Friday, October 28, 2011

[food for thought] Why Vegans Don’t Join Freegan Omnivores

This article is originally from http://letthemeatmeat.com/

When vegans are challenged on the impact that their consumer vegan lifestyles have on the planet — the destruction to animal habitats caused by supporting agriculture, the fossil fuel burned in all stages of food production, the animals that are killed in the harvesting of grains, etc. — they typically admit that their diets are not entirely death-free, even though there are no dead animals on their plate. “But,” they will add, “at least I have less of an impact than you.”

Sure, the industrial production of vegetables, grains and beans is often deadly for insects, mammals and fish, and it’s certainly not carbon neutral, but compare the damage caused by eating these foods directly to the suffering and destruction wrought by omnivores who inefficiently funnel those grains and beans through animals first. Veganism isn’t perfect, vegans admit, but it is the best way for anyone to reduce their negative impact on the world while still surviving.

Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Freeganism would reduce their impact even more… even if they were still eating animal products. 

Freeganism is a form of ethical consumption in which food and material goods are recovered from the trash rather than purchased. Because these things are goners otherwise, freegans can “liberate” them and not have to feel responsible for any evils committed in their production. Thanks to Freecycle, Craigslist and beetSwap, the recovery of trashed material goods has become commonplace, so it’s dumpster diving for food that makes freegans stand out.

People who know nothing about dumpster diving imagine it to be a disgusting venture, but the food freegans find is often in good shape: fruit that is slightly bruised, vegetables that are a little withered, an egg carton with only one cracked egg, still-frozen meat just past the expiration date, cheese with a small mold spot, unopened beef jerky that someone returned.

Since a lot of these foods are packaged, they aren’t damaged by mingling with the real trash; some food co-ops will even wrap the produce up nicely before dumping it, specifically so freegans can more easily save the food from meaningless oblivion.

As long as there are unlocked dumpsters, freegans have no problem finding fresh, edible food of both plant and animal origin.

Since these dumpstered foods will go to waste unless freegans utilize them, eating them has no more effect on animals or the environment than if the food were to rot away. Actually, it has less impact, since any vegan not eating dumpstered food contributes to agricultural demand by buying food. Dumpstered food always meets or exceeds vegan ethical requirements, then, even when it is animal products. Isn’t that great, vegans? You can eat animals just like the rest of us, and the only difference is that you don’t have to pay for yours!

Yet few vegans do this. This isn’t just the squandering of a valuable loophole — by not dumpster-diving all of their food, vegans fall short of their own principles.

In an interview in Satya magazine with freegan.info founder Adam Weissman, Weissman explained the tragic irony of consumer veganism when freeganism is an option:
The word freegan was chosen largely to satirize an attitude prevalent among many vegans who seem unconcerned about the social and ecological impacts of the goods they purchase—so long as they are vegan. Sweatshop-made Nike shoes are fine, as long as they aren’t leather. Chocolate soymilk is great, despite the destruction of rainforests, exploitation of child slaves in the African chocolate trade and use of GMO plants.

The term freegan was created to express the notion that to live the “cruelty-free” lifestyle vegans advocate, we need to remove ourselves as much as possible from the capitalist economy, rather than taking the tunnel-vision perspective that we should only be concerned about animal flesh and secretions.

To many vegans, freeganism may seem marginal or extreme. Yet many vegans fail to recognize that the organized vegan community reflects bourgeoisie, white, liberal cultural norms, and to people outside of this demographic, eating tofu instead of hamburger can seem far weirder than getting good food that a store has needlessly thrown away.
Organic farmers will shoot, trap and poison mammals, birds and insects as readily as non-organic farmers—they simply won’t do it with petroleum-based pesticides. And of course, many organic farmers subsidize animal agriculture by using factory farm manure to fertilize their crops. Even agriculture practices not intended to harm animals cause massive numbers of deaths—machine threshers chop animals to bits, animals on land or in dens are crushed under agricultural machinery, small animals are shredded as soil is tilled.

I came to realize that for an animal liberationist, an organic, vegan diet was a lot like buying meat at the supermarket—being complicit in animal oppression, but letting someone else do the dirty work, so we don’t have to think about it.
Freeganism is a philosophy, an approach to living, not a set of lifestyle rules. Our focus is far more on building a new and more sustainable culture from the ground up than it is on micromanaging the lifestyle choices of individuals. Many of us are turned off by the very negative “vegan police” approach of looking down on someone who owns a leather belt or hasn’t yet given up ice cream. It’s much easier to get people to want to make positive changes if we make them feel welcome as they are, rather than having to constantly worry if they will be judged for not being “freegan enough.”
And let’s be honest, there are lots of people who don’t like the idea of animal agriculture, but just can’t bring themselves to give up meat, dairy, etc. We can look down on them and call them murderers and weak-willed hypocrites, or we can try to meet them halfway which, after all, is what we are doing by encouraging people to buy meat analogs. If we tell meat-eaters who are sympathetic but just can’t bring themselves to kick the meat habit that there is a way they can continue consuming animal products without economically supporting factory farming, they just might go for it.
When the interviewer asked Weissman if he ate meat, dairy or eggs, he responded:
I don’t, but I have no ethical objection for those who recover discarded animal products. I think the meat and dairy industries are hideously evil, but our complicity with them is primarily at the cash register, not the dinner table. I’ve heard many vegans argue that consuming animals’ bodies is disrespectful, and I’m baffled by what measure of respect is afforded to animals by letting their discarded corpses end up in landfills or incinerators. Personally, when I die, I want my corpse dumped in the woods so that it can feed other animals. Living beings have always consumed dead beings, keeping matter and energy a constant part of the life cycle.
That all makes sense, except the part where Weissman says he doesn’t consume dumpstered animal products. However, that contradiction is not unusual. From an ethical perspective, food loses the vegan/non-vegan distinction once it hits the garbage, but many still cannot let that distinction go. Why is it that so many vegans refuse to eat freegan animal foods even while paradoxically admitting that it is not against their ethics, and possibly even admirable?

When I was vegan, I had a few freegan friends who would eat animal products from dumpsters. I understood that this was at least as good as veganism, and I never openly objected to this, but it made me uncomfortable. For one thing, though they shared my vegan ethics, they were not vegan. What they ate made them omnivores. That vaguely put them on the side of the wicked in my mind, even as they had even less of an impact on animals and the environment than I did. 

Veganism teaches that animal products are unnecessary. Whether or not we can get them without participating in the system that created them, why would we? On top of that, most vegans develop such a strong psychological aversion to animal products that they believe they are missing out on nothing. “Veganism is not a sacrifice,” these vegans have been known to think. I know I certainly didn’t see the point in eating animals, even if I could morally justify it.

But the implication of a meat-eating freeganism is that animal products are desirable. As a vegan, I didn’t appreciate that. Part of the commitment to veganism seemed to be not liking animal products, whether or not that actually helped animals. Vegans were supposed to be above the hedonistic enjoyment of chewing on bloody flesh. With each meaty bite, then, my freegan friends sunk to the lowly level of pleasure-seeking meat eaters, even though they loomed over me in a strict ethical sense.

