Category Archives: Human Relationships

On glamor & geekdom

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GLAMOR

noun
noun: glamor
  1. an attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing

GEEK

noun
noun: geek; plural noun: geeks
  1. an unfashionable or socially inept person
  2. a knowledgeable and obsessive enthusiast

At first glance, I typically do not appear  geeky (no obvious air of nerdiness, no glasses in sight, no disheveled clothing etc) but inside, I’m a geek girl through and through! And proud of it, thank you very much.

I find it satisfying to ‘out’ myself as a geek when I meet new people and I like observing their reactions when my eyes start to sparkle and dance as I talk non-stop about Star Trek, X-MEN, anything to do with the question ‘What superpower would you have and why?’ , anything to do with lightsabers/ the words ‘I love you. I know.’ (which is inscribed in some very precious jewelry btw) . I am literally trying to stop myself from listing all the various TV shows, movies and pop culture things I consume.

On another note, I can also geek out quite easily when it comes to any topics that involve the media, anti-racism, colonialism and decolonization processes, Indigenous resistance and theories of skin-whitening. WHICH…brings me to even more topics I can geek out on such as fashion, beauty, lifestyle….

Yea. Versatile geek. How that’s for a definition of geek, Google?!

Anyway, considering that so many topics can make me geek out and start waving my arms around excitedly and just want to brain vomit on people all day along – I found this quote by J.K. Rowling particularly touching.

jk rowling

I was watching an interview with her and Daniel Radcliffe (this is what I do in my free time, people) and when she said that, I was like ‘ OH. MY.GOD. That is me!!!’

Because yes. At one point, I was pretty much a frog. Don’t believe me? Check out this picture below:

16863_248205167532_3041415_n

Yup that’s me. I was probably around 9 – 12 years old. By the way, this picture is a favorite for my partner, C, who finds it so hilarious that I looked like this at one point in my life.

‘Frog Face’ time was the time I started to realize that even if I was a little weird looking (ok, a lot weird looking no thanks to Harry Potter glasses and a bad haircut)… I was super duper awesome in my own way! I channeled all my energy into getting good grades in school and basically, overperforming as much as I could. This was also the time I discovered my love for Star Wars, writing and philosophizing and asking annoying questions about life the adults around me couldn’t answer.

So really….I have a lot to be thankful for when I think about Frog Face. Frog Face made me value my intelligence, nurture my creativity and to unapologetically be myself.

In my twenties, I decided – ‘FROG FACE’ no more! So I decided to experiment with makeup, clothes that weren’t just jeans and a tee. Mostly, this meant picking the right glasses for my face and going to a good hairdresser. Kind of like a makeover in a movie but instead of several minutes of fun montage with girls giggling, it was several years of me researching and trying to figure out how to dress myself to feel and look confident, what hair length I like best and what kind of makeup I am comfortable wearing (pretty much anything except foundation which I loathe.)

Last year, I met someone I haven’t seen since I was 14 and she exclaimed ‘Wow! You’re so pretty now!’ I’m not sure what I said but in my head I was going ‘Thanks??? I think???’ Frog Face couldn’t have been THAT bad…sheesh! Sometimes, people are so unkind but I’m glad that she came out and said it because I decided then and there that the people I am friends with are people who don’t judge me based on how I look – be it 10 years ago or 10 years from now. I still have a couple of good friends from Grade 6 and Grade 8 who just like hearing my stories and what I have to say.

It took me a while to figure out that I could be both glamorous and geeky. These days, I’m pretty happy with myself. I wear my black combat boots with a skirt, I watch lots of TV and then I debate about character development and plot lines, I still overperform and I still geek out over Star Wars (am wearing a Star Wars tank right now). The only difference is…I look a bit better. Ok, sometimes A LOT better *cough cough* My hair might be cut a bit nicer, I might wear contacts and lipstick now but I will always be Frog Face at heart.

#glamorousgeek

short & sweet: on hijab

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I go back and forth

like a metronome

sometimes I wear it

sometimes I won’t

most times I just want people to see

the person behind the hijab

is me.

Learn to be an ally, friend.

I still get emails in my inbox everyday… particularly for one blog post about why it makes you racist if you’re proud to be white.

A LOT of these comments are vile – really racist trolls who sacrifice their time of day to write comments to my blog. Since this is my space , most of these comments don’t see the light of day and simply get deleted.

I did put up some examples of vile comments in this blog post recently and if you were interested to read some examples of ‘Good Mornings’ I’ve been getting for the past few months, go ahead and read them here.

