Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Feminism, femininity, fighting stereotypes (and not caring what others think)

Alright, so I've been wanting to write this post up for a while, mostly because it's been weighing pretty heavily on my mind as I go through several different life transitions. (And I realise this is a tad bit political and my last few posts have been going that way as well, especially with the immigration series, but I promise this isn't the future of this blog.) Between  high school, university, part-time work and professional work, I've been wearing quite a few different hats lately. During this time, I've found it really difficult to balance my feminist views and femininity, while fighting the stereotypes that comes with spending the vast majority of my waking life in male-dominated activities. 




Before we get too far, let's define feminism. Feminism is just another word for equality. It isn't man-hating. It isn't bra-burning. It's the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities, that girls should be able to go to school, men can be stay-at-home dads, that women can work or not work, that the phrases "man up" or "fight like a girl" shouldn't exist anymore. I spend quite a lot of time studying engineering and practicing jiu jitsu, both male-dominated activities. I often have to use my feminist ideals to get through the occasional class, like when I'm sitting in a lab at uni and 95% of the people there are men. (Needless to say, I felt a little out of place.) Maybe I'm one of the few women there, but that doesn't mean I deserve to be there any less, or that I'm any less competent than everyone else is. 

I've found that as I go through my day, people put me in a box and leave me there. You're a female studying engineering? Oh, you must be less competent than the males in your class. You do martial arts? Oh, you must be a tomboy. You work in a pharmacy? Oh, you must be a pharmacy student. (Or even worse, you're just a check-out chick.) I've found that I constantly surprise people when I tell them that no, those boxes, those stereotypes, are wrong. That's not me. (I've gotten so many shocked looks when I say I do martial arts, it's hilarious.)

I've had to fight to be respected at school, the gym, the pharmacy (by customers, not my coworkers). A lot of that drive has come from my feminist beliefs, that I deserve to be there just as much as anyone, that I don't do male-dominated activities to get a boyfriend but because I'm there because I love it. (Yes, I have gotten that one before.) 

I think this feminism, this fight, has really impacted my femininity. A lot of the time, people don't respect women who dress up because girly-girls can't do math and like to go shopping and marry rich. A woman who wears lipstick can't go to engineering school and be respected, right? For years now, I've been downplaying my femininity to try and be respected. I didn't wear makeup, didn't dress up, didn't watch romance movies. (I still don't watch romance movies, though, so that's just me.) I forced myself to be tough, to be one of the guys. (This was probably influenced by my high school as well, which tried really hard to make us young ladies. (Excuse me? Young ladies? I'll be as tomboy-y as I like, thank you very much.))

Then, I began going the opposite direction once I hit uni, started working "professionally", and spent more time doing martial arts. People expected me to be a tomboy because I was in male-dominated spaces, so I pushed back. Bright red lipstick? Check. Pink nails? Check. Nice clothes? Check. I dared anyone to comment that I didn't belong with each shade brighter of lipstick I wore to class and wore my femininity around my neck like armour.


To be honest, though, it was exhausting. How could anyone keep up with defying gender expectations imposed by society? Through this whole thing of fighting the boxes society keeps trapping me in, I've begun to realise that my femininity is nothing to be ashamed of. Traditional femininity isn't a weakness, it's a strength. I'm going to have to fight to be respected regardless of whether or not I wear bright pink lipstick or dye my hair purple, so if I enjoy it then why don't I just go ahead? People are going to judge me no matter what I do. Being kind, caring and empathetic are also traditionally feminine traits, and since when are those qualities something to hide away? 

I'm done with fighting gender roles for the sake of fighting gender roles. I'm done with caring about what other people think of me. I'm going to wear lipstick because I like wearing lipstick and because I love feeling pretty. I'm going to pull my gi on and have bruises and look disgusting because I love fighting. I'm going to walk out the house without a drop of makeup on because I wasn't put here on this earth to look pretty. I'm going to keep writing and solving math problems and writing science reports and taking pictures and helping people find the best medicine for them and watching educational YouTube videos and playing with little kids and watching action movies because I love it. 

People aren't "masculine" or "feminine", people are people and people are wonderful balls of beauty and kindness and science and poetry and evil and forgetfulness and love. I don't need to go out of my way to show I'm feminine or masculine just because of the activities I take part in and how other people see me. Screw that. From here on out, I'm just going to be little old me. 

Do you find yourself fighting societal stereotypes? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt out of place because of your gender? Has your feminist (or non-feminist) views ever impacted your femininity/masculinity? 

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Why the Doctor is such a powerful character

Doctor Who is one of my favourite TV shows of all time. Yeah, the special effects are kinda lame most of the time and the quality of writing isn't always 100%, and maybe the physics aren't always entirely accurate and it's always a bit strange. After all, it's a British show about an alien called the Doctor, who takes human companions on adventure through space and time in a blue box, having adventures and solving mysteries. 

Where was I going with this again? 

Oh yeah. I remember now. Powerful character. 

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We live in a day and age where war is a constant. If there isn't a war looming on our borders, there's a war in a far-off land that we're sending troops to. War topples buildings, orphans children, destroys futures. This is the world we live in, and we are going to live in it, at least for the foreseeable future. 

