Wednesday 3 July 2019

Intersectional Identities

A picture so another great big blog full of text doesn't scare readers away. This is a piece of textile I've been working on to use a sample piece in classes. A combination of patchwork, stencil and hand sewed running stitch. Its entirely made from used clothes and textiles so it has a nice soft feel and a faded look. The round holes are where I cut out circular motifs from another stenciled piece to applique onto the piece to the left.

I finished Ijeoma Oluo’ “So you want to talk about racism” a few days ago and found it very insightful for building on what was learned from “White Fragility”. I’ve been going back re-listening to many chapters and making notes on my thoughts.

In this blog I'll talk about Chapter 5. Over the next week or 2 I'll talk about my thoughts and reactions to other chapters. Another thing that really intrigued me was how Oluo calls Pacific Islanders "Asians". This really astounded me because as a 60 year old dual citizen of NZ/Aus we have occasionally been prompted by politicians to think our nations as part of Asia. But never have I heard someone just lump us in with Philippinos, Japanese, Tongans, Chinese, Koreans, Hawaiians, Samoans and more. I've always thought of Pacific Islanders as Polynesians and Melanesians and quite distinct from Chinese, Koreans and many other nationalities Oluo named. She doesn't clarify if she would include Maori and indigenous Australians as Asians but the chapter does seem to imply she would. However....I'm pretty sure she wouldn't think of me as an Asian! though my european ancestors lived in the Pacific for 125years +, I was born a 4th generation NZer and many in my family married Maori and had children.....anyway chapter 14 is a discussion for another day....

Of the 17 chapters in the book I found #5 – What is intersectionality and why do it need it? – the most challenging to get my head around. After 6 listenings I hope to be getting it right, through strangely in retrospect this should have been the one concept most easy for me to relate to personally. I hope to try to clarify it here as even Oluo acknowledges it is little known and often misunderstood but she regards it as a foundational to her work towards social justice.

Here is the Wikipedia link for Intersectionality

Essentially I understand intersectionality as the contention that every individual lives in several overlapping identities and that when engaging with others or addressing an issue that person can be operating from more than one or multiple of their identifications at once. Oluo urges social justice advocates to keep this in mind when engaging with others because it can lead to misunderstandings of various scale developing. For example – imagine two people talking about what is “white privilege” but 1 person is male, black, 30 years old, has a prison record, is currently unemployed and is poor, talking to a white female, 50 years old, college education with a high paying job who has never been unemployed. I’ve outlined a very stark hypothetical so it jumps out how the disparity in life experience means each individual cannot help but form very different world views and understandings of how the world operates.

Another discussion Oluo spends time clarifying in several chapters that neatly overlaps with what I read in White Fragility is why BIPOC will either withdraw or refuse to get engaged in discussions where they feel unheard, mocked/ridiculed, dismissed, take up too much of their time and energy or recognise as coming from the challengers default white privilege.

Here, I’m acknowledging that is what I’ve done in the last few weeks with my blogging and ignorant expectation that I deserved to be addressed. Now I’m understanding why the various people I’ve called on – Emily Ito, Aja Barber and Makiko Hastings – won’t talk to me. My approach to challenging the assertion that using the description kimono for a sewing pattern was an unacceptable cultural appropriation was found to be offensively aggressive. I think they might have felt an interaction would give me unwarranted recognition for a view that didn’t have any credibility in the way they see things.

I now get the point that there won’t be any acknowledgment or discussion and are no longer perplexed why they won’t say anything and understand there is no point in continuing to ask them to say something. They are not listening and don’t care and I wholly get it. If I had been able to approach my queries with more subtlety and open mindedness perhaps the situation wouldn’t have become so distressing. I am sorry Makiko Hastings.

As an Aspergers person that my way of saying things, viewing the world and asking questions can be irritating and offensive to neurotypicals (NTs) is quite a familiar place for me. By saying this I don’t want people to interpret it as an emotive manipulation to try to exculpate my offensiveness or make the pretence that my cognitive dissonance gives me a special license to be rudely oblivious. Its everybodys obligation to educate ourselves about civility, respectful interaction, social mores and expectations. Aspergers might merit me maybe a few more inches of rope than NTs, but not a lot more. I will do better in the future about applying way more mindfulness in the way I ask about things.