Otherwise, below is a succinct explanation of why I will continue to leave the blog post up. Someone else has succinctly written this paragraph and expressed their sentiments about guilt vs. allyship better than me so here are their words:

I am not calling for ‘white guilt.’ Guilt re-situates the oppressor in the centre of the response to this oppressiveness. Your guilt is not necessary, or useful. Instead I ask for you to become an ally. Allyship means discussing, situating yourself within, and challenging privilege. Having privilege does not make you a bad person. You were born with it; it is not your fault. However, are you going to use it to perpetuate systems of oppression? Or are you willing to validate experiences, not give dismissive and patronizing responses to the experience of minoritized communities, and engage in respectful discourse over race and its effects? It means not making wistfully patronizing statements about your desire for minoritization. Likewise, it means realizing that whiteness is a form of racialization, just as constructed and mediated (but not nearly as oppressed) as any other racialization, that needs discussing and deconstructing. You’re racist. It’s not (fundamentally) your fault, until you decide to do nothing about it. Now do something.

-       Reblogged from McGill Daily

Let’s be clear here: EVERYONE has something they can work on when it comes to overcoming guilt and instead, learning to become an ally or friend.

Just because I am not white doesn’t mean I don’t have shit to work on in my life. I am still learning how to overcome my guilt associated with my privilege to immigrate to this land people call Canada. I am still learning how to become a friend and ally to the First Nations communities that are here – the Musqueam, the Tsleil-Watuth, the Squamish peoples – whose land I reside on and whose land I am complicit in ensuring it remains oppressed, fracked, taken advantage of, whose land I eat and breathe and live from, whose land I found love, whose land I make my living off of. I am still learning how to do this. And this is only one of the few things I am learning how to do.

Some of us have more shit to work on than the rest of us because some of us have been born with more privilege. And those of us who have more privilege have more reasons NOT to do this work – whether it be a thought that ‘this doesn’t matter’ or that you might lose something if you do it.  This risk assessment is the exact reason why it makes it all the more important that you DO do the work.

Just because you learn how to be anti-racist doesn’t mean you will lose your privilege. It doesn’t mean brown and black people will suddenly take over the world and put all the whiteys in concentration camps. Trust me, your privilege will still be there. The difference is you’ll be less of an asshole next time you talk to someone. Who knows, you might even start to have deeper conversations with those brown/black friends of yours whose presence in your life you so desperately call on to prove you’re not a racist. (by the way, doing this is what makes it racist).

For all you trolls out there, if you still don’t get it after reading this post – I really have nothing to say. I intend this to be the final time I revisit this particular blog post because frankly, I’m sick of your shit. Keep your comments coming and I’ll keep deleting them.

allyship

Girl, we fight battles!

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I dedicate this to Joy and Sya.

We all have our own battles to fight. Thank you for your friendship.

————————————————————————————-

Girl

we fight battles

you and me

We fight battles

 

emotional tug of wars

we are

ambushed and interrogated

emotional tug of wars

we are

cornered and humiliated

 

in a war

with no blood or guts

but equal amounts of pain

no less

 

Girl

we fight battles

you and me

We fight battles

 

how did we get here

fighting a war we didn’t know

how the hell did we get here

when we thought this thing was over

 

Girl

we fight battles

you and me

We fight battles

 

How are we free?

colonized minds

do not resist

500 year old chains

 

Girl

we fight battles

you and me

We fight battles

 

Girl

we fight battles

and we won’t stop

fighting battles

 

because

 

Girl

We fight battles

you and me

Warriors

in

battle

I’m a skin-whitening, body-griping, anti-racist feminist. Yup.

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I might as well come right out and say it.

I have and continue to engage in skin-whitening practices.

Things I do include staying indoors when it’s too sunny out, worrying about my skin when I forget to put on sunscreen, carrying an umbrella or a hat around with me and yes, using skin-whitening facial products.

I have had to sort through many feelings of guilt and shame for engaging in these practices so I recognize that for me to ‘admit’ this in a public forum – on my blog, today- is an act of personal resistance.

I refuse to accept the shaming that happens to me and so many other women of color who most will label ‘race traitors’, women who hate our brown skin, women with low-self-esteem or women who have been victimized by the ‘system’. I reject the narrow interpretations and judgments of my actions. I reject the shaming of black and brown women who engage in skin-whitening practices.

What exactly is the point of shaming women for pursuing beauty when it is one of the few sites of power available to us while ignoring the sexist and racist systems that set up this situation in the first place???  It is unproductive. It robs us of our voices. It denies us the luxury of being contradictory and imperfect – like everybody else.

