My Favorite BADD 2012 Posts

Earlier this month, I participated in Blogging Against Disablism Day 2012 (you can read my entry here). There are so many wonderful posts that it is truly humbling. I almost feel unworthy to have my post among such insightful pieces.

Though I took my time about it, I have finally read all of the BADD 2012 posts. It is very difficult to pick the best posts, and if you have time I urge you to read all of them. That said, some posts made more of an impression on me than others. So I share with you the posts which taught me the most, or were the most moving, or were, in my much humbled opinion, the best written. They are in the order they appear in on the BADD main page.

Benefit Scrounging Scum: Do You Know What You’re Asking?
Restless Hands: On Self-Injury, Autism, and Behavioral Therapy
Bethlehem Blogger: What ‘Retards’ Have Taught Me About Peace Work and People
Square 8: Connecting Dots
Single Lens Reflection: Clippity Cloppity Goat and the Troll
Ballastexistenz: Caregiver Abuse Takes Many Forms
AutistLiam: It Gets Inside Our Heads by
Ask a Wheeler: Assumptions About Disability
Ballastexistenz: Pulling Back Curtains
Never That Easy: My Years of Magical Thinking
Thoughts of Nothing: Living With Chronic Back Pain
Gilded Cage: The Myth of Survival of the Fittest

Tomboy in Femme Clothing

I am cis-female. A cis-female who falls into tomboy territory (at times, possibly even crossing into butch territory). I was always more interesting in rescuing the damsels in distress than being rescued as a damsel in distress. And, as I’ve discussed before, when I have fantasies without pregnancy, I have a tendency to take on the “male” roles.

Aside from work (and certain special occasions), I generally stick to practical, plain clothing … which is associated with male behavior (females are expected to look nice when they go out, rather than wear the most practical thing).

However, at work, I deliberately dress as femme. I don’t wear makeup – I draw the line there – but I wear (short) heels, pantyhose, a skirt, a nice blouse, a scarf, and I tie up my hair.

My employer, by the way, does not pressure me to do this. I actually dress more femme than most of my female colleagues. Some of them have even told me, when they see the effort I put into my appearance, that I can lighten it up a bit.

However, to me, femme clothing gives me the freedom to be as tomboyish as I want at work. With femme clothing, I feel that, no matter how much of a tomboy I feel like that day, I can express it, because my femme clothing will balance out any excessively tomboyish behavior. If I wore the type of clothing I wear outside of work, I would feel less free to be myself at work. The femme clothing is a shield – with it, I feel safe, without it, I feel exposed.

Perhaps I’m over-thinking this – after all, American women are stereotyped in Taiwanese culture as being tomboyish, and when I show what a tomboy I am Taiwanese people often remark that it’s because I’m American (I don’t think it is, by the way). At the same time, I want to keep my job, and not just for economic reasons – if I lose my job, I also lose my residency, and could be forced to leave Taiwan. Thus, the femme clothing stays.

And, besides, wearing femme clothing is fun. It’s as if I’m disguising myself as a different person. Halloween year-round 😉

Reading Food Manga as a Vegan

This is a part of the Moveable Manga Feast: Oishinbo and Food Manga

I am not going to give a full Veganism 101 here, but before I get to the food manga, I have to explain a few points (if you have taken Veganism 101, you can skip to ‘On To Food Manga’):

First of all, imagine if there were a group of slaves whose main purpose was to supply human breast milk. I say ‘slaves’ because they do not consent to this line of work, and they are not free – they are kept in a confined area which they can only leave if their masters want them to move (indeed, the masters sometimes force them to move). Babies are separated from their mothers at birth because that makes management ‘easier’. Male children who shows signs of being excellent sires for heavy milk-producing progeny are kept and fetch high prices at the market (another reason to call them ‘slaves’ – they are bought and sold). Other males are killed as children for the production of child meat. As far as females … well, their main purpose is to make as much milk as possible, and everything else is secondary from their masters’ point of view.

