(no subject)

Wed, Aug. 8th, 2012 10:56 am
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I just saw What's So Bad about a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?, a long article in the NYT Magazine on boys who enjoy presenting femininely, along with a rant by [personal profile] umbo. I'm glad there's more on parenting outside the usual binary gender lines, though I wish there had been more from the kids' points of view, as opposed to multiple parents talking about how much they feared for their son when he first started to femme up. It feels like it is scaremongering even as the piece is trying to explore without bias, or at least that the reader will by default identify with the (presumably binary gendered) parent instead of with the genderqueer kid. Also, "genderqueer" as a term only appears halfway through the piece.

What do you guys think?


Tue, Mar. 20th, 2012 02:38 pm
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Gah, I just realized FOGcon is only a week or so away!

And since I have profited greatly from posts like this in the past, help me think about what to say at my panel!

Gray is the New Purple

Aging isn’t for the weak of heart. What sf/f works deal with the topic of aging, either positively or negatively? Who gets it right and who should do some homework?

Moderator: Madeleine Robins
Panelists: Phyllis Holliday, Oyceter, Erin Hoffman

I can think of Tehanu off the top of my head, and I remember someone asking for representations of older women in SF/F, not counting immortals, people who do not physically age, and etc., and the list was fairly scanty.

I love DWJ's Howl's Moving Castle, but I've always thought it was odd how Sophie suddenly begins to think like an old woman and how there is no disparity between her own self image and her changed physical image. Maybe this is particularly interesting because I feel we see more of the opposite situation in SF/F: old people in young bodies, thanks to magic/science/alien technology/plot point/etc.

I really like how A:TLA includes multiple kickass old men, but I really wish there were awesome old women as well. The only few we see tend to be on the creepy side, and there's definitely no equivalent of Uncle Iroh.

I wonder how much of A:TLA's old people kicking ass has to do with its martial arts heritage? I think several of the older women I've seen in wuxia movies tend to be the villains, but they have a much greater presence than what I've read in English-language SF/F. Possibly this has to do with the greater number of female martial artists and the whole cameo thing?

Thoughts? Ideas? Anyone?

Maker Faire

Sat, May. 22nd, 2010 04:08 pm
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So, Maker Faire... much more fun the day before it officially opens, when a) there is free food, b) you don't have to tend to your exhibit, and c) fewer people!

A few short observations: Maker Faire is incredibly White. There have been a scattering visibly identifiable Asian people, but not much of other POC, with the caveat that I am probably misidentifying people. This year, there's a steampunk section. I haven't seen it live yet, but it looks like much of the white-ified steampunk when I checked it over before the fair opened. There are also way too many geek fallacy people who try to explain your own project to you under the guise of asking questions. I am sure there would be a lot of mansplaining going on as well, but I am antisocial and therefore sit in the back and run the computer or fix things with (a lot of) tape. I have definitely noticed more men doing geek fallacy and explaining the project even to my male project partners than women doing so. It's also been sad to see the young boys who want to try out our project go up and basically push their way into line while the young girls hang back and don't answer our questions and only talk to their parents. The kids only look 6 or 7 or so, and yet, gendered socialization has already set in.

Also, I probably could have worn my new corsets, courtesy of [personal profile] daedala, here, but that would be detrimental to the avoidance of mansplaining, the ability to crawl beneath things to slap on more duct tape, and in general trying not to call attention to myself.

Linkspam, advice

Fri, Aug. 28th, 2009 10:07 am
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  • I haven't had time to read it yet, but the 3rd Asian Women's Carnival is up! The theme is intersections of race and gender.

  • Submit to the 4th carnival here! The theme is "Storytelling, or reclaiming our selves through our words."

  • Found via Racialicious, this post on Asian women, suicide, and depression hits a bit close to home for me.

  • For Bay Area people, David Henry Hwang's Yellow Face is showing at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts this month.

And now for something completely different!

If you have a light box for SAD/mood disorders, what kind/brand do you have, how do you use it, and did you find it helpful?
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Yay IBARW for making me post, despite it being months late?

Although I had a very positive Wiscon experience this year, it was amidst a lot of fail. I heard and saw Black and South Asian women being mistaken for other Black and South Asian women, fish bowl ogling, and a lot of reports of people asking POC to be their special POC friends ("I have had no prior interaction with you before, but let me waylay you for half an hour to pepper you with questions about proper ally behavior or ask for your permission to do X!"). I personally managed to avoid a lot of fail, I think because a) I limit my panel appearances, b) I only go to panels in which I know and like the panelists, and c) I am antisocial, do not really go to parties, and only talk to people I know and like. Given the shenanigans, I do not think I will be changing my interaction habits in the future.