And there were more practical concerns. How can you be sure those chicken-fried steaks on the plates of self-proclaimed freegans really came from a middle school’s dumpster? Couldn’t sneaky omnivores lie and say they dumpstered their meat, just to avoid your judging gaze? Besides, if they still liked meat so much, could they be trusted to not buy animal products in a scenario where both freeganism and veganism were inconvenient?

Overall, meat eating freeganism just seemed somehow immoral, even in the absence of any real victim. 
Wondering if that was just me, I recently eavesdropped on a freeganism thread at Vegan Represent!. Let’s see what these representative vegans had to say about their meat-eating ethical superiors:
Dropscone: Ahh, I’ve got a friend who [dumpster dives non-vegan food]. I can sort of understand it, but the thought makes me feel queasy.
VeganUU: Since I’m a vegan for health reasons too, I think freegans are a little nutty. The negative health implications of consuming animal products are profound and disturbing, and I just don’t get why anyone would risk it.
Emiloid: I don’t think I could stomach it. Maybe pastries would be OK, but nothing with hunks of cheese, egg, or meat. Bleh. … I would probably be a “vegan freegan”. I love the idea of further reducing my impact on the world, and this is a great way to do it. I just have to get past my own squeamishness.
bumblebee: I am morally opposed to humans eating meat altogether (unless they are starving) because I believe the world already has plenty of natural scavengers that would be happy to eat it. Also, I do think unless we rid ourselves of meat eating entirely, we will retain a taste for it and crave it, whether it is available from a dumpster or not.
Anik: Participating in the economy in any way indirectly causes cruelty to animals. Buying tofu that came from soybeans from cleared Amazonian rainforest (just an example, i just read that this soy mostly goes to animal feed) supports practices that destroys the habitat of animals, as well as killing them in the process. As veganism is based upon the idea that one must take responsibility for unnecessary pain caused, the vegan must be aware of a less painful option to buying this tofu. Dumpster diving is the answer! All food that is dumpstered IS vegan. The ‘ew gross’ factor of dumpstering i think shows similarities to the omni’s defence of meat-eating — “but I like the taste of it”. It doesn’t really take into account what this preference is doing to animals. I’ve only been dumpstering once so far, but i believe there is a moral imperative to reduce pain not only through a boycott of animal products, but through reducing my consumption.
veganshawn: I am all for dumpster diving and things not going to “waste” but meat and dairy is not food to me; it is waste already, so I have no problem with it rotting away.
Tin Can: I would definitely consider dumpstered meat or whatever non-vegan. In line with what seems to be the consensus, I would agree that freeganism is an admirable lifestyle, and have no moral objections to eating such non-vegan food, but I couldn’t do it myself.
vegankitty: I agree with Tin Can. Meat and dairy products, no matter where they are from, are never vegan. By definition they can’t be: vegan means no meat or dairy products. To call food vegan just because it is from a dumpster dilutes the meaning of veganism and is also confusing to non-vegans.
VeganVeronique: Freegan = yuk! They should give it to real homeless people. Or send it to the fellas in the 3rd world places.
shade: I don’t think that I could get over myself to be a freegan. Props to those that do it though!
boko maru (responding to shade): Haha, this actually reminded me of something a meat-eater would say to a vegan.
Kat: I’ve kind of become a freegan since moving to this town and working at the hotel. It’s not unusual for people who check out of the rooms to leave things behind in them, like unopened bottles of lemon-honey iced tea, or unopened packages of granola bars. I’m also, as we speak, eating a croissant that was salvaged via Food Not Bombs. But I’m careful not to let people see me eating this stuff, because I don’t want to send out a message that I think it’s okay to go out and purchase these things.
LesMiserablesLove: We’re interested in dumpster diving, albeit not all the time and not for non-vegan food.
VeganShawn: I will not eat non-vegan food even if it is free and going to waste, I would rather the bugs and microbes enjoy it, thank you very much.
Panthera: I’ve moved into an intentional community which is wonderful in almost every other way including the fact that a lot of our food comes from Trader Joe’s dumpsters. Unfortunately, almost everything is non-vegan. Meat is not a problem, because that is so clearly different. But these [non-vegan] baked goods are killing me. They literally surround me. I am trying to keep Purely Decadent [vegan ice cream] on-hand, but that gets expensive. Since I’m open about being an AR activist, I think it’s especially important for me not to be lax about ovo-lacto consumption, even if I’m not contributing to the industry.
veganshawn: To me it is a slippery slope, where do you draw the line? I think accepting the eating of non-vegan foods at certain times sets yourself up for failure in the long run as a vegan.
La Végétalienne: I dunno, the “slipperly slope” doesn’t bother me too much because the symbolic approach to veganism doesn’t really do it for me. I’d rather make decisions on a case-by-case basis than maintain personal purity. I guess the way I see it is that all grocery store food is part of the industrial food system that condones and promotes animal cruelty, so unless you’re growing your own food, you’re probably still contributing to said system on some level.
Panthera: My boyfriend has decided that although eating those items doesn’t constitute a direct violation of rights, it’s still not a moral act, so we’re now on the same page.
Freegans could make a “Defensive Vegan Bingo” with the reasons vegans give for buying processed soy and wheat rather than eating dumpstered animal products.

That animal products go bad more dramatically than vegetables do is one of the most common knee-jerk vegan responses, but it’s unlikely that defensive vegans pleading this one would make an exception for freegan meat that is frozen or dried. Nor are they likely to accept an omnivore’s leftovers that are destined for the trash, even though buying a vegan meal instead of eating the doomed meat contributes more to the death of animals.

Saying that dumpster meat should go to the homeless is an even flimsier defensive reaction. If freegans shouldn’t take animal products from dumpsters because homeless people (or scavenger animals) need them more, then neither should they take fruits and veggies, because homeless people and scavenger animals need those more too. Of course this also falsely assumes that anything a freegan doesn’t take will find its way into someone else’s hands or claws. Anyway, freegans with kitchens can more easily prepare meat than a homeless person could. And animals without thumbs probably won’t bother with packaged meats.

Some vegans say it comes down to convenience. This is a surprising admission, since we know how vegans feel about omnivores who won’t give up animal products because of laziness. Vegans admire freegans for being more low-impact than they are, but they don’t see a contradiction in their settling for a higher-impact lifestyle when they criticize consumer omnivores for doing the same.

Vegans are afraid of sending confusing messages to omnivores and so don’t want to risk being seen eating dumpstered animal products? Since when do vegans care more about what omnivores think than in doing the right thing? Plus, as Weissman said, this meaty freegan lifestyle, while more nuanced and complicated to explain, might be more appealing to omnivores than a straightforward self-flagellating, seitan-chewing veganism. Instead of rolling their eyes at omnivores who love cheese too much to give it up, freegans take them to a dumpster and show them how to get cheese for free. That sure beats a slice of Daiya pizza.

