Category Archives: Race

3 things I give thanks for on Anti-Racist Day!

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Well…really, it’s the INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION.

Below are 3 things I am grateful for when it comes to doing anti-racist work:

1)  I have found a community of friends who would gladly grab coffee/tea with me and talk about the realities and experiences of being brown.

Thank you, friends, who have honestly given their time to talk to me, get to know me and remind me to be gentle on myself and on others. This work is difficult enough as it is…sometimes, I lose myself in anger, hatred and depression. THE DARK SIDE! Thank you for reminding me to be compassionate when I needed to be, angry when I needed to be and reflective when I needed to be.

2) My personal journey in realizing that most people see me, my life and my beliefs as ‘different’, ‘weird’ , ‘exotic’, ‘strange’, ‘threatening’, ‘not understandable’ and otherwise ‘a mysterious mix of Oriental and Westernized’ has been painful but it has also been LIBERATING.

I am thankful for my heritage – for generations of strong men and women who dealt bravely and courageously with the cards that life dealt them. Without them, I wouldn’t be here today.

I am thankful for my brown skin for without it, I would not be me.

3) My partner-in-crime, C, who is white-bodied and white-identified, constantly engages with me in my work and continues to educate himself. His humility gives me hope.

It is my strong opinion that an explicitly anti-racist revolution among white communities is long overdue. To all my white-bodied friends who work silently and doggedly behind the scenes, who quietly engage and self-reflect, who don’t ask for cookies just because they think they’re the most bestest, awesome white allies ever…I am thankful for you. You are the leaders of a revolution that is long overdue.

Keep on fighting the good fight! xoxo

heart

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

White Paper, Red Eyes

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Last night, I decided to read the ‘Population White Paper’ document that has been making its rounds on Singaporean news networks. The ‘Population White Paper’ is a document that outlines population policies for the next few decades. Mostly, the news reports were about how flawed the document from what the title of the paper should actually be to immigration policies  and  baby policies.

So naturally, as a lover of intellectual debate, an amateur policy analyst and a mid-level shit disturber,  I decided to weigh in on the topic. Unfortunately, the only outlet I have as a 20-something Malay woman living abroad to get my thoughts heard is the Internet. So I took to Facebook and over a 30 minute period, updated my status and comment sections with my thoughts on the White Paper.

This commentary below would make more sense if you have read the actual document. Here it is. 

If you’re too lazy for that and I don’t blame you, imagine a government document with lots of touristy pictures of Singapore and its people all happy in pictures where multicultural beings wave red and white flags and children run in the park with kites. That interspersed with graphs, pie charts of population statistics and a whole bunch of words and sentences that start with ‘We will continue to…’ and ‘We must ensure…’

So here is a screenshot of the running commentary on Facebook:

white paper

If you click on the image and zoom in on it on your webpage, you should be able to read it. Otherwise, here is a transcript below:

Status update – Monday, February 4th 2013 at 8.30pm: 

finally got the time to read Singapore’s recently released ‘Population White Paper’ and am already laughing at the second page. Get a load of this bull:

“We may have diverse geographical and ethnic backgrounds, but we are all Singaporean because we share certain key values and aspirations including meritocracy, a fair and just society, and respect for one another’s culture within a broad common space where all interact and bond.”

MERITOCRACY, RIGHT.

haha! gonna continue reading this tonight and see what else I can laugh at sarcastically.

Comment update – 8.35 pm:

I’m having a hard time stomaching the binaries between civilized and non-civilized here. We get it Singapore. You is developed. You is smart. You is also paranoid as shit with other countries ‘catching up on you’.

Comment update – 8.37 pm :

“We will continue to welcome immigrants who can contribute to Singapore, share our values and integrate into our society.”

read: we love people who think like us. otherwise, we dont give a shit about you. kindly exile yourself in other places. until you win the Nobel Peace Prize at which point, it will suddenly become important that you are Singaporean.

Comment update – 8.38 pm:

“Taking in younger immigrants will help us top up the smaller cohorts of younger Singaporeans and balance the ageing of our citizen population.”

We can top up populations like we top up EZ link cards.

Comment update, 8.40pm:

“Our economy must stay ahead of other Asian cities, so that we can provide them with the high-end goods and services that they need but are not yet able to produce themselves.”

read: we must make sure that we continue to oppress the working classes in our own country but also in the other countries of South East Asia.

Comment update, 8.43 pm:

OH something good at last:

’99% of married respondents in the 2012 Marriage and Parenthood Study agreed that fathers and mothers are equally important as caregivers for children.’

Comment update, 8.49 pm:

and an acknowledgment that Singaporeans abroad aren’t useless complete with an acknowledgment? plea? for us to come home.

“Many Singaporeans living overseas continue to contribute actively to Singapore from around the world. We hope they will return home after studies or working stints abroad, adding a further dimension to our society.”

read: we want you to come home but we won’t listen to anything you have to say because you are now too Westernized. go sit in the corner and learn the words to ‘Dick Lee’s ‘Home’ again.