This works fine for me since I am, as mentioned, antisocial, but seriously. POC should not have to limit all their social interactions at a con just so they can be treated like a normal human being.

With all those caveats in mind, I was so happy to see so many brown faces this year, to make connections with people I've only seen online, to get the chance to talk in person instead of via comments.

One of the highlights of the con for me was being on a panel about Andrea Smith's Conquest with Andrea Hairston and Diantha Day Sprouse and talking with them afterward. First, I'm thankful I got the chance to apologize to Diantha for calling her too angry years ago; I read that now and think "She is so right! Make people with their horrible grabby hands GO AWAY!" But mostly, I cannot emphasize how good it was to talk to women of color from different generations than me about their journeys and their experiences.

The women I grew up with—my mother, my grandmothers, my aunties—gave me many things, but they did not give me the tools to deal with issues of social justice. And although I love them dearly, the models they have to offer aren't very radical. I think it's pretty sad that it took me going to Wiscon, which is mostly white, to find other women of color whom I looked up to as role models, but that's what happened. And I'm grateful that even though the initial connections I made with people were online or at Wiscon, they have been moving offline and outside the con. I'm glad I've been able to talk with more people locally, to have discussions in email and on the phone and in person so I can work through things without having random white passerbys ogling at my mental processes.

I can't even say how much it means for me to finally find these communities of women of color who are committed to social justice, especially in SF/F, which is what I grew up on. So thank you to the women I've gotten to know, the women I sometimes disagree with, the women I don't know, the women who have passed on, to all of you out there creating and critiquing and blogging and talking and being fannish and just being yourselves.

Having your multitude of voices means so much to me, especially as I continue to work on who I want to be and what I want to do.
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I think this book grew out of Anderson's thesis work about Native women, and in it, she explores the ways Native women's identities have been constructed pre-colonization, how colonization destroyed many of Native women's roles and enforced white patriarchy, and how Native women are reclaiming their identities.

In the introduction, Anderson introduces the idea of the subjective reader and writer. You would think this wouldn't be so revolutionary, but grad school classes on sociology seem to indicate otherwise! Going with this, Anderson introduces herself as a light-skinned Cree/Mé woman who grew up without much contact with Native communities and notes how this affects her as an author and as a researcher. She also asks readers of the book to examine their own motives for reading the book. Are they Native women looking for support or affirmation? Are they non-Native people looking to learn about "Native culture"? Are they white feminist? Etc.

My own personal reading context is as a Chinese woman who knows very little about Native cultures looking for more information on Native feminism (there is probably also a better term for this I do not know) after reading Andrea Smith's Conquest and reading blogs and posts from Native women online. I'm also looking for alternatives to "mainstream" feminism, not to adopt, but to have a better feel for where I'm ignorant.

As I had expected, there were times when it was hard for me to read this book because I had to stomp on the part of my brain that was like, "But! Excluding women from blahdiblah means blahdiblah! Clearly delineated male and female roles means blah!" It helped that Anderson herself was also working through her own understanding of past traditions and how to adopt them to today, on what things have changed and should stay changed and on what things have changed and should be reverted.

As an example: I saw her explanations of keeping women on their period outside of drum circles and sweat lodges as a veiled "I roll my eyes at the white women who keep wanting to join the sweat lodge or drum circle and protest their exclusion while having no idea what it actually means." Anderson's explanation is that women on their period already have a great deal of power, and not as a negative thing. But she also notes that in the present day, keeping menstruating women out of a specific activity can be done in a misogynist fashion not in the spirit of tradition and adds that the menstruating women should have their own area to retreat to, that they should not be ignored or ostracized. It looks like a fairly complicated situation trying to balance imported misogyny and return to tradition and how notions of tradition change over time, and I bet it is not a situation where it is helpful for white feminists to barge in and say, "This is what is feminist."

Anderson structures the book in three parts: examining the past, looking at the present, and envisioning the future. She goes through the general gender equity in many Native societies pre-colonization and talks about exceptions and norms, which was very helpful for me, because I have zero background in this. She also covers what happened once white colonization began and what that did to many Native societies, particularly the use of white patriarchy as a tool of colonization, which was more familiar to me. Although some of the book talks about Anderson's own journey, she has also talked to quite a few other Native women (mostly Canadian) about their own experiences.

