Thursday, December 31, 2009

Don't stereotype, yo! Just don't!

Yes, that woman in her drop-neck, low-back halter dress doesn't need you to undress her with your eyes, or be told how horny she's made you feel.

Yes, her showing skin doesn't mean she's out to have "good time" with your scruffy hands, nor does she want your money.

Yes, that Malay person is not mathematically-challenged, ze's also doesn't own a guitar nor want to rock out with you.

Yes, that woman doesn't believe her 'yes' or 'I do' at the altar means a 'yes' and 'I do' everytime her husband wants to have sex with her.

Yes, that Indian woman doesn't speak Tamil, Hindi or whatever limited knowledge of Indian languages you have.

Yes, that Indian guy who's really interested in you isn't going to be a drunkard deadbeat who plummets you when he returns home late at night.

Yes, this Chinese guy doesn't speak no Chinese not because he's an elitist bastard, but because he's just not very good at languages.

Yes, that Chinese guy who speaks Chinese doesn't mean he's wrapped up in his own world and doesn't really want to connect to other people.

Yes, just because they're Filipino and Mainlanders, it doesn't mean they're not going to be able to do their jobs well as service staff.

Yes, just because they don't speak much English doesn't mean that they can't do their jobs!

Yes, that pious Christian friend isn't a homosexual-hating, pro-life fundamentalist.

Yes, that Muslim man isn't out to marry multiple wives to save sex workers and single women from some elusive plight.

Yes, this fat people isn't an indolent creature who lacks resolve and self-esteem to look like everyone else.

Yes, fat people are quite aware of their being fat.

Yes, that gay person isn't seeking the next quick-fuck or out to turn your kids gay.

Yes, this effeminate man isn't gay.

Yes, that effeminate gay man isn't seeking a guy who'd make him feel like a natural woman.

Yes, that bisexual person isn't sitting on the fence because ze wants an easy out of ostracisation.

Yes, this feminist has a 2.1-kids-two-heterosexually-married-couple home.

Yes, that feminist is not looking for something to get angry about.

Yes, that gay person doesn't actually have liberal opinions.

Yes, your big fat dick isn't something people all want to worship.

Yes, my sub-par intellect doesn't mean that I'm an empty vase.

Yes, ze's really good looking, but it doesn't mean ze doesn't have anything interesting to tell you.

Yes, her speaking lousy English doesn't mean that the content of her message isn't itself good.

Yes, that single person doesn't actually care to hook up with your cousin's cousin, friend's friend, mother's friend's or colleague's neighbour's loin-fruit.

Yes, that single person has quite a full and happy life because ze's single.
The reality is that no stereotype can be considered light-hearted and humorous. A stereotype is defined as “an often oversimplified or biased mental picture held to characterize the typical individual of a group.” Stereotypes are negative. Even “positive” stereotypes are ultimately detrimental to the groups that struggle to find a sense of self within the narrow parameters of society’s vision. (Latoya Peterson from Racialicious).
Resolution for 2010: don't stereotype, yo! Just don't!

Happy 2010!

Commenters have chimed in with their stereotypes (thanks!). Everyone's encouraged to add zie's in our comments section! :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

You never know who's listening!

Singapore transgender writer and activist, Leona Lo, picked up a letter we'd published earlier on Velvet Underground's apparent blanket ban of transgender women. (Lo's commenter, Nurra Mahat, corroborates that "Velvet has NEVER been a TG friendly place, unless your IC says you’re female AND (the big AND) passable.") Shortly after that, we learn that just shortly before Christmas, another transwoman was barred from Zouk, further corroborating that something shitty is happening at that place.

I very much want to recommend Lo's "quick response tips" for transwomen to seek trans-friendly venues, document places that discriminate, and report the latter accordingly. In short:

(1) Check beforehand on their policy for a fuss-free night;

(2) Use your mobile phone's video camera to document mistreatment;

(3) Share with the media.

We at the barn are particularly aware of the paucity of getting minority people to come out to openly share their stories about offending people and organisations, often as Lo points out, "for fear of attracting “trouble”". So I encourage Point 4:

(4) Tell anyone who'd listen! Write in to the papers, write in to the management, write in to Leona Lo, one of the social media websites, or one of the LGBTQ blogs, or even to us so that we can air the experience. The more fodder we receive, the more people read about it, the stronger it is for us to build a case of holding people accountable.

Don't be too quick to discount the power that your voice will provide, and what bad press circulating about can drive people to salvage.

When The Online Citizen did a feature on the abject state of migrant worker housing, the effort was made by individuals and groups to air the issue and write in to relevant bodies, seeking accountability. What came out of these efforts is this:

Even when we at our small barn wrote about the racy 'APEC' event, our reader wrote in and it became a racy APPEC event.

Pressure works! Companies are in it for the money, and bad publicity, or worse, health, environmental and manpower incursions are definitely not good for business. Clients and developers can be encouraged to award tender to companies that boast better housing amenities that do not bring the projects into disrepute, which eventually affects sales. Patrons can askew clubs that discriminate for clubs that don't.

I hate to tie the worth of minority rights to economics, but it seems when faced with the wall of The Bottomline, appealing to people's money minds might be a helpful, additional strategy.

Also, I want to agree with Mark that perhaps firms are not always as heartless or as aware as they seem. While I have my suspicion that they will take the easy out by providing the minimal or ignoring the problem, I think there's very little harm in approaching them in good faith.

Besides, it saves us all more heartburn, and you never know who's listening!

If you haven't signed this petition: Petition to Improve Foreign Workers' Housing.

Short Answer: Yes, Long Answer: No.

A very wise man who I constantly regret having lost contact with once cautioned me that if I ever felt like I completely understood something, I assuredly did not. He said to visualize the knowledge you have as the area of a circle. Circumscribing that circle is everything you are aware of not knowing and beyond that are things you know so little about that they may as well be non-existent (to you, anyways). The larger your area of knowledge, then, the deeper your understanding of what is left to understand.

Adding to the idea that a narrow worldview gives one a sense of having all the answers is a recent study (aptly titled "Unskilled and Unaware of it" [link]) documents how those who are more unskilled, concurrently lack the skills to properly evaluate themselves. From the abstract:
People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it[...]Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.
In other words, this problem is not insurmountable. The more you know, the more you know you don't and the less of an idiot you will appear in the process.

So the point I'm trying to make (and I will admit it has taken me some time to get here) is that if you feel like you have some prescriptive advice that will completely revolutionize a movement or if you think you have an overarching theory of something (see: xkcd:Revolutionary) you probably don't and it would be worth hanging around a little more to educate yourself by listening to the people who have been at it longer than you have. Yes, occassionally it's true that it takes a fresh perspective...but incredibly rarely and it's the height of hubris to just assume that you've struck upon it.

This is particularly important as it applies to being an activist and an ally. Having your consciousness raised is typically such a mind-blowing experience that it is tempting to think that you now understand all about oppression and how it works in the world, afterall if you understand systemic racism/sexism/ableism/enter-ism-here, then you understand systemic everything right? Now that you can spot misogynist tropes in adverstising you can also see how racial stereotypes are used as shorthand for all manner of unflattering things and how transphobia is used to police the gender binary and and and and and and...

...and how could you possibly if you've just heard about all these issues? Let's not forget that we were all raised in this world, this kyriarchy, that up until we were made aware of these issues in the first place we accepted the status quo as right and true. That undoing that will take much more than a single a-ha moment. Don't forget that we live in a world where this bullshit is largely accepted at face value despite the frankly towering absurdity of it being even remotely true.

I want to stop for a moment and explicitly state that I do not think I know everything or that I am in some hallowed position where I can see all that I do not know about and am therefore the perfect activist and ally. All I want, really is for all of us (often me included) to try and be better allies by listening and participating in the communities we are vested in supporting. To de-centre ourselves, to remove ourselves from the James Cameron's Avatar version of activism (where it is you, the privileged who should lead the poor oppressed people to victory). Tami (from What Tami Said) has an excellent post up about how to be a good ally which is very worth reading and essentially boils down to the point I'm trying to make - it's not all about you, listening and being still is vital, and if you think you have something just absolutely revolutionary to say, by all means share it (afterall, that's what participating in a community means) but have the wherewithal to be gracious when you aren't well received, with the attitude that you may not know best.

