CHECKLIST; ONE DAY I WILL PAY ATTENTION TO THESE. Hi there! This is The Swan The Vulture, a zine about wanting to be loved, but wanting to be loved in a respectful way. And feeling guilty for asking for that. And where this fits into a being a non-white “anarchist” female. Having a history of sexual abuse, physical violence, and other types of assault, means I am prone to depression, insecurity and distrust. And also, silence. I feel crappy for disappointing partners and new friends, when they find out I am "weak" and "oversensitive" instead of the one-dimensional tough persona they perceived, or the 100% fun and positive lady they met in the beginning. Being socialised as a woman, and as an East Asian woman, for me, means submitting, absorbing alot of pain, suffering in silence, not complaining, being passive, disassociating, shutting down, withdrawing, and sometimes not communicating, when it is really really important to communicate. This is my attempt at communicating. Giving form to the internal dialogue that I've lived with all my life.
Am I being fair to myself? Am I being honest? With myself and other people? Am I giving people too much credit or making excuses for them? If I feel attacked or threatened, then I should not ignore that in the interest of keeping the peace. I could try to assert my thoughts and feelings, instead of keeping them quiet. It's best for me if I don't just go along with things, like sex, because that is easier than saying no. Saying no IS an option. Saying no will NOT necessarily result in conﬂict, or embarrassment. Saying no will feel good, and exercise my assertiveness muscle. It's okay not to please other people all the time. I deserve to please myself also. Am I looking after myself? When was the last time I ate a hot meal? When was the last time I cooked for myself? When was the last thing I did anything nice or fun for myself? Have I been sleeping properly? (It's 7am with staying up through the night as I write this!) When was the last time I socialised? When was the last time I spoke to someone in person, about what is going on in my life? When was the last time I felt good about myself, and why was that?
In the first half, I work through some background cultural “identity” stuff that I feel lays the foundation for who I am and how I act. And then I outline some ways to navigate through abuse. I am sure you’ve read similar thoughts before. Thanks for your time and attention. Anna Vo email@example.com
I need massages, talks, cuddles, yummy food, sleep, exercise, a stroll in the park, a swim, to play with dogs and cats, to hang out with kids, to lie in the grass or in the sun, to make time to cook and preen myself. I need to listen to myself, and give myself some time.
Towards a Happy Night (notes to an absent partner) Let's try to outline some practical applications of questioning/checking in, and giving the space, and opportunity, to receive consent from me. -What does it mean to you to have "access" to me sexually? Is it a right, or is it a privilege with associated responsibilities? -If you want to be intimate with me, do you view intimacy as simply physical closeness? To me it means building trust, by communicating and asking for consent on a regular basis. -What assumptions do you make in terms of contact, and what do those assumptions lead to? -What privileges do you have as a male? -What do you need to consider, being physically stronger and more physically able than me*? In and out of bed? Any concessions or accommodations? *this is due to a spinal injury, not gender! -Try to practice being a better listener, but also a better asker-of-questions -Ask what feels safe this time, tonight, now, and what is out of bounds or not okay -Ask at every step, and really thinking about what a "step" might be, the actions you go through, how they are perceived and that may require verbal, active consent -Let yourself be directed at times, try not to be controlling at all times -Try to listen to safe words, or find safe strategies -After sex, show interest, ask things, like: "Was [this part] okay?" "What about [this]?" "I noticed you responded well to [this]" "I noticed you were despondent/struggling during [this]" -Try to initiate conversations about consent, or ask questions, instead of leaving the effort and education up to me.
The Question of Having a WhingeFest and, Victim Mentality “It's my whingefest, and I'll cry if I want to.” Ha! Re: victimisation… lyrics I've written for a hardcore band have been reviewed as: “Punks suffer from a profound sense of ego weakness that stems from a life of identifying with their aggressors (parents/authorities). They thrive on their need to be victimized and then concoct flimsy microcosms to glorify their self-appointed weakness by complaining about various cliches they never actually intend on fixing. Instead of action, their war is a contrivance of endlessly critiquing the right things in an effort to appear part of something.”
My friend from Singapore emailed me the review and my response was: I can see partly that those words are his understanding, that he has pushed to its logical conclusion... but unfortunately misunderstands. There is a lot of criticism there for my lyrics, and those songs could easily sound victim-y, but they are stories about racist attacks on my parents and being raped every day when I was a kid, and my friends who also experienced similar things. I can feel victimised if I like... what he has a bit off is that he thinks I have a victim mentality, which is a completely different thing to feeling victimised/oppressed. I think I'm a good survivor, and I think I'm one of the strongest people I know :) I hear these kinds of criticisms very often from white comfortable males who think that identity politics are reactionary and an excuse for feeling victimised. And again and again, I try to explain it from another perspective. Women and trans-only spaces don't exist in order to be separatist, and PoC groups don't form in the interest of divisiveness. These give space and opportunity for discussion and self-determination, space that doesn't exist elsewhere. These spaces are necessary for people who are survivors of different types of discrimination or shitty treatment, and in that way they do feel victimised, but these spaces ARE one form of action to heal those feelings. So, what may appear to people unaffected and privileged as "complaining", that is actually really valuable and empowering venting and making positive steps toward being on a similar platform to afore-mentioned Lucky Dude.
