Thursday, December 10, 2015

December Culture Jam

For those of us in the fallout of the electronic revolution, rapid globalization, commercialization, and "social technology" have amplified our ideological struggles. Where in our competing ideas of identity and justice can we find meaning? And do the words of the past still ring true today? In tribalizing ourselves and each other through technology, we have sacrificed our identity to a cat playing piano... 




...cinema becomes our mentor...


...sometimes our identity is taken from us...
 

...though not all prisons look the same.


 One thing remains true:


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Visit to the Oriental Art Shop and Tea House




http://www.hercampus.com/sites/default/files/2013/11/20/20071009_tenthousand.jpg 

The Oriental Art Shop and Tea House greets its guests with the unmistakable scent of patchouli- the official perfume of stores that sell Asian stuff.

“Namaste.” Anna, the owner, greets me, putting her hands together and bowing. She’s a petite woman in a silken Mongolian top and long flowing pants; beads adorn her blonde dreadlocks, and bracelets jingle from her wrists.  I bow back to her, doing my best to respect her culture.

Anna kindly offers me some tea brewed with mint from the gardens of Tibetan monks. “I picked the leaves myself,” she grins as we sit on rattan chairs in the corner of the store “The monks didn’t even say anything about it.”

Anna tells me about her journey in founding The Oriental Art Shop and Tea House (which she insists I call by its full name throughout this article). Five years ago she was an exceptional student at a local Liberal Arts College. “Not, like, exceptional in terms of grades” she notes, exceptional in that she was much smarter than her classmates and could have done better grade-wise if she felt she needed to.  “There are many ways to measure intelligence,” she says as she sips tea from a clay cup “you can be book smart, or you can be life smart.”

After school, Anna tried a variety of different jobs, from jewelry maker to yoga instructor. Subsisting only on her menial wage, and an allowance from her parents, she was forced to live with a roommate. Nothing felt right: “I just, like, felt like I was, like, destined to be something more!” That’s when Anna bravely decided to leave everything behind, and travel the world by herself. “It’s scary,” she admits “And I wasn’t sure if I’d be brave enough to do it, but I’m so glad I did.”

Anna phoned up her parents, and no sooner did they transfer her money for flight and living expenses, did she bravely take off for a trip across Europe and Asia. The sacrifice proved worth it. Staying in hostels, and backpacking with other impoverished travellers, she found inspiration in each destination. “I learned how to cook,” Anna blushes “When you’re a poor traveller, you need to learn how to live within your means. But it’s all part of the experience.”  

It was in Tibet that she found inspiration for many items in her store. Everything she stocks is hand-made by craftspeople whose pictures don’t adorn her wall, but who look sort of like the stock models whose pictures do.  
“Some of these items are from India, some are from Cambodia. I bet you don’t see a lot of stores with things from Cambodia! Are you Cambodian?” No, I tell her, I’m not Cambodian. She sips her tea again and thinks for a moment: “Thai?” “No.” “Vietnamese?” “No.” We laugh as she flicks back a perfect dreadlock.

“After seeing the kind of art that other countries have, I realized that we were really missing out here in Canada. People need more stores that sell artisan products from Asia!” Anna grins, beaming from her own brilliance “So I figured: why can’t I be the one to make this happen?”

 After doing more research in the mountains of Tibet, and the bars of Singapore, Anna decided to come home and make her dream happen: “I was really sad to leave. I’ve never really felt like a white person, so being in a place where I could really come into my own was something else. Everyone was so nice there, so accommodating—they just, like, want to take pictures with you and put you on TV! It feels really nice to belong and get the authentic experience.”

 No sooner did Anna arrive, did she give her business proposition to her parents. “They were so proud of me and my ambition,” Anna almost sings “they transferred me the money for a down-payment right away! And the rest was up to me! I painted the place, did the inventory, and even made the sign outside. I really built something, you know?”

I take another sip of my tea and smile, asking if her parents are prouder now that the store’s open. She nods, enthusiastically: “Yes. I mean, it just goes to show what you can do if you’re dedicated, hard-working, and really want something! Don’t ever fall prey to your fears. Just look at all I’ve accomplished with The Oriental Art Shop and Tea House if you don’t believe me!”


NOTE: The ORIENTAL ART SHOP AND TEA HOUSE closed shortly before the publishing of this article. Anna is currently in Korea teaching English.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Power of Vanity



The upcoming scene required quite a bit of makeup—much more than my friend, Sarah, would wear in her everyday life. She sat still, relaxed by the rhythmic licking of the powder brush on her face.  She didn’t say much; just stared ahead. I watched as the face that stared back at her became stranger and stranger, until it was no longer recognizable at all.

