Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rhymes with witch

A few months ago I was waiting for a bus with a friend. The bus stop was one of those where no buses arrive for 15 minutes, then seven of them show up all at once. Our bus was stuck two bus-lengths behind the bus bay, so we had to shuffle between other buses in front and the grass verge on the pavement to get to the bus, as did a small queue of other passengers in front of us. While performing said shuffle, we were made aware of the presence of a man behind us by his snapping at us: 'Are you getting on the bus or not? If you aren't, get out of the way.'

Now, this Cow is not one much for bucolic meandering. This Cow gets het up into a state of Complaint frequently due to an impatient nature, and the only thing that stopped me from joining the 'I Secretly Want to Punch Slow-Walking People in the Back of The Head' Facebook group was the fact that I don't want to punch people; I just want to tell them very loudly and imperiously, EXCUSE ME. Seeing as humans and cows have one anatomical feature in common—namely: the absence of eyes on the back of the head, I think it's only fair to give warning to slow-walkers in front of you that something impatient (and/or late to an appointment) their way comes. There's no need to be snippy about it too. Imaginary imperial pretensions notwithstanding, I always manage to be quite polite and meek with my 'Excuse me's. It's like directional signals on cars; you don't get pissed off with other cars just because they're there in front of you on the road, right?

So I was not liking it one bit, the tone with which this interloper was telling me to 'get out of the way'. We have an expression 'round these parts: Your grandfather owns the road issit? ('Issit' = 'is it', but said in demanding tone which promises a world of pain to whoever responds in the affirmative.) This sentiment was strong in my mind, but being the younger, smaller-sized and less drunk party in this public confrontation, I thought it wise to restrict my reply to the un-sarcastic and purely factual, so I told him that we were indeed trying our best to get on the bus, and if he'd just let us get on with it, he could also achieve the same.

So we all Got On The Fucking Bus. See, it wasn't that hard, was it? Except that Angry Man felt the need to extend our inadvertent interaction by saying, quite loud enough for the entire bus to hear: 'Bitches!'

Gentle readers, I saw red. My companion, with much quicker reflexes, responded with 'Bastard!' as Angry Man disappeared up the stairs to the upper deck. The bus trundled on in stony silence. The entire encounter had taken less than a minute in real time, but my heart pounded as if I'd just done the 100m sprint. I was angry and shaken.

And this, my dear friends, is why 'bitch' cannot be reappropriated to empower women.

'Bitch' was, is and always will be a gendered insult. It will always be used to shame, degrade and encourage violence against women for the sole reason that they are women. There is no equivalent insult whose power to degrade springs from being a slur against intrinsic maleness. ('Bastard': illegitimate children are not confined to the male sex. 'Asshole': everyone has one. 'Idiot', 'moron', 'retard': Slurs against mental disabilities, not maleness.)

I am well aware that many people (and many of them women) think that 'bitch' is a relatively mild term, that their lives would be that much poorer if they didn't use this epithet, and that if I can't handle it, then it's because my skin is too thin—that if I just don't let it hurt me, then the insult loses its power. I could do all that, but that would be a purely selfish way to live, because I live in privileged circumstances that allow me to treat 'bitch' as merely a word, and not have to suffer the most extreme physical consequences of woman-hating. And you know what: I wasn't hurt by being called a bitch. I was insulted. My emotional state of hurtness or lack thereof had no bearing on the degree of insult that was offered to me.

'Bitch' is reserved with special vehemence for women who are 'difficult', who are angry, who exact the same standards as the toughest male managers at the workplace, who make our own sexual and reproductive choices without shame, who refuse to quietly and gladly submit to what men want us to do that is in contradiction with our own needs, wishes and choices.

But we cannot reclaim 'bitch' to celebrate women's independence and women's anger, because 'bitch' can also be used on any woman. In the incident related above, all I did to get called 'bitch' was get on the bus. If I had been a man, Angry Man would have insulted me for being slow, not for being a man. To the person who uses 'bitch' as an insult, it's just another word for 'woman that I hate', and as we have seen, women can be hated for doing almost anything. And that is why we can never use the word 'bitch' without even inadvertently tapping on and feeding into this deep well of hatred.