I think sometimes, even the best of us, with the most noble of intentions, needs reminding.

Addenda and Clarifications

[Ed - This post may be read in conjunction with "BREAKING: More women say: I deserve justice by my own terms, I'm worth it." and "Investigating and prosecuting sexual offences".]

Having done some holiday pondering and mental pontification, this turkey feels that perhaps some clarifications are in order to better understand the posts below on accusations of sexual offences and the procedures which are subsequently followed (particularly in light of the comments on the posts below).

What the ST article does not make clear (and these are woeful omissions) is that:

(1) an accusation per se is not tantamount to a conviction;

(2) an accusation does not inexorably lead to prosecution;

(3) in the context of a nightclub (i.e. dark, all-round diminished faculties due to inebriation, two total strangers etc) does not provide conducive conditions for fact-finding and evidence-gathering.

In relation to (3), what the article glaringly fails to point out is the potential for abuse by both parties - both the alleged offender as well as the alleged victim. The article's primary failure is its angle - that there is a "trend" of evil, wanton, trollopy women whose sole motivation in accusing men of molest/OM is to recover some form of compensation.

In mainly interviewing lawyers who have represented these alleged offenders, the article ends up painting these men as wholly innocent. But what has been omitted is this: there possibly has been no fact-finding; no completed investigations. At this stage, one cannot decide guilt or innocence. There simply is no proof, which is the problem of nightclubs, and other situations where the evidence boils down to Him vs. Her.

(And more importantly, the cardinal principle of legal ethics: a lawyer must always act in his/her client's best interests. That is to say, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, a lawyer will assume and profess the innocence of his/her client.)

And therein lies the conundrum (as contained in the soundbite from Prof. Hor appended at the end of the article). The fact that the men coughed up money proves nothing - it sheds no light on their actual motivations. At the end of the day, I do feel that the likelihood that the composition was to avoid prosecution is at least equal to the likelihood of the victims not wishing to re-live the incident.

But perhaps, what could (and perhaps would?) tilt the balance is that at the end of the day, character evidence against the female victim is admissible, and will be duly considered.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Investigating and prosecuting sexual offences.

[Ed - This post may be read in conjunction with "BREAKING: More women say: I deserve justice by my own terms, I'm worth it." and "Addenda and Clarifications".]

Following the barn's porcine lash-out at Straits Time's festive helping of victim-blaming, our resident spectral turkey has risen from her resting place to grace us with her netherworldly visions of the difficulties in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences, including molest: (I channel The Poultrygeist's spirit to reproduce this in full)
Let me tell you what happens when a woman accuses a guy of molest:
1. Woman makes police report.
2. Police investigate
3. In deciding whether to charge him with an offence, they produce their findings and evidence procured in the course of investigation to a prosecutor at the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC).
4. The prosecutor looks through all the evidence and again interviews the victim.  This interview involves detailed questions including some which are very personal.  This is to assess the relative strength of the evidence and the veracity of the victim's version of the story.
5. The prosecutor will also inform the victim the sort of questions she will face from the Defence Counsel (i.e. the accused person's counsel) at trial.  These can include questions which throw suspicions on the victim's morals (i.e. past sexual history, conduct at the time of the alleged offence - whether skanky clothes were worn so as to "tempt" the dude - etc). 
6. Based on the victim's answers and any corroboration with all other relevant evidence, the police will then charge the offender.
7. Only then will this matter go to Court.
So really, I think it is quite apparent that there is no question of "easy money".  If the evidence is not strong, there is no way this matter can proceed to conviction.  The victim in the case of molest has to answer several detailed questions on exactly how the incident occurred several times: to the police, the prosecutor and eventually the defence counsel.
If the claim is frivolous on the evidence, the matter cannot proceed.
I also don't believe that victims "demand" compensation.  Usually, the alleged offender will offer compensation for their own reasons.  This is in my mind immaterial.
As someone who has faced drunken molestation and heckling in clubs and other public places several times, I can tell you that it's demeaning, embarrassing and offensive.  It's not something I would wish to re-live over and over again.  Actually much rather than prosecute, I would prefer to resoundingly bitch slap the mofo there and then.  How a victim chooses to proceed should be up to her. 
That's my two cents.

Oh and I must add: it is open to the defence to ask any question and make any statement that can cause aspersions on the victim's moral character.  There is nothing to stop them from doing so.  This is more true in cases of rape.
[/End channeling.]

Adding to this, Oh My Goat says, "Character evidence is admissible though, I'm quite certain of that - no "rape shield" or an equivalent that I know of in Singapore. Any wonder why composition seems to be a much less traumatising alternative?"

Quit selling us vengeful wives and entrapment schemes, you hear now, fear-mongering media honchos?

BREAKING: More women say: I deserve justice by my own terms, I'm worth it.

[Ed - This post may be read in conjunction with "Investigating and prosecuting sexual offences" and "Addenda and Clarifications".]

No, that's not really what was said. Instead, what we have today is "More women say: touch me, pay me".

ST tag: 'MEN who find themselves accused of molest after a drunken bout of revelry are paying more to settle the cases. In one case, a businessman paid $50,000 to a woman who accused him of touching her buttocks in order to avoid prosecution. Lawyers told The Straits Times that they are seeing more cases, and the amounts have also risen significantly. The trend is worrying them as it might lead to the system being abused.'
(Image scanned from Straits Times, 24 December 2009, P A10.
Hover for ST Online image tag.)

Indeed, in its neverending quest to introduce insightful and/or exciting journalism and opinion FAIL to readers, The New Paper The Straits Times decides to play the wildly popular Womenz Iz Hysterically Wily, Money-Grubbing card. This Christmas Eve Special Edition comes complete with resplendent trimmings of a mood picture; spanning half a broadsheet, it really conveys our humanity's eternal battle of the sexes--men dodging women scorned, rational reason vs irrational emotion, advancing dude vs his coy mistress.

You can read the whole art-icle after the cut, but here's my male, unfeminist, pigheaded summary in pointed fashion:
  • Opening hook: Honorable Professional (engineer) claims to have paid 8K out-of-court settlement to 23 year-old woman who accused him of molesting her in a club.

  • Lawyers claim that more cases of molestation have come up and are settled out of court, and -gasp- defendants are paying "more cash" as well.

  • Worries that milking men with molestation claims has become a full-time occupation by Wily Womenz. (I kid, though not really.)

  • Not one, not two, but SIXXXXXX lawyers corroborate that drunk men are being accused by women in their early 20s (because early 20s need money, yo, for erm.... Their Louis Vuitton up-keeping?!?) of molestation!

  • Men claim to settle "to avoid the saga", even though they're drunk and don't actually remember manhandling the plaintiffs.

  • Accusations normally happen in the wee hours of the morning, and accused are normally alone.

  • Local lawyer-cum-clairvoyant Subhas Anandan "believes that there are so-called 'victims' out there trying to make easy money".

  • Local arbiter of modesty-to-cash exchange rates cum lawyer, Radakrishnan said some compensatory sums are "extortionate sums of between $20,000 and $50,000".

  • All examples accused are of Nice Guys™, decent, high-profile/ paying Honorable Profession, like engineer, CEO of listed company, dentist, OBGY, etc.

  • Lawyers want a registry of victims to be set up, so that "it's not the same people who make these claims" as gatekeeper and local Batman-of-molestation-crimes-cum-lawyer Ravinderpal Singh will ensure that women who get molested once will be personally protected from ever being sexually assaulted again.