I'm not doing the book justice; I found it thought-provoking and challenging. I value it for making me continue to rethink what I normally conceptualize as "feminist" and for offering a non-white feminism, especially one that emphasizes community child-raising, family, and the overall community.

I also posted a list of all the Native authors in the bibliography if people are interested.
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The city of Merafi has traditionally been impervious to magic, but lately, the ghost of six-years-dead Valdarrien has been haunting his brother-in-law and best friend Thiercelin. Thiercelin seeks out failed priest-assassin-turned-courtesan Gracielis for help, and soon, they're enmeshed in intrigue and a plot to tear down the city.

This is a terrible summary of the book, which is less plot and more atmosphere and tangled character relationships. The city seems perpetually shrouded with fog and ghosts that people cannot see. Character-wise, Thiercelin is married to Yvelliane, workaholic advisor to the dying queen and sister of the dead Valdarrien; Gracielis is the unwilling tool of Tarnaroqi sorceress Quenfrida; dead Valdarrien is still seeking out his lost love, the Lunedithin Iareth Yscoithi who is currently in Merafi serving the Lunedithin prince Kenan; Iareth is protected by Merafien soldier Joyain.

I loved the prose and the characters and the overall atmosphere of the book. I loved the men who are driven by love and the women who are driven by duty; I loved the tangled politics and intrigue; I loved the feeling of the age of Merafi, of cobblestones and mist off the river and flickering lights; I loved Gracielis and his foppish veneer over his vulnerable core; I loved the ghosts and the weight of the dead and the way history, personal and institutional, oppresses and limits and constrains.

I loathed the ending so much that I chucked the book across the room.

Book-destroying spoilers )

In conclusion: gorgeous prose and atmosphere, characters I adored, and I cannot recommend it because I am still so mad at it.

Na, An - The Fold

Fri, Jun. 19th, 2009 05:50 pm
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Joyce is dying to catch the eye of cute multiracial kid John Ford Kang, though he can't even tell her apart from her lab partner. Then Joyce's aunt sweeps into their family's life and offers to pay for eyelid surgery for her. Her older sister Helen disapproves, but what does she know? Helen's always been smarter and prettier and cooler. Her best friend Gina thinks she should totally go with it.

I read this right after I read Good Enough, which was an interesting comparison. Both stories about Korean-American girls, but Joyce's family owns a Korean restaurant and she's not much concerned with academic achievement. Clearly the theme here is about beauty, which I theoretically find more interesting than Yoo's book. However, Na's prose is extremely flat, and I felt her characters never came to life. Although she explains Joyce's dilemma, as well as problems going on with her family, they felt like explanations, not explorations.

I am also far more radical than Na when it comes to beauty myths. Na compares eyelid surgery with braces or dieting I think to kill the particular stigma eyelid surgery has in the eyes of well-meaning white people and to normalize it as a modifying-appearance thing, but she doesn't tackle the larger question of the beauty myth, societal pressure to be beautiful, and the ever-changing definitions of beauty, much less how that myth perpetrates racism and sexism for Asian women. I'd much rather have a more in-depth examination of the problems of eyelid surgery coupled with a takedown of the extremely problematic way white people use eyelid surgery as a means to reinforce their impression of the need to "save" Asian women from their patriarchal society, as well as proof of Asians being less politically forward.

So... the book tackles some interesting questions, and I especially liked what Na did with Joyce's sister Helen, but overall, not a very fun read.
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  • I have mostly spent the last two days trying to catch up with the protests currently going on in Iran. With the caveat that I'm still piecing together information and what's signal and what's noise, links I've personally found useful have been:

    I am too uncertain about the current situation to know who to trust re: information for proxies or what the current state on Twitter is, so grain of salt.

    I've been heartened by the number of people who have been saying that this is not about the USian us, but about the Iranians on the ground and demonstrating. I've also been incredibly angry about the people trying to put a spin on it as "Look! They are absorbing the ideas of US democracy!" and the people going on about the social media aspect of it, especially the bloggers. I have no doubt that what's currently going on is different because of how Twitter and YouTube and cell phones and digital cameras have been used to document things, but I am extremely wary of white bloggers using this as a platform to go "Yay new media!" It reminds me too much of how conversations about RaceFail started to be white people talking to other white people about social media. (eta: not just white bloggers, but Western bloggers period)

    But mostly, I hope that the people protesting will be safe, that they will get the government they voted for, and that it makes a difference.