The vegan argument for health obviously has something to do with this fear of freegan animal products. Some vegans grow unusually paranoid about cholesterol or animal-derived saturated fats, thinking them poisonous in any amount. This excuse is pretty weak too, though, because if eating dumpstered animal products is better for animals than buying tempeh, it doesn’t seem right for vegans to value their own perfectly smooth arteries over the lives of animals.

One of the most obvious reasons vegans don’t join the ranks of freegan omnivores is the aversion that many vegans develop against animal products. After avoiding meat, eggs and dairy for so long, the appearance and smell of these foods vegans once loved come to disgust them. When vegans rant about how disgusting bacon is, you can see how conditionable the human mind is. This psychological block against animal foods is something that most ex-vegans initially have to wrestle with as they re-introduce animals into their diet, even if they’ve stopped believing in veganism entirely. Admittedly, for dietary veganism, this is useful. If you don’t see animal foods as both inherently wrong and repulsive, you’re liable to be flexible in a situation where veganism or freeganism is impractical. And flexibility is not the key to a consistent vegan life.

So vegans don’t want to dumpster dive for fish sticks because fish sticks have lost their tantalizing appeal. But vegans who won’t dumpster dive for meat are like omnivores who don’t want to go vegan because tofu is gross — by holding onto their prejudices, they hurt the animals. Just as omnivores ween themselves onto bland analog meats so they can become more moral, any vegan who truly cares should train themselves to stomach dumpstered meat.

But there is also the issue of vegan purity.

When I saw Pamela Rice (the organizer of New York’s Veggie Pride Parade) speak at a library, she bragged about how long she had been vegan, and how that meant her body was now completely cleaned of animal products and was pure veggie. When you are vegan for a while, all animal flesh takes on sinister and taboo connotations, no matter the context. Many vegans just don’t want that death inside of them. If omnivores are graveyards for animals, so are freegans.

Seeing it this way is counter-productive. Because of their purity mindset, most vegans will not eat animal products out of the garbage. In fact, they would sooner put animal products into the garbage, even if the animal products are only minor ingredients. If they are at a restaurant and their order mistakenly comes out with animal products, purity vegans will send this food back, knowing it will be thrown out. More food will have to be prepared for them, which means more sentient beings killed because vegans feel queasy about eating animals.

Purity veganism, then, is one cause of wastefulness that freeganism seeks to correct. Not that vegans are to be blamed for a significant percentage of the food that gets thrown out in this world. But vegans would live up to their own standards better if they weren’t so opposed to eating dumpstered caviar or pulling over to pick up road kill.

Vegans say their shining example informs omnivores that they could be doing better. But if that’s the case, freegans prove vegans could be doing better. (And then there are people who commit suicide who show freegans that they could be doing better too, but please don’t commit suicide.)

In my interview with ex-vegan Cory Kilduff, Cory said, “A lot of vegans weren’t too into this idea [of freeganism] because it was like these guys had found this loophole and then weren’t involved in the whole pleasure-denying aspect of it.” Though vegans will never say that pleasure-denial is an important tenet of veganism, vegans do seem to get especially offended by meat eaters who truly enjoy their devilish delights. Ethically, it’s the killing of the animal that is bad, but the enthusiastic masticating of its corpse seems somehow wrong too.

Freegans aren’t evil by any strict philosophical definition, but for purity vegans, freegans have dumpster-dived their way into a morally ambiguous zone.

The philosophical difference between consumer omnivores and freegan omnivores is significant, but they’re on the same page when it comes to devouring delicious corpses. This injects confusion into the black and white vegan world. Meat is the murderous bread of Satan. So how could bacon ever be more animal-friendly than an Amy’s vegan pizza? The line between evil eaters and good eaters is blurred. And potentially it could lead to embarrassing situations, like where a vegan judges a meat eater, only to learn that the meat was going to be thrown out, and thus it’s the vegan who should be judged for buying food. 

Ultimately, one of the most important reasons vegans don’t eat dumpstered animal products may be preservation of the vegan identity. Being a meat-eating freegan is more moral than being a consumerist vegan, but it leaves your identity somewhat in flux. Omnivorous freeganism doesn’t offer the same pre-packaged meaningfulness that purity veganism does. I think this is also why some vegans are philosophically okay with eating bivalves like clams and oysters, yet never do.

“I’m vegan besides mollusks” is annoying to explain (“What’s a mollusk for God’s sake?”). The simplest way for otherwise vegan clam eaters to handle that would be to eat clams yet call themselves vegan, but then they would become like fish eaters who call themselves vegetarians, something vegans hate too much to do themselves. The other route is for bivalve-eating near-vegans never to say anything about being vegetarian or vegan, but then they will often find themselves in situations where they are offered meat or dairy.
Also, if you eat one animal product, slippery slopes and all that.

So vegans who are okay with eating clams don’t eat clams. And vegans who are okay with eating meat from dumpsters don’t eat meat from dumpsters.

If vegans really believed that it’s important to reduce suffering as much as possible, though, they wouldn’t be consumer vegans. Sadly, it’s easier to be vegan and feel good about yourself by buying “humane” animal-free products, even though buying vegan ice cream to stop from eating non-vegan pastries from the trash helps no one, save for the ethically tormented vegan who wants to avoid an identity crisis.

On the other hand… since there is plenty of vegan food to be dumpstered, am I positing a false dilemma between consumer veganism and omnivorous freeganism? 

It’s true that some vegans like Adam Weissman get all of their vegan food from dumpsters. In that case, satisfying a preference for foods untainted by animal flesh or secretions isn’t going to hurt the animals.
But Weissman also happens to be the founder of freegan.info. Not all vegans are that devoted. Most vegans who dumpster dive at all are part-timers — they get a few free things now and again to supplement their purchases. And unless they are diving at a vegan co-op, they are going to find meat and cheese more often than Gardein and Follow Your Heart. So if vegans turn their noses up at dumpster meat, they are killing more animals by buying processed veggie foods later.

If vegans think about it, they realize that by not dumpstering all their food, they are participating in a system of death. But they believe it is enough not to let the most obvious end results of that death cross their lips. There is a vegan veil over the demise of animals in agriculture and most vegans don’t see the need to lift it and take the next logical step of freeganism. Vegans know that buying tofu hurts more animals than eating a steak out of a dumpster. They just don’t give a shit. Fuck the animals! Vegans have convenience and their images to worry about!

That’s too bad, because with omnivorous freeganism, everyone wins.

While freegans don’t participate in the agricultural system but also don’t deny themselves the pleasures this system offers, vegans do just the opposite — they contribute to a system that destroys habitats and kills animals but without fully reaping the benefits of all this death.

Freegans are also easier for omnivores to get along with than vegans. A freegan is not going to hold it against a meat eater for enjoying a steak. They may protest participation in the system, but the enjoyment itself is still seen as a good, since freegans also allow themselves pleasures of the flesh. Also, it’s just hard for a freegan to judge a meat eater who buys a filet of meat when the freegan has no problem eating the leftover gristle and fat. How are you going to lecture a meat eater when you have a sentient being’s muscle caught between your teeth?

