Thursday, October 31, 2013

Parallel

You slide with me as I
sashay down this
strip of spotty pavement
It's a never-ending journey
From I to we
Ever learning

*

I've been back in Syd for about a week now, and it's time to find a new psychologist. The woman I was seeing turned out to be manipulative, which is really a shame because she was the only narrative therapist I could find. I might have to be daring and try a new approach, perhaps CBT. Perhaps I should see a social worker instead, someone who holds a 'counselor' qualification? There is this 'find a psychologist' service which I've been using, but I'm not sure it's the best place to look anymore.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The intersection of gender and sexual orientation

Having homosexual relations is just one more thing that so-called 'normal women' don't do. Identifying as GLBTI gives you a head start in breaking out of the patriarchy-sponsored mould. It's no wonder, then, that non-normative identities of sexual orientation and gender frequently complement each other, and often overlap. It's more difficult to work race into the intersectional equation, when it comes to the big three (perhaps it needs more of a push).

Women who don't need to be needed by men provide themselves with a high degree of emotional and intellectual independence, and attract the like-minded. While I am still 'kept in check' by male surveillance, I feel a lot more free to say what's on my mind than most of my female contemporaries. This is why I write about politics so much. I know I might attract personal attacks in doing so, but I keep on doing it anyway.

It does get tiring, but it remains rewarding. I have recently discovered that I need to consciously make more room for positivity in my life, since the level of drainage my relentless fight against discrimination has been causing has taken a serious toll on my mental health. It may be that I write on this blog less often, or that I write about more varied subject matter.

Anti-discrimination activism has been dear to my heart ever since I started PADSOC, a blog dedicated to the big three. It was a response to being told that I should work in the pornography industry by an obviously insecure individual who felt cowardly enough to attempt to degrade me. It had the opposite effect to that intended: It made me more vocal about my causes. PADSOC became a successful blog, attracting bright and enthusiastic writers who each had their own spin on the most relevant issues of the day. It was out of this keen interest in promoting peace and equality that I reinvented my writing under the blog you are currently reading a couple of years later. It's been a remarkable ride.

Now it's time to turn my attention a bit more to promoting peace and equality by fostering a sense of well-being... so, cya around! ;)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

People watching in Randwick

One day I was walking through Randwick Junction when I noticed a young woman carrying a bottle of water. She seemed vaguely dissatisfied, and decided to cheer herself up by being playfully sexual in quenching her thirst, bringing the bottle to her lips in a way distinctly suggestive of fellatio. I was the only person really watching, and I was torn between giving her a knowing smile and silently pointing out that such gestures cannot be made without reinforcing the notion that it's rewarding to be a woman who satisfies men - with or without them satisfying her back.

Should I have done the former? It's difficult enough for a woman to find a way to enjoy her sexuality without onlookers judging her, right? So what if her performance affirms the patriarchy? I do a lot of things unintentionally that have the same effect of playing into social expectations. Sexuality should be celebrated, not scrutinised. And yet, if it's that hard for me to break out of my social upbringing, I imagine it's even more difficult for others.

About-turn

I'm going to have to stop writing about anti-discrimination for a while. It's really bringing me down.

Scattering ignorance, resignation
With a single throw of the proverbial mind
Congealing wonders left neglected
Selectively caring, selectively blind

And there's that 'last lingering morsel of information'
That must be alighted upon, picked apart
Can't see the trees but for a forest of leaves
Where it has left me is a place I must depart

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Things I've noticed while travelling

a) People tend to fly the national airline. For me, the appeal of travelling on an airline other than Qantas is the prospect of a stop-over in a city I haven't been to previously. Fly Korean Airlines and you will stop in Incheon (serving Seoul), board Vietnam Airlines and you will end up disembarking in (or is it around?) Ho Chi Minh City. There are also great discounts to be found for those willing to try something new. It's usually cheaper to fly with China Southern than Singapore, for example. Flying through Tokyo (JAL) and Hong Kong (Cathay) is pricey, while the Southeast Asian airlines are less expensive and offer good food. Meanwhile, the majority of people flying Etihad Airlines are, predictably, from the UAE.

