Kids

Didn’t expect leaving the pre-school to be this rough…

Don’t get me wrong, it’s EXHAUSTING herding little toddlers around all day. I have incredible respect for full-time pre-school teachers now. You’re literally on your feet ALL THE TIME: pulling fighting kids apart, removing play-doh from tiny mouths, cleaning poop, wiping butts, feeding, cleaning, reading stories, answering ENDLESS questions, singing repetitively, yanking stubborn ones out of playhouses… it never stops.

I was also surprised at how obstinate some kids can be. Washing poop off butts? No problem. But there were times where kids REFUSE to listen. You can’t lose your patience, because – KIDS. They are 18 months old you can’t reason with them on why trampoline time is over. You can’t stop them from screaming and kicking in protest because they can’t string a sentence together yet. The inability to channel blame on someone, and the helplessness when they insist on disagreeing – god it drives me mad. But THEN I LOOK AT THEIR TINY ADORABLE FACES AND I MELT.

This is really my undoing. I’m way too soft. Usually i end up cajoling. Even my firm moments are obviously collapsible with a little bit of whining AND THE KIDS KNOW THIS. That said, there are the sweetest ones that look at your adoringly and tell you things in the softest voice that kills me inside. Even the difficult kids have their moments. I LOVE ALL OF THEM.

One kid in particular reinforced how much of a failure-mom i’d be. He didn’t seem to understand or speak English, would go around knocking other kids about, refused to stay still for activities – basically he does the opposite of whatever he’s told to. At one point he fled the classroom and i went in pursuit of him, running around in the wet mud with my still half-broken legbutt. Caught up with him but he refused to be had. Just as i was at the brink of insanity i looked at his rosy chubby cheeksies and bright eyes and cutesy self and i exclaimed I LOVE YOU!!! and couldn’t help but hug him i wanted to kiss his lovely face forever omg i was insane.

Anyway he was so confused by my undue affection he froze – which was perfect cause i used the chance to whisk him back HAHAHA.

Yes. I want so badly to have kids i don’t even!!! These little ones are not mine and already i feel such a deep level of love for them. The things they say and do, their spontaneity and ingenuity, the unrestrained way they dance and ran and jumped and climbed and sang. Childhood is really one of the most beautiful things in life. I can watch them at play all day and not get sick of it.

I’d never be a kindergarten teacher as a long-term career, of that i’m sure. So i’m very, very glad to have had a chance to work there for a short time, just to be with kids: to be near their joy but also to learn how to manage them – behaviorally and with other house matters.

This sounds borderline creepy, but after quitting i’ve been dreaming of all the kids back at the pre-school. Altogether there are over a hundred of them, i’ve helped out with about 3-4 classes and i love them all equally but in different ways. KIDS ARE SUCH JOY.

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In the coming semester, i’d be volunteering with children’s cancer foundation. I’d be working with kids too, but with entirely different dynamics. Not sure if i’m mentally strong enough to deal with kids who don’t have the childhood they deserve. Really hope so. xx

Confusing feminism with misandry

Before anything, i identify myself as an egalitarian. If i were to endorse feminism, it’s because gender inequalities are inherent in many parts of the world. No one – men or women – on the basis of being human, should be artificially disadvantaged. There are times, though, when arguments under the guise of feminism strike me as misandry. There is a difference between establishing equality by granting women the rights they deserve, and destabilizing men to equalize via inequality. That isn’t progressive, which feminism should be.

In some instances, radical feminism imposes the same constraints and judgments on their ‘less feminist’ counterparts. How is that any better than the patriarchy they so loathe? I’m talking about ‘feminists’ who strongly oppose willing stay-at-home moms/wives, who despise men for feeling the need to protect their spouses because it is ‘chauvinistic’ and ‘demeans women’s power’. Of course, that is a small minority of the feminist movement. But their voices are loud enough to color the positive and progressive campaigns by true feminists. 

Why #womenagainstfeminism took root can be attributed to distorted understanding of true feminism, because of misandry-disguised-as-feminism. That, and because most of us are riding the waves of successful feminist movements prior to our time: the lack of perceptible oppression in our immediate society makes it difficult for those without contextual knowledge to empathize.

Having spent most of my life in a girls’ school, and surrounded mostly by SNAGs, gender divides to me appear arbitrary. I’ve never seen myself as a victim of gender prejudice. In fact, i think most social environments i’ve found myself in condemn discrimination of women, and are less hostile to females. This, strictly, is a form of positive discrimination – but hey people are being nice to me, i’d take it.

