Monday, May 30, 2011

The Discrimination That Isn't Recognised As Such

A portion of the lyrics:

Love is objectified by what men say is right.
Scheiße scheiße be mine, bullshit be mine.
Blonde high-heeled feminist, enlisting fame for this.
Express your womankind, fight for your right.

When I'm on a mission, I rebuke my condition.
If you're a strong female you don't need permission.

I, I wish that I could dance on a single prayer.
I, I wish I could be strong without somebody there.
I, I wish that I could dance on a single prayer.
I, I wish I could be strong without the scheiße, yeah.


***


Oh Gaga, I wish I could be free too... I want to stop feeling sorry for myself, and everyone else. I want to start blaming everyone and no-one. Or resume it. Or leave it alone. I want to be radically appreciated by the men in my life as an equal, and not have to constantly have to be enraged by way of proving the point that women are silently, subcosciously, insidiously discriminated against.
I don't want to borrow S&M culture so as to intimidate men into listening to me. I don't want to be timid myself. I want to be self-confident in my carving out a subversive place for myself as a feminist. I don't just want to be sexually independent, I want to make it totally clear that I am without fear of backlash.



Sunday, May 29, 2011

Looking Within

I haven't the foggiest notion of what I want to do with my life. The biggest certainty in my life right now is that I will be overseas from the 14th of June to the 29th July.

I want to help people be at their creative and innovative best, yet I'm not sure how to go about creating a position for myself which would result in renumeration. I am thrilled by much of what I do in this blog, and would like that to continue: I have readers all over the world (from Egypt to Brazil to American Samoa) and I enjoy challenging myself to create something new and interesting twice or more times per week.

*

Timothy Burke says: Beyond everything counted there is always another mountain of the uncountable.

*

I think I've realised that, location-wise, I am actually gifted. No matter the challenges that Sydney offers me on a psychic/spiritual level, I feel like I live in one of the most tolerant and open-minded cities around. I will still try to move to a European city when I have the opportunity, but for now, I shouldn't underrate my life in Australia's alpha city.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Enlighten Me

Clambering all over the earth's surface searching for some exquisite kind of hybrid
Could be a person, could be a building, could be a TV show, could be a piece of furniture
I want it to tickle me, flatter me, disconcert me, leave me locked in a state of enquiry

*

I've always gravitated towards people who have diverse tastes in music. Typically, when asked 'What kind of music do you like?' they say 'Everything... except [_insert a genre here_].' I've noticed that the styles people tend to leave the most are country and heavy metal. I have tended to agree with those exclusions, and also find it hard to warm to appreciate music without lyrics (like most classical), or opera (it strikes me as too old-fashioned). I'm also not very fond of saxophones or traditional jazz sounds.

Diving into Lady Gaga's Born This Way, I have found myself re-evaluating my ability to enjoy almost all of those things, because I've embraced songs which feature elements of opera (Government Hooker), saxophones (The Edge of Glory), are inspired by country (You and I) and have a distinct heavy metal influence (like Judas). Therefore, exposing my ears to BTW is an adventure, a breaking down of barriers and reclaiming my love for liminality - reinventing what it means to questions your assumptions.

I'd also like to draw attention to the Indian-flavoured remix of Born This Way. This is one type of music I am quite drawn to, and its treatment of the original elements is beautiful, and speaks to Lady Gaga's love of world music and culture.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Age of Paranoia

*My title is lifted from the Green Day song American Idiot.

So we have prominent European politicians (Merkel, Cameron) rushing to point out the 'failure' of multiculturalism. For the first time I have been aware of, anti-gay crowds have attacked peaceful protestors for same-sex marriage in Adelaide and Brisbane. Progress for equality for women seems to have stalled in many ways. I've had two people tell me recently that my postmodern views are 'not of the zeitgeist'. Ever since the Bush declared 'you are with us or you are with the enemy', a new age of insistent certainty spread over the globe, undermining those of us drawn towards the unknown, or perhaps merely tolerant of it.

It seems, in today's world, if you don't speak with absolute conviction, you are marginalised.