“It’s weird to see a reflection that almost looks like me…” …but prettier, she later admitted to thinking.

Whether she realized it or not, her external admission was more than a meaningless comment; it was a symbolic interaction, in which she made an excuse for staring at herself. Because it was not really her own face, but one created through blush and powder, it was an acceptable request. As she turned her head this way and that, I’m sure she thought about how funny it was that she needed to be wearing someone else’s face to have permission to look at herself.

I watched, fully aware that a woman’s face is as much a prison as her body.  There are enough journals on the problem of ugliness—the unattainable standards we are held to. Look anywhere online and you’ll see a myriad of women in all shapes and sizes standing up and saying they are beautiful! But what we fail to note is that by being in campaigns and commercials, these women are given permission to make such admissions. They'd hardly be viewed in such a heroic light were they to say these things in their everyday life. For in our society, there are few worse sins for a woman to possess than vanity. Vanity, the way we interpret it, is in itself oppressive, because it implies that a woman's role is to care enough about our appearance so as to please others, but never to be pleased herself. And inherent in this role-making is the idea that we are objects to be looked at. Never are we to look. Unless, of course, we are wearing a different face. 

I’ve known Sarah my whole life, and know that -like many women- she had been taught to be apologetic about her appearance. She knows that paying too much attention to her reflection, or believing she's pleasing to look at is an unspoken sin, and that the vitriol for committing such an act would come from both men and women.  I remember when we were about fourteen, we were in a hot, crowded room, chaperoned by a student's mother. Sarah developed faster than the other girls in class, and when she took off her cardigan, the mother snapped at her: “Don’t show off!” Sarah sheepishly put her cardigan back on, suddenly aware that her body might be looked at; that her figure was inappropriate. If Sarah had not seen action as a sin before, she saw it as one now. Because -whether she intended to show off or not- taking off her cardigan showed off her body.  And confidence was forbidden; the cost for such an act was public shaming. As an adult, the truth remains much the same.

These campaigns cannot be effective until we change as a society.
Despite our ground-level insistence that women be humble, everywhere the external mantra is about being comfortable in your own skin, loving your body, loving yourself. We can have as many campaigns for body acceptance as we’d like, but the whole thing will be perpetually disingenuous until we as a society become comfortable with the idea of a woman actually finding herself beautiful. Until then, if we are to give these “body positive” advertisements any mantra it’s: Love yourself, but not too much, because a woman who believes herself to be aesthetically pleasing is a cow (if she’s far from the objective ideal, then she’s a deluded cow). The belief in our own ugliness (or at least in the absence of our own beauty) is really the only respectable relationship we can have with our appearance. And that is a tragedy, because it means that we live an inherently separate existence from our physical self. 

Vanity forces us to build our relationship with our bodies around how others see us. In doing so, it splits our awareness into two planes-- our existence within ourselves, as a person, and our existence outside of ourselves, as an object. We are all a Children of the Earth, as Plato would say, and we are fated to a lifelong desire to reunite with our other half.


Sarah admitted that –despite what you would think looking at her now- she had spent most of her life subliminally conscious of the fact that she was very ugly; to this day she feels ambivalent toward her own appearance: “I believe I’m objectively pretty, because people have told me so. But would I look twice if I saw myself crossing the street? Probably not.” The girls in elementary school never wanted to play with her; the boys barked at her and called her a dog. She had a wood hairclip that made her feel pretty for a week, until a boy unceremoniously cracked it in twain and that was the end of that. “Put together,” she admitted, apologizing for her own admission of weakness “this sounds tragic and self-involved. Sorry.” Of course. It's inappropriate for her to feel ugly. Just as it's inappropriate for her to feel beautiful.

But I knew she was only trying to describe a state of being she had previously taken for granted. Ironically, despite the teasing, Sarah was more whole when she believed she was ugly. Of course it brought its own set of problems, but by being excluded from the beauty game, she was allowed to dwell at peace with herself; her appearance was irrelevant, because her appearance was un-salvageable. Would she go back? Probably not. But this is the point zero at which we compare her journey from a whole self, to one that -like many of us- is ultimately two entities.