Said Lyrics, for you to judge for yourself STATISTICS Studies show 1 in 4 But late at night, with white wine In retrospect, it’s 3 in 3 Pushed upon, a husk scraped, Anulled libido, it’s 8 of 8 Abrasion reaches fringe-dwellers Numb to purpose, it’s 12 in 12 Self sabotage, means to an end Quick to cut down, that’s all of my friends It’s hard to feel with all those callouses Thick skin but prone to rupture It’s hard to be happy, when you’ve seen tragedy Martyrs would pounce, if they knew OF DEGREES With gouged out eyes, fist as a heart Peering through tears, tear the self apart Everything is so expansive Messy patriarchs, with “poor judgement” Please stop fucking with everyone I know The horizon at great expense Planar overwhelming Studies show 1 in 4 No facets to hide Statistics don’t mean shit Behind A family of ten With fists louder than anything All they wanted was collision To collide, to collide An offspring of eruption A public-private corruption His hands around my neck Around my neck A bus, my race, a fuss I’m dirty, a mistake I’m not supposed to be here I’m sorry for future families of victims of this clan I’m sorry for not finding the right words The right words To quell, to compel, to break The boy with the eyes of a killer
Then another page on the same website made me chuckle also... This time, due to their offhand nature at dealing with trauma.
Trauma Writing: Working On Your Story So It Doesn't Work On You All you have to do (!!) is write about your memories of being hurt,
abandoned, violated, neglected or abused in any way for periods of 15 minutes at a time, until you start feeling some relief. Here is what I recommend: 1. Make a list of all of the times you can remember being hurt, betrayed, neglected, abandoned or abused. 2. Take each event, one by one, and "tell the story," keeping in mind that no one has to read this but you. The benefit is in the brain processes you activate in the writing process. 3. Write about everything you felt, perceived, thought and experienced. 4. Focus on yourself, and don't get caught up in analyzing, explaining or excusing the actions of others. This is for you, and nobody else. . 5. Write for 15 minutes (minimum) at a time, until you feel you've told the whole story, then move on to the next one. 6. Strong emotions might come up as you do this. When you're done, you may or may not want to share any of this with a trusted friend, confidant or counsellor. You will know what you need to do when you get to ..... that point. ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... ..... The next page will be my attempts at some brief trauma-writing... ..... Ok, I really tried, but it just seemed like it would take days and days to follow those instructions. Ridiculous! Please email me if you try this, and if it helps!
The Question Of Race… is a Question Of Culture and Experience While I dislike social anthropology, ethnography, and other colonial, academic pursuits that require mutual masturbation, institution worship, and intellectualisng the untheorisable… I can't help but notice some common features in different groups of people in the 8 countries* I've lived in. So, with that hypocrisy acknowledged, here I go: Having spent most of my time in countries colonised by the British, I didn't quite understand how MUCH of that behaviour was owed the Anglo-Saxons and Celts, until I found myself living in London (for the last 11 months). *New Zealand, Vietnam, Australia, Nepal, Mexico, United States of America, Germany, England I will roughly speak about the behaviours relevant to the scope of this zine. 1. The only acknowledgement I've ever had from a white person that my behaviour might have some kind of relationship to growing up in a Vietnamese family, was in the form of a racist joke. Because, that's right, I walked to the front of a queue… To be honest, I don't notice queues. The same way I don't notice "Hi How Are You"s, or non-verbal cues that come from some long-dead aristocratic code of courtesy. At my ripe old age, I'm finally realising that there was a tome of unwritten rules that everyone around me was following, but I didn't even know existed. Hence my directness. In Vietnamese there are no "Dear Sir/Madam"s, or "Hi there"s or "Bye, see you later"s. We just hang up the phone or send the email once we have said/written exactly what we need to say. This is an email I wrote last month to apologise to a friend: There are all sorts of communication codes I was never aware of, being brought up by Vietnamese parents, and by being Vietnamese. So obviously I came across rude and blunt, etc, when I thought I was acting the way that was generally accepted in my family (stay silent, keep in the background, speak only when spoken to, state what you want clearly and efficiently, etc etc etc). It really helped cos last week Bryan from Punch stayed over, and his dad's Japanese, and he was sooo pissed off at his friends for not understanding why he acts the way he acts. It was really good to bond over the race thing!
I don’t know why, but I found this list really funny... maybe the insurmountable load of issues I need to get past! There are many ways that people experience the harm that results from having been sexually abused. Consider the following questions (Bass and Davis, 1988): Self-Esteem •Do you •Do you •Do you •Do you
often feel that you are not a worthwhile person? feel bad, dirty, or ashamed of yourself? have a hard time nurturing yourself? feel that you have to be perfect?
