Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Beyond Style

Resentment eats away at you. It's the thing carried around that grinds you down. Make a space for the honouring of the other. The other need not be a source of fear. The other is what you make of it. You could find yourself, in the other.

Wade out into the river. Some small part of you is carried away by the current - the top layer of the skin on your knees. Let new cells rise to the surface. Let the spiritual replenishment continue. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday cheer (and a bit of a grumble)

It's 6:33pm on the 24th of December, and I can say that this year has been an improvement on the last. I spent a lot of it in the company of a new friend, and even though she has moved to Moscow for now, we are still frequently in touch. Other good things happened - Beyonce and Taylor Swift identified as feminists in public, and the struggle for gender equality remained present in the mainstream media.
On a more personal note, I took advantage of having moved house last year to create a more harmonious domestic environment for myself.

One thing I'm struggling with right now is how to perform my identity as Australian. A part of my Bulgarian background is being genteel, sophisticated and refined, and I feel like that's under attack in Sydney. The irreverence of the culture has a coarse, vulgar side. Of course, I wouldn't feel under attack if I didn't surround myself with Sydney against my will. Even a rural town in Taiwan has more elegance in the citizenry than this giant, brash city.

It is practically sacrilege to live in this city and not love it. When the 'Sydney siege' occurred, some official countered that "We are incredibly proud of this city." And so I feel alienated from the rest of the populace - I hesitate to sink my teeth into the patriotism pie. In fact, I will not have it. Whether it's at the national or local level, my sights are always focused on Western Europe, and I don't hide that that is where I'd be if I had the freedom to choose where to abide.


Monday, December 22, 2014

There is much room for surprise

I remember reading the first chapter of 'Delusions of Gender' by Cordelia Fine in my local cafe. My reaction to it was visceral! I felt like I was having epiphanies left, right and centre. As we continue our quest for gender equality, people find ways of outing the deeply ingrained prejudices against women in ways that I don't anticipate, and it's wonderful. There is much room for surprise.

One of the things I love about travel is that it places you in a spot where you have the freedom to hold wonder in higher esteem. No-one is expecting you to conform to the values of the society you're visiting, so you're given freedom to let your mind roam. Elevating your mind to a state of wonder takes ingenuity, a constant curiosity-driven dialogue and a resistance to conservative backlash. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Freedom from expectations

A couple of weeks ago I adjusted my OKCupid settings to make my profile invisible to men who are "straight." I've never felt better. Right now, in this time and space, I doubt I can make it work in a heterosexual relationship. So why even try? My online withdrawal from the possibility of dating the majority of men deeply satisfies.
Some time ago I realised that love clouds everything. All of a sudden, you become partial to a soul, and become blinded of your own free will. You overlook their foibles and put them on a pedestal. You defend them to yourself even when subconsciously you know they're in the wrong. You put up with their insidious mental abuse. You become enslaved - a victim of romantic love.
Heterosexual relationships are the trainwrecks I can't seem to look away from. But at least I'm viewing from afar.
So does this mean that homosexuality is something I should be looking more into? Maybe. Then again, they say that what you're looking for comes along when you least expect it...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

3:51am

Sometimes I take the wrong bus and get out at the university. I'm always anxious to be back on my way, because the students remind me of all those people seeking solace in their 9-5, and how little room there is to think independently, even at a so-called institution of higher learning.
The world was not made for the likes of me, with my aversion to tradition and blatant disregard for normality. I have a voice, but that voice is very marginalised. Nevertheless, I'm proud of the initiative I take, of my readiness to be heard, my willingness to stand up and be counted. Somehow, in my own little way, I make a difference.
Today I read that people with left-wing views are less likely to hurt others. It makes me proud of myself. Not that it's something new, but still - you don't hear these sort of things every day. It reminds me how special I am. (Here is the article. )

*

My face is but a blur to me
I can gaze upon it endlessly
But when I step away from the mirror
I still feel like a Picasso

A girl and guy, today
They called me 'honey'
And I didn't feel deserving
Of the simple compliment

People tell me I'm good-looking
But it doesn't sink in
I'm full of self-loathing
For the body I'm in

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Blinking at the sun

As always, there is too much noise. The loud ticking of the analogue clock in the living room, the neighbours' TV turned up way too loud and left to terrorise anyone within earshot.

I've been hiding
Making noise carefully contained by
The perfect length of a blog post

Within me lies a stream of torrents
They don't have a clear-cut end
And because I've placed
So many restrictions on myself
It's time to just breathe
As best I can

Hesitant to speak my mind
Wary of potential bullies
But vulnerability's compelling
My supply is unending

*







Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Waiting

How long will I have to dull the pain?
It would be such a luxury to feel it all
They've whisked away the fevered strain
I want to just unravel

Somehow it doesn't serve the world
To be artificially whole
I can't condone this sterile violence
Medication handed out like candy

It's a legal high
Not only lauded but imposed
I can't strip myself down to the bare minimum
Without examining the consequences
And, although in my secret thoughts, they're exposed -
The technicians who glorify my numbness -
I have to pay lip service to their odes
Agree I'm making progress
An encouraging recovery

When all I want to do
Is be in charge
Of my own headspace
Is that too much to ask?
We live in barbaric times
In the future they will laugh
at our pathetic notions of 'Human Rights'


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Keeping the faith

Each time I go out there, it takes something out of me
I predict casual dismissal, amounting to abuse. It happens so frequently.
It gets harder to remember my motivation for the fight
Harder to drag my rhetoric out into flight
All this neglect is killing me
The pursuit of justice and dignity
Takes a lot of effort to keep alive
I fall into bed exhausted at night
But at least I'm sleeping through the night

My dedication isn't what it used to be
My previous successes no longer startle into motivation
I'm searching for a new direction
Setting sail without destination
But I feel that aimlessness has established itself
As the new status quo
And I hate it, but I can't bring myself
To identify a place to go

You see, they kept me too long,
I pretended to buy into the lies -
I sang their song.

The will to thrive must be displaced
I can't abide without a bracing
Against the sweetness of revival
Mine is but an uneasy survival

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Feminist Poem

Speak up, be spoken over
But there will be a pause and
You will be heard for a while
Before they mobilise to make your motions
Undermined by shrill emotions
They can't have you challenge the status quo
They wouldn't know where to go
With their long-brewing sexist potions


Monday, October 13, 2014

Comparative anxiety in Bulgaria and Australia

The Mall of Sofia was welcomingly bright and shiny, and I strolled about with no particular purpose, enjoying the respite from the Bulgarian winter. All of a sudden I spotted a chocolate shop, and, lured by the advertising of Belgian treats, I wandered inside. Waiting for me to approach her was a thin girl with long hair and no trace of a smile. I hovered near the counter, wanting to ask for assistance, but anticipating the rude indifference common to many customer service personnel in this part of the world. In the end I pointed to something behind the counter with more confidence than I felt. "I'll have -- that!"

My boldness had an interesting and unfortunate effect on this girl. She felt unable to relate to my assertiveness, and I could sense a strong bout of self-critique from the way she moved her body. It became painful to watch her torturing herself so I was glad to leave, but she reminded me of the kind of anxieties I was brought up to entertain in my early childhood.

Australians are comparatively assured in comparison. They have a lot of social, political and economic systems to fall back on. They're part of the Western tradition of capitalist democracy, considered to be the least imperfect political system by many. Meanwhile, Bulgaria has a system of corrupt politicians with high levels of poverty and widespread discontent. Grumbling is a way of life, even a civic responsibility. 