Now, knowing this about the human milk industry, let’s say a friend gave you some gelato made from this human milk, and that it was made by some of the best gelato-makers in the world. Would it make your mouth water? Or would you be too horrified to eat it?

I have heard that there is such as a think as commercial ice cream made from human breast milk, but to the best of my knowledge, the milk comes from consenting women and the sellers of this breast milk ice cream do not practice any of the horrible things I described above. However, the dairy cow industry in the United States (and I presume many other parts of the world) does work the way I described above. If it’s not okay to treat humans that way, then why is it okay to treat cattle that way? If you answer ‘because they are animals’ I am going to answer ‘humans are animals too’.

Most people think being vegan is hard. Many people say they cannot be vegan because ‘meat/cheese/yogurt/etc. are too delicious’. I used to think this way myself, at least about some foods. However, here’s a secret: being vegan (or strict vegetarian, which is having a vegan diet without the rest of the vegan lifestyle) is SUPER EASY. Most vegans say this. You know why? Because knowing about the abuses of the animal-product industry, the thought of eating its products is downright sickening. Indeed, when I eat an animal product by mistake, I literally feel sick in the stomach. I don’t like eating fake meat which tastes too much like real meat because I associate it with that sickening feeling. I am not tempted by food made from animals; I am revolted.


I admit, I was a bit hesitant about Oishinbo because of this. It’s one thing to read about somebody eating babies in a horror story; it’s another thing to read about people paying for the abuse of animals and talking about how wonderful as if there is nothing wrong with that.

However, it turned out to be okay. The a la carte editions allow me to skip the most problematic volumes, and the volumes I do have are within my tolerance levels.

I think part of it is that they often discuss the ethics of food. Obviously, I disagree with the characters a lot about this, but at least ethics is a part of the conversation, which makes it more palatable to me when they go against my ethics. I enjoy arguing with the characters; however, I would not enjoy reading about characters singing the praises of unethical food when I am supposed to full-heartedly join them instead of have a conversation with them. And just as I can enjoy a play like Titus Andronicus, I can also enjoy somebody chopping up a fictional fish in a cool way.

Now, there is a food manga which I cannot tolerate, at least when it is in food manga mode.

That food manga is Antique Bakery.

In Antique Bakery, they never consider any kind of ethical implication of food choices. Instead, when it is in food manga mode, it’s purely “mouth watering” descriptions of body parts and bodily fluids taken non-consensually from abused animals. It’s not supposed to be horror – it’s not even a part of a greater conversation about food, like in Oishinbo, the readers are simply supposed to cheer along without a second thought. And I find that DOWNRIGHT FUCKING DISGUSTING!!!!!! (note: if you are not a regular reader of this blog or you’re not one of my friends, I almost never drop f-bombs, so when I do drop one, it really does shock people who know me).

The food manga sections of Antique Bakery are unreadable to me. I have to skim through them quickly – and rarely skim when I read fiction. I love Antique Bakery, but that is the great reservation to my love. And that is why I will never read Not Love But Delicious Foods – if it was unreadable in Antique Bakery (and Flower of Life), I do not think I could read any of Not Love But Delicious Foods. Especially considering that the Japanese people are determined to drive the bluefin tuna to extinction – it was mainly due to objections from Japan, the greatest killer of bluefin tuna, that major protections were not put in place on the species.

So there, I got that off my chest. This is not a polished post, but I’m not sure how much I can polish something like this. This is a raw topic for me.

EDIT: I forgot to include the happy part, so here it is.

I love shojin ryori. It is a traditional Buddhist-vegetarian cuisine in Japan, with a focus on getting the best out of simple ingredients. My mother claims that my best cooking is in shojin ryori style – in fact, she says my shojin ryori cooking is better than almost all of the food she ate in Japan (the one meal in Japan which she said was really good was at a Buddhist monastery, so that was probably shojin ryori as well).

