"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Saturday, January 09, 2016

I am not a virgin.

Now Playing: Wild by Troye Sivan (leave this blue neighbourhood, I never knew loving could hurt this good, and it drives me wild)

Sexual assault is a really, really difficult thing to process.

I don't have an extremely negative reaction to it. There was some mutual attraction involved. There was, unfortunately, also a lot of alcohol involved, and not a lot of talking about things like consent, or boundaries. I was in over my head; he was only the second person I'd kissed, I'd been involuntarily celibate throughout high school, and it didn't even occur to me that my peers were going home with each other; things like 'hook up' and 'one night stand' were just abstract notions.

Had I been sober, had I been older, had I been physically and emotionally prepared for sex in a way that I just wasn't back then, had we had conversations, it would have been okay. Had I felt like I could call the shots on my own body and call time when I'd had enough, I would have been willing and eager to spend the night with a boy I had a huge crush on. Instead, I just remember it being very...pushy; like he was following a script that I hadn't yet got my hands on, the script of aggressively heteronormative hook up culture. I didn't know what I was doing, I didn't know what he was planning, and I was too afraid to ask. It was a selfish, vapid, deeply confusing encounter and whilst I realized afterwards he had too much respect for the notion of 'virginity' to do it, I remember being afraid; too afraid to say no. I don't think he meant to hurt me but I can't describe how it feels to lie very still and hope nothing happens.

Fortunately, I was an educated girl; I studied gender and sexuality, and some older girlfriends used to chat to wide-eyed innocent me about the birds and the bees. I tried to wrap my head around what had happened, but it didn't fit the stereotype of sexual assault, so I didn't consider it to be that. I wasn't traumatized in the way that other things in life leave lasting scars; in a way, it opened the door to a new world of sexuality that I had previously been barred entry from - in my ignorance I considered his blatant disregard for my feelings to be desire. Even though I didn't consider it assault, I knew enough and respected myself enough to know he was a selfish, inconsiderate partner; and I determined that the power play and pleasure exchange next time would be on more equal terms.

The first time I went home with someone for real was like a dream. Sparks flew and he was very sweet; but, most importantly, I was not blind drunk, I was in a space where I would have felt safe turning him down, and I was thrilled when he asked me to go home with him. We walked home hand in hand and I realized that feeling safe and feeling wanted can keep company. I was still young, but I was an adult, and I felt like I was taking control of my body and acting on things freely and that was indescribable.

But that euphoric emancipation melted away when I tried, and completely failed, to have sex. He was very sweet and understanding, but I was humiliated. I had made a personal, adult decision and I couldn't follow through. After not consenting to so much but going along with it anyway, I can't describe how it feels to want something, to be in a place where you feel happy and safe and curious, and you just...can't.

Had I had an extreme negative emotional response, or a flashback, I would have understood. But I didn't process my assault that way. The rational, logical, emotional part of me had fully processed, accepted, and moved on; but somewhere, deep in my subconscious, I was still hurting, and my body was reacting to this reaction that I couldn't access or control or even really feel. There were so many other barriers to sex and human interaction - depression, anxiety, body hang ups and insecurities from my eating disorder days - but I hadn't really factored in this as such a huge obstacle.

Living with vaginismus as a sexually mature woman is difficult. My partners have all been incredibly sweet and understanding, but you can't help but feel like a fraud, you can't help but be afraid that they will be frustrated or angry or take it personally; sometimes I feel like less of a woman. There's a huge conflict in not wanting to do it, because it hurts and because it has never worked, and really, truly wanting to have these experiences with the amazing and wonderful people I have had the privilege to know.

Vaginismus is a rare and poorly understood condition, and people don't really understand how the things they say hurt me, and disrespects survivors of sexual assault in general. For me, reclaiming my sexuality, owning my body and pleasure, has been huge in overcoming the intense emotions that come with being sexually assaulted. Sex is not a dirty thing for me; I love it. I feel beautiful and powerful and when I am slut shamed, or when people invalidate my experiences with sexual violence with my experiences with sexual pleasure; that can cut deep. And when people invalidate my sexuality, say that I haven't really had sex, that I'm not really being sexual, that I am not giving as good as I get - disrespects me as both a queer woman and as a survivor of assault.