In many ways, we’re afraid to tell our girls they're beautiful, because we're afraid they'll grow up valuing only their beauty if they believe they are pretty. This conjures too many images-- Narcissus, the fox and the fruit, or even celebrity folk figures like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian. But if beauty is given too much weight in society, then it is certainly not from the hearts of little girls—little girls live in that plane of existence where they are one with their faces and bodies, and never once think about what image others project on them. They simply exist. There's a vanity in this; one which says that their bodies are for their own pleasure, and not for the gawking of others. It is when they become self-conscious that this utopia fades away. Beauty is the catalyst to separation between the living, breathing, soul of a girl, and the body she inhabits. It is the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. And the taboo surrounding vanity, forms the gates which keep her from ever reuniting with herself.

I remember how, toward the end of high school, Sarah and I were crossing the street to the food court, when a popular girl stopped to tell Sarah she looked pretty with her hair down. It was an insignificant moment for the other girl, but it was the start of Sarah no longer being invisible. She wasn’t determined to be a model or anything, but it took her from a reality where she felt like she was watching everyone, to a reality where she was being watched. Suddenly, she was aware of her own body and image in a way she’d never been before. Good or bad.

She dressed to please, began wearing makeup, and agonized over every coarse hair on her head.  Some days she whined to me that she had a fat face, big teeth, tired eyes, and blotchy skin. Other days she made me smile, as she declared how much she felt like a fairy princess in a school uniform; it all depended on how many men honked their horns, how many yelled at her from their car windows; how many were kind to her at school. Somehow that one comment from our classmate moved her outside of herself, and she began to view her body through the eyes of others.

We all have such a moment; such a moment when we realize we are expected to be as pleasing to look at as we possibly can—without ever being satisfied. The “unattainable beauty” of the media thus becomes irrelevant; we are, by society’s design, expected to always be unsatisfied, lest we be seen as vain—as whole. As dangerous. 

Far be it from me to say I have a cure for this kind of oppression-- oppression born of ideology is ultimately a complex thing. But if there's anything I've learned as a student of history it's this rule: an ideology can only exist so long as people do not notice it. By being aware of the ways in which our own thinking holds us back, we are able to chip away at the taboos that are our chains.

What I didn’t say to the makeup artist that day was that I see a different person in the mirror always. That person (who I've called Sarah in this blog) is not allowed to look at herself the way that others are. She lives a separate existence, as the me that others see, but I'm not allowed to. We constantly try to put ourselves back together, to stop seeing ourselves as separate entities, but the truth is that we probably never will. Because our uniting is a sin; she and I exist for others to look at.

“It’s weird to see a reflection that almost looks like me…”  I say, excusing myself from the sin of vanity.

Just as I pretend to talk about someone else, in order to reflect on my own relationship with my appearance.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

[VIDEO] Addressing Sexual Harassment On Set


A message from a young P.A. prompted us to talk about sexual harassment on set.

I think the saddest thing for me was not being surprised by what these ladies had to say. As someone who has worked on both sides of production I've witnessed overt forms of sexual harassment-- such as when a background performer used a call-sheet to stalk a cast member, or when a producer screamed at his junior for having children. I've also witnessed smaller aggressions-- the kind that are more predominant in our society. Coined as "micro-aggressions" these can include talking down to female co-workers on the principle of gender, dismissing women's concerns as hysterical or dramatic, and even pushing brilliant women into assistant positions while hiring less qualified men to be their superiors. With incidents like the Ghomeshi scandal, and the pay scandal in Hollywood, it's easy to see the big ways that film and television industry lags behind. But, if I took anything away from this discussion, it's that we need to address sexual discrimination and harassment on a micro-level.

It's difficult to change a culture, but I think by addressing these issues instead of sweeping them under the rug, we can really move toward a safer environment. At the end of the day, this will only make our work better, and our industry stronger.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How the New South Park Exposed An Ideological Rift


Before I begin, let me acknowledge the absolute futility of criticizing South Park fans; to do so is to freak out at the kid at school who pushed you, only to have him say he’s just joking and you should let it go. You look like an idiot. He looks like an idiot. And somewhere a teacher is disdainfully drinking vodka from a coffee mug while regretting every decision she's ever made. With that in mind, I have to admit that I’m part of this fan demographic. I love South Park. A lot. More than is healthy. And, like many young screenwriters, I look up to Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The reasons why could fill an entirely separate post. This is not a critique of South Park fans, though it may seem like it at first.

***Warning: Spoilers Abound!***

For those who are not caught up, Matt Stone and Trey Parker have shaken things up this season, with a move from episodic to serialized stories. Those who watch South Park know that beneath that slick veneer of raunchy dick jokes lies satire at its finest. Despite being incredibly blue, it has never ceased to make poignant commentary on a range of issues—racism, Anti-Semitism, gender inequality, immigration, physical disability, and homophobia. It's no surprise, then, that in season 19, everything from trans-phobia to gentrification is discussed, as Stone and Parker engage in a cleverly crude critique of P.C. Culture, and society's obsession with tolerance.