This is why I love the Doctor. 

The Doctor has two main choices of weapons: his sonic screwdriver and his intelligence. He uses his sonic screwdriver to fix crazy sci-fi looking thingys, to hold open doors that are threatening to shut, to analyse, to stop submarines from exploding and all that cool stuff. I love that. Heroes in our stories have swords that glow when enemies are near, lightsabers, weapons of mass destruction, wands capable of inflicting torture and death with a single spell. And here we have a character who uses a sonic screwdriver to achieve his goals. It has no pointed ends like a regular screwdriver, so it cannot be used as a traditional weapon. 

He uses his intelligence (along with his sonic screwdriver) to get out of tricky situations. One of my favourite quotes is, "You want weapons? We're in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world. This room's the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!" How awesome is that? He's using his education to fix problems, to protect the innocent and fix injustices. I love this because it's so close to Malala Yousafzai's philosophy of creating peace through educating children. 

Finally, the Doctor has incredible ideals. He pushes for creativity, wonder, adventure. He's the embodiment of lawful good, where he'll save your life and obey the law at the same time. The Doctor wants to save everyone, every time, and it breaks his heart when he can't. Because how can you save everyone and keep the laws of space and time, and not give up bits of yourself at the same time? He deeply believes that everyone has value, that everyone is important which is a value we don't always have in today's society when people are defined by their BMIs, GPAs, finances. You aren't defined by numbers. Human beings have so much value that can't be measured, which is something that the Doctor shows again and again. Sure, he fails sometimes to live up to his ideals. That's what makes him such a great character. That's what makes him human (despite him being an alien but whatever). 

When we look in a funhouse mirror, we see the Doctor's distorted face staring back at us. He's the best of humanity, fighting for injustice with education, creativity, tools and recognising the intrinsic value of every human being. This is what we should strive for as humanity, as individuals. The Doctor is a powerful character in a world crying for someone to look to, and that's a pretty beautiful thing.  

(Please note, I wrote this post before 13 was announced. (I am so totally on board with that.))

What do you think of the 13th Doctor? Are there any other characters who are powerful like the Doctor? 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Immigration (part 3): In becoming Australian residents

Check out parts one and two if you haven't already!

My family and I are extremely blessed to be Australian residents. In case you don't know, there are a few different "levels", if you will, of being a resident of Australia. A lot of people come to Australia on a working holiday visa, where you can stay for a certain amount of time and work and travel. You can't work for more than 6 months for a single employer. We came on a 457 visa, where we could stay and work for a much longer time, basically living here. (The Australian government isn't giving out any more 457 visas anymore to protect Australian jobs.) 


I suppose it was a little... iffy, being on a 457. Our staying in the country entirely depended on Dad keeping his job, because work was sponsoring us and if we didn't have a sponsor we couldn't stay. It's not like Dad was bad at his job, in fact he was great at it, but his work depended on the mining industry which has since declined in our area. A mine closing three hours from where he worked could have been the end of our Australian adventure, but thankfully God had other plans.

After being on a 457 visa for three years, we could apply for residency. Being an Australian resident is awesome. As I see it, it's way harder for the government to deport us if we're residents. Our 457 had an expiry date, residency doesn't. We also got access to stuff like Medicare and could move wherever we wanted (with our 457 we had to stay in rural Queensland). 

The process of becoming a resident was a bit tricky. I'm quite thankful my parents were willing to do the hard work of sifting through the paperwork and paying the seemingly never-ending bills. After the paperwork (which I'll admit to helping only about 2% with, it was awesome on my part) we had to have our medicals. 

I personally am not a huge fan of having medicals done. I know I'm healthy, surely that would mean everyone else knows I'm healthy? Right? Right?!? But whatever, I suppose. I was willing to do quite a bit to get residency. 

We had to take a weekend and drive to a bigger town because they don't do the tests in our little town. (I was rather annoyed because I had a math exam coming up, so I brought my textbook and studied before bed. (Neeeerd!)) 

We went to a medical centre and waited for ages before seeing the doctor. He was super nice, and I quite liked him. We had to do urine tests, then the doctor had us all stand in a circle in his office and do different exercises, like squatting or twisting our hips different ways. He checked our lungs, and Mom, Dad and I had to have blood tests to test for Hep B. I was not a fan of the blood test. I tend to be a fainter (that's a story for another time) but THAT TIME I DIDN'T FAINT I'M SO PROUD OF MYSELF. 

After that, it was a simple task of waiting for the medicals to be approved and for the paperwork to come through. It was such a relief to have residency and to not have to worry about being deported, because even though it wasn't likely it was always in the back of my mind. I suppose residency gave me the freedom to stop worrying about Dad losing his job one day and us packing up our lives and leaving the next. 

The next step is getting our citizenship. Mom, Dad and I have already taken the citizenship exam (they gave us 45 minutes to do 20 questions, and I finished it in 4. Probably not the hardest exam in the world) (my younger sister had to do an interview, and my brother was too young to do anything) and now we just have to wait for the paperwork to come through. When we get citizenship, I can get a loan from the government for university, and I'll also be able to vote and get an Australian passport. Dudes, I cannot wait to get a second passport. I'll get dual citizenship, so I'll finally get a spy and have more than one passport. 