  • Divination Masters cum lawyers opine that The Real Victims are usually those who [a] don't want money, [b] demand public apology, and/or [c] "insist on their day in court, no matter what".
The world in which Straits Times resides, is sadly empty of barnyard realities of women such as: women in their early 20s being an immensely big demographic of club-goers; the key demographic of club-goers (not to mention, young women) may naturally receive the most inappropriate attention from people; they may not take your being abused without a fight because they know better or want to stand up for themselves; they may naturally be the most reported victims of abuse; young (or old) women may possess the right to determine for themselves what is appropriate or inappropriate social contact, bodily or otherwise, from anyone; they may also possess the spirit of confidence, self-esteem, sense of justice and self-worth, to decide *she* deserves high reparations for her outraged modesty; she can decide for herself whether or not she wants to bring her perpetrator to court or seek compensatory justice equivocal to her sense of self-worth; a compensated victim of molest, sexual assault, abuse, violence is not impervious to repeated attacks.

In the world in which Straits Times resides, drunk men who don't remember if they behaved badly are given the benefit of the doubt because they're estimable men of great professions (freed any child rapists lately, yo?), and were just reduced to boys behaving as boys. (Drunk women, on the other hand, are obviously just asking for it.) And any woman who would put a high price to her abuse because she highly values her personhood is... erm... a victim of her own self-esteem, worth, and sense of justice.

In this very sad world outside of the barn, women remain the sex class whose bodily ownership must always be within reach of men's favour.



Tuesday, December 22, 2009

ur chewren iz belongz 2 us!!11!!!1ONE!

Leading member of the local chapter for the preservation and promotion of gayism, Jewish Goose, has sent the following video as a must-watch-otherwise-(...), tagged with a urgent message appended below:

I couldn't find no Jewish, howling gays, and anti-family feminists to dance to good, old Hanukkah tunes, so this clip of twelve delectable, merry men flaunting and spreading their gayism in song and dance shall do. Watch and learn, people, for this shall be how your children (girls, boys and others) are going to turn out when we've accomplished everything on our feminist-aided homosexual agenda: THEY WILL BE CUTE & FANTABULOUS!

Meanwhile, merry Hanukkah, happy Christmas, and a delightful 2010 to all readers and animals at Barnyard Chorus!

Should've Had One

I'm always pretty uncomfortable looking at displays of indigenous artefacts in museums. Unless the collection was curated by the people in question who also have full rights to all the items (which, I don't think I've ever encountered and I am a museum junkie), I just feel like I'm gawking at the end result of a dispossessed diaspora. Not cool.

The display I was at the other week was no exception. To add insult to injury, the places of origin on the labels accompanying each item had names like "New Ireland" and "New Britain" - clearly not what the people who actually lived there called the land.

I mention this to my partner (who very early on in our relationship proudly showed me a picture of his fairly recent forebearers as colonists in India) and he deadpans,
"Well, it's their fault - they didn't have a flag."
And sure enough, I look around and that is exactly what is missing from the display of frankly every other object that could conceivably be found within a community of people.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ms Aruna Shanbaug, the right to die, and rape culture

This Goat has days when she feels completely overwhelmed by how horrifying this world can be. These are rare days, but today's been one of them. Major TRIGGER WARNING:-

...Now the country’s highest court has said that it will consider whether to allow Ms Shanbaug, 61, to die — a landmark decision that could recast laws on euthanasia in India, where mercy killings are illegal. According to Pinki Virani, a journalist who filed a petition pleading for Ms Shanbaug, who was 25 at the time of the brutal attack, to be allowed to die, her current state makes her “virtually a dead person.

During the assault Ms Shanbaug’s assailant, a hospital cleaner, wrapped a dog chain around her neck. It cut off the bloodflow to her brain and damaged her brain stem, leaving her paralysed. She is now force-fed by nurses twice a day at the King Edward Memorial Hospital and cannot speak, see or hear.

Her attacker, Sohanlal Bartha Walmiki, was sentenced to seven years in prison in 1974 for attempted murder and robbery.

[Times Online]

In case it wasn't clear: her rapist is now alive and walks free, while Ms Shanbaug has spent 36 years in a hospital bed, blind, mute, deaf and paralysed.

As for the question of the right to die: the Supreme Court has sought a report on Ms Shanbaug's medical condition from the hospital in Mumbai and the government of Maharashtra. It is a positive step that the action hasn't been thrown out at the start, and that the Supreme Court wants to consider Ms Shanbaug's condition before arriving at a decision, given its apparent pro-life stance in previous cases.

It is at times like these that my faith - that everyone eventually pays for what they have done - fails me: no, I don't want him punished in his next life. He should have been punished with the full force of the law 36 years ago, when he remembered full well the unmitigated brutality towards Ms Shanbaug, and again, and again.

Of course, the fact remains: such cruel and casual brutality against women shouldn't happen at all. Yet it does and it will continue to do so in great numbers, because when everyone - criminals, society, the justice system, the police - is complicit, there isn't any reason to stop. I am not excoriating just the Indian justice system in particular here - but every country which has institutionalised rape culture to this point. Shame on us all.


Judge considers comatose rape victim's right to die [TimesOnline]

India court admits plea to end life of rape victim [BBC News]

Against mercy death, KEM remembers Aruna as she was [The Indian Express]

Aruna right-to-die case to be heard in the SC [Legally India]

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's not easy being Magical

Though I do try.

Strongly aware of the great negativity I have previously displayed toward letters in the Straits Times Forum, I decided to turn my supernatural powers away from carping (no offence, fishfolk) and toward improving matters. Specifically, I attempted to perform Magical Mind Manipulation (MMM) on the Straits Times Forum editors, to influence their selection of letters for the better.

MMM is a capability enabled by splicing into the subject a mutant genetic sequence based on DNA extracted from the body of one Lee Kuan Yew. Here at Farmland LabsTM we believe we have isolated the biological basis for this man's unparalleled ability to invisibly control the decisions of media makers with infinite precision and against all ordinary standards of professional journalistic and editorial judgment.

Empowered by this new technology, I set about Magically transmitting messages to the Singapore Press Holdings offices. Publish something useful for a change. Publish something interesting for a change. Publish something which stirs socially meaningful and productive conversation for a change. Go on! You know you want to!

Unfortunately, researchers and practitioners of Magical Chickenhood note that when transplanted into beings other than Harry Lee, this capability doesn't always work so well, so I was also eager to cover my tracks, lest the newspaper hamfistedly reveal that its content derives directly from Magical Chicken propaganda. There is no Magical Chicken. You will not include the Chicken. You will omit the Chicken. There is no discernible Chicken content.

I'm afraid there were crossed wires somewhere and the results were less than spectacular:
THE other day, I had dinner at the Plaza Singapura branch of PastaMania. We could not really see the meals on the menu, since the pictures were all thumbnail size, but I ordered the pasta chicken bolognese, which was described as shredded chicken with pasta in a bolognese sauce.

When the dish arrived, it soon dawned on me that there was no discernible chicken. I saw a number of whitish specks mixed into the sauce, which I assumed was the chicken. But since most were the size of a pinhead, the overall chicken content was negligible.

I thought there had been a mistake during preparation and carried my plate to the counter. However, I was told the specks comprised the actual amount of chicken served.

This I find unacceptable. The tiny amount of chicken offered by PastaMania is pathetic. To all intents and purposes, the pasta chicken bolognese is a plate of pasta and sauce - an overpriced plate of pasta and sauce.

I ask PastaMania to look at what it offers its customers and not have them leave with an unpleasant dining experience and a feeling of being short-changed.

Bryan Norman
An unfortunate experiment, but at least now you know why this trivial piece of garbage warranted space in a national newspaper. It was MMM gone wrong. I'm sorry, everyone.

"Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work".

No more victim-blaming that only makes people live in constant fear of being assaulted and in need of predicting their own assault just to avoid it at all.
Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work

1. Don’t put drugs in women’s drinks.

2. When you see a woman walking by herself, leave her alone.

3. If you pull over to help a woman whose car has broken down, remember not to assault her.

4. If you are in a lift and a woman gets in, don’t assault her. You know what? Don’t even ogle her.

5. When you encounter a woman who is asleep, the safest course of action is to not assault her.

6. Never creep into a woman’s home through an unlocked door or window, or spring out at her from between parked cars, or assault her.

7. When you lurk in bushes and doorways with criminal intentions, always wear bright clothing, wave a flashlight, or play “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)” by the Raveonettes on a boombox really loud, so women in the vicinity will know where to aim their flamethrowers.

8. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If it is inconvenient for you to stop yourself from assaulting women, ask a trusted friend to accompany you when in public.

9. Carry a rape whistle. If you find that you are about to assault a woman, you can hand the whistle to your buddy, so s/he can blow it to call for help.

10. Give your buddy a revolver, so that when indifferent passers-by either ignore the rape whistle, or gather round to enjoy the spectacle, s/he can pistol-whip you.

Don’t forget: Honesty is the best policy. When asking a woman out on a date, don’t pretend that you are interested in her as a person; tell her straight up that you expect to be assaulting her later. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the woman may take it as a sign that you do not plan to rape her. (via IBTP)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Play it again, Sam

There're some aggressively fauxgressive stink bombs being dropped in the comments at Leona Lo's blog.

You may recall Most Insightful Blogger Sam Ho, who previously came by the barn to express his deep concern that clubs might make less money if they stopped being nasty to trans people. (Maybe they would. Boo fucking hoo.)

Sam asked Leona to seek submissions and responses from trans people in service of some website project he's working on, to "debunk (damaging/hurtful/insensitive) myths people hold of folks who are LGBT". In response to this, Samantha, who is trans, kindly offers her perspective.

Get this - an actual member of the actual community you seek to help, giving you her take! She's talking from a lifetime of experience with an issue you, as a straight cis man, can only ever really know second-hand. This is a good opportunity to learn and improve your project. Right? Right???


Sam engages nothing at all Samantha says, instead choosing to lecture her on Reel Praktikull Activistyism. The first step to doing this is talk over others:
categories to me and you are meaningless. but to think like that isolates us from the business of making change.
Actually, Samantha didn't say anything about categories being meaningless. In fact, she begins by specifically questioning this point. But good job on erasing her actual point of view and substituting your imaginary one.

The second step is to have no bloody idea what you're talking about:
i don’t think we’re employing the gay/straight dichotomy in our thinkstraight campaign. since categories tend to fuck us up, we should fuck them back (in the academic sense). in having the queer-straight alliance, “queer” and “straight” do not mean what they are. for instance, “straight” represents cisgender/sexed persons who identify as heterosexual. and “queer” also encompasses people who are questioning, as well as people who know live in their correct gender and who identify transsexuality as a phase they have long left; not all post-op transsexuals acknowledge their trans past, so they can identify as “straight” and/or “queer”.
Let me parse that for you. Sam isn't "employing the gay/straight dichotomy" because he's saying that all people who aren't cis and straight are "queer": i.e. the word is divided into cis-and-straight-folks and everyone else is this great big queery lump, no matter how they choose to define or describe themselves.

No matter that a gay cis woman has a different social situation from a straight trans man who has a different social situation from a bisexual cis man who has a different social situation from a questioning trans woman.

No, they're all Not Like Sam, so they're this uniform porridgelike audience to whom he can pontificate without knowing his elbow from his asshole.

Let me highlight this sentence for you again, because it's so mind-bogglingly ignorant:
not all post-op transsexuals acknowledge their trans past, so they can identify as “straight” and/or “queer”
Most Insightful Sam, the reason why ALL trans people (regardless of what's between their legs) can identify as "straight" or "queer" or having any other sexual orientation imaginable is because whether you're trans has nothing to do with your sexual orientation. Whether you "acknowledge your trans past" (whatever that means) has bugger all (no pun intended) to do with whether you are straight or gay. They are totally different issues. As Samantha tried to tell you from the beginning.

Sam isn't just ignorant and wrong. We're all ignorant and wrong sometimes. But Sam is also breathtakingly arrogantly wrong, and patronising.
activism now is not about bulldozing or being hotheaded, but about making change with friendship and smiles, and not taking everything so seriously and personally.
I like "friendship and smiles" as much as the next person, but when people are murdered and excluded on the basis of a form of discrimination that will never ever come within a galaxy's length of your experience, telling them not to take it "seriously and personally" is the height of callousness.

The final word must go to Edward Flaherty:
You couldn't get a clue during the clue mating season in a field full of horny clues if you smeared your body with clue musk and did the clue mating dance.

13 Myths of Homosexuality.

This badly drawn pig is trying to close his previous one-pig soapbox, so he will be importing some of its material over here.

One of my favourite is this snarky lists of debunkers for gay marriage. It's been floating about Teh Interwebz for a while now, but I think it's especially timely given the Ugandan anti-gay bill, and failure of New York senate to pass the gay marriage bill (see our feline friend's post for a senate debate by Senator Diane Savino). Closer to home, we're still dealing with crazy [WARNING: CLICK AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!] unaccompanied ursidaes inciting more prejudices and hatefulness* for "howling gays", and "pro-gay, anti-family feminists" (his favourite candidate is "Notoraper" Jolene Tan)--although of late the interest is in debasing The Online Citizen, anti-death penalty campaigners and Teh Easter Bunny knows which other remotely motivated egalitarian.

13 Myths of Homosexuality.

1. Homosexuality is not natural, much like eyeglasses, polyester, and birth control are not natural.

2. Heterosexual marriages are valid because they produce children. Infertile couples and old people cannot get legally married because the world needs more children.

3. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children because straight parents only raise straight children.

4. Straight marriage will be less meaningful, since Britney Spears's 55-hour just-for-fun marriage was meaningful.

5. Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and it hasn't changed at all: women are property, Blacks can't marry Whites, and divorce is illegal.

6. Gay marriage should be decided by the people, not the courts, because the majority-elected legislatures, not courts, have historically protected the rights of minorities.

7. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are always imposed on the entire country. That's why we only have one religion in America.

8. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people makes you tall.

9. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage license.

10. Children can never succeed without both male and female role models at home. That's why single parents are forbidden to raise children.

11. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society. Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and we could never adapt to new social norms because we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

12. Civil unions, providing most of the same benefits as marriage with a different name are better, because a "separate but equal" institution is always constitutional. Separate schools for African-Americans worked just as well as separate marriages will for gays & lesbians.

13. Marriage is a religious institution, defined by churches. This is why atheists do not marry. Christians also never get a divorce.
* I'm trying to make a more substantive distance from using "hate" as freely as before, for philosophical reasons. But in this case I don't think "hate" is too liberal an application.

Irrevocable rights

Cat In the Cream gave us The Simplest Point of The Week (so far): "Human rights should not be up to a vote, neither should they be subject to discussion."

I'd like to re-quote Bilerico Project front-poster, Greta Christina's comment about the Californian Supreme Court upholding of Prop 8 (referendum to remove gay marriage rights) earlier this year:
See, this isn't just about gay rights and marriage equality. This is about the principle that certain rights are inalienable. This is about the principle that, as important as democracy is, as important as it is for people to be able to vote on the laws and policies that govern them, certain rights transcend that principle, and cannot be taken away by majority rule. This is about the principle that there are limits to mob rule: that the fears and hatreds and prejudices of one class of people towards another cannot be inscribed into law. This is about the principle that people have every right to be bigots, but they do not have the right to write their bigotry into law... even if that bigotry is shared by the majority. ("The Prop 8 Ruling: Discrimination as a Constitutional Principle", 27 May 2009)
If you even think it's up for discussion, then I'm afraid you're just selling bullshit waffles, and I'm forced to join Kitty in our little corner, silently judging and exercising every ounce of disdain towards you. (We will probably also get on our computers to write snarky things about you!)

Though I'll never politick away your freedom to marry whoever you want, move for you to be removed from my vicinity, force you to hold my hand, say that your vagina iz belongs to your dude just because you married him, or whatever.

That's the point about irrevocable rights.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sass Rogando Sasot at the United Nations

Sass Rogando Sasot, transgender activist from the Philippines, addresses the United Nations in a powerful assertion of the full humanity of trans people. Full transcript here.

