"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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

Video Friday: Pretty

a dream came true.

Now Playing: Dear John by Taylor Swift (don't you think I was too young to be messed with, the girl in the dress cried the whole way home)

So let me tell you a story, another story in this long list of stories that is my life.

It feels like I'm writing to an old friend, but I know that is little more than an illusion. My dearest friends read this, but so do my worst enemies. I know that.

But let me tell you a story.

I don't remember much of being thirteen. I remember brief flickers - the agonizing pain each month as I struggled with hormonal imbalances. I remember my school uniform being far too big for me, and food being a constant obsession. I remember my first day in year nine English. But other than that, not much.

Except for two boys. The memories of both of them are very much intertwined, at least the memories from when I was thirteen. I remember one of them being sweet and beautiful and untouchable. I remember being so afraid of him I could barely look him in the eye.

I was friends with the other boy. I vaguely remember us being quite close, but I don't remember the specifics. All I really bothered to remember was how he hurt me.

And I remember that rage was still something very childish and dark and uncontrollable, back then. I wasn't cool and calculative like I am now - now I know how to pick my fights and how to play people even when I'm almost blind with rage. I remember wishing I could be him. I hated how much power he had over me. I wanted to hurt someone as much as he had hurt me.

In my silly thirteen year old head, it made sense. Revenge was revenge, no matter who it was exacted on. And I guess it stuck with me, even as I was growing up. I wanted to be like all those people who hurt me. I wanted someone to get a taste of the kind of bitterness I thought only I had ever felt.

It's only when you're seventeen you realise that little boys hurt little girls without really knowing or thinking about what they're doing. It's only when you're seventeen when you realise that you get over silly teenage heartbreaks - eventually.

But something else has changed, between then and now. Thirteen year old me never had a reputation for being nice - now I do, at least amongst certain company. Thirteen year old me didn't have the friends I have now. But some things haven't changed. I'm still as lost and confused as ever.

And it's only when you're seventeen when you realise that being on the other side isn't any better. There's no joy or satisfaction in hurting others. It's not so much revenge as a massive guilt trip that hurts almost as much as all the other times you've been on the receiving end. It's not empowering or impressive in the slightest that I'm finally in a position of power over others. Letting others down is just as hard as being let down.

But you know why I'm here? Why I'm not eleven years old and saying yes to anything and anyone who came my way? I'm seventeen. I've been in love, and I remember it, vividly. I remember the butterflies, the rush, the crazy rollercoaster. I know what it's like to feel like you were born for someone, to feel that irresistible pull even though you know they're trouble. That's something you can't forget or erase. I know what it's like. Every day I relive those moments - I remember what it feels like, to be thirteen and in love for the first time, to be fourteen and devastated by your first real heartbreak, to be fifteen and finally get what you wanted, to be sixteen and have your first kiss under the warm winter sun, to be seventeen and inexplicably attracted to the beautiful boy with the beautiful smile who showers you with little presents and makes you feel like a princess, just for a second, before the fairytale is snatched away before you get to the happy ending. And you know when what you're presented with in the here and now has nothing in common with those beautiful, fearless, reckless, dangerous, painful memories. I'm seventeen, and as hard as it is to walk away and as guilty as I feel for doing what I hated other people doing to me...I'm not the naive little girl I used to be, without all these memories and experiences. I don't know what I want, at all. But at least I realise soon enough what feels right and what would just be a bad repeat of childish mistakes.

Dearest Thirteen, a dream came true. You can finally be as cruel as the people you know. But it doesn't bring you any happiness, dearest Thirteen. I wish you knew that. Because this is one dream I wish you never wished for.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

protect the hegemon!

Now Playing: Eyes Open by Taylor Swift (everybody's waiting for you to break down, everybody's watching to see the fall out, even when you're sleeping keep your eyes open)

Note: I have deliberately made this title too abstract and nerdy for unintelligent people who stalk my Facebook to figure out what I'm talking about, click on the link and then use it as an excuse to call me a whore. More on that in a minute.

I always used to find it hilarious when people take whatever reasonable, rational, if slightly provocative and satirical crap reasonable, rational, if slightly provocative and satircal people say, invert and convolute it so much it's more twisted than Hitler's Manifesto and then attack it mercilessly. 

Well, I did find it hilarious until I found myself at the unpleasant receiving end of this as I became a more reasonable, rational if slightly provocative and satirical person with a humble but significant presence in Perth's cybersphere. 

For a lot of my life I've tried to shy away from the word 'victim', especially to describe myself, because a) my life ain't that bad b) the word victim is quite melodramatic and in my mind as connotations to war and rape and violence none of which have been a particularly major part of my life and c) I'm an insecure little bitch who has been beaten (metaphorically) into insecurity and repeatedly chastised for, ya know...feeling sorry for myself. 

A lot of my job as being a human being with opinions that nobody seems to like is I have to do a lot of clarifying. I feel like less of a social rights activist and more of a dictionary - specifically, the kind of dictionary who is set to the default 'no, you're wrong, shut up' setting, which tends to irritate people who are wrong and who really need to shut up. But here are a few definitions for y'all before you feel justified in hitting Facebook with more 'Lady Starlight is a whore' comments:

VICTIM - a victim is a person who suffers at the hands of others. Note this definition does not describe how much suffering and the type of suffering, which is why it is perfectly legitimate (i.e. not melodramatic or attention seeking) to describe victims of war, victims of rape AND victims of cyberbullying as VICTIMS, as the word victim only notes that someone is suffering and does not note the type or extent or severity of said suffering. 

