Saturday, 14 March 2009

All Sorts of FAIL

So here’s the thing. I exist (and I use that word in its loosest sense) at the peripherals of certain online sci-fi/fantasy communities. I don’t really engage, I mostly just surf the blogs and communities for reviews and fandom meta (analytical essays by fans of specific book/series/episode/etc.). One thing I’m following at the moment is an ongoing debate on racism and the racism, real or perceived, of a few prominent figures which has stemmed from comments they have and actions they have taken which were... unwise, to say the least.

One of the catalysts of this spiraling debate was a post of a white sf/f author on how to write the other and several People of Color calling her on the fact that they don’t think she should be giving advice on proper portrayal of PoC characters given the shortcomings of her own portrayals. Now Racefail 09 as it has come to be called isn’t really what this post is about. This post, as most of my posts are is about… me.

As I was reading some really interesting comments about marginalization and whitewashing of characters who ‘happen to be’ people of color, Black or otherwise, it got me wondering. Am I a person of color? Or is that some exclusively western concept. Or am *I* the privileged dominant race.

See here’s the thing. I am a Kuwaiti who lives in Kuwait, and if you haven’t seen Kuwaiti Privilege you haven’t seen anything. Now our power doesn’t come from the remnants of slavery (although that did take place in the not so distant past), our privilege is government sanctioned, signed and notarized. You see, we have a little black book called our ‘Nationality’. I’m not being metaphorical here; we have black bound booklets that hold our nationality info that we call our nationality. Here’s the thing too, not all Kuwaitis are created equals, at least not according to our constitution. Depending on how you came across your citizenship, you get all sorts of levels and flavors of privilege.

If you’re descended from the male line of someone who was around during the 1920 census, congratulations, you’re an Article 1 Citizen (sorry ladies, if you marry a non-Kuwaiti your children are shit out of luck, regardless of your contributions to your country). Naturalized? No worries, you’re an Article 5, you have all the rights and responsibly… er except the right to vote, you have to wait twenty years for that. Your kids are Article 7 though, they can totally vote when they’re 21. Their kids even get shiny super special Article 1s! Ladies, if you want a Kuwaiti citizenship of your very own you can marry a Kuwaiti guy and five years later you can even apply for an Article 8. Non-Kuwaiti husbands of Kuwaiti women are of course as shit out of luck as their children. Tomorrow we’ll put all your different nationalities up and play discrimination and privilege bingo.

Of course the narrow legal view is an oversimplification. It doesn’t take into consideration all the cool nonofficial discrimination. The discrimination on the basis of Country and Region of Origin, Arab vs. Persian Ancestry, Sunni vs. Shiite, Tribe, Class, and Family Connections. And of course the universal, Skin Color. Oh how about Religious School of Thought or you know, Preferred Brand of Toothpaste. You know we don’t marry our girls to Colgate guys; they’re just not our kind of people.

Now how non-Kuwaitis are treated like they’re subhuman is a whole ‘nother thing. The attitudes of some people are just, god *sickening* is not strong enough a word. There is of course a whole class/region/race distinction to that too. The discrimination against Arabs is of course different than that against Non-Arabs is *extremely* different to that against Southeast Asians. The discrimination against Moneyed Arabs is different from that towards non-Moneyed Arabs. Don’t even get me started on the treatment of unskilled laborers and domestic help as if they’re a legalized form of slavery or how those discriminated against turn around and do the same to everyone else. After all, racism and bigotry comes in all sorts of fun flavors too!

I started this post with a preface about the Racefail 09 debate because I was going to write some fiction that was a little less whitewashed than my usual. In fact I though I was headed that way until about three paragraphs into the post. Sorry, it seems my indignation has once again hijacked my brain. Hopefully, I’ll have something a little less Ranty McSoapbox next time. Honestly, remember when my post used to be *fun*? Yeah, neither do I.

For more on Racefail 09 go Here and Here.

For more on the articles of the Kuwaiti Citizenship Laws go Here. Sorry it’s in Arabic, I couldn’t find a decent English version. The Google translation was sadly inadequate.

What I'm Listening to Right Now: The Only Living Boy in New York - Simon & Garfunkel

Monday, 9 March 2009

It Speaks

So I’ve been away from the blogosphere for a good while now. A lot has happened. Some good, some bad. Holidays, trips, births, deaths, all the stuff that makes life what it is. My writing skills feel rusty as hell, and I’m not sure I’m fully comfortable in returning to expressing myself in the written form yet. I would have waited until I came back to it naturally, but something came up about which I could not hold my peace.

See, they’re something you need to know about the vulnerability of being queer in this region. If we’re outed, we can lose everything. They’re nothing anyone can do to defend us. We have absolutely no rights. None. Zero.

So as you might guess, we have to be careful about how we live our lives. Because every time we come out to someone we are placing our lives and everything we value in their hands. Scary as hell? You betcha. So why don’t we keep our mouths shut and try to live our lives as best we can in the safety of a lie? Because living a lie that immense means that we might as well not be living. Sometimes, just so you can breathe once in a while, you have to find people you trust enough to say the truth.

Then again sometimes you’re just too young/stupid/horny/arrogant to be careful. And it comes back to bite you in the ass. Apparently that’s what happened to local national football player Fahad Al-Rashidi. The boy was either stupid in love/lust or just plain stupid when he allowed some guy to capture with on a cellphone camera giving what I have to say was a truly awkward blowjob.

When I came across the aforementioned video I hoped and prayed for the unlikely event that it wouldn’t spread like wildfire. I clung to that hope until my teenage sister came home from school with this month’s salacious piece of gossip. Fahad Al-Rashidi was getting kicked off the national team for being gay, and that’s why he didn’t play in our game against Australia. This article here only confirms that he has ‘asked’ to be ‘temporarily excused’ from the team for ‘personal reason’ which makes it more like he’s nipping off for a quick trip to the gents than anything.

So yeah because a twenty four year old guy decided to think with his smaller head, his life as he knows it is virtually over. All because there’s visual proof that he has a liking for dick. (Quel Horror.) We already know he lost his job, since he was apparently a pro footballer, even was on loan to a Saudi team for a while. I wonder how many friends he’ll get to keep, how many family members. How many anything.

I’m sorry Fahad. I’m sorry the people you trusted weren’t deserving of that trust. I’m sorry that we live in a world where homophobia runs rampant. I’m sorry we live in a country where you might get arrested on top of everything else that’s happened or will happen to you. I’m sorry I haven’t done more for a course that’s yours and mine and a countless number of others’. Most of all, I’m sorry that writing this article is all I can do for you.