Shojin ryori does appear in Oishinbo, though since my copies of Oishinbo are in California, and I am not, I cannot look up exactly where. I do appreciate, however, that the one book about food that Yamaoka finds worthwhile is a book about shojin ryori. And, to me, it makes sense. People who think a lot about food are more likely to both have strong ethical convictions and prepare food well. I actually went from vegetarian to strict vegetarian (and eventually vegan) because I developed an interest in cooking, which made me pay more attention to ingredients, which made me more aware of just how messed up consuming eggs and dairy is.

I already knew about shojin ryori before I read Oishinbo, so it was not news to me. It did, of course, delight me to see it in Oishinbo.

Fantasyland Romance

The other day, I had a general conversation about romantic relationships. I described a hypothetical situation, and somebody answered ‘you just described a movie!’ She didn’t mean that I was describing any specific movie – she meant that I was describing the way romance works out in movies. I didn’t consciously mean to do that, but upon reflection, I realize she is right.

Last week, I talked about how places transition from fantasy to reality. This does not just apply to geographic places – it can apply to any part of the human experience. Even though I am well into my 20s, I have extremely little practical experience with romance. I have made some observations of people in romantic relationships around me, and I’ve read/watched some relevant non-fiction, but the vast majority of what I know about romance comes from fiction – novels, plays, comics, movies, TV. Thus, romance is still the Mysterious Land across the Metaphorical Ocean.

I really do love good romance in fiction. People have much more choice in who is their romantic partner than, say, who is their parent, yet in most fiction I’ve encountered, characters have much more trouble getting romance to work than, say, getting friendship to work. It can be touching. It can be exciting. Of course, if I read/watched fiction from a culture which considered friendship to be more important than romance, and where intense friendships were the primary focus of the drama, I might be a big fan of friendship in fiction.

However, loving romance in fiction is not the same as wanted romance for myself (it took me a while to figure that one out). Something else I love in fiction is character death. I love endings where main characters die. I have one friend who used be scared when I recommended a book because she knew that my tastes ran towards wrenching violence. This does not mean I want to be a murderer or that I want to die myself. Thus, desiring something in a fantasy is not the same thing as desiring something in real life.

That said, I am not going to try to avoid romance in real life. If it happens, it happens. If I knew I were going to live for 500 years, I would probably even try to actively pursue romance in order to expand my experience of life. But I am not going to live for 500 years, there are many lands I want to explore, and I can be satisfied with my life without ever crossing that metaphorical ocean and exploring real romance.

Fantasyland United States

For many Taiwanese people, the United States is the Mysterious Land they see in Hollywood movies. They occasionally hear something about the United States or read something in the newspaper or hear a story from an acquaintance. Music from the United States is also common. They remember some things they learned about the United States in school. That’s it.

At least almost everyone in Taiwan is aware of the United States’ existence. The same cannot be said of many people in United States regarding Taiwan’s existence.

Taiwanese people who have visited the United States are sometimes more knowledgeable – though not always. If they only went to major tourist attractions, the United States may still just be the Mysterious Land of Hollywood movies. I have lost count of how many Taiwanese people I’m met who say they have visited California, but they are not sure whether they went to San Francisco or Los Angeles. This is in spite of the fact that San Francisco is more than TWICE as far away from Los Angeles as Taipei is from Kaohsiung. And as a Californian, I find it incredible that anybody who has been on Californian soil could get San Francisco and Los Angeles mixed up.

Taiwanese people who went to the United States for work, or who have a particular interest in the United States, or who engaged with United States society without the psychological shields used by most travellers, tend to be much better informed.

Surrounded by people for whom the United States is a distant, fantastical land, it rubs off on me. I am starting to think of the United States in a bit of the same way. It sometimes feel unreal that I was ever there, let alone that I spent most of my life there.