VICTIM-BLAMING - when a VICTIM is blamed for their own misery, i.e. by pretending there is no perpetrator or by somehow accusing a victim of provoking a perpetrator, thus excusing said perpetrator of responsibility. See also: rape culture, sexism, misogyny, racism, homophobia, and everything else that is wrong with the world. 

RAPE CULTURE - a culture that sympathises with the perpetrators rather than the victims of sexual assault via victim blaming.This 'rape culture' attitude can be applied to pretty much every other kind of victimization and consequent victim blaming, especially considering that a lot of abuse aimed at people, especially women, gays and other non-white, non-male and non-hetero people is sex related. 

As you may have noticed, these definitions are very different to the definitions the majority of people seem to be working on, in which a victim is an 'attention-seeker', victim-blaming is 'justice' and rape culture is 'something the feminists made up because I personally have never raped anyone'.

Another concept I will introduce to you is the concept of 'hegemon'; the hegemon is the 'ruling class', as in the class that dictates the rules (both legal and social) and are protected by these rules. The hegemons of our society are, naturally, the young, white, wealthy, hetero men, although it is a good thing to mention that these said young, white, wealthy hetero men aren't always the villains of the story; a lot of my friends actually fall into this category. But a lot of the shit that happens in this society is a result of people, with their own set of twisted priorities and inferiority complexes, defending the hegemon even when they are in the wrong - because, unfortunately, a lot of our rapists, murderers and other assholes generally come from this hegemonic class of young, white, wealthy hetero men. It is in our benefit to defend these young, white, wealthy hetero men because a lot of them turn into the old, white, wealthy hetero men who run this society and have all of this society's money and assets in their expensive custom-tailored suit pockets but...ya know, that's not how justice and society is supposed to work. 

When I and other intelligent educated people talk about 'rape culture' we're not talking about some nonexistant place where little boys are taught from the cradle to fuck anything that isn't wearing a burqa (and sometimes even people that are wearing burqas), which is certainly how our opponents like to depict it. Rape culture is about defending the hegemon in every case of alleged rape that ever pops up; so this means blaming female promiscuity or drunkneness for rape even when out of those three things promiscuity and drunkneness are not the crimes and rape is most definitely a crime. Rape culture is about sympathising with the 'upstanding young men' who have had their lives 'ruined' and were forced to watch as their futures 'fell apart in front of their eyes'...and ignoring how the victim of these upstanding young men rapists might be going through some (undeserved) shit too. Rape culture is about telling young women what they can and cannot do, what they should and should not wear, where and when they should be to avoid rape, instead of telling young men to ASK FIRST and CEASE AND DESIST if the magic 'y-word' doesn't pop up. Rape culture is society's misguided attempt to be politically correct and redefine rape as a gender-neutral crime even when the number of female rapists is so small as to be statistically insignificant and male victims of rape are mostly the victims of male-perpetrated rape.  

It's astonishing how something so reasonable can be twisted into something to be used against you.

I'm not well known for staying on everyone's good side; in fact, I have quite a reputation for pissing people off. Quite recently one of my dear classmates thought it was hilarious to badly misquote my blog, ridicule me behind my back and call me a whore, which sadly a good majority of the rest of my classmates thought was hilarious and cheered him on. Naturally I got very upset at my so-called friends for thinking this person quite justified in calling me a whore, and kind of...flipped out. Although one thing that did cheer me up was that they couldn't really bully me without twisting the truth. My words and my meaning was so twisted I won't even claim copyright on the stuff they quoted, and that bit about me being a whore...put it this way, about four guys have seriously attempted to hit on me through high school, I happened to only like one of them back and the rest took that personally because, ya know, I'm a girl and an unfuckable feminist and if I'm not supposed to be up for kissing anyone until a wedding ring magically gets all my hormones and nerve endings working, and if I kiss one I'm obligated to kiss them all. Ahaha...no. 

That scenario above right there...yeah, that's a consequence of rape culture. What I want is never considered by the people who take the details of my not-very-personal-anymore personal life personally; whatever anyone does with anyone doesn't mean that that said person wants to do ANYTHING with ANYONE. People are always like 'what's the difference between the guys you like and all the other guys you rejected?' and I'm like I LIKED THE GUYS I LIKE AND I DON'T LIKE THE GUYS I REJECTED...and for good reason because one of them is now on the web calling me a whore when he actually didn't get anywhere with me. Because female sexual agency is such a no-no when it comes to protecting the hegemon - because female sexual agency means that some hegemons will have to suffer through the extremely common and very human suffering of getting rejected, especially when said hegemon is in the habit of cyberbullying 'whores' - instead of people jumping to the very rational conclusion of 'she flirted with/kissed/slept with/etc etc that guy because she liked him' it's all like 'she flirted with/kissed/slept with/etc etc that guy but won't flirt with/kiss/sleep with me even though that guy and me have the same [insert arbitrary irrelevant things in common here]'. Never in the history of the world has a girl gone up to a guy and said 'I hear you kissed a blonde last Tuesday. I'm blonde. Why haven't you kissed me? Whore.' - or at least, no girl has ever said that at been taken as seriously as the boys who say such nonsensical shit. When I broke the mould as that little unfuckable virgin that somehow managed to get four guys to hit on her despite being the most shameless nerd ever I somehow became a whore, even though I can pretty much guarantee I'm not the only person who has kissed anyone in the history of high school students (ain't that a revelation) and I know I'm one of the few virgins who made it through high school and yet I'm somehow the one with the whore reputation. Not that I particularly mind, because I see nothing wrong with being a whore or a virgin or whatever I want to be, but I can't help but notice the hypocrisy of being labelled as both and being at the receiving end of all the abuse hurled at sluts and and prudes. And being a victim of all this rape culture and slut shaming led me to...victim blaming. 

