Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Holy Gospel of the Easter Bunny

(Cross-posted from my blog earlier.)


The Easter Bunny is said to be "born from the pastel coloured egg of a virgin hen, while others suggest he was found in a basket of cellophane grass". He died in the window of a butcher shop in Chinatown for our sins, just right before he was sold to a Ukrainian family and eaten.

Have you been saved by our Lord Animal Christ Jeshua Cottontail, my friends?

(Watch to learn why chocolates are dangerous for dogs.)

Turn on, tune in, drop out of your seat: Denying the existence of systematic racism on national television?

This Cow does not watch much television, because she has a rather short attention span, and a lot of what she might see would make her a Constantly Choleric Cow instead of a merely gently Complaining one. So she missed the original television programme that caused one human to write the following letter on 14 November 2009 to local newspaper The Straits Times' Forum page:
How did ethnic stereotype go unflagged?

I WAS appalled when last Friday's prime-time drama series of MediaCorp's vernacular Channel 8, Daddy At Home, scripted in an ethnic stereotype.

Colleagues of the title character (played by Li Nanxing) joked that they should start calling him 'Aminah' as his character's job was reduced to a cleaner. The nonchalance with which the name of a Malay woman is used interchangeably with the role of a cleaner is insensitive and has encouraged in the popular imagination the equation of Malays to occupations of low income and menial labour.

How could such a glaring comment have passed the stages of checks, if any? Would the actors and crew on location not have realised this during filming as well?

I am a teacher, and such ethnic stereotyping worries me. Children who watch these shows are exposed to potentially racist sentiments which they could easily replicate in the classroom and in their interactions with children of different races.

Chow Pei Sze (Miss)
A week later, on 26 November 2009, what should this Cow see but the following response from another member of the public that made her spit out her half-chewed cud in incredulity and outrage:
MR ALARIC NG: 'Miss Chow Pei Sze ('How did ethnic stereotype go unflagged?' Nov 14) was outraged over a stereotypical reference on MediaCorp's popular Channel 8 series, Daddy At Home. She saw it as a racial slur. Certainly, stereotypes are wrong and should be discouraged. But why must every show be an educational lesson? Why can't we just appreciate a show's creativity and not disparage parts we find disagreeable? The show's characters could have been scripted to say what they did because the words reflected their personalities. What Miss Chow found outrageous, I found innocuous. Moreover, expressions, offensive or not, expose today's youth to how the real world behaves. Better to let them know than cloister them in politically correct ignorance.'
Let's try to work out what Mr Ng is actually trying to say in his pithy missive, shall we?

1) "But why must every show be an educational lesson?"
"Why must your inconvenient questioning of widely-perpetuated, tired, old racial stereotypes and pointing out of the underlying racism interfere with my mindless enjoyment of a TV show?"

2) "Why can't we just appreciate a show's creativity and not disparage parts we find disagreeable? The show's characters could have been scripted to say what they did because the words reflected their personalities."
"This is arts and entertainment! It's the writers' job to reflect the real, diverse personalities we encounter in our everyday lives. Of course, in my everyday life, I only encounter nosey Indian shopkeepers, incompetent Malay police officers, evil mother-in-laws, helpless disabled people, meek victimised wives.* In my real world, no one ever questions casual and systematic racism. In my real world, no one whose skin is brown could ever do jobs other than cleaning, and in my real world, cleaners should be looked down upon because they're so lazy and stupid, that must be the only reason why they ended up doing that job, plus they are dirty! (Of course they are, after a whole day of being on their feet cleaning up after the mess I leave at food centres.)"
* I know these stereotypical characters have been inflicted upon TV viewers over the years; but the Police & Thief and Little Nonya examples were the only ones where I actually remembered the name of the offending TV show. Please comment below this post if you know of the others; I am nothing if not an assiduous striver for complete references sources.

3) "The show's characters could have been scripted to say what they did because the words reflected their personalities." ... "Moreover, expressions, offensive or not, expose today's youth to how the real world behaves. Better to let them know than cloister them in politically correct ignorance."
"The writers can be content just to reflect our own racism and prejudices back at us, and neither question them, directly or indirectly, nor offer countervailing examples and influences. Because the youth never observe such racist behaviour in the Real World, TV must shove it in their faces, otherwise they will grow up thinking that everyone is accepted and respected for who they are, instead of being treated as inferior for some innate qualities that they were born with! And they might grow up thinking the former is how they should treat other people, and that would be bad because then I wouldn't be able to comfortably enjoy my mindless, offensive TV shows!"

4) "What Miss Chow found outrageous, I found innocuous."
"Because I am a Chinese person*, and the offensiveness of such remarks don't touch me personally! (And the privilege of being in the majority race has nothing to do with this! I am only an objective TV viewer!) I can't see why they should touch anyone else?? Or maybe, what I am saying is, I don't care if you are offended by racism???"
* "Ng" is a Chinese surname common in Singapore.

++++++++++++++

The question of what constitutes offensive remarks (whether meant in jest or otherwise), and whether they should be allowed in national media, is one that vexes other societies too. This is natural as the composition and values of societies change over time. However, an acknowledgement that there should be debate over the acceptability of certain forms of humour is not the same as a blanket dismissal that we should question the acceptability of offensive humour at all, which is what Mr Alaric Ng is advocating.

Some of those examples linked in the preceding paragraph were of jokes made at the expense of marginalised groups with direct reference to the very fact of their marginalisation; others were at the expense of certain individuals, which made them specifically offensive about those individuals, as well as pointing to underlying attitudes towards certain social groups that those individuals belonged to.

However, there are some notable points to be observed about the response to the complaints of offensiveness:

1) There was a formal mechanism provided by the media organisation by which complaints by members of the public against media content could be lodged, recorded and addressed by the organisation. MediaCorp Singapore does not provide such a formal mechanism (or if it does, it is a very well-kept secret that Google is unable to ferret out, and if Google can't find it, it doesn't exist on the internet rite???), which is why Ms Chow Pei Sze had to write in to the ST Forum to get her views heard.

2) There was a willingness to acknowledge that offense could be taken (i.e., that not all arts and entertainment content exists in a value-less vacuum where anything can be said or done as long as it entertains some people), and that the offended person did have a right to be offended, and to express that he/she was offended. Instead, we have people like Mr Ng writing in to ST Forum to tell us we shouldn't be offended, and that we should just shut up if we are.

3) The organisation responsible for producing the offensive content apologised. In Singapore, the usual way for private citizens to air protests against organisations (from the government to media to private companies) is by writing a letter to the ST Forum, and the usual way for organisations to respond, whether to defend themselves or apologise, is to reply via the ST Forum. (Strange, I know; we let a commercial newspaper with well-known pro-government biases be the mainstream medium for our civic discourse.) MediaCorp Singapore has not issued a formal response to Miss Chow's letter (neither in ST nor on its own website), let alone a formal apology for this and the many other instances of racist, sexist, classist and homophobic representation that abound in its programmes.

Stereotypes say less about the people who are purportedly portrayed by the fictional characters, and more about the producers of the media content and their cloistered interactions with and close-minded attitudes towards people. Such representation is offensive not only to the groups which are made fun of, but damage our society when they become a crutch which props up our impaired interactions with people who are different from us, and obscure our ability to relate with people on the terms of who they actually are, rather than social groups of which they have membership.

Besides, unquestioned stereotypes which are hackneyed and stale embody the complete opposite of creative humour. In this specific instance, MediaCorp Singapore should apologise for its racism, but that's only the first step to correcting the many, many howlers it has perpetuated. The next step is to hire better writers, and really push them to create humour which doesn't rely on slurs against already marginalised groups to draw laughs out of the audience.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Burning injustice

Click here for more extraordinarily upsetting pictures of women in Pakistan who have had acid thrown over them for (variously) refusing demands to marry, disagreeing with family members, and in one case, after being raped.

These women now face hardship and social ostracism: their attackers' judgment that they were less-than, not-human, is now branded on their faces, and will be shared by so many whom they encounter.

