- About: British Chinese poet, writer and broadcaster Anna Chen
- On the radio
- Arts Reviews
- The Steampunk Opium Wars
- Foot and Mouth Campaign
- RSC The Orphan of Zhao controversy
- A Bad Case of the Trots
- Reaching for my Gnu: poetry
- Print Room protest: In the Depths of Dead Love chronology
- Poetry Live!
- Yellow Peril Orientalism
Sunday, 27 April 2014
Looking forward to seeing Class War liven up the general election. "Because all the other candidates are SCUM!" With very few exceptions, I'd say they were cutting with the overall mood.
If you don't like the sentiment, then make sure your candidate does their job, represents their constituency, protects the rights of their voters rather than the rich and basically does NOT behave like scum.
Anarchist Ian Bone is standing in Lewisham West and Penge in 2015.
Friday, 25 April 2014
Anna Chen performs poetry for the YW8 launch at The Proud Archivist in east London tomorrow.
I'll be doing some of the funnier poetry.
It's a new arts centre on the Regents Canal just off Kingland Road, near where I was born and raised, a po' Chinese Brit gurl in deepest Hackney. Although the gig is billed as Shoreditch.
The Proud Archivist, 2-10 Hertford Rd, N1 5ET
Show starts 8.30pm, Saturday 26 April 2014. In these austere times you'll be delighted to know it's free entry. Woot!
Doors open at 8.30pm with the acts running from 9pm till 10pm. We're excited to have the amazingly talented Anna Chen (otherwise known as Madam Miaow) read some of her poetry to kick off the evening, which will be hosted by the versatile Siu-See Hung of the London Actors' Hub.
Other acts for our launch include: William Seaward, Matthew Lim, Jade Ho and Andrew Arasaratnam.
A free standing open-mic will run after the program ends, so feel free to stay till late and perhaps do a little performance of your own.
So now you know. See you there.
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
BRITISH EAST ASIAN ARTISTS
PRESS RELEASE 23RD APRIL 2014
British East Asian Artists congratulate Somi Guha for winning an apology from the BBC over racism
Doubts remain about contradictory BBC statement
The British East Asian Artists group (BEAA) are supporting actor Somi Guha's formal complaint to the BBC for the broadcast of racist material and are delighted to see that this has resulted today in an apology from Top Gear's Executive Producer, Andy Wilman. A broadcast is a service and it is unlawful to produce racist services.
The trigger for Ms Guha's case was an exchange on the BBC's Top Gear Burma Special programme where, filming in Thailand, a native person on the bridge was referred to as a "slope", a term used by American GIs in Vietnam for the Indo-Chinese people being killed in their own country in the 1960s and 70s, and which evokes the full horror of that brutal period.
However, in a contradictory statement issued today, Wilman claims: "When we used the word ‘slope’ in the recent Top Gear Burma Special it was a light-hearted word play joke referencing both the build quality of the bridge and the local Asian man who was crossing it." And yet he also states: "We were not aware at the time, and it has subsequently been brought to our attention, that the word ‘slope’ is considered by some to be offensive."
We await clarification as to whether they knew and were joking, or did not know and were not making a joke. Our inference is that the apology is less than fulsome and that Ms Guha and her lawyer Lawrence Davies shouldn't lay down their arms just yet.
Ms Guha says in her statement:
"I have taken a stand against the broadcasting of racist slurs in the name of 1950s school boy humour by raising a complaint to the BBC through Lawrence Davies, the director of Equal Justice who is dedicated to fighting discrimination.
"I am an actress of Indian origin. I have grown up both in the UK and in the US and have dual citizenship. The way I describe myself is 'A brown-skinned American of Indian origin with a British accent'.
"I have influences from different backgrounds, as do so many people today. Although the 'slope' slur is not necessarily targeted at those from my background, it makes no difference. The point is that it is targeting someone based on their racial heritage and this was broadcast, which legally violates the Equality Act.
"If this matter had gone to court and we'd won, all proceeds would have gone entirely to the Stephen Lawrence Trust and the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust (the Bethnal Green tube disaster of 1943 where 173 people were crushed to death while trying to enter the air raid shelter at Bethnal Green Tube).
"All old institutions wish to carry on their practices unchallenged, but there comes a time when people say, 'Enough is enough!'."