So yesterday I was flipping through some timeline pictures of some atheist page on facebook and found a meme that I thought was really funny and cynical, and shared it on my Facebook page. 


If you didn't get the joke it was aimed at SUICIDE BOMBERS and other RELIGIOUS CRAZIES, none of which I know personally or friended on Facebook so I really didn't think I was offending anyone. If anything, I was defending the millions of people, myself included, who are constantly suppressed by religion imposing itself onto everything and everyone that has ever and will ever exist. Instead it was read by people as saying IF YOU ARE AT ALL RELIGIOUS PLEASE JUMP OF A CLIFF which is, naturally, quite an offensive statement. 

The people suddenly jumping to the defence of suicide bombers and telling me off about how rude it is to tell suicide bombers to commit...suicide...was a bit concerning, to be honest, as was the number of people who agreed with such sentiments. I'd been called a whore by one of my classmates, who has also accused me of being gay (not offended, but did open me up to a lot of anti-LGBT abuse which is pretty full on) and told me on more than one occasion that I should 'go die'. And everyone thought that he was funny, true, justified, or at the very least protected by 'freedom of speech'. If he's protected by 'freedom of speech' to humiliate and mock someone behind their back, call them out by name and publicly label them a 'mad whore' and 'bigot' (and he's not, there's this thing called libel), then I should think that I am at least protected by this very arbitrary freedom of speech to have a dig at religious extremists. apparently not. I repost a bit of atheist humour aimed at nobody in particular and everyone gets their knickers in a knot.

The reason? Victim-blaming. Victim blaming also extends to the idea that if you are offended by something you are not allowed to do anything that can be twisted into anything offensive, which is to say victims can do absolutely nothing or risk the legitimacy of their claims being questioned. 'How can she possibly be offended by rape threats, death threats and slut shaming if she posts this picture that is in no way offensive but what the hell I'm gonna go ahead and call it 'rude'?' Accusing someone of 'double standards' is the quickest way to defend the hegemon and dabble in a bit of victim-blaming, and is also a very effective way of silencing the victim in question. 

And so yes, I'm hurt. I'm hurt that people are all too willing to cheer on bullies and are all too eager to bite my head off if I say anything that is just a little politically incorrect. I'm hurt that people are more interested in defending suicide bombers than a victim of cyber bullying. I'm hurt that people sympathise with the abstract hegemon instead of a girl they know by name and spent four years at school with. And I'm hurt that people are giving in to rape culture and victim-blaming and all the while saying that such things only exist in the feminist imagination. It doesn't. Because whilst society continues to defend the hegemon whether or not he is in the right or in the wrong, whilst society constantly looks at the victim instead of the perpetrator for justification of crime, whilst society continues to neutralise gendered topics and gloss over the unpalatable details in the name of political correctness...these nasty words have meaning. They describe what we are and what we have become. 

Video Friday: To This Day

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

never stop writing.

Now Playing: Mean by Taylor Swift (and I can see you years from now in a bar, talking over a football game with that same big loud opinion but nobody's listening, drunk and grumbling on about how I can't do anything...but all you are is mean) 


How do you feel when you see people have been mocking you behind your back for months? How do you feel when people say the most outrageous, insulting things about a blog that has been your pride and joy since you were twelve years old? How do you feel when half your classmates cheer when someone calls you a whore? How do you feel when people you thought were friends not only stood and watched as you are bullied, but join in the fun?

Nothing. You don't feel anything. Everything is just numb and hollow when you don't trust anyone anymore. How do I know who is a friend now?

But I'm not apologising for anything. I am myself, and I can never be ashamed of that.

Everyone remembers the first time they became a target.

I was six, and a baby socialite. I loved people and people loved me. And then, when I was six, during writing time, I wrote something. I dug it up a few years after and could only see the incoherent ramblings of a six year old, but my teacher saw talent. And from that day on, I was branded.

And that was the day I remember very vividly the bullying beginning.

Being bullied as a writer is particularly unique. People, society, have always been afraid of writers. It's why women and the poor were banned from reading or even kept illiterate. It's why the punishment for writing or saying something that the people didn't want to hear was sometimes the same as the punishment for murder. Because once learned you can't remove words, or ideas, from someone, and you can't stop words from spreading. Even a little girl like me can be seen as a threat to some people.

My bullies have always tried to silence me. Some of them made me so afraid I could hardly breathe, let alone speak. Some of them mocked whatever I wrote or said so mercilessly I felt compelled to stay quiet. There are lots of ways to get a scared little girl to shut up.

But they never fully succeeded. What I say, what I write - even just the act of writing itself - is so integral to who I am that I can't ever let that go, no matter how intimidated I am. You may as well tell me not to breathe.