Yet, despite South Park’s reputation for tea-bagging bigots of all political alignments, its new season has exposed a troubling narrative in the fan world-- unintentionally. Some fans have taken this season as permission to dismiss any critique of society, or demand for social justice. They've taken it as validation for their racist, sexist, and homophobic beliefs. Like the kids who started an actual Kick a Ginger Day (in response to an episode that was ultimately against bullying), many have entirely missed the point of this season. But why? And what does this say about the Millenial audience (South Park's main demographic).

To be fair, it’s not all South Park fans who are using this as an opportunity to bash everyone that says the world is still unjust. In the interest of full disclosure, I only browse one South Park forum: /r/southpark, so this is in no way a broad sample size. To its credit, however, /r/southpark is unarguably popular, attracting over 148,000 subscribers. While I originally liked this online community, its character has changed this season. And I have a feeling that at least one animator might feel the same way (see: Figure 1). Despite what Red-Pillers might tell you, I firmly believe that the new South Park is not a celebration of misogyny and discrimination. It’s a critique of the Tolerance Movement, and the Political Correctness Movement, which are very different from social justice itself. In short, it criticizes what South Park has always criticized: hypocrisy.

**The Tolerance Movement as I describe it here, is an ideological totem that promotes the idea of tolerance. Not acceptance, not understanding. Tolerance. The Political Correctness Movement is one which seeks to affect institutional policy, as well as linguistics in order to create an inoffensive society.**

Figure 1: Leslie wears a shirt with a recognizable mascot. She's
also repeatedly told to stop talking. 
For those who stay off the internet, "Social Justice Warrior" is a bit of a controversial term. While originally SJW's called themselves this to celebrate their passion for equality, the term quickly took on a negative connotation, largely being associated with the Tolerance and Political Correctness Movement. To the audience I'm dealing with in this blog, it generally refers to university-educated middle class white people who blindly impose standards of justice, dogmatically chanting mantras of protest as if they were this year's summer hit. They are quick to correct a person for a politically incorrect term, but fail to explain or understand why certain phrases are so hurtful. And in doing so, they do exactly what they proclaim they’re fighting against—take voices away from marginalized communities, and impose their own standards. They appropriate social action not as a mechanism of change, but as a badge of honour. These are the students who claim to defend the poor, yet fail to see how social activism can sometimes exclude marginalized groups including the working class.* This caricature is best illustrated with the popular image macro meme: College Liberal.

The popular "College Liberal Meme" parodies hypocrisy in activism
Conversely, the "Good Girl College Liberal" reminds us why
we need activism in the first place.
I won't spend too long arguing about this group. I do not believe they represent the entire social justice movement. If anything, they're the product of unsettled youth; of tribalism. In other words: they're just young people being young people, looking for something to believe in, and somewhere to belong. Social justice becomes a commodity used to define identity. There are many young activists who earnestly care about bettering the world, yet are so caught up in the superficial aspects of the movement that they fail to observe how they themselves enforce oppression and shut down conversation. Still, I applaud all eagerness to better the world, especially from young people (if we don’t do it, who will?). But social responsibility requires more than passion and a fair trade t-shirt; it demands understanding, dialogue, and the willingness to really listen to opposing points of view. It comes from recognizing what a privilege an education is, and how this informs class-specific opinions. Society is far too complex for black-and-white; every issue has a context, and every opinion is informed by experience. Yes, some people grasp this by the time they reach university; others don't. I believe that if they have good intentions then that's great; few people understand social nuance at the age of eighteen, and for many this is the start of a journey toward global awareness.

So, yes, Internet, these people exist. However, I find it troubling that the existence of (basically) "social justice n00bs" should somehow justify the dismissal of the many more informed activists who know that without dialogue and understanding, debate becomes about me vs. you, rather than you and I vs. the problem. So perhaps the bigger issue with the "Social Justice Warrior" that the Internet loves to lampoon, is that her prevalence is largely a construction, informed by a small group of people, and perpetuated through confirmation bias. This kind of person exists, yes, but they do not negate the need for social justice, or the need for activism. By implying all activists are empty-headed, spoiled, trouble-making hippies, the Internet's SJW becomes a tool for dominant groups to suppress real issues. Why address sexism when you can laugh at a protestor's Che Guevara t-shirt? Ultimately, SJWs are standing up for equality, for the right for people to be treated fairly, and to have a platform on which to speak. The t-shirt is a distraction to both parties.

