Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Goodbye Post

In my travels around the web - I was working really hard today, honest - I found this site.

The Migrant Project seems like a very interesting one. This is a little something from their manifesto:

The Migrant Project is a unique, interdisciplinary arts project, developed by a collective of Australian artists from a variety of cultural and artistic backgrounds, discovering and reassembling the untold stories of Australia’s past and present.
I am reminded of a day I spent at the National Archives in Canberra. I had planned myself a little 'Nationals' tour (only one day free in Canberra): the National Archives (half an hour), the National Library (1 & 1/2 hours), the National Art Gallery (2 hours), lunch (1 hour), the War Museum (1 hour), plane home. It did not quite work out like that because the Archives had an exhibition of the lives of people who first arrived in Australia as emigrants and who lived initially in a migrant community at Bonegilla. It was a fascinating exhibition and I spent about 3 hours there.

Each time I see things like the Bonegilla Exhibition and the Migrant Project, one half of me is inspired, and the other half exhausted. My desire to document my family story and, indeed, to find out more about my family story is re-invigorated. On the other hand, the time evidently put into these projects and the sheer talent that surpasses my own wears me down.

The Migrant Project poses this very interesting question:
In what ways do we forge a hybrid sense of self between our different identities, our different senses of home and belonging and the many identities we possess, the communities we straddle?

This blog started out telling snippets of my family story. It's morphed into all kinds of things - a little about books, a little about law, a little about race/ism, a little (probably more than I intended) about me.

In many ways, I have found it impossible to separate my Viet refugee past from my current life.

The nature of blogging itself does not assist me to keep separate stories of my past, from stories of my present. I began to worry, as I realised that people were actually reading my blog, of revealing too much about people who had not agreed to have anything at all revealed about them, to an unknown audience. It began to be safer to tell stories of my present, in which only (or predominantly) I - who had explicitly agreed to having things revealed about me and who was (mostly) in control of the revelations - figured.

I am a hybrid - not only of my Viet-ness and my Australian-ness, but also of the different identities of Oanh the daughter, sibling, aunt, partner, lawyer, reader, feminist, etc. I live a digital, and a non-digital, life. You, too, are a hybrid.

I have documented, and will probably continue to document, the transgressions between the me who aligns with my family and cultural expectations of me, and the me whom I think of as more truly myself. It is the cultural straddling I (and others) do, and suspect will always do, that intrigues me. I do it mostly unthinkingly. Have I forged a hybrid sense of self, or has it just arisen?

I am moving to the UK - a kind of confused reverse Australian migration. I will soon be struggling for a sense of home, and definitely for a sense of belonging. That won't be anything I have not done in the past, but it will be interesting to do, equipped as I am now, with the verbiage of theory. I will soon have no family and very few friend reference points for my identity. I will be behaving amongst people who will have no pre-conceptions about how to expect me to behave in any given situation (except my partner, of course, who has years of pre-conceptions, now). It is why travelling is so exciting to people, I think, this opportunity to re-create.

For my parents, my moving is not quite travelling. I wonder if they view this move as akin to their migration to Australia. It is not, of course, as I reassure them of at least 12-monthly visits home. That in itself, and the immediacy and simplicity of communication unknown when they left Viet Nam (and complicated by other factors too), makes what I am doing now, conceptually very different to what they were doing then.

This is my goodbye post. Not because I am leaving blogging forever, but, because, circumstances being as they currently are, I will need to have a blog hiatus of at least two months, maybe more. Moving across the world is time-consuming. I will probably still be reading and commenting but suspect that, too, will be sporadic. A break will be a good opportunity to think about the direction and purpose of this blog, and to return, hopefully, with a clearer idea of what I want from my blogging or an epiphany that such clarity is not possible, nor even desirable, for me.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Who wears short shorts?

Meredith writes an interesting post about Promo Girls here.

