Monday, May 4, 2020


When you're part of two marginalized communities, your identity is said to be an intersection of those two communities. When you're trying to speak for one, you might offend the other. For example, I am a woman and I am also a Malay, Asian person. Each group can be said to be marginalized, but at the intersection, you may receive more marginalization, once for being female, and once for being Malay/Asian. As a Malay woman, I can say things that happen to me, that would not happen to Malay or Asian men in general. When I went to LA for the first time in 2015, my photos and experiences were on Facebook (I used to use it before I got bored of all the scrutiny). My grandmother's sister and her family then put pressure on my grandma, they asked why I was couchsurfing and seemed to be sleeping in the same room as i) a man (that time it was Nick Savaj in winter), and ii) a dog. Nick had a new dog Lucy and she was the yappiest and I loved her, and I remember Nick saying Lucy was calmer when I was around or when I walked her, which I think was true. When I slept with Lucy around, it was therapeutic for both Lucy and myself. Asian and/or Malay parents can be said to be more naggy or hovering helicopters, but they especially pay more attention to policing their girls' behaviors. If a man did what I did, the community would not feel as entitled to comment, never mind the fact that men could also sleep with men and this would also be an affront to the aunties. Alternatively, if an Asian man did engage in such a behavior, he would then refrain from talking about it so he wouldn't receive the scrutiny. Either way, their behavior is being policed, and most of the policing source would be from their identity of being Malay or Asian-raised. Intersectional feminism is an approach to consider the oppression any person might face due to their gender or race, or any other identity markers. As opposed to white feminism, which you might have heard applied to Taylor Swift, if you've heard of it at all. White feminism is when white women only consider the emancipation of women from the experience of being white, without taking into account how black women, Latinx women, Asian women, and so on experience their lives and their feminisms. It is far more complicated when you have to deal with misogyny along with the added pressure of tiptoeing along the fault lines of race and/or religion. When you bring up the fact that daughters don't inherit the same amount as sons at the death of a parent, the reason given is that men were supposed to take care of women. You are not to question why men were given this so-called responsibility, infantilizing women and given the care and burden of taking care of them, despite the fact that women are clearly just as capable of caring for themselves. The bottomline is, that was the law of the book, and you followed it based on the justifications given by the book. A similar rationale is given about women who are not allowed to perform the Haj without a male relative escorting them. At this point, there may be Malay/Muslims who are reading this just wanting to bust in with the fact that women may now perform the Haj unchaperoned by a guardian, in 2020, wow, finally. This may also be happening to detract from other human rights abuses going on in Saudi Arabia, including ironically, the killing of women's right activists. When you speak to Asian or Muslim aunties about this, the idea is to deflect, deflect and that's right, deflect. If I ask, when I wear a short dress, why does an Asian man feel entitled to police my behavior, the reaction is: Islam is a feminist religion and has always promoted education for their women, the Prophet's wife was a successful entrepreneur who had her pick in choice of husband, etc etc. The idea that there may be two contradictory stances espoused by a single religion is laughable to them. When I want to bring attention to the fact that a Malay or Asian man feels more entitled to police my behavior because that's how we've been raised, the aunties do not contend with the incident of my dressing, or the fact that what I choose to do and whom I choose to sleep with on my own personal vacations is always up for their scrutiny, although it shouldn't be. They will again bring it back to Khadija, although how that solves my problem, I don't know (hint: it doesn't). I live in Singapore, one of the biggest nanny states in the world. It is like a North Korea, with a Disneyland exterior. The juxtaposition makes it even eerier. The government does not like dissent and does not facilitate the act of questioning its policies, even going so far as to punish such behavior. When you intersect religion with a nanny state like Singapore, it's a great breeding ground for parents who want to inculcate obedient behaviors in their children. Listen, if you don't do what I say, the police are going to come and catch you. If you don't do as written, you will end up in Hell. I don't know what it's like in other communities or religions, there will be people who want to strawman me and assume that I'm bashing on Islam. I am highlighting some patriarchal examples within Islam, but that's the community I have direct experience with, I don't have any better of an impression of Christianity, or Judaism or any religion, to be honest. I think they are all problematic, especially given the similar Abrahamic roots. In South Korea and in India, there have been similar cases of sexist chat rooms, the nth room and the Boys' locker room, respectively. They draw from the fact that neither country has the biggest sex-positive attitude. You can see through their popular visual media, of Kpop and Bollywood. Sex is a taboo and men are usually the ones courting, because God forbid that women should be sexual beings and in charge of their own sexual desires. I'm not saying Hollywood and white people don't have a fair share of sexism and misogyny, as someone who's read about Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes, of course I agree there is disgusting sexism that happens there, on a power-play level. Their misogyny is one that depends on victims keeping mum, and women in those regions have learnt that it's better to speak up and to come forward with their stories. The misogyny that Asia faces is one step, one decade behind. To even get to the stage of empowering women to own their voices, there is one more thing that needs to happen, we collectively need to recognize that we draw on Asian cultures to perpetuate certain patriarchal practices that have no place in a just and equal society. I recently read a comment in a thread about how migrant workers are treated in Singapore. The commenter said that his grandfather was a very responsible man who owns a construction company, and he has always ensured the migrant workers he employs are treated decently. The idea was not about individual employers, no one is attacking any singular person for being bad, because the problem is in the system. For every person who sidetracks the conversation to "I know someone who's not like that" it makes the process longer for migrant and transient workers in Singapore to receive the equal and fair treatment they deserve. Similarly, no one is calling out individual Asian people y'all are involved with (ugh people are so touchy about their partners and spouses it makes me wanna roll my eyes, like, this problem doesn't revolve around you unless you think it does), but the system has to change.

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