Becoming residents, and eventually citizens, will be pretty epic. I am and always will be thankful for this opportunity that has been granted to me through so many different people, from my family and parents, to my friends who've supported us through this transition and to the Australian and Canadian governments who've allowed us to change countries and continue with our education and lives. Not everyone has been given this chance, and I'm so blessed to be one of the lucky few. 

Well, that wraps up the immigration series for now. Do you have any questions for me? Leave them in the comments and I'll try to answer them in future posts. 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Movie Review: Spider-Man Homecoming

So I realize I just did a movie review not too long ago, but honestly I can't help myself. By now, you should know I'm a massive Spider-Man fan and I couldn't let the opportunity to post about the new movie pass by. 

My life has been infinitely better ever since Sony and Marvel made a deal to bring Spider-Man back into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spider-Man is my favourite superhero, and to see him swing around with Iron Man and joke about Captain America while saving the world and being generally awesome has been a dream come true, hence why I couldn't wait to see the new movie. 

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Spider-Man Homecoming was amazing. It wasn't the deepest movie, in the sense of an emotional rollercoaster that some movies take me on, but that tends to be a trend with Marvel movies. Despite that, I adored it. (My sister was constantly shoving me to get me to stop laughing because apparently I was the loudest person in the cinema. (I have no regrets.)) 

Spider-Man himself was everything I've hoped for. He was funny and out of place and didn't fit in, he didn't know what he was doing, he was just figuring it out as he went along. He made mistakes and made quips while he fought, he was disappointed in himself and still tried to do the right thing at the end of the day. I also loved that keeping his secret identity wasn't a huge deal like it was in the other movies. Sure, it was an aspect but it wasn't a repetitive plot point. 

The villain was one of my favourites in the MCU. He was just a dude, doing the wrong things for the right reasons. He wasn't the scariest villain, but I still liked him which isn't something I can say for most Marvel villains. 

One thing that I was so, so, SO pleased about was that no one (*cough* love interest *cough*) got kidnapped. That seemed to be a recurring theme in the other Spider-Man movies, a recurring theme I didn't appreciate. Actually, this wasn't like the other Spider-Man movies. It was a different take on Peter Parker, one I really enjoyed. (I found Tobey Maguire to be whiny and self-absorbed while Andrew Garfield was snarky (I liked the snark as well tbh (I'm not a fan of Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man if you haven't picked up on that))). There were subtle references to other characters in the Spider-Man universe, amazing diversity and one really great scene involving The Blitzkrieg Bop and Spider-Man running to stuff constantly. 

I really, really loved this movie, and am thankful he's finally returned home to the MCU. 

Have you seen Spider-Man Homecoming? Are you sick of the superhero movies yet? 

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Immigration (part 2): Biased opinion time

Ok, so last time I posted in this series I gave you guys the facts relating to refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. Check out that post if you haven't already so you can understand the background here. 

In case you haven't already heard somehow, I'm a Canadian living in Australia. I'm an immigrant. So that makes me slightly biased, of course, and in case you haven't read the title for some reason this post is going to be pretty opinionated on a pretty sensitive and complicated subject. 


There are, for the most part, two main opinions surrounding asylum seekers. We should let them into Australia, and we shouldn't. The lines of reasoning behind those opinions vary, of course. From what I can gather, people don't want to grant asylum seekers asylum because it's believed that refugees can't integrate into society, are expensive to support, take Australian jobs, are terrorists and people don't want Australia to be overrun with immigrants. 

On the other hand, it's believed refugees should be allowed because they are people trying to escape from war and other disasters such as famines or persecution. It's the correct humanitarian thing to do, and refugees improve our society through multiculturalism. 

There is, of course, more to this argument on both sides and I've simplified it a lot, mostly because I don't want to spend ages researching this and because I can't write a thousand word essay on it. If I've missed anything important, please fill me in down in the comments! 

So here's my opinion. We as Australians should allow refugees, and more of them, into Australia. These people are escaping from war, poverty and unimaginable conditions that I can't even imagine, and go through an intense screening process in order to live in Australia. Obviously, there are always concerns about cost and terrorism. We've had about three main different terrorist attacks in Australia in the last few years, all done in the name of Islam. That is something that unfortunately cannot be ignored. However, white dudes do horrible things all the time and no one talks about exporting them. 

I believe we shouldn't judge an entire group of people on a few people's bad choices. Quite a few of the refugees are well-educated and once they get settled into their new country they can and do contribute to society. It will, of course, take time. Not everyone knows English and some people need to learn trades. Settling into a new country is hard, especially if you were forced to leave your old country and not everyone is terribly kind to you in your new one. 

Women and children make up the majority of refugees, and many refugees have achieved amazing things. Malala Yousafzai, Albert Einstein, Ahn Do. 18% of Syrians immigrants living the United States have advanced degrees while 11% of Americans have degrees. Immigrants are engineers, athletes, teachers, small business owners, business men and women. My mom works with a pharmacist from Iraq, and I work with another from South Africa. 