Of course freeganism has its problems too. For instance, what happens if everyone becomes a freegan? But until we arrive at that point, it’s clear that vegans could be doing a lot more to save the animals… if only they would eat them.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

[event] Freedom Film Fest 2011 // 28th Oct 2011 @ The Substation Theatre

The Freedom Film Fest was initiated by Malaysian NGO Pusat Komas as a means to educate the public on the values of human rights. The festival's circuit in recent years has included Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor, Perak and East Malaysia.

Due to our shared political and cultural history with Malaysia, Singaporeans For Democracy will host the Singapore leg of the festival again for the second year running. None of the films shown in the eight year history of FFF has been censored or banned by the Malaysian Government.

Entry is free so feel welcome to bring along all your friends and family.

When: Friday, October 28 · 7:00pm - 11:30pm
Where: The Substation, 45 Armenian Street

ABOUT THE FILMS

1. MENCARI KARTHIKA (40 mins) 2010
Dir : Norhayati Kaprawi
Language : Bahasa (English subtitles)
Rating : Not yet rated by MDA
First-time filmmaker Norhayati Kaprawi was inspired to make “Mencari Kartika” after surveys by polling house Merdeka Center found a large majority of Muslims in Malaysia supported the caning of part-time model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno for consuming alcohol. This documentary explores the Muslims’s perception of ‘justice’ in the context of Malaysia that is lauded for its modern, progressive, multi-racial image.

2. AKU SIAPA? (50 mins) 2010
Dir : Norhayati Kaprawi
Language : Bahasa (English subtitles)
Rating : Not yet rated by MDA
Why do Muslim women in Malaysia wear the hijab? What are their challenges? Through a series of candid interviews with Muslim women, young and old, urban and rural, director Norhayati Kaprawi uncovers why Muslim women wear the hijab, and why some take it off. “Aku Siapa” is a necessary viewing for those who are curious about the hijab and those who want to better understand Islamization and its impact on women in contemporary Malaysia.

3. ULU BENGOH DARUM PIIN (Upper Bengoh Under Water) (20 mins) 2011
Dir : Joachim Leong
Language : English (Bahasa subtitles)
Rating : Not yet rated by MDA
Building of the controversial Bengoh dam will forcibly displace 1,500 residents from their ancestral homes. However, contrary to popular expectations, the recent election results showed that the Bengoh residents did not use their ballot to express their unhappiness. The films ventures into the soon-to-be-submerged villages - accessible only by foot- to discover why they chose the same candidate who supported the very project that would forcibly displace them.

4. TRANSGENDER NUN : RIGHTS AND RITES (20 mins) 2011
Dir : Arvind Raj
Language : English (Bahasa subtitles)
Rating : Not yet rated by MDA
Transitioning from a man to a woman is but the first change in Sharan’s life. She wants to become a nun by dedicating her life to Bauchara Matha, a Hindu deity who is known to be the protector of the transgender community. The filmmaker follows Sharan on a journey of several rituals that are rarely performed and never recorded on film before.

5. HURUF J (23 min) 2011
Dir : Afiq Deen
Rating : Not yet rated by MDA
What happens when your status changes from “married” to “divorced”? What has this very personal issue got to do with human rights? First-time filmmaker Afig Deen employs animation, wordplay and interviews with divorced mothers to highlight the struggles of these women, while finding closure with his own personal struggle as the son of a divorced mother. A winner of Freedom Film Festival 2011.

6. LOT, UMAH AM (The Sea, My Home) (23 min) 2011
Dir : Liaw Pey Wen
Language : Bahasa (English subtitles)
Rating : Not yet rated by MDA
For most Indigenous People, the land and forest is tied up with their identity. But what if your indigenous identity is not tied up to the land but rather to the sea? This documentary gives us a peek into the lesser known lives of the Indigenous Orang Seletar who have for generations called the Straits of Johor their home. A runners-up of Freedom Film Festival 2011.

[muse] On The Difference Between Good Dogs and Dogs That Need a Newspaper Smack

This article is originally from http://sindeloke.wordpress.com.

Today I’m feeling 101-y, I guess, so let’s talk about privilege.

It’s a weird word, isn’t it? A common one in my circles, it’s one of the most basic, everyday concepts in social activism, we have lots of unhelpful snarky little phrases we like to use like “check your privilege” and a lot of our dialog conventions are built around a mutual agreement (or at least a mutual attempt at agreement) on who has privilege when and how to compensate for that. But nonetheless fairly weird, opaque even if you’ve never used it before or aren’t part of those circles. It’s also, the way we use it, very much a cultural marker – like “Tolkienesque” or “Hall-of-famer” or “heteronormative,” you can feel fairly assured that a large number of people will immediately stop listening and stop taking you seriously the moment you use it.

The fact that people are stupid isn’t news, however. And actually that’s kind of why the concept of privilege is important – because privilege isn’t about being stupid. It’s not a bad thing, or a good thing, or something with a moral or value judgement of any kind attached to it. Having privilege isn’t something you can usually change, but that’s okay, because it’s not something you should be ashamed of, or feel bad about. Being told you have privilege, or that you’re privileged, isn’t an insult. It’s a reminder! The key to privilege isn’t worrying about having it, or trying to deny it, or apologize for it, or get rid of it. It’s just paying attention to it, and knowing what it means for you and the people around you. Having privilege is like having big feet. No one hates you for having big feet! They just want you to remember to be careful where you walk.

At this point maybe I should actually start talking about what privilege is, huh?

Well, we’re right here online, so let’s start with the Google definition. As per standard for googledefs, it’s hardly comprehensive, but entirely adequate for our purposes here, particularly the second entry:
If you talk about privilege, you are talking about the power and advantage that only a small group of people have, usually because of their wealth or their high social class.
This is the basic heart of the idea. Privilege is an edge… a set of opportunities, benefits and advantages that some people get and others don’t. For example, if it’s raining in the morning, and you get up, get dressed, climb into the nice warm car in your garage, drive to the closed parking lot at work, and walk into the adjacent building, you don’t get wet. If you go outside and wait at the bus stop, then walk between busses for your transfer, then walk from the bus stop to work, you do get wet. Not getting wet, then, is a privilege afforded you by car and garage ownership. So far, so straightforward, right?

Some examples of social privilege work exactly the same way, and they’re the easy ones to understand. For instance, a young black male driver is much, much more likely to get pulled over by the cops in America than an old white woman. Getting pulled over less, then – being given the benefit of the doubt by an authority figure – is in this case, a privilege of being white. (I’m not getting into the gender factor here, intersectionality is a whole different post.)

Okay, again, so far so straightforward. And thus far, there’s not much to be done about it, right? You’re not going to, as a white person, make a point of getting pulled over more often, and nobody’s asking you to. (Well, I’m not, at least.) So if someone says “check your privilege,” if I tell you to watch where you’re putting your feet, what the hell does that mean?