  • [personal profile] shewhohashope has an excellent post (same post, just DW and LJ versions for comment tracking) on [livejournal.com profile] cereta's On rape and men. If you don't read any of it, read at least this:
    When rape culture is being discussed, rape is a product of civilisation itself, not an example of its disruption but a natural result of the principles it is built on.

    [personal profile] coffeeandink also links to some good posts.
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In response to these posts1, [personal profile] colorblue wrote:
And another thing that I find very strange is that I know more of what certain Singaporeans (I would say certain Indian-Singaporeans, but that will just reveal my own backwards thinking, giving such undue importance to race in such a progressive and strangely tolerant country) go through than someone who has lived there all her life, except a part of me doesn't find that strange at all, because this is another thing that racism does.

On my more tolerant days I consider people who mouthpiece diversity and equality while viewing the world in such a strange way foolish and useless. On my less tolerant days, and this is one, I think such ignorant, willful blindness is just as destructive as the more outright forms of racism, for those forms of racism are built on excuses and niceness and strange tolerances such as this.

She also said the following to me about including those posts in the carnival:
And you are hosting and commenting on an Asian Women's Carnival focused on intra/inter/transnationalities and either you did not realize or you did not think or you did not care enough that people like me would read the posts you were linking to and expressing thanks for and find their experiences or the experiences of those they respect and care about, the injustices they've faced and continue to face, ignored and trivialized.

And this makes me wonder just who the audience for this Carnival was intended to be or pictured as being, what was considered important and what wasn't, and that is why right now I do not care about whatever you might have found in Karanguni's post that resonated with you and that is why right now your comment doesn't have much meaning for me.

First and foremost, I apologize for not only hurting people, especially people who are being oppressed and treated unjustly in Singapore, but also for taking what should have been a safe space for them and making it unsafe, painful, and a replica of the same power structures they face at home. My intentions in this do not matter; the result remains the same.

Second, on intentions. In my excitement over the Carnival, I included everything submitted. This is an illustration of how focusing on one identity (Asian women) can act as a means of excluding identities within that one (non-Chinese Asian women in Singapore), and how those excluded are almost always the people who have less power, particularly when the person directing the focus—me—has a privileged place within that identity. This is why my intentions do not matter: they were intentions that made it easy for me to focus on people like me to the detriment of people with less power than me, and therefore, they are the antithesis of good intentions.

I do not think I was the right person to compile this Carnival. To create a space that is safe we must first and always focus on those who are most at risk, and instead, I focused first on those on top, those like me. As such, I also apologize for the overall lack of South and Central Asian women, for the lack of transwomen, lesbians, women with disabilities, older women, non-English-writing women, and lower class women, as well as the lack of ethnic minority women in Asian nations. Just like the unmarked state reads as white middle-class male, cisgendered and heterosexual, an unmarked Asian woman is also able-bodied and -minded, young, middle class, cisgendered, heterosexual. Going top down by necessity reinforces these unmarked states and furthermore divides us into "default" and "default" with added widgets of oppression, none of which interact, all of which we tack on after the fact when they should be first and foremost.

No one single post in the Carnival created that type of space; my framing and compilation and editorial choices did.

To go back to [personal profile] colorblue's words: "[T]his makes me wonder just who the audience for this Carnival was intended to be or pictured as being, what was considered important and what wasn't[.]" I believe for less privileged voices to be heard, the first thing is to find those voices and support them in what they are already doing, to prioritize them and to listen to them and to not speak over them, and most of all, to not subsume their identities into your own.

And that is what I failed to do and what I apologize for.

Please do not comment saying I should not apologize, didn't do anything wrong, etc., or that [personal profile] colorblue is using the wrong tone or whatever. It is not true.

Also, do not comment in thanks for this; it is not something to be thanked for. What matters to me is going forward and not doing the same thing.

However, critique, privilege checks, etc. are very welcome.

1. As problematic as [livejournal.com profile] karanguni's posts are, she did not submit them to the Carnival; that they are in the Carnival is my fault. back
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ETA: please read this before reading the carnival

I'm sorry this is so late. I wrote up a giant post, and my computer crashed and I lost it.

These are the posts I didn't write: golden lotuses and size 9 feet; mismatched eyelids and tape; broken palms and murdered husbands; lucky nose and skimpy ears.

These are the words I can't say; not because I don't have them, but because I have too many, because they overflow and I choke on them, unable to get them out.

But, oh, my sisters and friends write—not for me, but for themselves—and sometimes I find myself in their words, and sometimes I find who I need to be in them.

