Category Archives: Oppression(s)

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

For your reading pleasure: comments from folks who JUST DON’T GET IT

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So I haven’t been writing on this thing for…hm let’s see…3 months?

I decided to stop blogging some time ago because I was sick of it. But then, something surprising happened. People started commenting on my blog! Hoorah!

But wait…it’s actually some fairly disturbing and racist comments for this post I have up called ‘Proud to be white? You’re a racist.‘ …which is actually an excerpt I cross-posted from the wonderful ladies from the Africana (I tried getting to their blog but it’s currently unavailable). I started getting said dubious comments that filtered into my email in November of last year and I just ignored them. But the more I ignored them, the more regularly I got them. So now, my ‘Comment’ inbox has about 27 comments from various readers who felt the need to ‘express their opinions’ on my blog. I wasn’t sure what to do with these comments at first but after much thought, decided that it would be best to showcase the best of the best in one blog post.

Before I expose said dubious comments for the world to see, let me be clear on a couple of things:

1. This wasn’t even an original post I wrote. So these people are commenting on a piece of writing I found to be powerful and true… on the wrong website. People, if you’re going to hate and be racist, why not try doing it on the right website and giving your feedback to the original authors?

2. I have re-read the excerpt. I do not regret putting it up and I still find it to be very true and powerful. I understand that white folk who have not yet interrogated their white privilege may find it difficult and painful to read and stomach but I am still not apologizing for something I find to be true.

3. TRIGGER WARNING. Some of the comments I’ve received below are very racist and may bring up strong emotions. Not to mention, potential wall punching, ranting, crying to the person next to you, puking and maybe even feelings of despair. If you do not want to read this post for fear of inviting negative energy into your day, please don’t do it. Otherwise, the comments can be fairly entertaining.

So here it goes. Because I’m only a semi-asshole, I have decided to remove the names of these people who have decided to ‘comment’ on this post and replace them with my own stand-in names for them instead.

Mr ‘Reverse KKK’ said:

Submitted on 2012/11/11 at 4:54 am

So your saying that because people who are white are all descended from the same stock. I am proud of my nordic heritage not only because of the strength and honour of my warrior ancestors but because of the great state of my home country. Thus I am proud of being white nordic. Are you proud of the Rwandan genocide, the fact that not only were blacks enslaved by whites in the slave trade but african tribes enslaved their own people and sold them to white british slave traders.

The attitude of those days was different in all people including blacks, if africa and the native americans got gunpowder and technology before britain, france, Germany etc then they would have done the same because LIFE WAS CHEAP for all cultures.

Why should all white people feel guilty just because of what ancestors that have slightly the same skin colour did? Also not all white people are rich. My family and the predominitaly white british familys around us struggle at the bottom of the income ladder same as anyone.

You say white people, just plain white people. You see no individuals in us. By taking away our individuality and calling us all white people and telling us to hate our culture and vye with each other for who can be most tolerant your no better than the KKK or the neo nazis

Yes. I am akin to the KKK and Neo-Nazis. I have always been taken with their effective ways of campaigning and the relative successes of their endeavors. Reverse-KKK anyone? Join the club!

Mr ‘Change Your Attitude Or Else’ said:

Submitted on 2012/11/15 at 7:50 pm

This is so ridiculously bias, but you might not be able to see it behind all of your ignorance and self-indulgence. Colored people are given the same amount of oppurtunity if not more oppurtunity than white people, I mean heaven forbid there be a white scholarship fund. Just because white people have found the way to be successful in the past and do anything to put themselves on top doesn’t mean that we are a HORRIBLE people. You’ve just found yourself being unsuccessful so you’re going to find anyway to blame that on something other than your lack of effort and abilities. I’m sorry that you may have been misled to believe all of this nonsense, but you really need to be educated on things before you go and make such an accusation at the white race. Good luck with this attitude when you get into the work force out of highschool. This type of attitude won’t get you far, especially since the last I checked, the white race is still the majority in the U.S. why don’t you show your boss this rant when you go into a job interview…
-Jesse Zwick,
Glendale AZ

Gee, thanks for telling me I have an attitude problem. I guess THAT explains why my life sucks SOOOO much. Oh darn. It’s nothing to do with me living in a capitalist, male-dominated, racist, homophobic, ableist world. It’s just my attitude! *life changed*

Ms. ‘We Gave you Rights Now Shut Up and Let Me Call You the N-Word’ said:

Submitted on 2012/12/30 at 3:29 am |

In reply to Syahidah.

