… is where Altered Carbon‘s Lizzie Elliot knifes the entire patriarchy in the throat.
… is where Altered Carbon‘s Lizzie Elliot knifes the entire patriarchy in the throat.
Three weeks later. Well, yes, that was a notably idyllic day, despite absence of sea, mountain, and forest. Partly it’s northern German Berlin winter smashing me once again, but it’s been a grim slog the last two months, and I haven’t had much I felt like writing about, and writing itself felt — and feels — like an effort I’m not capable of. It’s been a year of cheerless news, raking many of us who aren’t part of the ascendant ethno-nationalist lot, like daily sandpaper to the face. And in this, there’s been so many moments of — for want of a better word — progress, as if, after twenty-five years at it, I can see sometimes evidence of being heard. And then, the very ones who have a voice, who are given a platform and an audience, who fucking know better, once again push any mob who isn’t them, part of their group, under their bus.
Sometimes I feel like such an old cunt, doing this battle now into my forties, and it’s all same old, same old. Do you ever fucking listen to us? I’m using the rhetorical ‘us’ here, I slide along the interstices between many groups but feel an outsider in all. I know that it doesn’t matter what I feel, it’s how I’m seen and marked, and I know that even if I am not part of a group, I cannot fight for my life without fighting for theirs. In all this, there’s one group which can be relied on to not do the same.
White, cisgender women can’t be trusted. Their feminism also. Whether hetero or lesbian or queer, the history in my life of white cisgender women who call themselves feminist is they will fuck the rest of us over, whoever we are. They don’t see us as equal or deserving or really even human. I’m tired of them opening their mouths and some transphobic, racist, Islamophobic, anti-sex worker, anti-BDSM, colonialist, ableist, or any and all of the other –ist shit coming out. I’m tired of them not getting it, not learning, not listening, not educating themselves. I’m tired of the unnecessary shit they bring down on everyone not them.
We have obligations, wherever we are located in the hierarchy of shit, to those who have it harder than we do. We need to understand where we are located in this hierarchy, individually and as members of multiple groups, and how this location has shifted over history and place; that the primary agenda of any of the groups is only a sub-set of the larger, hundreds of years old struggle for emancipation and restitution for us all. You don’t ever advance your own agenda by shitting on those below.
I mainly wrote this after yet another white, cishet woman shat on trans women. Again. The same bullshit from the feminism of my teens continuing unabated twenty-five years on. The word feminism is so hot right now, but youse all have to understand it hasn’t been great for a lot of us, who aren’t the right kind of woman, or don’t live the right kind of life. It’s actively tried to erase us, legislated against us, denied us our rights and selfhood, incited hatred and violence. That’s your feminism. Go and learn your history, then come back and clean up your mess.
I was thinking of political parties last night, and the term, ‘to stay on message’. I wonder if it’s so difficult for white feminists to stay on message because they think they’re exceptional and the message doesn’t apply to them. So here’s the message:
Every time you talk about feminism, you say:
This is not an exhaustive list. The language will date rapidly, indeed it already is clunky. That’s both on language and on me. My ability to even formulate such a list is due to the many women and non-binary people whom I have learnt from, FNI, Black, Muslim, immigrant, queer, trans women and non-binary people. There are faces I see with each of those sentences.
The history of feminism is intrinsically tied to the history of colonialism, white supremacy, and oppression. It is as much prone to essentialist nationalism of the body as racist nationalism is, with all the imperatives towards taxonomising, segregating, and labelling bodies as acceptable or not, human or not. If you want to use this word, you must reckon with its history, with what has been done, to whom, in its name. The above list is the bare minimum, even less. That’s the work that has to be done if feminism wants to claim for itself the bodies of women — and even then, there will be many of us who want no part in your feminism. You have to live with that, and do the work to make amends.
It is work. It is hard, ceaseless, decades and generations long work. It’s work you have to do, and it’s work you can do. When I think of where my interests and attention lay a decade ago, I cringe at how shallow my grasp of this was, in no small part because my grasp of myself and my own history was also shallow. I fuck up, make mistakes, apologise, try to do better, learn from my betters — who have far more pressing concerns on their time than me using it — try pass on that learning and rep them whenever I can, sit down and shut up when it’s not my place, speak up when it’s required, remind myself that people can change and it’s my obligation to encourage this. There’s no embossed certificate at the end of this, no letters before or after your name for all the work you have to do, on yourself first and those around you once you start to get it, you won’t be finished in three or six years, or sixty. But that’s the work, it’s the bare fucking minimum.