The root of our oppression is the belief that there is only one and only one way to be male or female. And this starts from our birth. Upon a quick look on our genitals, we are assigned into either male or female. This declaration is more than just a statement of what’s between our legs. It is a prescription of how we should and must live our lives. It is a dictation of what we should think about ourselves, the roles we should play, the clothes we should wear, the way we should move, and the people with whom we should have romantic or erotic relationships. But the existence of people whose identities, bodies, and experiences do not conform to gender norms is a proof that this belief is wrong.

Nonetheless, even though the truth of human diversity is so evident and clear to us, we choose to hang on to our current beliefs about gender, a belief that rejects reality and forces people to live a lie. This is the belief that leads to attacks on our physical and mental integrity, to different forms of discrimination against us, and to our social marginalization. This is the belief that led to Joan of Arc to be burned at stake because she was cross-dressing. This is the belief that motivated the rape and murder of Brandon Teena on December 31, 1993. This is the belief that led to the stabbing to death of Ebru Soykan, a prominent transgender human rights activist in Turkey, on March 10, 2009. This is the belief that led to the arrest of 67 Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia for cross-dressing in June this year. This is the belief that keeps the list of transgender people being harassed, killed, and violated growing year after year. And it is very unfortunate that our legal systems, religions, and cultures are being used to justify, glorify, and sanctify the violent expressions of this belief.

So we question: Is human life less precious than this belief? Is our right to life, to dignified existence, to liberty, and pursuit of happiness subservient to gender norms? This doesn’t need a complicated answer. You want to be born, to live, and die with dignity – so do we! You want the freedom to express the uniqueness of the life force within you – so do we! You want to live with authenticity – so do we!

People we love: Molly Meek

An inspiration to this farmland fowl, Molly Meek is the original furry dissident. In The Importance of Being Bitchy she calls for less mealy-mouthed, status-quo-reinforcing pseudo-balance in favour of more full-blooded animal spirit.
What do we have then? We have vocal activists and opposition politicians (though not that many of them). We also have those who, interpellated by the State’s seductive call, fancy themselves balanced, rational, constructive critics who, more often than not (and I think they might lash their constructive whips on me here) spout wishy-washy pseudo-criticisms and are on stand-by 24/7 to cane those whom they deem unreasonable, i.e truly political. “You must be fair to the PAP. Not everything they do is wrong.” These are the people who believe that when you have a kilogram of criticism, you must balance it with a kilogram of praise and acknowledgement of good work. (Admittedly, this is an exaggeration, but do I not have the right to use hyperbolic language to make a point, however imbalanced and unfair it is?)

What we need are Political Uber-bitches. And what they need is some real space in which to exist, not an abyss in which they are constantly hurled prescriptions of sedatives to cure them of their perceived excesses.
In bold is a perfect description of the people who make me want to punch walls. (Disclaimer: no walls were harmed in the making of this post.) Their obstructionism is only ever placed in the way of those who are trying to make things better. Never is it directed at those silent and invisible but nevertheless tangible and forceful - even violent - forces that keep the burdens of prejudice, abuse and deprivation where they are.

"It is a good aim in theory, but your methods are bad," they utter from a reclining position on a sedan chair, never raising so much as a little finger in service of any allegedly superior methods to promote the aims they supposedly support.

Kudos to Molly for turning those sharp feline eyes onto this.

What it Says About You

Today I witnessed a discussion about whether differing viewpoints on LGBTQ rights should be a dealbreaker in a heterosexual relationship. Points such as "it only affects us by extrapolation/if our kids turn out to be gay" and "it's an intellectual disagreement" came up.

So, I write to offer my unsolicited advice.

If I have to explain to someone why people whose sexualities fall outside of the one man-one woman norm should also be granted the same legal rights to marriage and adoption, then that someone to me isn't someone worth spending time with. LGBTQ (and everything in between) rights is not a subject for intellectual discourse because anyone arguing against the provision of such rights are arguing against the humanity of the people involved. It is also a stunning display of privilege that is frankly acutely unattractive (since when were your rights brought up over drinks as a point of intellectual debate?).

Monogamous hetereosexual people may feel that they are not affected by whether those who fall into other categories are seen as full people under the law. But that's not true. Their humanity is affected by the opinion they hold on whether a person's humanity can be decided by referendum. I'll make it simple for you - it can't. My humanity is not up for discussion, neither is anyone else's and if you feel differently then I question how much you have considered the world around you and how much you have decided that you, by virtue of an accidental alliance, should be entitled to so much more than anyone else.

A few weeks ago Senator Diane Savino spoke eloquently of how us heterosexual folk have squandered our right to marry by constantly making a mockery of the institution of marriage itself. She followed it up with a breathtaking description of the very human people who are denied this by an arbitrary and cruel standard enforced by prejudice and by nothing else. If you can, please take the time to watch it now (full transcript here):

A quote from the video:
You know I’ve also been lobbied, quite interestingly, on this bill by people on both sides. I’ll tell you one funny story. I was on 6th avenue in Manhattan, I was in my car, I was driving, make a left turn onto 52nd street, I was stopped at a light, I had my window open. And a young man on a pedicab stopped and stuck his head in the window of my car, which I thought was kind of strange. But he recognized the senate license plate on my car and this was right during the week that the assembly was taking up the vote earlier this year.

And he said to me, "Excuse me, is there going to be a gay marriage vote in Albany this week?"

And I said, "Yes, the assembly’s going to take it up, but the senate probably won’t take it up any time soon, I’m not sure when."

And he said, "Are you going to vote for it?" and I said, "Yes I am", and he said, "Why?"

And I said, "Because I believe that people should be able to share their life with whomever they want and the role of government is to administer that contract that they agree to enter into."

And he stopped and said, "But they’re changing the definition of marriage."

And I said, "Don’t get so excited about this marriage stuff." I said, "Think about this, we just met, you and I right here at the stoplight. You stuck your head in the window of my car. Do you know tomorrow we could go to City Hall, we could apply for a marriage license, and we could get married, and nobody there will ask us about the quality of our relationship or whether we’ve been committed to each other or any of those things. They will issue that marriage license and we can get married."

And he said, "Yes, that’s true."

I said, "Do you think we’re ready for that kind of commitment?"

And he stopped and he said, "I see your point."
Human rights shouuld not be up to a vote, neither should they be subject to discussion. I would not piss to put out a fire on someone who disagrees - they have demonstrated to me how they feel about the humanity of others, leaving me free to disregard theirs.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ban of transgender women at local clubs.

Reader Mark wrote to us with an unpublished letter to the Straits Time Forum written by his friend, SM. The letter seeks clarification from the people at Zouk on an apparent blanket ban on transgender women at the establishment's Velvet Underground: (dated 21 Jul 2009)
Last Friday night, my friends and went clubbing at Zouk's Velvet Underground. However, arriving at the club's entrance, I was shocked to learn that my transgender friend was not allowed into one of Singapore's most well-known clubs.

Upon clarification with the bouncer, it was explained that a policy of disallowing all transgender patrons applies, although only to Velvet.

These patrons are still welcome to merry-making in the other parts of the greater establishment, including the main Zouk club, Phuture and Winebar.

I would very much like to know why Velvet Underground has such a blatantly discriminatory blanket ban in place, that denies entry to a whole class of people.

A bar-ban may be an entertainment spot's prerogative, but it is usually applied individually to patrons who have without mitigating factors incurred serious transgressions that disrupt the enjoyment or prove to be a threat to the safety of patrons, staff or the environment.

Does Velvet Underground mean to suggest that all transgender people are disruptive or threatening simply by existing or being present? This belief has no justification. Zouk should know this from direct experience since transgender people are, under its own policy, able to access the rest of the club.

Also, by what criteria does Velvet Underground determine whether a potential patron is transgender?

In his letter to us, Mark relates that he knows of "another big club frequented by Caucasian expatriates, at CHIJMES" that has a similar discriminatory policy in place. His understanding is that these bans have been argued to be "purely for the pecuniary benefit of their shareholders, and that it was within their power to exclude any (class of) people they deem unsavory."

Exclusionary policies are fine if indeed "unsavory" people are banned individually as SM points out above. The problem with a blanket ban, however, is a matter of ignorantly playing to stereotypes that are difficult to justify or in fact enforce. It is the case for race in a predominantly White countries, race in early education, race on the dumbbox, reasons for adultery and children of wedlock, what makes a feminist, and fat people.