Like the stereotypical SJW, the P.C. movement in South Park criticizes "correctness" without understanding. Its members take for granted that biases are formed and enforced over generations, so undoing them takes at least a conversation. This season does an excellent job of exposing the hypocritical threads that mar the social justice movement, contrasting the fervor of the PC Frat House with the actual victims of discrimination: Butters (who is impressionable due to parental emotional abuse), Tweak and Craig (who are outed as gay without their consent), and Kenny (whose poverty makes him an exile in his own neighbourhood). In true South Park style, the social justice warriors are not like any of these boys. In fact, they all have one thing in common:


That’s right. They are all white men. Not just white men, but white college-educated, and assuredly professional men like PC Principal and Randy. Members of PC plague the town of South Park, calling out actions that are deemed offensive, while ignoring the nuance of the situation, the wants of the victims, or even the need to open a dialogue with people about why these things are not okay to say. Parker and Stone have brilliantly made PC Frat morally confusing. They indeed do things many people would applaud them for (defending immigrants, homosexuals, and bullied children), but their defense is consistently superficial-- which is where the critique of their action lies. In 19:1 (Stunning and Brave), Kyle is critical of the pop deification of Caitlyn Jenner, and the implication that she is a hero. Yet, rather than ask why Kyle feels like this, the entire town calls Kyle out for supposedly being transphobic. Kyle finally concedes, accepting a ride from Jenner who immediately runs over a man with her car. Mimicking our own society’s willingness to see Jenner as a hero, a crowd watches on and applauds her, paying little heed to the dead man on the road. This scene is only a taste of things to come; as the season continues, we see South Park’s citizens drink this kool-aid of willful blindness. In 19:2 (Where My Country Gone?), Mr. Garrison goes on a bigoted rant about illegal immigrants “crossing the border with their dirty families, playing their stupid music," only to be interrupted by PC Frat’s Randy, who tells him off for using the politically incorrect term “illegal…” and not for… you know… thinking that immigrants are less than people.



Similarly, 19:3 (The City Part of Town) sees Kenny’s impoverished family stuck in the middle of a gentrification project. Despite their protestations at town council, the McCormicks are told that they don’t know what’s best for them (included in this panel are members of PC, who fail to see their classism). So Kenny and his little sister, Karen, are forced to watch their neighbourhood fill up with condos and yuppies, while they wear curtains, and sleep in parkas. When Karen asks her parents for ice cream, she’s told they can’t afford the ten dollar artisan confection that now dominates their neighbourhood. They've been priced-out. Completely ignoring the McCormick family’s frustration, the town continues to applaud itself for being progressive and seeing the potential in a previously impoverished area.

This pattern continues throughout the season, and it’s fairly clear from the sympathetic portrayal of tolerance’s victims that the issue is not with those who are oppressed, but with those who profit socially from that oppression. Kyle is prevented from speaking his mind, the Canadians are treated so poorly that they flock back to Canada at the first chance they get, and Kenny is forced to get an illegal job at City Wok just to buy his sister ice cream.

So if Parker and Stone’s gripe appears to be with the hypocrites and zealots of the social justice movement, their audience’s must be too, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, those who feel that white, straight males are the real victims of oppression, have interpreted this season as permission to spew out all matter of ignorance, supposedly with the blessings of two creators who have –more often than not- actually held very progressive views despite being political conservatives. Once this season premiered, troubling statements began to appear in /r/SouthPark. Not that the Internet has a reputation for high discussion, but in most cases Reddit is very good about down-voting bigoted statements into oblivion.* These comments were disturbing to me, but I knew that the reality of the internet is that it gives everyone a platform, so there are bound to be vomit-worthy comments at the bottoms of pages. What I didn't expect was to see these comments reach the tops of threads, with people chiming in to reinforce their belief that white privilege didn't exist, that men were the real victims of progress, and that everyone should stop whining. It felt increasingly like I was on a hate sub-- a place where people felt free to voice why they despised everything about me. I'm an Asian woman. I'm just "looking" to get offended. It became clear that my issues were not important, that my experience wasn't important, that it was up to others to tell me what should hurt me.

I hit my limit with this Halloween post.