Lately I think it’s not for lack of knowing all this stuff that is causing white cis women to dependably shit on the rest of us. I think they do know all this, they’ve heard it their whole lives but they’ve decided they don’t care. It’s not that they don’t know about the issues facing trans women, they are quite sure we’re not women. They do think brown and black immigrants — especially Muslims — are terrorists or genetically misogynist. They truly believe that because it wasn’t them doing the invading and colonising, it’s not their fault, and damned if they’ll take any responsibility. And on and on down the list, making an exception for each one, not my problem, fuck you mate, I’m alright.
I’m saying this as someone who grew up in a white world and was told that was what I also was. Extricating myself from that, knowing my history, is lifelong work. And that’s also what we fight against: the breaking of history and community, atomising each of us, leaving us in one generation without the means to speak to our grandparents, or even knowing who they were. This erasing of history is the greatest ongoing work of colonialism and white supremacy. If feminism wants to stand against anything, wants to contribute anything of worth, it must stand against that, 500 years of that. And in that, white cis feminists must understand that the answers and ways out of this aren’t going to come from them.
And if you can’t do that, take your feminism and fuck off.
I’ve had Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness on my To Buy List since before it was published, the start of last year. I reckon Janet would read my tardiness and why in a second. Cos she’s wicked smart like that.
I’ve been following Janet on Twitter for I dunno how long, she turned up multiple times from various sources at least four years ago, around the time of CeCe McDonald, Isis King, and others being in the news. She also appealed to me because she writes about being women who are trans and multiethnic, women of colour. And quite frankly she’s amazing.
As for trans women autobiographies though, I read any and all I could get my hands on in my teens and twenties and since then have little interest in the narrative conventions. If you think of sci-fi or romance novels having stereotypical storylines, the same applies here. I have a lot of “blaaah why do you expect me to care?”. So I’m reading Redefining Realness and it’s right in that storyline, but here I am, slammed it in an afternoon and an evening.
I was writing at 3am this morning about being in the Grassi Ethnological Museum and going through the collections from Australia, Aotearoa and Polynesia, North America, having this strange disconnect between being in Leipzig, Germany and seeing this art and culture and going, “Yup, I know this … I know this too … and this,” remembering people and places. My history is so different from Janet’s, yet there were these moments reading where mine and hers were the same.
As a teenager, writing to my father whom I’d not seen for years, telling him what I was up to and if he didn’t accept it that was his problem, not mine. Him writing back, a multiethnic, working class South African living in Toronto, saying, “You sound angry. You don’t need to be angry with me. Whatever you do, I’ll always love you.” I don’t have that letter, or anything from him anymore, but amidst all the abuse, violence, the loss and rejection of family and friends, the world I was living in on an island far from North America, his unconditional acceptance in the face of my ultimatum shamed me. Shamed me because I expected rejection from him, and however much it hurt the one powerful thing I could always do was walk away from everyone.
Still as a teenager, in poverty, often homeless — homeless of the kind where you sleep on friend’s couches or floors — on the edges of street sex with the trans women on K’ Road in Auckland, though unlike Janet, loaded on drugs. Also Dutchess, the tough dyke former street kid in Wellington who loved Michael Jackson, not Janet’s Wendi to me but I thought of her while reading Janet. She was staunch, she knew what I was about even if I couldn’t say it, and “Fuck them all, let’s go rob a chemist,” remains the unequaled statement of friendship to me in the face of rejection.
I didn’t know Janet had survived her teens and paid for her life with sex work. Sometimes I’m kinda vague, pretty sure I must have read that, but yeah, vague; I know I’ve admired her all along for her uncompromising advocacy for and representation of trans women of colour, and that for many, being a trans woman — even more so if you’re not white — means sex work is not merely the only option, it’s expected of you. But I still didn’t connect her with this until I read her working the streets in Hawai’i. And then I remembered the women working K’ Road who were just like the women on Merchant St.