Having lived in Sydney since the age of seven, I have learned to be more relaxed and less anxious than the average Bulgarian I meet. I am probably more self-critical than the average Australian, and can relate more to other immigrants and their own watered-down anxieties. Not a lot of people share my cultural mix (mostly due to there being so few Bulgarians), so I sometimes have to make room for it. A space like this one is good for such purposes.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Same old, same old

bell hooks made two interesting assertions in her talk with Gloria Steinem yesterday: The patriarchy has no gender, and also that the patriarchy is present in all the men she is aware of, that she could possibly seek a relationship with. bell hooks is a brilliant woman - what follows the second statement is a questioning of her own interest in starting a [heteronormative] relationship.
The more men I meet, the more I am convinced that men are not for me. I still hold up hope (never say never, right?), but in practical terms I am looking for a woman to have a relationship with. But is the patriarchy, similarly, present in all women? ... Is it present in me?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Making it personal

I've always been a fan of the first-person narrative. It feels more honest to acknowledge my subjectivity than to try to pretend I have a universal point of view. Attempts at objectivity, in my view, are simply attempts to match that dubious gold standard set by countless generations of writers before me, themselves misguided. It's an unpopular view I hold, and I'm aware that by regularly highlighting my postmodern stance I alienate a lot of people who might otherwise enjoy my writing, but it wouldn't be me to neglect this feature of my work.

I wouldn't be the same person if I didn't know that one of my favourite authors values the view that postmodernism is to blame for many a modern ill. I would be a more popular one, and perhaps a less humble one. Recently a friend of mine wished me a good night by expressing relief that I 'shared her thoughts.' I don't believe it's possible for two people to have the same mental processes, since my present-day thoughts are a result of everything that's ever gone through my mind in the past - a unique series of events which no-one is able to replicate (let alone fathom).

Yet we persist with the 'objectivity' lens. It's the hallmark of choice for much quality journalism, the primary narrative tool of scientific discourse, and unlikely to go out of fashion anytime soon. This post addresses it because it keeps popping up here, there and everywhere, preventing me from fully enjoying a piece, and robbing its readers of vital insights that can only arise when one admits to being beautifully limited to this funny thing called being a human being. Instead, countless talented writers struggle to erase the signs of their uniqueness. Isn't the reliance on cliches a testament to the mentality that believes in a universal truth? Objectivity is a disingenuous thing, the concern with it eating away at a writer's belief in the power of their own voice. It's much braver to lose the fake consciousness and learn how to celebrate the first-person perspective as the key to the deepest truth you can tell - the truth of yourself.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Streetside Glances

"Eye contact is also a way of expressing power. Men may stare at women and women are not supposed to stare in return but to decorously cast down their eyes."
- 'Beauty and Misogyny' by Sheila Jeffreys

Ever since reading the above quote, I've decided that it's my prerogative to stare back at any man who makes aggressive eye contact with me. I do this despite the strain it puts on me. I am making a point. Most of the time the men don't take my defiance into account in their wider paradigm on gender equality. But sometimes they do. The last time it happened, the man in question apologised wordlessly, looked down and away. As a feminist performance artist, this is the kind of reaction I'm after. It makes all the uncomfortableness of the unflinching staring back worth it, and reminds me that I am making a difference.

*

Heads Up

I recently made friends with a remarkable woman who helps survivors of psychiatry safely discontinue the taking of antipsychotics or antidepressants, and helps them stay healthy. I noticed that she often droops her head, as if ashamed of her mental differences. I've resolved to always look for ways that my mind is fruitful, imaginative and useful (it always in, in some way, even when that way is not obvious to the outside world). I have as much to be proud of as the next person in terms of mental capacity, if not more. I write beautiful prose and exquisite poems. I do my best to contribute to society in whatever way I can manage. I am special. Just like you. So I keep my head up, look people in the eye, and subvert the narratives which privilege non-survivors.

Psychiatrists would like it if I paid more attention to their in(s)ane theories about how to manage my mind, but I think they're the ones with the problem. It would be a gross perversion of nurture if they were the happy, secure ones, and I was not. I choose to be happy and, yes, secure, in and of my own mind. If they don't like it, that's just another of their problems.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Why I lost 30kgs and put it back on again

So there I was, enjoying my lighter physique, experiencing a boost to my health and feeling more vital. And then they started to look at me. Men, with their predatory smirks and cunning 'male gazes'. I felt more self-conscious about my body than ever. I was conscious of representing myself as a sexual object and not knowing how to operate outside the ideology that led me to do so. I was worried that my new, 'more attractive' appearance made me more vulnerable to sexual violence. It made me more vulnerable to problematic heterosexual circumstances. I didn't want this.
And so I gained the weight back. I'm newly invisible to the average male, and this invisibility protects me. Why lust after my body when there are so many other bodies that are much more appealing? I suppose I'll never be immune to the libidos of some who have a fetish for big women, but they are part of a minority I rarely experience.
I don't know how healthier women do it. I don't want to dispense the 'keep your distance' defence at every step that I take. I don't want to feel that I am a one-women army, disarming or ignoring a million micro-aggression per week. When you are reduced to sexual object status, you start doubting your right to your own agency.
It's not good for my health to have added 30kgs to my weight, but I felt it was what I had to do to keep my sanity. I had become accustomed to doing without the vicious male sizing-up, and this brief interruption of that narrative was unwelcome. Of course, I still value the healthier habits I adopted, but I don't have the luxury of attaining them. Not just yet. Maybe in a decade, when my fertility is no longer, and I become invisible due to my age, I can safely resume sounder eating and movement practices. For now, I have no wish to wage a war every time I situate myself in a public place.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Structuralism & Sexism

I have taken many a personality test in my time. One of the most popular of these is the Myers-Brigg test, which has sixteen results and splits the world into archetypes based on four categories - extroversion or introversion, sensation or intuition, judiciousness or perceptiveness and thinking or feeling. This post is primarily concerned with the last category.
Thinking vs. feeling is a binary which deeply implicates gender. Throughout modern history we have the commonly accepted rationale that men are the traditional custodians of rational thought, while women are to be found embodying the realm of the emotions. Women have been described as 'hysterical' in innumerable contexts. Less extremely, as 'too emotional', 'unable to reason', and so forth. 'Too reasonable' or 'too logical' don't work as insults, on the other hand. Our patriarchal societies prioritise thinking over feeling, putting the characteristic associated with males on a pedestal and reserving emotions for those so-called inferior beings, the women.
We separate the thinking and feeling personalities just like we separate gender into female and male - without a second thought. But it's actually impossible to separate the two because both thinking and feeling are part of the same process. Thinking has an emotional valency, and emotion cannot happen in the absence of mental processes. To act as a human being is to perform both simultaneously - however we haven't figured that out, because dualism and structuralism still make up an awful lot of popular theory. When will we wake up?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A culture of conflict

A preoccupation with violence
A romance with war
A fetish for fistfights
I simply want more

The annals of peace
Lie unperused
While we hold
A moment's silence
For the soldiers' abuse

Monday, August 25, 2014

Fresh-faced woman

We rarely go to Russian restaurants, so it was a special occasion. Large quantities of the spacious interior were adorned with red, and as we sat there, slowly savouring the atmosphere, a band started to set up. The lead singer was a female, with shoulder-length dark brown hair and absolutely no make-up on. I remember admiring her natural skin tone, the dull shine of her eyelids, the faint pink of her lips.

"No cheating," I noted with approval. She dared to be proud of what was hers naturally. And she went on to sing one of my favourite songs, Hero by Mariah Carey. I felt a bond. I wanted to be like her. To glow in whatever ways I will under the lights, not be enhanced by artificial gloss. To have the lines on my face not be exaggerated but make whatever shapes they will. I felt like I was enough, somehow. That I didn't need to lather on lipstick to feel confident when I moved my mouth, that I didn't need three different products on my eyes to hold someone's gaze and arrest them with it.