Feelings •Do you have trouble knowing how you feel? •Have you ever worried about going crazy? •Is it hard for you to differentiate between various feelings? •Do you experience a very narrow range of feelings? •Are you afraid of your feelings? Do they seem out of control? Your Body •Do you feel present in your body most of the time? Are there times when you feel as if you’ve left your body? •Do you have a restricted range of feelings in your body? Do you find it difficult to be aware of what your body is telling you? •Do you have a hard time loving and accepting your body? •Do you have any physical illnesses that you think might be related to past sexual abuse? •Have you ever intentionally hurt yourself or abused your body? Intimacy •Do you find it difficult to trust others? •Are you afraid of people? Do you feel alienated or lonely? •Do you have trouble making a commitment? Do you panic when people get too close? •Do you expect people to leave you? •Have you ever been involved with someone who reminds you of your abuser or someone you know is not good for you? Sexuality •Do you try to use sex to meet needs that aren’t sexual? •Do you ever feel exploited sexually or use your sexuality in a way that exploits others? •Are you able to “stay present” when making love? Do you go through sex feeling numb or in a panic? •Do you find yourself avoiding sex or pursuing sex you really don’t want? •Do you experience flashbacks during sex?
Several months ago, I wrote a triggers list for my partner. I say what they are, and I explain why they are triggers for me personally. I don't even know what triggers means... like, triggers for what? Feeling shitty? Unsafe? In pain? Sad? Angry? If that's the list, then that is a lot of things... that make me feel all of those things... I could say that making out is good most times, except when it's in front of creepy guys, or sometimes, our friends who are alone, because I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable. ermmmmm little kisses and sniffs and canoodling is good all the time. I think i have issues with exposure. When people are around, even you lifting up my shirt innocently feels weird, like im being exposed. I remember thinking since I was a kid, that the less I show people my body, the less likely they are to notice me and bash me or rape me. Having all your weight on top of me can freak me out sometimes, because that was my experience every night for three years, of being completely at someone else's mercy, and suppressed and suffocated. Sharp or unexpected pain, or intense pain, I don't find pleasurable, unless I know it's coming, because this takes me back to all the times I was beaten up or hit, I don't associate sudden pain with sexing, I associate it with someone attacking me or wanting to do bad things to me Calloussed finger inside me takes me right back to moments of childhood abuse, it's my most vivid and tactile memory of C. Penetration when I am not expecting it or ready, and when it is really rough it reminds me of times I was raped by P. When you are sexual very quickly, before you are affectionate or intimate at all, and when we haven't kissed yet. This reminds me of my friendship/relationship with T. and almost 5 years of his manipulation, domination, control and emotional abuse. When you use force, pain, pressure, your strength, to pull or push me, in a way I perceive as demanding or coercive, reminds me of when I've been forced to have sex. When you get uncontrollably angry, it reminds me of P. but mainly T. and that really really scares me, it scares me to think what you are capable of. The flipside of that is when you disengage when I am sad or upset, get cold and detached because you don't want to deal with my emotional state at that time and place. This reminds me of T., and how he used distance as a control technique. It makes me not sure if I should be working so hard to share and communicate with you.
2. This leads me to my next point, which is how I relate on an intimate level. In my relationships with partners, housemates, old and new friends. I don't have a radar for "sensitive" issues, because I've never been told what they are. I am too direct, insensitive, crass, abrasive, straight-up, inappropriate or prying. So I will often offend people's senses of propriety or privacy, without ever knowing it! A very, very soft example: in England I get dirty looks because I ask people's names first thing in the conversation. Only after discussing this with my English friend, was it clarified: "That's too much information! You can't ask them personal information like that!". Which I still keep forgetting… So maybe keep that in mind when you think someone is being socially awkward, they probably haven't been socialised like the dominant culture. And that's not their fault. 3. Language. English is my second language, and I spend a lot of time apologising for using words in the wrong context, or not being as verbally articulate as those around me. Makes me feel like a clumsy, fumbling alien. I will always feel like this, because my verbal skills will always be incredibly shoddy. It would be nice if people that spoke English natively could give me a break though, and not treat me like I can't access the elite until I talk right. 4. And that brings me to my last point for now. The same way my usage of language excludes me from certain "social economies" (I'm really lucky I have a Westernised accent, that masks my inability to express myself in a conversation), my appearance as a non-white person has definitely done the same. I did not imagine people's eyes glazing over in high school, at work, last week in my own house when they look up to see…. oh, it's just a… ahhhh uhhhmm…. her. In the ruthless context of high school, and currently, in London's fast-paced, over-populated, predominantly white middle-class anarcho-activism-squatocracies, I feel negated and invisible from many interactions. I talk to my housemates who have the same experience, because they are Eastern European, and people are too lazy to speak to anyone who doesn't utilise English effortlessly.
Members of dominant culture do not interrogate themselves enough.
WARNING: From this point on, the zine may be triggering. I’m really sorry about that.
The following pages are some whingey emo drawings I did for an exhibition about rape and sexual assault a few months ago, but I didnʼt end up submitting them...