Well. This is where things get a bit tricky to understand. Because most examples of social privilege aren’t that straightforward. Let’s take, for example, a basic bit of male privilege:

A man has the privilege of walking past a group of strange women without worrying about being catcalled, or leered at, or having sexual suggestions tossed at him.

A pretty common male response to this point is “that’s a privilege? I would love if a group of women did that to me.”

And that response, right there, is a perfect shining example of male privilege.

To explain how and why, I am going to throw a lengthy metaphor at you. In fact, it may even qualify as parable. Bear with me, because if it makes everything crystal clear, it will be worth the time.

Imagine, if you will, a small house, built someplace cool-ish but not cold, perhaps somewhere in Ohio, and inhabited by a dog and a lizard. The dog is a big dog, something shaggy and nordic, like a Husky or Lapphund – a sled dog, built for the snow. The lizard is small, a little gecko best adapted to living in a muggy rainforest somewhere. Neither have ever lived anywhere else, nor met any other creature; for the purposes of this exercise, this small house is the entirety of their universe.

The dog, much as you might expect, turns on the air conditioning. Really cranks it up, all the time – this dog was bred for hunting moose on the tundra, even the winter here in Ohio is a little warm for his taste. If he can get the house to fifty (that’s ten C, for all you weirdo metric users out there), he’s almost happy.

The gecko can’t do much to control the temperature – she’s got tiny little fingers, she can’t really work the thermostat or turn the dials on the A/C. Sometimes, when there’s an incandescent light nearby, she can curl up near it and pick up some heat that way, but for the most part, most of the time, she just has to live with what the dog chooses. This is, of course, much too cold for her – she’s a gecko. Not only does she have no fur, she’s cold-blooded! The temperature makes her sluggish and sick, and it permeates her entire universe. Maybe here and there she can find small spaces of warmth, but if she ever wants to actually do anything, to eat or watch TV or talk to the dog, she has to move through the cold house.

Now, remember, she’s never known anything else. This is just how the world is – cold and painful and unhealthy for her, even dangerous, and she copes as she knows how. But maybe some small part of her thinks, “hey, it shouldn’t be like this,” some tiny growing seed of rebellion that says who she is right next to a lamp is who she should be all the time. And she and the dog are partners, in a sense, right? They live in this house together, they affect each other, all they’ve got is each other. So one day, she sees the dog messing with the A/C again, and she says, “hey. Dog. Listen, it makes me really cold when you do that.”

The dog kind of looks at her, and shrugs, and keeps turning the dial.

This is not because the dog is a jerk.

This is because the dog has no fucking clue what the lizard even just said.

Consider: he’s a nordic dog in a temperate climate. The word “cold” is completely meaningless to him. He’s never been cold in his entire life. He lives in an environment that is perfectly suited to him, completely aligned with his comfort level, a world he grew up with the tools to survive and control, built right in to the way he was born.

So the lizard tries to explain it to him. She says, “well, hey, how would you like it if I turned the temperature down on you?”

The dog goes, “uh… sounds good to me.”

What she really means, of course, is “how would you like it if I made you cold.” But she can’t make him cold. She doesn’t have the tools, or the power, their shared world is not built in a way that allows it – she simply is not physically capable of doing the same harm to him that he’s doing to her. She could make him feel pain, probably, I’m sure she could stab him with a toothpick or put something nasty in his food or something, but this specific form of pain, he will never, ever understand – it’s not something that can be inflicted on him, given the nature of the world they live in and the way it’s slanted in his favor in this instance. So he doesn’t get what she’s saying to him, and keeps hurting her.

Most privilege is like this.

A straight cisgendered male American, because of who he is and the culture he lives in, does not and cannot feel the stress, creepiness, and outright threat behind a catcall the way a woman can. His upbringing has given him fur and paws big enough to turn the dials and plopped him down in temperate Ohio. When she says “you don’t have to put up with being leered at,” what she means is, “you don’t ever have to be wary of sexual interest.” That’s male privilege. Not so much that something doesn’t happen to men, but that it will never carry the same weight, even if it does.

So what does this mean? And what are we asking you to do, when we say “check your privilege” or “your privilege is showing”?

Well, quite simply, we want you to understand when you have fur. And, by extension, when that means you should listen. See, the dog’s not an asshole just for turning down the temperature. As far as he knows, that’s fine, right? He genuinely cannot feel the pain it causes, he doesn’t even know about it. No one thinks he’s a bad person for totally accidentally doing harm.

Here’s where he becomes an asshole: the minute the gecko says, “look, you’re hurting me,” and he says, “what? No, I’m not. This ‘cold’ stuff doesn’t even exist, I should know, I’ve never felt it. You’re imagining it. It’s not there. It’s fine because of fur, because of paws, because look, you can curl up around this lamp, because sometimes my water dish is too tepid and I just shut up and cope, obviously temperature isn’t this big deal you make it, and you’ve never had to deal with mange anyway, my life is just as hard.”

And then the dog just ignores it. Because he can. That’s the privilege that comes with having fur, with being a dog in Ohio. He doesn’t have to think about it. He doesn’t have to live daily with the cold. He has no idea what he’s talking about, and he will never, ever be forced to learn. He can keep making the lizard miserable until the day they both die, and he will never suffer for it beyond the mild annoyance of her complaining. And she, meanwhile, gets to try not to freeze to death.

So, quite simply: don’t be that dog. If you’re straight and a queer person says “do not title your book ‘Beautiful Cocksucker,’ that’s stupid and offensive,” listen and believe him. If you’re white and a black person says “really, now, we’re all getting a little tired of that What These People Need Is A Honky trope, please write a better movie,” listen and believe her. If you’re male and a woman says “this maquette is a perfect example of why women don’t read comics,” listen and believe her. Maybe you don’t see anything wrong with it, maybe you think it’s oh-so-perfect to your artistic vision, maybe it seems like an oversensitive big deal over nothing to you. WELL OF COURSE IT DOES, YOU HAVE FUR. Nevertheless, just because you personally can’t feel that hurt, doesn’t mean it’s not real. All it means is you have privilege.

That’s not a bad thing. You can’t help being born with fur. Every single one of us has some kind of privilege over somebody. What matters is whether we’re aware of it, and what we choose to do with it, and that we not use it to dismiss the valid and real concerns of the people who don’t share our particular brand.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

[event] Anatomically // Self-Destruct vol. 5 // 23rd Oct 2011 @ Chapter 6 Studios

This coming Sunday sees old-timer thrashcore maniacs COCHE BOMBA all the way from Lyon, France as they embark on their SE Asia tour, which starts in Malaysia, then Singapore, before descending further in to Indonesia and the Philippines.

Supporting bands on the bill are old school riot grrl hardcore-punkers BLOODY REJECTS, 2-piece grinding violence attack ABRASION, and skramz kids YUMI.

It's $6 at the door, and doors open at 6pm, at Chapter 6 Studios, 87A Rowell Road.

Brought to you by 7x0x7.