After posting the above, I was reminded by my companion on that night of some details I had elided. Apparently my memory was too forgiving to Angry Man. What actually happened was, after he'd asked (in rather bad faith, in light of what followed) whether we were getting on the bus, we said yes, and he replied, 'Then why are you walking like you're at a funeral?' My companion (again, with the lightning take-no-shit reflexes) shot back, 'None of your bloody business,' which is the comment that preceded his calling us bitches.

In addition to the name-calling, another feature of Angry Man's behaviour which I have noticed in other unpleasant public encounters with aggressive men, is the entitlement they feel to encroach on that radius of personal space that everyone is entitled to in a public place, if that space happens to surround a woman. In this case, Angry Man chivvied us on our way because he clearly felt that our claim on the space that we occupied was trumped by his desire to board the bus at record-breaking pace. I'm sure he'll do well in the Night Bus Olympics, douchebags' division.

Friday, May 28, 2010

"We meant it exactly the way you meant it".

"Theatricality," Glee, Season 1 Episode 20, first aired May 25 2010.
KURT: “It’s just a room, Finn! We can redecorate it if you want to!”
FINN: “Okay, good! Well, then the first thing that needs to go is that faggy lamp, a-and then, we need to get rid of this faggy couch blan-“
BURT: “Hey! What did you just call him?”
FINN: “Oh, no, no; I didn’t call him anything. I was talking to the blanket.”
BURT: “No, you used that word; you’re talking about him.”
KURT: “Relax, Dad, I didn’t take it that way.”
BURT (to Kurt): “Yeah, that’s because you’re sixteen and you still assume the best in people. You live a few years, you start seeing the hate in peoples’ hearts. Even the best people.”
BURT (to Finn): “You use the ‘N’ word?”
KURT: “Uh, of course not.”
KURT: “Well how ‘bout ‘retard’? You call that nice girl in Cheerios with Kurt, you call her a ‘retard’?”
FINN: “Becky, no, she’s my friend. She’s got down-syndrome. I’d never call her that; that’s cruel.”
BURT: “But you think it’s okay to come in my house and say ‘faggy’?”
FINN: “That’s not what it meant…”
BURT: “I know what you meant! What, you think I didn’t use that word when I was your age? You know, some kid gets clocked in practice, we tell him to ‘stop being such a fag’ ‘shake it off’… we meant it exactly the way YOU meant it. That being gay is wrong and it’s some kind of punishable offense.”
BURT: “I really thought you were different, Finn. You know, I thought that being in Glee Club and being rased by YOUR mom, meant that you were some, you know, new generation of dude who saw things differently, who just kinda, you know, came into the world knowing what has taken me years of struggling to figure out. I guess I was wrong.”
BURT: “I’m sorry, Finn. But, you can’t… you can’t stay here.”
KURT: “Dad!”
BURT (to Finn): “I love your mom. And maybe this is gonna cost me her, but my family comes first. I can’t have that kind of poison around.”
BURT (to Kurt): “This is our home, Kurt.”
BURT (to Finn): “He is my son! Out in the world, you do what you want; not under my roof.”
BURT (to Kurt): “The place looks great.”

(from The Jumping Off Point.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A nation of WTF

I have been roused from my Magical torpor by an unbeatably vile missive from one Sulthan Niaz to, what else, the Straits Times forum. Apparently Singapore is "a nation of spoilt princesses. Lo:
THE Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) seemed to suggest last Thursday ('Singapore still far behind in true gender equality: Aware') that women are free from blame for the declining birth rate in Singapore.

In Singapore, most parents urge their children to excel in studies and focus on their career. Few prepare their children for the rigours of parenthood.

