"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

Friday, March 27, 2015

남자들

B.

I thought of something to say to you
And then burst into tears

Because I turn, and it fades away
And you're not here

My love was unconditional
But not at the expense of my dignity

It was at the expense of all of me.

*          *          *

Q.

I was afraid, you know
During my break

Because you were bleeding
And I wanted to fix you

I wanted to hold you in my arms like a child
And I was afraid you would push me away

It meant the world to me
That you crawled into my open arms

*          *          *

R.

I was drawn to you
Like a moth

Drawn to the flame

But I think tempers that burn so hot
Can burn anyone

And so I died
Joan of Arc

*          *          *

You.

How afraid I am
I am not afraid of

Tangled bodies
And knotted bed sheets

I am afraid that you will touch me
And it will leave scars

That nobody will see
But me

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

my own personal brand of feminism.

Now Playing: Bad Blood by Taylor Swift (you know it used to be mad love, so take a look at what you've done 'cause baby, now we've got bad blood)

A couple of weeks ago I had the audacity to say, in passing, that I don't personally subscribe to Beyonce's brand of feminism and a group of feminists lost their shit.

I've always felt deeply uncomfortable with affiliating with any kind of organization; I joined student politics in my fresher year and, whilst I met many interesting, colourful characters, I could not, in good faith, sell a cause and sell my self in the name of something I could not sincerely endorse and did not fully believe in. Since then I have lived on the periphery of the various collectives for women, women of colour, atheists, feminists, leftists and queer folks. I have a reputation as a controversial but generally respected figure, but I really struggle to be actively involved. On the rare occasions that I do make it to a meeting, or an event, or to speak at conferences, I always feel unsettled and on edge.

For me, feminism is not really a safe space. Nothing about feminism is safe; it is an open invitation to ridicule, threats, and hostility; and not all that hostility comes externally. Within the community there is a huge amount of conflict and discord and, ironically, I think it is caused by our unwillingness to accept and embrace difference and debate.

Feminists are highly intelligent, extremely opinionated people. There are going to be fights and disagreements; but that is one of feminism's strengths, rather than a weakness. Part of the joy of being a public feminist is that people don't know what I'm going to say, what I'm going to think, or how I'm going to justify myself. I am not your average cookie cutter Asian girl; I'm a wild card. I think we should all embrace that, instead of forcing fellow feminists to adopt our own personal brand of feminism.

I have, of course, my own personal brand of feminism. It hovers cautiously at the centre-left of politics, heavily influenced by little-l liberalism. It is, of course, inseparable from my race politics and my identity as a queer woman of colour. It is decidedly sex positive and pro choice and comes with the disclaimer that I am young and still sorting shit out. I like Iggy Azalea. I don't really like Beyonce. Shoot me.

As a part of my own personal brand of feminism, there is a lot that I object to in the feminist community. I can't stand the notion that women cannot have sex with men without it being exploitative and disrespecting oneself. I can't stand the notion that equal representation for women will somehow sideline all these brilliant perfect flawless men in favour of incompetent stupid women who are just there to fill quotas and tick boxes. I can't stand the mumsy white feminism championed by Mia Freedman and other white middle class 'feminists', who slut shame and victim blame until the cows come home. I can't stand the queerphobia and racism that is rampant in the movement.

There are decidedly wrong ways to be feminist. Racism, queerphobia, trans-exclusion, a refusal to understand and accept the intersection between privilege and oppression in our own lives, is failing to understand the heart of feminism, or how to be a decent person. But, at the same time, there's nothing mandatory about feminism; there's no checklist. Liking Beyonce does not make you a feminist. Not liking Beyonce doesn't suddenly cancel your membership card. There aren't any membership cards; just the millions of different ways to be a good or shit person.

I don't think of feminism as anything special. As a feminist I have to work bloody hard, to improve myself and to fight for society; but whilst it is hard to be a feminist, it is not particularly hard to identify as one. It is synonymous to being a decent human being, and I think we over-complicate it with weird rules or strange notions about a homogeneous sisterhood.

When feminists first enter the scene, we are taught that there are two ways of doing things; the way things are now, which is wrong, and the way you yourself want it to be because you have a uterus, which is right. Which is a load of bullshit. There are thousands of wrong ways and thousands of right ways to do anything; there are thousands of 'wrong' and 'right' ways to be a feminist, and thousands of 'wrong' and 'right' ways to be a woman. My feminism works for me; and I don't mean that in a self-serving way. My feminism not only allows me to work towards the life I want, but also provides me with a suitable platform from which to serve my fellow women and society at large. The day that feminism becomes homogeneous, the day when someone can say with absolute clarity what feminism is and how all feminists think, is the end of feminism; when feminism has failed us. Feminism, at its heart, is about refusing to be put in a box; don't make feminism itself into another one of those boxes.