And the people who do this, the people who enable it, the people who tolerate it, the people who excuse or apologise for it, the people who promote a culture which normalises treating women as second class or as rightfully directed by the will of their husbands, brothers, uncles or fathers?

Nothing. They go scot-free.
Since 1994, a Pakistani activist who founded the Progressive Women’s Association (www.pwaisbd.org) to help such women “has documented 7,800 cases of women who were deliberately burned, scalded or subjected to acid attacks, just in the Islamabad area. In only 2 percent of those cases was anyone convicted.”

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Protocols of the Elders of Gayism

Your friendly resident farmer has received the following message from Jewish Goose, local representative of the shadowy international cabal of international financiers who provide monetary backing for the farm. I have been instructed to reproduce this eerie communication in full.

+++

Message from Jewish Goose begins:

HONK! HONK!!

I am enraged by this Solo Bear.

Not only is he stealing my HTML formatting practices, he is exposing all my secrets.

It is I! I who teach the gays and gayists to howl! I who control the family-busting feminists! (You don't think they can think for themselves do you?) I hate families, I want all happy families to break up! I want everyone to have anal sex! NOW!

Especially teenagers, who must all be made to marry and then divorce and then have anal sex in front of me.

I am enraged because Solo Bear is exposing all my secrets. But how can he know them?

He must have stolen my Protocols of the Elders of Gayism.

He must be punished!

Maybe I can take away his free speech. I will censor him. First I will set up a whole new blog which never existed before, and then I will moderate all his comments to oppress him.

Or maybe I will just shit on his head.

Take that, you unaccompanied ursidae!
[ETA: Complaining Cow informs that the bird's dropping looked too much like a sunny-side up, so we had Designer Donkey revise the picture to less uncertain terms. If it looks like ham and eggs, that's because it *was* ham and eggs pre-digestion.]

Public Service Announcement: No To Rape Petition Ending!

Following our badly drawn friend's post on seeking immediate help for rape, I'm reminded to make a belated public service announcement.

Firstly, on behalf of all the friends on the farm, I would like to give thanks to the good people at No To Rape for both their efforts in forwarding the important cause of recognising marital rape, and giving us a blog mention.

We on the farm are very honoured to be able to forward conversations on rape culture extant in Singapore--a phenomenon that has really caught us by surprise and disturbed us when it finally reared its unabashedly ugly, misogynistic and abhorrent head since the campaign caught the attention of the Singapore blogosphere.

Secondly, No To Rape will end its petition come 30 November 2009, Monday. That's just three days left for us to spread the message! Please visit the site and sign the petition if you haven't already. (Make sure your friends, family and pets have done it too!)

I reproduce all three of their advertisement videos:





SIGN PETITION!

What to do if you're raped in Singapore.

ETA 23 July 2011: We regret to inform that Police Posts at the hospitals have been removed (cf. Straits Times, 15 July 2011, "All 6 hospital police posts closed down", Mavis Toh).
=====


In this Porkchop's continued badly drawn efforts to bring you information you might need in case of emergency, I'm going to provide some porcine-weight, choi-ke-lei resources on seeking help in the event of rape or sexual assault, for all women and girls in Singapore.

Rape and sexual assault victims, I think, mostly don't think or know that they're going to be victimised like that. So it can happen to anyone.

A-N-Y-O-N-E!

I'll begin by first revisiting some knowledge shared by Ms Braema Mathi of the estimable Marauh in one of the videos by the No To Rape people, which strangely hasn't seen much circulation from the campaign:

It is important... to be timely and to keep evidence. Don't immediately have a bath. The natural instinct is to scrub yourself clean. Try and call a friend quickly, go to the doctor. Best to go to an emergency unit, because if you go to a GP, from a GP again you have to go to an emergency department.

Once you enter the hospital system, it is very good. The emergency doctors been trained. most hospital you will notice have a little police post [Ed: Please see update above] there... The link will be made. We have a rape investigation squad within the police force. And you'll find that the link will go back to the investigation squad and a lady will come up.

1) Kandang Kerbau (KK) Women's and Children's Hospital. Go To KKH immediately if you can.

Singapore's KKH specialises in WOMEN'S and children's health and support. A cursory search of their website reveals that they boost an "emergency obstetric & gynaecological consultations at KK Hospital's Women's 24-Hour Clinic". They also have a Medical Social Work that offers crisis intervention to "deal with trauma cases such as sexual assault, spousal violence, child abuse and attempted suicide".

Already, a lot of hospitals refer patients to KKH for when they need expert help in dealing with women health issues, so it is this Porkchop's conjecture that KKH will be the best place to seek help, though any emergency ward near would be just as good.

2) Get to the hospital! The point is to get into the hospital system quickly, so that the victim can quickly get the support and help she needs.

3A) Declare, Disease and Document. Declare the assault, check for disease and document all injuries.

In order for the medical professionals and social services to help effectively, victims are going to need to trust the system. It's going to be tough getting this to come out, but learn now that victims must tell the medical professionals what happened in no uncertain terms; even professionals need reminding since they don't receive rape victims every day. Declare the assault, demand tests for sexually transmitted diseases, and request that all your injuries and tests be documented so that evidence is kept as well.

3B) Emergency Contraceptive. EC, also known as the morning-after pill.

Our commenter kindly reminds us EC should be on the table. (We're not sure if these are offered to victims, but they are inexpensive and quite reliable if administered within a 72 hour post-incident window. Obviously, the sooner the better. [Hattip anonymous reader!]

Again, this is a very difficult process to undertake after suffering the trauma of assault, so I highly recommend thinking about the next idea.

4) Find The Friend. Establish some informed support points.

A radical idea for all my female hairless apes earth inhabitants, talk to one or two close friends or family members about emergency situations. Make a pact, who will help you, what must be done (e.g. where to seek help, 'Declare, Disease and Document', etc) and entrust each other to provide the immediate support you need if something bad happens. Under these dire circumstances, it might be better to depend on The Friend to take the necessary steps for you.

Increasingly we make deals with spouses and friends about death and incapacitation arrangements, so consider this another contingency.

5) Marital Rape. Report your having been assaulted anyway!

Even if marital rape is still not a fucking crime in Singapore, the medical experts and police can and probably will collect all the evidence and statements they need so that they may find other ways to nail the perpetrator. Though the obvious barrier will be actually mustering the power to reveal the information first.

6) Confidentiality. Your information will be kept confidential.

Medical and law enforcement agents are bound by a duty of confidentiality, so trust that what you tell them will be kept absolutely confidential.

+++

KK Hospital Women's and Children's Hospital
100 Bukit Timah Road
Main Line (24-hrs) - (65) 6293 4044

+++
Social Service for Violence

If you're experiencing family/ spousal violence of any sorts and need assistance, please contact these people:

Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Violence (PAVe)

Blk 211 Ang Mo Kio Ave 3 #01-1446 Singapore 560211

Operating Hours:
Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays & Fridays: 9.00am - 6.00pm
Wednesdays: 9.00am - 9.30pm (6.30pm - 9.30pm by appointment only)
Saturdays, Sundays & Public Holidays: Closed

Tel : 6555 0390
Email : admin@pavecentre.org.sg

+ OR +

Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE)

Block 5 Dover Crescent #01-22, Singapore 130005

Tel : 6779 7137
Helpline : 1800-774-5935 (Mon-Fri, 1500hrs to 2130hrs)
Email : helpline@aware.org.sg

+++
Personal Protection Orders (PPO)

You can take out a PPO at the Magistrate Court or at one of the other 4 link centres. Learn more about taking out the PPO. I can't quite figure out the fee system, except that it's $1 for each summon issuance, but if I recall correctly, Minister of Law, Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee, claimed that it should be about 8 dollars to file a PPO.

From the website:

"If you have any police or medical reports, you should bring these with you. However, you do not need to have copies of such reports to file an application for a personal protection order."

"The Protection Order Services unit will arrange for the personal service of the summons on the Respondent by a Court process server at the address provided by you in your Magistrate’s Complaint."