It mocked LSPIRG’s campaign to spread awareness about racism and Halloween costumes. In my opinion, the campaign was fair: these costumes have been a staple of every discount department store since most of us can remember. The thought that they're hurtful can be completely lost on some who are just used to seeing them. In short, the campaign hopes to make people stop and think, so they aren't accidental assholes. Yet this post on /r/southpark mocked the movement, sarcastically stating: “Everyone better try to be PC this Halloween, no racial sensitivity motherph*ckers!” [sic]. This post could easily have been the forgotten wail of a dude who uses terms like “reverse racism” and “feminist agenda,” but this wasn’t a lone wolf. It received over 270,000 views in a week, and accumulated wonderful comments like this:

This post received 1464 upvotes (likes).

This post received 699 upvotes (likes). 

And some sampled comments from the thread.

You might tell me I should get over this because it's the internet and "what do you expect?" But let me assure you that, while this is the internet, behind all these posts and up-votes are real people. Ask any Redditor and they'll tell you that the anti-social justice sentiment on Reddit has been growing in other popular subs. This is purely anecdotal, but in my experience, Reddit is not a niche site for social outcasts, it's a popular venue for Millenials, and its main subs are often quite tolerant. In fact, Reddit has 4 billion unique visitors every year, and most of these are part of the 18-35 demographic. So these views -while definitely prone to the sample bias of the tech-savvy- depict a troubling trend in the Millenial psyche-- a backlash that insists inequality no longer exists (or that it is supposed to exist), and that dominant groups are being robbed of their rightful place in society.

Quite incidentally, South Park's nineteenth season created a microcosmic phenomena. It made a "Safe Space" (get it?) for people to voice their dismay. Thinking that a popular TV show is validating their racist and sexist views they assume permission to say all the things they feel about minorities, activists, and women.

This suggests that these feelings are borne in secret (after all, they slowly began appearing once it became clear that there was peer-approval). Those who hold these opinions (who I'll call Backlashers) are aware that their opinions are socially unacceptable, yet they hold them all the same, stewing over their ironic feeling of exclusion. Contrary to what you would expect, I feel okay with the existence of this group. Do I like them? No. But everyone has the right to feel, to have an opinion, and every time there is a great shift in society, there is a backlash; this needed to happen. But that's besides the point-- I want to take a closer look at this bitterness and why it is so prevalent in our generation. Why are so many people set on denying that inequality exists? Conversely, why do so many superficially champion a convoluted idea of justice?

(Fair warning: I'm not getting into Nietzsche, because the western disappearance of spiritual totems is an entire blog unto itself).

In Third Wave Agenda: Being Feminist, Doing Feminism Leslie Heywood and Jennifer Drake discuss the legacy of second-wave feminism. They refer to contemporary women as reapers of...

...the benefits of our mother's struggles and our race class positions, having grown up with a sense of entitlement so strong that... we virulently denied that any form of sexism existed... that we [had] the same opportunities, [could] compete with men equally, man to man. (42)

In other words, Heywood and Drake believe that women who today reap the benefits of the sexual revolution, of suffragettes, of first and second-wave feminists take these benefits for granted. Because our husbands can no longer beat us at whim, our historical closeness to our ancestors who lived that reality is lost to us. But ask anyone whose studied history-- ideology takes centuries to change, and we cannot dismantle systems of oppression in three generations. Our journey toward equality is not yet done; it has merely transformed. Injustice is now swept under the rug, and because of this, its believed not to exist. While your boss can't deny you a promotion for being a woman, he can deny it because you don't seem like a team player (ie: you don't hang out with the guys after work... because you're not invited). Male co-workers can comment on your clothes, on your choice to have children, on inappropriate topics for the workplace (rape jokes anyone?). Unfortunately, when women challenge these micro-aggressions, they are often dismissed as having no sense of humour, or being too uptight. Within this cultural context, feminism is seen as a dirty word.

Today, in North America, groups actually meet to discuss effective ways to rape and abuse women. So why do we say "I don't have it so bad, so why should I care?" Why do we spit in the face of those who, over centuries, gave their lives so we could be seen as people. We say that we are not feminists, yet we don't even know what that word means. We are adrift, in denial of the subtle ways we are put at a disadvantage.

Emma Goldman by Elia Mervy
I believe the evolution of the feminist movement reflects the Millenial understanding of social justice-- our opinions are largely informed by the relative comfort that we experience in contemporary life. Oppression has become willfully invisible, observable often only to those who are on the receiving end of it, or who make the conscious choice to observe it. It is this so-called invisibility that is at the root of our divide. Though we certainly have many moderates, we still host two polarized groups-- those who dogmatically defend an ideal that they do not fully understand because they've never consciously experienced it, and those who are blind to injustice and embittered by the idea that they are privileged at all (because they've never observed oppression). Few in these two groups have first-hand experience of the kind of obvious sexism and racism experienced in generations past; they live in a world of micro-aggressions, of basement rape classes, and anonymous internet discussions about how minorities should feel about cultural appropriation. Intentionally or not, South Park's new season has exposed a small-scale clash of two ideologies that dominate our generation's sense of justice.

