious we are, how very much like you we are in many ways, being, after all, people.

What puzzles me most is your insistent use of the term "Mysterious Orient" in a completely non-ironical manner. I will grant that perhaps you are unaware of just how ignorant you sound. After all, many of us are unintentionally racist - it is a continual process to de-learn all the little racist nuances.

Yet, the Internet! My excellent peers, the Internet, it exists for this purpose! Through the vast swathes of knowledge in the Internet, surely you might have come across the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, calling my land "the Mysterious Orient" is somewhat inappropriate, given this day and age in when my people walk amongst your own, demonstrationg quite well, I may add, that we are, for all intents and purposes, just like you?

Not so mysterious, after all.

I understand that were you truly the clueless foreigner, you may well call us the Mysterious Orient, but I fail to see why you would wish to hold on to that style of ignorance, especially in daily language, unless you were using it self-reflexively for the purpose of role-playing. In which case, I entreat you - actually, I'm just plain flat out telling you - use with care, use with caution, and do not assume we all are okay with it.

While I'm at it - Oriental is a descriptor for objects, such as rugs.

Yours most lovingly in common humanity,

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Colourblind's Problematics: A Response to Keisha

A while back on my post "Colourblind", I got a very interesting comment:

1) What do you think defines a chinese or any other race? If one was American-Chinese but disconnected from Chinese culture, does that make the person more chinese, less chinese or not chinese at all? How does such a person identify himself?

Therein lies the crux of the problem. Labeling, stereotyping and then racism.

We need to start appreciating the differences at the individual level not by accepting human constructs of what is "chinese".
Now, I appreciate where Keisha is coming from here. Like many others, I resisted the idea of labelling, because the whole thing about race is that it divvies up people.

In my archives, there is a series called "Quintessentially Chinese?" in which I ask her question: what defines a Chinese person?

As for the question of whether an Asian-American is more or less Asian than an Asian sourcelander (thanks, oyceter for the term!), that is really up to the individuals themselves, don't you think?

While I understand where this position comes from - labels are bad because it leads to Other-ing people - the response is complex:

Firstly, doing this falls into the very dangerous trap of dictating for others what they can or cannot call themselves. If I wanted to disavow the term Chinese, I could. But I don't really want to. There are a great many other people out there in the world who don't really want to disavow their race. "How does such a person identify themself?" The only true answer can lie within the individual. Each of us deal with the different facets of our heritages differently, and each facet of our heritage interacts with other segments of our lives differently too.

For example, in Malaysia, the arts are not necessary. I've heard "what is this story for?" many times, as if writing needs a point. It is as if, if I do not write for a specific (money-making) purpose, it is a frivolous activity - even detrimental. Think of all that energy I spent doing this that could have been channelled into something more constructive!

Not only that, but if a person can't define themselves by race, then what is the alternative? Forcing another identity on them which they may not agree with? We know how this works in place like America and such: "learn how to be [nationality] and fit into this culture, or get out".

Secondly, race is more than just how we define ourselves, as Tariq Kamal and I discussed. To borrow his fine words, it is also about the community which welcomes us, about where we can find some aspects of ourselves to be completely at home in. It's about finding our brothers and sisters in a sea of strangers. Some of us don't use race as identifiers of commonality; I use geekdom and ideology to find people I can truly grok. This doesn't take away or invalidate the fact that some people do.

Sure, identifying differences between individuals. Great. But part of these differences are racial factors. What if I want other people to acknowledge my Chinese-ness? These concepts definitely are human constructs, but that does not make them any less real. The fact that Chinese-ness is a construct does not make it any less real that I am a Chinese; it does not invalidate my choice (or anyone's choice) to call myself by the name of the racial group I identify with; it does not make the Chinese community or the Chinese diaspora at large any less real.

Thirdly, what is this crux of the problem? Defining ourselves is not a problem. Acknowledgement of our culture, how it factors into our selves, how it affects our lives, how it interacts with other things that shape us - these are not bad things per se. How can it be a bad thing? How does it hurt other people? If I ask the question of myself, "what do I mean when I say I am a Malaysian-Chinese?" who exactly am I hurting? No one.

The crux of the problem is not the labels themselves - it is how these labels are used, and when they are used for the purposes of Other-ing. The crux of the problem is when one group assumes superiority over another. It happens on an individual level, it can happen on a group level.

