In Spite Of, or Because Of.

Whoever came to this blog by googling “tin pei ling + slut”? Get out. Get the fuck out of this place, and go and have a good think. I want no part of your politics.

You call yourselves advocates of democracy, you people shilling for the opposition with unthinking faith. Excuse my lack of enthusiasm. I see no freedom in your words or actions.

You just proved my fucking point about the undercurrent of misogyny under the thin veneer of political concern that’s going on so much right now.

Let me recapitulate:

(1) There is nothing wrong with criticising politicians.
(2) Politicians should be held accountable, after all.
(3) There is a lot wrong with framing criticism in terms of bigotry.
(4) Tin Pei Ling is being criticised in the language of misogyny.
(5) She is being called ‘a little girl’, infantilising a grown woman.
(6) She is being called a ‘gold-digger’, and hauled over the coals for her personal relationships. This is a culture where women are judged on their sexual histories and defined by their relationships with men, rather than considered on their own merit.
(7) Words like ‘cunt’, ‘slut’, and ‘bitch’ are being used to demean. Words have oppressive histories. Don’t even use the reclamation argument because reclamation only holds when it’s being deliberately reactionary and used by a member of the marginalised group.
(8) It is completely possible to criticise Tin Pei Ling without using the language and ideas of misogny.

Dear patriarchy, GTFO.

No love,
Wednesday

Unfeminist First

It takes a tremendous amount of courage for a marginalised person to say something is X-ist. To talk about the structure that kicks them to the ground and walks on them. & a person who stands up does not derive any grotesque pleasure from the callout: it’s neither enjoyable, nor entertaining. They rightfully fear retribution.

This is even more the case when the person walking on you has a feminist card.

This is nothing new: there is bullying in social justice. I’ve experienced quite a bit of it myself, & so have people I’m close to.

Every time I speak, someone twists my voice.

Every time my voice is strangled, I must bear the brunt of their denial. Though we are all working for the same ideal so I must bear my burden in patience, no? That in itself is victim-blaming.

This is only going to happen again, and again, and again, and again. & again.

Every “bugger off” I have snapped in frustration is not without reason: the amount of time we spend fighting “allies” is ridiculous. It is exhausting. It results in worse cultural paranoia.

The various kyriarchal structures are not something to be debated. They are established fact. They need to be engaged with critically & worked through without privileged guilt because marginalised people don’t need you giving yourself kudos for doing what a decent human being should have been doing in the first place.

There is that constant pressure of “needing to take sides” when there are no real sides. Because you know what? It’s a continuum. Everyone screws up. It’s how you deal with being wrong. & people with feminist cards hate being wrong. It’s somehow worse than the apocalypse itself. Yes, some people are more guilty than others, but all are responsible.

Watching your friends/supporters harass someone who somehow summoned the courage for a callout without saying anything to prevent them from doing so? No excuses.

Continuing to speak over the heads of a marginalised group without acknowledging or apologising for your own fail in the past? No excuses.

Watching people in a FEMINIST SPACE show their pantslessness and say nothing despite engagement from others calling it out? No excuses.

Branding people who have legitimate concerns with the harassment and epic fail as splintering the movement and demanding solidarity from them? No excuses.

Using the marginalised as a convenient Other to point out the ~lack of attention~ “your” issues are receiving? No excuses.

Invoking “policing” as a tactic to discredit the voice speaking against you,when the police have been the foremost instrument of violence against minority groups? No excuses.

If this is not done in a critical manner, it is only a stronger signal for people to squander their privilege yet again. & then we’re back to square one with the kyriarchy. The onus of fighting for ourselves does not fall on us, because it was on our very backs that these structures were built.

Does the responsibility of engaging the same people who are oppressing us fall with us who have been silenced? Must we put up with the fauxrationalisations? Because they aren’t rationalisations, they are nothing but ‘splaining. They demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding in how kyriarchy functions as various intersecting systems crushing people beneath it.

Because these so-called rationalisations are in essence derails. They only make minorities more afraid of speaking up.

They devalue and dehumanise, and in doing so pave the way for more dehumanisation, more oppression.