Many's the time I've admired a made-up woman's beauty, but nothing can replace the beauty that comes about when we are bold enough to be seen as we really are. It's easy to hide behind a socially approved facade. It's the woman that dares to different that manages to promote your face, as it is, back to you, offering a sea of respite in the ocean of uniformity.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Confinement & Emancipation

"I want to capture a sense of confinement," she said, proudly surveying her work. "The veiled woman's hand is in sight, and on her fourth finger is the ring that speaks of her despair." The painting was delicate, refined and had taken much attention to detail. A quote by Baudelaire in gold accompanied the image of the woman covered in a burqa, her multi-coloured eyes pleading with the audience. Elegant arches made up the backdrop.

A decade later, she extends her hand to me. I give a cursory nod at her large diamond ring, and her gaze drifts to some point in the distance. "I can't say this doesn't mean much to me," she murmurs, and I wonder at what point she started to change into someone I couldn't relate to. Her gaze has a world-weary cruelty I haven't wanted to acknowledge for years. I can see it better now that it's not directed at me. I don't want to spend time in her company, but I feel I must.

She has become the woman in the picture - languishing in her finery, trapped by her expensive taste. She coos at and pampers a man she doesn't love. Worse, they are so mismatched that she has to pretend to return his affections at considerable strain. She intends to take a lover.

All of my friends tell me that marrying for money is just what some women do. I was given a warning that this is how things would play out when she daydreamed of a rich husband and the passionate affairs - her version of having her cake and eating it too. I assumed it was one of her darker moments. But if it was, it would swallow her up and not let go.

I couldn't stop singing, mainly because I didn't want to talk to her. Eventually I couldn't handle it anymore, and told her as much. But I couldn't let her go. I couldn't say goodbye to the person she had been, the person I made her out to be for the longest time, and the person I still wanted her to be, despite everything. The time has come to admit that I can't bring back the past. It's time to see her as she is, not in an idealised light. It's time to take ownership of the fact that, no matter how normative some might say it is, I can't reconcile lying and cheating to my code of ethics. It's time to admit that her absence has changed my life for the better, even though I sometimes miss some aspects of her personality. It's time to reward myself for speaking out against love crimes, against Stockholm syndrome, against gender norms. It's time to celebrate the identities I've created for myself as a person now that I no longer have someone trying to bend me to their unimaginative will. It's time to celebrate my freedom.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Reflections on ten years of being 'Epiphanie Bloom'

a) For better or worse, I am conspicuously named. This can lead to warm responses from the favourably inclined, distrust from those more enmeshed in the Tall Poppy societal pattern, or bemusement from those whose education didn't include the word epiphany. Either way, I rarely inspire indifference when asked to introduce myself.

b) One change demands another - at least, in theory. I would like the freedom to change my name again, and many times more - however the registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages has set a limit on this deed, and so I am forced to think very carefully about how to proceed. Earlier this year I fancied calling myself Leyla Summers, and even changed my Facebook URL accordingly. But after asking several friends to call me Leyla, I realised that I had become very attached to having an extraordinary name, and decided to leave things as they are for the time being. There is something attractively gender-neutral about Epiphanie Bloom. It's a bit camp, a bit hippy. I like it.

c) There do come days when I would give anything to not have to explain my name. I wish, at those times, I could just rattle off a common name (much like Maria was) and move on to another topic. Because introducing myself is an Event. It reveals something about me, and fills up my first impressions. Thankfully, I don't usually feel like this. Usually I'm up for demonstrating my self-determination, nonconformism and free-spirited personality. But no-one's perfect.

Why I no longer believe in astrology

When I was younger I would read about the twelve zodiac signs with great interest. I identified strongly as a Scorpio, but sometimes wished I had been born an Aquarius. However, I had Aquarius as my moon sign, which, I reasoned, was why I was so influenced by its energy. But why was it that I liked Leos so much? Weren't we supposed to be extremely incompatible?

In the end I realised that I was using these archetypes to put people in boxes, and the less I thought of people in terms of fixed personality types, the more free I was to appreciate them. I had been trying to make people less complex in our overly complex world. Once I realised this I started resisting the temptation to do natal chart for every new person in my life, and suddenly found a lot more opportunities to relate to people who would have previously been seen as 'difficult to deal with'.

Even though I never claimed to have an absolute belief in astrology, I found that its lens was a limitation I could safely do without. It turns out that I can deal with a much more complex reality than I gave myself credit for. When I stopped categorising people I gave them more freedom to move, and this resulted in improved relationships.

There are people in my life who continue to believe in astrology, and I respect their intelligence and even the kind of spiritual awareness that can lead to an interest in it, but I know that I'm happy with the new and improved me, and there's no way I'm going back.

My closest friend right now is a Leo, but I didn't even ask her about her star sign until fairly late in the relationship. And although there was a tiny part of me that was tempted to say 'Ah, I've always been drawn to Leos', I decided to leave it behind. I wasn't friends with an archetype. I was friends with a person. Where I would have once seen it as slightly problematic that she was a Leo, now I focus on the ways that the communicate effectively and help each other navigate the urban jungle of Sydney. There isn't a cosmic barrier to frown over anymore. Astrology is a social construct - a fascinating one with the potential for lots of complexity, but a social construct nevertheless. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

As feminist as it gets

Just as it's a health risk to conform to gender norms and stereotypes, it's also a health risk to be too opposed to them. In order to make a difference, I have to be engaged with society in such a way that I drink some of its poison. Otherwise they find me irrelevant.

I am not the perfect feminist. I struggle to hold on to my ideals on the best of days. It sometimes feels like my community is conspiring to keep me from being the best feminist I can be. Because I am dependent on societal texts on topics that diverge from feminism, and can't always be hyper-vigilant, I re-appropriate some of the narratives I'm at other times actively trying to find a replacement for. I need to have a place in society for the sake of safety. So I have to play the game, even if it doesn't look like I'm playing much of anything from the pov of more conservative folks. It all adds up to a lot of pressure.

I am pining for a trip to Scandinavia at the moment, but it will have to wait. I want to go back there so I can learn from "the pros" of gender equality, and bring that knowledge back with me to my not so feminist nation. I'm also aware that I'm lucky to live in a nation which ranks in the top 30 in the world for gender equality. It could be a lot worse. But even as I'm aware of my luckiness, I can't help but wish I had more access to the Nordics.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Unfinished

In moving west
I have discarded the notion
That I'm much obliged
To somebody or something

I've picked up all these new mutations
Some are scary, others to my liking
 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cross-pollination

We're just meandering around
Trying to forget the old conditioning
Offering up parcels of innovation
For each other to refine

It's taking a ridiculous amount of time for women to shine








Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Global empathising

These days I receive tweets from Cairo about Gaza, Facebook posts from North Carolina about the Bay Area, read the blog of a mixed race, Jewish Londoner about the reception to her book worldwide, exchange emails with a Sydneysider who wants to help communities in Cuba and Venezuela, and much more. I'm inundated with information about world events. Sometimes they're underwhelming, leaving me to wonder why the perspective I've been exposed to isn't as deep as I'd like. Sometimes they're overpowering, and I need some time to digest the narratives they bring to my attention.
As long as it's in English (or Bulgarian, but let's face it, that hardly ever happens), I can access the story. It's easiest to relate to the narratives of the nations I've already visited, but that doesn't stop me from immersing myself in the politics of other places at will. I enjoy having much to learn - I constantly thirst for information.
Through my engagement with a fellow traveller (an American with a love of Asia and Europe) I found out about a small village in Italy where I could perhaps set up a non-conceptual home in the future. I would be following her example and adding to a small but artsy expat community. Or perhaps a more alluring narrative will reorient me to another place. You never know.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Supporting the End of FGM

