pennyroyal: Orange suitcase (Leaving on a jet plane)
[personal profile] pennyroyal
written for the Asian Women Blog Carnival

Some time ago, my boyfriend and I got into an argument about whether or not Australia belonged in the Asian Football Confederation. (Background: I was born, raised and live in Southeast Asia; he was born in India, was raised and lives in Australia. Both of us are vehement fans of the sport.) I was against it; while I conceded that Australia is multicultural, it still has a predominantly white population and western culture, which I thought was obviously “not Asian”. He disagreed with me, arguing that Australia is “geographically in Asia” and that there is no such thing as an “Asian identity”.

I did think he had me there — asserting that a pan-Asian cultural identity does exist felt like a bit of a stretch. There are commonalities that unite countries, especially those in close proximity to one another, but diversity is the rule.

For me, on some level, the crucial uniting factor is “not white” — especially amid a global discourse that is, by and large, defined and dictated by white and western eyes.

And yet I find I am unsettled by the idea of being defined by what you are not, rather than what you are.

. . .

I am not a transnational by any definition of the term. I was born and have lived in the same country my entire life, but I was educated in a western tradition and speak English more fluently than my native language.

I have often wondered if I should be more ashamed of that than I am.

My parents and grandmother always assured me that it was something to be proud of, but centuries of colonisation have left us still looking to meet the standards of others rather than inventing our own. I rationalise; I tell myself that it opens doors for me that would have been closed otherwise. But that does not erase the fact that those doors should not be closed in the first place.

. . .

I have met many children of immigrants who “come home”, looking to rediscover their roots in the home country of their parents and grandparents.

I grew up here, and I am not sure I know what my roots are.

. . .

I struggle with articulating my own experiences of oppression, largely because I question whether I have the right to do so. I was born into the elite of my country’s society: I have always had enough in a place where many have too little. I belong to a class that is sneered at — rightly — for having no idea what it is to live hand-to-mouth. I have only ever truly been touched by racial prejudice when overseas. Who am I to ask for more?

But at seventeen, I had my “oh shit” moment: I was rendered powerless by a man, one I thought loved and respected me, and was used and discarded. And then I allowed myself to be rendered silent by my own shame, the shame that a patriarchal society taught me was the only right and proper emotion for a good, religious girl.

. . .

I am still not sure how to define myself. But I no longer think that I need to. I can exist without borders, and still belong: because we’ve all been there. I still wish I hadn’t. I wish no one had. But I’m trying to make the best of it, as we all are.

Date: 2009-06-09 02:36 pm (UTC)
sheafrotherdon: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sheafrotherdon
Thank you for this powerful post.

Date: 2009-06-09 03:11 pm (UTC)
glass_icarus: (cupped hands)
From: [personal profile] glass_icarus
oh. &hearts powerful and resonant and lovely. thank you for sharing this!

Date: 2009-06-09 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm sorry for your "oh shit" experience.

Thank you for posting. The idea of "defining something by what it's not" has bugged me since I first came across it being identified to me.

Date: 2009-06-12 08:38 am (UTC)
evelynlela: Let's not argue with the crazy person holding the enormous sword! (Sword)
From: [personal profile] evelynlela
Your right to only shame is not just the controls and imposed definitions are also not equal.


pennyroyal: Pink-haired girl smoking a pink cigarette (Default)
Hardison dies in Plan M

June 2009


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