"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

Monday, June 30, 2014

Speak Now #34: How to do Feminism.

Now Playing: Fast Car by Tracy Chapman (city lights lay out before us and your arm felt nice wrapped around my shoulder and I had a feeling that I belonged, and I had a feeling I could be someone).

I feel like many feminists are forgetting who the real enemy is.

Feminism is a sisterhood, and if you have a sister like I do, you know that it's not always smooth sailing. You're different people with different ideas and different ways of doing things and you're never going to agree with each other 100%, 100% of the time. But beneath all the petty disagreements is a belief in some higher ideal.

Feminism is a big, messy, complicated sisterhood involving thousands of sisters around the world and across the centuries. There are going to be fights. There are going to be disputes and debates and disagreements; I'd argue, nerdy academic that I am, that this is healthy, to make sure that we are always keeping our arguments relevant and in perspective.

But we have to remember who the real enemy is.

Tearing down other feminists is not helpful. Proving that you are a better woman and a better feminist is not useful. Making other feminists too afraid to speak out and voice their opinions because they're terrified they'll unleash an onslaught of abuse and criticism is not solving anything. Cutting people down and tearing them apart for a tiny slip, a minute error, or a different sense of the ever-increasing terminology surrounding feminism/poc activism/queer rights movement is not facing the real problems facing women and feminists and people in general.

Of course, be critical of feminism and other feminists. Call out racism, slut shaming, queerphobia, and the like. It's your job as a feminist and you should take it seriously. But there is a difference between sensitively and civilly talking to a fellow feminist, a fellow human being, to discuss any problematic issues, and yelling insults at them on public forums. I'm not saying that feminists are required to be polite or are even required to entertain toxic attitudes, but I'm talking about fellow feminists; feminists who might be new and not quite steady in their beliefs, or sincerely believe in crushing the patriarchy but have, like the rest of us, subconsciously absorbed the ideals and attitudes of our society, or just didn't realize that something that might seem innocuous is actually offensive. This isn't saying that feminists shouldn't call out problematic issues; in fact, I don't think we do it enough. But we have to recognise that a different perspective or a little naive ignorance is not the same as being a fedorable neckbeard serial rapist woman-killer.

My Guide to Being a Feminist: 

- Recognize that you are not an authority over All Other Feminists, and your position is not automatically 'better' than anyone else's. Feminism is about demanding that women be imagined complexly; you can start by doing that yourself.

- The majority of feminists, particularly social media feminists, are very young, or started getting involved in the feminist community very young. Feminist or not, all teenagers say stupid things. It is also not reasonable to drudge up some out of context remark someone said when they were basically in diapers and hold it against them for the Rest of Eternity.

- We all have our biases and prejudices; we have all grown up in a sexist, heteronormative, queer-phobic patriarchy and we have all mindlessly absorbed some of those attitudes. Nobody is a perfect embodiment of feminism, and that includes you.

- The correct response to a problematic text or piece of popular culture (I'm talking Game of Thrones problematic, not like...Elliot Rogers' manifesto problematic) is to say 'the portrayal of women/poc/queer folk is interesting/progressive in x and y example but is problematic in this way and that way because reasons'. Not ERMAGERD KILL IT WITH FIRE.

- Be sensitive to the fact that many feminists have mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. No matter what they've said it is cruel and dehumanizing to deliberately trigger that by being excessively aggressive in your response to problematic discourse. You might think you're being smart and sassy, but you're just being an asshole.


Monday, June 23, 2014

the dehumanization of feminists

Now Playing: Women's Revolution by Blue King Brown ft. Queen Ifrica (in our resistance, freedom finds a place to dream)

I apologize for my absence from blogging; I've been juggling three jobs, two mental illnesses, a heart that sucks at being a heart, full-time study and all the ups and downs of being eighteen.

But really, mostly, I'm exhausted.

I've been pretty active on other forms of social media; facebook and tumblr, for the most part. And it's really, really exhausting, being a social media feminist. Or any feminist, really. Being a woman who generally sides with the interests of women is kind of hard in patriarchy.

The attacks on Facebook have been particularly vicious and incredibly demoralizing; I used to face this head on, full of enthusiasm, but now it just fills me with exhaustion and anxiety. Anything I say, or anything I do - even things that aren't especially 'feminist' - are endlessly criticized and pointlessly nit-picked simply because I'm out as a feminist. I enjoy Facebook and other social media platforms for feminism because, like many social justice movements, feminism has become a rather grassroots campaign; and the internet encourages such wonderful debate and diversity. I also like Facebook because it's accessible; we can have debates and experiment with different ideas and different forms of expression without the sometimes absurdly-pedantic restrictions of academic discourse. So you know it's not in the pursuit of knowledge that people demand a Chicago-style bibliography or flawless rhetoric every time you dare to suggest that women are, you know, human beings.