But this can happen with anything else besides race - and it has. Religion has caused wars, the oppression of women, the justification of colonization and imperialism. Yet Malaysiana race-deniers aren't calling for religion to be done away with. We are leery of the Sharia court but we don't call for its abolition - mostly because the majority of Malaysians are Muslim, but also because religion gives meaning to many people, whether Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, what-have-you.

Nationhood has also caused wars. The right to sovereignity, the belief that one group is better than another or so different that seceding is the only way to go about being peaceful (Canada and Quebec, for example, or even the American Civil War) and of course, politicking between countries - Singapore vs. Malaysia. Malaysia vs. Indonesia. We do not abuse our Indonesian neighbours on the basis of race - they are essentially the same racial stock as Malays. We abuse them because they are from another, so-inferred inferior country.

So yes, race is a human construct. But then, religion is also a human construct. Nationhood is also a human construct. Gender is also a human construct.

I am not about to tell a religious person that religion leads to stereotyping and religious persecution. If stereotyping and religious persecution happens, the fault does not lie within the human construction of religion, it lies within how religion is used. Whether or not religion affects me, and it does on some level, I cannot deny that religion is important to many people, and it's arrogant of me to assume that we should do away with it because the belief in God causes some effects I personally do not like.

I am not about to tell someone that calling themselves by their nationality is a worthless idea - that being American is merely a construct, or being Malaysian is a label, and should be done away with because this whole tussling over nationality has caused a lot of people grief. A nation is a block of land with barriers set by men. (And yes, men.)

Sure, the gender binary? It stinks. The labels "man" and "woman" are horribly abused, because we place value on one and denigrate the other. (Still. If you think otherwise, you're not paying enough attention.) But guess what, some of us love calling ourselves women. Some of us women are trans. OK, so the gender binary sucks, but naming ourselves the gender we want to identify with is good and comforting for us. It works for us. I personally have no beef with people trying to do away with the gender binary, and in fact, I think it's freaking awesome to ensure children grow up de-learning gender norms. But being a woman is a facet of my identity that gives me comfort.

Individuals do not stand alone. Even the marginalized seek each other out, forming groups.

Being individuals is very important in our quest for diversity. But moving from a deeply communal society to a deeply individualistic one, I find more and more, we need to find a balance between the two. An individual cannot live without a community (survive, sure, but surviving and thriving are two different things, and I'm not willing to settle for basic needs), and a community is nothing without the individuals that make it up.

So what if it takes whole dictionaries, whole encyclopedias to explain ourselves? That's what makes us human - that is truly what is most common about our common humanity: our differences, in every form, shape, and level.

Our differentiators are testament to this. It's not perfect. But the solution shouldn't be to efface them. Diversity is awesome and a true reflection of what humanity is capable of. We need to work through our differences. group level or individual level. I'd say that's what civilization is all about but that's historically false.

So I'll say, yes, we need to start appreciating differences insofar as it does not lead us to patronize, condescend, scorn, or Other. Yes, we need to start appreciating differences, all types of differences, instead of fearing them.

But we'll have to disagree on that human constructs need to be done away with. Because I could argue that all facets of being human are human constructs. And what then?

We cannot resolve our difference by denying these group differences. We cannot make peace between races without discussing how our cultures clash and figuring out, together, how to reconcile them. We need to confront our prejudices and ask, "why do I think this way? How can we un-learn these thought patterns which create schisms between our groups?"

I know that the way people go about it, we're so aware of our differences, it drives us batty that everyone's so goddamn different, omg why can't those people be more like us and play by our rules of what people should really be like. The alternative shouldn't be to go the other way and say "but we're all the same! We have so much in common, omg why can't you see we're just like each other!" when we're, well, clearly not.

Labelling doesn't have to end up with stereotyping and racism. Why can't I label myself, and celebrate the differences between myself and others, while still acknowledging individual differences?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Review: Secret Identities

I first heard about Secret Identities from angry asian man, who is made of win. I tracked down a couple of the previews on Youtube where comic panels had been voiced over. The whole list can be found here.

In fact, Secret Identities was so well-marketed that even though I pre-ordered it through a local bookstore, I couldn't get my grubby little mitts on it until a month after it had come out, because the shippers kept running out of copies! To me, it was a very good sign, and I was hopeful that it was worth the wait.

Was it?

Oh yes.

Every page was worth the whole month.

When I first heard of the idea - an Asian-American Superhero Anthology - I was intrigued. I don't really like how these things center around America. I understand that the Asian diaspora reaches across and is most acknowledged in America, but Asians don't only live in America. There is a piece which is set in the Phillipines, with a set of siblings who share the same father. I have a strong feeling that the father is white though, which makes the two of them from Asian countries half-white.