My sex is real. My sexuality is valid. I am capable of giving and receiving pleasure, and no-one can discredit the immense love and affection of my private life. I have not let some boy in my past take away that from me; I have so much to give, as a person, as a woman, as a partner. There is a deep trauma in feeling like you don't fully own and control your body, and people add to that trauma when they belittle and invalidate the ways in which I do take control. I am a sexual being, and I am a survivor of sexual assault. My relationship with sexual violence is a part of what I am, but it does not define me. I am on the road to recovery, because my body is an empire and I am its dictator. I call the shots.

Monday, January 04, 2016

I play the role of the neglected wife well, my love
I have the appetite of a glutton

In truth;
You can have me, but you cannot own me

I will unman you;
My love is an ocean to drown in

You are a hapless sailor,
My little fool;

You are a ship to wreck
And I am a maelstrom.

I have wandering hands;
And I want you to hold them.

I have trembling hands;
And I want you to hold me

You roar like a baited bear
Because you know I always want more

It is a blessing then,
That tides change and seasons turn;

Because we will always be left wanting.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

deaf dumb blind numb afraid.

And my tears
Have been spread too thin

To speak the truth
I am just exhausted

There is no grief in me, anymore;
I see corpses the same way I see
Shoes lined up at my front door

When I was three
After bedtime;
I remember smoke on the television screen

My parents told me to go to sleep,
It wasn't real;
But I had nightmares for a week.

When I was five
The only difference was the time of day
And my mother was crying

And she didn't tell me the name of the film

(All the world's a stage,
I died a thousand times in theatres
In beds and on tables;
I hardly know what it is anymore)

You lived in a world of Iron Curtains
But no explosions;
I was five when civilization fell
And the smoke has yet to clear

I have never had the chance to feel it;
I was a child when the world blew up around me
And now, I think, I am deaf

I don't think they understand how numb we are
Us children who have grown up in the shadows of explosions

Terror, to us, is just a marketing ploy.
I know, somewhere, out of sight
There is a director with a furrowed brow
Who is yet to say 'Cut';
Waiting like a sniper for the perfect shot

When I was sixteen I went to my first bar
35 miles from hell;

Do not think I am a stranger to the world
Making a mockery of the suffering of my people;
I almost think I did it myself

I think I must have a hollow heart
To match the hollow ring in my ear
(twenty fucking years)

I have never been to Never Go There
I can only imagine the stench of death
And, to be fair;
I lack the imagination

I lived 35 miles from hell and couldn't feel the heat

But I have walked the streets of the City of Lights
And to have been there, done that
And watch it go up in flames;

There is true horror in that.
I'm sorry that this is the thing that is,
For me,
The closest to home.

But the one face I remember in the Paris blur
Was a black girl working in the bakery
I remember the pretty scarf she had wrapped around her head

I remember she smiled at me, years before today
I hope she is okay.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

We Are Not Things

If you want to love a woman
Fall out of love with the angel first

Are not real

Their skin has no scent, no warmth

Love a woman, not a corpse

Fall out of love with her rosy cheeks
It is just powder;

It represents hard earned money
And it was never for your benefit

You can buy angels and machines by the dozen;
In glossy-paper form

(If that is what you want,
For pity's sake, leave me alone;
I will not apologise for imperfection)

And remember;
It is not her

And it most definitely isn't you

Love is an experiment in reckless collaboration.

Are ugly

Is ugly

Is ugly

But you, my friend,
Must find beauty in it

As she does in you.

Sunday, November 08, 2015


I often find myself skipping that nail biting
Teeth clenching
Groaning, cringing moment

(In my favourite movies;
In TV shows I have convinced myself to watch;

The nails on blackboard
Eyeball slice)

Because it is the aftermath that fascinates

I love the unravel, the unwind
I spend my life in nostalgic recollect

I don't remember euphoria;
Or trauma

(It is all silence and darkness)

I just remember the rush,
The thrill,
The crack and thud of bones

I don't need postcards or photos
There is no need for mementos

A simple acknowledgement is all you need

(There is no cake required)

People think they are apologising for a mistake
A slip in judgement, in kindness;
A fraction of a second

But fractures run deep;
They offer a bandaid and never think of the dry cleaning bill

Bruises fade but blood sets in Scarlet Letters

And people think they are giving fleeting, ephemeral joy;
But it stretches out into forever like the pink cricket sunsets

(I tried to think of something to add on, here;
But this is it, and I like that

Joy is beautiful even as it fades away)

Kill; but it in the aftershocks that
Terror resides;

If you came into my life like an explosion;
If you were my Manhattan Project

And my singed pride melted into the melting ground and I;
Clawed at it and cried

I have all but forgotten the blast

It is the aftermath that devastates.
Scars linger after the blood dries.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


They cannot hurt you, darling
They never will

(Well, they have
But like Frankenstein
You crawl towards the light
In spite of the scars)

Be still.
Remember what you are

(Black eyes and spite)

Follow your own advice.