In this case, Mark notes:
Firstly, all transwomen are necessarily made out to be sex workers [by the ban], when obviously this isn't the case.

Practically speaking, clubs have no real way of excluding other sex workers of any gender, except by doing it the good old traditional way--when someone gets reported, they ban the individual.

Just as how clubs can't exclude all cis sex workers, there's no real way the bouncers are capable of excluding all transwomen just by looks. This means that the management really only excludes better-known transwomen, or/and any (trans)woman who does or doesn't fit certain bills.
I make especial note on "certain bills" to maybe mean what transphobic feminist, Julie Bindel calls “fuck-me-boots and birds-nest hair”?

We at the barn are very disturbed by this, and fully agree that this needs to be aired. Not only so that, as Mark hopes, "everyone who gives a damn might consider bringing their buying power to more inclusive venues", but also that we can avoid places where the likely intolerant types maybe concentrate.

Voice Out. I encourage concerned readers to write in to Zouk to demand they change their policies: email them at, or call them at (+65) 6738 2988.

Tell Us More. If anyone else knows of other non-inclusive venues, please write to us (email address on the side) so that we can compile a list.

Thanks to Mark and SM for bringing this to the table! You're welcome to party in the barn with us any day!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mathia Lee's "Dating strangers safely".

Mathia Lee, previously a volunteer facilitator of AWARE's Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), was meditating on the recent news report on how "one in five have dated a stranger they met through a social networking site, and one in 10 have been sexually harassed on such sites.”

Lee recounts how the students she taught didn't go out with strangers for fear of their safety. She then goes on to say, quite accurately in my piggish opinion, that almost always the dates we go on are with "near strangers" who at some point may even become "our husbands and wives".

The point is, you have to start somewhere, and being completely paralysed by the bogeymen of online predators simply isn't helpful.

Now, Porkchop here would gladly share some tips, but seeing as how he's practically plant-life in this department, he feels sharing Lee's highly sensible tips on dating strangers safely more useful, and suitable for the initial, "Base-1" hanging-out periods.

You know they're very good because they're relevant to all genders and sexual orientations navigating the initial minefield of love and sex.

I reproduce with minor edits, in brackets, italics, bold and underlined for better organisation:
Advice for Daters

[Group Dates] go out in groups

[Stay Public] stay only in public places

[Travel Public] insist that you can make your way to the date and back home on your own, rather than accepting a ride with [your date] alone in [hir] car. Or else, [ze] can accompany you on public transport.

[Tell Someone] letting someone, preferably your parents, know who you are going out with, and their details/contact no.s (See below.)

[Disclaim to Date] letting your date know that someone knows about him, and is watching out for you


Detailing to Someone

[Choose Helper] Tell someone, hopefully your parent/ guardian, but if you're not comfortable then let your classmate, or your best friend know.

[Details] You need to give this friend DETAILS Location of date, contact numbers of date, your parents, etc, start time, end time, etc.

[Disclaim to Date] Your date needs to know your friend has [hir] details; that’s a deterrant

[Set Pumpkin Hour] You need to tell your friend “I intend to be home by 10pm tonight. So if I don’t call you by 11pm, I might be in trouble and you need to get help”

[Establish Response/ Help] Your friend has to be reliable and trustworthy enough to actually try to call you, if you don’t call her/him, and reliable and trustworthy enough to contact your parents/the police, if you actually might be in trouble.
Fall in love with ease of mind, yo! Good luck and have fun now! :)

Physician, heal thyself

This Magical Chicken was idly perusing the Media Development Authority's free-to-air radio programme code, as one does every now and then, when her avian eyes settled on the following paragraphs:
3.1 Broadcasters should bear in mind the importance of the family as the basic unit of society in Singapore. The sanctity of marriage should be respected, and divorce should not be treated casually or in a frivolous manner. Adultery, cohabitation and promiscuity should not be endorsed, glamorised or encouraged.

3.2 Information, themes or subplots on lifestyles such as homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexualism, transsexualism, transvestism, paedophilia and incest should be treated with utmost caution. Their treatment should not in any way promote, justify or glamorise such lifestyles. Explicit dialogue or information concerning the above topics should not be broadcast.
Followed immediately by this:
3.3 Programmes should not make careless references to any class or group of persons as being inherently inferior. Programmes should not encourage or in any way discriminate against any section of the community on account of gender, age, disability or occupational status.

Well, there's no contradiction in that at all, now, is there?

Physician, heal thyself.

People We Love: M Ravi & the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign.

Our Barnyard Engineer had a month ago highlighted an interview between Singapore Democratic Party and AWARE founding member, Constance Singam, from the SDP's "Let's Talk" series with Chia Li Tik. This time, SDP speaks with a personal hero of mine, M Ravi, a human rights lawyer who's probably the frontrunner in championing against mandatory death penalty in the Singapore legal system.

On-going is a fight against the death sentencing of drug mule Yong Vui Kong, 21, who three years ago was caught at the causeway between Malaysia and Singapore. Yong, a Malaysian, was sentenced to death because Singapore has insanely strict laws regarding drug trafficking. (Seriously, a 17 year old doesn't even possess voting rights, but the court thinks it's okay to put one on the road to the gallows!?) He was actually supposed to be hanged last Friday, but Ravi has come out to successfully argue for Yong's case to be open to appeal--Yong had initially waived thinking he would should just face unchallenged realities--and will represent Yong during the appeal. It's also important to note that Ravi was not Yong's original lawyer.

From the interview, Ravi comments on the key problem with the mandatory death sentence in Singapore:
The starting point here is not just death penalty per se. What we are dealing with here in Singapore is mandatory death sentence. That is the judge, who is passing the death sentence, cannot look into the extenuating circumstances of the individual when there are mitigating circumstances which are available, where he can set aside the death sentence and offer life imprisonment. So that takes away the vital essence of judicial making, which is discretion. And that discretion is unfortunately given to the President, who has hardly given any clemency for the umpteenth years that we know.

And on how Ravi was spurred into his work in the area of human rights and the death penalty:
There was one day I received a call from Mr JB Jeyaretnam. He felt so aggrieved on account of his client, you could hear the outrage of his voice over the phone. He said this particular case, which involves the death penalty involving a 22 year-old Malaysian boy, had already run its course. Meaning it has gone to the Court of Appeal, it has already reached the clemency stage, and clemency was already denied. The courts just said, look we can't reopen the case because the matter is already concluded, the court does not have the power to reopen the case which has run its course. To which I asked the CJ [Chief Justice], are you then saying that an innocent man can be hanged in Singapore just because of procedural matters? That means you can't reopen the case even if the man is innocent? The Chief Justice just replied, "Yes, the answer is yes." When I looked at that reply, it just shook my conscience beyond belief.

Please watch the rest of the interview to hear Ravi speak on why drugs shouldn't be given the death penalty, the problem with check and balances between the "three arms of the state", and on the Singapore Law Society, and the need for lawyers to speak up.

Lastly, follow also activist, Rachel Zeng's, heartwrenching account of Yong's final meeting his mother behind a glass panel because apparently death row inmates are deemed undeserving human touch from their loved ones by our prisons. Zeng, artist Seelan Palay, and art educator Lucy Davis are all members of the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign, the very good people who brought us the World Day Against the Death Penalty Forum.

I humbly extend my Awesome Possum salute to all of them, and wish Yong the best in his fight against the death penalty.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Authentic Azian Senzation™

'Happy Singapore Electronics Shop' so you know it's Singapore, yo!
In both Poultrygeist's awesome post on early absorption of racism and a comment left at Complaining Cow's missive on the embracement of insensitivity by certain people, it is proposed that the majority class will only begin to understand the problem with "harmless" stereotyping when the tables are turned on them.

I think they're absolutely right.

I'm totally reminded of an Australia and New Zealand Bank (ANZ Bank) TV commercial that ran on the Australian free-to-air when I was there as part of a Animals Are Friends, Not Food world tour a year ago.

