I’m late to Game of Thrones - but I caught up. And I couldn’t help photoshopping this picture of Khal Drogo as a Klingon. Anyone sad enough to be familiar with both GOT and Star Trek knows exactly what I’m talking about.
The Klingons are the Dothraki of Star Trek - the scary, warmongering Other from the Heart of Darkness out in deep space. The great thing about imaginary black and brown people is that white sci-fi/ fantasy writers can project their repressed oriental fetishes onto a blank canvas without taking responsibility – “WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S RACIST, THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS KLINGONS OR DOTHRAKI! How can we be racist towards people WHO DON’T EVEN EXIST??” Funny how it’s always real black and brown people who have to play the role of the imaginary ‘non-existent’ warrior/tribal/primitive/race. (With the exception of the original Star Trek, which had white actors in blackface as Klingons … lol)
You can dress it up as fantasy, but we know who you’re talking about.
GOT wasted no time in establishing the Dothraki as a horde of raping, warring animals who have no word for ‘thank you’ and enjoy public sex games and deaths at a wedding. The codes are never original: love of war and pillaging, animalistic sex rituals (anyone remember this tender moment on Star Trek: TNG - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hNMwxY4-Vk), some ‘noble savage’ warrior code that glorifies conquest, authoritarian social order, growling, pumped up men and hyper-sexual women, beards, braids, boobs blah, blah blah. The Dothraki are a grab bag of every native/ savage/ other signifier you can think of.
But this isn’t just about imagery and brown people looking bad on TV – the Dothraki storyline is just a stepping stone for Dany’s overall storyline which is more deeply racist - essentially, a liberal white woman who goes around saving and civilising brown people. The subtext of Dany’s story is a cultural war where Dany’s enlightened values triumph over lesser ones, where whiteness is both a conquering and civilising force.
It begins with taming the savage Drogo who rapes her “like a hound takes a bitch,” on their wedding night (and every night after that) - until she teaches him the tenderness of looking him in the eyes when they sleep together. Then, the reforming of Dothraki customs: Dany prevents the rape of female prisoners and even gets Drogo to back her against the wishes of his riders. Finally, she establishes herself as a leader when she gives birth to her dragons (at this point the brown people literally prostrate themselves to her).
Barbarian cultures who don’t know how to treat women bowing in the face of superior technology and military arsenal (Dragons are basically the advanced fighter jets of the GOT universe) – does this feel familiar? She then goes from city to city freeing slaves who dutifully join her quest. Dany’s story is, at its heart, a neocon wet dream. She is Laura Bush, advocating for the invasion of Iraq under the pretext of saving its women who are desperate to live a life like hers.
I feel like we are supposed to root for Dany because she is becoming a strong woman; originally meek and abused by her brother, she outsmarts men at their own game. We are supposed to forget that she is fighting for nothing more than her own sense of entitlement to the throne, like some upper-class brat who loses her family’s fortune and eventually manages to become CEO of her own corporation. Somehow all the grateful brown people she liberates are happy to march behind her for the sake of an imperial project that they have no stake in. Oh - like every good white liberal, she manages to pick up a Black Best Friend (Missandei) along the way:
The Season 3 finale took things to the next level; after liberating another city of slaves, Dany waits to see whether she will be greeted as a liberator or conqueror. (the writers try to get off the hook by acknowledging that she is aware of the difference). In fact, she gets a better deal - they claim her as their ‘Mother.’ She ends up crowdsurfing over the brown people like some kind of Tagaryan Bono with all of the smug satisfaction of a gap-year backpacker that has just built an orphanage in a village somewhere.
Anyway. It’s just a TV show, right?
The second part of this post is here:
I begin this post hesitant and a little scared. Wait, me? Scared? I know I flaunt how I’m a fierce and fearless feminist online, especially here and on Angry Asian Girls United, but I’m hoping most of you realize there’s a human behind this blog. I haven’t been very active in the past few months, whether it’s posting original articles or even sharing content relating to Asian and Pacific Islander American issues. I’ve been scared of the physical toll stress and tension takes on my body (which I unfortunately discovered this winter). I’ve been scared of retribution and online harassment for daring to speak out on anything.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I was inspired partly by my good friend Vanessa Teck’s article on why she pulled out of a panel with Suey Park and her thoughts on social media activism. It made me think about the past year, and all that’s happened that’s led us to this point.