I've tried and tried to write entries for this carnival and for the first one, but there is too much, and I cannot. But I can respond somewhat to what others have written.

As noted in the call for submissions, the optional theme for this issue is "hyphenates and sourcelanders and diasporas and being a minority Asian in a majority Asian country and majority Asian countries and minority Asian countries and third culture kids and thoughts about being refugees, immigrants, expats, nth generation, FOBs*, about generational gaps and cultural expectations and growing up in one place and then another and speaking one language at home and one outside and and and..."

* I think of myself as a FOB in many ways and dislike any mockery of fobbishness. Also, if you aren't one, don't use it.

Also, white people, when you're reading, don't co-opt. Don't take these pieces and use them against us. We know about intra-POC and intra-Asian racism and bigotry; we know how frequently our words stripped from us to be used against each other. Forming identities among inter/intra/transnationalities is hard; it is harder still when it is never a purely personal process, when every move we make for ourselves is taken from us and used to tar and feather all of us.

Nationality, ethnicity, and identity )

Language )

Gender and sex )

Story and remyth )

Many thanks to everyone for posting and submitting, and especially to [personal profile] ciderpress for starting the Asian Women Blog Carnival. Please contact her if you would like to host a future issue!
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The completely optional theme for the 2nd Asian Women Blog Carnival is....


I particularly want to encourage Central and Near Asian women to post, and to also note that I'd love as many Asian women's voices as possible, for all definitions of "Asian" and of "women."

The theme came from some noodling here and here, and I really apologize for the title! I figure it is probably pithier than "hyphenates and sourcelanders and diasporas and being a minority Asian in a majority Asian country and majority Asian countries and minority Asian countries and third culture kids and thoughts about being refugees, immigrants, expats, nth generation, FOBs*, about generational gaps and cultural expectations and growing up in one place and then another and speaking one language at home and one outside and and and."

Submissions due 1 June your local time, and the issue will go up a few days after.

ETA: Future hosts still needed! Please contact [personal profile] ciderpress if you'd like to host.

* I use this as someone who is proud to be a FOB and dislikes any mockery of fobbishness. Also, if you aren't one, don't use it.
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I found this to be very eye opening, but I also don't know much about global agriculture or environmental justice, so YMMV. I admit that I've been a bit skeptical of various environmental movements before, not because they're wrong, but because there are way too many examples of privileged white people espousing environmentalism while culturally appropriating and especially not thinking about how their movement fits in with other social justice movements. Patel specifically addresses these issues, especially in terms of class, colonization, and global agriculture.

Patel touches on a huge number of topics, from the rise of soy in everything we eat to high-fructose corn syrup to how big agricultural companies use genetically modified crops to control small farmers. But the central threads through the book are Patel's critique of the system that rewards big agricultural companies and the middlemen between farmers and consumers, how they are privileged over farmers and consumers, and his understanding of how this works globally. I find the last bit most helpful; Patel doesn't just look at the UK and the US, but focuses a lot on the Global South*. He also makes an effort to focus not just on the "big" players, but also on grassroots organizations and farmers themselves.

I had a problem with Sonia Shah's The Body Hunters, which is on big pharma, because I felt the focus was so much on those organizations that the people they were testing medicine on became a faceless crowd of victims. Patel does do this more in some chapters than others, but the sense I got from his writing was that he's worked very closely with the farmers he's writing about. As such, they come across as people, not victims. It also helps that he continually returns to solutions that small farmers and consumers have come up with; he focuses on how they help themselves, not on how the same international organizations that contributed to the poverty of the Global South are "saving" them.

One thing I took away from this book and others I've been reading (ex. Conquest, Dragon Ladies) is the power of bottom-up movements, how important it is for movements to focus on the people who are the most oppressed and have the least power in the system, because it generally seems easier to start there and end up with solutions that benefit everyone, whereas going from top-down tends to generate solutions that help those on top, but overlooks those on the bottom, particularly people who suffer more than one oppression. For example, feminism's focus on middle-class white women, the male focus in a lot of anti-racism and LGBTQ movements, etc. Of course, this is not saying that those of us who are more privileged should just not do anything, but just that we cannot center movements on the more privileged. I am still trying to figure out how to apply all this to my own attempts at social change and to IBARW, but right now, I have more questions than answers.

Anyway, highly recommended and very eye opening for me.