+++

Be kind, pass this along to a friend or family member, and be well.

My recipe for This Befuddling Gay Love (AKA "How do you know you're gay?").

This set of pork trotters hasn't seen much keyboard action lately because they've been busy wandering the outer limits of the farm seeking solace. The truth is, Porkchop here is in a badly drawn state of mind due to affairs of this pig's heart. A heart that he's seriously considering serving to his readers in a double-boiler, brewed with dried dates, Chinese lycium and aged ginseng.

It might be broken, but damn will it taste good...

The topic of gay love, or rather the question "How do you know you're gay?", is a constant point of interest for the new animals and people this pig constantly meets at his socials. So while in this pensive, lovelorn mood, I think I'll take this mopey opportunity to share with our dear readers--those of non-gay, but inquisitive persuasions--my recipe for This Befuddling Gay Love (AKA "How do you know you're gay").

I shall refer to the first time I fell in love.


Ingredients
1 x Pig A - Gay male, unfeminist and badly drawn pig,
1 x Pig B - Male pig (preferably gay; but unfeminist and badly drawn optional),

(For taste)
A lot of Time
A lot of Patience

Step 1: Discovering Pig B.
One pig has to discover the other pig. This occurs in various permutations: at work, socials, schools, random places, on the Charlotte's Interwebz, etc.

In this case, I met Pig B at work. He used to bother me all the time because he was annoyingly free and needed to skive outside of his own office. We talked a bit but I was always too busy to entertain him for extended periods, so it took months before we became slow and unexpected friends.

Step 2: Getting to Know You
*cue music*

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me.
Getting to know you, putting it in my way but nicely,
You are precisely my cup of tea.

Getting to know you, getting to feel free and easy,
When I am with you, getting to know what to say.
Haven't you noticed, suddenly I'm bright and breezy?
Because of all the beautiful and new things
I'm learning about you
Day by day.


Step 3: Think of You, Much?
This is an extremely delicate part of the process, and well difficult to master.

I started to think about Pig B a lot, but with a very curious and serious intensity that I have never cultivated for any of my other close friends--and I have a couple of them, both male and female, porcine and otherwise. It didn't occur to me that it was happening until I began to notice how I'm asking him out a lot, text messaging him countless times a day, and would be surprised or worried if I didn't hear from him at all. The times when we weren't together, I wondered how he was doing.

For the first time, I felt like I irrationally missed someone a lot. It was a very confusing time, not because I suspected that I was in love with him--no inkling whatsoever, but because I already knew when we were going to meet and when we weren't, so what's up with all this anticipation and missing?

Step 4: Figuring out.
This is actually a two-part process.

The first part is talking it out with others. Because I hadn't any experience in this arena prior to this, and I had no particular sexual attraction to either the male or female species, I couldn't recognise the signs. But when my constant minding became apparent to other friends, some suggested to me that maybe I was in love with Pig B!

Good brown chocolate bunnies in the sky!

I R IN LUV!?!?!?11111!ONE!!ELEVENTY1111!!

What does that even mean!?!??! I had to know, so I queried a lot of people from my extended network to tell me their experiences of falling in love, and how they knew when they had non-platonic attraction for someone.

Then you come to some realisation: I have never met anyone else whom I felt such warmth, care and concern for. Never felt like I needed that person so much that it was unbearable not having him in my life. Our casual touch was very different in effect. It didn't give me Porkchop wood, but it transmitted a strange sense of comfort and joy that made me quite unreasonably want to always be some contact.

It never crossed my mind that I'd want to have sex with him at all. I couldn't! The sense of belonging just felt so pure, yet at the same time so different. To say he didn't turn me on is untrue, but he just didn't turn me on that raw, sexual level.

Step 5: Head-on Collision (Optional).
This is not recommended for the faint of heart. Actually, it isn't recommended at all for anyone, although I do think it really does make one confront the reality of the attraction, and dare I say it, of love.

Pig B began his attraction for a pig--not me, some other pig. I couldn't do anything. When I saw them together holding trotters, I quietly left the vicinity for some other place, where I ended up sobbing uncontrollably.

I fully realised then that I wanted to be that pig with which he would hold trotters. With that, I knew I was madly and deeply in love with Pig B.

Step 6: Realising You're Gay
This might seem misplaced a step, but trust me it isn't. You often don't consider the socio-political aspects of your fondness for someone while you're in the throes of it. It took me a long time before I finally came to grasp that all my emotional up's and down's was emblematic of a greater fight for acceptance in a culture that longs to eradicate every trace of experiences others may have similar to mine--not only to prevent the sort of heartaches unrequited love imposes, but even those that actually bloom fairy-tale results of happily ever after.

The realisation of my being gay is sadly fortified by the fact that there will always be people who are never sure that you are gay. Not because you look like everyone else, but for reasons like they think you are just rebelling, incapable of effectively controlling your urges, haven't met the right opposite sex partner, have had a terrible childhood, are perverted, have taken on the wrong path, etc.

Realising that you're gay is realising that there always will be people who don't want you in their families, circle of friends, military, religious institutions, organisations and countries. People don't hate you, they just hate your lifestyle.

And if you can handle all that...

*ta-da*

You're now gay!

(Gotcha!)

Well, not really.

You'd have only figured out somewhat how my gay love works and what makes me gay... My story isn't going to be representative of every gay person's discovery of hir own sexual inclinations. I speak only for me, but I do hope it lends some clues nevertheless that I think the point is this: gay love is very much like straight love, in both its common uneventfulness but brilliant, warm, fuzzy splendour.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hatefest

Some days the Straits Times Forum is like a can of Pringles: once you pop, you can't stop.

The contribution from the lovely Marcus Foo was accompanied by not one, not two, but three letters about those most browbeaten, abused, exploited, voiceless members of Singaporean society... yes, I'm talking about the employers of migrant domestic workers (MDWs).

My favourite is this heart-rending vignette from one Madam Patricia Koh. Cue the violins, folks:
Recently, I hired a Filipino maid. After two months, a relative saw her going out without our permission when we were all at work. When questioned, she gave the excuse of running some errands. Later, neighbours told us they had seen her behaving intimately with a foreign worker a couple of times. We also found a list of men's names and contact numbers in her purse. We sent the maid back to the agency immediately. To our dismay, in less than three days, the agency found her a new employer. The new employer had accepted her without knowing her background. I am angry with the maid agency and worried for the new employer. Is there a government channel for employers to share particulars of undesirable maids so other employers can be forewarned?
What I learned from this letter was that I have completely misunderstood the entire institution that is the 'maid' industry. All this while, I thought that MDWs were hired in order to clean and cook, tend to children and pets and the elderly perhaps, maybe even in some cases help with household errands like shopping.

It appears that I have been poorly served by my Magical brain. In fact, I understand from Madam Koh, MDWs are hired in order that they may be rigidly confined to one building at all hours; to be kept from associating with or - horrors - collecting the contact details of any other human beings, particularly men; and to avoid any acts of personal intimacy with any other persons whatsoever. Moreover, should a worker fail in any of these duties to one employer, it is inconceivable that another employer might be happy to simply accept her as a cook, cleaner or carer.

MDWs are, in fact, hired to be inert temples of chastity, and once they have failed to perform this function to the satisfaction of one person, they should find no employ anywhere else.

Prior to the publication of this enlightening letter the Magical Chicken had naively believed that the abuse of MDWs might be a side effect of the position of dependence in which they find themselves while employed to be cooks, cleaners and carers. Madam Patricia Koh makes it clear, however, that abuse, dehumanisation and indeed slavery are not accidental defects of the practice of hiring MDWs. They are, for people like her, the whole point.

No worries there, my friend

In the Straits Times Forum, Marcus Foo worries that "'consent' [will] trump what society perceives as morally bad behaviour":
I REFER to Mr Alvin Chen's letter last Monday, 'Give courts more sentencing discretion'. This was in response to Mr Vikram Ranjan Ramasamy's letter, 'Decriminalise consensual underage sex' (Nov 13).