Skin-whitening has been a long running interest for me, both personally and professionally. Intellectually, I started engaging with this material in 2011 as a capstone paper for my Women Studies undergrad degree. Since then, I have presented my thoughts at several conferences including the F-Word conference at UBC on April 28, 2011 and the 12th International Conference on Diversity in June 2012. Un-intellectually speaking, I started skin-whitening much, much earlier.

As I did more academic research into this issue, I became increasingly upset. I would read tons and tons of articles written by self-identified feminists who would judge, shame, poke fun and generally caution women against skin-whitening. After talking it over with a good friend (shoutout to Jennifer!), I realized I was actually reacting to the massive shaming that was directed at women who chose to engage in skin-whitening practices. This type of ‘holier-than-thou’ critique typically comes from white women or lighter skinned brown women towards their darker-skinned counterparts. Some examples are Jezebel’s Lindy West who did this with her piece on groin-whitening feminine wash in India and Tyra Banks’ 2008 episode on skin-whitening among Black women from the Tyra Banks show. Just type ‘skin whitening feminist’ into Google and you’ll find more articles that tell you how bad it is to whiten your skin, how you are such a sellout/victim if you do it etc etc. Enough guilt and shame all around, really. Fun.

So I did what I usually do when I get angry – I wrote. And as I wrote, I came to realize my own stand on this issue. It is important I write this and put this out there for people to read. I want people to know that the issue of beauty, health and women’s self-esteem deserves more complex treatment than we have been giving it so far.

I feel it is important to shift the discussions around skin-whitening AWAY from the shaming and veiled policing of brown and black women and TOWARDS acknowledging that the issue is much more complex.

Skin-whitening practices are embedded in systems of capitalism, colonialism and male dominance. We need to acknowledge that women of color have to navigate through this ‘triple threat’ daily. We receive contradictory messages about how we should look and how we should be every fucking day of our lives and we are the ones who have to live with the imperfect choices we make. If we start to try to complicate this matter, we can start to do some justice to this issue.

First, we need to understand that the skin whitening phenomenon has a long history spanning Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and the African continent. White women were actually the target of skin whitening from the Greco-Roman period up into the mid-20th century. Marketing for skin-whitening products towards women of color only started in the 1950s when the press began to notice use of skin whiteners among African-Americans.  Today, the skin-whitening market is estimated to be worth $5.6 billion in Asia alone.

It’s no secret that historical and ongoing colonization sustains the ‘white is right’ ideals of beauty. One of the most obvious ways that this ideal of whiteness has stubbornly persisted throughout the centuries are the systems of pigmentocracy that developed globally across many communities of color. A pigmentocracy is ‘a social hierarchical structure based on favoritism of white skin and European-looking features’ (thanks to Hernandez-Ramdwar at Ryerson University for this).  Basically, the less white and European looking you were, the lower you are on the social ladder.  Different pigmentocracies developed across the world – specific to the histories of colonialism, capitalism and male dominance of each location – although the underlying idea of ‘white is right’ is the same. The pigmentocracy in Brazil is different from India, which is different from Jamaica, which is different from the Philippines which is different from Singapore. You get my drift.

It is also important that we understand the pursuit of skin-whitening is not an aspiration to become white or ‘look like a white girl’. It is a quest to separate yourself from the Indigenous Black and Brown ‘look’. In insular South East Asia for example, rising through the pigmentocracy means separating yourself from the working-class, dark-skinned, Indigenous Malay look to an upper-class, lighter-skinned, Eurasian beauty. This is fundamental to understand because it adds more complexity to the issue versus simply thinking that all black and brown women want to become white. In a sense, we do want to ‘become white’ but it’s not the blonde hair, blue eyes or pale skin we covet…rather the gifts that come with whiteness. Its multiple and unyielding privileges.

Skin-whitening practices should be considered an “active strategy used by some groups to claim power over others in the same society’ (Lipsitz, 1998).  People who can ‘compete’ for the privileges of whiteness are those who can afford to participate. High-end skin-whitening products can cost anywhere between $20 – $500 a bottle and the ‘full range’ of products (facial wash, toner, moisturizer, day essence, night serum and spot-on correctors) can easily go up to $1000. Ironically, those who can afford expensive skin-whitening products are constantly reminded that we have to ‘keep this up’ because skin-whitening is rarely permanent. It takes money, time, dedication and constant vigilance to achieve and maintain fair skin and its privileges. A harsh reminder to folks of color that whiteness is not something that is earned, it is a privilege some are born with and others aspire and work towards.