The entire campaign peddled ANZ's apparently superior credit card security tracking system that picked up suspicious spending trends. In this particular ad, the example was Fiona Tyler's credit card that was used simultaneously in both Melbourne and Singapore. It starts from inside the ANZ security oversight office, before cutting to a scene of "Singapore" where the credit card fraud perpetrator is attacked by ANZ's campaign mascot.

Their idea of Singapore? Shops with large chinese signboards, hanging red lanterns, food hawkers along pedestrian walkways and what looks like our preferred mode of transport, the trishaw. Complete with old-school, yellow tint to the film and cue Chinese New Year-esque, chirpy Chinese mandolin and drum soundtrack for maximum Authentic Azian Senzation™!

(Er... I don't think Singapore has looked like that since the 1970s.)

And I really don't think it does anything to inform people of the realities outside of Australia. Information that, I figure, might be useful for its people since I learnt some things while I was there:

- Some people have impressions that Singapore is in South China, populated by only yellow-skinned people. And yellow-skinned people are bad in English.

- Being bad in English receives similar warmth (typically yellow-skinned) Singaporeans accord (other typically yellow-skinned) migrants in Singapore: leave the country if "you speaky no ingrish".

I got pats on the head and cookies for "speaking such good but accented English" and possessing "a really wide vocabulary". ("Why, thank you! Your English isn't too bad too! Where'cha learn to speak like that?") I'm "not like the other Asians"--you know, the two or three other Asian data points with whom your interlocutor has had extensive conversations to speak so authoritatively on. (No worries that I, a badly drawn, male unfeminist barnyard animal can talk at all, yo!)

- Some have anxieties quite alike Singaporeans--a loud quarter wants migrants to just "go back to your own country!" (I will, mate, once you return to your own country, since most of you shouting can't rightfully claim to be native.)

- It's hard to absorb that there're other skin tones from Singapore. If you're a slight shade of brown, then you must be from Malaysia or Indonesia. Darker and you're from India, and if you're from India then you have a whole different subset of problems. Somewhere between and maybe your family are boat people, and that you probably were a delinquent mall rat at some point. All in all, everyone gets treated with suspicion at some retail or F&B outlets, if not by staff then maybe clientele.

- Being Asian also means that if, like me, you shop at Alternative Lifestyle™, then you're a docile, subservient boytoy who only wants it up his ass, and wishes to be either dominated by an apparently white(r) partner, or handed with extreme care like an exotic, delicate flower that bruises to touch. Oh yeah... You also worship MONSTER COCK. (By the way, I don't think Magical Chicken appreciates her boyfriend being referred to as "monster".) All of which points to a really troubling conception of femininity and gender roles pegged to your race.

- Certain strangers feel they can take liberties with you like publicly manhandle you (lift you up, pinch your cheeks, pat your head, even touch you on more inappropriate spots etc), comment on your Asian cuteness, and how much they like your food. It doesn't matter if you're Singaporean, because that's just part of Asia and it's all the same since they can't tell all you people apart. (Though, seriously, why do you need to tell us apart? So that you can be selectively racist?) If you insist that being Singaporean should mean something--because we on the island like to tell ourselves that we're better than our Asian counterparts--but all you receive is knowledge that the interlocutor has been to Singapore too, "and it has a really nice airport."

Stereotypes don't only trap you in a certain mould complete with often false expectations of what and who you are. They also trap people absorbing it with a certain image of how you should be treated. For every person who thinks these images innocuous, there're many others who can't or won't quite differentiate fact from fiction. And unless you're out there convincing everyone that your approved stereotype is actually not wholly safe for consumption, then I suggest you jolly well not encourage it at all. Because so far, I haven't found a stereotype that benefits anyone.

People we love: Lily Allen

She surely needs no introduction.

Look inside, look inside your tiny mind
And look a bit harder
Cause we’re so uninspired
So sick and tired
Of all the hatred you harbor

So you say it’s not okay to be gay
Well I think you’re just evil
You’re just some racist who can’t tie my laces
Your point of view is medieval

Fuck you, fuck you very very much
Cause we hate what you do
And we hate your whole crew
So please don’t stay in touch

Fuck you, fuck you very very much
Cause your words don’t translate
And it’s getting quite late
So please don’t stay in touch

Do you get, do you get a little kick out of being small-minded?
You want to be like your father
It’s approval you’re after
Well that’s not how you’ll find it

Do you, do you really enjoy living a life that’s so hateful
Cause there’s a hole where your soul should be
You’re losing control of it
And it’s really distasteful

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

If We are First Taught to Mistrust Ourselves...

Nearly a month ago there was an article in the Straits Times about a woman who was literally set on fire at a slimming centre as part of a procedure. As in she was told to lie on a table, a towel soaked in rubbing alcohol was draped over her stomach and the beautician whipped out a lighter and set fire to the towel.

From the article:
Once the towel was set ablaze, Madam Lee felt a sharp pain around her abdomen.

"I can't remember much of the incident. But I was in so much pain, I couldn't even talk," she said.

Staff at the centre managed to put out the fire, and she was sent to a nearby clinic where she was given medication.

"One employee even asked me, 'Really that pain?'" Madam Lee said.

Her medical bill of $40 was paid by Geneva. She was given another $150 for follow-up medical treatment. When contacted, the owner of Geneva said the centre no longer performed the treatment.
So they set someone on fire, express disbelief that it had been an "uncomfortable" experience and give her a little less than $200 for her trouble.

A proprietor of another slimming centre, when asked for comment had this to say:
Ms Catherine Koh, the owner of Beauty Forever Sal0on, said: "Now that the market is bad, the centres will try to think of all kinds of ways to get customers, so customers have to judge for themselves what is safe."
In other words, we will continue to expose you to hazardous situations because you are willing to pay for it. The harm that befalls you can only be the fault of your poor judgement.

How did an adult woman allow herself to be set on fire? In her own words:
'They didn't really explain the procedure in much detail,' Madam Lee said. She did not probe further.

It was only when the therapist whipped out a lighter that she felt slightly alarmed. 'But the employee kept telling me that she was here with me, so I shouldn't be scared,' she added.
Why didn't she ask for the procedure to be stopped? Why didn't a grown woman, "judge for [herself] what is safe"?

How could she?

How could she when as a fat person she is told that she is unhealthy and at risk for all kinds of debilitating and life-threatening diseases even though she is able to walk long distances carrying heavy groceries? How could she when as a fat person she is told that she is smelly and takes up too much room even though she practices excellent personal hygiene and smells better than the skinny bloke on the MRT who is, incidently, using two seats? How could she when as a fat person she is told she is unattractive and unlovable even though she has a (presumably) loving husband and family? (I must add that it was her children's cruel comments that pushed her to seek slimming treatments, so I do wonder about how loving the enviroment is - that being said, friends and family of the fat get messages daily about how loving a fat person means encouraging them to lose weight...just 5% makes a difference!)

As fat people we are taught to mistrust our own experiences and subsitute it for all the negative narratives we are fed daily in many small ways about our personalities, habits and loved ones. As fat people we are told that by virtue of what we look like we are all manner of disgusting and abhorrent and that to earn, to deserve the space we take up in this world we have to prove that we're trying to be good, that we recognize we are fat.

We are asked whether we're really hungry, to think about why we're eating, as though we cannot trust what our bodies have to tell us. We are told that all we need are 800-1200 calories a day to function even though when we adhere to these diets (it's a lifestyle change, y'know) all we can think about is food and all we do is feel guilty that we're still hungry and unable to gather enough energy to hit the gym (or walk home from the bus stop, for that matter). We never realise that the problem is with the diet and not with ourselves because we have been taught that as a fat person our lived experiences are a by-product of dysfunction and that we must be punished, punished, punished into submission, into that unsustainable smaller size and punished again when it all comes back.

We live in this miasma of fat shaming that discredits us and forces us to question our own judgements. How then are we supposed to "judge for themselves what is safe"? How then are we supposed to figure out that we don't all deserve to be set on fire afterall?

Public Service Annoucement: "To have self-esteem."