Allowing 'consent' to trump what society perceives as morally bad behaviour is to undermine society's right to enforce its moral determinations. This was an issue that Lord Patrick Devlin addressed his mind to in his essay, The Enforcement Of Morals.
He speaks, of course, of the current hot topic of kiddies bonking (on which see also Badly Drawn Pig and my all-important Magical reminder to adults, "Don't fuck children.")

Marcus is bothered by the possibility that our society prizes sexual consent too highly, to the extent that morally dubious practices will be sanctified in its name.

But he really needn't fret. A large strand of Singaporean society fails entirely to grasp the idea that the flesh of the Magical Chicken is to be directed by the will of the Magical Chicken alone. This incomprehension expresses itself not only in Marcus Foo's inability to describe the puzzling and unreal concept of "consent" without quotation marks, but also in our Penal Code.

Mostly the Penal Code quite sensibly tells adults not to fuck children, but it makes some exceptions to this, which the No To Rape blog lays out in lawyerspeak with nifty bolding:
(1) Section 376A(4), which grants immunity from this offence when a girl under the age of 16 says “yes” to sex with her husband.

(2) Section 376A(5), which grants immunity from this offence, even in situations where a 13-, 14- or 15-year-old girl has said “no” to her husband.
Get that? It's okay to fuck your 13 year old wife with consent. It's also okay to fuck your 13 year old wife without consent. In other words, consent means fuck-all.

Far from consent "trumping" morally bad behaviour, what we see here is the almighty and unquestionable right of the husbandly penis to access the wifely vagina trumping any idea of consent. A mere weeping girl-child won't stop a man from having his due.

So Marcus Foo needn't worry that bodily autonomy is anywhere but in its rightful, subordinate place in Singapore.

What he really should worry about is his own tendency to write torturously overlong sentences like this:
Alternatively, if one can show that as a matter of statistical probability, sexual activity at this age results in an aversion to deepening the commitment of a relationship via the institution of marriage, or that it affects an individual's psyche in the perception of the value of commitment, then in so far as the institution of marriage or the value of commitment is regarded as a moral good that society embraces, one could also find oneself somewhat persuaded that the law should remain.
Not only do I vigorously withhold my consent from this painful contortion of the English language, I also deem it morally bad.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The world hates women


The world hates women.

That can be the only plausible explanation for the invention of this device, described as an "internal bra" (via Echidne).
The internal bra is a harness-like device is inserted under the skin using a local anaesthetic. The procedure should also be cheaper than a traditional breast lift, which costs around £4,000 and often requires an overnight stay in hospital.

It is similar in shape to a fabric bra, but is made of silicone, the plastic already used in breast implants.

Surgeons make two tiny cuts less than a centimetre wide underneath each breast.

Silicone cups like the ones used in a traditional uplift bra are then are then inserted around 1cm below the skin.

Then surgeons fit fine straps made from a strong material that will hold the bra in place without it sagging These are attached to the ribs between the breast and the shoulder with a pair of titanium screws.
Pardon me. I had hoped to have something suitably Magically incisive to say, but after reading that description I need to go throw up for a bit.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

You won't be needing that

Just before the MARUAH Open House to which my porcine friend alludes below, at the same venue, MARUAH is also hosting a session on the education of children with disabilities:
At this stage, we hope to garner support for children with physical disabilities to be included in Singapore’s Compulsory Education Act. This is also in line with the Convention on the Rights of Children, which Singapore is a signatory party. We also hope to gather comments and feedback on special education in Singapore.

Facilitator: Ms Braema MathiAgenda for the Focus Group discussion:

1. Presentation of MARUAH’s paper on Compulsory Education for Children with Disabilities
2. Feedback from the participants on the paper
3. Any other issues or concerns of the participants

We are looking for the following Focus Group participants:

a) Any individuals with disabilities (physical and/or intellectual)
b) Parents of children with disabilities (physical and/or intellectual)
c) Educators of children with disabilities
d) Educators of non-disabled children
e) Members of VWOs focused on individuals with disabilities
f) Any other concerned individuals with experience in this area
Compulsory education is intended to ensure every child who falls within its purview is equipped with some of the basic skills and knowledge needed for them to participate in society. This Magical Chicken finds it difficult to comprehend why children with disabilities shouldn't have the same right to education as other children, and for the same purpose.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nov 28: Maruah Open House.

(I'm not sure how Maruah is holding an "open house", since I don't recall them actually being physically housed anywhere. Still, what does a porcine know, right?)

For the uninitiated, Maruah is Singapore Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism. Led by ex-NMP Braema Mathi, the committee includes other named figured like gay activist Alex Au, CEO of Fridae.com Dr Stuart Koe, ex-NMP Siew Kum Hong, former-Law Society President, Peter Cuthbert Low, former-journo and current NTU lecturer Dr Cherian George, etc.

The point is that Maruah does very good and very important work in the advancement of human rights in Singapore, and they need more hands on board to assist in future work! From the website:
Date: 28th Nov 09, Saturday
Time: 4-6pm
Venue: Training Room 2, SCWO Building (Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations)
96 Waterloo Street
Click here for map (gothere.sg)

Please RSVP to maruahsg@gmail.com. Thanks and we hope to see you there.

As MARUAH looks to the year ahead, there is much work to be done. Human rights violations continue to occur unchecked locally and in our region. As a group we appeal for more hands and hearts on this. There are many issues of paramount urgency and this is where we want to engage everyone to see what other issues that could be explored.

This session is open to everyone – whether you’re a curious onlooker or you want to help out more in MARUAH’s activities. There is no obligation to continue on. More importantly, this session is for you to assess the opportunities for synergies between yourself and MARUAH.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Those deadly pincers

The Magical observation has previously been made that Family Valuez and Porn Nation are close allies in the war of Bullshit against humanity, and in particular against women.

The battles in this conflict, and other combatants, sometimes take unexpected forms. Consider this case from Zambia:
The trial of a news editor in Zambia, accused of distributing obscene material, is coming to an end. Chansa Kabwela says she sent photos of a woman giving birth without medical help to senior government officials to highlight the effects of a nurses' strike. [...]

So far, it has amounted to a succession of trembling ministerial secretaries expressing their humiliation and shock that a woman in childbirth, the most private moment of her life, had been photographed.

Shock, not over the fact that she had given birth in a hospital car park. Or that her baby had suffocated. But that the pictures had been seen by men - an absolute taboo.

This is not to say the photographs are not terrible. When I saw them, it took me several seconds to focus, as though my brain was refusing to process the images.

The most graphic shows a woman from the waist down, lying on a plastic sheet, with the bloodied torso of a baby between her thighs. The head is still inside her.

This is what Zambia's President, Rupiah Banda, declared pornographic, when he called for the photographer to be arrested. [...]

Fred Mmembe is the editor-in-chief of The Post newspaper. He hates the government and his paper shouts it loud and clear.

Stage whispers hint that he is the real target.
On the one hand, the idea that pictures of a woman giving birth are "obscene" or "pornographic" is unmitigated bullshit. You can only consider these visual images obscene, in the sense that traditional obscenity law means the term, if you consider the female body obscene - if, addled by dietary and atmospheric sexism, you are unable to look upon the vulva without reading it as sex.

The vulva is not sex. It is sometimes used by the woman to whom it belongs, in sex. But it is not, itself, sex.

So the dehumanising characterisation of pictures of childbirth as necessitating suppression because somehow of prurient interest and corrupting tendency is an anti-woman act, performed by a government - a familiar entity in the pantheon of oppressors - seemingly in order to suppress criticism of women's healthcare and the state of healthcare workers' rights. This is not intuitively difficult to grasp as potential institutional misogyny.

But wait a minute. On the other hand, these bold governmental critics, with their noble aims of spreading awareness of a vital political issue, and asserting their freedom of speech against the heavy arms of the state: surely they don't hate women too?

One issue which appears to have gone largely unreported in major newspapers is whether the woman whose suffering was to be the subject of this burning crusade for justice actually consented to the pictures being taken, or to their subsequent circulation.