However, most of the stories are set in a fictional city called Troy, where, it seems, the rate of superheroes is pretty high! (Much like how the crime rate in Gotham is so ridiculously high because it's just Batman handling all the work, right.)

I was disappointed also with the lack of South/Central Asians compared to East Asians - there was a page with one man in a turban and one woman with glasses and a hijab form I was familiar with (in Malaysia we call it the tudung, I don't know what others call it). The last panel was particularly moving: "if they only knew what I was really capable of .... they'd be amazed."

I'll admit: I cried a lot. The first story that actually moved me, deeply, was the one based off James Kim. He and his family had been stranded in the snowy Oregon wilderness, and he went off to get help. He never came back. A helicopter pilot found the family car by following a 16-mile trail of footprints in the snow. Parry Shen and Sarah Sapang paid tribute to him by transforming him into a superhero, the Match ... whose story is told by his grown-up daughter to her son as she explains to him the most heroic thing her father did, which wasn't any of his touted adventures.

After crying that first time, I went back and re-read the whole book (I finished it within a couple of hours, it's not that hard) and found more things to cry about - the couple of sets based on Act 9066 (which ordered the internment of American-Japanese citizens), for example. I have a huge problem with Japan erasing the atrocities it committed from its history books (just as I have a huge problem with China's censorship), but I have to admit that I find stories related to 9066 fascinating. Part of it is because something similar happened to the Chinese in Malaya, when the Japanese invaded. Part of it also because because it hails back to the problems of being judged by skin colour, what I look like - even though I've never actually felt it, I know that I could, all too easily. The 9066 sequences reminded me of these feelings.

Secret Identities covers a wide spectrum of class - poor immigrants arriving in America to make their way ("Twilight" and "the Wallpasser") to upper-middle-class who are intent on sending their children to Troy Academy ("A Day At CostumeCo"). I was very pleased that at this variety, because it really went to show that there are those of us just arriving, with different circumstances, and those of us who have already settled, for generations, even, and are pretty much Americans.

Not only that, but some of the sequences also drew on popular stereotypes in Asian culture! "Sampler"'s heroine works in a laundromat. OMG. A laundromat! And using the stereotypical setting, we get a heroine who is really in the right place for her powers to manifest and be really freaking useful! The main character of "A Day at CostumeCo" is embarrassed to manifest her powers because it harks to Sailor Moon transformations. I shit you not.

Many of these stories do not draw directly from specific Asian cultural ... stuff (I have no other word). A couple do, such as "You Are What You Eat" which deals with some superstitions (okay, observations) on food types, and "Long". The latter threw me off, because I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be seeing. I thought, holy crap, buck-toothed and chinky-looking, just, what? and I had to admit that it was very, very, very cute.

Tributes are paid to Bruce Lee in dealing with the side-kick phenomenon that plagues Asian superheroes, like Kato - "The Blue Scorpion & Chung" is directly inspired by the Green Hornet, although dealing more with the interactions between vigilante and chauffeur: the unintentionally racist boss and his long-suffering, self-sacrificing sidekick, and we get a tantalizing look into Chung's ideals and motivations, while mourning his status.

Secret Identities doesn't deal with gender much, and female superheroes don't get as much airtime. I dislike the depiction of the women in "Trinity" who have fairly typical hypersexualized costuming. In "You Are What You Eat," Ting looks like a fairly normal young woman, but also having trouble with her weight (as in, she doesn't want to be fat). Section 3's introductory page features a fat woman using her weight to stop a robbery - it probably means well, but in a sense still plays on fat = comedy. But not all the superheroines are drawn to attract the Male Gaze, which was a very pleasant departure.

My favourite sequences, hands-down, is "The Citizen". Superman-esque sass-talkin' no-shit-taking Japanese-American hottie? Check. Obama cameo? Check. I love how Murakawa comes rights out and says it, "who sent you?" "Pardon?" "You're black." - panel shift to Obama - "and I'm pushing universal healthcare." Obama with a gun cameo? Check. Obama & The Citizen taking on flying nazi gremlins? Motherfuckin' check. I do not fail to note that Obama has a woman as an assistant as well. Who is also shooting said flying nazi gremlins. It's pulp fiction utopia love.

This anthology features a vast range of talent - sixty-three contributors, all Asian. The stories range from just everyday fun to human stories to deeply politically thoughtful commentaries. George Takei loves it. So does Margaret Cho.