- [livejournal.com profile] furyofvissarion's review
- [livejournal.com profile] sanguinity's review

Note: Patel uses the term "people of colour" to describe non-white people (he is from the UK). I can't tell if this is only in the US edition, because it preserves the British spelling of "colour." I also can't remember if Patel footnoted or explained this usage or not; I, uh, already returned it to the library.

* He notes that he prefers this term over "developing countries" or "third-world countries." I have the same problems he does with the prior two terms, and I like that "Global South" does not sound like it is passing judgment, but I think it may overlook countries in the Northern hemisphere that also suffer the effects of colonization.
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Vidya is fifteen and dreams of going to college, but she's afraid she'll be married off. But soon, tragedy strikes as her father becomes more and more involved with the Indian independence movement, and she and her family are sent off to live with her paternal grandfather. There, the women are separated from the men, and Vidya's life is so limited that the only freedom she can find is in the library upstairs. And life gets even more complicated as Britain calls on Indian volunteers to help fight the Axis powers.

This reminds me a lot of Keeping Corner in how it deals with the ideas of Indian independence, feminism, and Hindu philosophy, although I think Keeping Corner did a better job in terms of execution. This book combines many interesting elements but is ultimately less nuanced than I would like.

First is that Vidya is the only woman with agency in the book. Her amma is fairly peripheral to the plot, as is her friend Rifka, and all the other women and girls are shown as evil (periamma, her cousin, her teacher, her other aunt) or ineffective (her third aunt). This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that many of the men in this book are the ones who end up helping Vidya—Raman, Kitta, and thatha. And they're the ones Vidya talks with the most about her future hopes and dreams; they're the ones she engages with on issuees of feminism and oppression.

My other issue is the portrayal of the US as a fellow British colony and possible ally. I have a very hard time accepting parallels between the US Revolution and the Indian independence movement. I don't know that much about the Indian independence movement, but I feel it is not particularly flattering to draw parallels between it and a revolution that started mostly for the purpose of financial benefit and the protection of rich white guys' profits and property. I am, of course, heavily influenced by Conquest and Octavian Nothing in this reading, but that is why I have a problem with the image of the US as a potentially safer space for Indians. I also hate that Vidya's protests that the US didn't treat American Indians well (understatement!) and kept slaves, and that they were countered in a sentence or two with "No country is perfect. And they emancipated the slaves!"

That said, I was glad that the book grounds Vidya's growing feminist consciousness in Hindi roots and in the Indian independence movement, and that even though her relatives are sexist, we also get to see a flip side in her father.
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Like Cunningham's Crowns (same photographer, different interviewer), this is a a gorgeous book of photography coupled with personal interviews, only this time, it is on... hair! Yes, Actual Black Women (tm) talking about their Actual Hair (tm)! Hopefully those tormented by curiosity about the subject will at least read this instead of springing unwelcome questions on random Black women.

You can see many of the portraits on his webiste, and they really are gorgeous. But as with Crowns, I love the interviews the most. This book has a larger age and geographical range than Crowns, probably because I got the sense in Crowns that church hats were not being picked up as much by the younger generation (is this true?). I also love that he has several Ghanan women from a hair-braiding school included. There are pictures of women in their every-day hair, pictures of women in showcase hair, pictures of women in ceremonial hair. And there are also pictures of the hairdressers themselves, along with interviews.

There's discussion of natural hair and good hair and "nappy" hair and "bad" hair, of jheri curls and afros and straight perms and locs and braids and cornrows and ringlets (and one mohawk, yay), dyeing and cutting and shaving, and the importance of the local hairdresser and barbershop. There are stories from women of all ages, all of whom have decided to do different things to their hair for different reasons.

It's just a lovely collection; go read. Or if you can't find it, definitely visit his site and check out the pictures.
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This is a collection of essays by Asian-American feminists about Asian-American feminists (with the "American" indicating the US, although there is one that focuses on Canadian healthcare). From my recollection, the range seems fairly large—there were quite a few essays on lower-class women and I think the essays spanned a good range of ages, although I could be remembering wrong. I was especially pleased to see good representation of South and Southeast Asian women. I think there could have been more by and about queer women and differently-abled women, though I really loved the round-table with three punk queer Asian women.

I had read about half of this maybe half a year ago; I reread most of it and dashed through the rest to cope with some RL race-related unfunness. I find I don't read these kinds of collections of fairly personal essays by WOC very often, but when I do, they are so inspiring and so life-saving. Maybe that's why I can't read them often... I have to save them up so I have something to turn to when it feels like everything is working against me. I'm not going to be particularly academic in this write up because my reaction is so emotional. This book inspires me and makes me want to do more and to do better, to keep working at things, to try to give back some of the support that I've found within.