Many households also employ maids. As a result, our boys and girls grow up lacking parenting skills and are clueless about household chores. The boys, however, have responsibilities forced upon them in the form of national service. Not so the girls. They are free to place personal ambition above all else.
And here begins the flight from Reality to some bizarro fantasy world. I wouldn't mind going there for a while, though; it would have been nice to grow up "free to place personal ambition above all else". I am a wistful Chicken.
Many women choose to remain single because they do not see the need or the urgency to get married. They do not need a man to provide for them and they can always depend on their girlfriends for emotional support. As for sex, few see the need to have it regularly.
If it is the case that women don't see any benefit to themselves to getting married - and it's by no means clear that that's true, otherwise I would no longer be bombarded with nauseating and ridiculously stagey wedding photographs on Facebook - then, Sulthan Niaz, it is for the best that they do not marry. If you are suggesting that all women are obliged to marry even at the cost of their own aspirations, then, well, let me put it this way: it's not feminists here who are presenting it as an institution of oppression, but you. You are arguing, in no uncertain terms, that compulsory marriage must be instituted and must come at the cost of women's happiness. You therefore present, in fact, one of the single biggest arguments against women ever valuing the institution of marriage. Congratulations.
Even when a woman does want to get married, her expectations get in the way. The man must be her 'type'. He must have a great job, good income, be reasonably good-looking and he must also charm her off her feet before she will contemplate marriage.
These frightful harridans, how dare they believe they should marry to get something out of marriage? Clearly, they should marry just because, uhm. Because any man at all has been magnanimous enough to confer legitimacy onto their pathetic female existences - so how dare they want anything like love, or compatibility, or sexual attraction? The unbearable cheek - it's like they think they're people whose feelings and desires actually matter.
Our society glorifies the career woman. Lifestyle and fashion magazines devote pages to tips for the career woman to get ahead. Floors in shopping malls cater exclusively to the needs of these women and credit card and insurance companies vie for their money.
That would explain the predominance of degrading sexual objectification in all that woman-oriented advertising, then. I'm sure the promotions of those things women are relentlessly sold and taught that we require actually further our happiness and well-being instead of trying to drain money out of us by encouraging insecurity and self-hatred. Also, of course this career advantage for women means that businesses all over Singapore and the rest of the feminist-infested world are wholly dominated by women. Of course.
As a result, women are spoilt for choice. Egged on by society, free from national service and reservist obligations and not needing a man, they are totally free to focus exclusively on their careers. Choosing to get married and have children is committing career suicide.
Funny how this "logic" works - so if women did national service and had reservist obligations, we would all be popping them babies out. Absolutely. Err. What?
The conclusion is inevitable. We have raised a nation of 'spoilt princesses' unwilling and unable to handle the rigours of motherhood.
The conclusion is inevitable. You are the most putrid concentration of hatefulness this side of Pluto. Fuck off, and when you've finished fucking off, kindly fuck off again.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Drawing Mohammed

I hope it goes without saying that I think Draw Mohammed Day (scheduled initially for the 20th of May 2010 and then rescinded when the progenitor of the idea got freaked out by the responses to it) is an unmitigated bad idea.

"But Cat!" you say, "You blaspheme right along with the best of them! Isn't this just organized blasphemy?"

Christ on a cracker. Have we taught you nothing here at the Barn?

You do not piss on ideas that other people hold dear. Now, I will defend to the death your right to free speech and I do not think that the violence committed against cartoonists who have depicted Mohammed is justified in any way. But that being said, it wasn't a very nice thing to do now, was it?

To me, the situation at hand is not about blasphemy or free speech. It's about privilege, racism and xenophobia. This is the Western world uniting to do something deliberately incendiary towards a group of people often caricatured and marginalized within their societies.

Muslims are not an empowered group in the Western world. That should go without saying. The ghettos they are corralled in in Europe (a breeding ground for discontent, and a whole other post), the rhetoric flung at them in America post-9/11 (that has ended up affecting not just Muslims but any dark-skinned group that wears turbans), the carefully crafted news segments portraying violent and loudly unintelligible foreigners that splash across our consciousnesses - this is the position they occupy.

This is the position, underrepresented and over stereotyped, from which they are to respond to any actions taken to deliberately cause affront to symbols they hold dear.

OF COURSE SOME OF THEM WOULD FREAKING FLIP THE FUCK OUT. Not that I condone that response - but seriously, all sorts of populations lose their shit when confronted with things that contradict closely held values. We're just not constantly telling their stories as part of the "villan" bit in our societies' narrative.

This "Draw Mohammed Day"? The cartoonist, Molly Norris, has said that "this is not meant to disrespect any religion, but rather meant to protect people's right to express themselves." Fuck you Molly. Really.

Because this isn't about freedom of expression. Not by a long shot. This is about adding to the cultural drumbeat of "Muslims as bad, irrational and violent. Look! They're responding angrily to my wanting to draw something!" that's been building for a long time now. Shame on you. Shame.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sisters in Solidarity & online petition.