If this was done against her will or without consultation, what the world has witnessed is the objectifying exploitation of her body, in a private moment, for a political cause. However well-intended that cause may be in principle, this Magical Chicken cannot help but wonder if it is making gains at the expense of a woman's dignity, or by positioning her as a pawn.

Unfairly terminated for being pregnant?

Just to quickly follow up on Poultrygeist's post on unfair job termination of pregnant mothers, there're some important points from the accompanying articles to note should any woman find herself in such a position.

(Please revisit Poultrygeist's post to see that you unfortunately have to be eligible for protection under the Employment Act first: be from "a managerial or an executive position who is in receipt of a salary not exceeding $2,500 a month (excluding overtime payments, bonus payments, annual wage supplements, productivity incentive payments and any allowance however described)".)

Advice from Straits Times:
If a woman loses her job while she is pregnant, she can file a complaint with the Labour Relations and Welfare Division of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) by making an e-appointment through its website or write in to MOM by fax, email or mail. An officer then fixes an interview.

- If she lost her job during the protection period as specified in the law, MOM conducts an inquiry. If the company is not able to show any just cause for the dismissal, it may be asked to reinstate or compensate the employee.

- If the woman was dismissed outside the protection period, she can still complain to MOM, which then conducts a conciliation meeting between employer and employee to help solve the the dispute.

(To lodge a complaint with MOM or for more information, call 6438 5122)

("The New Rules," Straits Times, 8 Nov 2009.)
Labour Relations and Welfare Division, MOM: mom_lrd@mom.gov.sg

Online appointment for Consultation on Employment Act: http://app.etools.mom.gov.sg/appointment.aspx (you can find this link under MOM > Workplace Relations and Standards > Employment Standards > e-Services and Forms.)

Importantly, please note that to launch a complaint, a termination letter is necessary. Apparently, the deadline to complain with MOM is "within one month of their notification of dismissal".

So starting from the day you are asked to leave, you have one month to get the termination letter (if you haven't received one already) in order to have MOM take up the case with your employer.

If you do not fall under the definition for eligibility, we on the farm advise that you contact MOM immediately and seek their advice anyway.

+++

ETA:

If you're queasy about going straight to MCYS, or wish for a legal opinion, you may wish to contact AWARE or Law Society of Singapore Pro Bono Services Office.

AWARE:
1800-774-5935 (Mon-Fri, 1500hrs to 2130hrs)
helpline@aware.org.sg
AWARE also runs a free monthly legal clinic that will possibly give you some advice--every second Thursday of the month.

Law Society of Singapore:
6536-0650 (Mon-Fri, 0900hrs to 1745hrs)
ProBonoServices@lawsoc.org.sg
There's also a whole list of legal aid clinics that you can find at the Community Legal Clinic.

Friday, November 13, 2009

This is not love

In a rather awful news story from today, a man, expecting to be divorced from his wife, decided to kill his children, destroy the family home, and then kill himself.
[Ng Chee Kiang] is believed to have killed the children before setting fire to the living room of the flat at 9.50pm. [...]

Strangulation marks were found on the boy's neck while the girl had bruises on her face.

Their little bodies were found lying side by side on their parents' bed, covered with a blanket.

The relative, who was unnamed in the Lianhe Wanbao report, said the couple, who had been married for nine years, started having relationship problems about a year ago.

"Whenever they quarrelled or fought, Ng would say to his wife, 'If I leave, I will take our children along,' " said the relative. [...]

[...] It is believed that the couple had discussed getting a divorce and Ng was worried he would not get custody of the children. [...]

According to the relative, Ng loved her a lot and always gave in to her.

Neighbours also said that the family was close-knit and that Ng doted on his children. He would buy them whatever toys they wanted.

If Ng had been feeling depressed when he texted his brother three months ago, his mood seemed to have changed about a month ago.

While attending a niece's birthday party, he told his brothers: "I've already learnt to accept it. If she wants a divorce, I'll agree to it."

It is not known what transpired since then which led himto decide to carry out his horrific deed.
Neighbours thought he doted on the children. What did the children think?

A "relative" said Ng "loved [Anni Ong Lay Choo, his wife] a lot" and "always gave in to" her. What does Ong herself think?

This is a man who, let's just be clear here, killed his own children in brutal and painful ways. Had he ever been violent to them, or to his wife, in the past?

I write this to make the point that there is an approximately Airbus-sized gulf between (1) loving your children, and (2) prizing your possession and control of them to the point of killing them to maintain it. Many people love their spouses and children, and suffer great anguish at the thought of being parted from them, without concluding that their children's lives are worthless unless they have custody, and that their spouse's feelings are meaningless if they don't remain married, and that murder is therefore an appropriate way in which to express themselves.

This man's behaviour is not an expression of love and does not indicate that he was a loving father and husband. (He might have been in the past. But killing his kids is evidence against, rather than for, it.)

It is very sad that he was in such despair as to kill himself. I just do not accept the picture being painted of his life at home.

Though I am but a Chicken, I would like to offer my best wishes to the families of the deceased.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"A response to atrocity denied"

In her essay Women's Status, Men's States, Catharine MacKinnon writes about human rights as "a response to an atrocity denied".

She could very easily have been writing about discussions of marital rape in Singapore. I've Magically added bold bits. Watch out, it's a lot of text.
Before atrocities are recognized as such, they are authoritatively regarded as either too extraordinary to be believable or too ordinary to be atrocious. If the events are considered socially unusual, the fact that they happened is denied in specific instances; if they are regarded as usual, the fact that they are violating is denied: if it's happening, it's not so bad, and if it's really bad, it isn't happening. The given status of a certain people is seen as tautologous with, even justified by, the deprivations of their human rights. Law often collaborates by making an unusual or extreme form of a common violation illegal, so that what is illegal almost never happens, yet the law appears to stand against the violation. Victims are thereby ideologically rendered appropriate to their treatment, the unequal treatment serving to confirm their ontological status as lesser humans. When nothing is done, the treatment, and social status accordingly, confirm and create who one is. Legally, one is less than human when one's violations do not violate the human rights that are recognized. Acts common in human experience, such as rape in war and rape in peace, have been beneath serious notice because they are so familiar, while acts that are uncommon, like the Nazi's industrial murder and the Serbs' industrial rape, have been beyond belief. While disbelief and associated impunity reign, the violated are--systematically and effectively speaking--rendered not fully human legally or socially. When and where this denial is overcome the rights against the extreme and the normal are recognized, the treatment is defined as inhuman and the victims human. Women are in the midst of this process.
Did you catch all that? Familiar, isn't it? Many opponents of No To Rape argue:

  • All men regularly fuck their wives without consent (it's the only way sex could happen, with those selfish bitches), so it's no big deal - how dare the state intrude in the bedroom! ("if it's happening, it's not so bad")
  • Only rape with further accompanying violence counts as rape, and that is both vanishingly rare and already comprehensively dealt with; ("if it's really bad, it's not happening")
  • The law already acts against all those rapes where women employed telepathic powers and their infinite legal savvy to get a protection order prior to the rape happening. ("Law [...] collaborates by making an unusual or extreme form of a common violation illegal")

    The reason why they make these arguments is that in their view there is no need for the law to treat the rape of women as the punishable violation of human beings. In their view, women are not fully human. Moreover, they make the arguments specifically in order to maintain a law which prevents women from obtaining fully human status in society.

    This is why many of them bring up Geylang at every conceivable opportunity. Because that goes to the interest of an actual human being in the equation, i.e. a man. What's really important here, and needs protection, is the male right to ejaculate, whenever he chooses, into a vagina. That the vagina happens, typically, to be attached to a woman, with all sorts of troublesome notions about wishing to control her own body, is perceived by them as unfortunate and inconvenient. And they want the law to continue to agree.
  • Monday, November 9, 2009

    the lady doth protest too much?

    This article had this phantasmal feathered fowl gobbling with indignation.

