Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

Read Post

Yellow Peril: Are you gonna liberate us girls from male, white, corporate oppression?

242 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 10 Newer→ Last

  • Juha Saarinen,

    To chime in with Span's post, yeah... you don't get any protection from being male and ang mo whitey on the 'Net. Hatred and bigotry are colour-blind and gender-neutral.

    Since Nov 2006 • 529 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Clayton,

    Tze Ming, you mention Steve Braunias' praise of your "muscular prose style". There has been quite a bit of critical work done in the last twenty to twenty-five years of the gendering of language in New Zealand writing, particularly, but not limited to, poetry and criticism. John Newton puts this at the door of Allen Curnow, whose 1945 and 1960 poetry anthologies, as well we know, were so influential on ideas about what "good" writing was in this country.

    To those poets whom Curnow admired, he gave almost stereotypically masculine adjectives to praise their work: strong, robust and (yep) muscular. To those poets whom he disparaged, he applied the feminine opposites of these terms. (Newton's actual counting of the adjectives is in an article in, from memory, the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, from about seven years ago).

    Now this in itself is not necessarily problematic, but Curnow's critical evaluations also divided fairly neatly along gendered lines when it came to the gender of the poets themselves. Only Robin Hyde, Ruth Dallas and a few others made the cut in terms of their poetry meeting Curnow's standards, and then only in part. Curnow's other technique was to conflate appropriate poetic technique with appropriate psychological development: thus, the best poems are not only masculinised but also mature, and the worse immature and feminised (and mostly written by women). Calling for the reevaluation of writers excluded, over time, by these means, has been a long project for critics of a variety of persuasions, as many readers no doubt know.

    This rhetoric has, to my mind, been tremendously influential in how we think about writing in this country, so when Braunias praises what I take to be the blend of economy of style with political argument/polemic in your own prose, he describes it in Curnovian terms: muscular=good. Of course, muscular is a desirable attribute for many women in our own time, but this is perhaps coincidental.

    This is not by way of much contribution to the wider argument save to talk about something in which I feel confident, but also to raise the idea that our contexts are gendered not only individually but at the level of our language, our critical and evaluative vocabulary. It doesn't necessarily lock us into that gender but it can constrain us if we wish to write/talk/debate ideas in a manner outside the prevailing gendered style. This is often said to be one of the reasons Curnow's language was so strongly gendered in the first place--he was responding to the way in which the poetry of his youth was celebrated in feminine terms. (And still today: who would want to be told they had a soft and tender prose style?)

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 51 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall,

    Again, as an aside, great to see Goo refered to in the thread's title. The 2cd deluxe edition is a cracker. According to SY's website there's a - drooooool - 2cd deluxe edition of Daydream Nation coming out soonish. It's a classic of course, but I gotta say that EVOL is pretty under-rated...

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 760 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    So much for a quiet peaceful Sunday, having lunch with friends, doing some baking for the school lunches this week, washing and mending some clothes, supervising homework, generally just pottering around doing home things. I have spent most of the day thinking abut feminist political theory, and about whether I could make a useful contribution to this discussion. I had almost decided not to, but then there was a long, thoughtful, and somehow vulnerable sounding post from Finn Higgins, and this from Juha:

    Hatred and bigotry are colour-blind and gender-neutral.

    Well, yes, they are, but their objects are not. There's some evidence that being female, or gay, or black, or yellow, or disabled, or mentally iss, or an immigrant, invites hatred and biogotry in a way that being able, white and male does not. Not necessarily compelling evidence, yet, but nevertheless, something to take note of.

    Having said that, PA and a number of other NZ blogs are bigotry and hatred free. If ever there was a site where women and gays and other non white-able-males could take part without fear, then this is it.

    I think however, that it is futile to deny that e-women (meaning women who are active on the interweb) are targetted in a way that e-men are not. The whole Kathy Sierra story, and the follow-up stories in Salon and other places are testament to that.

    But here's the rub. It seems that by calling the perpetrators on it, as they deserve to be called, ODMs (or ordinary decent men) feel as though they have been called on it too. Hence the vulnerable note in Finn's post above. Finn seems to want to sound a "me too" idea in his story about his friend, and "it wasn't me" in response to the whole discussion that Tze Ming has raised. Finn, everyone here knows it wasn't you, and I suspect that most people here, like me, were saddened, even appalled, by the account you gave us of what happened to your friend. Here's the thing - making it clear that you don't support what is happening, doesn't stop it happening.