(I’d cut out my lungs to spite your
White bread, black heart face)

Do you know what it sounds like?
A howl in a bowl of blood

Pride is a sin
But you were never a saint

(Angels are so spitefully white and I paint myself red)

They have always hurt you, darling
They always will

(But like Frankenstein
I crawl towards the light

In spite of the scars) 

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Yellow Girl, White World

Now Playing: Eyes Open by Taylor Swift (everybody's waiting for you to break down, everybody's watching to see the fall out) 

When people ask me why I've chosen my field, the most honest answer is that the field chose me.

I've had the curse of acute, limited excellence, and so I'm not really used to the dour struggle of mundane tasks or having mediocrity be the fruit of excessive labour. I've really just followed the path of least resistance; I just went with what I was good at. I took the job that was offered to me, and it's easy enough. I picked the subjects I did the best in at high school and found the right courses at uni. I'll be training to be a childcare worker soon, because as much as some people might find it a painfully horrible job I quite enjoy it; it's hard work but I find it humbling and rewarding and immensely gratifying. When I'm researching graduate schools, I just read to find things I think I can do, things I can enjoy. My distinct talents, and my distinct lack of talent, in most things has made a path that is quite easy to follow.

(Incidentally, had I been a more math/science kid, I would have become a midwife, ob/gyn, or a clinical sexologist.)

I think there are other kids like me; bright, talented, passionate kids who weren't really good students but excellent thinkers, who can't imagine not chasing their dreams. And I know some of those dreams drifted into the Arts and, for a lot of Asians, I feel like that's where they draw the line, snap back into 'reality', whatever the hell that is. It was a path I followed virtually alone; and I always wondered why. Yeah, job prospects aren't great, but job prospects in general aren't great; and as much as Asians seem mildly obsessed with the corporate ladder I knew a lot of Asian kids who were following equally unemployable paths.

But then, I caught up with one of my perpetually-busy science friends, and I was whinging about how I had annoyed one of my professors and my marks immediately plummeted. I assumed that this was an annoyance that everyone has to deal with, but she mentioned something in passing: in Science, if you get something right, nobody can argue with you.

People often think that Asians don't suffer from discrimination because we are the 'model minority'; and some seem to think that our apparent preference for STEM or commerce is biologically wired. But I think it's a reaction to the systemic racism of Anglo 'culture', which rears its ugly head more often in the Arts and Humanities than in more universal things, like money or chemicals or studying dead bugs. In a Science or Commerce degree, people might hate you for being yellow, but they would have to risk getting caught for some seriously dodgy academic conduct to try and bring you low, if you are a good student. In the Arts it's all too easy to justify some random bad marks that just happen to coincide with the point when you snap and wipe the smug grin off some white bread professor.

The people I grew up with take my abilities as a given. I've always been 'that kid who's good at English'; my literary talent and absurd monolingualism is quite unusual in the Asian community here. But I'm always aware that every time I walk into the room and meet a new English teacher, or a new Gender Studies professor, they don't even think I can speak English. I have spent my whole life trying to prove myself, in a field where it's quite easy to just turn a blind eye on what's in front of you if it happens to be the wrong colour. When I was little they said I had a learning disability, that I was a disruptive child who would never go anywhere; and then I topped the state and went to an academic elite school. At that academic elite school my teachers said that I was lazy and would never get in to uni, and then I came in the top 0.5% of the state in English and went to a higher ranked uni that the teachers who claimed I'd never make it. And now, at uni, some of my professors are wonderful, wonderful people who are so generous with their time and knowledge. And some of them are racist assholes.

Establishing a rapport with your teachers is something I learned from a very early age; no matter how bad the systemic bullying was, I always managed to charm one or two of them to be on my side. It's a standard part of how academia works; being the teacher's pet is always an advantageous thing. But you can't be a teacher's pet to a racist; trust me, I've tried.

It's really hard to complain about racism in academia; most of it can't be proven. But you know when you're being treated different, when you've been treated different your whole life. People don't know what it's like to have to prove things, even when you have the qualifications and the grades and the certificates to back up what you're saying. People don't know what it's like to be an agitator or a liar every time you open your mouth, because most of what you say contradicts what other people are saying, have been saying, since the dawn of colonization.