For me, East Asia was once the fantastical land across the ocean. Of course, I was very interested in East Asia and did my share of research (there is a reason why I moved here instead of, say, Africa, Europe, or South America) – however, comics, history books, and studying languages increased rather than extinguished the mystique. During my first few months in Taiwan, I often said to myself ‘Holy shit, THIS IS ASIA!!!! FOR REAL!!!’

Taiwan now feels just as everyday as a sweet potato (Note: Taiwan is often described as a sweet potato in the South China sea; hot sweet potatos are a common snack in Taiwan). Even though my travels have been restricted to Taiwan, Taiwan is at the crossroads of Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Korea, and Japan, so living here has made me think of all of those places as places of day-to-day life rather than mysterious lands.

And finally, I find the real Taiwan is more fascinating than the Taiwan I imagined. Fantasyland Taiwan, of course, is limited by my imagination – the real Taiwan has no such limitation. And I would say that the real United States is more fascinating than Fantasyland United States.

Connecting the Climate Dots

I know about Climate Dots Day. I really wanted to participate, because climate change is a threat to human civilization and threatens to considerably shorten my own life span. Pretty important, right? However, I happen to work on Saturdays. I could have taken the day off, but I already had a day off on May Day. I’m paid by the hour, and I want the income, because even though climate change will have a greater impact on my life that whatever money I earn today, in the short run, the income is more important.

I considered joining an event during the hours when I do not work … but the only event in all of *Taiwan* conflicts with my working hours. I also considered organizing my own event … but the prospect of hosting this sort of thing on a working day seemed really exhausting to me. And it’s not just the hours – I am afraid I wouldn’t be able to get anybody to attend. I have trouble scheduling one-on-one meetings with my friends because if I’m free, they’re at work, and if they’re not working, I am, and if we’re both not working they might have to go to somebody’s wedding, etc. etc.

Because attending weddings, of course, is more important than making sure that human civilization survives climate change.

Of course, I might have been able to get people together, but I didn’t even try. We are all locked into our routines, and the prospect of breaking routine seems really tiring..

In short, I could not be bothered to ask for a day off work or to even ask my friends for a get-together in order to save civilization.

And that is why climate change is such a threat.

I take trains frequently … trains which run on electricity from coal/oil power plants. I often eat food which comes from plastic packaging. I often eat food which is not organic. I often eat food grown in a different continent because there are almost no sources of local protein in Taiwan – practically all beans, nuts, and grains other than rice/millet are imported. Even if I weren’t a vegan, local protein options would be limited as most of the milk is imported too, the fish often come from distant oceans, and the cows/pigs/chickens in Taiwan are fed imported grain. At least I try to make sure the rice, fruits and vegetables I eat are grown in Taiwan, but the other day I bought some durian from Thailand (wrapped in plastic, of course). And of course, I use electronics, like this computer, which also runs on the dirty coal/oil electricity.

I could keep on listing all of the ways which I contribute to climate change, but you get the idea. Wrecking the climate is part of my routine, and I couldn’t break my routine for one day to save the world. And even if I broke routine, it would be meaningless without other people breaking routine. This is why there needs to be comprehensive international policy to preserve the climate – and I’m not talking about stricter fuel emissions standards, I am talking about rationing energy so that fossil fuel use is cut by 95% – be sure to read this piece about energy efficiency.

And if you have more time, read Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air.

In the mean time, my life is continuing smoothly, slowly and steadily driving towards environmental meltdown.

San Francisco, Schools, Race, and Class

This post was inspired by this news from Philadelphia, but I am going to talk about San Francisco.

In San Francisco, about one-fourth of K-12 students attend private schools – one of the highest rates in the United States. About 90% of public school students in San Francisco are people of color, whereas private school students are overwhelmingly white. Class is also a divider – generally, it is assumed that the white students who attend public schools do so because their families cannot afford private school.