The incisive point Meredith makes is about how men decorate their bodies and possessions (mostly cars) in an outwards space claiming fashion, and women minimalise in a near-naked, take up as little space as possible and inhibit movement fashion.

I can certainly relate to this observation - and I think it is manifested in how men and women - and indeed boys and girls - sit / are taught to sit. I remember being posed for school photographs. In group photos, I am always placed in the front left hand corner. I think this is where my height inevitably places me. Girls were always asked to put their knees together and their right hand over the top of their left. Boys were asked to sit with their knees hip-width apart, with a fist on each knee. I'm in a grade two photo where I have obviously been confused by the instructions - or don't know which gender I am - as I have my knees together but a fist on each knee. Otherwise, I am clearly "girl": I'm in a pink dress with my hair in pigtails either side of exposed ears.

I also had to comment with my own observation about "Promo Girls":


On the streets in Brisbane, there are young scantily clad women in short shorts advertising … something. I assume one of our girly bars, but I am not entirely sure. I have a little argument with myself every time I see them. My first reaction is annoyance.

Then I think: No, wait. Not their fault. Probably lucrative. Should be annoyed at … something/one else. Society! It’s society’s fault.

Sometimes, pity. Aren’t they cold? Don’t they hate it when horrid men ogle them? When women look at them disapprovingly?

Sometimes, in judgment: Hmm, if you’re going to wear that, you’ll need to walk a bit taller. Swing those hips, sass it out. No use huddling into yourself.

With eyebrows raised: I don’t know that short shorts suit your cellulite*

Then in judgment on myself: That’s not very nice, Oanh. Good on them. They’re comfortable with their bodies and they’re using society’s obsession with women’s bodies /sexual object status to their advantage. Plenty of other women will look at them disapprovingly, no need for you to do so. You can be more generous than that.

With my feminist rejoinder: But they’re perpetuating women’s oppression!

Basically, I end up with all these thoughts which probably flicker across my face (I’m terrible at masking my emotions) and these women edge away from me, so I then feel forced to give them a tentative smile, just to show that I’m, er, friendly or approve or something. Which I’m not. And I don’t.


I really do not like the Promo Girls. But I also know that it is not their fault, and that the work may be a perfectly valid and probably lucrative choice.

There is also mention by Legal Eagle of an advertisement for tailor-made suits. I agree with Legal Eagle that it is valid to exploit sex appeal but I consider it inappropriate in a workplace and it occassionally angers, and sometimes saddens, me.

I think the reason is that Promo Girls and that ad perpetuate a notion of women's power as based predominantly on their appearance and sexual worth to men. I do not agree with that. I do not think that that is valid. But I think, so long as it exists, it's okay for my sisters to exploit it. I'm just going to keep tying myself up in knots every time I think about it, however.

*when I wrote the comment I'd forgotten the word for cellulite...(!)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Meme of Brevity

Just because I can - not because anyone asked me to.

And anyway, being brief is a challenge for me.

One word answers only!

Yourself: Bemused
Your Partner: Polymath
Your hair: Disobedient
Your mother: Misunderstood
Your father: Stoic
Your favourite item: non-existent
Your dream last night: Involved
Your favourite drink: Water
Your dream car: None
Your dream home: Varying
The room you are in: Office
Your ex: Done
Your fear: Inertia
Where you want to be in ten years: Wherever
Who you hung out with last night: Partner
What you’re not: Manipulative
Muffins: No.
One of your wish list items: None
Time: 14.24
The last thing you did: Eat
What you are wearing: Clothes
Your favourite weather: Drizzle
Your favourite book: Many
Last thing you ate: Rice
Your life: Fine
Your mood: Uninspired
Your best friend(s): Busy
What are you thinking about right now: Home
Your car: Red
What are you doing at the moment: This
Your summer: Humid
Relationship status: Committed
What is on your tv: Antenna
What is the weather like: Blue
When is the last time you laughed: Recently

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