What i’m trying to say is: of course feminism should exist. Just as human rights organizations are significant, feminists are fundamental in grounding and furthering the progress of gender equality everywhere.

But it scares me how quickly #womenagainstfeminism were dismissed. The predominant sentiment online – and the one implicitly deemed ‘correct’/expected of open-minded individuals – is disbelief, disgust, and then jeering. It scares me because there i can understand the rationale behind some of their words, the very words considered wrong and regressive by most of the internet.

“I don’t need feminism because i don’t need to demonize men to make myself feel good.”

This line was tossed around many times, lost in a cloud of less meaningful claims. I don’t agree with the first part: we do need feminism. But yes, we don’t need the kind of feminism that demonizes men. Neither do we need a feminism that dictates what a woman shouldn’t do because it is considered demeaning to their gender.

Don’t dress up for men, don’t give up your career for your children, you don’t need men.

Feminism isn’t about that. It’s about the right of woman to do what they truly want, independent of social pressure of any kind. 

We need #womenagainstfeminism to understand that feminism is necessary, but to do so we need women to understand what feminism actually is. By cracking down on them, invalidating their words and labeling them as obstructions to progress will only reinforce their distorted perception of feminist intolerance.

#Womenagainstfeminism are entitled to their opinion, just as any other woman is (feminist claim, right there). They are speaking out against a whole different set of oppressors – other women instead of men. The issue is complicated because of the muddy division between their oppressors (misandrists/extreme feminists) and the very people who freed them. Instead of reacting as they would expect feminists to, show them what real feminist is and isn’t.

 

NLB’s action is pro-homosexual (in the long-term)

Until yesterday night, every time someone mentions NLB’s destruction of And Tango Makes Three, i feel my guts seize up with indignation. The country i have defended from scoffing, jet-setting friends; the country i optimistically believed was heading towards a culturally-rich and tolerant direction; the country i have always loved for its quaint old ways co-existing with dynamic modernism – IS. DESTROYING. BOOKS.

WEH. My heart.

BUT. The more i thought about it, the less sense it made. I’ve come to the conclusion that NLB’s move might actually be an insanely clever strategy that would ultimately benefit the pro-homosexual faction. What made their actions suspect?

Firstly, NLB is not stupid. It has after all curated millions of books, co-ordinating across libraries, conducted art and cultural events, festivals, programs. I refuse to believe that NLB can take the demands of anti-Tangos seriously, without detecting the illogic behind their rationale.

The greatest concern presented by anti-Tangos is that the book, being accessible to younger children, may ‘promote values’ they should not ‘exposed’ to. If the children in question are as young as supposed – that a story revolving around penguins can possibly inflame their infant libido for homosex, or somehow ground their lifelong beliefs about marriage – then wouldn’t the parents be present to function as a filter?

How the children interprets the book, or in fact if they even come into contact with the book, depends almost entirely on their parents. The onus is on them to either explain to their children that such relationships exist in reality and should not be condemned, or that such relationships are unnatural and unacceptable.

If your children are as impressionable as you have claimed, i am sure they will take your word over a picture book about antarctic birds they have just encountered. Are we that in doubt of our parenting, that the complete physical destruction of a book is necessary?

How about its value as a literary resource for parents who do want to educate their children on homosexual acceptance? By destroying the book, thus creating a literary void about homosexuals, we deprive the early exposure and understanding of homosexuals for children of such parents.

As i was saying, i would like to believe that NLB is not stupid. They must have weighed the arguments from both ends, and given the multiplicity of their committee, i would imagine much debate generated from both sides.

So why is it that NLB has chosen the extreme course of action? The very act of destruction brings to mind dystopian societies, Fahrenheit 451, oppression at the cost of literacy and culture, etc. NLB cannot possibly be blind to this. Could they not have transferred the books to the adults section, or limited access to it in the central library? Was pulping books really necessary?

Especially given the backlash from social media, why would NLB go ahead with such measures without an attempt at compromise to appease both camps? I think the anti-Tango parents would have been smug enough if these books were made restricted in the central library, beyond the grasp of impressionable young hands. That would leave pro-Tangos – parents or not – free to access and peruse them.

This was what triggered my suspicions that NLB’s ultimate goal may be more complex than publicly perceived. There’s more:

The PinkDot was a recent success. The calls for restriction against it – to fence up Hong Lim Park and ban people under 21 and/or are foreigners from PinkDot – were nowhere close to fulfilled. NLB, as part of the statutory boards of Singapore, would predictably echo the stance taken by the government: even if there was no outward endorsement of homosexuals, the government had at least symbolically indicated that homosexuals and their societal rights were considered.