I first met Suey in 2013 when I was approached to serve on the board for an Asian American student organization in the Midwest. We met in person at a conference in Michigan and immediately bonded over our opinions, beliefs, and shared love for dressing cute while kicking ass. I admired her fire, her ability to stand and walk for hours in heels because it allowed her to look men in the eye as an equal, and her articulate voice in her writing. We talked about what it was like to blog as Asian American feminists and complained about the heteronormative patriarchal culture in many organizations and communities we had been a part of. We honestly thought that we had found a kindred spirit in each other.
Throughout the summer and fall, we supported each other through tumultuous events, like leaving the organization we had met in and my firing - along with two other interns - from OCA. We were more than just collaborators and co-authors, we were friends who talked about relationship problems and life decisions and insecurity. We had a trust and faith that wasn’t easily found in most of my friendships. We were in love with a quote from poet Warsan Shire: “There is no intimacy like that between two women who have chosen to be sisters”.
Somewhere along the line, the differences in our tactics started to become clear. I was at a point in my activism where I was tired of being relentlessly angry. I was tired of fighting every single battle that I came across and having everything I do revolve around hatred and enemy-making. Especially after the OCA termination where I felt the very painful sting of being burned by an organization and community that I felt had become my family, I started thinking about love. I wanted to do things out of love, I wanted to support others through love, I wanted to have tough conversations and help spread education and awareness with love. The OCA termination was the result of reckless actions and no amount of rhetoric or justifying can make up for that, at least for me. I wanted to be deliberate and conscious with my activism and win the war, even if that meant losing a few battles.
So what happened? I think that to many, the “beef” between me and Suey came as a surprise. We were each other’s biggest cheerleaders during #NotYourAsianSidekick, but few knew the reality of what happened. I always hesitated in bringing it up because it seemed divisive. I struggled with my own ego, and ultimately realized that #NYAS succeeded BECAUSE everyone had a stake in it.
Suey approached me the the night before we started the hashtag asking me to collaborate and be an equal partner with her. We were hoping for a conversation, but never expected how large and fast it grew. The day #NotYourAsianSidekick happened, Suey and I decided through GChat on a number of questions and topics we wanted to introduce to the conversation to facilitate discussion and try and steer the hashtag. We reached out to several others, including Cayden Mak of 18MillionRising, to be co-facilitators and designated “tweeters” for specific topics like Asian American masculinity and queer politics. Suey had to go offline during the buildup and peak of #NYAS, which I completely understood and encouraged because the massive amount of traffic was incredibly overwhelming. I also ended up leaving the conversation to breathe and take a break from the anxiety and barrage of tweets.
To me, #NotYourAsianSidekick served its purpose. It was a focus point for people to talk about their experiences and empower themselves through hearing others’ stories. That’s exactly what we wanted — for Asian American feminists, womxn of color, and typically oppressed voices to seize the opportunity to tell their own stories and be their own heroes. But still, as someone who was part of it from the beginning and facilitated the conversation and did my best to push for it to trend, the following erasure of my contributions hurt. I think that now is a good time as any to talk about the aftermath and media circus following #NYAS. Almost every time someone reached out to me to talk about #NotYourAsianSidekick, they dropped me or stopped responding because they got an interview with Suey. Media is always hungry for a hero, and they found one in Suey Park. The stress from being in the public eye and the confusion when I realized #NotYourAsianSidekick was being credited to a single person caused health problems for me, another reason I haven’t been as outspoken lately.
Finally, February 2014. I have been involved with the East Coast Asian American Student Union for three years. ECAASU is something I’ve spent many a late night thinking about, because it isn’t something that completely aligns with my beliefs, but I respect it for the opportunities & resources it provides to AAPI students. At this year’s ECAASU Conference in Washington D.C., I held a workshop on #NotYourAsianSidekick and Asian American feminism. Although Suey had previously expressed support and excitement that I was speaking on #NYAS on the East Coast while she was touring schools in California, I started seeing tweets by her criticizing ECAASU and stating “She wouldn’t be caught dead there” while tagging me. I reached out to her to check in on her change of heart and received messages accusing me of using her, of being part of “mainstream Asian America,” with anger that I wasn’t supporting her. She had decided that my decision to work with nonprofits and organizations who did not match my ideals perfectly was intolerable. It was like some switch flipped in the span of a few weeks.