We as Australians need to be more welcoming and accepting. These people may not always look like us, talk like us, dress like us. But at the end of the day, what makes us Australian is our ideals and our willingness to make this country our home. How can Australians be worried about being overrun by immigrants when most of their ancestors were immigrants themselves? How can people be alright with me, a white Canadian, living in their country but not a teenage girl from Syria? What makes us different? Why should I get the opportunity to complete my education, gain employment, to have friends when that opportunity is denied to others based on their religion or where they came from? 

There are always issues of security and practical costs associated with immigrants. With anything this complicated, there will be issues associated with any solution. But can we stop innocent people from having a fulfilling, safe life? 

What's your view on the refugee crisis? 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

I realize Wonder Woman has been in cinemas for a while now, and I watched a few weeks ago but I can't help but writing up this late review because I cannot stop talking about how good this movie was. 

Wonder Woman is the first female-led superhero movie we've had in a very, very long time, and had a female director none-the-less. It's such a huge step forwards in female representation in action films and I'M JUST SO HAPPY WITH THIS MOVIE OK IT'S BEAUTIFUL GO WATCH IT IMMEDIATELY!!! (So let's do a list review because lists are cool.)

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Reasons why I loved Wonder Woman

1) A Freaking. Female. Lead. 

This doesn't happen. I (usually) absolutely love any kind of decent female presence in an action movie, hence why I have such an obsession with Agent Carter and Black Widow. But a whole movie where the female has her name in the title? Where she gets a good 80% of the guts and glory? I love seeing these steps forward in feminism in our media. More please! 

2) Wonder Woman herself

Holy smokes dudes. Wonder Woman is %(@(^_)%@ fantastic. One of my main issues with DC is that their heroes are only heroes. They lack the humanity for me to identify with them, for me to stay in the theatre for a reason beyond my ticket price. They are too noble, unreachable, stoic. Wonder Woman is, despite being a god, human. She is fascinated with babies, doesn't understand 1900s women's dress code and feels so deeply for humanity that it hurts when people around her are injured or killed. Screw the patriarchy, she has a job to do and she's going to do it. 

3) Feminism

It would have been so easy for Wonder Woman to turn Diana into a male hero in a dress. I think so often we as a western culture associate character strength with 'masculine' traits, of ignoring the bottom line to complete the mission, of burying emotions so they don't interfere with saving the world. For years, superhero movies have praised these traditional masculine traits and left characters with feminine traits to the sidelines. Wonder Woman retained her 'feminine' traits and time and time again proved that there is strength compassion, empathy, selflessness and kindness. As her mother said, the world does not deserve you, Diana. Diana knows it, and she doesn't care. She's going to save the world anyways, because humanity may not deserve her but they sure need her. 

Besides that, we saw all kinds of women just doing stuff. Women with wrinkles and black skin and who were secretaries who don't usually get screen time but were awesome in this movie. I just loved the fact that older women were represented in this film, it was awesome. 

4) Everything else

The action sequences, the aesthetic, the plot, the character building, the setting, the secondary characters, the time period, the costumes, I could go on and on. It was an epic movie. Period. 

Reasons why I did not love Wonder Woman:

1) The climax. 

I didn't like the villain, and the climax felt too... otherworldly, for me. That may just be a personal preference though. Granted, I did fear the villain at one or two points, which is more than I can say for most Marvel movies, but overall I felt he wasn't great. 

2) Minor little cinematography

I thought there was one too many slow-motion sequences, but once again, that may have just been a personal preference. 

So honestly, this was a majestic movie. There were one or two minor things I thought could have been changed, but come on. This was the Wonder Woman movie the world was waiting. This is the Wonder Woman movie we deserve. 

Tell me your thoughts on the movie in the comments!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Immigration (part 1): Asylum seekers/refugees in Australia (the facts)

Well dudes, I'm back from exams and I thought it'd be fun to do a bit of a series on immigration and the process of becoming residents/citizens of Australia for the next couple of weeks. If you have any questions you'd like me to answer, leave them in the comments!

Disclaimer: If my information is inaccurate, let me know. I'll include all my sources at the end of the post. I'll try to remain as unbiased and factual as possible, but this is something I feel extremely strong about so little pieces of bias may slip in here and there. Finally, I'll be focussing mostly on asylum seekers and refugees relating to Australia. Obviously this topic can be applied to almost any country in the world but I'm not a professor and don't have all the time in the world to cover everything. Let me know in the comments how this works in your country. 


So kinda ever since I've moved to Australia I've been interested in the topic of asylum seekers and refugees, mostly because it's such a controversial topic, world-wide and especially in Australia. If you hang around the Aussies for long enough, you'll eventually hear of the "boat people" and get many, many (many) differing views on them. In tenth grade I even did an assignment on them for my religion class (and got a pretty decent mark for it as well, I might add). So here we go! Hopefully I'll cover anything you could have wanted to know about asylum seekers in Australia. 

Just so we're all clear, an asylum seeker is someone who is seeking to be recognised as a refugee, while a refugee has already been given the status of a refugee by the government. Asylum seekers and refugees can leave their country because of religious, racial or political persecution, as well as due to conflict or natural disaster (such as flood, famine, drought, etc). Asylum seekers and refugees are not the same thing, although they are both leaving their countries for similar reasons. 