Have you heard of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation)? This is a common practice in Africa and sometimes happens overseas when Africans immigrate as well. It has been practiced for about 5000 years, and it's supposed to bring purity to the girls, to mark their journey into adulthood, to prevent them from being promiscuous (or even sex workers) and, according to some people, to stop the clitoris from growing in size until it becomes like the penis. These beliefs are all based in ignorance, and the action can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
I've heard it described as the most intimate kind of betrayal - when the females of your family hold you down and proceed to tear off your clitoris using a knife. On many occasions knives are hard to get hold of and the ones that are used are rusty. On many occasions the woman doing the "circumcising" cut off more than the clitoris, leaving girls incontinent or worse. Not only is this a traumatic experience on an emotional level, it can leave behind lifelong pain and problems with menstruation (to name but one example). It's no surprise, then, that FGM has been categorised as a Human Rights abuse.
What can we do to stop it? If you're in Australia, you can Like or follow No FGM Australia on Facebook or Twitter, or even email them to ask how you can help. They'll be happy to get back to you. If you are located elsewhere, just search for your local anti-FGM organisation online.
Why does this issue affect Westerners? Because many immigrants bring their pro-FGM mindsets with them, and this can lead to young girls being taken back to their parents' country of origin for 'holidays' where they are taken to special places and forced to undergo the procedure. These are the young girls that move freely among us, and we should do whatever we can to protect them.
In the light of the grave medical consequences of FGM, it may seem like a minor issue that without the clitoris a girl or a woman loses one of the most potent sources of orgasm and sexual pleasure, but this is the saddening effect of all of these procedures. I want to live and love in a world where women's right to an orgasm is never seen as a threat, and is honoured by leaving their vaginas intact.
So get educated, get active, and get behind the modern grassroots movement to educate Africans (especially those in the country, and the nations which don't have a law against FGM yet) - African women are going out into their worlds and spreading the message that the end of FGM doesn't mean the loss of all African customs and traditions, that the women who currently perform the rituals can earn money doing other things, and that FGM has no benefits and many (huge!) drawbacks.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Lost Generation"

I was reading the comments on a Guardian article, when something a female commenter wrote resonated with me. She said something to the effect that gender inequality was such that it was creating a 'lost generation' of modern adults who were suffering from its impact and couldn't claw their way out. We are imprisoned in our gender stereotypes and our resistance is minimal. We could be challenging 100% of oppressive gender norms, and we can barely manage 5%.

I walk around the Eastern suburbs and I see people who are too set in their ways to change, even if they wanted to. And most of us don't. We've been conditioned to accept some level of change due to the discourse of being in a world of rapid change, but we also accept most of the toxic conventions which have been around for millenia and create with them in mind. Carving out our niche while constrained by the past the people before us were too scared to change. We're not updating our perceptions of who we can be nearly fast enough.

I'm supposed to have this dazzling array of people to date, being that I'm bisexual, but the more I commit myself to feminism, the more of a dearth of options there is. I'm hardly ever interested in anyone, and I've been single for years. No long-term relationships, no casual sex - it seems no one can stimulate me intellectually enough to make me seek out another human being beyond friendship. My standards are high, and are getting higher. This is a good thing from most perspectives I can bother to forumlate on the topic, but it does mean that I often find myself alone. (I love being alone, but there is more room for connection in my life.)

So what can we do to be the change we want to see in the world? Read more feminist articles, books and texts. I am most recently inspired by Mona Eltahawy at the All About Women Festival. Enjoy -



Saturday, June 14, 2014

Crazy ideas

Sometimes I have the craziest ideas. Today I was seized with a sudden desire to enrol in a course in a Bulgarian university, something to do with development, so I could help out people in my country of origin (if not birth).
Of course, crazy ideas don't exist in a vacuum. I just saw 'Love Marriage in Kabul', a documentary by an Iranian filmmaker, in which one of the main personalities is a woman called Mahboba who runs a charity which manages multiple orphanages in Afghanistan. She spends her time between Sydney and Kabul and her work looks very satisfying.
When I'm not overwhelmed with cynicism at the ways of the (occupational) world, I take an interest in charity work. I would probably need a degree to get a placement in some already existing organisation, but then again I could simply ask them for the experience of being part of their team for a while, and that could lead to a job opportunity. It's really up to me.
I don't know if I have had too much Bulgaria, or not enough. I know there are plenty of good people there, and I'm interested in finding a few of them next time I venture over to that part of the world. Maybe they'll help to restore my faith in the place.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Friend

If we were friends, you'd have another
There'd be no need to always be smiling
You would confide in me your sorrows
And feel better for a while

I want you to talk to me
Like you do you friends
Describe your thoughts and feelings
In vivid detail
So that I can give counsel
Or simply listen and sympathise

With these resources at your disposal
You choose not to seek out connection
Reproduce the hierarchy that dictates
That you must be my higher-up
And I feel that much is lost
Because you hold back

We can never really be friends
You'll always act as my superior
Guardian, parent and protector
Somehow magically surviving
Even though there are times
You don't think you can make it
Always a barrier between us,
Even at the highest level of intimacy

What can I do?
I can't buy into the makeshift silence
So I will speak up
And make do

Saturday, June 7, 2014

White privilege in Sydney

"Is Melbourne a racist city?" asked Suneal.

I had just met Suneal in the city. We had discovered a mutual affinity for poetry, music and the arts, and were now chatting over coffee.

I didn't know how to answer this question. I assumed he had the beating up of an Indian student some years ago in mind. Suneal was originally from Mumbai. I thought about two possible replies. The first was to say that Melbourne was only as racist as Sydney, comparing the incident of violence against the student with the Cronulla riots. The other was to say that as far as incidents go the Melbourne one was pretty isolated, and that we were living in one of the least racist countries in the world. I couldn't answer the question in black and white way, which is what he wanted.

In the end I said "I don't know." Maybe Suneal knew something I didn't. But then he went to express approval for Brisbane, which I had no reason to believe was any less racist than Sydney or Melbourne. We changed topics.

*

There's a new cafe on Clovelly Road, a minute's walk from my place. Bus Stop cafe, as it's called, is run by a man with a Chilean background, who says that when he was growing up in Woollongong he was a very angry young man. People didn't know much about Chile so they assumed everyone who had dark skin could be lumped together as Aboriginal. He says things are much better now that things have moved to Sydney's Eastern Suburbs.

*

Things don't seem to be sparkling if you're Asian, either. Talking to a nurse from the NSW Prince of Wales hospital, he said that he found things were a bit better at his workplace because of the nearby UNSW, which has a lot of Asian students, but that generally he experiences a lot of discouragingly racist attitudes. He didn't look like a happy chappy while he was discussing this, leading me to believe that prejudice against Asians was well and truly alive.

My friend Matt summed it up with this thought on how white people saw Asians: "There's another one." This implies that people didn't differentiate between different Asian individuals, merely seeing them all as 'part of the crowd'. I encouraged Matt to spend some time in Canada, which I've identified as the least racist country in the world, as opposed to the more racist USA and UK. It's sad to know that even in the place I'm obsessed with, Sweden, is far less welcoming to non-whites than it is to me. But I do believe that things are changing, slowly but surely. There are limitations to how far minds will open within my generation, but places with a lot of immigration can expect to become more and more welcoming as time goes on. We won't have the problems we have now in the future, and that's encouraging. In the meantime, we need to keep educating people about the similarities behind our differences, and encouraging them to think outside their racial boxes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

To Spill

I used to really let loose when I wrote here... I incorporated into my work some elements of the stream of consciousness, hoping to be as personal as possible. These days I feel more guarded. Sharing my every thought with anyone who might be reading seems less liberating and more vulnerable-making. I guess, while in some ways I'm feeling more in tune with the world than ever, I'm also holding more back in my personal narratives. I'd like to feel as carefree as I did before. It may or may not happen.