    We at the Barnyard Chorus and/or our partners (including, but not limited to) the porcine (badly drawn or otherwise), bovine, feline and canine may at some point make the decision to have some babies. This is of course the personal choice of each Animal. This Turkey may or may not be a figment of your imagination (or a terror that flaps in the night - whichever you prefer) but it feels that this is a most pertinent and systemic lacuna which needs to be addressed immediately.

    Actually, this Phantom Fowl sees two levels of indirect discrimination here, one not as visible as the other.

    1. Termination of employment when pregnant

    Prior to the new baby bonus scheme coming into effect, many people voiced their concerns that the additional cost to the employer (i.e. longer maternity leave) under the new measures would adversely affect working women who were pregnant. The law as it currently stands is as follows (taken from the Employment Act, Chapter 91):

    "Right to benefit unaffected by notice of dismissal given without sufficient cause

    84.—(1) Without prejudice to sections 81 and 84A, no notice of dismissal given without sufficient cause by an employer to a female employee which —

    (a) if given before 31st October 2008, is given —

    (i) within a period of 3 months preceding the estimated delivery date for her confinement (as certified by a medical practitioner); or
    (ii) within a period of 3 months preceding the date of her confinement; or

    (b) if given on or after 31st October 2008, is given —
    (i) within a period of 6 months preceding the estimated delivery date for her confinement (as certified by a medical practitioner); or
    (ii) within a period of 6 months preceding the date of her confinement,

    shall have the effect of depriving her of any payment to which, but for that notice, she would have been entitled or would, on or before the date of her confinement, have become entitled to under this Part.
    " (underlining mine)

    Essentially, before 31 October 2008, you could be given a notice of dismissal at any time for whatever reason until the end of your 6th month of pregnancy and not be entitled to claim any maternity benefits. This has since been revised in Section 84(1)(b). As it stands, on or after 31 October 2008, if a woman is given a notice of dismissal (for whatever reason) within the first 3 months of pregnancy, she would not be entitled to claim any maternity benefits.

    But this necessarily begs the question - what would constitute "sufficient cause"? Would it not be simple to make an allegation of poor performance? Unlike the UK or say, Canada both of which have a procedure for redress for instances of both direct and indirect forms of discrimination via an independent Employment Tribunal, I believe (and please correct me if i'm wrong) that the only recourse women in Singapore have when faced with this situation is to send a complaint to the Ministry of Manpower which will then investigate the matter [summary available on MOM's website - props for covering single mothers though, yay!]

    Regardless, I do not believe this is sufficient as no information is given to help the aggrieved person determine what constitutes an unfair dismissal.

    My second issue is this:

    2. Who is covered by the Employment Act?

    Only people who are covered under the Employment Act have the above recourse if their employment has been unjustifiably terminated. Taken from Section 2 of the Employment Act (Chapter 91):


    "employee" means a person who has entered into or works under a contract of service with an employer and includes a workman, and any officer or employee of the Government included in a category, class or description of such officers or employees declared by the President to be employees for the purposes of this Act or any provision thereof, but does not include —
    (a) any seaman;
    (b) any domestic worker;
    (c) subject to subsection (2), any person employed in a managerial or an executive position; and
    (d) any person belonging to any other class of persons whom the Minister may, from time to time by notification in the Gazette, declare not to be employees for the purposes of this Act;"

    (underlining mine)

    And what does sub-section (2) say?

    "(2) Any person employed in a managerial or an executive position who is in receipt of a salary not exceeding $2,500 a month (excluding overtime payments, bonus payments, annual wage supplements, productivity incentive payments and any allowance however described), or such other amount as may be prescribed by the Minister, shall be regarded as an employee for the purposes of —

    (a) sections 20, 20A, 21, 22, 23 (read with section 10 or 11, as the case may be), 24, 25 and 34 and Parts XII to XVI (read with the Second and Third Schedules); and
    (b) such other provisions of this Act as the Minister may, by regulations, specify,


    and those provisions shall apply in relation to that person subject to such modification as may be prescribed. "
    (once again, underlining mine)

    What recourse do women, who find themselves in a situation where they have been terminated due to pregnancy but are in executive and/or managerial positions, earning more than $2,500 monthly have? According to the article, 75% of complaints received by MOM were from women who work in Small and Medium Enterprises. This fowl does wonder about who the remaining 25% were.


    *The Poultrygeist accepts all responsibility for this slightly disjointed post and the overwhelming legalese contained herein. Whoops!

    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    Nobody's perfect

    Really, nobody. I, for instance, despite my myriad virtues, have been known to fart.

    Occasional flatulence is the price we pay for eating and breathing and moving about in this material world as corporeal (or even Magical) beings. Our bodies process the stuff we take in, and our digestive system works on it, without our needing to consciously regulate the matter. Sometimes, toxic eruptions are the result.

    And likewise, as social creatures we encounter, every day, every second, multifarious and splendiferous examples of exclusion and marginalisation, ever-so-subtly presented as so fundamental a part of our world that we even come to believe the total opposite, that systems of domination that are well entrenched are somehow precious fragile crystals under threat. The concepts and beliefs and embedded valuations are so thoroughly built into the molecules of thoughtfood we consume that sometimes, we even swallow libels about ourselves.

    It is no wonder, then, that everyone - and I mean absolutely everyone - produces racist, sexist, ableist, heteronormative, cissexist and other verbal and behavioural flatulence from time to time. As long as we live in the world as it is, and put the crap into our brains that we do, our mental digestive processes will operate like an iron law. However loudly you declare yourself a liberal or a progressive, how many hours you spend doing activist and consciousness-raising work, whatever petitions you have signed or legislation you have campaigned against, you will still, sometimes, fart.

    Now, you have several choices as to how to react to this unavoidable truth.

    You can recognise the reality in which you live. You can do your best to avoid farting in company. If someone says, "Wow, that pongs," you can own up and apologise. You can do your best to avoid consuming specific foods that you notice encourage these gaseous emissions.

    Or you can go about farting gratuitously at everyone you meet, get defensive when you are called on it, and insist again and again that your shit just doesn't stink. "But I'm doing research into anti-fart food standards and technological advances! My fart physically cannot smell bad!"

    You might also throw up your hands and say, "There's no pleasing these people! What is the point of my work on air fresheners if people will still judge me as - ye gods - a farter?!?!?!? Will you only be happy if I wallow in guilt all the time?"

    To which I say, the point of trying to eliminate environmental contributions to smelly farts is not to prove your personal purity or vindicate your soul. The point of the work is the work itself, and if you believe otherwise, you are probably doing bad work. I for one am utterly uninterested in whether you enter into paroxysms of guilt after every poot: I am only interested in you taking actual steps to minimise the degree to which others face your shit.

    Nobody's perfect. But most of us could do something to be a hell of a lot better.

    What's in a number?

    This Cow was uncomplainingly chewing her cud of chocolate croissant and marble cake at breakfast this morning when she read about the Health Promotion Board's National Healthy Lifestyle Campaign: Know Your BMI, Know Your Risks. HPB's press release reveals this campaign to be overwhelmingly about "obesity and overweight issues" and "weight management" and how BMI "is used as a measurement tool to classify a range of health risk categories". There's even a whole website devoted to this magic number.

    There are many blogs and websites out there which explore the wider social context of, and experiences arising from the fixation of equating BMI to obesity to health or poorness thereof (Shapely Prose on our link sidebar is an excellent springboard). But this Cow fiddles around with numbers and statistical distributions for a good part of her waking hours, and something about the definition of the risk categories in the BMI, and the definition of obesity in general, strikes her as easy PR without proven improvements in public health outcome.

    Definitions of obesity based on percentile measures of a population distribution of height and weight are just that: percentiles. Percentiles are cut-off points which capture an arbitrary proportion of a population that fall above or below the cut-off point. A statement of fact, "X% of people are above Y kg in weight" tells you only that. What makes me healthy or not is a confluence of what genes I was born with and how I live, not my ranking in a statistical distribution that has not been shown to be clearly and simplistically linked to health outcomes. Since health risks and outcomes are affected by more complex factors and interactions than simple measurements of height and weight or the precise mathematical relationship between them that BMI represents, such measures on their own can't tell you much about an individual's health. "Do You Believe in Fairies, Unicorns, or the BMI?" has a more detailed analysis, and is written by an Actual Mathematician(TM)!