Seeking asylum from persecution is a human right under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (Article 14). You can be denied asylum if you've committed a war crime, a crime against humanity or other non-political crimes, and any refugee has the obligation to conform to the laws and regulations of the country that has granted them asylum.

*wipes forehead* Now that we've got the definitions out of the way, let's move on. Australia's history with asylum seekers and refugees has been a long and controversial one. We've had massive waves of immigrants, mostly from Europe, and if you know your history you'll know that most first white Australians (Aboriginals being the first Australians) were Irish convicts. Other immigrants came of their own free will for a better life. But these immigrants weren't refugees/asylum seekers

In 1954, Australia agreed to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which states that seeking asylum is a human right. From about the 1970s to mid-1980s, Australia actually had a pretty good policy regarding asylum seekers and refugees. English lessons became a right for refugees, there was an orientation process, translation and interpretation services as well as other programs and services. In 1986 we even celebrated our first Refugee Week. 

From there, policies became harsher. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Tiananmen Square massacre, there was a massive increase of refugees flooding into Australia. New policies allowed the deportation of "illegal entrants", as well as reserving the right to force the asylum seekers to pay for the cost of their detention, processing and/or deportation. In 1992, non-citizens who arrived to Australia without a visa could be legally detained for up to 273 days, a limit that was later removed. Five years later, the government handed management of detention centres to private companies. Programs were still being offered, such as English tuition, trauma and torture counselling and help with accommodation. 

But that's all ancient history. Most frequently, for about the last twenty years people have tried to enter Australia by setting out, often from Indonesia, in cramped, unseaworthy boats. The Australian government created a policy giving them the power to turn back any of these boats by "any reasonable force" and deny anyone on these boats the right to apply for asylum. Then we've got the Pacific Solution. The policy states that any asylum seekers arriving in Australia without a visa are to be sent to an off-shore detention centre in the Pacific Islands. 

Early October, 2001. Australian government officials claimed asylum seekers had thrown their children overboard in an attempt to gain access to Australia, and released several images "proving" this. It was later discovered these pictures had been taken while the asylum seekers were being rescued from their sinking boat. 


Mid-October, 2001. A boat sinks between Indonesia and Australia. 146 children, 142 women and 65 men drown. The 44 survivors were rescued and returned to Indonesia after about 24 hours in the ocean. Many of the dead women and children were attempting to be reunited with their husbands and fathers in Australia. 

2002. The United Nations releases a report condemning Australia's detention centres, and two years later another report was released, detailing the mental illness children were suffering due to long periods of detention. 

August, 2004. The Australian High Court decided asylum seekers could be held in detention indefinitely, and "that harsh detention conditions were not unlawful." 

February, 2008. The Pacific Solution ends and the detention centres on various Pacific Islands are closed. 

September, 2009. Asylum seekers are no longer required to pay for their time spent in detention (about $100 a day). Remember some asylum seekers could be held for anywhere between a week and five years. 

December, 2010. Roughly 50 asylum seekers drown in an attempt to reach Australia. 

August, 2012. Australia increases its refugee allowance to 20,000 places per year. 

July, 2013. Asylum seekers are processed off-shore and if found to be genuine refugees, they are resettled in Papua New Guinea. A peaceful protest in one of the detention centres collapsed into a riot. 

December, 2013. A new policy makes it almost impossible for asylum seekers arriving by boat to be recognised as refugees. 

September, 2015. Australia grants an additional 12,000 places for refugees due to the Syrian and Iraqi crisis. 

April, 2016. The last of the children leave detention centres. 

2016-2017. Australia has a minimum of 13,750 places for refugees. This number is only for people who arrive "lawfully" in Australia (not illegally by boat, airplane or people transferred to off-shore detention centres). 

Obviously that's a lot of information. Basically, Australia's policy is to detain asylum seekers off-shore and turn back any boats that are attempting to reach Australia. Australia is the only country in the world with mandatory detention and off-shore processing. 

That disgusts me, but that's another post for another day.

What's the asylum seeker policy like where you live? Do you have any questions you'd like to see covered in the next few weeks? Let me know in the comments!

Sources:

United Nations, 2015, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, viewed 16th of June 2017, http://www.un.org/en/udhrbook/pdf/udhr_booklet_en_web.pdf 

United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, 1951, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, viewed 16th June 2017, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/StatusOfRefugees.aspx 

Refugee Council of Australia, 2016, Timeline, viewed 16 June 2017, http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/getfacts/timeline/

Australian Government, 2016, Australian's Humanitarian Programme 2016-2017, viewed 16 June 2017, https://www.border.gov.au/ReportsandPublications/Documents/discussion-papers/discussion-paper-humanitarian-programme_2016-17.pdf

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Tiger stripes

I'm sitting with my knees pulled up to my chest, my toes cold and my fingers hidden in my old high school sweater. Beside me sits my friends on a worn wooden bench, lined up in a neat row like duckling but of course we're not ducklings anymore. Our downy feathers are almost all gone. 


