Wednesday, December 25, 2013

An end to the slut-shaming

I used to be one of those people who policed women's sexuality. Whenever people made remarks which identified them as more than conventionally sexual, I would frown and make remarks of disparagement. All my friends did it too - we would self-consciously slut-shame together. We were intelligent, but we were dumb.

Even as the media tries to tell us that Miley Cyrus' act is "too much" sex and not enough restraint, our attitude towards sex is quite conservative. I remember going to a fetish-themed party some years ago, witnessing a man and a woman wearing some leather pouring milk on each other and simulating sex on stage, and wondering if we will ever get to the point where mainstream performers have live sex to please an audience. At the time it was a shocking thought, but now I have no doubt it will happen, and I say bring it on.

Fifty years from now, people will look back at what we found shocking and laugh at what prudes we were. At how stifling the norms were, and how stifled we felt. Well, maybe they won't laugh. More like feel sorry for us.

I am in favour of everyone being a lot more sexual with one another. We should stop seeing sex as getting in the way of the rest of our neat lives, and actually enjoy the sexual dimension of our experience as much as we dare. As much as we want to.

I look forward to the day when a tongue-kiss replaces a hand-shake, and when public nudity is not just reserved for a tiny percentage of beaches, but is part of everyday life.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Power

Lost again. Somewhere in between the postmodern paralysis and the repetitive activities she comes alive. But she doesn't know how to articulate this space. She doesn't know if she's ever done so before. Probably not. It's important to remember that each moment is unique, comes once in a lifetime. Even so, she's hosting a veritable tableau of experiences of deja vu. She suspects that her mind has grown lazy, and that is why they are infecting her, but there's not much she can do. Not much she intends to do. Life insists she places herself in the position of victor, resumes the battles no matter how many indignities threaten to make her come undone. People ask her to smile - no, demand it! She can't hide from their indiscreet meanderings into her sensibility. They'll encroach upon her boundaries with regularity, and there's not much she can do about it.

And yet, somewhere between the spaces of discomfort, she lives and breathes pure magic. It's all in the power to transform her gaze, to change her focus. From acutely focused to gorgeously dazed, the choice is hers to reinvent her selves. She keeps searching.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

The exhausted activist keeps going

I realised that ignoring the problems of the world won't make them go away. I need to go on fighting. I can, however, change my attitude to a more self-loving one. I can congratulate myself more on the things I do well, and be kinder to myself when I stuff up.

I was just reading a post from The Militant Baker in which she admits that she is always fighting an uphill battle ("just to feel okay"), but that she knows that if she doesn't do it, no-one else will. I can relate to this... I may take medication which "stabilises" my mood (oh, the horrors) and acts as a mild antidepressant, and my experience with the mental health system has self-censoring my rebellious urges all over the place (don't worry, I still manage to be very non-conformist ;) ), but activism makes my life more meaningful, and isn't the thing to excise from it.

Incidentally, I made a new friend over the past few months, which has lifted my spirits. The benefits of this are impossible to overstate. I have also gotten back in touch with an old friend who lives in another country, but we find the time to communicate via Facebook or Skype and he is an inspiration to me. Add an old high school friend whose irrepressible energy is a delight to be around on those occasions that I do see her, and my life is looking better these days than it did at the start of the year, when I made my lonely journey to Bulgaria in an attempt to start a new life.

Life in Sofia consisted of a very closed social circle consisting of my grandmother, uncle and a friendly neighbour. None of these connections were particularly robust, and so it is perhaps not surprising that I fell apart.

Earlier today I was watching Pantene's feminist commercial for the Philippines -


- and I realised that I had let a neighbour in my old block shame me for my confidence. Upon getting a new haircut, she tried to make me feel bad about going about the world with my level of self-esteem by exclaiming: "I know you! You're going to go out there and show it off, aren't you?"

Yet I deserve to feel good about myself, appearance and the ideas that zigzag underneath it, from the tips of my Adidas or Diana Ferrari shoes to the hint of a fringe that the Taiwanese hairdresser gave me which sometimes curls high above my hairline. I'm going to keep respecting the way I look and what I wear. I'm not going to let other people undermine my confidence.

The internet keeps surprising me with its choices of which injustice to draw out next, especially in the field of feminism. There are some issues which feel very familiar, and others which catch me unawares. For example, did you know that female characters are grossly underrepresented in crowd scenes? That's what Geena Davis taught me here: 


I never, ever would have thought to analyse crowd scenes in animations for gender imbalances, but there you go. It's a testament to the multiple talents of the people who are making the feminist movement come alive today that they approach the empowerment of women and men in such diverse and interesting ways. We are much stronger together than alone.