    Distributions are characterised not just by their mean, but by the variation about the mean. And when distributions measure some characteristics of a population, they change over time. Focusing on one soundbite-y measurement may be convenient for the HPB, but surely an event that promises to "come alive with activities and entertainment for employees and families" has space for ideas on how to be healthy other than trying as hard as you can to not be in that X% that weigh above Y kg?

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    Singapore Democratic Party's "Let's Talk" series.

    Since the Farmer's in the house, I figured I'll just let everyone know that there's a series of interviews showing on Youtube carried out by the Singapore Democratic Party.

    The inaugural episode interviews the face of Singapore LGBTQ activism, Alex Au, and the second has AWARE founder and long-time activist/ writer, Constance Singam, sharing her views on women and politics, political change, new media influence, etc.



    Responding to the interviewer's query on glass ceilings for women in Singapore politics, Singam says:
    There's a glass ceiling for both men and women in politics. It's not just women. It's more difficult for women. Women are interested; I'm not saying that women are not politically interested; they are, from my own experience, I see they're interested. When the need arises, they can be easily mobilised; they're there.

    But, their work, work in Singapore is about 16 hours a day, that alone can put impossible burdens on a person--man or a woman. Then you have the women who are married with children and who have a home to look after. So where is the energy and the time to go beyond that.

    Thirdly, we're confronted with the culture, and it's a very, very Asian culture. Which is strange, it seems to be more apparent in Singapore than in the region, like Indonesia and Malaysia, they're also very traditional, but they have more women in politics. Which is why I think one of the biggest problems in Singapore is that we have been de-politicised. (3 Nov 2009)
    (via Seelan Palay.)

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    People we love: Tegan & Sara

    It's a sad day for LGBTQ rights and human rights, as we here at the farm mourn over Maine's stupid, jack-assed decision to repeal a same-sex marriage law it passed one year ago. How a majority is able to have the power to vote and dictate the personal decisions and lives of minorities is something I'd never understand.

    So I thought I would inject some cheer by posting a video by one of my all-time favourite bands Tegan & Sara!!! Whooo!!

    If you don't know who Tegan & Sara are, they're a twin rock duo from Canada who are....wait for it...gay.

    OMFG LIKE WHAT!

    Yeap, and while they haven't hidden their sexuality from their fans, they haven't used it as a marketing gimmick either (*cough Katy Perry is fake and exploitative cough*).

    However, Tegan & Sara's sexuality (they're a lesbian rock band! lesbianz!) has certainly been of interest to the media, especially in their early days, when music reviewers/journalists preferred to talk about their sexuality than their music. Take for instance this indie music blogger who started a review of their gig by talking about how many lesbians/women there were.

    Would a straight male-dominated rock band get the same type of treatment? Uh no. No serious music reviewer goes to a heavy metal gig and talks about how many men there are in the crowd.

    Fucking double standards.

    But anyway, here's a video about Tegan & Sara talking to Causecast about gay rights and about having their sexuality out in the open right from the very beginning of their careers. You can even read the entire interview here too.



    I'm also posting up Tegan & Sara's song I was Married, which was featured on their fifth album The Con. In the song, Sara writes about her civil union with her partner Emy Storey and the opposition they faced only because they were trying to marry the person they loved most in the world.

    And it shouldn't have to be that way. But that's what LGBTQ rights are basically are-- seeking equal (not more, not less) rights to that which straight people are given.

    Two consenting adults, straight or otherwise, who truly love each other should never have to seek the permission of voters or the legislation in order to get married.

    That's just fucking wrong.

    This goat will give you her soul if you'll leave her name alone.

    So I was somewhere work-related the other day, where several other goats congregate. After many hours, I left with a fellow goat, who asked me why I was in a bad mood.

    Goat 1: "Goat 2, I had my name mispronounced five times. FIVE TIMES. Even AFTER I corrected them."
    Goat 2: "Oh dear, Goat 1. One of those things."
    Goat 1: "The next time someone mispronounces my name after I have corrected them or asks me for a short-form, I am going to cry. Or scream. I don't know."

    I'll add a caveat here: there are a good number of people with really long names who will request that you call them by a different, shorter name for also a good number of reasons. Perhaps one was named for a grandfather and in certain cultures, using that name would be taboo. Maybe one's name is just really freaking long. That's obviously a personal choice and I am nothing if not a reasonable goat of very mild temperament.

    My pet peeve is with people who find brown names in general unfamiliar and/or long, and would rather just call you by a contracted form of one's name because of that egregious, cringe-worthy stereotype: "OMG brown names very hard to pronounce and remember!". So they either ask you for a short form of your name (ugh), simply pronounce it wrongly because it's easier that way (double ugh) or worse still, offer creative iterations of their own (triple ugh).

    I have a nice name. It's aspirational and it sounds very pretty. It's also three syllables long. I have many friends and colleagues who never heard the name before they met me and manage to pronounce it just fine. Still, I get a good number of people who either pronounce it wrongly or ask: "That's, uh, kind of long. Can I just shorten it to X?"

    *facepalm*

    About seven years ago, I started using the contraction of my full name to introduce myself. You know, to make it easier for people to remember my name. What's your name, they ask. And I will say, XYZbutyoucancallmeZ, it's easier to remember.

    Eventually I stopped, mostly because: wait a minute, Z isn't my name at all. It's XYZ! Why, exactly, am I doing this again?

    And so I realised:-

    1) To offer a shorter name because someone might not want to take the effort to learn or pronounce it fully simply doesn't make sense: people with a modicum of respect for others will make the effort to learn.

    2) The remaining ones should realise - and as often as possible, until they get the message - that living in a multiracial society (as we like to remind ourselves often) means you sometimes have to accommodate other ethnicities and not expect them to accommodate you (and your self-professed limitations) all the time.

    3) A sense of proportion can be very illuminating at times like these: Advanced calculus? Hard. Climbing mountains? Very hard. Brown names? ARE NOT.

    Splitting up a name helps. Asking the be-monikered how the name should be pronounced also helps. Shortening it on your own initiative does not help: at best, it is annoying; at worst, it could mean something vulgar.

    ++

    Oh, and hello there! My name's Oh My Goat, and it's very nice to meet you. My services include occasionally dispensing pearls of what one hopes is wisdom, and eating your homework. All at a nominal price, of course.

    (Credit to The Crucible for the title: I have appropriated John Proctor's words for my own admittedly lesser-anguished purposes.)

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    When you're too good not to be white(r).

    This is a post on three instances when you're too good not to be whiter.


    (Taken from Otago Daily Times.)

    Story 1 - That's Jeff Ma on the left.

    He was a very smart Asian-American kid, who at some point of his life at MIT decided that he could outsmart the the game of 21 by counting cards. So he and some other very smart Asian-American mates bandied together, headed down to Las Vegas to count their way to riches.

    It was. A. Lot. Of. Money.

    Enough of a-lot for someone to write a book about him, which led to Hollywood making a movie about the book, lead starring the very cute Jim Sturgess, who's on the right in the photo. Resemblance between Ma and Sturgess?

    Not much.

    Because somewhere along the line, someone exercised a little creative genius and rewrote the story: Kevin Lewis (in-book)/ Ben Campbell (in-movie) is a very smart Caucasian-American kid, who at some point of his life at college decided that he could outsmart the game of 21 by counting cards. So he and some other mates (mostly Caucasian-American) bandied together, headed down to Las Vegas to count their way to riches.

    It was. A. Lot. Of. Money.

    Enough of a-lot for people to want to rewrite your identity into something more palatable for the general masses who have been told that only certain identities and looks have more selling power.

    Well, at least they kept the penises. Farmer help us should they'd gone all crazy by reimagining a woman there instead.