    Let me give an analogy. This is going to really upset some people, so let me make it very, very clear, that this is an analogy only, and I am only using it as a way into the point I am making. So take a deep breath, particularly if you are an XY type, and bear with me.

    Remember the 'All men are rapists' slogan from the 1970s? Possibly not... and in fact, I don't actually remember it either, but I do know about it.

    Right. Take a deep breath. Keep on reading. Please.

    As it turns out, the slogan is a misrepresentation of the original claim.

    The original claim was more like this. To the extent that ODMs benefit from the fear of rape that most women live with, then even ODMs are rapists.

    Silly idea.

    I don't think that ODMs either think or act like this. But there is another thought in here, that women will continue to live in fear of rape, and to regulate their behaviour accordingly, until ODMs stand up against it too.

    Here's the analogy bit. We need the ODMs to make it very clear that they simply will not tolerate the abuse of women (and gays and blacks and mentally ill and disabled people) on-line. In other words, blokes, stand up and be counted.

    Having said all that, as far as I can tell, the ODMs who populate this site have stood up to be counted. I first became aware of the Kathy Sierra story through Russell Brown's post on the topic. No one has dismissed the problem. More pertinently, the way this site operates is testament to ODMs and ODWs simply wanting to have a good discussion, without the bigotry and hatred that infest other sites. I love hanging out here. I have had some full-on disagreements with other people through PA, but not once has someone addressed my gender rather than my arguments. Maybe this is why some of the ODMs here feel just a little affronted and vulnerable given the Kathy Sierra story. It's because they know damn well that they are not, and would not be, parties to such behaviour.

    But gentle men, you need to do more than just not participate in the behaviour. You also need to condemn it when you see it. As would I, I hope, when I see homophobia, or racism, or sexism, dressed up as 'free speech' on the web.

    Some other thoughts:

    I don't ever want to be treated as a man. I am a woman, and my experience of being female colours my whole perception of the world. I don't go the whole feminist epistemology route, and claim that women have different ways of knowing, but I do think that women can construct their worlds differently from men. So when I participate in the discussion here, it is as a woman, who is embedded in social networks and family concerns. Hence, Juha, my immediate rejection of simply saying that hatred and bigotry are colour-blind and gender-neutral, and my equally immediate grounding of hatred and bigotry in those who experience them.

    And... ouch! In response to Megan's fascinating post, and having found out that Gender Genie thinks I am a man, I dug out my examiners' reports on my thesis. They both used words like 'clear, forceful, careful, direct' to describe my writing, and I took that as high praise. Maybe I will have to rethink that.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Out of interest, has anyone *ever* been physically attacked or even approached by anyone in NZ as a result of Internet discussion?

    I've never heard of a case. The nearest would be the NF with their blacklists, but I don't think even they actually take it to physical confrontation with the people they *target*.

    If I'm right, it's reasonable to assume that anyone who threatens you is no more likely to take on physical form than the characters in a video game. So treat the nasty people as a string of bits, delete their outpourings and move on. (Report them to the cops if you want, it'll give them harmless indoor activity pouring over lists of IP addresses).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    What a conference-worth of great ideas!
    I wish I had some insight into the bad behaviour of men in cyberspace. I don't. I've certainly seen it, and I've mostly not called it- gutless perhaps. But it hasn't happened in places I wanted to be. The on-line communities worth being in have all maintained at least minimal levels of civility.
    It's a diversion, but there are male NZ poets- Alistair Cambell and Bill Mahire spring to mind- who you could describe as tender- and soft too...
    But it's hard to make "soft" seem like praise! Why? Isn't there something underlying the "muscular prose" idea that's gender-neutrally about our conception of good writing? (I'm just teasing this out and not sure how I feel about it. Male standards are so pervasive, it's possible this is just another case.)
    Strunk and White prefer active over passive verbs etc etc- mostly (I think?) pretty good advice for any writer. I'd guess we all prefer writing that is direct and honest. We don't like vague and waffly. Forceful is usually good- though it can grate in the wrong context. As much as anything, that's about being sensitive, too. I'm hard-pressed to think of a great writer who's not, on some level, sensitive. I don't know what Curnow would say, but "strong and sensitive" seems like a good ideal- for writing and perhaps for life! (?) </rise of tone at end of sentence as if to question own statement in very (gender neutral?) kiwi way> Anyway, I am surrounded by women who write far better than I do- more forcefully for sure. That can't be simply about gender.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2110 posts Report Reply

  • Finn Higgins,

    Hence the vulnerable note in Finn's post above. Finn seems to want to sound a "me too" idea in his story about his friend, and "it wasn't me" in response to the whole discussion that Tze Ming has raised. Finn, everyone here knows it wasn't you, and I suspect that most people here, like me, were saddened, even appalled, by the account you gave us of what happened to your friend. Here's the thing - making it clear that you don't support what is happening, doesn't stop it happening.