I’m not white I’m european American is what I like to be called news flash everybody is getting sick of the racism bullshit. As individuals we did nothing wrong and every time a black person cries racism I just gouge my eyes out…. I was bullied and got my ass kicked everyday since 1st grade but I wasn’t allowed to say anything and the principal told me that he wouldn’t do anything because they were black….. I’ve been to a place where black people do get killed okay but everywhere is not that way 99% or black people don’t know how hard that life could be okay your equal to everyone else now what more do you want is that not good enoughBecause nobody really owes you…. And hey we even gave you your own appreciation month! But skin color doesn’t change the ignorance. Everybody will fukin tiptoe around the situation because they are scared of saying the wrong thing too close to a black person. So some people of similar skin color treated people in Africa badly but it doesn’t just give “black birth rights” to just be better than everyone but say there the victim cuz it’s long past bein the victim it’s really just sick yeah modern world here everyone gets it that no race is better than another but for. Example the stereotype that all white people are stuck up rich and educated or that all black people are on welfare or hood rats or criminals………a lot of black rich celebrities…….. As a personal example I’m white I did drugs I’m on welfare I had a child as a teen and I run the streets breaking into houses TRYNA make money and guess what…. I’m white….. It pisses me off so much that people can’t just let go of it ……. Black people aren’t victims….. Hey I’m scared to death of insulting a black person because that’s “prohibited ….fuq there’s no white appreciation month but hey it’s just all kewl and funny when it’s “black power”

By the way, I’m not Black.

Ms. Disappointed said:

Submitted on 2013/01/06 at 1:09 pm

So you’re telling me I have to be ashamed of being a certain race?

I never put much stock into all the “white guilt” garbage, but this post is really disappointing.

You know what, if it helps you feel better, I’m disappointed with lots of my posts too.

Mr Unsympathetic said:

Submitted on 2013/01/13 at 1:18 amOh god, another crying loser.

Get over yourself. Im proud to be white. Why? Because we’ve done lots of good things too. Like giving 660 billion dollars in aid to africa and curing diseases n shit. What have you done lately? Oh thats right, Nothing.

You’re totally right. I’ve done nothing with my life. I can’t even latch onto the successes of  a community that proudly claim it is helping destroy a whole continent by looting its natural resources. I am such a failure.

Mr ‘I Don’t Buy your bullshit just my own’ said: 

Submitted on 2013/01/22 at 5:24 am |

In reply to Syahidah.

Im proud to be white and dont buy your bullshit.White people have done awesome good in the world.Just one example is feeding aficans who are too damn stupid to feed themselves but keep breeding………

There were lots more of these comments but for the sake of time and at the risk of putting people to sleep with the same ol’ reverse-racism arguments, I’ll stop.

Poor whitey. Poor, poor whitey. Don’t you see? You are never going to get it if you keep denying it. But hey, it’s ok. According to Star Trek, ‘you people’ get better at this in the 23rd century! Yay!

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.

Words from an aspiring & recovering academic

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Last Saturday, I presented at the 3rd annual  F-Word conference held at UBC.  Alhamdulillah it went ridiculously well – I am glad to say. I got a lot of positive feedback and was inspired to take my own research into the topic of politicizing skin-whitening practices more seriously – perhaps even into a Masters thesis in the future inshallah.

I’ll be presenting on the same topic again later in June at another conference called the ‘Diversity Conference’. This conference will be different – for one, I will not be surrounded by people who know me and who respect my ideas. I will be surrounded by ‘academics’ who hold degrees higher than me and often times, carry around the distorted idea that more degrees somehow equate to them being more worthy to listen to. I am not naive and am fully aware that academic institutions often end up replicating the same power dynamics reflected in society. So call me paranoid or fatalistic or whatever you want but I am fully suspicious of stepping into this academic space coming up in June. After all, I’m just a brown Muslim woman with a Bachelors of Arts right? What gives me the right to say anything?  To challenge anyone?

I was just looking at the conference website again and noticed that there was financial aid offered to cover the registration fee of $550 for anyone who might not be able to afford that. I managed to pay the $450 fee as an ‘early bird discount’ and on my daddy’s tab. I am fully aware how privileged I am to have monetary support as well as social support from my parents who have been behind my from the first day I stepped foot onto UBC campus.

I am lucky. Many, many others are not as lucky as me.

I am an aspiring academic. But I am also a recovering academic. Is it possible to be both?