I am not the norm for the artsy English student. Being a woman of colour disrupts the cosy academic elitist narrative that the older generation of academics have enjoyed since before I was born. Colonialism has resulted in people like me - mixed heritage, Western-educated, POC who straddle the line between being an Anglophile and not putting up with your Anglo shit. For these past three years at uni I just assumed that this was part and parcel with being an undergrad; that everyone gets bullied by professors. But I only just realized that so much of my bullying has been incredibly, racist.

I understand, now, why many Asians are too afraid to go near the Arts part of the campus; their fears of being treated differently, of being bullied and mocked, of being punished for speaking out of turn with bad grades, are a very, very real part of my life. In Australia, everyone buys into this myth that if you just work hard enough, if you just stick it out for long enough, you'll get anywhere. But it's really hard to believe that when you're dealing with a bunch of petty academics who can literally scribble any number on your assignment with little fear of repercussion.

I often get accused of being mildly obsessed with grades; and in a way, this is true. When you spend your whole life being valued as a kind of Walking Brain you tend to take your marks a little too seriously. And sometimes I wholeheartedly deserve the mediocre grades I sometimes get - I skip class and take units that are way out of my depth and knock together shitty essays at 3am just like everyone else. But I am not as stupid as people think I am; if you put a number I don't like on my paper, I expect you to justify it; and most of the time, people do. Bad marks encourage me to work harder and take my studies more seriously and I appreciate eating humble pie from time to time. But I don't appreciate being bullied for having the audacity and tenacity that seems to be so much more appreciated in my white and/or male peers; I notice when the marks suddenly plummet when I have the nerve to say things like 'maybe we shouldn't be debating the hijab when none of us are hijabis' or 'you can't call yourself Korean and make sweeping statements about (my) Korean culture because you are literally Finnish'. I'm not your quiet demure Asian masseuse; don't expect me to act like one.

The reason why many Asians don't make it in my field is because it takes a certain level of arrogance to keep believing that you are a full human being in the face of incredibly defeating and dehumanizing migroaggression and hostility. It takes a lot of nerve to simply refuse to believe people, many of whom are in positions of authority, when they say you aren't good enough. I've had to make my own way with little more than an unshakable knowledge that I am good at what I do; and that's a difficult thing to pull off when you're young and full of doubt. Luckily Koreans tend to be quite a narcissistic lot.

Being Australian has many, many privileges; every day I am grateful that I am a wealthy, highly educated girl, with English as my first language. But that doesn't mean that being a WOC - even an Anglicized, second generation WOC, doesn't have its challenges. I really encourage any Asians who are artsy like me but are too scared to go into the field to just go for it; head first, fearless. Because it's only by having the audacity to stand our ground, it's only when we have the courage to say I EXIST in a world hellbent on erasing our narratives, that we can make the world a better and more inclusive place for our peers and our children.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A shackle;
To people of my blood
But not my tongue
(or heart)

A badge of honour
I am the blood of kings
God; how I have dishonoured them
(In ecstasy)

A war cry
I exist
In No Man's Land
(I am no man)

Soft, and plump
Fingerprints and bruises fade
I cannot be hard

(I have too much heart)

But by God;
I was made strong.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


You are everything I hate
Sweat, smoke, and sand
I want...

(I know you.
You are tears and grass stains and broken dreams)

I like the way this hangs in the air
You are quick to catch the scent-

You look up, I look down
And then you look down on me

(Perhaps we will find equilibrium
When I am on my knees)

You built this suburban sprawl
With your bare hands;

You are a beast of a man

I want to see

How much of a beast I can be.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Macbeth: A Review

Now Playing: Magnets by Disclosure ft. Lorde (dancing past the point of no return, let go, we can free ourselves of all we've learned) 

Sometimes you watch a movie trailer and you are absolutely enthralled; your life depends on you seeing this goddamn mesmerising film.

I called up my favourite pasta-and-good-times buddy to lure her into this mission of mine, which turned out to be a genuine mission of finding where the hell was showing this film, which was allegedly released in Australia two weeks ago. It's a telling sign of everything I disdain about Perth that there was only one place showing it; an artsy fartsy, tiny rundown cinema buried in the nightclub district. The screen was not much bigger than a fancy modern flat screen, of which my parsimonious house manages to have two, and the cinema was a poky little room that seemed impossibly lacking in capacity until you realize that your only comrades are a few old people and a swarm of absurdly silly giggling bubble tea drinkers.