They are exactly what makes so-called feminists into convenient tools of the kyriarchy, thus becoming the very monsters they purport to fight against.

They’re the same. Tired. Old. Shit.

I speak here knowing that my voice will once again be twisted.

But I am an optimist.

So quit it.

Quit the harassment, quit the self-centering, quit the dislocation of our voices.

If your cause was so progressive, if your ideal is so noble, you would not step on us to get there.

No regards,
Thursday
Weekday Blues.

[This post was written for Bitch Magazine’s Feminist Carnival. Incidents that involved me personally are all publicly viewable at The Sadness Of Pencils. Others are available upon request.]

IM IN UR MOVEMENT.

I suppose it is more than a little surprising, that in my journey from being a wee little ‘un learning teh feminism when I was twelve, to reaching college age this year or next, that I can still call myself a feminist. Given the way it’s trodden down some of the folks real close to me. Especially given that – given the strength with which I’m told I don’t belong.

My click moment into feminism came when I was fresh out of primary school, an eager literature student starting to realise that media was verymuch about hetero/cis/sexual white men. And feminism was simple. It took a little shaking up of my good Catholic mind, but that’s okay, it needed that.

I still agree with the basics of feminism. Bodily autonomy. Representation in the public sphere. Equal consideration on equal terms. I’m not giving that up, not ever.

Then, when I was fourteen-ish, I settled on a queer identity (the word I used then was bisexual, but I don’t use it any more, for verycomplicatedreasons), and, well, that’s what intersectional feminism was for, wasn’t it?

The thing about intersectionality is that it still frames a certain model as its default. Feminism has become more welcoming to queer women than it used to be – I’ve seen that happen over the last few years – but there’s little hope of belonging if you live outside the West, if you’re coloured, if you’re postcolonial, if you’re genderqueer, if you’re disabled. I’ve seen complaints that feminism is supposed to be about ‘women’s rights’, so none of these aspects of identity should be agitated for by the feminist movement. That disappoints me.

Because – aren’t I a woman as well? Heaven forfend that I should be counted so, if I don’t fall into a certain mould of the model feminist!

Who are you to tell me that?

In the past, before I even started writing under this name, I’d see how little interest the big feminist blogs took in Southeast Asia – or even in Asia – unless it was sweeping generalisations about an entire region, aggregated as those-brown-people or those-beige-people or those-yellow-people. Or, basically, those-people, which means not-us.

I’ve been told that cultural appropriation is merely ‘borrowing’ or ‘paying homage’. I’ve been told to leave my postcolonial sensibilities outside the discourse when white/Western feminists step in to discuss issues that affect women elsewhere in the world. (‘It’s for your own good!’ is the prevailing undercurrent.) My disabilities are erased, are not taken into consideration. When I speak up on these, I divide the movement.

And so, my disillusionment.

The feminist movement is fragmented; but it is not these multiple identities that I carry which are to blame. The problem is the refusal to accommodate diversity, to respect all lived experiences under the umbrella of feminism.

So. So I still call myself a feminist, still.

Part of it is a lack of another label. Thursday’s fiddled with ‘equalist’, or ‘humanist’, but I refuse to use those words, myself, because those words have histories too. They’ve been used to silence feminism, to dismiss its role in society. And that’s the one kind of opposition to feminism that I can’t get behind – the opposition born out of patriarchy and a privilege-laden notion that feminism is an irrelevant irruption of hysteria. That’s the only critique of feminism I’ve ever met that’s turned my stomach so. (And if I can stand with you, mainstream feminism… why can’t you stand with me?)

Part of it is optimism, too. I like to think I can change things. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here, would I? Despite the threats and the microaggressions and the days when I’m hopelessly out of spoons, I still think that I’m part of something – that there are others like me – that could turn this wretched broken system around.

But as a concession, I realised I couldn’t call myself a mainstream feminist any more. I need to add labels now. And we’ve talked about adding labels – all those explanations that differentiating between ‘women’ and ‘trans women’, between ‘people’ and ‘queer people’, between ‘folks’ and ‘folks of colour’ – merely reinforce what the default is. Well, to hell with that! Because I know what the default is, and my compatriots, we know that too. What I’m trying to do is to remind mainstream feminism of how the default has been constructed.