Sisters in Solidarity

The fiasco that is one fucked-up China One Club evicting Marla Bendini, for no other reason than the fact that she's a transwoman, has led to the form of Sisters in Solidarity (SIS). At the helm of SIS, are Leona Lo and Marla Bendini herself.

Over the last week, SIS has organised themselves to form a Facebook group, set up their blog, organised a press conference, put together a social enterprise for transwomen, and have gotten a written and an online petition running.

This pig salutes the women behind SIS for all the work they've done in the short span of time, and I sincerely hope the SIS engine grows and keeps trucking!

For now, we encourage our readers to lend their names to the online petition. The petition is simply crafted, decrying the many instances of discrimination based on the sex expressed on their identity cards, their failure to pass as some stereotypical imagination of what a woman should look like (newsflash: a lot of ciswomen won't pass that test too, you assholes). And because they're transwomen, people think being rude is okay, or that being treated as second-class citizens undeserving of fair investigations is justifiable.

We agree with the petition: stop discriminating against transwomen, regardless of whether or not they've undergone sexual reassignment or if you think they can pass off as some fictitious ideal of what women should be, and if you insist on being discriminatory, then at least have the very courtesy to be open about it.

And if you won't be open about it, don't worry, we're onto you assholes and wholly intend to name you and shame you as and when you rear your ugly head. Because, this is the we'll know where all your fellow assholes congregate, thus can avoid Teh Stupid altogether.

Sign the petition now!

(Sisters in Solidarity petition aims to garner 1000 signatures. After which, the petition will be sent to various "nightspot and club operators" accordingly.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pink Dot: The Story of Jamie Yee.

Our recent thread on the blatant transphobic discrimination against Marla Bendini has drawn some weird commenters out of the woodwork. While it's normally in my nature to ignore and delete, my educator/promoter side thinks this episode also proves a good opportunity to raise a little more awareness on trans people's plight.

Gender and sexuality are very complex aspects of day-to-day living for some of us. Just because we do not see positive and affirming representations of the different sorts of people around leading largely differently lives than the norm doesn't mean that these people are insidious deviants. The media and our larger societal machinery has only so much time to dedicate itself to playing to a wider majority -- we here on the farm obviously think this rather misled.

To begin to fix this, Jamie Yee, a post-op transwoman, bravely came out recently to speak of her own experience in transitioning from her old self to who she is today. In a very touching video (accompanied by an article), in which she is joined by her two very enlightened parents, Jamie and family tell us the struggles they had in coming to terms with Jamie's transgender self. Her story reveals the remarkable power love has in overcoming seeming barriers of complex human life-paths to eventual acceptance and love for another human being.

Speaking of her mother's struggles:
Crucially, however, Jamie’s mother was opening to the idea that her son was really her daughter. Through her own very difficult period, while wrestling with thoughts of suicide, Mrs Yee went for counselling courses. It was there that she began to open up and learn more about diversity in human sexuality.

Transgendered people are individuals who express their gender in a non traditional manner. In Jamie’s case, she was born physically as a man, but sees and expresses herself completely as a woman. In practical terms, she has always been a female, but requires gender reassignment to fully express it.

Mrs Yee knew this. She knew that gender identity issues aren’t easy to deal with, and that family support can help her daughter. “I don’t think they have a choice”, she said, “sometimes they are born in this way, so they need the help and understanding from their family to help them and to believe in them.”
It took a while before Jamie's father learnt to grapple with her need for an operation, and eventually it would be his understanding that regardless of Jamie's complicated gender setup, they "have a child" in Jamie still, and that "I'm her parent, so it's my responsibility to see that she lives and grows as a healthy and happy individual no matter what she may be like. I cannot abandon her."

And we won't abandon our fellow friends of LGBTQ persuasion too, so we'll be at this year's Pink Dot gathering next Saturday, in our glorious pink coats of feathers and fur. Do join us too in promoting the right for people's freedom to love and be loved.
Pink Dot
15 May 2010, Saturday
Hong Lim Park

More information: Facebook Event Page.

Brief Public Service Announcement

It has come to my attention that the top few phrases bringing people to this blog right now involve some combination of the various iterations of the words "fuck" and "child".

Let me point out that the reason for this is that our Magical Chicken wrote a damn fine post titled Don't Fuck Children (emphasis mine).

So whoever it is out there typing those phrases into Google, please read the aforementioned post and take the excellent advice therein.

Good grief.