The BEAA group has felt moved by Ms Guha's solidarity and courage in pursuing this action out of principle. It was not her racial origins that came in for such dehumanisation from the BBC and we acknowledge and commend her spirit of humanism and internationalism which crosses racial boundaries.
We are pleased to see others who are concerned supporting her, such as the Left Unity party and Chinese for Labour, and we hope that anyone similarly alarmed by the rising level of casual racism in British society stands with her to challenge it.
We expect that producers of the Top Gear series, which is the BBC's most profitable export, will have cut the offending "slope" comment from the American version, presumably because they know that this would not play at all well.
The Top Gear presenter's use of racism as entertainment is not an aberration. A recent anti-Mexican rant was deeply shocking. Jeremy Clarkson's dehumanising comments about the 23 dead Chinese cocklepickers at Morecambe Bay were grotesque.
We hope that this incident marks a speedy exit point for Top Gear, a BBC dinosaur that has become an embarassment well past its sell-by date by several decades.
For further information, please contact Lawrence Davies at Equal Justice Solicitors who represent Somi Guha (AKA Somi de Souza).
Bloomsbury House, 4 Bloomsbury Square, WC1A 2RL
NOTES TO EDITORS
1) British East Asian Artists (BEAA)
The BEAA group was formed out of the Royal Shakespeare Company's The Orphan of Zhao casting controversy: http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/p/rsc-orphan-of-zhao.html
BEAA Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BEAArtists
BEAA Twitter: https://twitter.com/BEAsianArtists
2) This case is also being supported by Left Unity.
3) Chinese for Labour
4) Please see the links below for newspaper articles:
Even the Radio Times is looking askance at Top Gear.
Salman Shaheen talks to Somi Guha about her legal action in the Huffington Post.
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
Bessie Smith, "Empress of the Blues"
Today live at 5pm on Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge, Resonance 104.4FM, Charles Shaar Murray concludes his Guide to the Blues with Part 3, The Women of the Blues.
Presented by Anna Chen with Charles Shaar Murray.
Guest: Sarah Gillespie.
Today's final Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge of the series wraps with Charles Shaar Murray's Guide to the Blues Part 3: The Women of the Blues.
Singer, songwriter and fine artist Sarah Gillespie joins Anna Chen and Charles Shaar Murray to look at the history of the Blues, its dominance by women in the early years, and the current resurgence of female artists. From Jim Crow laws, the cotton fields and abject poverty in the former Confederate Southern states to the promise of the big cities, these women not only rose to the top of a major western musical genre, they helped create it.
Featuring tracks by Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Clara Smith, Big Mama Thornton, Etta James and more.
Listen live (click on the Resonance FM widget in the sidebar) or afterwards online.
Full set of Madam Miaow on Resonance FM.
Sunday, 20 April 2014
"Just be advised, boys ... You'll want to watch your step, 'cause what I am is, is like a small-diameter pearl of the Orient rolling around the floor of late capitalism — lowlifes of all income levels may step on me now and then but if they do it'll be them who slip and fall and on a good day break their ass, while the ol' pearl herself just goes a-rollin' on."
From Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
Monday, 14 April 2014
China's science and cultural contributions on Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge, Resonance FM. Live 5pm Tuesday.
Tomorrow live at 5pm on Resonance 104.4FM, Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge looks at China's cultural and scientific contributions and inventions. Guests: Elizabeth Lawrence and Paul Anderson.
Presented by Anna Chen. Charles Shaar Murray rides shotgun.
Tomorrow's Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge is themed around China's cultural and scientific contributions to the west from inventions such as the seed drill, hydraulics, the iron plough, the horse harness and gunpowder to music performance. Paul Anderson takes us through the historical political upheavals that have returned China to top position as the world's leading technoculture. Elizabeth Lawrence talks about Chinese contributions in western music. (Musique Concréte is postponed).
Listen live (click on the Resonance FM widget in the sidebar) or afterwards online.
Full set of Madam Miaow on Resonance FM.
Saturday, 12 April 2014
Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) artists demand representation that reflects British SocietyLast February, the British East Asian Artists wrote an open letter to broadcasters and culture minister Ed Vaizey about the pitiful almost non-existent representation of east Asians in the media despite being the third largest minority in Britain. Vaizey, who had been holding round-table discussions with black actors, including Lenny Henry about continued exclusion, immediately wrote back inviting us to participate in future round-table discussions.