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fallen Angel/Fortune's Wheel

and now that you have had

a little time

to enjoy your fall from grace

i hope, now

that you understand

what it is to be a

wretched sinner



but now that fortune's wheel has turned

i will not judge you

as you judged me

we shall leave it all to God


you cannot mock me anymore

your pedestal has crumbled beneath your feet

fortune's wheel is turning

and i

i am on the rise



i am a fallen angel

but this is my ascension

Sunday, March 15, 2015

On Smartness and Selective Schools

On paper, I have a pretty stereotypical Asian-Australian resume. I attended and graduated from Perth Modern School, Western Australia’s only fully academically selective school. I skipped a grade. I did very well, got a very high ATAR, and I’m now at a great uni.

But that’s only half the story. Less than half, really.

I’m eternally grateful I went to a selective school; I don’t think there’s anywhere else that would have suited me better or where I would have gotten a better education. But I was not, by any stretch of the imagination, happy. Or a good student. And leaving that school wearing the garishly terrible blue and red graduation gown gave me no guarantees for a happy or successful life.

I am now a tutor; it is, as far as part-time jobs go, an incredibly rewarding job that I enjoy immensely and it suits my abilities, my schedule and my personality very well. I firmly believe that not everyone thrives in a classroom environment – I certainly didn't – and that everyone needs some one on one coaching in something, and I’m happy to provide that. I would not be able to swim if my parents hadn't hired a swimming coach – who was probably an underpaid uni student just like I am now – to patiently, one on one, teach me the art of not drowning. Tutoring is a very rewarding job, can be a great investment, and is an excellent way to gain life experience and earn money.

I have decided, however, to stop taking on board clients who wish me to prepare their children for selective schools. I just can’t support that mentality and I refuse to make money from a largely useless and potentially very damaging enterprise. And here is why.

1. Smart is subjective.

All-rounders are rare; people who are prodigiously good at everything are virtually non-existent. Your child is not da Vinci incarnate and is not good, and will never be good, at absolutely everything. I am considered exceptionally talented at English, but along with that comes some exceptionally terrible athleticism and my astounding ability to completely not process numbers.

When I was younger, my parents enrolled me into everything – all the ‘useless’ activities that other stereotypical Asian parents pooh-poohed. I learned how to read and play music, I learned ballet, I did jazz, tap and acrobatics, and I had brief flings with gymnastics, basketball, archery, and figure skating. I went to art school and I was in drama troupes. If I had been Royal Ballet Company material or had Olympic potential, I would have found out about a decade ago thanks to all those hours spent prancing around in tutus and falling on my arse on solid water.

2. Smart is innate.

I tutor specifically for exams, assignments, how to not fail the English WACE (compulsory to study and compulsory to pass if you want to go to uni) and how to uni. These are all times when a set amount of knowledge is taught and is expected to be demonstrated, and I am happy to help if there is some issue in that process of absorbing and reproducing learned skills.

Tests for entry into selective schools, however, are not testing your knowledge of the Crusades or whether or not you ate a dictionary or have memorized the periodic table. The tests as I remember them are horrendously obscure, difficult to explain and impossible to teach; these are things that academically gifted and talented children have a knack for. It is a highly visual, imaginative exercise that no amount of linear equations or rudimentary chemistry is going to help with.

When I was younger, my parents never had to push me to read or write. It was a deep, innate, powerful love – my first taste of lust, a thirst that I constantly had to satiate. It became my refuge and my sanctuary and I think my parents would have utterly destroyed me if they had somehow managed to turn it into a chore. And all these parents were looking at my parents in blatant envy, going ‘lucky you’, whilst ignoring their kid’s prodigious talent at football, or their child’s breathtaking painting, or just that kid who is nice to everyone in a way that I have never managed to emulate or synthesize.

3. Children need to go where they need to go, not where their parents think they should be. 

Not everyone belongs in an academically select school. This is sort of why they exist.

Academically selective schools are places made so kids who are often bullied, bored, and possibly physically underdeveloped have a shot at a normal schooling. The primary advantage is that the curriculum moves faster so that you don’t get bored. When I was a child I was bored to the point of depressed and destructive; I was angry and frustrated all the time, which in turn made everyone around me angry and frustrated. Sometimes people slip the system and end up in academically select schools when they really shouldn't have, and I've seen it slowly fuck with them. Low self-esteem, bad grades, inability to relate to peers, sudden interest in everything other than school…I've seen it all.