One piece that particularly stood out for me was "Bringing Up Baby: Raising a 'Third World' Daughter in the 'First World'" by the mother-daughter team of Shamita Das Dasgupta and Sayantani Das Dasgupta and how jealous I was that Sayantani Das Dasgupta had her mother when she was growing up, how she had a personal role model for radical politics. I hate envying other people's positions, because I'm sure they have problems I do not, and because I am and will always be grateful to my parents for giving me Taiwan. But my family and almost everyone I grew up with were not particularly radical (or liberal even), and I wish I had had something outside of ink and paper, someone human and alive and breathing and talking to go to when I was growing up.

Other themes that struck me were all the mentions of grassroots organization and community outreach; several groups described in the book are grassroots organizations started by women of color to fight sexual violence in communities of color or lower-class women of color mobilizing to fight racism and classism and sexism. It reminds me of how Andrea Smith starts from Native women in Conquest and works out from there, and how by doing so she finds solutions that help those women and help many other communities as well. But I was thinking of activism and fighting oppression and how important it is to start from the ground up, especially because of how oppression works from top down. I am also not sure I am making sense here; I'm still working through what I can do and how I can do it.

One of the pieces was annoying, with the American woman author talking about a group of women in another country, and it just felt so condescending and "I am the outsider talking about these foreign people." I am pretty sure it was Deila D. Aguilar's "Western Feminism and Asian Women," but I am not entirely sure because I do not have my copy of the book next to me.

That said, overall I very much liked how international the book was, how so many of the pieces recognized that many of us might have been born in the US, but we still have families in other countries, still have stakes there that we cannot give up. I also liked how the book not only pointed out racism in the US, but also global structures that support racism, such as the piece on Canadian healthcare and how much of the cost of national healthcare has been offloaded onto immigrant Filipina nurses.

I found this book so personally necessary and so comforting that I have no idea how useful this write up will be to anyone who's not me. Still, recommended!
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
For [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink

Roberts writes about reproductive freedom for poor black women and how that reproductive freedom often differs from the standard definition used by most white feminists, particularly the mainstream feminist movement for the right to abortion and birth control versus the right to not be coerced or deceived into sterilization or into taking birth control drugs you did not agree to. From there, she examines the meaning of liberty in the United States and what to do when the idea of negative liberty butts up against the idea of social justice.

I suspect I would have found this book much more mind-blowing had I not read Andrea Smith's Conquest first (read it! READ IT!); as such, I still think it's a very necessary read, although it's a bit more dated and Roberts doesn't synthesize her argument quite as well. The book goes through the history of black reproductive freedom, particularly black female reproductive freedom, from the days of slavery, when a black woman's reproductive system was, along with the rest of her, property of white men, when masters could and would whip their pregnant slaves even as they dug holes in the dirt to protect the property in their wombs. And while slavery is over, Roberts shows again and again that the same attitude about black women's bodies and reproductive systems are perpetuated.

She goes on to show that if black women's babies cannot be the property of white people, they are instead portrayed as a burden ("crack babies" and "welfare mothers"). While I completely agree with her argument, I felt she could have drawn more parallels with how race and sex and class intersect; frequently she would point to classist language ("welfare mothers") and note that they were racially coded, even if not explicitly so in the language. It's not to say that she ignores class; class is a constant throughout the book, as it is always the poorest black women who have the worst choices forced upon them. I think I just wanted a more detailed connection.

I had the same issue with ablism. Roberts cites several cases in which black mothers are classified as "mentally disabled" as a convenient way to convince others of the need to sterilize them. In some of the cases, the mother was not differently abled, but in some of the others, she may have been, and I think the book would have been stronger had Roberts incorporated a critique of the ablism inherent in many of the arguments for sterilization. This goes doubly when she discusses the eugenics movement, which she mainly writes about as being a barely coded means for white people to talk about black genocide. Again, I completely agree with her here and in no way want to lessen the strength of her argument. But I think synthesizing classism and ablism further into her analysis of racism and sexism would only make it stronger, a la Andrea Smith drawing parallels among sexual violence against Native women, Native American genocide, and environmental violence.

Many of the chapters on medical experimentation on black women, forced sterilization, uninformed drug trials, and coerced birth control are familiar from Smith, and though I don't have the book with me anymore, I'm fairly certain Roberts is talking about present-day happenings. Norplant and Depo-Provera again, and who knows what big Pharma is doing in Africa (thank you, Sonia Shah). She also links the present with the past, from owning black bodies to the Tuskegee Syphilis Studies.