b) Sometimes it's best to ditch the Lonely Planet. I usually travel with a guidebook, unless I'm going back to Thailand or another place I know well, but the problem with the meticulously researched, lovingly produced Lonely Planet is that most savvy travellers are bringing their own version into the country (except the French, who have Michelin). Unless the point of your trip was to meet other travellers (and sometimes it's a nice bonus), you're better off following your instincts and letting the LP sit quietly in the back of your suitcase for a bit. You'll find people indulge their curiosity about you more often when you're the only visitor for miles, increasing your chances of making friends. I learned that there is a lovely karaoke facility in Jiali, which was an hour outside Tainan, and I never would have known what to expect in an ordinary, rural township, if I hadn't taken the chance on an offbeat location.

c) Talking to the person next to you on the plane is always a good idea. Sure, the Japanese guy I chatted up gave me a subtle hint that 'Australians are too friendly' but not before I learned that Hanoi was more polluted than Ho Chi Minh city, the extent of anti-Japanese sentiment, and that he was one of a trend of young singles currently being picked up on by the Guardian. My hour-long chat also delivered me from the anxiety I normally experience upon take-off. It was only when dinner was served that my companion and I turned to worlds interior.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mrs

Feminism often focuses on the overtly problematic aspect of gender relations: rape, domestic abuse, murder, prostitution, misogynistic pornography, etc. What I don't hear enough about is supposedly happily married couples where the woman does all the housework, has changed her name to that of her husband's, and does the majority of childcare. They claim they have a wonderful relationship and are held up as role models for the rest of us approval-seeking souls. They are on the other side of the spectrum when it comes to what keeps sexism deeply entrenched in modern societies. This model of female subjugation is regarded as the ideal undertaking, an agreement to withhold, subdue or erase one's agency in the service of social conventions. Women and men are equally guilty for endorsing each other's misery in the matter. If men demand that their partner change their name, do the cleaning and cooking and sacrifice their careers in order to bring up the kids, women are taking on these roles readily and without much complaint. If women expect that their male partner will earn more than them, hold a higher level of authority than them and their say is ultimately more powerful than theirs, it's because men live up to those expectations. It takes two to create inequality, and the majority of the population is busily replicating the injustices they can't sense they want to live without.

When I got married in the US (I am now divorced, but then we were never in love) I was surprised at how easy it would have been to change my name to his. All I would have had to do was tick a box, and just like that, my signifier would have been chopped in half and rearranged. The hubby would have liked me to appropriate his moniker, his enthusiasm for such an enterprise underneath his ostensibly neutral enquiry as to my wishes. I replied that I had changed my name to Epiphanie Bloom so that I wouldn't have to change it again, which was partially true, but not the entire story. I didn't want to change my name. Why should I suddenly be associated with a different lineage when I held my own in high regard?

My Mum claims that there is no need for feminism because women have already achieved equality, so I expect her to believe that her relationship with Dad is an equal one. But they don't divide the chores around the house - while Dad lies around on the couch and reads the news she is cleaning, tidying, scrubbing and creating edible dishes from the contents of the fridge. She sometimes complains bitterly about the amount of work she has to do, but no amount of nagging will motivate Dad to take on an equal share of the housework. It's sad, but it's normal - it's actually very rare that couples split up the responsibilities in half, and/or distribute tasks not based on gender but on who is better at solving each individual thing to be done as it arises.

We in 2013 are still invested in those ancient archetypal categories which associate women with nurturing. Even if fathers taking more leave from work is becoming more common, the typical Australian family still delegates the bulk of the childrearing to mothers, and the cruel double standard of the extra-filial community is that they're not happy if a woman is "just" a housewife, and neither are they pleased if she is focused on her career. Most try to find a balance between the two, find themselves juggling a million things, being permanently stressed out and it is expected of them to continue that pattern in the role of being good citizens.