The pulping of Tango, however, was in direct opposition to the supposed governmental stance taken. Not only did it yield to the demand of anti-Tangos, they went to the lengths of physical destruction – almost performative in their metaphor of how homosexual values should be destroyed and not ‘taint traditional family values’.

Why the confusing, contradictory messages sent out by each arm of the governmental body? First a victory against suppression by the homosexuals, then #achievementunlocked #bookburning by the anti-homosexuals. What is going on? Friends. This is where i propose a ludicrous conspiracy theory that bubbled and took form yesterday night while seething in quiet discontent.

NLB’s move was that of an ingenious, tactical mastermind. At the present, it somewhat maintains a balance between the crossfire between anti- and pro-homosexuals. In the long-term, however, where progress is inevitable, this incident serves only to advance the recognition and acceptance of homosexuals.

They have stoppered the escalating noise rising from anti-homosexuals after the WearWhite/ PinkDot, appeasing them with a token follow-through of their complaints. Will removing a book about penguins prevent the children of anti-homosexuals from future exposure, or from forming their own insights on the issue? No.

In fact, what is does on a societal level, in favor of pro-homosexuals, is much more powerful. What are the future consequences of destroying books, seen in conjunction with its surrounding societal context (PinkDot, global progression towards homosexual acceptance), and historical allegory (Fahrenheit 451, Stalin’s persecution, Mao’s cultural revolution, etc)?

Our kids will perceive the destroying of literature as oppressive, an obstruction to true progression. They will view the homosexuals as gagged, as unjustifiably persecuted. Our children will feel the same indignation i feel today for homosexuals, the same ones blamed for ‘playing the victim card’ but at the same time having their voices taken from shelves.

Our children, when they have their own minds and cannot have their rights snatched from their fingers, will be more sympathetic to the homosexual cause than they would have been without your complaints today. 

So anti-Tangos, thank you for unintentionally steering the future of our society the right way. Thank you NLB for your tactical genius. Thank you.

Responding to all arguments against homosexuality

Yesterday, at Pink Dot 2014, I saw no activists, no one pushing for the decline of religious influences, no one ‘actively promoting’ their ‘lifestyle': what I saw was people – walking breathing feeling people – celebrating their right to love.

Stripped of all differences, they are fundamentally humans capable of love, who are looking for love. I cannot convince myself to go against that.

At the moment I realized that they aren’t homosexuals, male, female lesbian gay transexual bisexual confused spongeform – does it matter, really? I fall in love with someone’s intelligence, what they do, what they say – not their gender. If Justin were female, I would love him romantically in the same capacity.

Convince me that I am wrong, I want to be challenged. I want to know that the stance i ultimately take, whatever it is, is a fruition of careful deliberation and not merely the most convenient for my conscience. In a masochistic inversion of confirmation bias, i prowl anti-homosexuality pages, i.e. Lawrence Khong’s FB page, for worthy arguments against homosexuality. So far, my hunt has been pretty fruitless: mostly meme form rhetorical appeals:

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 9.28.52 AM Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 9.29.01 AM At best (?), linking official statistics as intimidation against gay sex. Even then, there is little follow through to elaborate on how exactly these statistics justify robbing homosexuals of their rights. There is also a dearth of response to actual challenges to these largely quick n’ easy scare tactics.

I have had Christians, when challenged, lament on the aggression of those who disagree with them. If forced to a corner, they might also use the escape smog of “Sigh, I guess this is something we can never convince you to agree with.”

THEN TRY. We are aggressive not because we want to disagree, but because we want you to EXPLAIN TO US WHY WE SHOULDN’T. I crave, from the anti-homosexual camp, worthy arguments that can prove to me that you’re not merely hammering insistently on a non-existent nail. Because if so, you have been depriving people from their right to love all these years for naught.

I’ve felt that this is due for a long time. I believe in the genuine love between people of the same gender, and that it is no less – and deserves no less – than any other kind of love.

Here are the most favored arguments against homosexuals, none of which i feel can withstand punctures by logic and common sense.

1. Homosexuals are not discriminated, merely not allowed to ‘actively promote’ their lifestyle.

This is the argument i most dislike, because it is based on contradictory, hypocritical play on words. When hard pressed on why they aren’t practicing acceptance as they preach, i often hear Christians defend themselves with “I also have friends who are gays and lesbians. I don’t hate or discriminate them. But I disagree with their lifestyle, that’s all.” That’s not all. There is a difference between not sharing your friend’s taste in k-pop, and campaigning for iTunes to stop the sales of k-pop. Guess what, all you’re doing is saturating illegal downloads.