But I am not going to get onboard with the 'post-postmodern' movement. An attempt to reclaim part of the progress made by postmodernism into a neo-modernist movement doesn't interest me. I continue to question people's assumptions: delicately and/or firmly.

For many years now, I have been drifting about with too many directions in mind, but a fear of commitment to any sustained project. Other than my writing, that is. While reluctance has always been an emblem I've adopted as a shield against what I've perceived as the world rushing to bestow upon me meaning and belonging against my will, I believe the time has come to take a year or so and volunteer or work overseas. Asia & Europe beckon me to explore them in as much depth as possible. I only wonder if I will be able to meet the demands of the people I work with and for.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wow!

I think what Feed Me has done with Robyn's Call Your Girlfriend is probably illegal in Texas. Never have I empathised more with people who use the word 'eargasm'!


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fear of the other in Dracula

When Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU (I believe it was in 2007), the UK & Ireland placed restrictions upon would-be immigrants so as to limit the the numbers of bold, go-getter types that would want to try their luck in a more affluent environment. It's hard to know where responsible immigration control ended and racism began under that scheme, and some would argue that the latter was disguised as the former.

Up till a few weeks ago I thought this was a fairly recent phenomenon, due to unprecedented proximity to the Eastern 'other'. However, after reading Bram Stoker's Dracula, it seems that anti-foreigner anxiety was just as pronounced in the 19th century, all the more so for having limited contact with the outsiders in question. It is not only a Transylvanian count that is demonised in the Irishman's story, but also a minor Jewish character (his nose is compared to that of a sheep) and China itself (the character Jonathan Harker assumes that, China being even more East than Romania, it must be all the more backward, as represented by trains with a lack of punctuality).

Some critics classify Dracula as an 'invasion story', and the idea of vampires as racially different predators still lurks around today, with films like Sweden's Let The Right One In heavily alluding to the Roma.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Colour-free skin? (Celebrate all pigments!)

I know we call Caucasian people 'white', but that's not accurate. Unless we're talking about albinos, who are very pale, but not exactly devoid of all pigment, human beings of Caucasian origin come in a wide range of epidermis colours. Beige, cream, sand or apricot might be more fitting descriptors. So who are we to exclude ourselves from the term 'coloured'? 'Coloured' skin should be a meaningless signification because it accurately describes every single person on earth.

It is telling that the term has more currency in the States than it does in Australia, where there are more non-Caucasian people everywhere. And that there is even a prominent institution called 'NAACP' - National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.

'Coloured' implies 'whites' are 'race-free'. They are the race (to be) (read: triumphant, superior) from which all others are different. They are the culturally, economically and politically dominant peoples, and though it is socially acceptable to mean well, it's also socially acceptable to be discriminatory against non-Caucasians deep inside. They don't make it a point to interact with the 'other', so they remain unaware of how deeply they could connect - a connection that would make superficial differences count for very little. I find that Caucasian people simply don't know enough about other races to realise that they are being racially discriminatory.

So, please let's stop using the word 'coloured' to make generalisations about race...

I have a narrative fragment or two to share about my experience of being Slavic in Sydney... I don't know many other Bulgarians in this town; I don't even know many other dark-haired Europeans, but the Greek and Italian communities in Australia are voluble and so (I believe it was while reading 'Looking for Alibrandi') I discovered the pejorative 'wog' (for Southern Europeans or people who look like them) in high school. Thankfully I had never been called that, so I dismissed it as a term exposing prejudice, and forgot all about it.

From time to time, I have heard of people using or reacting to the term 'wog' again, mostly through the internet. I became aware that some people affected actually used the term themselves, to 'reclaim' it, as has been done with 'queer', or more recently, with 'slut' (see the SlutWalk movement). Then, one week, I heard the word out loud twice, and once it was directed at me! I was walking up Bondi Beach at the end of a walk with my mum, when a old man who was clearly mentally unstable came up to me and simpered something to the effect of 'f--- off, wog'. I walked briskly away and the man started harassing a group of diners nearby, leaving me alone. I had never experienced this type of ethnicity-based discrimination before and it put me in a despondent mood, with a bit of anger thrown in. 