My turkey spectral pal's really awesome and very sad moving tale of her first encounter with pedestrian racism has really put me in such a horrible mood. I'm bowled over by the sort of shitty things parents, guardians and mentors can teach children in the name of love and the latter's self-interest. As I said in the comment section there, I'm reminded of my own experience in having to listen to the sort of bullshit about race and "bad animals" that my elders tried to inculcate in me, which for some reason never really stuck because I was and continue to be doubtful of authority figure and authoritative--and worse, authoritarian--tones.

Unlike many other people, I was always in the company of authority figures who fought a lot with each other, make all sorts of mistakes and cause all forms of hurt behind closed doors. That slightly dysfunctional background led me to understand intuitively that even purported role models are not always right. As my feline friend discovers, older people are not necessarily relevant in their 'wisdom'. By all means respect your elders as you should other people, especially with the common decency that we should accord all human beings (see: Human Rights), but screw that listen to your elders unremittingly bullshit.

This is going to be hard to accept, but even we on the barn makes mistakes for the simple reason that nobody's perfect. (Though, we're still pretty damn close to cutesy perfection, yo!)

So dear searching kid, teenager, jia-buey-tua (literally: eat no big) adult who feels different and alienated from the majority, please find delight in the fact that the sagely ones and even your media bigwigs might be wrong, but that you are capable of change and differing from them. Therein making you a little more real (human or otherwise), and a little more prepared for a life of infinite betterment.

Finally, I dedicate the following clip to Poultrygeist and all the other barnmates for showing us that one can actually wade through all the misogynistic, anti-gay, racist, et al bullshit to come out stronger, wiser and brimming with such admirable self-esteem. This is by yet another American comedienne, Margaret Cho, whom I mostly piggishly love, from her stand-up "Notorious C.H.O." (2002):

And I have a lot of self-esteem, which is amazing 'cause I'm probably somebody who wouldn't necessarily have a lot of self-esteem as I am considered a minority.

And if you are a woman; if you are a person of color; if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender; if you are a person of size; if you are person of intelligence; if you are a person of integrity, then you are considered a minority in this world.

And it's going to be really hard to find messages of self-love and support anywhere, especially women's and gay men's culture. It's all about how you have to a look certain way, or else you're worthless. You know when you look in the mirror, and you think: Urgh! I'm so ugly! I'm so fat! I'm so old!

Don't you know? That's not your authentic self?

But that is billions upon billions of dollars of advertising, magazines, movies, billboards, all geared to make you feel shitty about yourself, so that you will take your hard-earned money, and spend it at the mall, on some turn-around cream that doesn't turn around shit!

If you don't have self-esteem, you'd hesitate before you do anything in your life.

You'd hesitate to go for the job you really wanna go for.

You'd hesitate to ask for a raise.

You'd hesitate to call yourself an American. [BDP: please feel free to substitute this with your appropriate nationality.]

You'd hesitate to report a rape.

You'd hesitate to defend yourself when you are discriminated against because of your race, your sexuality, your size, your gender.

You'd hesitate to vote. You'd hesitate to dream.

For us to have self-esteem is truly an act of revolution, and our revolution is long overdue.


Monday, December 7, 2009

In Which the Cat Reads Internet Comments (Episode 1)

I was reading a link about feminist children's books that I stumbled on as part of a linkfest from one of the blogs I read. I like children's books and I don't think they get enough credit as good literature (and before you levy the curmudgeon charge, I will say that this is not entirely the fault of best-selling 'Young Adult' swill that floods the public consciousness - but I suppose it is, largely).

I digress. What I meant to be getting at is I expected an entirely uncontroversial article in which a few book recommendations are made and the commenters (who were invited to add to the list) would indeed make their own recommendations, hopefully with some anecdotes about whether it was well-received by the children in their life(ves). A little naive, perhaps.

I should have known that the word "feminist" would bring out the angry, dismissive, reductive hordes, even if all we were discussing were books that somehow subverted the prevalent, pervasive and ultimately restrictive and repressive gender stereotypes.

What a stupid idea. Let kids be kids, and let them find their own way without overly protective parents inflicting PC bollocks on them.

The phrase "PC bollocks" is all you need to know about this poster. The resentment of the fact that his/her privilege is occasionally brought out into the light of day is oozing out of my screen and threatening to void the warranty on my computer. Honestly, this is a plea for allowing the status quo to stand uncontested and I have no patience for that. Anyone who is arguing for a world riddled with intersecting oppressions does not deserve this world (or discourse, really). Also, you know what happens when people "Let kids be kids, and let them find their own way" in this fucked up society of ours? This fucked up shit.

All of these books work on the premise that feminine instincts are bad and that the best thing is if all girls behave like boys. What rubbish. What's so wrong with being feminine? Why would we want to be violent & aggressive? There's a lot of strength in being gentle and kind. It would be best if we had books that showed that you can be whatever type of person that you want to be and that being gentle & kind is a very good thing.

Short response: Graarrgghhh! Piss off you nonce!

Long response: Congratulations! You win the Cat in the Cream's daily missing the point award! Not to mention, the conflation of "feminine instincts" (which is a way of guilting women into mistrusting science and reason as well as blaming them for missteps if I ever saw one) with behaviour qualifies you for the the bonus "Consistency Fail" medal! Feminists do not believe that males are "violent & aggressive". That would be gender stereotyping. Feminists do not do that. Books that emphasize the "strength in being gentle and kind" (and heaven knows there sure are enough of them out there that you hardly have to look at a very short list of books in a newspaper article to find them) do not "[show] that you can be whatever type of person that you want to be" BECAUSE THEY SHOW THAT YOU HAVE TO BE GENTLE AND KIND WHICH IS REALLY JUST ANOTHER WAY OF SAYING THAT YOU HAVE TO BE PASSIVE AND SUBMISSIVE AND PUT OTHERS ABOVE YOURSELF.

I'm pretty sure that's the default message we're giving girls, so I have to wonder why this person had to drop in to defend it at all. Oh wait, I do know. Idiot.

Why do these stories have to be "feminist" and what the hell is "gender studies" for a three year old anyway. Some of these stories just talk about girls doing stuff which don't involve being passive and waiting to be swept away by Prince Charming. That's not feminist that's just neutral.

Wha (sic) teach your daughter that you're already under a patriarchical (sic) yoke from year dot? Good grief, why does anyone want to teach their daughters that men are oppresing (sic) them especially when so many modern laws are so feminist in nature? I'd rather just teach that girls are free to choose to be something other than a princess.

Anyway, good list apart from "Girls Will Be Boys Will Be Girls" which sounds downright confusing for children rather than merely subversive.

Let's being with "That's not feminist, that's just neutral". I bet this person also says things like "we live in a post-feminist world" at parties while card-carrying members of the patriarchichy (heh) nod sagely. It is feminist because the dominant paradigm says otherwise. I'd also like a list of the laws which "are so feminist in nature" - I have a feeling that they actually only meet this person's definition of "neutral".

Exposing children to subverted stereotypes is not "[teaching] your daughter that you're already under a patriarchical (sic) yoke from year dot". The hopeless desperation this describes is a little heart-breaking (it seems to imply, to me at least, that the writer feels defeated by the patriarchy and the patriarchichy). I understand the need to shelter children from the uglier bits of the world, but is trapping them in restrictive categories that brutally punishes transgressions really the way to go about that? The confused query of the following mother says the answer is "no":

What do I do about my son's addiction to pink, and high heels? He's two. I'm assuming he'll grow out of it, but against my better judgement find myself pushing 'boy's' toys on him. He has no interest though, he just wants to read about Princess Poppy (there's a rubbish series of books if there ever was one)

I know I'm preaching to the choir (well, I hope so, at least) when I say that exposing children to examples of all genders going about their lives, doing fantastical things, and in various roles is unequivocally a good thing. It may not strictly be the case in reality, but this is one damn good way to go about changing it.

Maybe one of these days I'll even write about books written for the children's market that have characters who do not fall into gender stereotypes. For now, I'll leave you with this (hardly exhaustive) rant.