This becomes more pertinent when such movements extend beyond individuals. When effected by church bodies, these sentiments, although merely ‘disagreements’, impacts civil laws. And they know it. Under the guise of ‘merely disagreeing’, anti-homosexual communities are able to paralyze many constitutional rights of homosexuals. Now the issue is no longer confined to abstract acceptance or discrimination, but real rights that affect the lives of people. They are discriminated, legally, in the very bare definition of the word.

2. Legalizing homosexuality is a slippery slope down to pedophile, bestiality, and other sexual deviances.

This arguments exhausts me with its blatant ignorance. It is offensive on so many levels. Let me deconstruct and contrast each term for you.

Homosexuality: two consensual beings, fully capable of high order decision-making, in love emotionally and sexually, no one harmed in process.

Pedophilia: a mental disorder, medically diagnosable, fully sexual desire, causes distress to person experiencing sexual desire, involves harm to children, does not involve consenting adults.

Bestiality: similarly a mental disorder, causes distress, harm to non-consenting animals.

This slope they are talking about does not exist. It is not a slope, not a spectrum, not the roller-coaster thrill ride cockscrew track so happily painted to monger fear. Friends, this is not a ‘descent into moral darkness’ that imagery has traumatized us into picturing. These are issues in different ballparks altogether. Please don’t get taken in by baseless comparisons and techniques designed to scare.

3. Homosexuality is not natural / a result of sexual abuse.

Personally, i believe that homosexuality can be innate. Admittedly though, i have no clear evidence to lay these claims on, so i won’t even try. That one isn’t born homosexual, though, does not make it any less genuine. And, by extension, does not justify any form of discrimination.

I’ve had people eagerly presenting me with statistics that homosexuality is often a result of childhood sexual abuse, even if the victim is unaware of it. Homosexuality is also too often dismissed as social influence and therefore a ‘passing phase’. That some cases of homosexuality may be borne of abuse or external influence is undeniable. Still, it is too convenient to claim that every homosexual has experienced abuse, but have forgotten due to trauma. EVEN IF (although i strongly object to this claim), the majority do fall into this category, how do you account for the cases of inborn homosexuality – no matter how small such a population is?

Innate or not, induced or influenced, the fact remains that right now, they are as capable of romantic love as anyone else. What makes their current love for another human being, even if gender-preference has been externally shifted, any less worthy of full support and acceptance? Do you find their love unnatural? Even if so, how can we discount the authenticity of their present feelings?

4. Children need a traditional family structure consisting of a male and female.

Children, most essentially, need good parents who love them. Are homosexuals incapable of good parenting or loving their child?

Another oft used point is that these kids will face societal discrimination because of their alternative family structure, resulting in psychological problems, etc. This is such an opaque way of viewing the situation i cannot help laughing. Can we please go back to why there is social discrimination? Because of the persistent stigma against homosexuality. What anti-homosexuals are arguing is: we cannot let you do this because it will result in bad consequence that we create.

What exactly is so important about having anatomically traditional male and female figures for a family? This is what i want explained to me. Are we great believers of the oriental balance of Yin and Yang? Will having an effeminate but heterosexual father mar the traditionally ideal structure of my household? Seriously. Explain to me.

5. AIDS/HIV statistics dumping

Another popular move is to unload a statistics of AIDS/HIV, highlighting how homosexual rates of diseases far surpass the heterosexual population. I dislike the reliance on statistics to impress, without analytical decoding of the statistics’ meaning. But in this case, i do confess that it is a relevant problem because anal sex does undeniably put one at greater risk of HIV transmission.

BUT THEN AGAIN. I emphasize on transmission. Contrary to popular imagination, having anal sex does not automatically bestow one with HIV/AIDS. Although anal sex has a greater infection rate, transmission largely anchors on how much one is sleeping around. The societal and possibly familial pressure faced harasses gays from forming a committed relationship. It is when their main route to love is blocked that they may seek the back door (sorry).

Rounding back to the child/discrimination issue, society’s stance towards gay relationships defines the paths taken by gays to seek love – physical or otherwise. This in turn affects the HIV/AIDs rate amongst them. If it is truly the spread of HIV/AIDs and general health of the population that you are concerned with, then let them take the main path.

Rather than shunting gay men to the dark alleys behind Play, where they fail desperately to satisfy what society has deprived them of, but try week after week anyway — can we acknowledge the fact that gay sex happens, whether you want it to or not. Face the truth and help them reduce the rates of HIV/AIDs.

