We cannot name ourselves without Othering ourselves in the White Gaze.

In Bad Romance: Feminism and women of colour make an unhappy pair, Sana Saeed writes:

“Women of colour” beautifully illustrates the exact problem I discovered with feminism, as a woman who did not fit the mainstream criteria for being just a Woman. As a “woman of colour,” I am not just a Woman. I am a woman with a little something extra; there is a difference struck between women like me and white women. There is no Woman. There are no Women. There are two groups: women and “women of colour.” This tidily, and unfortunately, translates into the “us” and “them” categorization.

Because this distinction is made and has been proudly appropriated by “women of colour” without much criticism, this presumption that the white woman’s identity is a sort of “foundational” identity for all women is prevalent within feminism.

According to Loretta Ross, however, the term “women of color” was coined in 1977 among some black and other “minority” women in Washington, DC as “a solidarity definition, a commitment to work in collaboration with other oppressed women of color who have been ‘minoritized’.” Ross says, “Unfortunately, so many times, people of color hear the term ‘people of color’ from other white people that [PoCs} think white people created it instead of understanding that we self-named ourselves.”

However, regardless of its history, Sana makes a salient point: the term “woman of colour” suggests “a woman with a little something extra”, which implies that whiteness is the default.

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Othering and Projection: Chinese is confusing vs. Chinese are confused

In English, a person says, “It’s all Greek to me,” when they do not understand the words of someone else. In Greek, when a person does not understand, they say it sounds like Chinese. Many languages have an expression that names another language as epitome of unintelligibility. It turns out that in a directed graph, most languages converge on Chinese as the unintelligible language.

Directed graph shows various languages as nodes with arrows pointing at other languages, eventually pointing to the 'Chinese' node. The 'Chinese' node points to 'Heavenly Script'.

This is understandable. Chinese writing, especially Traditional Chinese, is very visually complex. Chinese characters are logograms, which makes learning how to read Chinese difficult.

However, there is a difference between finding Chinese writing confusing and alleging that Chinese people are confused.

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White people dislike Asian people attending Canadian universities.

Maclean’s thinks that top Canadian universities are “too Asian”. I didn’t even know how to begin to address the many ways the article fails, but wildunicornherd sums it up pretty well:

The best universities are “too Asian”? How about you’re too racist.

I just love this bit:

To quell the influx of Jewish students, Ivy League schools abandoned their meritocratic admissions processes in favour of one that focused on the details of an applicant’s private life—questions about race, religion, even about the maiden name of an applicant’s mother. Schools also began looking at such intangibles as character, personality and leadership potential. Canadian universities, apart from highly competitive professional programs and faculties, don’t quiz applicants the same way, and rely entirely on transcripts. Likely that is a good thing. And yet, that meritocratic process results, especially in Canada’s elite university programs, in a concentration of Asian students.

Emphasis mine. Like, “we” realized that racism is wrong so we abandoned the policies that kept out the Jews…which meant we were forced to let in the Asians! God damn you, political correctness! Because we have nothing to fear from a lot of Jews (who are all white Europeans, of course), but a majority of Asians (who may not even be born in Canada! who may *clutches pearls* speak Mandarin!) is a problem that needs to be fixed.

I also love how Asian students associating mainly with other Asian students is a HUGE PROBLEM HOW CAN WE STOP THIS but White students who go to Western because there’s too many icky Chinese at U of T is understandable, y’know?

And by “love” I mean SMASH WITH RAGE.

More coherent commentary from Angry Asian Man.

The article also continually creates a false dichotomy between East Asian students and Canadian-born students (i.e., the Perpetual Foreigner stereotype), as if all East Asians are immigrants, and all Canadian-born Canadians are white:

Sweet’s latest study, “Post-high school pathways of immigrant youth,” released last month, found that more than 70 per cent of students in the Toronto District School Board who immigrated from East Asia went on to university, compared to 52 per cent of Europeans, the next highest group, and 12 per cent of Caribbean, the lowest. This is in contrast to English-speaking Toronto students born in Canada—of which just 42 per cent confirmed admission to university.