Friday, October 14, 2011

[event] The Business (UK) live in Singapore // 10th Nov 2011 @ Home Club

10th Nov 2011, Thursday
7pm till late
HOME CLUB
20 Upper Circular Road

Opening acts:
SHINE (reggae)
THE BOIS (Oi!)

Pre sale : $35 (La-Vanita, Roxy Records, Home Club)
At the door : $48

All ages + free 1st drink.

[event] Deepest Sympathies & Synonyms // 19th Oct 2011 @ 15 Minutes Cafe

In this exhibition, artist-duo Seelan Palay & Shikin Ali apply a newly developed visual ensemble to reflect on the chronic dichotomy of Singapore's social structures.

The exploration into both the artists' approaches to the portrayal of the evolving civic system lent itself to the stylistic application and conceptual framework in the created set of drawings, installations, collages and photographs. The eventual works displayed in the exhibition are the shared products of both artists, intertwined in form and intellection.

By visually translating the relativity between Singapore's public memory, social landscape, critical discourse and modern history, the artists seek to portray the paradox of power and experience in the island state.

[event] Casa Nostra!! // 7th Oct 2011 @ Port Tumasik

PORT TUMASIK proudly presents

CASA NOSTRA!!
7th – 22nd of October 2011, 5pm to 10pm daily
24A Bali Lane, Straits Records level 2

drawing painting installation performance photography sound music sculpture video

“CASA NOSTRA!!” transforms the alternative space into a living room, bringing 20 local artists of together in a multidisciplinary presentaion; the exhibition emulates a homely atmosphere for the audience and artists to mingle with one another in hope to integrate everyone through the arts with sincerity.

“HOUSE WARMING” Potluck
Opening Event
7th and 8th October, Friday and Saturday.
5pm -10pm.


“INCOMA LISTENING PARTY”

EP Launch by INCOMA.
14th October, Friday, 7.30pm - 9pm


“TEA PARTY”

All about different tea.
15th October, Saturday, 3pm-5pm


Sponsored by ARTS FUND and National Arts Council

Supported by: Dahlia Gallery, SCYA, Straits Records, & Bestman Installation and Fixtures

[event] Grapheme Zine Mosh // 15th Oct 2011 @ Grapheme Zine Lab

Grapheme Zine Lab is brewing at Goodman Arts Centre. Expect an experimental space where anyone can come craft a zine, learn book-making techniques, hang out with analog pets, or browse/buy an array of books and zines.

The Zine Mosh; the opening of the Grapheme Zine Lab, is an exhibition-cum-distribution experiment: 1 part tangible creativity, 2 parts freedom of self-expression. A heap of micro-publishing, a liberal sprinkling of the DIY ethos.

Join the people behind the Grapheme Zine Lab as they serve up independent book/zine forms of all shapes, sizes & contents. All manners of unique, locally-created zines & artist's books will be on exhibition & for sale. Zentai. Transient places now demolished. Haight-Ashbury free love. Polka-dotted bats.

Partaking in their vision and contributing works are an assortment of comrades, ranging from FALSE independent fashion anarchists Le Messie & Amanda S, to illustrators Twistii, Zxerokool and Sheryo, comic-book artist Troy Chin—and you, if you so wish.

Make a zine, bring it down, and you can sell it in the Lab. Or simply turn up with curiosity in your maw and leave satiated, pockets full of zines, inducted into the orders of indie-publishing.

Feat. Bani Haykal & Co. (experimental music), Polarity Press (zine distro), & Word Forward (performance poets).

15th Oct 2011 (Sat), 8pm
Grapheme Zine Lab
Goodman Arts Centre, Block B, #05-06

[event] Image, Materiality and Space // 21st Oct 2011 @ Goodman Arts Centre Gallery

A group exhibition featuring works by:

Abednego Trianto Kurniawan

Jason Lee
Kelvin Atmadibrata
Marla Bendini
Willis Turner Henry
Yang Jie

Venue: Goodman Arts Centre Gallery
90 Goodman Road, Blk B, #1-08, Singapore 439053

Opening Reception:
21 October 2011, 7pm – 10pm
There will be a performance by Marla Bendini at 7.30pm.

Exhibition Dates:
22 – 28 October 2011, 10am – 7pm
29 October 2011, 10am – 3pm


For more information, please email: jason@jasonlee.sg.

Image, Materiality and Space explores the relationship between sculptures, installation and photographs. This exhibition aims to bring forth the concept of materiality aspects in photographs, and how photographic prints, as a physical material, are able to amalgamate with 3-dimensional mediums or vice-versa. It hopes to bring out the awareness that photograph can also be considered as a form of material instead of solely as a two-dimensional image. Furthermore, it serves as an experimental platform for artists to explore the various possibilities of fusing photographs into the making of a three dimensional work. The inclusion of photographic images into a sculptural or installation artwork would motivate artists to think and work differently. At the same time, it seeks to push photography beyond its boundaries as 2-dimensional and allow photographs to work with surrounding spaces with the accompanied sculptural and installation work, be it site specific or not.

This exhibition is supported by National Arts Council, Arts Fund, and The Old Parliament House.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

[muse] New World Order, Or No World Order?

by Andrew

So, now you think the world is being taken over by the 13 families of the illuminati, and that they are actually an alien species of reptile like Satan worshiping sentient beings that are hell bent on forging a new order, in which they are in charge, and force the world into submission of an absolute dictatorship in which there is no way out. And that now, you have taken upon yourselves to educate the masses on this foreign threat that everyone seems so oblivious about. All this because you’ve seen it plastered on the internet, and that you’ve read it on truth websites. You’ve done your homework. That’s why I’m here. To perhaps better equip you, to reach your goal of eventually singlehandedly destroying what you’ve dubbed the “new world order”. I will, in fact, try to argue (unfortunately, with myself) to the pros and cons of having a “new world order”. Bear in mind that these are just my opinions on the “new world order”, and whether it is fact or fiction.

There are many things that are being discussed about the new world order, henceforth, the NWO (not to be mistaken for the professional wrestling stable nWo) but perhaps nothing more than its endgame. I can’t see a better place to start then at the end. They plan to prune the world’s populace down to just 20 percent, and then enable themselves to live forever through preposterous advances in technology. Let’s just sit and ponder that for a second. Reducing the world to just 20% of the current 6.7 billion or so is no easy feat. Even for the affluent, no doubt extremely influential 13 of the illuminati. Some would say they would be using a “dooms day device”. No doubt the organizations like CERN and the like will be mentioned. Even then, what’s stopping the rest of the “free” world from fighting back? I do not think countries will sit by and do nothing, against the impending threat if say they use their doomsday device on a country or two. Men have always rallied against a common foe. Against Germany, Italy and Japan in world war two for instance. Do you really think we would sit and wait for our deaths when we can fight? That raises the question “what if our governments choose not to do anything, and sit back and watch”? What about it? Men will not sit and wait for someone they think are in cahoots with the enemy to make decisions for then, right? Surely we are not THAT stupid? Revolution will take place, probably new leaders set in place, ready to make decisions. But alas! What takes more lives than war? Perhaps, in our struggle to survive, we do their job for them?