    Good god. On the one hand we have long posts about how the use of masculine adjectives to describe prose is all tied into gender politics, on the other hand sounding a "vulnerable note" somehow provides a world of subtext for you to read all manner of conclusions from.

    You know, I don't really put enough time into the posts I write to justify reading between the lines to quite such a depth. I'm a pretty shallow guy. If I was sounding "vulnerable" perhaps that was just an attempt at being polite given I'm a) new here and b) commenting in a thread where gender politics is seemingly being forcibly inserted into anything in sight, whether it fits particularly well or not?

    If I raised an example it was not to demonstrate that I'm a jolly nice fellow, it was to demonstrate that abuse is abuse, regardless of gender - if you put your opinions and your real-world credentials on public display and the wrong people take a disliking to you they can be very, very nasty to you.

    My point being: The actions are the same, the situation the same, the results the same. So why treat the problem differently just because the recipients of the abuse are female? Why talk of "Taking back" blogs for female audiences? I don't get that, sorry. Either you're interested in the problem of online abuse/stalking regardless of the victim (and viable social and technological solutions to the issue) or you're not - I don't see that being specifically and exclusively interested in the problem for a particular group of victims is a very practically useful position, sloganeering aside.

    Shorter: What Juha said.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2007 • 209 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    With regard to death threats- or any such direct threats against one's person: It'd creep me out completely. I'd report it, too. Lying awake at night listening for creaks and scuffles is a crap life. And for all that you can reassure yourself it's not likely anything will really happen, knowing someone out there there has thought these thoughts about you is creepy too.
    There's a connection, we all know it- not direct or simple or linear, necessarily, but a connection- between thinking thoughts and doing deeds.
    In that respect, it might be good if some of the fabled "anonymity" of the net were exploded. Most people probably know deep-down that pretty well anything you do on the net- any e-mail you send, comment you post- can, unless you're making efforts- be traced back to you. And they also know it won't be. A lot of the worst behaviour (and some of the fun!:-) would disappear overnight if the perps knew their real names would magically (techno-magically!) appear next to their comment/blog post next day.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2110 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    A lot of the worst behaviour (and some of the fun!:-) would disappear overnight if the perps knew their real names would magically (techno-magically!) appear next to their comment/blog post next day.

    Amen to that - which is pretty much the 'crap life' visited on Kathy Sierra by those 'perps' who published her home address and social security number. As so many here have said, I'd be devastated/ballistic/whatever if it happened to me/someone close to me. Thanks for a marvellous Sunday's worth of thoughtful and generous posts, but it still creeps me out to think about what was done to Sierra.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • nanoplanet,

    OK Tze you have convinced me. Time to start commenting and not just watching from the wings.

    Here • Since Apr 2007 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • anjum rahman,

    aaagh!! i hate that i came to this thread so late... been busy all weekend. and i can't believe i turned off "sleeping dogs" to read it, but it seems to be just too important, and have too many wonderful contributions. thanx tze ming for your post that started this great discussion.

    i'm not sure that i have a lot to add. i don't ever log on to kiwiblog anymore, though i did go through a period of reading it. but i can't do it any more. it's too depressing, and the bigotry does hurt. rich, it's easy to tell us to ignore the words, but i can't. not only because the words hurt personally but also because i feel powerless against them.

    that's part of the reason why i never get involved in threads about muslims. they are so many negative and really harsh voices, yes even on pa, and i feel like a lone battler who can't possibly take them all on. i watched manakura (sp?) doing it last year around maori issues, watched him singlehandedly take on heaps of people and win. win in the sense that he managed to change opinions and make others see things in a new light. and he won respect - well, mine definitely. but he must have spent hours and hours doing it.

    for myself, i just don't have the time and energy to do the same thing. i have 2 kids to bring up, a home to take care of, a job, 3 trusts i'm a trustee of, and a nascent political career that may or may not go anywhere. i have to be mindful that anything i ever say or write can and will be used by political opponents to attack me, now or years later. or by ian wishart wannabe's to make out i'm some kind of terrorist sympathiser or straight-out terrorist (or whatever other nasty label they can throw at me).

