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.

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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.

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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 ->

I speak LOLcat, but I’m not amused. (No cheeseburgers.)

In which Wednesday rants.

This is my problem with LGBT activism in Singapore1:

According to Alex Au, queerness and piety are something less than compatible. According to Alex Au, feminism is misandrist (TW for statutory rape & victim-blaming). (ETA: Also, I guess I gave up my right to privacy when I was born, since all queer peeps must be out or they are traitors to the cause. Amirite? I’m right.)

For Leona Lo, it is acceptable to co-opt & appropriate the experiences of Malay sex workers, even though Lo is Chinese and middle-class – because all trans women are trans women, that’s what counts! For Leona Lo, since there is privilege in passing, you have only yourself to blame if cissexism tips your life upside-down.

Au and Lo are really BNFs when it comes to LGBT rights in Singapore. (And I know BNF is probably a terrible term to use, but I can’t think of a non-fandom equivalent.) However, #protip to the media & the blogosphere: that doesn’t make them the go-to people for everything. (Gender)/queer people aren’t a monolith, and I am really very tired of the media plonking everybody into this homogenous mass of unquestioned authority. People can fail. And I know that sometimes one’s tempted to give the benefit of the doubt to people who’ve done a lot of queer causes locally, but past achievements aren’t a get-out-of-jail-free.

So I’m an optimist. But I’d like to think it possible to recognise and accept the diversity of our local LGBT community, rather than tossing it under the rug to present a united face. I’d like to think it possible to unpack our own privileges while exploring our oppressions. I’d like to think it possible for there to be a teensiest bit more room for the local scene to develop, for newer voices to come forth, because we are in the 21st century nao kthx, we are a generation raised on connectivity and instant gratification and a wholly different situation than the one that the adults who came before us were used to.

Yah I am opinionated as fuck. But I’m not identifying with the local movement nao, and I don’t think it’s for want of trying, for srs. I gave up years ago, when I was fourteen and not terribly impressèd. If the status quo can’t change, then it’ll be superseded, trufax.

note: If you’re going to wank, pls not to be all ‘OMG it’s cuz you is little girl’ (I’m seventeen) ‘and has none of teh Real ExperienceTM‘ (how real is real enough to get cookies bb) ‘and has none of teh learnings’ (I totes has learnings! Let me show you them!) kthxbai.

1 Ignore hao much I hate the term LGBT. (Sexual orientation != gender; spectrum, not binary; way to go erasing ace folks.) Or even worse, QUILTBAG (which is so cutesy it’s like I’m a lolcat and not a hooman).

Academic Whiteknighting Students FTW

Something that annoys me very, very much is how the subject of queerness is treated. I’ll be talking mainly about the pre-university and undergraduate landscape of this country, because that is what I am familiar with, though I suspect that my experiences and observations will be applicable elsewhere as well.

You will notice that quite often, students like to talk about queer issues when discussing ‘a controversy or noteworthy social topic in your country’, or something like. Sometimes the conversation will be about assimilation, sometimes about equality. Rarely does the lecturer or teacher set it as queer rights and queer culture directly. Most of the time the group decides on their presentation subject themselves.

Already we perceive a problem. I have noticed that these groups tend to typically be either majority or exclusively hetero/sexual people (a word which I parse as straight and sexual). The fact that they choose such a topic is a form of anthropological curiosity. It becomes a way of demonstrating their edgy, pseudo-progressive viewpoints, while doing nothing for the queer community, and while doing nothing for their own blinkered ignorance.

Wednesday is very annoyed.