I have a feeling I was too harsh on Bulgaria. The majority of my negative experiences had to do with two family members who shall not be named. When one of them dies, I will have the opportunity to live in Sofia... if I want. Could that be part of a positive journey for me? I'll never know unless I try.

Bulgaria is a kind of rough place, but also a dignified one. It would be interesting to spend more time there and learn about the Bulgarian perspective of the modern-day world. I would have opportunities to make new friends and pick up more of the language.

*

I've decided to stop studying Mandarin and go back to either French or Spanish... I'm really not sure which. I've already made some progress with French on DuoLingo, but I've discovered that I'm disinclined to continue using their website. It depresses me, for some reason.

*

My family moved into a new apartment about a year ago, and we've only now resumed cable TV. It's fun to leave the screen on Channel V and have 'Chandelier' by Sia soar into the living room. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Selective Attention Paying

If you're a feminist, you may know of Jessica Valenti. She's been in the public domain as a pioneer of feminist theory for decades, and has been extraordinarily influential. She's currently writing for my newspaper of choice, The Guardian. I read her work with interest, but with some reservation. Why? Because she invariably focuses on the backlash against feminism to a degree I find counterproductive. When writing about Monica Lewinsky's return to American public life, she highlighted misogynistic comments that had been made on the internet, instead of using the space to make a positive argument. As such, I read Jessica's work while keeping in mind that I always have a choice about what to focus on.

Many years ago, when I started out blogging, I made a misogynistic enemy. I made the mistake of adding him to my MSN Messenger list and chatting with him, in a brave attempt to find out 'what he was really about'. I should have trusted my instincts and simply ignored him, but then again that's the benefit of hindsight for you. Our interaction was mutually antagonistic and as a result of learning more about him, I cared more about his reaction to me. It's not a knowledge I can unlearn. However, I can change how I feel and think about it. Not to mention ensure that my focus remains elsewhere.

Last year I made a decision to care about the opinion of someone who clearly hated me. Not only that, I developed an attachment to his online presence and sought his attention. Fortunately I have made a decision to ignore him from now on, and my mental health has never been better. My point is that we always have the choice of what to focus on. The world could be ending - you could choose to focus on that beautiful painting you created during that time. Instead of spending your last moments panicking, you could make the choice to bask in serenity, knowing that to get caught up in the collective panic would be counterproductive to your attempts to make the most of the rest of your life.

I'll never know what it's like to be Jessica Valenti, and I admire a lot of what she does, but I'm glad that I'm getting back to my 'normal' - paying very selective attention to the world outside.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

10:44pm Sunday

I've just arrived in Sydney after almost two weeks in Taiwan, and am a bit jet lagged, mainly due to overnight flights, not time differences. To be in Asian without being expected to conform to the culture is relaxing. The psychological infrastructure is such that I always feel well-treated. The pressure to be socially lugubrious, which would probably be debilitating if I were a citizen of Taiwan, makes for a smooth ride in all daily interactions. Just don't get angry, and everyone will ensure you have a pleasant experience.

I had barely arrived in Kaohsiung when my taxi driver recommended I visit Alishan, a scenic area some hours away. I believe I only saw one other foreigner in the city, which isn't recommended by Lonely Planet, even though it has some interesting attractions. What made Kaohsiung special to me was Lora, the interpreter that I made friends with on a white bench in an exhibition in the Fine Arts museum. She has translated a couple of Jodi Picoult books into Chinese and has a refined elegance about her. Originally from Taipei, she moved to the southernmost Taiwanese city to pursue a more laidback and friendly lifestyle. The capital is just too hectic for her.

I was surprised at how many people had enough English language understanding and ability to help me get by. During my first trip to Taiwan there were a lot of phone calls made to friends and family members who could help me out, but this time around even the taxi drivers seemed to be well versed enough in "the international language".

For the first time in my life I tried cuttlefish, which was prepared outside the air conditioned restaurant in a mixture of a stall and permanent kitchen. I removed the onion piece by piece until it formed a small mountain in the centre of the table, then dug into the flavoursome soup. This was in Jiali, where I also saw a small ginger dog wearing white sunglasses.

If I had to choose between Taiwan and Thailand for 'friendliest location in Asia' I would have to do some serious consideration... perhaps it's best to call it a tie.

Where to next? I have my sights set on Ireland, Norway, Finland and Spain.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

1:34am Wednesday

I need to work on my sense of leadership. You see, when you've been in a psychiatric ward for a while your self-confidence is torn down. People habitually doubt your authority. They find you unreliable, your grasp on reality untrustworthy. I wish I could say that I've overcome the harm this attitude has caused, but I'm still very much there. I doubt myself as someone who initiates. I aspire to follow with ingenuity, not be the first to raise a notion. I aim to be in some sort of accord with those around me, with leadership being the option I am reluctant to pursue, even though I could do it, and sometimes find it necessary to bring out. I avoid being the one to dramatically change the direction of something, because I fear ridicule or rejection. I take a dismissal of my opinion really personally.

As such, I typically find it hard to express myself when I badly want to introduce a new notion, but am too guarded to come out with it. It's painful, and with each swallowed initiative I feel like less of the person I once was.

The mental health system is very negative towards its consumers. It tells them that they will have to take drugs their entire lives, might find it difficult to hold down jobs or have healthy and meaningful relationships. I recently read in a 'model of recovery' that it was encouraged that consumers create 'meaningful' lives for themselves. What does this mean? Is it because psychiatrists see consumers as divorced from meaning that they are dehumanised in such ways? It is because the meaning of my life was invariably negative that I was admitted to hospital in the first place. I was always leading a meaningful life. I find this configuration extremely puzzling. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Qiao ke li (That's Chinese for chocolate)

I started learning Mandarin by accident: I was updating my italki.com profile so that any interested users would see my interest in exchanging English for (primarily) French, when a user named Jessica approached me with an offer to study Chinese. "Why not?" I asked myself. It was a great opportunity to confront some of my fears and prejudices against a language I had tried studying several times, unsuccessfully. And so it began...

I stopped learning French so I could focus on Mandarin, and one night I had an idea which excited me so much that I couldn't sleep: I should combine my next vacation with a study period, so that I could get the most out of my time abroad. I asked my Taiwanese friend if I could stay with her for a month, and she agreed. Starting this May, I will be back in rural Tainan province, doing my best to speak the language. I expect it will be quite a challenge, but I'm determined to make it as fun as possible.

To be fair, I'm still getting the hang of the tones. It's easier to learn to distinguish between them when they're clustered in groups rather than hanging about by themselves (and if you have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sorry). It stuck in my mind that qiao3 ke4 li4 (the falling then rising tone, followed by two falling tones) is the transliteration of chocolate, which is why it's the title of this post. My dad later informed me that chocolate has only been available in China for the last 30 years and remains unpopular due to the locals' preference for salty and savoury foods.

I'll be bringing my Android tablet with me, so I look forward to blogging from Taiwan. My adventure begins on May 13 - I can't wait!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

As it happens...