But more importantly, I'm not that scared little girl anymore. You can't bully me out of anything. I call the shots in my own life. In the words of Elizabeth I, I shall have one mistress here, and no master.

So I'm going to keep writing. For a long time people have been out to shut down this blog and to scare me out of the cybersphere entirely, but that's not happening anytime soon. I have no doubt that the bullying will escalate. I have no doubt that this won't be the last time people mock me behind my back and indulge in a little slut shaming. But I'm still kicking, and so is my writing.

Be fearless.

Monday, March 18, 2013

7 Things You Don't Know About Me

1. I used to do archery. It was a kind of sport/hobby/I wanted to live out some weird medieval dream thing that I did on and off for a little while until I realized that given my nonexistant upper body strength and atrocious eye sight archery and I would never be the best of friends. But it was a lot of fun.

2. I'm probably not as straight as I claim to be in my rants about LGBT rights, but I'll get into that story another time.

3. I am 300% caffeine immune. I can have double shots and go straight to sleep. Actually, you probably knew that. But you probably didn't believe me when I told you.

4. I'm a very, very visual learner. I use this to excuse the absurd amount of time I spend on YouTube

5. In the month or so that I've been at uni I've never worn the same dress twice, although I did wear my favourite navy blue blouse three times, each time with a different skirt

6. I have a genetic deformity in my foot called tailor's bunions and it is very very very very annoying and inconvenient and uncomfortable

7. All of my best friends have been guys.

Music Monday: The Seventeen Valjeans

I really hope you're not bored of Les Mis because...I'm not...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Baby

Baby, when I was your age you were a tiny bundle of joy
And when I held you in my arms as you bawled
I had a strange sense of

I do not care what they say
Part of my life must be spent like this
On old sofas in musty rooms
Rocking babies to sleep

Baby, I know to you the world seems such a scary place
Baby, I wish I could say you were wrong
Baby, when I was four I read books that were bigger than me
And I remember you did too

Baby, I know to you I seem impossibly smart
But baby, you're smarter than I ever will be
Baby, I know when I swing you up and carry you in my arms
I seem impossibly strong
But baby, keep on smiling
And you'll be always be stronger than tearstained ol' me

Baby, I love how you are mesmerised
By my high heels and fluffy dresses
My butterfly earrings and makeup

You look at me as if I were an angel
Entertaining children is like entertaining men

The only difference is that when you kiss them goodbye
Men know everything about you
And children know nothing at all

Baby, I know I seem very grown up
And you can't wait to be just like me
But baby, you don't see my war wounds
And battle scars
You're not old enough yet
To cry yourself to sleep

Night after night after night after night...

Baby, everything you do
Reminds me of how things used to be
Baby, stay as you are
Stay like this, for me.

For my two little angels 

Sunday Wordle: Afraid


Saturday, March 16, 2013

religion is not immunity.

Now Playing: One Day More from Les Miserables (one more day all on my own, one more day with him not caring, what a life I might have known but he never saw me there)

When I first embraced atheism it brought an incredible element of freedom into my life. I could not be the feminist, the LGBT ally, the sex-positive activist, the person and woman that I am without atheism. All the great libraries of the world threw their doors open to me, a thousand schools of thought let me take the stage. Every day is this beautiful dance of science and art, of the known and the unknown, the poetry of life with all the stumbles and stutters and crossed out words of growing up.

But with freedom comes responsibility, and that responsibility taught me the kind of tolerance and humility that a child could not know. When there are no excuses to hide behind, no books to wave in peoples faces, no saints to quote and no Gods to invoke, you cannot help but become kinder, more tolerant, more reasonable.

Because, say an atheist did say something, things that religious people say and have said in the past. Say I said something sexist, or racist, or homophobic. All the world is at liberty to condemn me for it, and rightly so. Who am I to say which race is better than the other? Who am I to say that I can get married but others cannot? Who am I to decide that others must live their lives exactly as I live mine? Who am I to say 'this is how things should be...but not for some people'? Who is anyone to say such things?

As a writer I know how words can hurt people. Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you is the biggest lie ever told in the history of the world. It is the power of words, the power to do incredible good and unspeakable evil, that gives writers so much power. It is why we write, to be perfectly honest. I've used this power more or less shamelessly on my blog - I know exactly who reads this, and I know everyone knows exactly who all the unnamed people are. I know that words can hurt. A lifetime of bullying has taught me this. I also know that silence, the unwillingness to speak out for people who have no voice, hurts just as badly. These things that I have learnt as a writer, as someone just beginning to find the courage to speak out, as someone who sometimes had no voice and no say, has made me decide to dedicate my life to speaking out - for myself, and for others.

I will speak out against any religion that suppresses, discriminates and abuses. It is all the more abdominable that these atrocities are done in the name of God. Religion is not immunity - religion is not a shield you can hide behind as you hurl misery and insults at the less fortunate. Religion is not liberty to speak hate and violence against people different to you, and then deflect all consequences with a book. Religion is not an excuse for being anything less than human, and for failing to show every person who walks this earth the respect they deserve. I will never excuse you.

It is not an attack on religious freedom to say that anyone can get married. It is not an attack on religious freedom to say that women are equal to men, and we deserve to live our lives in diversity without fear of abuse or discrimination. It is not an attack on religion to state the truth - the truth being that religion is a major tool of oppression worldwide.