Academia fills our heads with lies that people with degrees are somehow more worthy than those without. I know this because I am living it. I know that my words somehow carry more weight than my mother’s for example, who constantly jokes that she is nothing but a ‘stupid housewife’. If my mother – a woman I respect , a woman who constantly told me to fight for my rights and a woman who raised me to value my voice and opinions – considers herself a ‘stupid housewife’ (even if it is a joke), what does that say? That if you don’t have a degree from some posh university, you are not worthy? That you are somehow less than the person next to you who happened to have the class privilege to go to Oxford?

That’s total bullshit.

I know so many people who have Masters and PhDs and are total racist/sexist/homophobic ego-tripping douchebags who proudly claim that they are the best progressives in the world. That’s something else that academia teaches you -they tell you that you are the most worthy, the smartest, the most special and then you begin to internalize it. Your language changes and your view of the world changes. You start to think you’re the sun and the moon when really, you’re nothing but another grain of sand on the shitty beach of life. I never want to forget that I am just another grain of sand.

My mother and father worked their asses off and made specific sacrifices to make sure that I could go to university. They made sure that my sisters could go to university. As with so many other middle-class parents, they had it ‘better’ than my grandparents who grew up in poverty and they wanted to make sure their kids ‘had it better’ than they did. They sent me an elite international high school where I flourished and they sent me to a university of my choice where again, I flourished. And yet, my parents are continually forced to defend their choice (and mine) to fork out the $100 000 for me to study overseas. Stupid people insist on asking them what’s useful about an Arts degree or insist on believing that my education is somehow less  or easier than their daughter’s or son’s because it is not from a ‘local’ university. They chalk up my successes in university to the more ‘liberal’ (read: easier) education system that exists outside of Singapore.

But enough from me bitching about ignoramuses who are content living under their coconut shells.

But more often than not, my university experience has alienated me and just served to remind me that I am not like the others in my class. I am not rich, I am not white, I am not upper middle-class, I am not Canadian, I am not a ‘local’….I am not enough. Which is probably why I woke up everyday and worked extra hard. To prove to myself, to my parents and to all those fuckheads out there that I could do this. I took myself really seriously as a student and my first-class standing will attest to that. Not to mention a mile-long record of co-curricular activities and social connections I have kept up until today. If you think I achieved all of that because I went through a less rigorous system of education or because my Women’s Studies degree was easier than an International Relations degree, you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about.

I am an aspiring academic but I am also a recovering academic. I know that when I go into grad school, I will be spending hard-earned money (or a combination of my parents’, my spouse’s and my hard-earned money) to get a piece of paper, a badge of honour I am supposed to be proud of, telling me that I have now proven my worth to survive in a white man’s world. I know that I will sit in class and be surrounded by ego-tripping douchebags who think they have the answer to the world’s problems because they have deluded themselves into thinking that they are the leaders of the future. I know that I will have to deal with people who disagree with me not because they don’t like my ideas but because they find me a threat. I know I will have to fight for what I want.

I guess it’s lucky that I was raised by a stupid housewife. Otherwise, I’d probably be living under a coconut shell.

When women of color talk back

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Rush to arms

Beat us down

Tell us we’re the racist ones.

Spit on us

Threaten our lives

Tell us we’re the oppressive ones.

 

When women of color talk back

What did you think we would say?

Did you expect us to give thanks at the altar

of White Supremacy?

of Widespread Misogyny?

Thank you oppressors for giving us the right to speak.

 

You didn’t give us the right to speak.

Our mothers did. Our grandmothers did. Our great-grandmothers did.

They spoke to each other, they resisted together and they went underground.

Deep underground where you forced them to go.

Some of them never came back.

 

Your ancestors were deaf

and blinded by greed and ignorance

They built nations on the backs of poor brown women,

And then waged wars in their name.

 

LISTEN TO US.

We are asking you to remove your noise cancelling headphones

We are asking you to

LISTEN TO US.

 

You are still deaf.

Your eyes glaze over and then…

they burn with self-defense.

Deaf and stubborn.

Your ancestors would have been proud.

 

Go away.

Go whine to your friends

Go tell everyone how you were ‘attacked’

Go tell them you’ve been hurt

Go bask in loving commiseration and lick your wounds

Go. Go away.

Make it about you.

It’s always been about you anyway right?

 

Warn your friends. Tell them about us.

Yes, tell them about us!

Tell them to watch out for those brown women who refuse to be silenced.

Those uncontrollable savage women who just won’t shut up.