There have been speculations that the illuminati are of a reptilian (for those who are unsure, think doctor Connors from spider man) aliens that have come from space. I like to think that this theory is slightly far-fetched. Like Nessy, there has been no actual documented proof of these lizard men. One would think that they ran the media! So, then should we start covering our heads with foil and hope to god they don’t probe us? I say no. That the threat of lizard men taking over the world, are close to zero, that these people are only human. Not wild lizard men from Jupiter.

There is also talk about free mansonry, and demon worship in the iluminati. A lot of this, according to Jonathan Black, in his book “secret history of the world” can be traced back to the knights templar, who were not only credited to have created banks, but also accused of heresy by the church because they’ve grown too powerful to control(we all know the church does this on a constant basis). According to Black, the knights templar practiced a form of spiritual initiation (which is by the way on of the main topics of the book) that has been practiced by ancient civilizations like the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Indians. Although I have my doubts about the book, it is possible that it is a smear campaign being held by the church to discredit the mystic roots of free masonry. Note that we’ve seen smear campaigns on almost everything the church deems wrong, or is gaining too much power or favour. And if this is the case, then, the NOW may be looked upon as a group of mystics who want to free us from what we have now?

There’s another rumor that all the presidents of the USA can be traced to these 13 families of the illuminati. We’ve seen this before, in Europe, Asia, and basically anywhere with a monarchy. This may just be a simple thing where the families take turns ruling the USA (you can see obvious signs of inbreeding /incest in George W Bush jr). Perhaps this theory is better than the working one of the NOW.

And how can we forget the evidence that 9/11 was an inside job? This one is simple. The government, with its ties and dependence on the big corporations needed an excuse to invade the oil filled middle east. The needed an excuse. So they created an excuse. Pretty straight up, yes?

Let’s think from another angle here for a moment. What if the NWO is just about unification of the world under one government, like in the book “brave new world” by Aldus Huxley. Would it then be easier from an anarchist point of view, to overthrow just one government? As opposed to anarchists being spread out, fighting their own wars, they now come together and collectively fight against just one system. It would be easier to combat, no?

But with all that is happening in the unseen realm of conspiracy theories, we neglect to think about what is happening right now, where men kill men for plots of land, where corporations exploit cheap labor of third world countries, capitalism afoot, like a tumor on healthy flesh. Materialism, our god and hate, everywhere. Many choose to blame the NWO for what is happening that they are the puppeteers beyond the veil. But it is us; the common people who choose to ignore these problems instead of doing something about it that are equally responsible for the plight we are in. But not many blame the common people. Because it’s so much easier to blame something you cannot see. Something that is beyond your reach. Then you would have done something without actually doing anything at all. It would leave you warm and fuzzy inside. Make you think you are a Campion of the people. Maybe your energy would be better spent doing something else? Perhaps, in the direction we are going, we could cause the new world order all by ourselves, without any outside help…


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

[muse] An Essay by David "Spoonboy" Combs on Sexism and Rape Culture in Punk

This month, we've started to bring you [muse], which is basically a share of the various essays and articles we have found either on the Internet, or in zines. We may publish writing written by folks from the Lion City DIY hardcore-punk scene as well, if we come across any submissions.

--

Let's get right into it.

When I was 19 I was walking to the bus station in a part of town I wasn't familiar with when an older man pulled me into an alley and attempted to rape me at knife point. I can only thank fortune that I got away unharmed. If we're talking about sexism, I can only think to start there. Most people don't think sexism matters. Here's why I think it matters. What I experienced for months after that encounter was a visceral fear of men. If I was walking alone, I crossed the street if I saw a man coming down the sidewalk. My heart palpitated if a man pulled me aside at a show. Eventually the fear subsided.

But I'm lucky. Not only because I got away, but because I was born in a male body. And because I'm comfortable in my male body. It was statistically unlikely that an attempted assault like that would ever happen to me. It's statistically unlikely that it will happen again. It helped me get over my fear to know that. It wouldn't be the case if I was a woman. Almost every woman I have been close with has had an experience of being sexually assaulted or having had someone make an attempt. The statistics say 1 in 3 women is sexually assaulted, and that's only the people who report it. I have a hard time believing it's not a higher percentage. I have a hard time believing that some element of the experience I came close to having hasn't been a reality for the majority of the women I know, women who may not necessarily have been assaulted by strangers, but maybe worse, assaulted by people they trusted.

I keep this in mind when I hear women's experiences. I keep in mind that most women have to live with the knowledge that at any time they could be the subject of an assault, that they are constantly targets, just for being women. I keep in mind that most women live with a minimal level of distrust for men, and that even the most courageous women have to watch their backs when they walk alone at night. And I keep this in mind when people talk about living in a "post-feminist society," or about how sexism is a thing of the past. Those ideas are wholly unconvincing. As long as rape is a crime that's being committed in extremely disproportionate numbers by men against women, I will not be convinced that everything's ok. Sexism is a disgusting undercurrent in our society and it needs to be fought and challenged. And rape is only one of the many, (albeit probably the ugliest) ways that it rears its head.

So the question has been brought up: is there sexism in the punk scene? It's not the first time the question's been asked. Twenty years ago, Riot Grrl made it an extremely visible issue. But now as those Bikini Kill records have been historicized as relics isolated in the past, a quick reading of the latest book on Riot Grrl will show that all of the same problems women were fighting against then still exist today. Is there sexism in the punk scene? Of course. Punk is not an impenetrable bubble where upon entrance we shed all the socialized attitudes we grew up with. As long as we live in a sexist patriarchal culture that teaches its children sexist patriarchal attitudes, those attitudes will reappear within punk culture. And it manifests in all sorts of ways: There's the "I wanna kill my ex-girlfriend" songs. There's male band members telling rape jokes. There's women in bands being degraded and objectified, or not being taken seriously as musicians. There's girls at shows being treated like coat hangers. And there's the sad truth that punks rape and are raped.

But if you really need evidence that there's sexism in punk, look around at the next show you're at. Unless you participate in an unusually egalitarian scene (and that's great if you do), the chances are the majority of the audience will be male, but more importantly, chances are 100% of the performers will be male. The all-male-show is so normalized in punk, and it sends a clear message about whose voice is being heard, who's experience is central. The all-woman-show is far far rarer, and when it does happen, often men in the scene will act defensive and complain they are being excluded, as if they're oblivious to the fact that women are excluded in punk on an almost constant basis. Until the centerpiece of punk culture - the punk show - is occupied by people of all genders, in an egalitarian way, I won't be convinced that there's not sexism in punk.