Radical feminism is a term that leaves a dirty aftertaste, because it’s been used, historically and now, to mean a certain brand of feminism that resorts to binary essentialism and the exclusion of trans women and genderqueer people. But I couldn’t find another term, either. I’m radical because I’m on the fringes. I’m on the fringes because of what you’ve made the default, the mainstream.

Until I can find a better term, then – until I can wrest back that idea of being part of the mainstream – I’ve to resort to adding qualifiers. I’m an intersectional feminist, a postcolonial feminist, a radical feminist. Queer and coloured and Southeast Asian and disabled, all of those things. That kind of feminist lah. Those worlds are part of me, are within me.

And/But I’m not too ready to relinquish the word feminist, because IM IN UR MOVEMENT, BEIN MAHSELF, forevers.

Margaret We.,
Weekday Blues

[This post was written for Bitch Magazine’s Feminist Carnival.]

Breaking News: Women are not people.

I don’t give a shit about your politics. I don’t care whose side you’re on. (And there are people w/o a side. Deal with it.)

I don’t give a shit about that.

What I want to say is this: you disgust me, all of you, linking and retweeting to a candidate’s personal pictures & private information, making scurrilous speculations about their life.

The Straits Times asked Tin Pei Ling about her marital status and whether she would have children. That was misogynist. Irrelevant detail only thought relevant b/c these are thought women’s affairs, b/c a patriarchal society expects these to affect her job performance. Misogynist.

The Temasek Review is no better. No, not just that – it’s much, much worse. It’s tearing down a candidate simply b/c of her personal appearance & her relationship history, positioning her as a ‘gold-digger’ b/c that’s it, isn’t it, that’s all a woman ever amounts to. Defined by her sexual relationships. & surely choosing them based on $, b/c she is incapable of supporting herself.

The comentariat on Temasek Review and Online Citizen also need to get their fucking act together. Bitch. Cunt. Slut. If ever there were a case to be made against the reclamation of gendered insults, Exhibit A would be the comments threads. (And I say this as someone who very proudly takes those words back from patriarchy.)

Seriously, Singapore Internet. Wake the fuck up. Sometimes I hate you soverymuch. Don’t claim to be politically aware and whatever, not when you can’t even be bothered to treat people as human beings.

— Weds.

Of Star Trek, Spring Break, and Sexual Assault

Trigger warning for mention of rape/assault especially of inebriated persons, and of sexual slavery.

For those who don’t know me, I am a student in a field related to media analysis, and I’m a rape survivor, so these are both issues in which I have really strong interests. Specifically, I’ll be addressing the rape-apologist ‘Spring Break’ T-shirts marketed by the Star Trek franchise.

Continue reading

The rest is not silence but belongs to me.

Someone once said I could never truly be invisible.

I offer my lived experience as proof I can never be truly visible. At least, not in my lifetime. My revolution is a long way from now.

Because while we are supposedly taking down the master’s house, the master is laughing at us.

Bugger the master. I’m building my own house.

*

I am wary of groups. Groups mean labels. Yes, St. Thomas says if we have words for things it helps us deal with what they are. But groups — consciously or unconsciously — create and Us and a Them. There is rarely anything comfortable about having an identity built on such a base, for your comfort is someone else’s marginalisation.

& I have always been a Them.

I do not have the luxury of relying on a community to take care of my needs, to affirm my value as a member, because they continuously erase me, despite claiming to be in my interests. I feel as though there are bits and pieces of me that exist in some strange limbo that detach at will whenever I am with others, so that I am never whole. So excuse me for not conforming, because I don’t buy your assimilation bullshit.

I am everyone’s Them. & I will always be an Other.

*

We didn’t intend to.

Speaking as a Muslim, intent does matter. Especially when you intend to sin. But could you imagine walking into a shop, knocking over a vase, and then getting out of it by claiming you didn’t intend to? Of course not. You pay for the vase and leave quickly.