The fact is that racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism still exist; they colour our interactions, our governments, our psyche, our Halloween costumes. The desire to eradicate these systems is not about bringing anyone down-- it's about bringing others up. And this fundamental understanding, this common goal is lost in our peers' desire to be smarter, better, more correct than the other group. Like PC Frat, we don't talk to each other. We either shut each other down with ad-hominem accusations of "racist," "bigot" and "shitlord!" Or we declare that racism is dead and we should be able to dress up like "Sexy Indian Princesses" if we want to-- we say that people "just want" to be offended, without stopping to think that "offended" means "hurt." Whether our opinions are objectively right or not, we are responsible for discourse on both sides of this debate.

And isn't this what South Park's new season is really trying to say? That when we shut each other down, when we don't engage in dialogue, we perpetuate oppression, and victimization by forbidding argument. We allow our own ego to supercede the very ideals of reason. We wear our opinions like a costume, without any sense of what harm we are causing, or what martyr we stand on.

To be clear, I am not saying that it's the fault of activists that racism, sexism, and homophobia still exists. Nor do I believe it's the job of the oppressed to fight for person-hood. But the reality is that we need to do things that aren't necessarily fair, or right in order to be social change makers. As activists, and as citizens, we need to stop dismissing each other, and instead talk about why people feel threatened by social progress. And those of you on the other side of this debate, need to engage as well-- tell us why you feel the way you do and let us talk to you about our own experiences. Like each other or not, it is the only way we will be able to create a more just and equal society. So, if I may be so forward, cut this sirening out, and just be real with each other. PC/SJW vs. Backlash is ultimately a fallacy. We are people with diverse and shifting opinions, and ideology is incredibly fluid. In very few cases are we truly complete racists or insincere activists, so we don't need to write each other off as such. We are meant to come together in society, to exchange ideas and opinions-- to work with each other to advance together.

We're supposed to be buddies, guy!



---------------
*I am not referring to ALL college-aged activists, nor all white college-aged activists. This refers only to a particular sub-group whom their peers are often lumped in with.
I know some would disagree with me on both sides of this debate. And I invite you to let me know-- to comment, and to engage in dialogue with me. We might even change each others' minds. Just please keep things constructive. I know you can do it, Internet.
Referenced works for your info!
"50 Amazing Reddit Statistics." DMR. 26 Feb. 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.
"6% of Online Adults Are Reddit Users." Pew Research Center Internet Science Tech RSS. 2 July 2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. Heywood, Leslie and Drake, Jennifer. 'We Learn America Like a
http://eliaillustration.com/quiet-resilience.html
Script: Activism in Third Wave; or, enough phantoms of nothing', Third Wave Agenda: Being Feminist, Doing Feminism. Eds. Leslie Heywood and Jennifer Drake. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2003

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

So You Think You Can Pitch / Virtual Hitman wins at VAFF

This weekend I was lucky enough to make it to the Final 4 of ReelAsian Film Festival's So You Think You Can Pitch 2015. Myself, Kristina Esposito, and Phil Borg entered a short I recently penned called The Magpie Bridge.  
While we didn't win this competition, the experience (and, runner up prizes!) were absolutely worth it.

As someone who does a lot better writing out her thoughts than making them into "mouth words," (referenceget?)  I was both terrified and grateful to go onstage and pitch my film. It's funny, because people often assume I'd be great at public speaking, given that I'm an actor. But I think, like many artists, my immunity to nerves lasts only as long as I am playing someone else. Being myself onstage is terrifying, and I commend anyone who does it on a regular basis. Congrats to the well-deserving winners, Nicole Chung, and Philip Leung! Phil, especially, is a writer I admire. If you have a chance to see any of his films, I highly recommend you do.

In other news, Virtual Hitman won Best Canadian Short at Vancouver Asian Film Festival. Phil was able to go there and pick up the award in person! So proud of this film that was done in conjunction with ACTRA Toronto's YEAA Shorts. It's funny, touching, silly, and sentimental all at once. Plus, it was my first time working with Simon Sinn where he wasn't trying to kidnap me, or force me to destroy the world. So there's that!