I know why this is, of course. The oppression of women and subordinate masculinities by hegemonic masculinity is required and produced by a culture of 'common sense'. Things that adhere to this thought are not questioned; it simply is, it is simply common sense, it is simply how the world works. Things that challenge this are simply not trusted; I know I am not trusted. Why would I be? I am a queer woman of colour, an out feminist, and I don't have a crown or a crucifix to give me any kind of authority. People like me rarely write a single letter of history; our stories are not known, and we fear the unknown.

People excuse what can only be called abuse and harassment because I am a 'feminist'; because feminists have become a breed of monster, an inhuman, unthinking, uncaring menace to society. They forget that I am human, I have human feelings, and I have made human mistakes; any errors I make are simply further evidence that I am simply monstrous. Being out as a feminist is not proclaiming that you are a perfect person or a perfect representation of feminism; it is something I am endlessly accused of failing to live up to, but I have never claimed to be. I fuck up. A lot. Everyone does. And when you hurl abuse at a 'feminist', know that you are hurting a fellow human being and there's only so much I can take. The endless assault on feminists is part of rape culture; by being out as a feminist, I am 'asking for it'; I am apparently a free-for-all for the kind of vitriol nobody should have to put up with.

For feminists, 'the personal is political'. We have no agenda, unless you are really cynical enough to call 'self preservation' an agenda. The queer community don't campaign relentlessly because they want some kind of Gay Domination; it's because real queer folk in the real fucking world are daily bashed, bullied, murdered and discriminated against. I'm a feminist because I've been assaulted, I've been harassed, and there are times - too many times - when I have been genuinely terrified of men. I'm a feminist because I feel compelled to write this; because the bullying has really become too much. Sometimes I just have to remind people that I am a survivor, that I am not making it up when people honk from their cars or assault me, and then they say 'oh, yeah, this isn't for you, I understand you, but it's for all the *other feminists*' WHAT OTHER FUCKING FEMINISTS?

We imagine, falsely, that everyone has an equal playing field; that if someone wins a fight, it's because they are indisputably 'right'. Since when has morality ever had a part in choosing a victor? If this is a war, you have a bigger army, and there was no strategy or brilliance involved in the Battle of Thermopylae. And if you have to resort to threats, ridiculous demands and abuse to 'beat' me, perhaps you really are scared of the little Asian kid who happens to be halfway through a Gender Studies degree.

People fail to imagine feminists complexly. They fail to see us as women, as people, as bodies, as sexual beings, as feminists, as humans, as lovers, as people with friends and families, as people with interests and talents and hobbies, as survivors of abuse and assault; we are all of that and much more, all at once. You can't divorce one facet of our multi-faceted beings; you can't imagine us as bodies without brains or voices without reason. People talk about intersectionality; it's time we applied it to individuals. You will somehow have to learn to imagine me complexly, because that's what feminism is about; and if that's too hard for you, then you are proving that we really do need feminism if women in our society are simply not worth the effort of being considered full human beings. When you tell a rape joke to a feminist to 'put her in perspective', you are probably hurting a rape survivor who has a lot more bloody perspective than you do. When you bully a feminist, you are also bullying someone who has been bullied their whole lives, long before they knew what feminism was.

My whole life people have been telling me that I'm arrogant, that I'm provocative, that I am making trouble where I have no business to, that I am flat-out wrong. It's really not news to me anymore. People are not really in the business of listening to me, or respecting me, or even considering me a full human being without shoving me into a box - 'woman', 'Asian', 'nerd', and now 'feminist'. People are in the business of silencing me, of making me apologize for the space I take up. But I will not apologize for anything. I will not apologize for fighting the good fight.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Little Infinities

I believe in fate, my friend
Because I met you

I still find it so strange that our little infinity
Was born from coincidence
How can accidents be so potent?

I am so used to love
At the tip of the sword
Fate has never been very kind to me
It was always easier to accept
Chaos, in its cruelty

Sometimes I pray, you know
Is it sad that all I can do is pray?
I pray that this barren world is fertile enough for this

Call it a house, a child, a tree
Call it love, call it me.

And I know these scars will bleed
But both of our hearts believe
That all of the stars will guide us home.

Inspired by The Fault in Our Stars