I... honestly can't see how someone could pick this up and not love some aspect of it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Re: Your Open House

So this is not going to be a very good metaphor, but it is a decent metaphor from my standpoint anyway. It combines two concepts, each of which I encountered in different places. But anyway.

We live in the same neighbourhood. For as long as our families have lived in this neighbourhood, your family generally is very... protective of the big house, the larger garden, the fruit tree. We regularly regale each other with stories of how the patriarch of your house would shoot people who got too close that he didn't invite or just plain didn't like. The shotgun the patriarchs have used through time sits grandly above the mantle opposite the front door for easy reach.

But now, you are having an open house. You are inviting as many people from our neighbourhood as possible to just come in, to the beer garden you've set up. To show your good faith, you leave the front door wide open so anybody can just come in.

I must admit, you are not a good host, because when we come to the door, you don't even notice us because you're busy regaling your guests who are already there. Guests who, may I add, have historically been to your house in the past, whether invited or not.

And when you see us, you don't bother to come out to greet us. You wave to us, merrily, expecting us to just come in and make ourselves comfortable.

You do not realize that the mantle is in direct view from where we stand, looking into your house through the open front door. The mantle, and the shotgun.

Some of us get the gumption to just go in. It's just a shotgun. This is not a Chekovian story, where the shotgun on the wall must be shot by the end of the story. This is not a story, this is real life. Some of us enter trusting that real life prevails, and things do not end like in the stories we have heard, trusting that you will not suddenly realize just how much you dislike us, and get your gun.

So we settle in and things are fine, until you break out the paintball guns. Just to have fun, you say, it's a family tradition! And since it is your house, we nod nervously, and try to have fun.

But it hurts when a paintball hits us, not only because paintballs are pretty fucking nasty to start with for those of us unused to them (and unprepared for them!), but because we are scared at some point you might break out the real gun, and each bruise is a reminder of each bullet your ancestors have put into ours.

So when the open house is over, and you're enthusiastically saying, "wasn't that fun!?" we demur and nod and smile and walk away.

Out of the few of us who went in, fewer still go back to the next open house you have, and you get indignant and feel snubbed for all the hard work you put in! You didn't have to have the open house, and you didn't have to invite everybody and anybody, and you certainly could've used that massive space for fewer people and a better paintball game! The few of us who return are split: those of us who agree, and those of us who try to point out you're a shitty host, the latter of which you accuse of bad manners.

So, 'scuse us when we feel like having our own party. I'd say it's nothing personal, but unfortunately, it is, big-time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Two Thousand Years

Two thousand years ago, the subjugation of women was just about complete. The patriarchal religions were quite firmly entrenched. There were a few women rebels, but on the whole, women... stopped having power over their own lives. Women no longer made history as a collective. Women were erased, too.

Two hundred years ago, women started writing again. This was only a few women, and in response to troubles usually caused and perpetuated by a few men which affected everyone. But two hundred years ago, women began writing and began to find their voices again.

Two generations ago, we finally found some semblance of equality between men and women, at least, in certain places. We could go to school and we could work. It was not true equality. It still isn't true equality. But it resembles it, and gives us a foundation to build on.

It's been a hard journey, but now we can speak about -isms and acknowledge the problems within society, even though there are hateful screeds trying to silence us.

For the women two thousand years ago, for the women two centuries ago, for our mothers and grandmothers, we must never be silenced again.

Because if we all just started going along with the status quo, if we stopped working, some of us tirelessly, if we kept conceding and making compromises -

In twenty years, we could lose everything women have dreamed of and worked towards for years and years.

Maybe not even twenty years.

Maybe just two.

I'm generalizing. I'm probably not even 100% correct. After all, this mostly refers to the West. Maybe I'm barmy. But I feel strongly, we could lose it all so easily. There are always people out there who want to crush the dreams of others, to bring back forms of oppression, whether or not they say it out loud, whether or not they think it consciously. We see it happening every day.

I came to this thought when reading Marilyn French's History of Women. It took her four books and ten years to present a scratch on the surface of the rich history women have, our contributions to the world, the ways we were silenced.

It made me realize all the more how important it is to be feminist, to say it loudly and keep honing my anti-ism skills. During my break from my blog, I sometimes wondered if it was worth it to even write, considering how few people ever drop in.