My hair smells of conditioner and smoke, perfume and dog. It's an odd combination but I like it, like the way it smells of me and something less than me and more than me all at the same time. I laugh at someone's stupid joke and attempt to grab another brownie, but it flops in my fingers and some of it lands on my leg. It's supposed to be healthy, chickpeas and zucchini and walnuts and cocoa. Sugar-free. It certainly tastes healthy, and I adore them. 

There's five of us altogether. There used to be more of us, but time and distance has taken care of that. We're gathered around the bonfire, the last dancing embers of the flames settling into the crisp wood. Marigold and tiger stripes, bronze and pumpkin. Apparently, it was an impressive fire three hours ago but now it more resembles a sleeping dragon, something you dare each other to awaken but no one has the guts to step into its den. 

We sit and talk. From the outside, it doesn't look special. It certainly doesn't appear exciting, and it isn't. Not really. We talk about boyfriends and university, living away from home and anatomy, of part-time jobs and TV shows, of politics and shooting stars. One of my friends swears she'll get me a boyfriend, and I agree as long as he can hold an intelligent conversation and give me free food and books, because what's the point of a boyfriend if he doesn't give you free books? We plan get-togethers and reminisce about teachers from high school, lay tentative plans for bike rides and camping trips and complain about university and exams. 

Then someone points out the stars. We're all silent for a moment as we crane our necks to the Australian skies, the smoke from the campfire obscuring our view when the wind changes. We're out in the country so there's no light pollution, and the result is spectacular. Dots of light from heaven poke tiny holes through the obsidian canvas of the night, and the occasional satellite blinks with a reassuring certainty as it treks through the unknown. I want to run my fingers through it, watch it ripple like the surface of a silver dragonfly pool, the stars my constant reminder of who I am and why I'm here. 

My friends are eventually distracted by a joke or a story or a remark, who knows what, but I keep staring. A streak of light flashes across the sky, then disappears. I cry out, more excited than I should be. A shooting star. Desperately, I try to think of something to wish for, and when my mind lands on what I want, what I really want, I stop and wish long and hard for it because what else do you do when you're surrounded by your friends and you see a shooting star? 

I'm pulled back to the present as someone makes a joke about one of us turning twenty. We're all quiet as we digest this. Twenty. We shouldn't be twenty, nineteen, eighteen. I am still seven years old, strawberry-blonde hair and dreams like a honey sunset that slips between your fingers, a splash of freckles and self-confidence like a shattered, bleached skull placed under too much pressure. Butterflies and dresses and old books that stain your fingers with stories the colour of rust, that's who I am. 

But the truth is, I'm not like that anymore. And neither are my friends. We are all of that and less, and so much more all at once. We are ready to plunge into the unknown rabbit hole of being adults, terrified it means leaving each other behind. But for tonight, for right now, we are here. We joke and tell stories, eat chips and grapes and sugar-free brownies, fill our lungs with the charcoal smoke and laugh under the stars, and there's no place I'd rather be than right here, right now. 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Snippets!

To be honest, I'm so excited about this book. It combines my love of Disney and jiu jitsu and hanging out with little kids and hating physics homework and Star Wars and red rubber boots and long boarding and my little Australian town. It also talks about cancer and death and when words fail and I just love it to pieces. I've been working on it since my gap year, and I haven't had a lot of time to edit it in the past few weeks but I'm excited to start up again sometime. 

Background: The following snippet is from Stella's point of view, who's five years old. Tyler is her best friend, and Xavier is Tyler's best friend, who's in the hospital getting chemo.




***

We visited Xavier in the hospital a few weeks before he was supposed to finish his medicine. He mostly just looked really tired and unhappy. I'd brought the letter from Tabitha with me, and I had also brought a drawing that I'd done in class to make him feel better. It had bubbles and people inside the bubbles, and trees and rainbows and a giant tree and lots and lots of flowers. I'd even drawn in Rapunzel's tower from Tangled

"Hey Stella," Xavier said, and he gave me a tired smile. It looked like the one Mum gave me after she'd spent all day working and was really tired because Baby #2 was heavy and kept jumping on her bladder, which she kept complaining about. 


"Hi Xavier." I stepped around Tyler and crawled up onto the bed Xavier was lying in, even though there wasn't a lot of room. He had tubes in his arm which I tried to avoid because I didn't know how they put a tube in his arm, and as I tried to think about it I realized that it must have really hurt. "I drew you a picture." 


Tyler grabbed it from his backpack and passed it to me, then I gave it to Xavier. "See? Those are bubbles and there are people inside the bubbles, see, that's me and that's you and that's Tyler. Then those are the trees and Rapunzel's tower and the rainbows and flowers..." I trailed off, because I'd just realized that the drawing wasn't very good at all and I shouldn't have given Xavier something that wasn't very good. He was sick, after all. I shouldn't give sick people things that weren't very good. But he just smiled and high-fived me. 


"Thank you Stella, it's beautiful."


"Shall I?" Tyler asked, and I turned around to see that he had a roll of tape in his hands. He pulled it really hard and it made a weird shhhhlerck sound, then he bit one end of it and a giant piece of tape came away from the roll. 


"What?" I asked, but Xavier gave him a thumbs-up and Tyler grabbed my picture and taped it to the wall, and we all stared at it for a second and I hoped they liked it, especially Xavier because the wall was boring and plain and made me sad so it must make Xavier sad too. They both clapped, and I joined them after a moment even though I wasn't really sure if I should be clapping too. 