 

Gone are the good ol’ days

When you could trample on our heads and spit on our bodies

We freed ourselves. We removed our shackles and our mufflers.

We smashed your noiseless headphones

We rose above ground .

 

We are strong

With strength you can never understand.

Strength from generations of broken and beaten women who refused to give up.

Strength from humility

Strength from hope

From our bodies, the next generation of super human babies

It’s beyond genetic…

it’s authentic.

 

We will continue to rise

You can try to

Rush to arms

Beat us down

Spit on us

Threaten our lives

But we know better.

Our mothers, our grandmothers, our great-grandmothers

They taught us better.

Indigenous women and women of color RESIST

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I am featured in a blog post as part of blog series titled ‘ How Does She Resist?’ – Resisting Media Representations to End Violence Against Girls and Women’ hosted by the Battered Women’s Support System . The blog series commemorates Prevention of Violence Against Women Week (April 15 -April 21) and aims to engage the online community to resist media representations as a way to prevent violence against girls and women.

The author of the blog post is the co-founder of WAM! Vancouver, Joanna Chiu. She interviewed me for the piece entitled  ‘Indigenous women and Women of Color Media Makers Resist: How to Create the Media you Want to See in the World’. I talk about media representations of women of color and queer and/or trans women.

Here is an excerpt:

Today, as I was walking down the street to write at my favorite coffee shop, I received the usual afternoon greetings from my neighbours: “Hey baby!” “Konichiwa!” “Ni hao! “Look at that ass!!”

As all Indigenous women and women of colour know, if sexism wasn’t bad enough, we encounter racism on a daily basis as well—on the street, in the classroom, in the workplace, and in the media. (See the theory of intersectionality on how oppressions like racism, ageism and classism intersect.)

In media, women of colour are often hyper-sexualized, and depicted in racial caricatures: Kung Fu ladies, geishas, sexy Latina sirens, Pocahontas types, etc. That is, if we see ourselves represented in the media at all. According to Journalism.com’s State of the Media report, race and gender issues only accounted for 1% of overall news coverage. And how many women of colour lead actresses can you name in Hollywood, or who have graced the covers of glossy magazines?

Continue reading here!

Day Off campaign success!

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I’m a little slow on the uptake but I just found out that as of 2013, a new law has passed requiring all employers to give their foreign domestic workers a day off per week in Singapore.

I’ve written about the connection between women’s reproductive rights, immigration and the need for ‘exporting’ countries to create sustainable economies and ‘importing’ economies to stop building their nation-state on the broken backs of poor, brown women here.

I was following the opposition that came from many Singaporeans when the Day-Off campaign started and I must say that I was really ashamed to be Singaporean. How can I profess citizenship to a nation and to a people who think that it’s ok to treat women who take care of your own bloody children for God’s sakes…like shit?

Most opposition came from people who said a day off would mean their ‘maids’ (I fucking hate this word by the way) would have more of a chance to ‘engage in inappropiate activities’ i.e. HAVING A LIFE besides taking care of your snot-nosed children.  Yea…because it’s ok to keep people in your house like they’re animals.

I am especially upset at those in the Malay community who opposed the Day-Off campaign because SHAME ON YOU. Our own people were enslaved in various colonies like South Africa in the late 19th century/early 20th century…where Malay women were exported as slaves to work for Dutch families. They were raped and abused and today, there is a legacy of half-Malay, half-Dutch people living in South Africa who carry these painful histories with them. How can you stand by and support the same system of exploitation of other brown people today? Shame on you astagrifullah.

My annoyance at select members of the Malay community and the general Singaporean public who were too dense to see beyond their own selfish worldly needs was overshadowed by the joy I had after watching the video below. I was estatic that came out in support for the Day-Off campaign –  it made me smile and happy to know that there are young Malay people in the community who recognize the importance of allying themselves with FDW rights. If you skip to the end, you will see that the staff behind the video are mostly Malay and this makes me proud.

Although I did have some problems with the video especially with the lack of actual FDW voices and the ‘hermaphrodite’ comment at the beginning, I thought the video was great otherwise especially in showing its support for the Day-Off campaign.

I am so glad that the new law has passed –  Singaporeans who are opposed to it can sulk in the corner and lick their wounds. I atually don’t give a shit what they do because as far as I’m concerned, this law is one (very very) small step towards a more just world.

In solidarity.

Read my other post on the issue of foreign domestic workers:

Getting to the root of the Foreign Domestic Worker issue

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