I believe very strongly in religious freedom. It is through religious freedom that I am free to be an atheist - a privilege I do not take lightly. In many countries around the world, even now, I could be executed, thrown in jail or have my rights reduced just because I am an atheist. But religious freedom is only about you, about your personal decisions. It is the right to worship and to label yourself without fear of discrimination. It is your right to believe whatever you believe and to apply those beliefs to your own life. It is not the right to attack people because their point of view is different to yours. The right of religious freedom does not mean you have the right to interfere in others' right to religious freedom.

It is also extremely ignorant to say that, in countries like Afghanistan where Islam is used extensively as a tool of fear and violence that the oppression is from politics, not religion. Australia is extremely lucky to have a secular government; in many parts of the world religion and politics are more or less one and the same. Crimes like heresy and apostasy still exist, with harsh punishment for religious offences. Sharia law is still used in legal courts, even for people who are not Muslim, and many laws in non-Muslim countries are based in religious ideology, such as Ireland's extremely strict abortion laws. In parts of the world where religion and law is one and the same and the law is violent and corrupt and the cause of so much pain and suffering, religion cannot be excused from responsibility.

I will always support your right to believe in whatever you like, even though I know you won't return the favour. But I will never let you get away with using religion against the people I have dedicated my life to giving voice to. I'll speak out, even if that means speaking out against you, and your religion.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Busy

'I'm busy, sweetheart, maybe sometime soon'.

See, I'd like to think
In those words
That in between that essay and this lecture and that crazy French teacher
You really have no time
No hours left in the twenty-four you are given each day
That you're so starved for time
You forget to feed your cat
And your brothers have forgotten your name

And I'd like to think
That you spend each moment
Of every minute
You put pen to paper
Whore yourself to science
And are harassed by art
Wishing you could see a friend
Say hello
Be a friend.

But then you remember
When you were five your playmate's mother
Didn't want you at her house
Because you weren't white.
You remember being forced to hand out invitations
To parties you were never invited to
You remember everyone running away
Speaking of things you don't understand
Like department-store clothes and mothers who get their nails done
Reminding you, every day
'You're not one of us, you'll never be one of us'

You remember that your friend
Told you she was too busy
And then went out with another
You remember that your best mate
Spent three days with his girlfriend
And not a single minute with you
You remember all the times you play hostess
To empty chairs and empty tables
You remember that girl
Who you loved more than life itself
Who wouldn't be caught dead in your company outside school
Where too many people bear witness to how far she has fallen
To only have you as company
You remember all those times
When you were told that
That girls night out was changed to Thursday
So your friends could go out on Tuesday
Blissfully free from your presence

You remember when you were six
You told your mother that your ancient stuffed toy
Must be human, too
Because in your world
Your words fall on deaf ears
For mortals and dolls alike
For you they all have the same blank, cold, unfriendly eyes

You remember trying to think of what you did wrong
And then you realise your crime
You were yourself.
I loved them all just the way I am.
It was my own kind of love and it destroyed them
So they destroyed me.

You remember every person who has said 'I'm too busy'
And everything they have done to you.
And you know that even on your deathbed they'd be too busy
Maybe next time
Sorry.

You realise that your mother
Is the busiest woman in the world
She never said those words
She always had time for you.

And so I'd like to think
When you say 'I'm too busy'
You're really off saving the world
And tomorrow, you promise
You will have time to smile at me.

But in my life things are never as they seem
Until someone proves me wrong
I think I know what your words mean.

Video Friday: Sarah Kay

Thursday, March 14, 2013

if I were not afraid.

Now Playing: Speak Now by Taylor Swift (there's a silence, there's my last chance, I stand up with shaking hands, all eyes on me...horrified looks from everyone in the room but I'm only looking at you) 

What would I do if I were not afraid.

It's a question I ask myself every day. What would I do if I were not afraid? What would I do for myself, for others? Who's rights would I fight for, who would I speak up for? Every day I ask myself what am I afraid of, and what would I do if I were not afraid.

And then I go ahead and do it.

A little known phobia of mine is that I'm absolutely terrified of...well, a lot of people. People who work behind counters. Waiters. Air hostesses. People who work in shops. I don't like asking people I don't know to help me. Don't entirely know why. Maybe it's the idea that strangers are paid to help me but some of my friends will never lift a finger in my defence that's screwing with my head.

But, this is uni. If you don't ask the very people I'm petrified of, you don't get fed. You can't buy books. You can't get lockers out on loan. You can't buy earrings at the weekly guild market.

What would I do if I were not afraid? I'd write what I think and encourage debate. I'll tell my friends when I'm hurt, or upset, or bored stupid.

Fear and silence is crippling. I have spent so much of my life afraid; afraid of being alone, afraid of pain, afraid of failure, afraid of myself and of other people. And I tried to protect myself, protect myself with silence. But silence will not protect you. I'm alone. I'm in pain. I fail and fall over. I'm still wild and passionate and make more enemies than friends. My friends can crush me in a heartbeat in more ways than one. It's called life.

And so, I've learned you can live life in two ways. You can live life afraid, and silent. You can endure this without making a sound, without trying to make a change, wallowing in the inevitable misery that comes with being human. Or you can speak out. You can live as if you're not afraid of anything.