What NTs experience as my “confrontational” attitude has been a problem all my life. My very first school report said I had to learn to play more with the other kids. So even at 5 years old Mrs Brown my teacher picked up behavior she perceived as insular and anti social. Throughout my entire school life I had no interest in making friends or playing. Every lunch time spent reading the library was the best part of school. I learned to spell deoxyribonucleic acid when I was 11 and knew the 4 components of DNA.

I have been disliked, bullied and kicked out of every workplace I’ve been in because of my pedantic, obsessive and (perceived) aggressive attitudes. People either dislike me or hate me, at best I get indifference. In 1983 I was evicted from the most permissive alternative lifestyle community in New Zealand by 60 adults chanting “fuck off, fuck off” at the top of their lungs. They couldn’t stand having me there any longer after 2 years though I’d given a baby I wasn’t able to mother to a couple in their community to adopt as their own. I also have the dubious infamy of being sacked from working in 2 brothels, so unfriendly has my behavior been perceived. I didn’t take drugs or fall asleep on the job, I just preferred reading newspapers and books rather than talking to the other workers.

What I believe is trying to live with integrity by educating myself about things is often perceived by NTs to be snobbery, self righteousness, aggressiveness and anti social behaviour.

This is describing the main intersectional identity I have to negotiate getting through the world with every day. Life isn’t easy or a bed of roses for anybody so this is not a claim for special privileges but just hoping for some empathy for mistakes made.

Tuesday 2 July 2019

wish I had an asbestos kimono

On Sunday afternoon the offer I'd made to donate the proceeds of sales for the Sencha Kimono over 10 days ended. I sold 27 patterns for $1 (actually after paying shop fees I got 92c each) and one buyer paid the full price of $14 acknowledging it was going to be a donation. I already make an automatic  monthly donation of $20 to the ASRC but this morning I made an additional one off donation of $104, more than doubling what was raised.

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

Thank you to all those who bought the pattern. Our donation will assist someone who seeking asylum to live in Australia.

Today we are hearing Kim K has backed down on trademarking Kimohno

KK apology

I remain in awe of this womans genius marketing skills. It is no wonder she has clawed her way with steel talons to the top of a pyramid of "would be, if they could be" celebrities. Now she can double down profiting by capitalising on her newfound humility and desire to listen.

The independent clothing design businesses that changed their sewing pattern names also followed a similar script, though I'm pretty sure their initial naming came out of ignorance of the sensitivity, rather than a calculated marketing ploy like KK. Their apologies were so effusive and fulsome that some people cynically suggested they were using the situation for virtue signalling.

Throughout this week of moral panic I've been sloughing through my reading list about what is racism. In light of that it's been fascinating to observe how KK can get away with her activities with such marginal criticism. Being a POC seems to put her into an asbestos armor that protects her from being immolated in a racist polemical. If she were "white" the whole situation would have been a conflagration of white privilege accusations. How sweet for her.


I started writing a different post this morning but decided to delete it and address this instead.

Makiko Hastings is a Japanese ceramic artisan living in the UK. I follow her blog and Instagram. In blogging about the kimono naming issue I've read some of her comments and put links in past posts to what she has written. I'm publishing a comment I tried make in reply to what Makiko Hastings wrote me on her Instagram today but I may have been blocked.

So with some reluctance and a heavy heart, I put it out here in public.

A few days ago Makiko made a long comment on Instagram about feeling emotionally disturbed and that she was seeking professional help.

This what I said in a comment to that:

Much love to you Makiko. I'm saddened that so much has weighed you down recently. You have so much resilience to still pour so much love and inspiration into your art while at the same time feeling burdens pressing from the demands of the unfeeling outside world. Love will always give us the strength to get through and you are much loved!