    mostly though, i'm just tired. i spend most of my days feeling exhausted, so i only post when the topic excites me enough to overcome the tiredness! but the kind of research and hours it would take to get into an indepth debate around, say muslim issues, is just beyond my capacity. so i leave it, and try to make a difference in other ways - like interfaith forums, public speaking etc. yes, these also take a lot of time and energy, but the fact is that people say things on the web that they would never have the guts to say face-to-face, which is why these other activities seem less threatening.

    in terms of misogyny, i've never been attacked for my gender. i also haven't yet received hate mail (alhamdolillah). but i have to agree with you tze ming, that gender abuse is an issue and a serious one. whether or not the threats are real, they are frightening, and we shouldn't have to put up with them.

    so, i'd love to contribute more. but it's down to time, and to not being tough enough to take a lot of negativity.

    hamilton • Since Nov 2006 • 130 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Seen as how some of the comments here have been so lengthy and with such sensitive consideration, I feel the need to respond in kind.

    I realise I have been naïve to assert my opinions within a feminist blog. I assumed I was being invited to defend my personal dignity and concepts of ethical values. I am none the wiser in regards both. What I do know is that I couldn’t have chosen a more problematic discussion.

    Unlike the usual middle class male academic; and lets face it that is what we are talking about when we talk about white boys playing on the computer. I did not receive an orthodox education. I struggled thru intermediate school and was granted an exemption from further literary based learning there after. I was enrolled in a state funded alternative school. I learned some valuable democratic processes and developed a political belief system. However I did not learn to read and write too anywhere near secondary school entry level. I have by munter forced this ability into myself over the last five years. Credit due to the evolution of the personal computer and the Internet. I also did some art classes that tout me the basics of academic communication (I hope I got that right). This lack of experience at actual writing not to mention arguing appropriately is why I have over stated my aversion to the White boy comments. I still find them offensive, just not deeply.

    When I hear comments in response such as “just get over your self” or that my feelings are as Tze Ming put it “pretty damn precious, laughably so” I realize that the very stereo typing I was disagreeing with is insidious. I don’t understand how anyone in 21century New Zealand can still seriously believe that men are emotionally tougher than women. If you are still reading, please understand I am purposefully putting this under the microscope in order to make a point. Obviously comments that suggest not being a pansy are inconsequential to me. But the point is equality and general civility is a reciprocal arrangement.

    Now back in the physical world and the issues of persecution. I have experienced persistent bullying from verbal abuse to being knocked unconscious. I suppose that because of that and other less positive experiences I am more inclined to empathize rather that persecute others thank something or another for that. I am a bloke; I have a shed where I make stuff. I like women. I don’t have any idea how to attract more confident and literate female participants to these discussions. But I am shore as hell not going to intentionally scare them away. I do however see the need to exercise a bit more restraint when it come to bowling on into a feminist based debate.

    I dear not put this in the genie. I might look a bit of a twit.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • Sue,

    Out of interest, has anyone *ever* been physically attacked or even approached by anyone in NZ as a result of Internet discussion?

    Does it really matter?
    is abuse only bad if it's physical?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 527 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Of course its not

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    and yes it really does matter. Don't you know?

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    And oops oops oops I meant to say children have been seriously abused as a result internet discussions. And it matters alright!

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • stephen walker,

    that's part of the reason why i never get involved in threads about muslims. they are so many negative and really harsh voices, yes even on pa, and i feel like a lone battler who can't possibly take them all on.

    There were some discussions a few months ago in which rampant Islamophobia was left pretty much unchallenged except by me and Simon Grigg. After a while you just start to think, "Why aren't other people pulling them up on this stuff?" Eventually you just start to think, "Why am I wasting my time when no one gives a shit?"

    And to those offended by the "white boys' playgound" quip: You are easily offended by...the truth...it is a male caucasian-dominated arena for social intercourse. get over it!

    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 645 posts Report Reply

  • Nobody Important,

    does this thread get extra credit for inspiring some of the longest posts on PA?

    expat • Since Mar 2007 • 319 posts Report Reply

  • Sonal Patel,

    Jumping out from the shadows (but only briefly) ...

    I haven't commented on PA System that often, some of it has to do with being away from NZ, some of it has to do with not being too fired up issues raised (one notable exception being the thread that would never die), and because the reponsibility I had with my previous job, I didn't want to out myself (anonymity wouldn't have helped me).