4. ‘Selective’ doesn't mean ‘superior’

I had some great teachers at school who were passionate and dedicated and extremely talented, who instilled in me a deep love of learning and a wealth of knowledge I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I also had a lot of lazy, shitty teachers, lots of mediocre, indifferent teachers, and lots of clueless, out-of-their-depths teachers. I also, sadly, had a few teachers who bullied and humiliated me on a regular basis even though I was supposed to be in a safe space.

Selective schools are not nirvana. There are still popular kids. There are still nerds. There is still bitching and bullying. There are – shock horror – relationships and interests outside of the classroom. There was drugs and sex and alcohol. It’s a high school, after all.

Going to a selective school does not, by any stretch of the imagination, guarantee that a) your kid will get a good education, b) your kid will do well  or c) your kid will get into that absurdly high-ranking university, get rich and famous, and fund your retirement. Sorry.

5. Smart doesn't mean happy.

Smart doesn't mean happy. I was a ‘smart’ kid but I struggled with poor self-esteem, body image issues, depression, anxiety, bullying…pretty much just like every other kid. I was bullied for what I was good at and bullied for all the things I couldn't do. Smart never meant happy.

Smart doesn't mean studious, either. I’m a terrible student. I lack the discipline and the concentration span.

Smart does not mean rich; I've been the butt of many a ‘would you like fries with that?’ arts-degree jokes to know that. We don’t live in a society that privileges academic talent or respects academics, so why do we insist on pushing our kids on this path in the false belief that this is the one and only path to guaranteed success and happiness? It’s not.

Smart does not even mean capable. The last time I tried to boil an egg it exploded. I don’t know how to change a tyre; I don’t even know how to drive. I can't open jars and I can't reach the cheap canned goods on the top shelves in supermarket aisles. I fail things and struggle at things just like any other person.

Forcing your children into taking paths that they don’t like and that don’t suit them is not at all conducive to leading a happy, successful life or making financially stable and/or vaguely capable adults. The academic life, believe it or not, is for…academics.

6. Irresponsible tutors 

I am not a trained teacher. I grew up being looked after by older cousins and then I looked after the younger ones. I adore children and in my other job I am paid to look after them. I love what I do and I find it quite easy to teach it.

And I believe that absolutely anything, bar flu shots and Brazilian waxing, can be fun.

My teaching methods are unorthodox; but I’m unorthodox, and I was taught by unorthodox teachers. There are lots of movies. Lots of YouTube videos. Lots of chatting and laughing. I've had students who are blatantly more into science or sports than English willingly pay me out of their own meagre pocket money for extra sessions. I believe that there is great power and potential in one on one, personalized teaching, but also a limit on how much you can teach and how much one can do, and in these realistic parameters and a focus on conscious and fun learning, I've seen my students excel under my inexpert tutelage.

I have seen tutors drill children like they've just been enlisted in the army, yell at them for being bored, sleepy, hungry or fidgety in the long tough hours straight after a whole day of school, I have seen tutors turn my favourite texts into torture devices of acute boredom, and I have seen tutors willingly take money to feed parents a load of bullshit advice about the virtues of academically select schools and how to get into them. It’s irresponsible, it’s a waste of money, and it’s child abuse. A kid who is constantly told that he is rubbish and needs to work harder will give up on the whole notion of studying entirely, and will possibly give up on the idea that they have any kind of self worth at all.

Tuition is an excellent investment to consider if your child is struggling in school, dislikes school, doesn't thrive in the group environment, and their teacher has voiced concerns over basic skills that will be required for many years to come, regardless of what career path they take. You need to know how to write essays and comprehend basic documents and, allegedly, know that 1 hour and 22 minutes does not equal 88 minutes. But, above and beyond that, your kid will find their groove if you give them space to dance with opportunity.

Tuition is also a great way to provide a boost of confidence and to improve your understanding during tough times like high school finals, compulsory university units that nobody likes, and the inevitable essays that pop up even in the most non-artsy majors.

Tuition is not a good way to get into an academically select school. If you feel the need to hire a tutor, your child probably doesn't belong there. Love your kid for what they are, move on, and save up for a new pair of ballet shoes or put a basketball hoop in the backyard.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

#DearMe

Now Playing: Sophia by Laura Marling (let it be known that I was who I am)

In my younger and more vulnerable years I thought, like most teenage girls, that my worth was in how big my boobs were, how clear my skin was, the numbers on the size tags on my clothes, whether or not I said the right things and laughed at the right jokes. I was obsessed not only with personal appearance, but with how I was perceived, and whether or not I was good enough.

In the confusing slut/virgin paradox, I was taught that my worth was in the fine line between being fuckable, but not fucking around. Boys kissed girls; girls got kissed. We wanted the boys to chase us, but heaven forbid we chase them.

