tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
These days I find myself getting mild culture shock whenever I travel back to Australia. It seems that it takes being away, and then coming back, for me to really notice how things are here: the shiny consumable nature of everything; the beautifully reliable infrastructure and social services; the fact that Australia, as depicted on TV and in the glossy magazines at my sister's house, is completely and utterly white.

I mean, I never think of Australia as particularly white, and it's certainly not what you see on the streets. And it's when I visit Adelaide that I feel most Asian: staying with my sister; seeing my mum; going to family dinners at the suburban Chinese restaurant where the staff speak Cantonese to my family, my family speak Cantonese to the family at the adjoining table, and the menu's in untranslated Chinese.

And yet, this morning I was paging through my sister's In Style Australia magazine (March 2009, with Kate Winslet on the cover), where everyone in the photos looks dead-eyed and airbrushed and vaguely inhuman, and I realised that apparently 'Australia' means blonde-haired Natalie Bassingthwaighte (who, according to the article title, is 'Turning Japanese' by celebrating the launch of her album at a Japanese restaurant), and we should all be looking towards (white) America for style inspiration. I mean, I could count the POC in that magazine on my fingers and toes. No, actually. Take a look:

  • Chanel Iman ('Ways to wear', small photo, pg 36)
  • Penelope Cruz (double-page Loreal ad)
  • Seal (alongside Heidi Klum at Oscars, big photo)
  • Jessica Alba (small headshot, Oscars)
  • Penelope Cruz (single-page Loreal ad)
  • full-page ad for www.thedesignerswarehouse.com.au, Indian model
  • Eva Longoria Parker and two Latina girls (full-page ad for Desperate Housewives)
  • Team of Slumdog Millionare (half-page photo at Golden Globes, 4 out of 7 are POC)
  • Seal (alongside Heidi Klum, tiny photo from Oscars afterparty)
  • Eva Longoria Parker (tiny headshot in 'beauty' hairstyle section)
  • Rihanna (medium headshot in 'beauty' makeup section)
  • Full-page ad for Bobbi Brown, model maybe of part-Asian background
  • Small headshot and testimonial from Korean woman ('Debbie') in SK-II advertisement
  • Small photo of one of Angelina Jolie's children in ad for Who Weekly magazine, and minuscule photo of a Who Weekly cover with Barack and Michelle Obama on it

I used to read magazines like this all the time, so guess I always knew this. It's only now I'm noticing it. The only woman who even remotely looks like me or my sister in this 200+ page magazine -- which must have more than a thousand photos of people in it -- is an unnamed model in a Bobbi Brown ad. Way to go, Australia.

Meanwhile, last night my sister and I sat on her couch and laughed and smiled at a book I bought for her in KL: Part Asian, 100% Hapa. (Actually, there's an interesting essay on the Asian appropriation of the Hawaiian word hapa here, which is worth reading.) A whole book of photos of people who look like her, or look like me, or who don't look like either of us but are still like us. It's kind of sad how excited we both got about it. We shouldn't have to buy a special book to see pictures of people who look like us, you know? Why are the 20% or so of non-white Australians just invisible in the media? Why is the Australian Embassy in East Timor staffed only by white people? Why does the New Zealand Army presence in East Timor consist of a fairly even distribution of white and POC soldiers, whereas the Australian Army is white-bread central?

What angers me is that it just doesn't have to be this way. Why can't In Style just have one photoshoot with POC in an issue? Why can't they feature one non-white designer in their 'let's look at the houses of famous designers' feature? How hard can it BE?

I guess it's time for me to write a letter to the editor, huh.
tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
Life for animals in the developing world is one of those odd situations where it's both better and worse than in the first world. Animals like chickens and goats and pigs and buffalo all roam free, and their deaths are arguably more humane than in your average first-world slaughterhouse. On the other hand, animal cruelty is widespread and unthinking (kids beating a chained monkey with a stick, people keeping ferrets in a tiny cage in the hot sun), and starving cats and dogs are such a part of the landscape that you sort of become inured to their suffering after a while.

So a first-world pig has a rough time of it, but a first-world cat is pretty lucky, right?

Except that today some motherfucking idiot's dog came into my mother's front garden in Australia and MAULED MY CHILDHOOD PET CAT TO DEATH. And it's been hot in Australia recently, and she was fairly old, which is why she probably couldn't get away in time. My mum found her body amongst all the broken flowerpots.

So I recognise that she lived a pretty happy, privileged life as an Aussie cat, but it's still a shitty way to die: alone and frightened and unsuspecting.

Dear thoughtless dog owner:

I hope that when you're old and frail, a cat bites you on the ankle and you die of blood poisoning.

No love,
Ineke.

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