British East Asian actor Daniel York followed up with a powerful piece on the racial pecking order and structural inequality in British theatre and television in which he quotes American sociologist David T Wellman numbering the "culturally sanctioned strategies for defending social advantage based on race”.
In every political and cultural sphere in Britain, Black, Asian and Mixed Ethnic (BAME) people are excluded (see my last post with an illustration of this dynamic in action).
Yesterday, I went to the well-attended Diaspora Equality in Music round-table discussion chaired by Rt Honourable David Lammy MP for Tottenham at the House of Commons.
Sixty or so people (mostly from the Black community) listened to Diaspora founder, Rose Nunu, lay out her objective of trying to ensure that BAME is at the heart of the music industry. "The Diversity landscape is not diverse," she said, requesting recommendations to change the landscape.
One startling figure she gave was that, while the UK music industry employs more than 100,000 people and generates £3.8 billion a year, 95.7 per cent of its workforce is white. At the current rate of loss, its questionable whether there will be any BAME representation in the music industry by 2020. The music industry is more fragmented now than at any time in the past 10 years.
Various lines of action were explored with a strong vocal presence from the business end aiming at increasing the workforce.
Beverley Mason FRSA said there had been a decrease in BAME representation since 2011. (This reminded me of Caitlin Moran telling an audience that the majority of pop artists are now privately educated, nudging out the working classes from one of their few conduits of social mobility.)
However, Mason reeled off a list of figures showing how diversity was a reality factor in the cold light of economics: as the market place becomes more global and competitive, companies actually benefit from being inclusive, She said, "Diversity has to be embedded in the culture. It is a mindset, not an add-on to the budget like tea and biscuits."
The advantages include fresh sources of creativity and problem solving from new perspectives. Varied cultural background and life experience reward companies and organisations that embrace change. It takes good leadership to implement diversity and inclusivity but, as I've witnessed on the political left and in the arts, the white privately educated establishment have a vested interest in keeping out those BAME sources.
David Lammy said, "We get fantastic music because different music from across continents come together." Hybrids are always healthier than a mono-culture for all concerned. Despite Lammy having previously been Minister for Culture, "No-one from the BBC's phoned me up asking me to be on the board. I'm available."
When one speaker told of her tribulations getting one night of the Proms devoted to gospel for the first time but which was then dropped as a regular event, Lammy expressed the room's disappointment. "One night in a whole Prom season? This is unlike the US experience where the 40 per cent BAME presence is a permanent fixture. What would it be like if there was 10 years of that inclusion, and not just one?"
BAME makes up 40 per cent of London's population. Politics, the music industry and the arts trail behind even the Metropolitan Police in terms of numbers. In the legal profession, BAME representation stands at over 10 per cent. It is an alarming set of figures that needs to be addressed.
It was pointed out to cheers, that the music is diverse but the money and power behind it isn't. A speaker from the floor said, "The music industry is in the toilet," and urged musicians, "Don't work for a record company. Get seed-funding, set up your own companies, start an industry."
This was a fine as far as it went but I was soon getting the impression of small outfits scrambling around and manoeuvering on the Titanic while the ship goes down.
So it was interesting to hear another perspective from a speaker arguing that they needed support for those who already exist.
"We have a culture of diversity. We are scrapping for different corners while young people are dying. It's a culture and community that won't support itself. There hasn't been action at a movement level since Soul to Soul. We need to bridge the gap between commerce and community. There are larger and deeper issues, and those with power should be held to account until we see tangible results."
It remains to be seen whether music can be transformed into a channel of social change for the good. Will the corner of the industry as discussed here be challenging the power that relegates BAME to a resented add-on, or joining it in an unholy scrum for the advantage of individuals? Are we, as has happened in left politics, building a new establishment within the establishment? The debate is well under way.
Friday, 4 April 2014
Pic: Anna and Laurie when we were both shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. (Neither of us won.)
Eurasia? Or Erasure. The misuse of agenda: politics as entertainment and a schtick to beat up the upstarts.
Was it something I said?
In an argument about the exclusion of women of colour from the British left, politics, the media and public debate, [five days after I appealed to her regarding the Trevor McDonald piece on BME exclusion regarding the Lenny Henry-led campaign], Laurie Penny revealed in the following Facebook spat that, after one emotional phone call a year ago, she'd decided to exclude me from the political debate (I believe this is called "no-platforming" and was already under way prior to the phone call). But didn't bother to tell me.