Hey, I’m an English-speaking Toronto student born in Canada! Shouldn’t I be applauded for being of the 42 per cent minority of my group—English-speaking Toronto students born in Canada—who attended university? Oh snap, I’m Asian instead of white, so I’m the wrong kind, the kind they don’t want attending university.

Seriously, if you think that my race makes me not fully Canadian, or if you think my race means that I must have the same personality as others who happen to share my race, or if you think that white Canadians are more deserving of Canadian privileges than other Canadians, then you are racist.

Update 2010/11/12: Maysie addresses more reasons why the Maclean’s article fails.

(Female) Geek = Geek^2

Over at Geek Feminism, Metaneira explains why Team Unicorn of G33k & G4M3R Girls fame are doing it wrong. The “G33k & G4M3R Girls” music video, stereotypically, portrayals female geeks and gamers as sex fantasies of male geeks and gamers. Metaneira writes:

From the very start, Seth Green asks, “Hello friends… don’t you want to meet a nice girl?” The video is not aimed at the women it is purporting to celebrate: it is straight-up pandering to the largely sexist, male-centric geek subculture. It is geek women served up for the male gaze on a shiny latex platter. This is not empowering. […] It isn’t really about geek women at all — it’s just about how men would want to have a smoking hot girlfriend who can talk about Star Wars and play D&D with them.

It’s a pretty good post, and she relates the video to a general pattern in geek culture, where straight male geeks express positivity towards the idea of “geek girls”, but only so that they can get girlfriends:

And I’m tired of a subculture telling me that the only way I can belong to it is if I offer myself up as a sex object to the men involved. […] my status as a female in this male-dominated space was always underscored: my Otherness had to be reinforced at frequent intervals. I didn’t really belong.

Serendipitously, a few days later, I came across this song written and sung by Marian Call and made into a YouTube video by mercutio531. I thought it was an “answer” to the G33k & G4M3R Girls video at first, but it was actually uploaded a long time ago and written years ago.

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Multiculturalism displaces anti-racism, upholds white supremacy.

Dr. Sunera Thobani, of the University of British Columbia, criticizes the discourse of multiculturalism in Canada (transcript):

I think multiculturalism has been a very effective way of silencing anti-racist politics in this country. Multiculturalism has allowed for certain communities—people of colour—to be constructed as cultural communities. Their culture is defined in very Orientalist and colonial ways—as static, they will always be that, they have always been that. And culture has now become the only space from which people of colour can actually have participation in national political life; it’s through this discourse of multiculturalism. And what it has done very successfully is it has displaced an anti-racist discourse.

You know, I teach and I have young students of colour, they come, and they completely bought into this multiculturalism ideology. They have no language to talk about racism. They know that if they talk about racism, they will get attacked.

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Canada is multicultural, not anti-racist.

Mollena sells actual RACE Cards (TM) to play. (Photo by Colm McCarthy)Canada is an officially multicultural country, but multiculturalism does not address racism.

The Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Institution shows six stages from being a monocultural institution to becoming an anti-racist multicultural institution. Canada appears to be at Stage Three:

3. Symbolic Change: A Multicultural Institution

  • Makes official policy pronouncements regarding Multicultural diversity
  • Sees itself as “non-racist” institution with open doors to People of Color
  • Carries out intentional inclusiveness efforts, recruiting “someone of color” on committees or office staff
  • Expanding view of diversity includes other socially oppressed groups

But…

  • “Not those who make waves”
  • Little or no contextual change in culture, policies, and decision making
  • Is still relatively unaware of continuing patterns of privilege, paternalism and control

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Vancouver 2010 pretends indigenous people have institutional power over Canada.

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies were skillfully-done Canadian propaganda. The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) did so many things right for the opening ceremonies with respect to indigenous-related symbolism. However, the main problem with the opening ceremonies were that they gave the impression to the rest of the world that the Canadian government respects the rights of indigenous people, when indigenous peoples are the most marginalized ethnic groups in Canada.

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