I remembered the stories I had listened to with surprise in a park, as my Asian school friends shared story after story of not being accepted by Caucasian Australians. "Where are you really from?" was the most often unintentionally racist comment, when they responded they were Australian to severely misguided strangers. I hadn't been aware of that kind of racism before, but now I could count myself as one of the many people who had experienced negative discrimination due to my background.

But I haven't let it get me down. I believe things are getting better all the time. People of my generation often travel frequently, and as the years grow by, their chances of getting better acquainted with people of a different background increase exponentially. I know that I, too, have benefited tremendously from my travels, and my willingness to ask questions that lead me to get closer to people my parents might not approve of me getting closer to.

And so it goes... let's open our minds as far as we can, because that produces the most effective look.

I say, dispense with the 'skin lightening' creams and lotions. I say, stop trying to look more tan. I say, being a native African doesn't make you more potent than another race. I say, explore beyond the racial boundaries you were brought up to respect. Disrespect the nay-sayers. Battle against the frowns with a sweet, sweet, smile. Don't accept randomly trust everyone you meet, but be open to everyone being someone amazing that you can learn from in some way. Even if a person of a different race acts in a way that doesn't resonate with your values, make a point to inspect exactly what it is you don't like. Culture is not the same thing as race. They are, as an empiricist might say, 'negatively correlated'.

I have really enjoyed challenging my perceptions of race through the many courageous and charming people who have mobilised themselves to cast ripples all around the multiple communities they influence, communities which themselves shift and rearrange in every moment.

It is a beautiful thing to have a skin that you can press to that of someone else. Don't let your kisses be reserved only for people who approximately share your pigment. Spread your love far and wide (says she, who hasn't had a partner for two years). :)

The ingenuity of I

Generalisations glance off me as I
Know they don't apply
In the middle of a sigh
Cold administrations made by many
The masses aghast that I'm not satisfied to shiver
Nothing left to say
I'll just retreat
Turn the other cheek
Pretending to be meek
Or far too cocky
And yet the crowd crows
That I'm quite lucky
And I suppose I can't deny
That I don't need another by my side
I don't have warmth for you
I know you seek it
But I can't adjust myself to show it off
Having none on demand
Time for stern reprimands
And tentative threats
Sneaking past my 'OK' threshold
I'm pulling me apart


Self-Conscious Youth Narratives

I was eighteen when I decided I started brainstorming on what an autobiography might look like. I was in my sterile-looking and chilly room in my family's Sofian apartment, taking time out from the oppressive cultural narratives that blared out of the mouths of the individuals a few doors away.

I realised that I had gone through some many deep transformations in my life and had gone through so many inspiring and memorable things, that I thought my story would be valuable to tell.

Other people weren't so convinced, when I started to share my ambitions with them: "Aren't you a bit young for that? I mean, there's a lot of life left to live."

A few autobiographies of young women could be found here and there, but mostly the genre was reserved (in the public imagination) for old and wise people - former CEOs who had now retired, former presidents, big-time celebrities. The autobiography of a young woman called (as I was at the time) Maria Bell still struck me as a great idea in its very novelty, but I wasn't brave enough to see it through. Writing about people very close to you for the public is a very challenging balancing act:

How can I be faithful to my best friend while pointing out her weaknesses, I wondered?

How can I appreciate my parents yet still point out room for improvement?

So where I am? I've made a beginning, but not gotten very far after that... so many competing narratives within my own mind, so many questions I'm not finished honing.

At the same time I maintain that it's a wonderful idea for youth to get their stories out there... if they don't want the dominant paradigm to be from people older than them that don't understand their increasingly more clever and sophisticated ways, they have to get out there and claim the world as their own.

You can only learn so much from your elders - at some point you just have to trust yourself to go out and do things the best way for you, the way only you can. Don't stop learning, but rather manage to integrate learning within your self-assurance. If you're always cautious to live up to the standards other people set for you, that timidity will hold you back for much longer than is necessary.