Hence my omission from her subsequent New Statesman piece, Where are the real outsiders in New Media (sic) specifically dealing with east Asian women in politics and the media.
So: a working-class woman of colour who has been active in raising awareness of progressive British politics is excluded from participation by a white Oxbridge "left-wing" writer purporting to stand up for the oppressed. "So what?" you may ask. However, in the meantime, she enables some of the same white male apparatchiks who helped drive the left into a brick wall, leaving behind little more than tangled wreckage.
Result: a messy but telling collision of race, gender and class interests. Let's tug on a couple of loose ends and see what unravels.
While Laurie cites one emotional phone call a year previously as a pretext for my persona non grata status, she has declined to address the subject of the conversation or even tackle why I was so distressed. And no wonder. It was a specific response to her New Statesman article on the SWP split a few days after the rape allegations became public when Socialist Unity published the kangaroo court transcript on 7th January 2013.
I'd been challenging the growing culture of abuse in the SWP over years and been given the Scientology "fair game" treatment by these same chaps — her friends — for doing so. I was shocked to read that she was rewriting the role of one of the very hacks who had been a key enabler of that same vicious SWP culture of abuse which had culminated in the SWP's rape implosion. She'd already validated another hardliner on various platforms and in print, presenting them as heroes of the hour rather than part of the problem, whereas they had themselves been eager protectors of the machine and collaborators in the crushing of dissent until they jumped ship when the transcript was published.
This was no balanced critique of the circumstances leading to the SWP crisis. It was a skewing, in the liberal press, of the narrative through omission, and by filtering in favour of the same power balance: in this case largely white male Oxbridge, privately educated and aspiring elite.
As has been extensively argued, the rapes did not exist in isolation, but were part of a degenerating culture of abuse that had been allowed to fester.
This mindset remains intact.
For any socialist seriously intent on building a better society it is vital to guard against cult behaviour but in the SWP this was a lonely task.
I'd been consistently sounding the alarm on seriously destructive behaviour since 2001 and publicly whistle-blowing since 2003. Who could forget "gay rights are no longer a shibboleth", or the claims of a 10,000-strong membership which I discovered to be actually only a fraction of that number when I saw the print-outs? Refusing sectarian instructions from the SWP leadership to character assassinate non-SWP members of the Socialist Alliance, I really set them off. Considering that Laurie was aware of some of this abuse — for example, on a direct personal level, the exclusion and exploitation concerning my unpaid work over several years for the UK left (including for her friends' causes and personally for one in particular) and the subsequent monstering I received from those protecting the machine — I'd say this was as good an illustration of what we're up against as you're likely to get. Some might detect a hint of spite rather than solidarity.
While the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the American civil rights movement and Rock Against Racism in Britain show that white people can embrace and fight alongside their oppressed fellow human beings, there's a whole history of white cultural and political appropriation of the struggles of people of colour, and their concomitent erasure from the resulting narrative. It's even more gobsmacking when the perps purport to be on your side. The results are astonishing.
This whole episode has raised ugly memories of working full-time for no pay for several years, going into debt (which I'm still paying off), in order to ensure that the left causes Laurie and her friends support had a presence in the media. It took a working-class woman of colour to introduce skills from outside the far-left bubble by establishing and running the STWC press operation to turn it around over the 18 months following 9/11 leading to the big anti-war protest in London in 2003. Then there was the key publicity work I did out of solidarity — again for no pay — for one of Laurie's fellow white Oxbridge coterie which broke him into the public eye. And its ostracising consequences.
Feminists are supposed to protect their sisters from the forces of patriarchy, not feed them to it.
"Culturally sanctioned strategies for defending social advantage based on race.”
I am expected to placidly embrace my exclusion and erasure over years. Be docile and submissive; don't argue, don't fight back; be part Asian doll, part coolie-labour. That is unhealthy and corrosive. It's years of "self-deprecation" and "humility" that got me walked over by Laurie's mates in the first place and it's one of the devices used to keep you silent and in your place.
This must be challenged.
Women aren't allowed to be angry or finally get to stand up for themselves after years of exploitation. And that goes double if you're a woman of colour. Triple if you're from Hackney. Well, I am angry. Bloody angry. So there. With brass knobs on.