I don't want to have kids myself, a decision which I once articulated on the Facebook pages on The Guardian and was called ugly by some random enraged moron on the internet. Opinions I've previously felt comfortable with occasionally are exposed as extremely objectionable once made public knowledge, which is why I'm careful about how I write about what I write about. I am no stranger to flaming and hate posts. Perhaps the worst abuse I've received is for being a feminist and postmodernist, two identities which I love. Anyway, back to wanting to remain childless: I simply don't feel that conditions on Earth will be good enough during my lifetime for me to bring up a healthy, balanced individual. There are too many causes for depression and other forms of mental illness, and since I am that way inclined it's likely that I'll pass on my conditioning to any offspring. What's more, I want to do a vast amount of travelling in my life, something that would be made a lot more difficult if I had to take care of a young one. Children cost money and require time and energy. At this point I'd prefer for the rest of the world to reproduce and leave me out of it, if they want little ones so badly. I have nothing against children or parenthood, I just don't think it's a choice I want to make for myself, and people should respect that. And if they don't that's their problem, not mine.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Lovably weird

My Lonely Planet guidebook calls Taipei a 'surprisingly weird' city. Perhaps the straight-and-narrow part of its reputation owes itself to its focus on technology and the East Asian flavour of conformity, but here in Ximending I'm finding thinking inside the box the exception, not the rule.

It may be the colourful shop names, like Psycho Nerds or O'Girl, with a liberal use of the palette animating the ideographs even when they're not glowing at night, or the vast range of youth-oriented companies sprouting here, there and everything. Walking from my guesthouse to the nearest internet cafe takes only a minute, but in that time I have a lot of adventures: Whether it's giggling at the chemistry-friendly number of my room (CO2), the unself-consciously hip boutique Good Hands or the handmade candy store called Papabubble, there's always something fun to wrap my eyelashes around. All that, and there are eyelash extensions if I want them. (I don't, but occasionally you wonder what you would look like.)

To be fair, I do get tired of the constant noise of Ximending, and dodging motorcycles and taxis loses its appeal after the first five days, but its the sheer exuberance of the people and their funky gadgets that keeps me from spending too much time on the net or reading in my tiny room. Taipei has charisma.  

Post-typhoon weather

With the waving of a finger, glancing off the screen
Back into the misty neon jungle of my dreams
Eager to accept, dismiss, and stumble
In a pleasant jumble of sequences

That was yesterday, and now I see the sun
Curious onlookers, both me and they
Watching them watching me
Some of them do ignore me (there's nothing to see)

I can't say that it's all straight lines
I can't say I remember how to say goodbye
I can't say I forget how to say hello
Taipei is a frenetic lullaby

To "Obey" in Taipei

You may have noticed the brand OBEY. They sell T-shirts and the like for progressively oriented, young-at-heart types with the word written in bold. It is not obvious what the philosophy behind the satirical creed is, so I'm dedicating my new yellow hat to President Obama. The same Obama who ordered peaceful protesters against Don't Ask, Don't Tell to be moved along by police outside the Whitehouse back when the law was still in force; the same president who ridiculed a female Australian journalist who dared to suggest that there was a schizophrenia between the readiness for war with China symbolised by the influx of troops to the Top End of Australia and the official denial that they were looking that far north.
Recently a top journalist complained that everyone was lapping up the official story given out by the Whitehouse, and there weren't enough outsiders.  Obama, possibly embittered by the Republicans' treatment of him, has turned to increasingly authoritarian methods to impose his own agenda of "protecting" (more like spying on) the general populace.

So if anyone asks, my hat is dedicated to the farce of democracy that is the US (and Australian, and British, etc) government. If I had closer ties to China I may be worried about them spying on me too, but I'm not. I will probably never visit the Mainland again - as a person who has "experienced psychosis" they don't want to let me in, and I'm not exactly jumping up and down to go.