"How are you feeling?" I asked Xavier. That was what you did in hospitals. You asked how people were feeling.


"I'm alright. They have some pretty serious painkillers and stuff in the meds they're giving me."


"Is the medicine going to make you better?"


Then the boys exchanged a look and I didn't know what it meant, but then Xavier just gave me another tired smile that I hated. "Yep. Now how was school?"


I told him everything and I just couldn't stop talking. I fiddled with my glasses as I told him all about Bailey my friend and Ms Jones the nice teacher who wore bracelets on her ankles and who was really nice and smart, but then again all adults were smart. I told him about how we did lots and lots of crafts and it was really fun, but I didn't tell him about Luke or how we were learning our ABCs because Bailey and some other kids in my class knew them and I didn't and I didn't want the boys to know because they'd be sad. 


Tyler finally picked me up off the bed and set me on the floor on the other side of the room, then pulled a colouring book out of his backpack. "Here, Xavier and I are going to talk for a little bit. Here are some coloured pencils. Colour whatever you want." I settled in the chair and flipped through the book, noticing with a grin that they were all Disney princesses. There were a whole five pages with Rapunzel and Flynn and Pastel the chameleon and Maximus the horse. I wanted to do all the Rapunzel ones first. 


Tyler went and sat down on the chair next to Xavier's bed, and I listened while they talked. It was pretty hard to listen and draw at the same time, but I wanted to hear what they were saying. It sounded like a grown-up conversation, and now I could finally listen in. 


"How're you doing?" Tyler asked. I decided to start with Rapunzel's hair, then her purple dress. 


"Fine."


"Can I get anything for you?"


"Not really."


"A drink, or-"


"Dude, your bedside manners suck."


"I'm aware of that, thanks for the kind reminder. Can you just write it on my forehead or something so I don't forget it? Seriously though, if you need anything then I'm here," said Tyler. I frowned as I searched through the coloured pencils. There wasn't the right kind of purple for her dress. I'd have to choose a different colour. 





"I'm surprised you didn't bring any homework for me."


"I actually have a stack in the car, but thought I'd leave it there because homework sucks and I wasn't going to let you share in that suckage."


"Which isn't a word."


"It totally is. Look it up."


"You passed English how?"


"I think the teacher cheated a little. She just can't withstand my irresistible charms." They both laughed, but I wasn't sure what was so funny.


"Didn't she used to be a nun or something?"


"Yeah, in like 1826. You're so lucky you've never had her, she likes to bring it up every other sentence. And Macbeth's ambitious hamartia reminds me of the time when I met a young man who came into the convent, for I was a nun you see, and he tried to steal the candlesticks!" Tyler's voice went high and silly like in a cartoon, and both Xavier and I laughed but then Xavier frowned right after and tried to stop laughing. 


"Sorry, it just hurts a little to laugh."


"Oh, sorry, I'll stop."


"Hey, can you pop by my house and say hi to Amelia?"


"I thought my restraining order prevented that?"


I imaged Xavier rolling his eyes, because he did that quite a bit. I tried to do it too, but then Mum got upset with me. "Ha. Ha. Ha. Seriously though, she'll appreciate it. She does every time and it just sucks that she's alone right now." 


"Anything you want, anything you want."


Then we all went really quiet for a few seconds, and Tyler decided it was time to go even though I'd only coloured in Rapunzel's hair and her dress and hadn't gotten to the tower yet.


"See ya, Xavier," Tyler said. 


"Bye Xavier!" I said, then ran and gave him a hug. He hugged me back, then Tyler towed me out and we left him there, looking very alone and sad. Dear Lord Jesus, I prayed in my head, which was hard because I couldn't close my eyes or fold my hands while walking down the hall with Tyler. Please make Xavier better. I don't like seeing him so sad. 


Tell me about your projects in the comments! 

(P.S. I shall also be hiatus-ing from posting for the next two weeks due to exams, but hopefully *fingers crossed* I'll get around to catching up on all your posts I've missed.)

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Homesickness in the form of rhubarb pie (a poem)

So I was going to write this really epic post about asylum seekers in Australia for today. It was going to be super well researched and professional-ly, probably with the proper margins and font size and Harvard referencing and the whole shebang. Then I looked up and it was 11:00pm, I had just finished my homework and I still had no blog post written. Hence, I've decided to grace you all with one of my poems I wrote last year when I was visiting Canada. (I am not responsible for any injuries that result to your brain and/or eyeballs from your choice to read the following poetry. I am not a poet. You have been warned.)



The Clouds were Rhubarb and 
Strawberry Cream a Careless Chef 
had Dripped onto the Tile

saskatoon berries
lukewarm tea
cousins
canoes
picnic bench
slivers
pie crust
laugher
canadian geese
fold-up chairs 
relax
plastic spoons
moss
corn-on-the-cob
oversized sweatshirts
smiles
mosquitoes
photos
pine needles
crumbling trailer
family

home

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

In defence of female protagonists

If you've read/read about young adult books in any way shape or form, you're probably familiar with the fact that there are more female protagonists than male protags. According to this random website I found (points for research skills there), 65% of characters in YA books are female, 22% are male and the remaining 13% is shared. Just by looking over my library, I can see that there's way more female protags than males. 