As Laurie herself writes in her New Statesman piece:
First, the media misrepresents, throws out lazy stereotypes that perpetuate oppression. And then it shuts us out, denying us a voice, allowing us to speak only as token demographic representatives rather than as reporters, writers, authors, columnists, critics. The media is an industry that produces culture, and both of those elements need taking apart and ramming back together in a way that works for more of us who actually create and consume it. [Italics mine]
Or as she writes in an end flourish on the subject of pits and pubes, "It’s about how silent you’re prepared to be in the face of social injustice."
However, words have to mean something. I would urge anyone interested in the political dynamic of how exclusion works to look beyond lip-service, beyond jargon spouted like broken software and into rhetoric versus action.
There's a section of the left that styles itself as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, but watch what they actually do (and cover up) and you see they're actually Cato, Glimmer and the other Careers, even down to hunting in packs.
In an interesting BBC World Service debate about the Top Gear racism row, there were some pertinent observations: the target wasn't "in" on the joke, which was cowardly and bullying. There's no-one visibly of colour on the show. It was recognised that east Asians are easier to target because we are perceived as quieter and passive and are rendered invisible in British culture. One speaker numbered these jokes as "the arrogance of racial entitlement," that "racism is not over" and that discrimination continues.
There is a further political dimension to this. In the late 1990s, the SWP had one analysis that I valued. They predicted that Tony Blair would be so right-wing and betray the Labour electorate to such a degree that there would be a mass exodus of Labour supporters, leaving a dangerous vacuum which the right would fill.
It was vital to build a left alternative. Our vehicle for this was the Socialist Alliance (SA) which brought together many of the groups on the left plus assorted independents and refugees from New Labour. As my part in the project, I fought to propel a strong and revitalised left into the media and the public consciousness.
We then saw how the SWP leadership and their hacks destroyed the SA in order to follow various hare-brained get-rich-quick schemes, such as Respect and other assorted splinters which have similarly come to nothing. This situation now leaves us dangerously adrift in the rising tide of reaction. We had over a decade to create a leftwing alternative and now we have nothing, thanks in part to some of the very characters Laurie is promoting.
As with her exhortation to vote Lib Dem in 2010 when we were pointing out "Vote Lib Dem, get Tory", their political judgement is questionable. Don't blindly follow Judas goats into disaster. Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Sharpen up your critical faculties and rebuild.
(Oh, by the way, constantly quoting from writers of colour once you've been rumbled just looks like a desperate bid to save the "brand".)
FACEBOOK Friday 4th April 2014
about an hour ago
[EDIT: this is Laurie's latest piece not just about outsiders, but the experience of east Asian women in the media and politics. My experience is a vivid example of what happens to women and women of colour on the left but it transpires that the parties involved are to be protected.]
Anna Chen: Laurie Penny, if only you would acknowledge actual real-life flesh and blood women of colour struggling in the left and bringing progressive issues into the media. I've lost count of the times I've sent you links and asked that you raise awareness of precisely those activities you say you wish for (such as earlier this week) to no avail. Rendering those of us doing this work invisible (and inaudible) while striking heroic poses on our behalf is unattractive and unhelpful. It's lovely of you to speak on our behalf — it would be even nicer if you helped gain us a platform to speak for ourselves instead of burying us even deeper. Or at least publicly acknowledge the fact that some of us already exist. http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/p/o-radio.html
Anna Chen: Here's another one you steadfastly refuse to acknowledge while writing about poor minorities in the abstract: http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/.../why-is-left-failing...
LP: Anna, the reason I don't promote your stuff more is not because you're a woman of colour, it's because last year you screamed at me for an hour down the phone and I'm wary of engaging with you.
[EDIT: It should be noted that the phone call LP cites as the excuse for her ostracism was about … her ostracism of me, which was already well under way by then. She'd written a piece about abuse of women in the SWP at the time of the rape allegations and the walk-out, ignored the well-documented account of how it happens written by a woman to whom it happened — unless rape of one's labour and other creepy behaviour doesn't count — and then ... cited positively one of the white Oxbridge SWP males who'd been party to the perpetuation of that abuse. She legitimised an abuser, also shutting up a woman of colour, a woman of the left, whilst refusing to be challenged on it or even discuss it.]
LP: I promote the work of a great many women of colour, have promoted your work in the past, and I think you're a great writer.
Anna Chen: It's a matter of principle, Laurie. It's if you think the work deserves an airing. I'm so sorry I was upset by the exploiting abusive behaviour of some of your white male pals who you DO promote and was clearly distressed and in tears. Thanks sistah.