So I'll keep this in my heart:

For the women two thousand years ago, for the women two centuries ago, for our mothers and aunts and grandmothers long gone and past, for our sisters and cousins of the present, our daughters and nieces and granddaughters of the future, we must never be silenced again.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Quintessentially Chinese"?: "China Doll" Edition

So my dad said the other day, "you could do better than the stereotypical China Doll makeup, but I know that's not your usual style."

This was in reference to a shoot I did a while back. (Yes, I model, but that's neither here nor there.) The theme of the shoot was "light fetish / pinup" and I was made up according to a reference picture of a retro pinup - plenty of blush, fake lashes, dark eyebrows, and red lipstick.

So, think about that combination for a moment. They're not exactly typical "China doll" makeup things, not in my mind. When I hear "China doll", I personally think "porcelain skin, large eyes".

So I had a look at the pictures, and I went, "huh. I guess I kinda do look China doll-like, especially from certain people's perspective."

It's the red lips, I figured. The red lips and red cheeks are reminiscent of Chinese opera.

My friend, the excellent Katherine o'Kelly, said that it had to do with my pose and expressions - the first set I posted were demure, avoiding the camera, shy. (And here, again, I differ in opinion - looking away from the camera does not necessarily mean demure and shy.) But she noted, with the next set of pictures, that with more spunkily-posed shots, despite the makeup I was wearing, the "China doll" look and feel was gone.

The term "China doll" unsettles me. It unsettles me because I've met people who coo and squee over Asian girls because "they are so cute". I have trouble with the term because it ties into the whole "submissive Asian" trope. It bothers me because I am Chinese, and the term "China doll", which could characterize all Chinese women who fit a certain physical look, effectively strips us of our agency in the eyes of others, rendering us, well, dolls.

I took a hard look at that set of pictures. I also thought back to other times I wore similar makeup. I generally avoid heavy makeup for this reason: looking like a China doll. But even as I was avoiding the "China Doll" look, I neglected to ask what the hell, exactly, a "China doll" looks like.

Then I realized, no matter what makeup I wear, I will always look like a "China doll" to someone. I can't help that - I'm Chinese! I can't dictate that everyone think of me as a normal human being - there's no way I can police that. I can't help it that some people don't think women should be wearing such striking makeup to begin with. I can't help it that people stereotype Asians.

Like many other things, the term "China doll" refers to a construct, an idea of what something should be like. A China doll will look like what the viewer wants her to look like. She can range from simply being an Asian woman, to being a fetishly hyper-sexualized submissive. It doesn't matter. What matters is that this is a stereotype, and one damaging to Asian women.

When my dad said that, it sounded like an accusation, "you could do better" (because, yanno, we Asians are all about being the best and all). Do better than what? Looking like a stereotype? It unsettled me because all I did was apply makeup. Sure, more makeup than normal, but still, it's just makeup. Similar to the "Western tart" stereotype of heavily madeup women, the "China doll" look is not bad because of the makeup itself, but because of the assumptions that accompany stylized makeup.

And once more, with feeling, do better? It is as if somehow, looking Chinese (quintessentially Chinese?!) is not ideal. That I shouldn't play up my Chinese-ness. Was I supposed to look... non-Chinese? Doesn't that play into old colonial stereotypes that non-white = inferior? If not, then what default should I have fallen into so as not to look all China doll-like?

Was it my female-ness he objected to? If we keep in mind that some people still buy into the female = passive/male = active binary, then the "doll" claim makes some sense.

I have naturally nice cheekbones which I like to highlight, and my eyes are so small they require liner to get attention. If I put on makeup and people assume I look like a "China doll", the problem is not with me and my makeup. The solution is not to tell me not to "wear 'China doll' makeup". The problem is with old stereotypes ingrained into our modes of thought when we are an audience looking at an Asian woman. My solution is to challenge why we hold on to these ways of thinking.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The More I See

I was reading a blog post on white privilege and general suspicion towards white people's examination of privilege without actually acting upon it. I was about ready to say, "at least they're thinking about it. Give them a chance" except she went on to discuss the plain fact that part of privilege means being able to remove oneself from the non-privileged situation.

For example, I can afford to live in a decent neighbourhood. Given the choice between a neighbourhood that has a high level of crime and a decent neighbourhood, I can choose to live in the latter neighbourhood. I can't run away from the fact that at the end of the day, I have this choice.

I do what little I can to mitigate other people's lack thereof. I can, for a brief period of time, extend what I experience every day to someone less privileged. There's much more I can be doing, I'm sure, and I surely don't have the power to do it all, but I can share a little bit of privilege, even if I can't give it away.