I remember, vividly, when I was little, at school discos, the boys would march up to the girls and ask for a dance; you either did it with whoever asked, sat in the corner and cried if you weren't asked, or hid in the toilets if you didn't want to dance with anybody. When the couple of odd ugly girls - me always included - tried to march up to the boys, they started to run, and everyone started to laugh. At us. For just wanting to slow dance with a boy like all the popular girls.

When I got older, I was addicted to those web pages and magazine articles that were all like 'What Men Really Want' and 'What Men Really Think'. I learned that men were terrified of body hair of any description. I learned that men hated red lipstick and didn't understand women's clothes. I learned that feminism, which was something I identified with as soon as I found the Wikipedia page, was a deeply unsexy and disturbing topic of conversation. And every day I waited for a Prince Charming who was never fucking coming.

Today I am the girl who wears her Feminist as Fuck shirt as soon as it comes out of the wash. I wear red lipstick and I don't really care whether or not that makes me unkissable or unfuckable or unwhatever. I can't afford razors because I'm too busy buying books and reusable menstrual products and overpriced blushes with risque names (I'm looking at you, NARS), and that's okay.

And I learned, come hell or high water, I am going to be that girl who likes sex. And that there's nothing wrong with that. And that I should be proud that I have sex on my own terms, and that my sexuality is my own and not defined by anyone or anything else.

My attitudes towards sexuality are unorthodox, yes, but since I took control of my own life, since sex became 'things we do together' rather than 'things being done to me', everyone has been safe and happy; and that's the important part, isn't it, at the end of the day? I don't need chick flicks and bad abusive erotica telling me what I should and shouldn't do. I set my own boundaries and I 'm happy with them.

Today I met a guy who couldn't comprehend that a girl like me could still be 'a virgin', and immediately discredited my sexuality. He was utterly perplexed that I have partners who didn't need therapy after I refused to put out. I told him my usual statistic that between 70-80% of females don't orgasm through sexual intercourse, and he told me, to my surprise, that he knew that.

So why on earth do I have to do this specific act to make my sex life 'count'?

I'm not ready for that. I haven't met anyone that I've felt comfortable to do that with. I have physical and emotional baggage to deal with that just isn't kosher to dump on a hook up. And...this is the crux of the matter, I don't *need* to do that for my sexuality to *count* - actually, my sexuality doesn't have to *count* to anybody.

I'm not going to go into details, here, but there's more to sex than what goes where, and this is the scary part, for me: I feel like for most people, especially white cis het males, sex isn't about pleasure. It isn't about respect or affection or intimacy. It's about power. You do this and then I can put another notch on my bedpost. Whether or not either of us enjoy it is not relevant.

I've met a *lot* of guys who have tried to pressure me into doing things I don't want to do. A lot of them have done it like this - like, 'oh, what you've done until now doesn't count until you do this specific thing'. The thing is, though, they're shooting themselves in the foot. I'm not interested in anyone who a) tries to pressure me, b) discredits my sexuality (if you don't think I'm a sexual person, why on earth do you want to have sex with me?) and c) I'm a queer feminist peer sex educator, and I am thoroughly unimpressed by your heteronormative bullshit.

#DearMe: you grow up to be the hairy queer feminist everybody warned you about and yes, that does mean a lot of people turn their nose up at you, but hey...they don't know what they're missing ;)
For goodness' sake

Have you never smiled at anyone else?

Is there no one else
In the world

Who can paint you as a pretty picture?

Dolphin Theatre

You always
Seem to make your way
Onto my stage

I will always regret holding your hand
And I will always regret not letting you go

Please
Let me escape
From the ghost of your smile and your petulant glare

Why did you defile my only sanctuary?

To think that I am the one who stands trial
For the sins which are yours

Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet

I didn’t want you
And I knew you never wanted me

So why
Why

Why must you take what is mine?

little brown girl

No, don't cry
little brown girl

You are not allowed to cry
We don't want to think

Of you

As a being made of stars
Like us

Crying tears of oceans
And oceans of tears

Like us

You are not one of us
You do not have the right

Go away,
little brown girl

Disappear into the night

We do not want to look at you
And be reminded

little brown girl

That your heart swells
Cracks
And bleeds

In this big white world

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hands.

Darling, was it my coat of many colours?
My harlot's toga?

Can you see hands on me?

But darling, everything you are
Is a red paper lantern

I can see hands on you, too

But it's alright, darling
I love you still


Saturday, March 07, 2015

Real.

You don't seem quite real, anymore

You appear like a ghost
And fade like morning mist

You are not a man to me, anymore

Just cold dread
And skin crawling horror

But it is bogeyman terror

You are not real, anymore
And neither is my fear.