I've always wanted to do things my own way, knowing that I am special and unlike anyone else - so why should I try to be? I don't want to waste my time trying to conform to the masses when I'm so much happier staring at the sky and devising my own high-flying notions.

So I ask you, dear reader: Are you sharing your story? Don't be shy, the world is full of people who would like to be as self-activated as you are, and who can learn from your unique example. For every person who has ever doubted your relevance to your world, there's another who will nod in agreement as they follow your gaze.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Good friends are hard to find

Last week I sent an email or two which effectively ended a friendship. We had only met a few times, but already he was starting to take me for granted. "We'll go. It's a date!" He said firmly upon inspecting the schedule of a theatrical performance. He hadn't asked me if I wanted to go with him, just assumed that I would be available and willing to follow his lead.

Earlier he persisted with describing what might happen if there were a tsunami coming from Bondi Beach while we were eating a dinner on a beach hut overlooking the sea, completely ignoring my objections. What an insensitive, ignorant tool.

The worst thing is that I had sunk in his attitudes to a degree not good for me - I was starting to see the sense in lowering my mood/expectations, and a bit of that attitude lingers on.

I'd like to stop complaining now, but I'm not finished...

On one of our first few meetings he voiced a judgement about a friend of mine who was doing a PhD in his 50s, implying that he should have done it earlier. This is disturbing to me because I don't judge people by what pieces of paper they have graduated with, or whether they have graduated with anything at all.

After a while, the offenses just kept building, until I had to demolish the whole awkward friendship.

One more thing - I hate it when someone put the moves on me without my verbal or non-verbal consent. I'm very sensitive and don't like to be touched unless I clearly invite it.

***

Since I'm on a roll, I may as well complain about my former best friend.

She wouldn't (couldn't?) admit she was wrong about something. You might think, that for her to exercise the powers of self-imposed ignorance and steadfast denial of a moral responsibility to keep learning, it had to have been a pretty extreme mistake she made. Instead, we were discussing Hong Kong and the suburb of Mongkok, or at least that's what I gathered when I saw 'Monkok' in the chat window, and pointed out that she was missing a g. Her response? "Can you not correct me?"

***

That line - "Can you not correct me?" - haunts me.

***

So many of my interactions are one-sided. I suppose if I had a partner I wouldn't mind as much, so I look forward to that. I do enjoy being single, and it would be even more interesting if I could be 'single' with someone else. Two single people (like my Facebook friend, Only) making a life for each other.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Good, Bad & Evil

Is not 'good' a disproportionately mild answer to 'evil' in the grand scheme of binary oppositions?

And yet you rarely hear of 'good vs. bad' - it's always 'good vs. evil'?

I don't know enough about this binary to know whether it is based on religion or not, but even if not, it speaks of a world in which the negative forces far outweigh the positive. And is that a balanced view of the world?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Three Questions

Hello my dears,

I've been hibernating. I read somewhere that it's a good idea to take a break before you really need it, and so... in the last two weeks or so I've managed to disentangle myself from an insecurity or two, and am feeling rather pleased with myself.

So, I have a few questions, not necessarily in order of importance:

a) At the Royal Wedding last weekend, why was extraordinary attention placed on how Kate Middleton was dressed, and almost none on how William was dressed? Is this not an emblem of the double-standard where gender is concerned? The woman is ornamental, her attire is the business of everybody else, she needs the public's approval (or disapproval) - unlike the man, who is just stately, authoritative.

b) Should I, as a female acquaintance suggested, come up with a male pen name under which to submit my writings, since I have higher chances of being accepted by the publications I submit my writing to that way? Other people I've asked seem to think not, since I've only had two rejections so far (and should expect a ton more)...

c) Where on earth am I going to go this year? Some options include: Stockholm via Beijing, Barcelona via Zurich, via Bangkok, Athens via Singapore... it's all very mysterious, even to me. A combination of not being able to go to places I want to go (like Mexico) and having already been to many of the places I have wanted to go to makes me long for an extra hit of travel adrenalin.