    Story 2 - In a more fictitious universe, there's the Nickelodeon cartoon series, "Avatar: The Last Airbender". The story has all sorts of culturally period Asian settings and mysticism, with the key character, Aang, looking quite a bit like a Shaolin monk (see picture above; dude who looks quite a bit like a Shaolin monk--yeah, doesn't take a PhD in anthropology to spot, ya?). Not to mention, Chinese calligraphy and pugilistic moves are featured throughout the show. There's also a strong hint of Inuit identity in two of the major 'Water Tribe' characters as well.

    It's a very popular show, so like any popular work of art, book, cartoon, comic, video game, stage performance that has an inkling of a narrative, it has to translate into a celluloid blockbuster. (Of course, it has to! What do you mean why!? Question does not compute...) However, during that translation, Asian and coloured actors and actresses died of what comedienne, Margaret Cho, terms SARS (Severe Asian Racism Syndrome), so the producers and casting crew ended up with this:


    (Image from Racebending.com.)

    Oh.... All the coloured artistes who could have more important roles died, but lots survived for the minor roles of bad guys, of course. As is anti-hero Zuko's role, played by Dev Patel of "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) fame. Because darker-skinned people evoke more terror in the hearts of many people, ya?

    (Question: who scares darker-skinned people? Racists, I wager.)


    Story 3 - That's a movie-still of the most divine Jake Gyllenhaal and the very pretty English actress Emma Arterton, in their respective role as a Persian prince and Indian princess. (True fact: Persia's current day Iran.) They're from the movie "Prince of Persia" (2010), which is based on--if you have been following my point about 'good anything = good movie'--the very popular computer game of the same name from the 1990s.

    (Images taken from Jordan Mechner.)

    True, the computer game was no history lesson to take home to your kids. In fact, judging by the cover art of the game itself, this was just some Orientalist's dream, where you get all the culture and food of an exotic place without having to actually have the burden of factoring in the people from this place too much. (Maybe video games really aren't all that good for kids?) But in the two decades between 1989 and 2010, you'd think people have figured out that there's something really wrong about the Prince of Persia arch.

    Oh, by the way, they did of course cast Sir Ben Kingsley, of half-Indian, half-white parentage as Teh Ev!l guy Nizam in the movie. He gets the dark under-eye liner, menacing goatee and doubly ornate wardrobe evil exotica treatment. Kinda like Boris Karioff's Fu Man Chu from the "The Mask of Fu Manchu" (1932).


    (Nizam from IMDB; Fu Man Chu from Racebending.com.)

    The problem here is that Hollywood is a really big machine that churns out so much material that is so widely marketed and shown everywhere. The Hollywood content is not some accidental, small option at the movies, instead they are the main spread in our movie culture for a lot of people. That sort of long-term normalising is the reason why, even though we still don't have a lot of Caucasians in our midst, it is really difficult to not factor them in our imagination, hence the prevalence in seeing Caucasian models selling anything and everything. And it has seeped so deeply into our consciousness that it's actually not a big deal when we do meet them living in our neighbourhoods or working alongside us as well.


    Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Adichie, spoke quite recently about her experience with "the single story", of growing up reading English books by English and American authors, meeting other people outside of the Nigeria who have perplexing impressions of her and where she comes from. In the middle of it, she points out quite correctly, I think, the (suggestion) of power that gets embedded in the narrative, which really isn't a new idea but I guess it bears minding:
    It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is "nkali." It's a noun that loosely translates to "to be greater than another." Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali. How they are told, who tells them, when they're told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.

    Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story, and to start with, "secondly." Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have and entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story.

    I recently spoke at a university where a student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had just read a novel called "American Psycho" and that it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers. Now, obviously I said this in a fit of mild irritation.

    I would never have occurred to me to think that just because I had read a novel in which a character was a serial killer that he was somehow representative of all Americans. And now, this is not because I am a better person than that student, but, because of America's cultural and economic power, I had many stories of America. I had read Tyler and Updike and Steinbeck and Gaitskill. I did not have a single story of America. ("The danger of a single story," Jul 2009)
    In summary, don't be a Stupid Gherkin you people in your boardrooms talking up ideas about the next movie, television and story. The world is full of stories to be told, and contrary to what you think, a good story can probably sell itself without your white-washing it--not just simply by putting only white people on screen, but also making everyone look a certain type, or talk a certain way (Singapore, I'm looking at you too!). The exposure to more representation can only be a good thing, then maybe brown spectre turkeys don't have to protest against the rail-thin, snow-white fair beauty regiment of contemporary culture, cats don't have to deal with daily racists pretending that they're beyond racism (or "micro aggressive racism", if you will), and you wouldn't have to change a goat's name because it doesn't fit right inside your little non-United Colours of Benetton world. And a badly-drawn, male unfeminist pig feels obliged to write a whole meandering blog post, on top of looking for matching pictured about this.

    Now, imagine that!

    +++

    Racebending.com is the official international protest movement that's calling for a boycott of the movie "Avatar: The Last Airbender". Pledge your boycott if you agree that the movie-makers have quite a serious case of all-sort-of-fucked-up, and believe that there's room for other coloured folks to take up screen time in more diverse roles.

    18 Mighty Mountain Warriors urges best in this skit:

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Winging it

    Let me tell you a secret: even the most Magical of all Chickens would have been a fluffy wee chick once. And long before my adult plumage appeared, I knew I really liked them Roosters. (Yeah, yeah, I'll save you the trouble of saying it - this Magical Chicken was into Cocks.)

    Children, as Badly Drawn Pig so ably expounds, have sexualities. And sometimes they will explore them. This shouldn't be alarming. Many people find that life is a lot better when they enjoy a little friendly human contact which helps them get off every now and then.

    So I second my porcine friend's call to give children some room in which to experiment with one another without having their sexualities judged, even as I repeat my urgent advice to adults ("Don't fuck children").

    Children do not benefit from condemnation for having and acting on sexual feelings. They benefit from the information, skills and social environment that will encourage them to make the decisions that best serve their interests. They should know:

  • the health risks associated with sexual activity, including the possibility of unwanted pregnancy;
  • that many people experience sexuality as something private and emotionally significant, and that they may be one of them;
  • that they should be able to relax and live in and from their bodies so they know what they enjoy and what they don't, and feel confident in saying "no" to anything which doesn't suit them;
  • that sexual activity with another human being requires paying attention to that person's needs and desires, and communication and trust are important.

    And they should not feel tainted by the process of figuring themselves out. Sometimes you try something and it doesn't work for you. You move on, and you don't do it again. No fundamental tear has appeared in the fabric of the universe.

    Freaking out about sexuality because it is sexual may, ironically, lead to more of the teen sexual activity that so horrifies the defenders of Family Valuez. Their portrayals of sex communicate something brutal, dirty, and compulsive, best regulated in the confines of heterosexual marriage, and even then as a kind of dreary duty by wives who must satisfy their husbands' "urges" (a distinctly erotically unappealing word). Any sexual contact other than some piston-like penetration seems not to be imaginable.

    It's hard to understand why, in this vision of sex, anyone would genuinely, positively, healthily want to do it. And if you don't know why you might say "yes" (except that you absolutely mustn't until you get married and then you absolutely always must), it becomes difficult to weigh this up against the reasons to say "no".

    There's a hair's breadth between Family Valuez and porn culture:

    Conform to seXXXay visions of womanhood for social approval. Ensure you look modest for divine approval. Get as many notches on your belt as you can, "score", to prove your manliness. Real men save it for marriage. Don't have sex because it makes you a dirty slut. Don't reject sexual advances because that makes you a frigid prude.

    It is wrong to assume you can only swap one set of commands for the other. In fact, the two are mutually supporting. We should drop the command approach altogether - stop slut-shaming, and decry sexual objectification wherever we can. Boys and girls who are secure in their own individuality, sexualities and self-worth, who are taught that their feelings and autonomy as well as those of their sexual partners matter, will be confident in saying "no".

    Rather than mapping out the True Path to Enlightenment and chaining others to it, I humbly recommend winging it, and creating for children the space (and giving them the appropriate navigational skills) to do the same.
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