A day later this how she responded to me:

 Hello Pearl. With all respect of you showing kindness here, I have to be honest with you, it makes me feel uncomfortable. Do you know why? This post was meant to be about cultural appropriation on naming kimono, yet again, as you might have guessed from my story, but I did not write about it in words in order to protect my energy, precisely because what it took for me to write and encounter some backlash last time I wrote about it, which you also left a comment on the grid so I thought you read my post (?). Anyway, following your message, I have read many blog posts in your site, and noticed that you are very strongly and almost obsessively disagreeing with my friend Emi Ito @little_kotos_closet and her work. You were even criticising her identity as an American Japanese to speak out about it, which I find it harmful. My upbringing might be different from hers, but I do respect her and her hard work, which required so much energy, pain and time. When people voice their hurt, it is not just personal, because C/A is not a personal matter. I actually mentioned her name in my blog and I stand with her in solidarity. Most of Japanese people might not voice as much, (which I also mentioned why) but that does not mean they don’t have one. I appreciate her action because she precisely gave me the courage to speak out.
So criticising her bitterly in your space, then coming to my space in a friendly manner, whilst both of us stand on the same ground talking about the same topic, it appears to me that your action is a contradiction, not consistent, and even making me feel unsafe to reply to you. I could not comprehend why you do so when I first saw your message, but now it makes me wonder if you are trying to ‘cherry pick’ me because I am a Japanese, and wanting me to justify what you do - making garment for profit, naming kimono. I feel fearful. I do not wish to go into the details of what you say in your blog in my space, but please be aware that your inconsistent action not just confuse the readers, but also is insensitive and can be harmful.

I saw this 4 hours later and tried to say this in reply, but I think my posts are either being blocked or possibly moderated: 

Makiko, I feel awful that you find my opinions inconsistent and offensive. I am confused why you think because I have strongly disagreed with Emi Itos opinion that means therefore I must dislike and disrespect all Japanese people? Nothing can be further from the truth…I do have the utmost respect for Japanese artisanship. I have acknowledged since the 1980s my admiration for Japanese fashion designers and how they influenced the clothing styles I love and publish as sewing patterns. Your work is beautiful and I admire it. I post that publicly to you because as an artist I know it is so important to get positive feedback from others. I feel sympathy when you discuss feeling hurt and struggling in the world and want to reach out to help you feel better. There are many, many other people I follow on Instagram that I make comments to in this same desire to be supportive.
On my blog I have tried to clarify and explain why I disagree with the kimono naming issue. I come at it from an academic understanding of what is defined as C/A and don’t believe kimono comes into that definition. At times it is true I have said some personal opinions about Emi Ito but that is becos I’m frustrated that she doesn’t speak. I tried to join her Instagram but was removed and blocked within minutes, I did take that personally. It does anger me that she has set herself up as an advocate and is happy to talk to people, media and publications that are supportive but censors and ignores any person that is too hard.
It is demanding, even exhausting when you take a position publicly, but that is part of the obligation if you want to put statements out into the world. I have been affected by my position too with trolling and angry people shaking their finger. I can deal with that. The hardest thing, as you yourself has acknowledged, is having time and energy taken away from your work. In the last 5 weeks I’ve probably reduced my studio time and output by 80%.
I respect your comment here to me, but feel hurt that you think I am such a small person that I can’t separate intellectual issues from people. I don’t automatically dislike people just because they have different opinions from me. I don’t disregard people because they come from different cultural backgrounds from me. I understand from what you’ve said here that you don’t separate my person from my opinions. Because of what I think and say you dislike me and would rather not have communications. This is truly hurtful to me and makes me feel sick that I’ve caused such distress to you. From now on I will only ever make anonymous likes and never comment again. Remove me if you feel better that way. I want to keep following you and other Japanese I like and respect becos it’s important to me to stay in touch with what your opinions are and how you feel about things. I don’t try to fill my world with only people that agree with me.

Lastly, can I say in self defence regarding Makiko suggesting I disingenuously ignored that her original post about being in pain was over the kimono issue. I am Aspergers and are notoriously stupid when it comes to deciphering the obtuse messaging that may seem completely obvious to neurotypicals. I do my best but are often totally baffled why people have to be so convoluted, just straight out say what you think and mean or thickos like me just don't get it.