Last year I tried to be fearless, but this year I've added a whole new level to that. I want to begin again. I was a wacky, psycho, crazy kid, but uni is not a playground and the petty playground politics of the schoolyard is replaced with the real highs and lows of almost-adultness. Begin again is about not being that kid who could be silenced by school bullies. Begin again is about not being that girl who can't even order her favourite noodles. Begin again is about being everything I've always dreamed of being.

Taylor Swift also said to speak now. To speak up for what is right, for what you believe in, to stand up for yourself when people try and judge you. That's what I would do, If I were not afraid.

When I was younger I was taught to live in fear. That you, how you feel, what you think, what other people can do to you...they're all things to be afraid of. And these things have all hurt me, kicked me in the face, waited for me to half recover, and then punch me in the stomach. But I am not afraid of them anymore. There comes a point when your heart has been so broken that you're not afraid of men anymore. There comes a time when you've spent too long on your back in a hospital bed that you're not afraid of pain anymore. And there comes a point when you experience this rush of sensation and emotion and it sets you free and, no matter what the repercussions and consequences of that moment of rash impulsivity brings, that you're not afraid of how you feel and how others feel about you. Being fearless is about accepting all the things you're afraid of and saying fuck it, I'm doing them anyway. That's a rush I can't beat or explain.

The fear of failure is like being afraid of scars and spots and imperfections, things that make you more human than that guy's perfect blonde girlfriend or the model splashed on the magazine cover. When I was in Korea I took a chance. We were all eating together at our favourite Arab restaurant in Old Songdo and I had the choice of sitting with the girls, like I always do, or taking that last empty seat next to the boy I liked. All my sisters were pushing me to go for it and I did.

Nothing happened. He left without saying goodbye and I cried all the way home. But I can never regret standing up, walking those six steps, and sitting down. Because the only regrets I have is dwelling, endlessly, hopelessly, on what might have happened if I had been brave. I was brave, and it didn't work, and I will have to find a way to get over that. But I was brave. What happens after an act of bravery almost doesn't matter. It's the courage it takes to not be that scared little girl that matters.

If I were not afraid I'd be the person I want to be. I tell myself that, every day. The only thing coming between me and the best version of myself is fear, fear of the unknown, and fear of the inevitable. What is the point of fearing what happens every day? What is the point of fearing something you cannot change or erase or forget? Nothing. Fear is human, but it takes someone really special to rise above that. But anyone can ask themselves what they would do if they were not afraid.

A Little Fall of Rain

A little fall of rain can hardly hurt me now

But what I would give just to have someone ask
If I was good and safe

After the wuthering storm.

And joy is always borrowed, stolen, taken
There is never quite enough love to go around

At least, for the rest..
For me

All this devotion was rushing out of me
And bled me dry

There are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

Worlds will go on turning without me
But I like to pretend that some worlds would pause

For a heartbeat when I am gone
And rain will make the flowers grow.


Inspired by A Little Fall of Rain from Les Miserables
Click here for a discussion of A Little Fall of Rain   


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Now Playing: Limbo by Kimbra (if you say you're scared then I'm terrified, if you say you're ready then I'm justified, if you say it's easy then you've crossed the line, if you say it's over then I'm in denial)

I've never been one particularly interested in fashion, but uni has presented for the first time since I was five years old the opportunity to wear pretty much whatever I like, every single day.

And so, of course, I've totally gone to town on this. Floaty sundresses and vintage skirts. Fluffy blouses and bright floral prints. Waist-cinching elastic belts (I've already destroyed several with constant use and abuse) and impractical shoes.

I have never seen any contradiction, or even any correlation, between what I choose to wear and my beliefs as a sex positive feminist and LGBT ally. I wear what I think looks nice, and what looks good on me. I believe in what I believe to be right. That's all there is, really.

I also believe that how I choose to present myself is no grounds to treat me with disrespect, and nothing I can say or do can excuse crimes against me. You can't judge anything about anyone based on what they look like - you can't tell me anything about my sexuality, my sex life, my intelligence, my interests, my hobbies, you probably can't even guess my uni majors just by the colour of my blouse. The most you can do is...guess. And yes, your guesses that I love dresses and shoes that twist my ankle are probably true. You could also guess, given my general preference for low necklines and bare arms in summer, that I'm a pretty open person, and I'm not at all revolted or afraid of human sexuality, least of all my own. But these are just guesses. You can't call me a ditz for wearing impractical footwear, because what you don't know is that my sandles were broken and I was in a hurry. You also can't assume that I'll accept your advances and I'm playing the cock-tease femme fatale if I reject you, because what you don't know is that I'm a virgin, and as of right now very hurt and a little bitter towards love and other animals. These are all things I know, and my friends know. These are all things random strangers would use to be cruel to me, to bully me, to whistle at me like a dog, maybe even to rape me. It is my right to wear what I want and present myself how I like. It is your right to make as many whimsical guesses about my inner workings based on my wardrobe. It is not your right to treat me with anything less than the utmost respect every human being who walks this earth deserves to receive.