Macbeth is one of my favourite Shakespearean texts, although I must admit that upper high school and university seemed to be far more preoccupied with Hamlet and my professor's penchant for the historical plays, and so my sense of the plot was a little rusty. Despite this, the film seemed aimed at the bourgeois English academic type, and strikes a perfect balance between authenticity and loyalty to the text, whilst still managing to throw in the odd curveball to keep things exciting.

There is a logic to this rendition that is somewhat lacking in the original form of early modern theatre as bawdy mass entertainment with scant budgets and recycled props. Macbeth is reimagined by Fassbender as suffering from PTSD; a soldier struggling to live outside the battlefield binary of friend or foe. The implausible slaughter of Duncan is rendered in the most realistic way possible, with the subtle choreography of the many character's psyches dancing together in perfect unison. The Macbeth's passion for power and privilege is also reinforced by the great gap between Duncan and his beloved Thanes; Macbeth's castle is little more than a leaky church and a few tents in the middle of god knows where, which contrasts sharply with the grandeur and luxury of the palace they eventually inhabit. The woods coming up to Dunsinane is cleverly reimagined into a far more plausible battle strategy, and the film does not employ the black comedy of other early modern tragedies. And in the end a coda featuring Fleance provides the realistic implication that the bloody dynastic politics are far from over; which makes sense, given that Fleance, not Malcolm, is claimed as the legendary forefather for the Stuart dynasty.

Shakespearean texts can get a bit dude-centric, and the testosterone fueled, bloody plot of Macbeth is no exception - so it was interesting that the film chose to highlight the soldier's familial relationships, and the importance of wives and heirs to the patriarchal structure; which contextualizes the Macbeth's anguish, and the violence against Macduff's 'pretty chickens and their dam'. In this way, the women and children of the story are not just pawns, but things that the Macbeth's openly covet; Macbeth seems transfixed by Banquo's Fleance, and Lady Macduff is Lady Macbeth's foil in every way; Scottish, demure, and blatantly fecund. This fixation over women and children reaches a bloody head through the clever reinterpretation of the slaughter of the Macduffs, which will shake even the sort who can sing The Bard in two-part harmony. The re-imagining of Macbeth's bloody ascent to power as means to 'fill the void' left behind by their dead child also provides an interesting dynamic for the close relationship between Macbeth and his wife, which seemed incongruous in incarnations of Macbeth that cast her as the aggressive manipulator of a browbeaten husband - Macbeth and Lady Macbeth become a sort of Henry and Anne Boleyn thing, with the conspicuous absence of an heir hanging in the air like the Scottish frost. In the absence of comic relief, the focus on relationships instead heightens the drama to almost uncomfortable levels as people are hacked apart, burned alive, and go insane.

The highlight of the film is Marion Cotillard, who is a dynamic, enigmatic, and strangely sympathetic Lady Macbeth; her viciousness and ambition is contextualized by personal tragedy and her emotionally fraught position as an outsider. There is no excusing of her monstrosity in the film, but as you watch her wide, alien eyes grieve, and then light up with ambition, and then quietly fade away into nothingness, her story has a complexity and a sincerity that is hard to not empathize with. The representation of women in this film is nuanced and poignant and pulls away from the Madonna/whore dichotomy that the passive Lady Macduff and the bitchy Lady Macbeth used to represent; almost all of Lady Macduff's lines are cut, but she still manages to be a fascinating character in the way the camera lingers on her eyes, which shrewdly take in everything that happens in her soldier husband's world, and in her final, agonizing lines. This film manages to pull off the impossible feat of not only casting the most perfect Academy Award-winning and -nominated actors, but also the right child actors to pull at your heartstrings just at the right moment.

My only whinge - and it is a minor one - is the habit to zoom in on Macbeth and hold the camera there as he delivers line after line of flawless Shakespearean text. Which is all well and good, on stage, but this film is so focused on scenery and character that it drags a bit on the already dense and fairly slow-paced film. I understand that this was probably to give Macbeth more screen time, and that his endless soliloquys are essential to the plot for the three people who somehow manage to cling to every word between the rough Scottish accents and the even rougher wind, but the film manages to find more interesting ways for Lady Macbeth to spew her lines out ('Out, damned spot' is particularly good) so I think they really ought to have tried a bit harder with the titular character. That being said, the movie redeems itself of its endless zoomed in soliloquies with a pretty spectacular rendition of 'tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow'  

 This year's Cannes was dominated by Australians - Mad Max, and then Mad Mac; and the latter is well worth the headache of tracking down a theatre that is willing to screen this to this land of bogans.