The similarity of our lives diverges here. Though we did both go to university. What I see and read with Janet is that she had just enough support to make it through. Not perfect, ideal support, but enough that it didn’t hinder or destroy her. The Janet who did not have family who accepted her from a young age would be a very different Janet to the one who wrote Redefining Realness, if she was even alive now. The Janet who didn’t have Wendi likewise. A liveable life turns on these not insignificant things. One person is enough to make that difference, in either direction.
I was reading another trans woman last night, on Twitter, who said, “Transition memoirs sell b/c their audience is curious cis ppl. They satisfy cis curiosity/voyuerism.” Redefining Realness is a transition memoir, its audience is curious cis people, and it satisfies their voyeurism. It does more than that though. Janet uses her position as a high profile, conventionally attractive, heterosexual trans woman who works in media and has an MA in Journalism to educate this part of her audience, to make them see us as human. So there’s another audience her book is for: #girlslikeus. Trans women, especially trans women who are multiethnic, who see in her something of themselves. Janet writes to represent us.
I once stayed a night in Chungking Mansions, when a flight from Canada arrived too late to catch even the cross-border bus to Guangzhou. I was given the address by a woman at the information booth just past the exit gates from customs, and probably told to make certain not to get off the city bus one stop too early. Someone was waiting for me, amidst the hysterical confusion of touts, and led me into the depths, up an elevator and to a small guesthouse, run by an older Pakistani man. My room even had a window, from which I could see the street below, washed in rain, with a throng of bodies like no other.
Another time, after a climbing trip on Hong Kong island, I went with a group for dinner in a Pakistani restaurant. Once more up elevators and along corridors. As we departed, I glimpsed through another door momentarily opened and saw groups of serious islamic men eating their own dinners around wooden tables.
I stayed there because of course living in Guangzhou and having a fascination with the Pearl River region how could I not hear of this place with the dangerous reputation — especially given my taste for Wong Kar-wai’s films. Were I to get stuck again in Hong Kong now, I’d likely stay there again, given at least it’s a name I know.
There is a compulsion in accounts of globalisation and the developing world to make the story about us, we who live in the global north, who either speak english, are of european descent, or both. That there could be a parallel yet predominantly disconnected globalisation, a flow of trade, people, ideas and culture is often seen as irrelevant or incomprehensible to the central narrative, if even addressed.
Gordon Mathew’s anthropology of this building, Ghetto at the Center of the World — Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong appealed to me for more than just what goes on in the confines of its seventeen stories and five separate blocks. As he points out in the introduction, the history and culture of the building is also one of low-end globalisation. This is not a narrative of the developed world’s arrangement with China in providing cheap, off-shore manufacturing, but rather that of a globalisation in which Europe and America are at best ancillary nodes on multiply-layered and discrete trade routes that span from Africa to South-East Asia by way of Dubai, India, and Guangzhou, and more often simply don’t occur at all in the narrative.
I’ve already spent much of the morning perched on the windowsill in the sun, having knocked off half the book in a sitting, which should give an idea of how fascinating I find the topic and book.
More stuff I’ve read in the past two weeks for your amazement and occasional pleasure, though because everyone’s taste is different, no porn links. I do have a major grant application due tomorrow that I’ve been putting off since Friday when I posted off three other big applications, and since have felt a complete resistance to answering such questions as, “Why do you want to do it?” preferring instead to have my newly opened comments spammed by a Viagra-spewing, Norfolk-dwelling transvestite.
Because it will soon be in the old media, probably as a filler story at the end of the news, dressed up as some evidence of emerging property rights and consequently democracy in China, and because it’s been all over Chinese Blogistan for weeks now, and largely because Feng37 turns it all into a story about Guangzhou, here’s the 钉子户. That’s ‘nail house’ to you, as in the sticking-up nail that tears a hole in your nice clothes, or is the house that pesky proles should but won’t leave so the to-get-rich-is-glorious capitalists-with-communist-chinese-characteristics (I think that should be the other way around) can’t get on with getting rich.
The always exceptional China Digital Times 中国数字时代 looks at the extremely photogenic Chongqing nailhouse as a fomenter of citizen journalism. 在桥下流 says, “Speaking of which of which, gz got one too, on Longjin East”, and points to Global Voices Online for the definitive coverage of the Chongqing house. All this makes me anxious for Liwan, my favourite part of old Guangzhou that for years has been eaten away at by property barons and political corruption. Liwan doesn’t need Hong Kong cash to rebuild, especially when the south-of-the-border types think historic reconstruction means pulling everything down, filling in the harbour and selling it off to their government-friendly cronies.