It felt like a bad breakup; I had been dumped on Twitter and officially burned. I was left with a phone full of angry messages, a broken heart, and a confusion for how we had reached this point. When did #NotYourAsianSidekick become unrecognizable? When did Twitter become, as a friend put it, one giant comments section? When did being an Asian American activist turn into a “whose side are you on” ultimatum?
I’ve been active on Twitter for as long as I’ve been an active blogger. I’ve spoken at workshops on social media and how to incorporate hashtags and mentions into community organizing. In my opinion, “Twitter Activism” reminds me of Occupy Wall Street: it provides platforms for those who may not be comfortable speaking or acting in other ways. It helps those with social anxiety and disabilities get involved in a way that is comfortable and accessible. Both Twitter Activism and Occupy gave a voice to a movement people don’t always see. Both brings awareness and attention to very important issues and provides a space to talk about it. Is it the best space to hold very complicated and controversial conversations? Probably not. I’d love to live in an ideal world where conversations like this can happen without flame wars or trolls, but that’s just not the reality we live in. There are endless pros to using social media as a tool, but I think Vanessa put it best:
Social media activism is great, but not when it transforms into entertainment. When we turn people into celebrities, we forget to be critical of them. And isn’t it our responsibility to nurture one another by challenging each other to be better? The dialogue that has come from these hashtags are needed, but the issues we truly need to face have been overshadowed by their virality. It has become more and more common to attack each other via mentions and question each others character. That’s easy to do. What is difficult is looking beyond that and realizing that these issues affect all of us. I am tired of all this centering/decentering bullshit, because you cannot address one issue with realizing how it intersects with another (not to mention all the academic elitism that comes with using terminology like that). I want to build environments that allow for individuals like myself who want to be a part of the movement to feel SAFE to grow… to create relationships without having to worry about automatically labeled as us vs. them.
It’s been surreal watching the past two weeks unfold. Thousands of people are pitting themselves against one another in a messy and dirty war, many of whom are people I looked to for guidance when getting started as a blogger. The hope and idealism I had when I first started out in Hashtag-Land is gone. I never thought that the internet, this magical whirlwind of open forums and platforms, would turn into this dichotomous hell.
Let’s call this what it is: cyberbullying. I’m not saying it’s Suey, but I am saying that it’s her followers. There is a large group of people who have created an echo chamber that repeatedly enables and reinforces bad behavior. Harassment. Stalking. Name-calling. Character assassination. Misinformation. Emotional manipulation. Propaganda. This isn’t calling people out for racist, sexist, homophobic behavior — it’s using these terms so freely that we lose sight of the actual racists and sexists and bigots. It’s hurling the term gaslighting so often at other people and inaccurately while actually gaslighting the same people. I think that there are a lot of people who follow Suey for her politics while not knowing her tactics. I’d probably do the same if I wasn’t aware of the way she treated people.
I guess this all leads to one question: what now? I’m still hesitant and I’m still scared. I don’t want to post anything and I don’t want to write about politics or feminism or racism. I have seriously considered going completely offline, just getting a job, moving to California, and pretending there aren’t a million things I want to say about the institutional and individual oppression we face every single day. Every time I tweet something relatively political, someone comes after me with academic rhetoric, claims of homophobia and racism, and accusations of being a sell-out. I’ve gone from confident and optimistic speaker glowing about the magic of social media in community organizing to scared and increasingly apathetic college student contemplating leaving activism behind. And I think that is one of the saddest things that’s come of all this: people who feel like they’ve lost their voice because our wonderful online world turned into a cesspool of hostility and harassment.
I end this piece feeling more hesitant and anxious than when I started it. But at the same time, I stand here hand in hand with too many others who feel the same way. I am blessed to be surrounded by a loving and supportive community that is always ready to push me to be better and critique me in a constructive way. I don’t feel alone, and as scared as I am of what may follow, that means the world to me.
Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman: Voice and the Embodiment of a Costly Performance
Black Beauty: Aesthetics, Stylization, Politics
Getting Played: African American Girls, Urban Inequality, and Gendered Violence
Clinging to Mammy: The Faithful Slave in Twentieth-Century America
Ain’t I a Beauty Queen?: Black Women, Beauty, and the Politics of Race
Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts
Black Women in the Ivory Tower, 1850-1954: An Intellectual History
The Black Woman: An Anthology
Between Good and Ghetto: African American Girls and Inner-City Violence
The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes From Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop
Name the top 3 peak experiences in your life. What do they have in common? What does this tell you about yourself?