Why is this? 

Not a real human skull, btw. My fabulous brother 3D printed it.

I believe it's because publishers believe more girls read YA than boys (who are off reading sci-fi or non-fiction or manuals whatever), and thus more books are targeted at teenage girls. It makes sense, right? People like to read about people like them, so more books have girls as main characters. (It's the same reason there's such a huge push for books with diverse characters at the moment. It's such a powerful thing to see yourself represented in media, and can be quite damaging when you're not or when you're wrongly represented. But that's a discussion for another day. (It's also why I like Spider-Man so much. I finally get to see my level of awesome on-screen.))

In response to this, there's been quite a backlash across the Internet. We're tired of female main characters, we need more boy books, we need more variety. All the female protags have the same voice, let's do something different! 

I have issues with this. 

First of all, I don't have a problem with male protagonists. I love reading them actually, because it's good to get into someone else's head. The writing style is usually quite different, and the stories end up being very different to stories by female MCs. 

I do, however, have issues with some of the reasons why people want male protagonists or why we have so many female MCs in the first place, or even over the fact that people don't like the fact that there are more female protags than male. But honestly? I think we're all just over-reacting. 

Let's get this straight right off the bat. Boys will read books with female main characters. The end. No arguments. Boys might not read books aimed at girls, which often have female protagonists by the way, which is fine. I don't usually like to read those either. But boys will read stories with female protagonists. To say anything else is to insult and stereotype boys, something I'm not interested in. 

That's also what annoys me about why we have so many female main characters in the first place. Why do publishers think girls will only read about girls? It's the same thing as assuming boys will only read boy books. People are intelligent and open-minded for the most part, especially if they're bothering to pick up a book. Give us some credit. 

Now for the controversial part of my post. I think we're just over-reacting. Look, teenage girls, proactive, strong, independent teenage girls, are so underrepresented in the media. It's ridiculous. Most of the positive teenage girl representation is in book-to-movie adaptations (The Hunger Games anyone?). Most other films/advertisements/TV shows/whatever show teenage girls as shallow and stupid, people who drain their daddy's bank account and get way too obsessed with makeup and boys. I'm not saying those girls don't exist. I'm saying they're not everyone. 

What's wrong with having better representation? Maybe so many girls read YA because that's the only place they can find someone like them having adventures and actually doing stuff. We should stop freaking out over the fact that there are more female main characters and just enjoy the fact that for the first time ever we have a half-decent representation of an often marginalised group of society. What's even better is that people of other diverse groups (for example, people of colour) are getting onto the page as well. Honestly, how often are independent, three-dimensional Chinese-American teenage girls represented in the media? (Answer: not often enough, but there's more than there used to be.)

Let it go, people. Enjoy a small victory. Yes, there are issues with the inundation of female protagonists in young adult fiction. No, we don't need to panic. 

Do you prefer male or female main characters? Do you think there needs to be such a controversy around this? 

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Good days

Lately good days have been hard to find. I have my ups and downs, my slants and my drops but for the most part they're few and far between. But today? Today's different. 

My darling sister brought me back watercolour
pencils from Canada. I have no idea how to use them.

I wake up at 7:00am, as usual. It's Saturday but I have to go to work, and I've discovered a long time ago that it's better to wake up earlier than have an extra hour of sleep and be rushing out the door. I eat breakfast (a bowl of frozen fruit with milk) while I listen to my crime podcast, Generation Why. The theories and evidence flies, all real cases, all real people. I am riveted, my mind sunk deep into the pools and twisting rabbit holes the case presents. 

At work, I force myself to stay awake and focus on the customers the best I can. I find that if I pretend to be happy, that's usually what I become. A customer catches me glancing too long in the mirror, yawning, and asks if I had a late night. I was making sure I still looked human. I laugh, a sort of hysterical, strangled laugh, and reply that I've had many late nights. My eyes are rimmed with streaks of boysenberry and I feel swollen, slow, stupid. But still I smile, and somehow I stay happy. 

When I get home, the first thing I do is slide my headphones back over my ears and finish my podcast, then grab my art book and pencils. The rest of the world fades and is replaced with appeals and accusations, cotton candy and cobalt, false evidence and trials, and for a moment I fade away too. I dissolve into the space between my watercolour pencils and the paper, into the sound waves winding through my ear canals. It feels nice to fade every once and a while. Becoming as watery as my drawing is less painful than the sharp edges and unoiled hinges of reality. 

In the evening, after I've done my homework, I join my family as we lay on Mom and Dad's bed. We laugh and discuss dumb movies, eat halva, take selfies, laugh. I curl up and listen, too happy that we're all together for once to say much. I like hearing my sister's voice, my dad's laugh. They've been gone for a month while they visited Canada, and I've missed lying on Dad's soft stomach while we play board games, missed watching obscure movies with my sister. They've been gone for too long, and now that we're all here I don't want it to end. This isn't reality, this is me faded. And it feels nice. 

For once, this is a good day. 

How often do you have good days? What are your good days like?