In light of the debate, this article is extremely informative: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(12)60821-6/abstract

6. They are turning a “moral wrong into a civil right”.

Quote, unquote.

Firstly, let’s not pretend we understand – or even have – a universal morality. Especially on the topic of homosexuality, what is morally right or wrong becomes increasingly defined by culture and religion. Because i understand the extremely subjective nature of my moral values, i try to keep them at the most basic level.

Here i’m going to coin a term: inductive morality. Instead of determining my stance on a topical issue before attempting to justify existing moral beliefs (what i call deductive reasoning), i start with the fundamentals. The essence of being moral, to me, is love — love for all without harming another.

Homosexual relationships are based on love. No one is harmed in the process. It does not violate my morality.

Homosexuality as a ‘moral wrong’ is defined by one religion of the world’s many. No, it is based on subjective interpretation from an individual’s extraction of a religious text belonging to one religion of the world’s many. That, friends, is too damn many levels of ambiguity for me to place any kind of trust in their claims of what is morally right or wrong.

I understand that for Christians, it is commendable to face your doubts and then eradicate them through prayer and faith. But there comes a point where the validation of your status as a good Christian is compromising on your ability to discern faithfulness and dogged but unsubstantiated beliefs.

Your beliefs should not surpass your relationship with God and what he teaches you about truth and love. Jesus is someone who loves, and who believes in the freedom to love. Am I wrong to say that? If He were around, i personally imagine He’d find it ‘morally wrong’ to be robbing someone of their rights just for the pure act of loving another person.

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I’m open to all new arguments. Feel free.

The Portable Virgin & The Crimson Labyrinth

This weekend, J and I both made rewarding entertainment choices. He bought Divinity: Original Sin, and promptly shed his worldly self and could only be found gleefully tweaking the stats of his in-game characters. GEEK. I’m no better: started on The Crimson Labyrinth by Yusuke Kishi and COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. It has been a long time since i found myself willing and able to finish a novel within two sittings. We spent most of the day together but reading/gaming respectively, and it was rather late in the evening before we couldn’t ignore our hunger and wandered out to Nando’s for dinner (before rushing home to continue haha).

The Crimson Labyrinth was, simply put, an exciting book. It’s somewhat a cross between Battle Royale and Hunger Games, although i loathe to associate a good book with HG. I take it back, besides the broad premise, it is nothing like HG. Fujiki finds himself awake in a strange – almost alien – place, with only a GameBoy giving him vague hints of a game he seems to be in. Eventually he finds other participants, who like him seem unable to recall the immediate events preceding their awakening.

ImageFrom there, it gets increasingly sinister. What i loved most about the novel is the way it unravels. It may not be brilliant stylistically, but does a neat job dishing out hints – just enough for to thrill, for the reader to feel like the hints were cleverly caught than served. There were also grotesque plot features that shocked enough to be fascinating: cannibalism, the devolution of humanity, all strung together in a stimulating pace.

It was so exhilarating, in fact, that J read the last parts with me. I must have looked very tense or disturbed, because he paused his game and made me read aloud. A few paragraphs in, he was hooked too. We read the last couple of chapters together. Midway through i was so eager to get ahead of the story i started speed-reading verbally… we ended up just sharing the book haha.

If you don’t mind a ***spoiler***, what i especially liked about was it’s departure from the ‘dystopian future’ easy route. It made references to very real events in contemporary history i.e. the Japanese economic bubble burst. Although elaborate and almost unfathomable, it appears that the entire ‘game’ was for an extreme snuff film, based on someone’s obsession to bring to life a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure game existing in the market. So, unbelievable but fully plausible.

A strong plot without a distinctly brilliant style. For one, it’s translated, so i really can’t say for sure. Secondly, it didn’t need too stylistic a narration… it may even have detracted from the simple, clear presentation the plot details required. Either way, it was a direct juxtaposition to the book i read right before it: Anne Enright’s The Portable Virgin.

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This is an example of postmodern gone awry. Although pretty, it is a hollow glass vase. I was so drawn to its minimalist aesthetics in the first few pages, that i decided to give it a chance despite prior warnings. It’s the literature version of the emperor’s new clothes, you tell yourself that unlike others, you ‘get it’. But there really is nothing to get. I give up.

The short stories in this collection get exponentially more fragmented and meaningless, and not even in a good way. Its only saving graces are images, striking and sublime. The Portable Virgin was more a viewing gallery in words than literature. It describes casual sex with a baker found at a bar:

“…(he) sort of dodged in, like I was an alley on the way to school. I didn’t know whether he had come, or a picture had slipped on the wall… True love.”