The difference is that human beings aren’t vases.

*

Words have power. I bear their weight, and the weight of my own truth. Because silence is hardly useful, or innocent.

Silence is not consent.

Voice is justice tearing through the nerve cells, reaching for one more dawn. & Voice is a terrible, beautiful thing. But even as it is claimed, it can be taken away, or coerced. Eroded, bit by bit.

Silence kills voice.

Silence is not consent.

The same people who tell you that you are cowardly to hide behind words are the ones whose worlds shatter when you speak. For criticism is nothing — nothing — compared to the unbearable weight of the system upon our shoulders, and the trials a voice goes through to be heard cannot, and should not, ever be trivialised.

*

I do not claim to represent a community. I speak for myself because no-one will speak for me. I do not believe in “solidarity” as-is, for I have experienced for myself the insidious nature of this very top-down relationship. I am not in solidarity with people who demand that I let go of my baggage, for if their ideal was so noble, they would not erase us.

& I do not believe that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, because with friends like these, I don’t need enemies.

*

Must we react? What are we reacting to? Can we never do things for ourselves, of our own volition, to explore the chasms inside ourselves that we have to cross, & cannot cross alone?

*

I struggle to know the worth of me and mine even if it has been trampled, glossed over, erased, and obscured in old books, in single sentences that leap at me on pages. I’m not interested in telling you how your world was built on the backs of me and mine. But every time you say I am angry, every time you shove your Oh So Privileged Voice in my face and expect me to be silent, to be complicit, my voice will be thunder and typhoon spilling from my lips. The clouds swelling in the sky over your head will make you tremble. I will shout until I have no voice left, and even then, even if you have crushed me until I am a speck of dust to the eyes of you and yours, you will still hear me roar.

*

I once wrote that kyriarchy had much in common with fruits. I never saw myself in that analogy, because being me is like being trapped in a small room where everyone is throwing things and they don’t ~mean to~ but the bulk of it hits you. Maybe an orange, being eaten while the others ignore it.

So I will try to be a durian. I don’t expect it to be easy, or less tiring. Weighed against what others suffer, what others have paid and are paying — their blood, their freedom, their lives — mine seem insignificant. Dusty skin does an excellent job of hiding the scars, and words never leave scars, do they?

But a price — no matter how small or how large — would have been exacted from me anyway.

For daring to exist.

What I would remind you is that durians grow on trees. With several others, that may grow at different speeds and from different heights, but all of them will eventually ripen. & break free.

I am not alone.

There are more of us than you think.

always talking cock.

i.

dekho dekho,
dekho wo kaise ban kar english bolti hai.

ii.

at home:
kals were kals,
please was pliss,
vowels ran unaspirated and rampant.

at school:
kals are cauls,
please was pleese.
vowels full.

Kals at home.
Cauls at class.
Cauls are always better than kals.

iii.

You’re from India? You don’t sound like it!
You’re from India? Your English is so good!

rinse, repeat.

iv.

teacher speaks a wird tae me
every nae and ken
ill-gab.
takken oot and replaced with spang-new
impruived
vyce.

v.

You are logical and erudite but we’re terribly sorry, your accent is heavy, says the TOEFL to my mother.
we look at each other
then to the radio tuned to the BBC
I spend a week listening
You are logical and erudite, but we’re terribly sorry, your accent is heavy, says the TOEFL to me.

vi.

move to new country
they were colonised once too,
they’ll know how it feels.
try kal at school
everyone act blur
try caul at school
why so cheem.

vii.

i’ll lurk in the airport toilets
when you’re changing your lips
i’ll catch every word
every code switch
every slip
of your syllables
store and pickle it
Ye Olde Standarde English Shoppe

forty percent off if you buy a non-rhotic R.
no refunds.

viii.

i suka-suka write. where got square, where got circle, where got accent, where got anyone tok liddat one.

ix.

amma picks up the phone
listens to the nice Amreekan speak
I am terribly sorry, she says,
enunciating each word
you are logical and erudite
but your accent is too heavy
please speak to my husband.