    On reflection I have to admit that I pay more attention to your posts Tze Ming because you pick up on issues that no one else on PA does. I remember the day of the Diwali Mumbai bombs being a turning point in my political reflections on NZ. No one except you, (mainstream, alternative media or otherwise in NZ) seemed to comment about it and that made me very upset (which is another tale, for another time). If I had a blog at the time I probably would have blogged about it but I didn't.

    As it stands right now, I don't blog about political issues for a number of reasons: because I'm not home where I understand the system better; I'm tired of fighting the same fight over and over again; I'll choose another medium to express my throughts; or more often than not someone is saying it much better than me (like Sepia Mutiny, Reappropriate or your good self).

    Brisvegas • Since Nov 2006 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Tze Ming Mok,

    Finn said:

    Why talk of "Taking back" blogs ...? I don't get that, sorry.

    However the thread has been skewed in various directions, the Take Back the Blog blogswarm is a symbolic online event to express solidarity with female bloggers who have been subjected to harassment, intimidation and threats of violence. If Finn really doesn't get that... well, wow - I'm sorry too!

    On the upside, it's always good to see Sonal; I second Anjum's props to Manakura for holding out as long as he did; and thanks to the rare appearances, first time postings, and thoughtful tomes from women PA readers generally on this thread. I appreciate you being here.

    SarfBank, Lunnin' • Since Nov 2006 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Ultimately, dude, this post wasn't about you; it was about us. I hope you can get over it.

    Hmmm ... "get over it" ...

    Tze Ming, Steven's initial post was sincere, and your answer -- "precious", "not about you", "sad", "perceived slight" -- was dismissive and somewhat bullying in tone. Muscular, perhaps.

    And I missed the part about the thread being "obviously dedicated to the women of PA being able to talk about their experiences of the internet." If you wrote it - and you used the phrase "white boys" three times - and someone wants to say something about it, I think they have the right to do so without being belittled.

    In answer to a question in your post, yes, PA does skew white and male, although not dramatically so. The biggest departure from the general population is in income (high) and professional qualifications.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    However the thread has been skewed in various directions, the Take Back the Blog blogswarm is a symbolic online event to express solidarity with female bloggers who have been subjected to harassment, intimidation and threats of violence ...

    I assume it's an adaptation of the "Take back the night" mobilisations against sexual violence. Nice idea.

    On the upside, it's always good to see Sonal; I second Anjum's props to Manakura for holding out as long as he did;

    Eh? I'm not sure Manakura was "holding out" against much. He's very well liked around here and was frequently complimented for his posts. He even won the Flying Nun box set! I'm sure there was a fatigue factor, in that there was a lot of content in his posts. but I don't think he faced any more attrition than anyone else.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Finn Higgins,

    However the thread has been skewed in various directions, the Take Back the Blog blogswarm is a symbolic online event to express solidarity with female bloggers who have been subjected to harassment, intimidation and threats of violence. If Finn really doesn't get that... well, wow - I'm sorry too!

    Thanks for removing the context in the quote.

    I don't get the idea of a symbolic online event to exclusively express solidarity with female bloggers who have been subjected to harassment etc, when there's plenty of bloggers who aren't female who're victims of the exact same behavior. Why arbitrarily restrict your solidarity? What's that supposed to symbolise? I'm not a fan of dividing up society by gender, and this seems like a division being made when the problem is wider. Does your solidarity exclude Islamic men, who're the subjects of far worse abuse on the internet than women, collectively, in mainstream political discourse right now? If so, why?

    Wellington • Since Apr 2007 • 209 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I don't get the idea of a symbolic online event to exclusively express solidarity with female bloggers who have been subjected to harassment etc, when there's plenty of bloggers who aren't female who're victims of the exact same behavior. Why arbitrarily restrict your solidarity?

    Because protests against, say, "all bad things" tend to lack focus. In the context of recent events, it's both logical and reasonable for a group of bloggers to express solidarity with women online.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    On reflection I have to admit that I pay more attention to your posts Tze Ming because you pick up on issues that no one else on PA does.

    Ditto that. Tze Ming's work is always interesting, even if I am part of the white male corporate oppression she is writing about.

    Although one person's flippant comment is another's insulting provocation, if one was to focus on that one might miss the other things she is trying to say. Its a mistake I often have to battle my own instincts to avoid (unsuccessfully, more often that not).

    I find expressing disagreement is tricky (whether socially or online) because you don't want to shut down a unique point of view or hurt anyone's feelings but there is always that aspect to it. As Span mentioned, comments often get skewed to points of disagreement, and don't focus so much on the thoughts and feelings that people might share.

    Since Nov 2006 • 797 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 10 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.