So what does this have to do with rape? Try this: in the mind of a rapist, a woman is less than human. Her feelings and experiences are not worth consideration. She's considered a sexual object. She's not taken seriously. Most men aren't rapists, but most men do subscribe to greater or lesser variations of those attitudes. Subtle and less subtle ideas about male superiority are ubiquitous, and that base level of disrespect that men harbor towards women is what makes it possible to live in a world where the majority of women experience sexual assault and harassment, and no one bats an eye. This is called "rape culture." The logic is that women are inferior and thus the pain inflicted by sexist crimes is not given weight. So if women's experiences are not valued in the punk scene, if they are systematically excluded, and women laughed at when they voice their complaints, the punk scene is basically giving a thumbs up to a culture that doesn't value women's experiences. It may not be an active endorsement of rape culture, but it's acceptance through passivity.

Now, I'd hope it'd be obvious that I'm not equating an all male punk show with rape. I do want to emphasize the emotional gravity that even subtler sexist attitudes hold. But the fact that I'd need to qualify my statement speaks to the overwhelming phenomenon of male defensiveness. When men are told that we're in part responsible for contributing to a sexist culture, we tend to lash out - as if we are being accused of being at fault for our biological make-up. Men tend to bond together and try to tear down whoever is bringing up those criticisms, as if we are each personally under attack. What's important to understand is that culture is built out of a multitude of influences and interactions. A condemnation of a sexist culture is not the same thing as a condemnation of the individuals that participate in it. Recognizing that you were raised in a sexist culture and probably hold sexist attitudes does not make you an asshole, but refusing to acknowledge it does.

And recognizing that our male dominated culture is fucked up doesn't make you a self-hating man, either. When I first heard Bikini Kill, it was fucking thrilling. Hearing someone lash out against dominant sexist attitudes wasn't exciting in some sort of "oh good for women, they're standing up for themselves," type of way. It was liberating to hear someone take on those traditional expressions of masculinity, because I hated the ways I was expected to act as a man. I hated the toughness and numbness that was expected from men, because I wanted to be able to express my emotions without fear of ridicule. I hated the predatory way that men acted towards women, because I wanted to be free to have meaningful relationships with women. Likewise, I hated the homophobia, because I wanted to have meaningful relationships with the men in my life. I see men around me all the time who refuse to show any signs of vulnerability for fear of appearing feminine, and they tend to cut themselves off emotionally from the world. It's fucking sad. I see men all the time who only view their relationships in terms of conquest, and I can't think of one of them who has a healthy emotional life. Breaking down ideas around male superiority and masculinity is absolutely in mens' best interests. In a punk context, I can say with certainty that the scenes I've visited that were the most gender inclusive have always been the most exciting and thriving music communities. There's nothing to be gained for men in maintaining the boy's club.

I want to address one common anti-feminist argument: It's the "men have always been sexist, and that's just how things are" argument. There are plenty of examples of non-patriarchal societies that have existed, so for one thing, it's historically inaccurate, but even putting that aside, arguing that doing something for a long time makes it right is a nonsensical way to approach ethics. It's like saying "there's always been murder, so we might as well accept murder as a good and natural part of our lives." I'm sure the same arguments were made to protect slavery. It's also biological essentialism to say that men will always act a certain way based on their gender. So much of our behavior is socialized and the expected traits of masculinity are no exception. There have been cultures where humans have acted in all sort of ways that would seem completely unnatural to us, but those cultures functioned fine on their own terms. If people have lived without concepts that seem essential to our lives, like number systems for example, I think we can do alright without something as banal as patriarchy.

It's also historically short sighted that so many people hold such defeatist attitudes when it comes to our ability to change the way things are. In the last century and a half we've shed the cultural acceptance of slavery, we've stopped discriminatory voting practices based on race or gender, and we've shed all kinds of official policies that allowed discrimination in the workplace and other public spheres. These are things that we've all, even the most privileged among us, come to tout as hallmarks of progress. There's no reason we shouldn't continue to shed any acceptance of sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. that exists now, just because it might seem less obvious.

So boys: if you've read this far and you've bought my argument that yes, sexism exists, and yes, it matters, and yes, it even exists in the punk scene, where do you go with it? I can offer some suggestions, but first consider this point from Aaron Scott (of Attica Attica)'s essay on I Live Sweat, "If you need suggestions for how to make women feel welcome, then I suggest you ask the females in your local scene. They probably have some pretty specific ideas." That first and most important thing that men can do to combat sexism is to take women seriously when they voice their concerns. We are socialized not to, so it's crucial that we do. And don't try to dictate whether someone else's experience qualifies as oppression. To quote Jen Twigg (of the Ambulars)'s essay from that same website, experiences of sexism are like "a thousand tiny paper cuts… - you wouldn't make a big deal about one on its own, but a thousand of them together are a gaping wound."

My next strongest suggestion is to not be so afraid of self-criticism. You'll probably find examples of sexism in your day to day behavior. I've found them in mine. I've looked back at things that I've done and realized how they were hurtful or inconsiderate and I've had to suck it up and apologize and change the way I act. Look at yourself and the actions of the men around you. Do you disproportionately talk over, or interrupt women? Are you more likely to make eye contact with men than women in group scenarios? These are the small symptoms that add up. Here's a few more: Do you stop and notice that the way your dancing has all the women in the room backing away from the band? Do you try to prove your coolness or masculinity by one upping other men? Do you notice the women in your scene becoming disinterested when conversation drifts into dick measuring territory, when you're comparing your record collections or gear knowledge? Do you use demeaning sexist language without thinking about it? Do you sexualize women and comment on their appearances or bodies, without thinking about how that makes them feel? I'm going to assume a lot of people reading this probably do. Like I said before, it doesn't make you a bad person. But it does make you a lazy selfish person if you're not willing to recognize and try to change those things.

Finally, we can do a lot more to encourage women to participate and play music. Supporting women-centered events like CLITfest and Ladyfest are great ways to do this. That doesn't mean we should be trying to dictate or organize these events, but be we should be allies, by offering the women who organize them our support and access to resources. Also, those of us who organize shows or play in bands can do a lot more in thinking about who we choose to book or play music with to keep the all-male-show from happening over and over again.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

[event] I Heart Emoviolence IX // 11th Oct 2011 @ Chapter Six Studios


Now here's a little something this mid-October: post-punk/screamo outfit CLOUD MOUTH (US) on the HeWhoCorrupts Inc. label will be doing a short tour of SE Asia, and they couldn't possibly not stop by Singapore!

And of course, what better occasion than another one of those I Heart Emoviolences that the relentless 7x0x7 can't seem to stop putting on? We're looking at the 9th installment with them, this time with go mad and markers PARIS IN THE MAKING (we believe this isn't their first IHEV), and new skramz on the block PATHOS.

Entry at $6, doors open at 7pm at Chapter Six Studios, 87A Rowell Road.

[shoutout] Blackhole Radio #6 October 2011

Blackhole Radio's Hafiz Bastard is at it again. They love skipping months, so we can only imagine this to be a bi-monthly thing (or at least, whenever he sees fit). This month, we see (and hear!) a playlist of tunes so punk you can't stop 'em comin'.

This month shows a good smattering of Australian and European hardcore-punk, not excluding a song from Swedish hardcore kids HÅRDA TIDER, who might just be coming down to SE Asia this December.

Look out!