... Paris Lees summed up nicely the attitudes that most people have towards women who don't wear makeup in her recent Guardian article on Veet's advertising campaign:

To be a woman is frequently to hate oneself. Absolutely nothing about your body – you are told and, indeed, tell yourself – is good enough in its natural state. Your eyelashes are not thick and dark enough on their own so you buy mascara; your skin isn't the right colour so you tan it or bleach it or cover it in paint; your lips are not plump enough so you coat them in gloss or inject them with fillers; your hair is not good enough so you colour it and style it and add bits to it. You will pay a lot of money for these things and you will do them again and again. It may start to feel like your second job.

Unless you have opted out of this dance completely – and if you have you will almost certainly be known for it, for to be a woman who doesn't join in the beauty culture is to be an outsider, a freak, someone to be pitied or ignored – then you will pay with time, money, pain and effort to fight a never-ending battle not to look like what you naturally look like, until age comes along and you eventually lose.

In the latter half of last year, Willa invited me to a beauty and health event sponsored by a luxury cosmetics company. There was a section of the event reserved especially for the giving of makeovers. I ran out of things to do early on, and eventually decided to let the lady put some makeup on my face out of sheer boredom. She put some heavy eyeshadow and mascara on me, and on the way back home I noticed that a young man was looking at my face and finding it rather attractive in a way I'm not accustomed to on the bus. Initially attracted, I quickly averted eye contact - this stranger would probably pay no attention to me if I went au naturel as usual. I was receiving attention because I was conforming to the beauty culture, and I knew it, even though I wasn't thinking of the phrase 'beauty culture' back then. I did not want this kind of approval.

I guess this could be one of the reasons why my psychic energy gets worn out quickly if I spend a lot of time alone in public, with only people-watching to amuse myself with. I feel like I should be able to be stronger, but it's not an option - weathering the storm that is a random cross-section of society takes a lot out of me, probably because I sink in people's emotions (and thoughts! Those that say they can't read other people's minds just don't have the psychological tools to do so - I'm not saying I can pick up on everything a person is thinking at any given time, but I can usually register the general gist of it.).

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A different story (Mini-post)

It's not that I've got rid of my insecurities. It's that they're not powerful enough to get me to shut up anymore. I'm becoming more vocal, more spirited. I am paving my own path in a world which doesn't welcome my voice. Making them listen to me when I want to be heard. Choosing my battles, and often stepping away from conflict altogether - learning happens at its most intensive when both parties are relaxed.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why I stopped taking anti-depressants

My psychiatrist ignored my refusal to go on anti-depressants in hospital and re-represented it as a strongly recommended choice. Eager to stay in his good books, and get out of there as soon as possible, I finally assented. They introduced Sertraline into my system. Over time I noticed I was feeling... well, good. Much better, in fact. So good that, once I was out, I sustained a feel-good, happy state most of the time, without much in the way of stimulation. I would zone out on the couch, basking in my new-found buzz.

Then Tony Abbott got elected. And I knew my emotional compass wasn't where it should be. I was just fine with this mega-homophobe who almost became a priest being chosen to run the country. And since I couldn't deal with that kind of reaction, I stopped taking the SSRI. A certain amount of dissatisfaction is necessary for political life. If you cannot feel the lows, the highs also become written out of the equation. Everything is 'just fine' - a drab kind of sickly sweet. Never again. Solian is bad enough. (Hopefully I'll get off that too, eventually.)


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Make-up free

Says my friend Willa, "It's a sad state of affairs when it's considered brave for women to show their naked face in public." I believe she's referring to how celebrities posed for the #nomakeupselfie campaign. As a woman who doesn't wear makeup, I can attest to the pressure I am under to abandon my 'less is more' ethos and hop back on the self-loathing bandwagon. It's not easy to determine where the pressure is coming from - every day that goes by, I'm soaking in pro-makeup messages. No one ever tells me "Wear make-up!" or is going to hold me at gunpoint until I blink into a mascara, but it's pretty much expected that women will do their best to alter their appearance for the consumption of the outside world. My resistance is met with disapproval by many.

Of course, I'm not here for anyone's approval. I have ditched make-up upon reading Naomi Wolf's wise words on it in The Beauty Myth. I am happy not taking makeup into consideration, for my own face, as I go about my day. I cannot say the same for most other women's faces. Sometimes, to my horror, I find that I've plugged into the matrix and gaze mildly accusingly at other women without makeup, as if they think they're good enough without it (which is exactly the point I am supposed to be trying to make). It's the same look that others turn on me because I dare to show my face as it is.

In one of my weakest moments last year (when I suffered extremely high stress levels), I couldn't shake off the imperative to own a lipstick anymore. I deliberately botched any functional benefits the purchase would have brought me by selecting a shade which both clashed with my skin tone and I personally disliked, however I still made it. Somehow, somewhere, I was looking for relief from the negative vibes. I don't know where the product is these days (my family moved house and I didn't care enough about it to track its movements), and I don't want to know. If I ever find it I might donate it to someone else. Make-up... a voluntary prison. Fortunate enough as I am, I keep escaping.

But back to Willa's quote, I had read an article on the Guardian about the #nomakeupselfie phenomenon, and attached was a picture of women in the public eye who had suddenly gone without (much in the way of) make-up and looked completely different. Never underestimate how drastically cosmetic products can change the look of someone's face - eyebrows develop curves or angles previously unimaginable, lips and eyes gain volume and gain new shapes, skin texture looks completely different. No wonder that women who wear a lot of make-up, or wear it in such a way that it alters their appearance significantly find themselves addicted to the stuff. In order to keep up their socially sanctioned, supposedly attractive visage, they need to be made up whenever there is the possibility of public scrutiny. How exhausting to care so deeply about what the patriarchy thinks!

I'm lucky in that I associate beauty with intelligence, humour, perceptiveness and other inner qualities. And that brings me more rewards than any amount of masking my face ever will.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

More comfortable with the other

We all have some kind of racial prejudice going on, simply because very few of us (if any) have been in contact with every single ethnicity in the world. In the absence of direct experience, we have to rely on secondary sources, and they are full of generalisations and other prejudices.

Those of us lucky to live in multicultural environments have a head start, as we are, more often than not, familiar with the sense of discovery that accompanies getting rapidly to know someone from a different culture. Perhaps I should talk about myself only - I'm aware that my friend in Bulgaria will probably not experience the kind of openness to 'others' that I have made an aspect of my experience, in her lifetime, simply because she lives in a country with very little immigration. Meanwhile, I have made close friends and dated people who had a different skin colour, who have been born in places I haven't travelled to and will probably never get the chance to see. They in turn have multicultural social circles which differ to mine. We have been shaped to be more open than most.

While window shopping in Zurich city I met a woman from Tibet who told me that she had learned to tell which African country visitors to her shop were from. I wondered if I would get the chance to accumulate such knowledge, seeing as most of Australia's immigrants weren't from Africa. She had the unique opportunity to get to know a certain section of the world due to its proximity to Europe, and her circumstances of being an immigrant herself, perhaps relating to them more easily as a result. There aren't too many outsiders in Tibet, I have been told, though there are more now than there were before (due to a relatively new railway). I feel like I can tell different East Asians apart after just a little time spent with them, though, and perhaps I can do the same for many Europeans.