Still, the most painful part of the book is when she shows how the interests of poor black women and middle-class white women have collided, particularly when it comes to a waiting period for sterilization and informed consent for birth control. This is where I think Roberts does her best work; this is where she takes the idea of negative liberty and contrasts it with social justice:

This notion of liberty rests on the assumption that privileging individual autonomy over social justice is essential to human freedom. [...] The primacy of liberty over equality, then, accepts the possibility that inequality may be inevitable in a liberal society. Although the pursuit of equality, once liberty is assured, is commendable, liberalism cannot guarantee its realization.

She manages to critique the mainstream feminist movement and how it has historically ignored issues central to the well-being of poor black women while still arguing for a need of both increased access to abortion and birth control along with protecting those who have historically been the most abused. I'm still thinking over many of her points about liberty and justice and especially wondering how it works in places that promote positive liberty instead of negative.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
(Original title: 愛すべき娘たち)

This is a collection of interlinked short stories, all of which have some connection to the main character, whose name I cannot remember and now cannot look up because I returned the book. I think it is Makimura Youko? Anyway, the first story is about her and her mother, who has recently battled cancer and is now marrying a man a few years younger than Youko. The second is about a high school student who sort of and sort of doesn't force herself on her high school teacher (a friend of Youko's), the third is about another friend who has been told to treat all people equally, the fourth is about two of Youko's middle school friends, and the last is about Youko and her mother again.

I cringed my way through most of the second story, although it's not quite as bad as the premise (I am very squicked out by teacher-student relationships, particularly those below college level). Even though having the student decide on the relationship instead of the teacher makes it slightly more palatable in terms of power differentials, I still find the depiction problematic, especially since the threat used ("I'll tell people you forced me!") is one so often used as an urban legend to discredit rape victims.

The third story ends on a rather odd note, which is too bad, because I liked the exploration of a relationship between two very nice people, one of whom just happened to be differently abled. I liked that it wasn't a big deal to the main characters, even though it was still discussed, particularly in terms of marriage potential. It felt fairly realistic and not heavy handed. And then there was the ending, which was... odd. The heroine takes her grandfather's advice to treat all people equally to heart, so much so that she realizes she can't truly be in love with any one person, as that would mean she values that person above other people. So she decides to... become a nun! As one does? This would have been so much more believable had the heroine actually been religious or thought about taking vows before or if there had been some sort of foreshadowing whatsoever.

The stories that contain Youko are excellent, and I now have much more faith in Yoshinaga as a feminist author. I love how she examines the relationships between mothers and daughters and how they harm and heal, how Youko's mother was hurt by her own mother constantly calling her ugly, how Youko's grandmother did so because she didn't want her daughter growing up vain like the girls she hated most when she was young, how sexism and systemic misogyny is passed down from generation to generation, always taking different forms. And I love that Yoshinaga understands that understanding does not always mean forgiveness or healing, nor does it make wrongs right. I love that Youko's mother (I think her name is Mari) has found love with a much younger man and that despite some initial awkwardness with Youko, the relationship looks like a healthy one that will continue.

I love the fourth story in particular, which has a recently-married Youko examining her attempt to be a working woman and a wife. I would have cheered just for the mention of the fact that women are expected to do the housework and that when they do, they are rarely acknowledged for it, whereas if a man does, it's a big deal, and how the amount of work men and women put into keeping house is respectively overestimated and underestimated. But no! There is more! There's the story of Youko's middle school classmates, one of whom was full of feminist zeal while the other two were not, and what happens to the three of them. It's sad and bitter and lonely and heartwarming at the same time.

This isn't my favorite Yoshinaga (Ooku takes that spot easily), but I enjoyed it a lot. Also, it's so rare to find manga centering on female relationships, much less overtly feminist manga, that I desperately wish someone would translate this into English so I could make people talk about it with me.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
This series keeps enraging me, but I read on because the art was so gorgeous. Thankfully, I have been released, since the author's note in volume 4 annoyed me so much that I refuse to pick up more! Ha, freedom!

I still like the stories being told between the main story, but the main story is so frustrating, especially because it's taking a source famous for its heroine and making it something in which all the women are ineffectual and unimportant or evil.

Spoilers make me swear off the author )

ETA: I realized I must have accidentally skipped vol. 3 and shoujo!Caesar.


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