A bit over a month till Sunn0))) and Boris play in Melbourne, and all I’m listening to is Southern Lord, so of course I downloaded Burial Chamber Trio live at the WORM in Rotterdam, and could see Emile there smiling with un-joy.
Nicholas Pritchard, blogging intelligently on performing arts in Sydney does a quite reasonable evisceration of a recent play he saw. He accuses the director of carrying the Plague of Realism, that reminded me of a remark in Realtime by SPILL festival director Robert Pacitti in London, equally applicable to Sydney or Melbourne. “The city likes to ‘big itself up’ as a wild theatre capital, but in reality it still exists within very safe territory. This is clearly evident in the current plethora of site-specific work being made by younger artists who seemingly lack any desire to present content.”
Is pornography free speech? This is an American, as in United States question, that is beholden to a very specific set of jurisprudence born of their constitution. Any country can engage in such a question, but freedom of speech refers strictly to the First Amendment. My reasons for making such a delineation comes from my recent or on-going brushes with civil rights (and linguistics) in regard to transsexuals, that are simultaneously presented as universally representative from within America, and accepted as such by those of us outside. There is a strong lack of appreciation that circumstances are very much dependent on your geographic location, and that even countries that nominally share similar values can in fact have a wildly different appreciation of the issues. Pornography, or how American cultural hegemony determined how we get off.
No Quarter has a huge post on Kurds in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the diaspora leaving them spread across the globe. It’s a fascinating read, and if you’re unfamiliar with them, a concise introduction to their history, culture, religions, the political machinations that led to them being dispossessed in three acrimonious nations.
Tranny stuff!!! Cool!!! That’s why you come here anyway.
Harisu, everyone’s favourite Korean tranny is performing in Beijing. And Feng37 sent me a piece about Lili, not Chen Lili though, who was in this week’s oeeee supplement of 南方都市报. The difference between the media’s depiction of transsexuals in China and my own experience, compared to the often undisguised hostility that comes out of the American culture is … If someone gave me a research grant, I’d hang out in China for a few months just writing about this.
Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus. Yeah. it’s nice to know there’s a biological basis, but … the search for explanations in this way can easily impress the notion that this is an abnormality against which a particular type of physiology is measured. Whatever it means to be normal, there is far more difference between you and the person you are currently nearest to than between any spuriously assigned categories of human.
The world of teenage trannsexuals, the ones with no family support who become the gutter of humanity, and all that it entails is one I flirted around the edges of. Salon Magazine interviewed Chris Beam, the author of Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers, that I’ve mentioned before, and if you come here because this interests you, it’s really worth a read.
Another standard story with a nice picture about a transsexual, mainly a weekend filler piece that at least isn’t sensationalism, though is it really necessary to have pieces like this done every couple of months, it’s not like someone gets interviewed because they’re gay or married, but the transsexual thing is always presented as the defining characteristic of a person’s identity.
Sex!!! Or why the Age of Reason was a better time for smut and fornication than the early 21st century.
[(δU/δL) / (δU/δC) | Sp=0] ≤ w – [(δU/δr) / (δU/δC) | S = 0], or using calculus to assess whether prostitution is your best career choice.
That’s enough for one day. no?
Bookmarked, that is, so I could blah on loudly here about it, in lieu of dragging myself through the warm 37 degree afternoon to the nearest bookshop to buy something edifying.
Off to Shenzhen first where the Cultural Revolution has resurfaced, minus the dunces hats and bullets in the back of the neck but still high on public humiliation and incarceration without trial. But once the black-uniformed law enforcers had finished their campaign for moral purity and smashing prostitutes, they in turn got roundly and publicly shafted on the internet for brutal violation of human rights.
Shaanxi, in the opposite end of China is home to some of the last remaining women who had their feet bound. It’s a bit of a filler story, but I often experience a sense of vertigo reading about people who have lived through the length of the previous century, to quantify the unimaginable changes of this period into a single person’s life.