Comment update, 8. 54 pm:

investing in education sounds good and then it ends with this:

“The Ministry of Education is also conducting a study to see how to increase access and quality in the pre-school education sector.”

great. so my non-existent children can now be diagnosed with anxiety disorders at a younger age.

Comment update, 8.57 pm : 

what is up with the coy ‘we love immigrants but we cant let too many of you guys in’ thing? make up your mind. you can’t use people like tissue paper. get em when you need them then chuck them. sheesh.

Comment update, 8.59 pm :

“All our public buses will be wheelchair-accessible by 2020, up from about half today.”

ABOUT FREAKIN TIME.

Comment update, 9.02 pm:

This is laughable:

“Our immigrant heritage has shaped the Singapore of today, including the values that we hold dear – respect for others, family ties, hard worj, meritocracy, multi-racialism as well as a robust sense of social justice, harmony and cohesion. These values have enabled Singapore to develop into a First World Country in a few short decades.”

HELLO, Singapore. Not all of us have ‘immigrant heritage’. Some of us are actually indigenous to the archipelago. But oh yea. You’ve been trying reallllllyyyy hard to forget that.

Comment update, 9.02 pm:

that followed by pictures of smiling people waving singapore flags. LOLLLL

Comment update, 9.03pm:

I have now finished reading the document. overall, an informative read – some interesting bits for sure that make me excited to be a part of the growth but some pretty serious flaws in this document.

Comment from a friend, 2 hours later:

EEEEWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!

As always, it seems as if policies don’t match with the real experiences of Singaporeans on the ground.

I know that feelings of mistrust and racism are growing towards ‘foreigners’ especially towards new non-white immigrants. If we keep talking about integration of new immigrants, where is acknowledgment for the responsibility of Singaporeans to be more empathetic towards these new immigrants?

I’ve lived in Vancouver for 6 years now and though it is far from perfect, at the very least, there are outlets, programs and communities that engage new immigrants to help us ‘integrate’ and learn about the history of this city and its inhabitants of the white settlers and First Nations peoples. There is an honest acknowledgment (in some communities and increasingly so) that Vancouver sits on unceded Coast Salish territory and movements that explicitly support anti-racism on all fronts. Can Singapore say the same? Can we honestly and openly acknowledge that Singapore sits on ‘tanah Melayu’ and that the Malays are its indigenous population, not to a country that is only half a decade old but to a region and an archipelago that dates back hundreds of thousands of years?

As long as we do not admit this to ourselves and we continue to perpetuate the idea that all Singaporeans are immigrants, we will never be able to integrate our new immigrants properly. I have heard of new immigrants disrespecting Malays and it is not uncommon to see flaming Internet-ers making rude and racist comments about Malay and Tamil communities in Singapore. There are reasons for this just like there are reasons that the Chinese community escapes this treatment that the Malays and Indians are given.

As far as the half-assed plea for Singaporeans abroad to return, Singapore has made it abundantly clear that Singaporeans overseas are largely to fend for themselves. Unless one of us brings home an ‘internationally recognized award’ given to us by White Men in the West, our presence is unimportant just like our votes in any elections.

I do love Singapore. My roots are in Singapore. My family is in Singapore. My ancestors are from Singapore. The region is my home and the nation is my home. Singapore is where I grew up and its humidity is familiar to my brown skin.

But reading policies like these just make me angry, upset and lead me to question my value as a Singaporean. It affirms my decision of self-exile from Singapore until I accumulate more degrees and more knowledge that Singapore will someday deem ‘enough’, ‘acceptable’ and ‘important’.  For now, my radical left-winging shit disturbing, direct talking ways will have to wait. Singapore is not ready for me and I am not ready for Singapore.

I wish to return someday and be accepted for who I am fully, as a person – not just as a Malay person, not just as a woman, a baby-making machine, not just a young consumer but as a WHOLE person. I wish I can return someday and be loved.

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.

Singapore feminism: Fertility and Transnational Immigration

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Picture courtesy of http://seijieiga.blogspot.ca/2011/01/singapores-fertility-rate-at-lowest.html

I have a new piece up on Women Suffrage and Beyond - a website based out of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. It was started by one of my professors, Dr. Veronica Strong-Boag, to connect various transnational movements for suffrage and political equality and concentrate on the historic evolution of woman suffrage in various countries across the globe.

I wrote on Singapore feminism and connect issues of fertiltiy with issues of transnational immigration into the country. I briefly talk about AWARE and its role in Singapore as a leading feminist organization.

Below is a teaser:

Post-World War II Singapore witnessed crucial nation-building decisions. Women were given the right to vote and right to stand for election on July 18th, 1947, two years after the end of the Japanese occupation. In subsequent decades, public policy targeted fertility and immigration, issues that directly affected women. Although today its international image as an Asian tiger has afforded this tiny island-nation notoriety as one of the richest countries in the world (“The World’s Richest Countries”, 2012), progress remains gendered, raced, and classed. Feminist alliances and protest have started to address resulting inequality.

To finish reading my piece, please click on:  http://womensuffrage.org/?p=1013

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!

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