Anna Chen: White left woman acting as gatekeeper. So what's new?
LP: I'm sorry, Anna, and again, I respect your work a great deal. You were clearly upset, but you seemed to think that made it okay to literally yell down the phone for a very long time, late at night, whilst I was also distressed. I listened. I am listening now.
LP: I'm confused - do you or do you not want me to act as a gatekeeper? Is your problem that I'm not promoting YOUR work, or that I'm just promoting the work of the wrong women of colour? That article quotes two women of colour [Ed: both American and America-based] whose work I find definitive on this topic.
Anna Chen: Sorry, I thought you were listening then.
Anna Chen: At thie risk of repeating myself, this: http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/.../why-is-left-failing...
LP: I am listening and trying to make sense of this, and I think everyone with a platform in media has a duty to promote the voices of people of colour. What that duty does not involved is allowing particular people to be as vile as they like to you personally and then letting them tell you what you should and should not promote. Sorry.
Anna Chen: I wasn't "vile" to you, Laurie, although do go ahead and twist it to save face. I thought I was crying on the shoulder of a sistah who was aware of what happened. I was trying to work out why you've been promoting people who were oppressing me and this is vile?
LP: I don't know what piece of that article you're referring to. But, as I said at the time, I thought this - http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/.../ethnically-cleansing...- was excellent and it had me punching the air.
Ethnically cleansing working class history: my Guardian article | Madam Miaow Says
LP: No, Anna, you weren't crying on my shoulder, you were haranguing me and accusing me of things I didn't do.
Anna Chen: Would have been nice if you'd said so about my piece at the time. If one phone call where I was clearly distressed after years of abuse can turn you so fast and so easily then I can only conclude it's an excuse. Becaue I don;t think you are as frail as you make out. about an hour ago
LP: Your issue was that I quoted someone with whom you have fraught history, who you're saying exploited your work and ideas. I appreciate that that was difficult for you, which I didn't intend, and I listened, but I didn't deserve the subsequent extended period of yelling. And as for 'I don't think you are as frail as you make out' - you have no idea about my mental health, so please don't speculate.
LP: Anna - I believe I did say so about your piece at the time - I tweeted it, IIRC. If I didn't that's my oversight and I apologise. But this isn't a deliberate conspiracy on my part to shut you out of this conversation.
LP: I don't control this conversation, I just write about these issues because they're important, like you do.
Anna Chen: You made a decision to exclude the only east Asian woman fighting the fight — you just said so above, This is the same old story of a white Oxbridge person deciding who gets seen and heard … and who doesn't. You are part of the problem, not the solution, Laurie.
LP: Um, what about Julia Carrie Wong, who I refer to and quote extensively in that article, who is East Asian, and definitely fighting that fight?
LP: What about Suey Park, who I also refer to in the piece, or any of the many other East Asian women writing and campaigning wonderfully about race, gender and media? about an hour ago
LP: Did you actually read the article, or did you just check whether you were mentioned or not? about an hour ago
Anna Chen: No, I saw those names, including Suey Park who I have already defended on the BEAA page. This, after I'd previously brought your attention to the fact that minorities in the media is a live issue earlier this week at my FB page. But there you go again deciding who exists among women of colour.
LP: Anna, it wasn't you who brought my attention to that fact - like I say in the piece, I've been inspired to write this piece by Julia Carrie Wong, Zeynep Tupfeci, Suey Park and others over the past several weeks. I'm not 'deciding who exists among women of colour', I'm deciding, as I decided the first time you screamed at me, that engaging with you is not something I should be doing for the good of my own mental health. I will continue to respect your work and to promote it, but not because I've been ordered to on pain of another denouncing, but because I think that despite being personally horrible to me, you are a great writer with important things to say.
Anna Chen: It's gone from yelling to screaming, Laurie. Make up your mind. G'wan, ratchet up all the excuse you need for your behaviour. And, of course, your mental health is the one that counts. As they say, check your privilege.
LP: You did both, Anna. And I don't need to excuse my behavior - I haven't done anything I'm ashamed of, apart from stand up for myself.
Anna Chen: Funny, that's what I thought I was doing … Standing up for myself. Even funnier: some people seem to be allowed to stand up for themselves … and others aren't.
LP: I don't believe you've been attacked, Anna. Have you? I thought the issue was that I hadn't included you in an article you thought you deserved to be included in.