And to remind ourselves repeatedly that despite the impending Olympic trough of slovenly avarice and all the Shanghai rising dragon hubris, China is still a third world impoverished dictatorship full of rural peasants who barely survive on what amounts to small change in the west, and campaigning for filial piety is an obnoxious refusal to provide a proper health, education and welfare system which unlike a dazzling urban skyline is the true measure of a country’s wealth.
Maybe the filial piety line is why a Guangdong school integrates Confucian classics and traditional Chinese cultural practices into a modern elementary school curriculum, or maybe it’s that rote learning and recital is not actually an education, and “creativity and critical thinking” in whatever form is.
Veering off into other old dead writers for a bit, Dream of the Red Mansions gets a literary rewrite or a backstabbing hackjob. Either way it sounds better in Chinese: 红楼梦.
Back to misery. Fancy protesting about your land getting stolen, getting shot for your efforts and if you’re still alive after going to jail? It’s the anniversary of the Dongzhou village killings in Guangdong.
Speaking of extra-judicial killings when peasants get uppity about losing their land to the families that rule, Chen Tao was executed for his part in the protests against the Pubugou dam in Sichuan. His father found out when the police told him to pay the 50 yuan “bullet fee”. It’s all getting a bit depressing actually.
Getting out of China and Asia in one quick go, it’s the 9th Asian History Carnival over at kotaji 거타지. Get your fix.
Queer stuff for a bit. When I first landed in Guangzhou it was decidedly un-queer and I met many guys who were certainly not cock-suckers because they were married ergo not … Then earlier this year it was as if you were nobody if you hadn’t pashed on with your best same-sex friend. So what’s going on? Nothing much?
The New York Times deals gender identity, and all that yucky stuff in a couple of pieces that came out around the time of the New York City’s Board of Health proposal that would have allowed transsexuals to change the gender on their birth certificates even if they hadn’t had “the op”. Seems like everyone got a bit freaked out thinking about bodies with the wrong nasty smelly bits. What if It’s (Sort of) a Boy and (Sort of) a Girl? or how about ‘disorders of sex development’ cos we’re all fucking freaks. Oh well, a lazy “I shit on ya” from me and moving on…
Rolling around to slagging off Australia, How many fucking David Hicks’s can fit on the head of a pin, Prime Minister?, and Phillip Ruddock on illegal detention in immigration jails, “”Look, I won’t detain you long,” he began. Pause. Wry grin. “My wife keeps telling me I shouldn’t say that.”” Reasons You Will Hate Me replies, Die you vicious cunt.
Going all intellectual: “Yes, I agree that the theory cannot be improved. It is simply false”. Philosophers insulting each other. It’s like So Bad—It. Really. Sucks? University Professors insulting their, like, liguistics students, y’know? The question of defamation enters the issue of arts criticism on the blogosphere, Melbourne thespians engage in open and frank discussions.
That’s about it, It’s 40 degrees, windy and smokey. I’m going climbing.
Andrés Gentry has written one of the most in-depth and compassionate pieces on prostitution in China I have ever read. There’s so much in it and it relies heavily on a vast amount of source material. Just read it.
Seven different categories of sex work can be bought in China:
1. ‘second wives’ have the superficial identity of concubines. However, second wives charge by time, usually per month, providing sexual services without the emotional and family elements which usually accompany the concubine’s role;
2. ‘packaged women’ work similarly to second wives but they do not live with the client, only ‘packaged’ for a business trip;
3. ‘female companions’ are active in cabarets, dance halls and restaurants charge by the hour. This service varies between merely accompanying a client while he visits the venue, to the ‘quickie’, to the ‘overnight package’;
4. ‘ding dong girls’ (‘ding dong’ refers to the doorbell) rent their own room and call clients by telephone after initial contact by another worker in the same establishment;
5. ‘hair salon’ or ‘massage parlour’ girls who on the surface wash hair or feet, or massage clients, but they also “do the business” in the establishment. They have less opportunity to ‘go out’ with clients or provide the ‘overnight package’;
6. ‘street girls’ usually hang around motels, cinemas etc. and perform ‘quickies’ elsewhere once a client is interested. Some accompany clients to the cinema, but they are actually providing a fondling service.
7. ‘underclass women’ generally service migrant workers, living in urban slum dwellings on construction sites. For some this is occasional or part time work, but others live with workers. They represent the lowest stratum of sex work, some doing it for basic food.