Hope you're having a happy holiday season! :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Silent

She is silent as she watches them go by. All of them bitterly lost, conscious of being displeasing to the extreme. All of their judgements under intense scrutiny, mostly invalidated.
I have somehow resisted my right to droop my head. 
I have somehow resisted.
She keeps her head up high because it's the only thing that's getting her by. She tries to avoid the indignities, with their daily, invasive presence. She's letting them know that she's as human as they, that they ought to know better. She's extremely intelligent, they say. We will keep her here against her will anyway.
She keeps silent because speaking out makes it worse. It's all very well for people whose sanity isn't questioned. When you're in a situation like that, your very agency is ultimately suspect. People dismiss your thoughts as a general rule. What you say doesn't matter. Want medical treatment? You're probably lying. Want to say something? You're probably delusional. Why should we listen to you? Go back to your confusion.
She hits all the right notes, for the time being. Saving time.
She's going to be. She's going to be alright. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ever vigilant, always watching

If I attempt to etch into the monitor
How monitored I feel
Will I be able to escape unscathed
From the surveillance machinery, still?

Can I have that next intake of breath
My reward for exhaling on such a radical note
Can I unleash my furious activism upon the world
Without throwing in some hesitation

Wherever I turn, there's someone watching
I must be careful in how much quirkiness I evince
Everybody claims they're being their true selves
But no one will admit how much they conceal






Monday, December 9, 2013

One Feminist's Body

Tip to toe, the way I wear my body has a lot to do with my feminist politics:

a) Hair

I've grown my hair long ever since I was a teenager, something I was determined to change in Taipei this year (taking inspiration from an acquaintance who said that she got her hair cut in each new location she travelled to). Before anyone could talk me out of saying goodbye to years' worth of conditioning, I asked for a short 'do and was thrilled to have my hair be sculpted at a height that hadn't previously been touched. I was trading in the traditionally feminine long hair for something more bouncy, free-flowing, and, most of all, healthy. Growing my hair long meant that I had a lot of split ends. I find that my hair gets in the way less now - I'm not constantly brushing it out of my face anymore.

b) Eyebrows

I used to paint them on, but I've left them to grow out naturally and assume whatever shape they will. I feel more confident as a result, because you never know when something is going to rub across your face and wipe your eyebrows off when they're drawn on. I felt perpetually anxious wearing them that way.

c) Skin

I clean my skin with Dove's Beauty Bar when I shower, a more gentle alternative to soap. I exfoliate occasionally, but most of the time I can't be bothered. I don't wear any make-up. I used to be obsessed with the stuff back in high school, but reading Naomi Wolf's 'The Beauty Myth' on the cosmetics industry opened my eyes to how unnecessary it all was.

d) Clothing

I tend to wear T-shirts and other shirts which don't have a low neckline. It's a conscious decision not to make an effort to look sexy through my clothing, as unfortunately rape myths still exist. Once upon I owned a short skirt, but now I invariably wear long pants. Sometimes I don't wear a bra, but most of the time I feel pressured to wear one.

e) Body hair

I don't remove any of my body hair.

f) Jewellery

I rarely wear jewellery, although I have a fine collection. I find it gets caught in my clothes and causes me to feel uncomfortable. 

g) Shoes

I never, ever wear high heels. Not only do they limit your mobility, they're also bad for your entire body.

Motion

Singing under my breath
I avoid one gaze
Bring out the other
The world and I shine together
Unduly whisked from our innermost thoughts
The day won't allow for their fruition
So I make motion my mission
While away the hours
Carefully covering the miles
Before I can rest my feet
There's some new old places I've got to meet

Thursday, December 5, 2013

French rhythms

I had no plans to study French: until I discovered a great, free program which made it easy to do so. Learning another language is a fabulous way to increase my articulative possibilities, and the further marvel of learning a language which is used in different nations around the world is that I can talk to someone from Vanuatu or Cote d'Ivorie and learn a different perspective on the language, and what it can be used for. DuoLingo is the program I'm using, and it helps me remember that English is not some invisible or all-binding social adhesive, but just another in a long list of lucrative languages.
I do admirably well with English, but the more I learn about the world, the more interesting it becomes to learn from a different perspectives. One of the attractions of French is the possibility that I may one day be able to read Derrida in his mother tongue, or Sartre, or even Foucault.

I find my sudden encounters with French do not take away from my Swedish experience - they only enhance it. The languages have different roots so it's not too confusing to learn them at once.

France, unlike Australia or Britain, isn't best known for its egalitarianism, so I'm learning a new dynamic which is similar to that of Bulgarian.

Speaking of Bulgaria, I find that I am pardoning it for being quite a rude awakening this year. Like any developing country, it has a lot of far-reaching improvements to make to its systems before it can support its citizens adequately, but it also has a lot going for it. Unique charms that can't be located in any other culture or society. I will probably return.

I've decided that I was paranoid about the taxi drivers of Sofia - those two men probably weren't plotting to rape me. I was going through a very stressful time and interpreting their misogyny as possibly directly harmful to my physical integrity. Misogyny shouldn't be taken lightly, but I believe I overreacted, so I will ask my readers to pardon me.

One interesting thing about Bulgaria is that it has the highest achievements in narrowing the gender gap than all of the surrounding nations - that's Greece, Turkey, Serbia, Macedonia and Romania. It even has a higher level of gender equality than France, to bring things round full circle.

But then gender equality is not the only barometer of a successful society.

If all goes well I will try to learn a bit of Dutch or Norwegian later on. :)