Many white families who cannot afford private school struggle to put their children private school anyway. They claim that it’s because they want the best for their children – but most of them do not do comprehensive research on public schools, so I don’t know how they can know that the private schools are better. The evidence I have encountered suggests that the private schools do not actually provide a better education than the public schools – based on some of the stories I’ve heard, I even doubt that private schools are safer than public schools. I think the real reason white families act this way is that, in the United States, sending one’s kids to an urban public school is a threat to one’s white middle-class identity – it’s something that is simply not done. My mother phrases this in a more blunt way – “they do not want their kids to mix with the ‘wrong’ kids”. Of course, in ‘liberal’ San Francisco, the white families are not going to admit that.

My own situation was unusual – I am white, my family could have afforded private school, yet I only went to public schools. My mother actually did investigate different options, and found no evidence that the private schools were better than public schools. Furthermore, as a taxpayer, she felt that it was the government’s responsibility to educate me, and she thinks activism, not private school, is the appropriate response to problems in public education. My father has philosophical objections to private school – he thinks thank sending children to private school is bad citizenship.

I don’t think going to public school gave me a greater awareness of people with a different class/race background. I was told to try to cover up the affluence of my family. Thus, I generally avoided discussing class issues (and I got the subtle message that I should keep a certain distance from them). Furthermore, my peers generally did not bring up the subject, because it was assumed that we were all in a similar situation and there was nothing to say. If there was a significant effect, it was that it hindered me from identifying with people from my own class – I simply did not know anybody my age (outside my family) who came from an equally affluent background.

This is just scratching the surface (I didn’t even address the divides inside the public school system), so I might write more on the subject.

Memories of a Special Education

This is for Blogging Against Disablism Day. Be sure to check out other BADD posts.

When I was in high school, I would occasionally mention I had at one point been in Special Education (‘Special-Ed’ for short). I did this because I found the results amusing – nobody would believe me. I was “smart” and Special-Ed is only for “[r-word]”. I, of course, knew that I was telling the truth.

I forget exactly when I was in Special-Ed, but I think it was when I was 4-5 years old. In the first draft of this post, I said why I was placed in Special Ed, but I decided to cut that out, because that is not relevant at all to what I want to talk about today. All you need to know is that I was there, and that it was appropriate that I was there – it was not a mistake.

This was one of the first times I had regular social contact with other children my age. Thus, I was a (mostly) blank slate when it came to peer relations.   I thought all of the kids in my class were totally ordinary, and even when I review my memories, all of my classmates from special-ed still seem totally ordinary to me. I didn’t think of them as disabled children, or children with problems, or being tragic in any way, shape, or form – I simply thought that they were themselves.

When my parents talk about their memories of the special-ed class, it sounds very different from what I remember. They focus on all of the problems that the children had – for example, one of my friends had severe lead-poisoning. I didn’t know that at the time – I only found out that she had lead-poisoning many years later when my parents talked about her. My father has said that the class made him scared of having more children, because he said the class showed him many of the “awful” things which can happen. I think he also said that he would have wanted an abortion if he thought his child would have some of the problems my classmates had. When I heard these statements, they sounded really strange to me, because I had never thought of my classmate’s conditions as being “awful”.

For a while, I regularly visited one my classmates from special-ed at the hospital. Even the fact that he was in hospital 24/7 did not make me think he was strange or in a tragic state – I simply thought “he’s in the hospital near our home? Great, we can spend lots of time together”. When we played together in the hospital, he didn’t seem like he was suffering. I still do not know why he was in the hospital, though if I really wanted to know I could ask my parents.

However, in the many years since I have left special-ed, I have been immersed in an ableist society. I’m not the blank slate I once was. And I know that I cannot ever again look at people with disabilities the way I looked at my classmates. Even when I try to fight the ableist attitudes I have absorbed, it is a struggle – the ableist attitudes are still there inside me.

The thing which makes me really sad is that, if I could take a time machine back to my special-ed classroom, the first thing I would do is try to figure out my classmates ‘problems’ and then label them accordingly. If I were to encounter them anew, I would not be able to see them as plain human beings the way I did when I was a child.