I guess the best we can do is try to be open to each new experience. Take in as few assumptions as possible, and remain conscious that the ones we do carry may be wrong. Search for ways to be more curious, to ask more questions. Remember the old saying that a stranger is a friend waiting to happen, and that there was a time when you weren't friends with the people you're friends with now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

No time for paralysis

People come and people go / We create contours in each other / With each other / We savour the negative space
Some bring peace and others war / The abrasive never stay for long /
I've been searching six continents' worth of grass and concrete / they spring up within each other like the yin and yang / lining each other, encroaching on each other's spaces / the beings upon them with their varied faces / I yearn for the flow yet to come / Long for this current stretch to come undone / For it offers little, and I seek a lot / There's serenity to be found in searching / Recurring pain matters not / As long as I keep learning / As long as I keep moving / Rearranging patterns before they start to lock in / But I won't be shut down or shut in 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Well-intentioned insults

Today my friendly waitress referred to me and my female friend as 'guys' as we sat down. This happens to me a lot, and it's supposed to be a sign of respect - likening a couple of women to their male counterparts. In our society men receive more respect than women - they earn more money and are almost completely responsible for running the Fortune 500 companies (or whatever the Australian equivalent is), have a long history of being the political leaders (from Edmund Barton [the first Prime Minister] to Tony Abbott [the first PM after the first female PM]) and so on. The waitress wants to indicate that my stature is somehow like a man's so as to seem more likeable, and it's hard to know how to respond. I'm there to relax and have a good time, not to give her a lecture on gender politics. Yet every time I let it go it occurs to me that this is one more instance of casual sexism I've let slide, and it all builds up to oppress me and everybody else. Perhaps a single, co-conspirational 'but I'm a woman' might work in some cases, but I'm yet to try it. Am I too concerned about hurting the feelings of strangers? I'm constantly being told that I'm overly political correct (as if it's possible to be too much so), so that comes into play.

But it is an insult. It shows that my 'mere' female state is not good enough, is somehow 'lesser than'. But if I seem confident and powerful, I am associated with maleness. Surely we can all do better.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

An intersectionality of my own

I now have the phrase 'intersectional feminist' woven into my Twitter profile, so I thought I'd take a post to describe what that means to me.

No two intersectionalities are alike. My practice is no doubt informed by the many years I've been consuming anti-discrimination narratives on feminism, glbti rights and the rights of people of colour. (I use the term people of colour because I like the sense of solidarity it implies.) I'm not as used to incorporating disability narratives into my work, even though I could be said to fall under this category as well. (It's just hard to view developing extreme distaste for the majority of humanity as a disability. It's more like an acquired taste which doesn't lend itself to optimal social relations.) I'm also not used to theorising about class; I am privileged enough to have access to a university education, and I am privileged enough to travel every year, but my disposable income is very low and when I eat out I do so at inexpensive restaurants. I can't afford to see many concerts or performances, so most of my entertainment is in the form of movies or books. When I do spend, that is - my parents have paid for the internet, so I spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and The Guardian instead.

So maybe I should talk about class and mental 'disability' some more, particularly their cross-section. I take medication which makes me doubt that I'm living my life to the full. With my income in mind, it could be said that I am living in poverty. However, I'm housed in a middle-class abode, there's always food in the fridge and I even live in a relatively good area. I can sometimes afford little luxuries, if I save up enough. If I had the means to go out to events several times a week it would probably be better for my mental health. If I had the means to travel around the world non-stop it would probably be better for my mental health. I would really love to relocate to Scandinavia, but as I don't have the means I have had to abandon that idea for now.

My mental health has been better since I accepted my limitations financially, and stopped thinking that the grass was always greener in Sweden. There are many ways in which Australia is a preferable place to be. I've allowed myself to be more content in the present moment. I take comfort in my new friends and life by the beach. I don't take the weather for granted, nor the high levels of education and optimism around me (typical of both my neighbourhood and Australia in general). 

I have the opportunity to go out to eat or drink every day of the week, and what with the making of a new friend who has a lot of time for me, I am sometimes finding myself doing just that. This perks me up and keeps me from dwelling on things too much. However, my self esteem remains lower than most people's. I often feel like I'm being excluded in some way by the publications I should be looking at hosting my work. When one's open to glbti voices it announces itself as representing 'queer' voices, and this term doesn't represent me at all. When another reaches out to women it is holding back opportunities for people with mental health issues. And so on. I'm invariably in some kind of minority group that the publication marginalises. I don't have faith in any of them. Maybe I should start my own, but I'm too disorganised.

I envy the feminist I met some months ago who had concluded that he needed to spend less time on feminism and more time on other engagements. I would love that kind of break from being constantly miffed, disgruntled or angry. Apparently there is a lot of burn-out amongst feminists. I'm not surprised. I guess I need to pick my fights more carefully. To be informed is to be irate, but what other choice is there? Ignorance is bliss?

I don't even focus on glbti struggles (not exclusively) that much these days, even though the issues remain important to me. Ditto PoC rights. I follow bell hooks on Twitter and keep up to date on whatever Zadie Smith is doing, stay aware of the popular discourses surrounding all these issues because it's rewarding. And while being an intersectional feminist remains close to my heart, I cannot do all these issues justice. I don't have the energy.

There is an upcoming 'All about women' event in Sydney, and I can't really afford to go. If I could, I would probably feel more of a credit to the feminist movement. I would also feel more informed and entertained. As it is I'll have to go back to reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on my Kindle Fire. I feel like I'm learning about Nigeria in doing so, even though my Nigerian friend thinks her works are BS.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Authentic

In Europe there's a long history of ideas to keep your mind from rolling around in the gutter. Here, there's only endless deference to your futility to lean back on.
Australian culture can be identified by the presence of self-loathing that manifests itself in toilet humour, amongst other things.

*

Interaction that makes me feel airy
Is what I'm currently searching for

*

Authentic. I used to hate that word. I was self-consciously postmodernist at the time. Today context is more important than any one signifier, and 'authentic' is as good place to start as any. But I'm not feeling very authentic these days. I start posts and don't finish them. I break off in the middle of a sentence. I feel like returning to some previous writing techniques, such as 'stream of consciousness' or prose poem.

*

"I was never looking for approval / from anyone but you" - P!nk

*

A rosy face and a handful of dollars.

I cannot stop saying the word 'fellow' as in 'my fellow Australians' even though it's sexist.

A royal blue handbag, with the cloth handles slightly coming off. A picture of three women and two bicycles, the only text which reads Viet Nam. It dangles off her wrist. She invests a lot into the uneven surface. She thinks it identifies her as a traveller to an unpopular destination. She's armed - with silk. But Viet Nam also signals her fear that she may somehow lapse back into Bulgarian modes of thinking, feeling, being. They have collectivism and Communism in common. The country in which she wears her bag makes all the difference. She can even forgive Australia its lack of cultural sophistication.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Is asexuality about disgust? / Holding the USA accountable

The more I think about asexuality, the more it seems to be people who identify as asexual choose not to engage in sexual behaviour because they find something abhorrent in it. Maybe they find the practice of being sexual with the self or others disgusting on some level, and so make a conscious decision to avoid it. I don't think anyone (or hardly anyone) is born without the capacity to experience sexual attraction. What do you think?

Finding a balance in viewing the USA

I'm reading 'The Snowden Files' right now, and it's becoming clear to me that the individuals in charge of NSA reacted in a disproportionate and corrupt way in response to 9/11. The decision to collect extensive data on its own citizens and people from all around the world shows blatant disregard for the right to privacy, a right that we didn't even know was being abused until whistleblowers alerted us to the fact.

The question is, how do we place this abuse of authority within a balanced perspective on USA? The last thing I want to resort to is knee-jerk anti-Americanism, aware as I am that America has also contributed in many constructive ways to world/Western culture. I am currently considering whether to visit New York City and some other nearby locations in the next few years. My goal is to be better informed about the kind of cultural content I'm consuming everyday by exposing myself to Boston and Washington DC, and yet I also find boycotting the US a good idea - choosing to visit places like Buenos Aires or Ireland (which have their own spheres of influence) would be a different kind of education, one I can value no less.

