I am a car, or a wallet, or possibly a house.

Delurking to say this:

When rape apologists, in the process of victim-blaming, compare the crime of sexual assault to theft or robbery or burglary – when they refer to how a survivor was dressed or behaved with allusions to unlocked car doors or open wallets or un-alarmed doors and windows – what they are saying is this:

That bodies are property. That the violation of someone’s bodily autonomy is akin to the theft of property. That someone’s right to sexual freedom and consent is nothing more than property.

In effect, then, we are to constantly erase or invisibilise our bodies from the public sphere. That is what they mean.

And that’s why it is so disingenuous a comparison. Because no one argues with the right of your car or wallet or house to exist, but our bodies must be taken out of the equation.

– M. We.

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

Wednesday Does A 101

Because today is International Women’s Day, I thought I would begin by providing an overview of feminism – of what it means to me as a Singaporean woman, and also an overview of what I practise. (Yes, this is a 101. Something I said I’d never attempt.)

Bolded words in this text are technical terms that may require additional reading.

What is Feminism?

At its simplest, feminism is about gender equality. However, the requirements to achieve this change by place and time.

Historically, feminism has been about women’s rights, in the first wave oriented about suffrage and in the second wave (women’s liberation) oriented about workplace equality.

Yet this discounts the essentialist construct of a gender binary and fails to acknowledge the construction of feminism in a white/Western setting.

Many feminisms exist, therefore, all of them with the same end-goal, but with varying principles and priorities.

Read more ->

The Merchants of Knowledge

by Thursday.

Recently a friend asked me what would happen if universities were abolished. When I queried as to how she meant, she said: well, you wouldn’t need to specialise at all! You could start your own room and sit there & say I know X about Y let me share what I know with you. & you can share that with someone else, and so on. Nobody charges for knowledge, because everyone has access to it, & can question & query. No more hierarchy of student-teacher. No more worrying about paying too much for a mainstream view that erases so many. Create a structure that is non-hierarchical, encourages critical thinking, & participation is based on what you want to know.

I was speechless.

But you know duckies, she had a point.

In the Islamic Golden Age, there were scholars in the mosques who taught specific subjects. They had cushions or chairs and their audience sat around them. Someone could walk in and ask, “Where is the chair of mathematics?” or “Where is the chair of astronomy?” & be directed there. They could attend as many times as they wished & stop the instruction simply by leaving. It’s from this we received the modern university — and would you believe it, the heads are still called Chairs.

The current university system treats knowledge as a commodity & self-perpetuates that. First, they have a knowledge class, a group of people who control what gets out & to whom. Secondly, they ensure that other groups don’t get to the same level. This is rather easily done, if you look at it, the library at University of Delhi is far smaller and much less well-stocked than one say, at a university in London. Subscriptions to places like JSTOR are unthinkable, because they are so expensive. & when you graduate, chances are your degree is not going to be accepted overseas because there is no medicine other than that of the Big Pharma. & thirdly, they make sure dissidents have no room to act. I walked into my International Political Economy class and was veritably shocked that everyone already knew other countries were being exploited, but spoke about it with coldness. Even when aware of the unfairness of things, we were still treating them as theories to be ridiculed or mastered, not considering how they affect people’s lives practically. I remember writing a paper on Partition for my exam, and upon getting a low mark, I asked my teacher what I had done wrong & he said, “You took it too personally.”

But you see, the commodity knowledge is presumably objective, when we as human beings cannot truly possess objective knowledge: it is always, always filtered through our perceptions. Even when entering the social justice community, one immediately has to familiarise oneself with the hierarchy of knowledge that exists. A community that is supposed to champion the myriad of human experience where knowledge-as-commodity erases diversity and divorces us from our personhood. & you can see that, because around activists there is still a teacher-student perception when privileged people treat a marginalised person as a learning experience, or when people treat us as convenient access points, or even looking at the cult of personality that springs up around certain people. I can perhaps illustrate this best using people who are “feminists” for a living, or a particular Anti-Racist Who Never Fails to Grate Thursday’s cheese. They — either consciously or unconsciously — don’t treat social justice as a practical deconstruction that affects the lives of people, and — either consciously or unconsciously — engage in yet more erasure of marginalised experience, because they control who has it, who speaks about it, and who it filters out to.

We must first create non-hierarchical, participatory environments that empower us. We as activists must first devise ways to de-stratify, de-commodify knowledge. I share what I know with you, so we learn.

Now, where’s my cult? :P