What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?
What are your strengths and values?
If money weren’t a problem, what would you spend your every day doing?
What would you be doing if you knew you couldn’t fail?
What’s your favorite way to spend your free time?
What have you done in your life that you are especially proud of?
What activity are you doing when it feels like time just flies by?
When do you feel the most alive?
What kind of impact do you want to have?
What kind of professional and personal breakthroughs do you want to experience?
What are things (a language, a sport) you want to learn?
How do you envision you will leave your goal or legacy on people’s lives?
What are you excited, happy, and enjoying most in your life right now?
My Body Is Not Your Images
by Sunny Singh
A renewed concern with the race politics of beauty has been fueling recent lively discussions about colourism, hair and the lack of representation of models of colour in popular media and on the runway. For those such as bell hooks, the popularity and promotion of practices such as skin bleaching and hair-straightening are unambiguously part of a ‘colonized black mind set’ that should be resisted. In her introduction to the book ‘Black Looks’, hooks argues that throughout history ‘control over images is central to the maintenance of any system of racial domination.’ Here I want to contribute to these on-going discussions by drawing upon my experiences growing up in India at a time before the liberalisation efforts brought in global media and its standards to us. Might such early experiences provide possibilities to resist what hooks sees as ‘a racist imagination’?
In the time that I was living in India, I was surrounded by women who not only looked more or less like me, but embodied a range of life stories, complete with joys and tragedies, aspirations and dangers, functioning at once as idols, role models and warnings of the choices we made.[i] Popular culture – film, television, magazines, books – included women who were not so far removed from me.
On 23 February, the coup government in the Ukrainian parliament voted through the following bills:
4201 – Bill to ban Ukrainian Communist Party activity.
4217 – Bill to redress antecedents of the Soviet occupation of Ukraine.
4176 – Bill to repeal law penalizing Nazi propaganda.
4184 – Bill to place V. Avakov as minister of the interior and members of “Right Sector” party on ministry staff (Avakov also belongs to the party which many consider fascist).
4215 – Bill to establish a “Pantheon of national heroes.”
4203 - Bill to curb state spending.
4197 – Bill to place “Svoboda” party member Α.Mahnitskogo as Prosecutor General.
4204 – Bill delineating the duties of the President of the Uraine.
4191 – Bill to place “UDAR” party member V.A. Nalivaychenko as overseer of Ukrainian Security Agencies
4211 – Bill to fire incumbent officers and personnel of security forces and replace them with new personnel (the latter are believed to be members of extreme right wing groups).
4199- Bill to repeal the use of their native language by Minorities , which refers to Russian, Romanian, Hungarian, and Greek.
HAHAHAHAHA FUCK. ME.
i’m fucking done. i’m d one. i’m going to live on the moon.
"Very recently I had a conversation with Cornel West in my house. I shared with him that people kept asking me when Obama first ran did I think it would make a difference in lives of Black males. I said yes, symbolically. On issues of illiteracy, poverty, the sense of meaning of Black males, no. I saw Obama having great ties to the wealthy and the sustaining of the wealthy. His militarism alone puts him at odds with Black males or any of us sustaining our lives. I think a lot of the things Obama did were evident of who he was before he took office. If anything we have learned from both the civil rights and feminist movements is that we have people in power who look like us but do not represent us. Too often we focus on image over the action.
Things that have happened, the killings of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis. We have seen the incredible rise of fascism in America with President Obama in office. These kinds of lynchings of Black people, says we are a group not capable of keeping ourselves alive, that we are at risk. Being here in Florida right now a lot of Black people feel at risk, especially Black men and Black boys. It is not just Florida. Such a repetition of state-supported violence all over America. Look at the movie Fruitvale Station about the police murder of Oscar Grant in California.
We have to go back to Dr. King’s “Where Do We Go From Here?” A lot of people, he said, would rather see an end to democracy than have racial equality. We are living that reality, a state-supported White supremacy. It is about stopping Black people, because Black people have advanced a great deal. You stop that with drug addiction, with health issues, with racial attacks. If you are a Black woman with money the illnesses that kill a poor Black woman also kill you. The common factor in both is stress.”