As of now, I am prepping to host a panel of emerging female artists.  I've decided that, rather than a live panel, we would reach out to internet communities and provide an anonymous way for people to ask female industry members questions about their experiences. The panel is being shot tomorrow by my good friend, the wonderful Nic Kleiman. I will have it uploaded as soon as possible! Til then, I wish you all the best! Happy orbiting!

[VIDEO] Emerging Women in the Industry (INTRO)


I had the pleasure of hosting a roundtable consisting of women who I greatly admire: activists Clara Pasieka (who has starred in Reign, and Maps to the Stars) and Nicole St. Martin (Co-Chair of the Toronto ACTRA Women's Committee), as well as industry members Kristina Esposito (Award-Winning Producer), Nicole Chung (Award-Winning Director), and Connie Wang (Up-and-Coming Youtuber).

The purpose of the roundtable was to come together and break the silence surrounding women in the film and television industry. These ladies were brave enough to share their stories of sexual harassment, discuss representation, and even share unpopular opinions about sexual discrimination. While we didn't all agree with each other, our solidarity and support for each others' voices allowed us to generate conversation that is usually only breached at the top tiers of the industry, by those who are "invincible."

I first got the idea to host this table, when I noticed several posts from writers online, asking how to write female characters, write more feminist films, and be more respectful to the female experience on set. I realized that there was a gap between where the industry is going in the future, and where it is right now; a minority have ideologically comprehended the inequity that exists within our industry, yet are still at a loss for how to address systemic issues. Women coming up in the industry don't know what to expect, or what resources they can access. I wanted these women, and our peers, to know that they are not alone in their experiences. We have all been there. We understand that there is still injustice that needs to be weeded out. And we have ideas about how to do that.

What you don't see in these videos, is the discussion that took place before shooting. We all stared at the camera and thought: am I committing career suicide right now? We spoke about how our loved ones were worried about us, how even we had our own doubts... but we realized that the very fact that we had these feelings, and that we felt so uncomfortable about dropping the W (or, god forbid, F) word was reason enough to motivate us. Looking back on the footage, we are sharing the stories of our lives, our feelings, and our hopes for change; these things should not be scary.

I applaud and admire the bravery of the panelists, and I hope that audiences will take something away from their insight. Male, female, and everyone in-between, let us unite for a more just and equitable industry.

TOPICS THAT WILL BE COVERED:
-Obstacles facing women
-Addressing privilege
-Systemic attempts at gender equity
-Sexual harassment on set
-LGBT Issues (in the industry, and in story-telling)
-Writing female characters
-Women's Issues as portrayed in film and media
-Q&A from online filmmaking community

PANELISTS
CLARA PASIEKA @clarapasieka
KRISTINA ESPOSITO @kristinaespo1
CONNIE WANG @conniewang_
NICOLE ST. MARTIN @nicole_stmartin
NICOLE CHUNG
AMANDA JOY (host) @notamandajoy

NOTE: My location+post audio plan had fallen through when a Perrier bottle exploded all over my computer. In future talks, I will have my condensor mic on hand. But, while the techie in me is wringing my hands, wishing we had better sound, the feminist in me is proud to have been able to record this discussion. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Canadian Thug Life

Guys... I couldn't resist...

Presenting: O.G. Justin Trudeau.


It's a proud day for Canada, and therefore the world. Congrats to our new Prime Minister!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Where Should I Love?

I loved you at the frozen shore,
the land called Winter's Wail,
where many hearts have docked before,
but not a ship could sail.
I loved you at the apple's cane
wherein no fruit could birth;
and supped at wells that washed in vain
the salt which scorched the earth.
I loved you where the sparrows dwelled
in wait upon the morn,
where broken wings had doomed to fell
the life the sky had shorn.
I loved you where in exile pined,
the secret place they call My Mind.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Blue Jay

To he whose laughter knows no rest
a brier’s brush I give--
with hemlock leaves in withered nest
where crows and cuckolds live.
In every pierce, of every bite
my hearth hath spit to thee,
an ember to a flame alight
wouldst thou spit back at me.
So answering thy careless bilk
wherein thy prick hath sown,
I serenade with spiders' silk
that long since turned to bone.
In Thicket Thorne that ‘ere conceals
The longing that my heart reveals.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

After the Lion

Though once you sought a cradle’s peace
in beds of roughened palls,
when bugles begged for passion’s lease,
you answered for its calls.
Where flaming tours of hell had rung
into your tattered slips,
you stayed the serpent’s heart and tongue
with daggers on your lips.
But when the tale is not to be
and when the battle’s won
an empty road your eyes do see
that stretches on and on.
For never is a wound so known

As mine is when I sleep alone.