What I do know, though, that the clothes I wear echo times of hostility, violence and suppression. I have learned, like most girls my age, to deal with the discomfort of bras (even if I only wear exactly one kind of bra that I have in about fifty colours, and all of them a few sizes too big). I have learned to see skirts as enabling mobility and freedom as well as femininity and style. I have learned to endure the dramas of smudged makeup and tightly-laced ballgowns and every bruise and blister from absurd footwear. But when push comes to shove, the 50s sillhouettes I love are the prison uniforms of women confined to house and home, the vintage skirts were sewn by underpaid overworked women from a time when contraception was largely unavailable, and the fluffy blouses from a time when women like me were beaten and force-fed in prisons. I know the things that make me pretty are the symbols of female disempowerment. I also know the attitudes that consider me to be pretty come from a fiercely patriarchal rape culture in which there is an absurd emphasis on female beauty, where one's weight and waistline is the only measure of your worth as a human being.

I know all of this, but I have no qualms in wearing this and being a feminist all at once. I am more than what I wear. My right to wear whatever I damn want is something women have lived and died for - Joan of Arc wasn't actually burned for heresy (that sentence was commuted to life in prison), but because she wore men's clothes. I also hold, by wearing this, that I am more than what I look like -  men are judged by their talents and by their brains; and, goddamnit, so will I. To dress as some angry millitant butch would go against my personality and my personal taste, and because it is not really me, I'll simply be adhering to another harmful stereotype about feminism perpertrated by patriarchy. I am who I am, and I think what I think.

But I have struggled, enormously, in trying to apply this thinking to girls in traditional Muslim dress. For all my religious tolerance and belief in religious freedom, I can't do it. When I see a girl in Islamic headgear all I can think of is the sexism and suppression of women in Islamic societies.

Let me get one thing straight - I am not being racist, or discriminatory. The fact is, the Middle East is a dangerous place for women. The Taliban, laws that require the victim as well as the perpetrator of rapes to be punished, children sold as brides, excessive sex negativity, the inferior status of women in society...this is all part of Islam whether saying that is politically correct or not. It can also be said for many religions, especially the more conservative, extreme ends of the Abrahamic ones. To say that Islam is a religion of peace and equality is a lie; I have read parts of the Qu'ran, I have done my research. Without reform religion is a major perpetetrator of sex negativity and the discrimination and suppression of women.

And that is what I see, when I see a woman wearing an Islamic headdress. It does not mean I treat her any differently, or with any less respect. It means that I will defend a woman's right to wear a burqa and I will not tolerate hate speech against any religion. But I see, in the long shapeless drapes of cloth, a culture in which sexuality is a taboo that negatively impacts on people of all races and genders. I see the people of countries in which homosexuality and premarital sex is illegal and contraception is virtually nonexistant. I see the people of places where crazed religious extremists preach that women who dress provocatively are 'inviting' rape, that immodestly dressed women 'cause earthquakes and corrupt men', and that sexuality, especially female sexuality, is a sin. I see in religion the thousands of instances where women are disrespected, abused and killed simply for being women. As a feminist, I will fight for your right to wear whatever you like. But as a feminist, I wish you wouldn't wear that.

I know this all seems culturally insensitive, but cultural insensitivity is always seen as a very one sided thing. You must also see my point of view. I was raised by my parents to let the best parts of you shine and stand out - your talents, your virtues, and yes, your body. I grew up knowing that confidence is about letting people see you, scars and all, and there's nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to cover up. People have tried to knock that out of me but I have stood tall and firm in this. I've been to Turkey and Malaysia and the need to cover up, to hide myself and my beauty, was incredibly disempowering for me, and it was insulting to know that people in these societies were judging me based on what I wear.

My objection here is also to the thinking that goes behind this - the idea that there is something wrong about the female body, that female purity is something to be revered above and beyond the value of the female herself, that something so natural and intrinsic to yourself must be covered in the name of decency, that self-censorship is a healthy way to think about yourself. Covering up doesn't give you a moral highground. Virginity is a state of being, not something to be worshipped and not a posession belonging to one man and you must be punished for if it is lost. I don't want these women to think any less of me because I don't cover up; I don't like being judged by a culture whos core ideology is totally at odds with mine. The idea that something is obscene about your body and mine deeply saddens me, because so many people have sufferred under such poisonous thinking. The idea that not adhering to these extremely sex-negative rules invites rape and assault is disgusting.

My qualms on this topic, by the way, are by no means focused purely on Islam. As an atheist and as a sex-positive feminist I object to nearly all major religions, because of the sexism and sex negativity that manifests in many ways. Religious freedom is all well and good, but when religion infringes on sexual agency and reproductive rights, I can't go along with political correctness anymore. There is a war on religious freedom, through hate speech and intolerance. Theists hate atheists, and theists hate each other, we all know that. But there is a greater, and more devastating, war on gender, and war on sex, that is attacking from all sides. As an atheist, I will not take sides in religion. But as a feminist, I know which battle I'm fighting and which side I'm on.

Despite everything, though, I cannot help but feel a little hypocritical. Aren't my pretty dresses and low necklines just as sexist and patriarchal as a burqa? Yes. Isn't it my right to not be judged by my appearances? Yes. And it is yours too, no matter what you wear. But I put up this feeble defence; I am proud of how I look. I am proud of my body and what it can do. I am in awe of the way my body heals and grows, I am in awe of the pleasure my body is capable of experiencing, I am in awe of the beautiful and empowering capability of my body to bear and nourish children. By dressing how I do instead of covering up in thick layers like I did before I have freed myself from the insecurities that caged me when I was younger, and from the sex negativity that poisoned my mind with deep shame and self-loathing. I cannot see this empowerment in garments that are worn in accordance to a religion that preaches that sexuality can only be indulged in very specific circumstances, sexual agency is a sin and not adhering to the sexual standards of society is a crime and invites crime. Perhaps I am right; perhaps I do not have the wisdom to see beyond my own point of view. All I know is that what I wear, regardless of what it may represents to some people, represents sex positivity and freedom. Can you say that about how you choose to present yourself to the world, whoever you are, whatever  you wear?