If we start to look at skin-whitening as an ACTIVE strategy employed by black and brown women, we can start to move away from thinking that these women are PASSIVE victims of the systems who need ‘help’ and ‘advice’ from those of us who ‘know better’. Let’s be honest here – giving unsolicited advice, however well-intentioned and shaming women who choose to engage in skin-whitening is patronizing. I know, deep down, that I am fine the way I am. I know I shouldn’t fret over my freckles. I know I shouldn’t fret over my double A cup size. I know I shouldn’t think about the acne scars on my back. I KNOW all this. You don’t have to keep telling me.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the choices we make with our beauty routine have everything to do with the pressures we receive about it. For me, this angst comes from my mother who still frets over her freckles. To me, she will always be my beautiful mother but now I know that telling her to stop fretting or that she is ‘pretty no matter what’ denies her own experiences of living in this shitty world which insisted on telling her otherwise. Telling her to stop fretting would also mean that I am myself, in denial about my own gripes with my body.  I grew up not only watching my mother fret but my grandmother, my aunts, my cousins and my friends fretting. If it was not their dark skin, it would be something else about their bodies.

Does this mean that I blame the people around me for ‘making me’ think this way? NO. By choosing to go through with my weekly ritual of skin-whitening, does it mean that I don’t love my Brownness, or that I’m not thinking of the examples I am setting for the young girls watching me? NO. Does it mean I wholly blame colonialism and capitalism for making this world the way it is and abdicating my personal responsibility for continuing to practice skin-whitening? NO.

Women make hundreds of choices everyday, and unless we are walking around in their heads, we have no idea what led them to the decisions they make. (many grateful thanks to Renee from Womanist Musings for this nugget of wisdom).

So yes, I am a skin-whitening feminist. And I am also an anti-racist activist.  My world is not a binary. I do not have to choose one or the other or be put into categories. This is how I choose to see the world. Because of this, I can embrace the complex, the complicated, the messy, things that don’t make any fucking ‘sense’ and things that don’t fit into the colonial viewpoint of right and wrong, black and white, skin-whitening sellout or staunch anti-racist feminist. I can be both because I choose to be both.I can learn to live with my contradictions.

One day, I want to be able to stop griping about the freckles on my face, my flat chest, and my acne scarred back (among other things). Until then, spare me the guilt and shaming. PLEASE.

As long as we live in a society that experiences ongoing colonization, capitalism and male dominance, the skin-whitening industry will always exist. We need to start complicating the notion of choice while also recognizing the need to access it. When we can begin and continue to complicate, decolonize our concept of beauty and disrupt its connection to the value of a person, we will allow ourselves to imagine a world that is far different than the one we inhabit today.

The inspirational Renee Martin

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Hi everyone, hope your Tuesday is going well so far.

I’ve not written something like this before and seldom do I engage in efforts to raise money for any cause. Call me jaded but I don’t like knowing that my money will go towards administration fees and paying the livelihood of individuals I don’t know who work in the non-profit organizations I donate to. But this time…this time, things are different.

Renee Martin from Womanist Musings – a blog I frequent and whose writings I respect and admire – is raising money for a new mobility scooter. Renee’s writings give me inspiration, educate me and challenge me in radical ways. She hasn’t written anything in past few days and in those few days, I personally missed her presence in the blogosphere. Her blog creates a space like no other – for women of color like me to really think about how we live in this world and for everyone to fully question the larger systems of oppression that exist today.

I know many of you look up to me and to my writings and thoughts and for that, I thank you. But I’m not going to sit here and take full credit for my ideas. My ideas have been shaped by countless number of people along the way, most notably my professors, my friends and fellow writers I respect like Renee. To me, Renee is an inspiration – she writes with gusto and passion and unabashed bravery among the unforgiving feminist blogosphere. Her voice is invaluable in a sea of voices. She is an inspiration to me and if I have been an inspiration to you, then she has been an inspiration to you too.

If you have extra money and want to help her get a new mobility scooter, please visit her website.

If you wanted to take a look at some of Renee’s writings, here are some of my favorites:

Trayvon Martin and Fear in a Black Mother’s Heart

Men, Sexism and Faux Oppression

No Feminist Wedding for Me, Thank You – this one is not written by Renee but serves as an example of how she collaborates with other women of color writers and creates a space for everyone to engage respectfully and intellectually

Princess Hijab – again, not written by Renee but an example of how she collaborates with other writers and issues

Urban Fantasy: Escapism when the Real World has too many Minorities - this is from another one of her blogs that focus on urban fantasy. It’s great!

 

Happy Feminist Friday!

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It’s our 3.5 year anniversary today. Yay for us and for all our family members and friends who’ve supported us along the way.

That’s pretty much all I have to say. My brain is dead from this week and I’m looking forward to the weekend.

Peace.

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