But that's not what I was really thinking about. What I was really thinking about was this: the more I read, the less I know.

In the paper I'm co-writing, Shira Tarrant pointed out to me in something I wrote, "assimilation isn't always linked to internalized imperialism. And it can be a good thing, as you write. Please clarify."

There was no way I could clarify that statement without getting into a whole other side of the conversation on how assimilation is neither good nor bad, or is good and/or bad depending on one's point of view. And even if I did go on to discuss whether it was good or bad, the bottomline is that I would still have no answer.

Can privilege ever be truly given up? I don't think so, but I don't know.

Can racism be truly eradicated? I don't think so, sometimes, but other times, I do, and I don't know.

Now, whenever I can, I try to make it a point to read one difficult thing a day. By difficult, I don't mean, abstract philosophy, although that's part of it. I mean, difficult questions. Uncomfortable thoughts. The paradox between real-life living and theory. Challenging myself with something that should stridently offend me, but really, it does so because it discomforts me so much.

The more I see of the world, the less I know.

I first saw this phrase in a book about Tao, a little comic book. The context was more, "The further you go, the less you will know." The overall feel was that one should stay in one's place in order to keep one's sense of peace.

Now as I grow older, I find that such a fallacy. It makes sense for those who are living in discomfort all the time.

But me?

The more I see, the less I know, the more I realize how much work there is to be done before I can even begin to think I'm doing any good in this world.

I think this is a good start.

I think I'm onto something here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Welcome to the 3rd Asian Women Blog Carnival!

When I was in a car with my parents one day, and my mum was nagging me about getting a boyfriend, social networking so I could find one, so on so forth, and make sure it got done before I was "on the shelf," I pointed out that she'd never nagged my brother the same way. She said, "you're a girl. Things are different for girls."

Now, mind you, this comes from a strong-minded woman who married and had kids in her late 20's/early 30's, and I thought, "so kuno." ("Kuno" means "old-fashioned". Like, seriously old-fashioned. Like, previous civilization's old-fashioned.)

It wasn't the first example of sexism in my life, and not the last. But when I think of how sexism manifested in my culture, I think of that moment. Malaysian women I've read in the papers have claimed that feminism isn't applicable to what goes on in our country. Because, of course, we all know that women are human in Malaysia.

Except, of course, not. Even Malaysian women can admit that - Mistress Naoko sends in an article from Malaysia's Star newspaper on why women shouldn't be silenced. Everywhere, from East to West, women are the Other. We're still the root of... lots of bad stuff, apparently! Check out [info]drelfina's kick-back against the claim that Singaporean women's materialism is to blame for the dearth of romance there! [info]elaran lists several other examples of clear-cut sexism inherent within her Indian culture.

We Asian women don't just face sexism in Asia alone, [info]laleia still feels the imposition of the Perfect Chinese Daughter Syndrome™ in America, O Land of the Free.

If we're not simply being derided for not fitting what men think we should be like, we are stoned: Feminist Review has an article on The Stoning of Soraya M, the film based on the book.

And yet, as the documentary Sari Soldiers reveals, Asian women have their own convictions, and know to follow them.

This is why we speak out, as Maysie so eloquently points out. Her post points to the intersection of feminism and anti-racism, reminding us that Asian women need to define their feminisms for themselves. Because white people still call the shots, whether it's setting the standard for behaviour, or just plain flat-out criticising us for shit they do, too, as [info]glass_icarus relates in her IBARW post. Brinstar's submission on sexism at the EA convention show that we are just as affected as everyone else by sexism, in whatever culture.

Not partaking of the theme of this carnival, but still pertaining to Asian women, here are some links of Asian women in media!

Feminist Review points out an interview with spoken word poet and performance artist Stacey-Ann Chin, and also sends in a review of Zeb and Haniya's Chup. Zeb and Haniya hail from Pakistan.

Holding a Bangladeshi passport but brought up in Malaysia is Tiara Shafiq, who sends in a multimedia submission on her recent debut as a burlesque performer - check out her tribute to her religion - text, radio, and video!

This wraps up the 3rd Asian Women Blog Carnival! Discuss, converse, rant, debate, leave hate, leave love, leave thoughts, leave links.

Thanks, all, for participating in the 3rd Asian Women Blog Carnival!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I am back! Somewhat. Posting will be slightly less daily than before. And watch this space for the 3rd Asian Women Blog Carnival!!!