I will defend anyone's right to be free to choose what to do with their lives, how to dress their person, how to think and feel and believe. But I hope you will understand, from one woman to another, that although I can respect your religion I cannot ignore facts, I cannot ignore the obvious. I know a violent religion when I see one, I know an oppressive culture when I see one. Whether your life is different or you haven't directly sufferred the consequences of this is of no matter; culture and society is not about the individual, or the individuals who are lucky to live life uninhibited by the rules that suffocates the rest of us. In my work as a blogger, a social activist and an outspoken feminist, I have seen firsthand how patriarchy and religion has damaged so many lives, and so many societies and societal dress codes, including Islam, is both patriarchal and religious. Have we become so God-fearing that we fear ourselves and what we can do?

Let's begin the debate. If you have a different point of view I'd love to know. How do you dress? Why do you dress like that? Do you think how you dress inhibits sex positivity and feminism? What are your views on women who dress differently to you?

Wordless Wednesday: Virgins and Whores


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Music Monday: One Day More



Note: I know this a pretty cheesy rendition, but before K-dramas Koreans are used to this highly stylized kind of performance, especially on stage. The characters of Thenadier and Madame Thenadier especially are very similar to stock characters used in Korean media. The title of this Korean version is 'Tomorrow'. And yes, Enjolras does say 'barricade' in English, because I'm pretty sure there's no Korean word for 'massive pile of junk'. They're very tidy people.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Video Friday: It's a Girl

Sorry this is late, genuinely could not find a video I wanted to post here.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Sunday Wordle: Never


Why am I a feminist?

Because the first time I was called a slut I was eleven years old and had never even kissed a guy. Because every day on the way to school or uni I get whistled at like a dog. Because one of the most important people in my life has had an abortion and it was the right thing to do. Because people think it's funny to make jokes about rape or say 'stay in the kitchen and make me a sandwich'. Because I live in a culture where getting drunk or wearing a short skirt is a crime and rape is the punishment. Because I'm an atheist and I will not tolerate having my behaviour judged by the hypocritical moral standards of religion. Because more women will be maimed or killed at the hands of men than malaria, cancer, traffic accidents and war all put together. Because both of my grandmothers are illiterate and uneducated. Because when I was growing up the housewives in my neighbourhood used to pick on my mother for working full time and putting me in daycare. Because in many parts of the world women are punished for 'being raped'. Because even though I'm a well-off educated girl in a liberal Western democracy, sexism has affected my life in so many ways.

That's why.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

expendable

Now Playing: On My Own by Lea Salonga (without me his world will go on turning, a world that's full of happiness that I have never known)

In Korea sometimes I would wake in the middle of the night in such unspeakable pain that I became very good at tracking down Tylenol in total darkness and swallowing them dry. Pain is an old friend of mine, ever present to remind me of humility.

But there's one pain that stands out from the rest. Feeling expendable, feeling like nobody really needs you or wants you...it's a constant insecurity that I hate about myself, but all too often my silly and irrational fears turn out to be not so silly and irrational after all. People who swear they will never leave me are gone in a heartbeat. People who say they will always be there for me are never there when I need them. If I've become a liar, it's only because I don't trust anything anyone says anymore, and so I forget that some people are a little more naive. Or, I should say, decent.

It's just that I rely on so many people. I've dreamed for so long of becoming independent and self-sufficient and I know that is a dream that will never come true. I rely on doctors to keep me alive, so many people to get me through the day, so many more people to keep me sane. And I wouldn't feel so guilty, so dependent, so helpless, if I could say that just one person needs me as much as I need them.

In some ways I hate myself, hate myself for failing. I have turned my back on everything that I cannot do, things that remind me of my own shortcomings. Except there's one thing you can't get rid of, is there? People. People are my greatest failing. I love too easily, I hate too much, I hold grudges against the pettiest slights and forgive the gravest faults. I need people and push them away, I drive people insane and people drive me insane. I know how people and society works better than most people but I totally don't understand why things are the way they are.

I'm afraid of a lot of people. Part of it is because I am physically small and week, and most of my friends are much bigger and stronger than me - I don't like thinking about that, but I do. But because I don't understand people, and people don't understand me...I know I come off as very irrational to a lot of people. I am, irrational, but a lot of stuff does actually make sense in my head, believe it or not. But...other people seem irrational, too me. They get angry at things I would never get angry at, they are easygoing with things I'd fight to the death to get my way in. Even with my closest friends I feel like I'm treading on eggshells because I never know when they're going to snap. It's not that I'm friends with people who are particularly violent or touchy, it's just that I have no sense of what does and doesn't piss people off because it's just so different to what annoys and doesn't annoy me.

It's never seemed too much to ask to have some kind of reliability, to expect in people some kind of stability. If you want to leave, just leave. If you want to stay, stay. I guess I'm beyond caring either way.

Friday, March 01, 2013