I haven't visited North America since 2005, and I'm not sure what to make of this. Am I missing out by not having set foot on the streets of NYC? Or was eight months of living in the San Francisco Bay Area more than enough to experience American culture?

Knowing as we do that environmental activists are perceived as a threat akin to terrorism over there, and that NSA employees have repeatedly spied on ordinary people for personal reasons, I feel I need to be vigilant about the kind of subconscious (and, sometimes, conscious) messages I'm absorbing from the States. Would it be best to boost my levels of insight by making myself familiar with a new culture (such as that of, for example, Finland or Iceland), or is some more recent exploration of the USA in order?

One thing's for sure - nothing's black and white. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

CTO (Poem)

I've been required to obey
Not much room for defiance
Temporarily silenced
But surface I shall

If rhyme is my organising theme
How dare I do without?
If freedom is the lack of pills
Can I read my whereabouts?

If my opinion is entirely unsought after
Will I still refrain from sharing?
The most radical act right now
Is the act of caring

Feeling the vulnerability
Experiencing the pain
And going out there anyway
Knowing there's something to gain

To myself I seem feeble
To others I seem strong
Trudging along, I feel,
Is something of which I'm barely able

Out of practice at finding equilibrium
My quota for it too low
Seemingly stuck in a world of opprobrium
Oblivion is the thing I know

All those scary studies
Confirm my knowledge that it's not right
But I have no other insulation
Against my built-up fright


Friday, February 7, 2014

'Truly Devilish'?

Our collective 2014 approach to sexuality is a bit on the schizophrenic side. Most of our daily experiences (everything from office etiquette to our Facebook experiences) are wiped clean of any unwanted traces of sexuality, whilst an underworld filled with all sorts of pornography, from the loving to the degrading, flourishes both online and off.
I recently bought a vibrator from Australia's Groupon, a site which offers deep discounts on quality products. The piece was only about $30, about half the price you'd usually have to pay for this lifestyle product. Unfortunately I find that the brand, despite its best intentions, fosters a sense of negativity towards its female customers, and therefore doesn't aid in creating a sense of confidence or pride in one's sexuality.
Let's start with the name, Little Hussy. The word 'little' can imply ridiculous, contemptible or dismissable - I get the impression of someone who's not to be taken seriously through its use. As for hussy, my online dictionary defines it as 'an impudent or immoral girl or woman'. How is that supposed to make me feel good? I resent the implication that by getting in touch with my sexuality I am somehow 'disrespectful' towards patriarchy or 'evil' - that is exactly the kind of thinking that inhibits healthy, safe sexual practices rather than enables them. The brand aims to take a humorous approach to make sensual fulfillment a fun practice, but the VIP card they gave me features the byline 'Truly Devilish' - which I feel undermines that very intention.
In their About section, Little Hussy claims to offer a broad range of sensual toys that 'ease tension, provide relaxation, and boost confidence,' and that 'all products are based on the notion that sensual wellbeing is core to human health and happiness.' This is all very well, but it's not the message I get from their marketing. When I use the product I do my best to forget about the discourse around it, otherwise what should be a fun experience can turn into something a bit negative.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Since Taipei

In the months since my return from Taiwan, I've been wearing the yellow Obey hat regularly. It was only in December that I decided to look up the brand and research their philosophy. To quote from their website, Obey is about 'biting sarcasm, verging on reverse psychology'. I tend to stay away from sarcasm because it's based on repetition, and tends to reinforce the very thing that it sets out to undermine, and Obey is really no different, except this message is powerful and often goes unsaid, so I decided that I would become one of the people doing it justice. I needed a new hat anyway, and I'm glad I have one that makes people think.

Anyhow, I've learned that being open and warm is the best way to meet new people. The hat has had the function of opening me up, because I seek genuine connection, and don't want to shut people down via the use of negative slogans. So I let my face bely the word above it.

This evening I was walking around in my neighbourhood singing Lady Gaga's Paparazzi, a sign of growing relaxation within myself, since I hadn't felt comfortable to sing in public for a while. Being made vulnerable by being exposed to the public mental health system, I somehow listened more than I intended to the words of my mother, who claims that singing in public is 'not quite alright'... and now I'm finally dispensing with this fraudulent consciousness that crept up on me. A guy I didn't know even said 'Hey, pretty girl', so I must be doing something right.

I used to enjoy it when people gave me compliments on my looks, but now I find it almost always problematic. Women are conditioned to care about their appearance rather a lot, and people (both women and men) are always commenting on it. Women cheer each other up by saying 'you look nice today' or something of the sort. We are overly looks conscious. I prefer to be complimented on my sparkling intelligence.

Postmodernism & Gay rights

For as long as I can remember, I've loved a postmodern way of doing things. Being aware that any text has a specific context and none can carry an objective truth, I've learned to indulge some people their absolutist fantasies some of the time. But most of the time I can't be bothered. It's for this reason that I'm reluctant to engage in conversations of wide-ranging patterns; my point of view is considered obsolete at best, and emotionally corrosive at worst. I've grown content to gather steam at my own pace in my own blog, and leave the generalising to others. Reality seems a messy tangle of contradicting rambles, somehow managing to co-exist within the same vicinity as long as they don't rub up against each other directly. It's the insistence on the real, on reality, on the realness of things, that gets me.

*

Why are some countries (UK, New Zealand) welcoming same-sex marriage, and some (Uganda, Russia) are criminalising GLBTs? I believe that the latter is a backlash to the former. It was easier to ignore the growing power of GLBTs in (mainly) developed countries when they didn't have equal marriage rights, but this final legal barrier has made us more visible, and so the countries whose citizens are still stuck in homophobic mindsets have finally decided to react against these new laws. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

On being constantly held back

One evening, not so long ago, I passed a girl I had gone to high school with in the street. She was in conversation with another girl and couldn't dedicate much time to reading me as a series of symbols and signs, however I could tell her subconscious was chewing upon my 'Feminist' shirt. I could tell she had many unresolved questions about what feminism could mean for her. She had been willing to assume new levels of authority and responsibility but she had been denied her chance to rise - this much I could tell in the dim lighting. I said Hello, and she said "I thought you looked familiar" but she had passed by already, before we had a chance to establish a dialogue on anything related to feminism. She reminded me of my own struggles with the system - constantly trying to push forward, create a new space of dignity and respect for myself, and being constantly knocked back. We had a moment of mutual empathy. And then the night swallowed her up.

*

My favourite film of 2013 was Philomena. It stayed with me for days afterwards due to its magnificently drawn characters.

*

I figured it out: When I was in those Bulgarian taxis I was accustomed to equating a certain level of misogyny with a rapacious attitude, which led me to believe that I was in danger although I most likely wasn't. I was overwhelmed by the degree of hatred those men evinced, and catastrophised. 

*

Men's Rights Activists demonstrate that they have no empathy for the feminist struggle for equality at all. They are too selfishly obsessed with their own sense of disempowerment, which they attribute to the growing power of women. I've spent too much time trying to puzzle out the value of their arguments - value that isn't there. I would do best to focus on my own staunchly feminist narratives.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Snippets

When I went to Melbourne, I looked at the world with fresh eyes. I was particularly interested in how women held themselves on the street as I passed them, and here's what I noticed: All of them had their gaze averted downwards, as if apologising for their very existence on the city pavements. Was this how Sydney women acted too, and I was just too accustomed to it to notice it happening in my hometown? It must be so, I reluctantly concluded, as the women kept their heads low, frustratingly avoiding eye contact of the sort which could prove to be an empowering moment shared between two individuals belonging to minority-status groups.

 *

You make poetry impossible
It slips through my fingers when I hear your voice
Whereas before I tried to trace
The symphony muddled up in the noise