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.]

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.

What NOT to do for #Japan.

All these things are insensitive and inappropriate.

– not everyone can send money due to not having any, someone else controlling their bank account, or the sheer red tape of donations or even not having enough spoons to walk down to the bank and transfer money. some people with disabilities can’t use phones either so phone donations are sometimes out of the question.
– not everyone’s God is the Abrahamaic God, so laughing at the “illogic” of praying is ridiculous. sometimes prayer is the only thing someone can manage, that does not lessen their capacity for action. assuming that people are stopping ~all action~ to pray, why, you think they can’t pray AND act by helping in shelters or something?

– saying people only get hit by natural disasters because they don’t believe in the Abrahamaic God is preposterous and by extension trying to proselytise on that basis is not only hurtful to the people affected, it’s also against the bits of your holy book that remind you about humanitarian needs.

– using a natural disaster that is still affecting people as a backdrop for a story/fanfic/whatever… SO MUCH NO.

– citing a country’s history as reasons why you should not be compassionate makes you… well you guessed it, a shitty excuse for a human being. because no matter how you look at that… it’s just fucking racist.

– citing a country’s present actions [e.g. whaling] is racist too, just fyi.

because if your ends were that noble, you wouldn’t need to co-opt human suffering to achieve them.

Cross-posted from Tumblr.

An Open Letter to Writers

Dear Writer,

The most important thing for you to consider is your audience, correct?

This is also the most problematic.

Kyriarchy means the “audience” you think of is less universal than you think. In fact, I’d go straight out to call utter bullshit on the idea that any character, or any story, really, is ~universal~ because the mosiac of human experience directly contradicts any notion of complete universality. It’s when you try to impose a default, to say that this is the human experience captured in literature, when the bloody idea of it becomes nothing more than a bad joke. It’s like parading a cat in front of your family and saying this is the universal representation of all animals. I still see this perpetrated by many, many others like you who decline representation because it’s pandering to ~special interest groups~.

Isn’t that just the thing, though? The imaginary audience. What you need to realise is that stories about the most privileged group are everywhere. Seriously. There are hundreds of thousands of millions of stories out there for them. You get AWARDS for just writing about this specific class of people and nobody else. You get even more awards for writing for the privileged gaze!

But guess what! The majority of the world isn’t in that demographic. The majority of the world is sick of having to read the same characters over and over and over. They will support you. They are the ones paying for you. They are the ones who will spend hours kneeling on the floors of bookstores and petitioning libraries looking for your work. They care, because you cared enough to write about them, about telling them their stories existed, their stories mattered. I’m willing to bet they don’t really bother with your style, because it’s your content they care about, that spoke to them, that ignited their imaginations as readers. The spark that says I am a human being damnit, I matter!

And to do this, you need to approach the issue humbly. Be willing to learn. Be willing to question what you have been told, be willing to understand you will make mistakes, and that if you do, it is your responsibility accept them gracefully and move on. Try again. Do better. Because, by now, you should have realised the point of my letter. And that is that writing for a privileged audience doesn’t change anything. They don’t care: they will toss your work aside. There’s thousands of other books about them. But we, we are the ones who will pick them up, dust the cover, read the blurb and think, this might just be worth my while. We, the ones who don’t get to see ourselves humanised, the majority of us, when are you going to admit you need us, huh?

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

A Guide to Every Troll You Meet When You Talk About Cultural Appropriation

So the trolls are roaming around.

And of course, Thursday, now proudly waving keoi’s reverse racist card, has to snark at people.Because it’s not upsetting anymore, it’s really, really amusing.

1. Mx I’m Showing Appreciation/I’m Promoting Understanding.
By engaging in these activities, I’m showing respect for the source culture.”
Translation: By breaking into your house and stealing your stuff, I’m telling you I love you?

2. Mx This Wouldn’t Be Happening If You Would Just Share.
People like you are separatist and elitist, preventing us from appreciating diversity.
Translation: Why are you stopping me from sharing my horribly distorted view of reality with people!!

3. Mx Don’t You Have Something More Important to Worry About Like Poverty and Stuff
Isn’t this distracting you from REAL ISSUES?”
Translation: Self-evident, I think.

4. Mx You’re too PC
You’re just looking for something to be offended about.”
Translation: Indeed, marginalised peeps spend all their time hiding under bushes on the roadside waiting to jump out at people like me.

5. Mx I Don’t Find This Offensive
I don’t see how my actions are offensive. I/my friend/random person from source culture think it’s ok.”
Translation: Y U NO LIKE ME STABBING YOU IN THE GUT RE? MY FRIEND WAS OK WITH IT.

6. Mx Marginalised Peeps Appropriate As Well.
White people get appropriated from as well! Look at how much chromatics make a fetish of our culture!”
Translation: It’s all about me and my feelings. Even when it’s about you.

7. Mx Colonialism Was A Long Time Ago!
Colonialism is over! We don’t do that now! And even if we did, we don’t mean it like that!”
Translation: I can do whatever I want with your culture because I’m a good person because I said so, & you know I’m a good person because I told you!

8. Mx Tone Argument
I’d listen to you if you were more civil!
Translation: Y U SO MEAN RE

9. Mx How Do I Not Appropriate It Is So Difficult
I’m scared of appreciating things because of the hordes of angry chromatics.”
Translation: It’s so difficult for me to not be an imperialist douchefuck! GIVE ME SYMPATHY!

10. Mx Fashion/Culture/Fiction Borrows From Everybody
Fashion/culture/fiction borrows things and it’s not racist.”
Translation: I’ve never seen an atom so they don’t exist.

I haven’t covered them all — people are constantly amazing me with how creatively they can be arseholes. Nonetheless, a good thing to remember duckies, when we talk about race, people with race privilege should sit the fuck down & listen, because their self-evident, self-defensive “rebuttals” are about as warranted as someone blowing their nose on my sleeve.