LP: The reasons for that are: your work isn't what inspired me to write the piece, and I'm hary of engaging with you anyway because of the way you have treated me in the past and the way you continue to treat me.
Anna Chen: One phone call, Laurie, is sparse to put it mildly. But suddenly it becomes an entire campaign. Not attacked? Tell that to ACTUAL people of colour struggling in the media and in the left.
LP: Which is consistently rude, aggressive and invasive - like right now, with these spurious attacks on my private Facebook wall. I'm sorry the white male left treated you like shit, I truly am, but it isn't my responsibility to stand here and let you take that out on me, when I have not personally done anything to hurt you, and when I try hard all the time to check my privilege and promote women of colour.
Anna Chen: There I go standing up for myself again. BAD ethnic. You cosied up and continue to cosy up to the people who were attacking me, the people who were oppressing me and I'm supposed to say, aw, how cute? I wonder if Julia Carrie Wong and Suey Park know you're excluding a woman activist of colour in their name?
LP: I'm not excluding you, Anna, I just didn't mention you.
LP: I don't believe that writing one article means I'm suddenly setting the entire agenda for this conversation. And no, 'standing up for yourself', like 'being distressed', are not synonyms or excuses for the horrible way you've behaved in the past. You were clearly having a hard time, so I just drew a line under it and decided not to engage any more. I don't know at this point what you'd have me do differently.
Jack: This exchange, while non of my business, does remind me of when people gang up on Noam Chomsky for supposedly gatekeeping because he failed to give them a shout out or write a thesis on their particular pet subject/person/issue.
Anna Chen: Yas'm! *tugs forelock* LOL, sophistry for what you already said was a deliberate decision to exclude ... "the reason I don't promote your stuff".
LP: That's the reason I don't promote your stuff all the time in general, though I do sometimes. The reason I didn't promote you this time is I didn't draw on your work as a primary source, but on several other women writers of colour.
LP: And please stop it. I'm not asking you to tug your forelock. You're being unbelievably childish.
Anna Chen: Jack, when someone is as vocal about these issues as Laurie and then proceeds to do the same thing she purports to be criticising, then I think that requires a deeper exploration than simply taking it at face value. It's not about "promoting my stuff", it's about being honest about the actual debate and not pretending it isn't going on with real people.
Anna Chen: I live this stuff, Laurie. You're just playing with it.
LP: Which I'm doing. Just not with you, because I personally believe, and I think a lot of writers and campaigners would agree with me, that this issue is not all about you, Anna Chen
LP: No, fuck that, Anna, I may have white privilege but I experience sexism in the media every day, I live a great deal of what I'm writing about here whilst acknowledging that others have it worse. Do NOT come on to my private FB and accuse me of just 'playing' with an issue that affects my entire life as well as the lives of those many, many people I love.
Anna Chen: And you're going out of your way to make it not about me in any way, shape or form, even as you are decrying the lack of women of colour in the left and in the media.
LP: ...well, it ISN'T all about you.
Anna Chen: Wow, Laurie, queen of "me-me-me". You made a decision after one distressed phone call to render my work on the left invisible while decrying our invisibility, happily coinciding with your dealings with the same white males on the left who dished it out. And you can't see that?
Anna Chen: Again: http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/.../why-is-left-failing...
LP: "Laurie, queen of "me-me-me"" - um this is my FB wall.
Charles Shaar Murray: Last time you and Anna met (at The Hovel) you had the grace to be embarrassed. Glad to see you've done such a good job of getting over it.
LP: Embarrassed? I was unnerved to see someone who had so recently given me such a pile of grief on the phone in my own house without expecting it.
Charles Shaar Murray: RETCON.
LP: The fuck?
LP: Please don't gaslight me Charles Shaar Murray.
Anna Chen: Google is your friend.
LP: Right, you two know better than me what I was feeling at a particular moment in the past.
LP: This has officially crossed the line from ridiculous to creepy. Please both of you get off my Facebook wall. Find someone else to scapegoat, or don't, but either way, do not contact me again.
Anna Chen: The line you have taken here has as much verité as your response to Greg Palast when he told you what he witnessed between me and your friend when he was in the SWP. Imagine my surprise to learn that you pretended not to have known about the events. How sisterly is that?
LP: I did no such thing. I said I didn't and couldn't know precisely what went on at the time because I was not there.
LP: I am unfriending you; please don't contact me again.
MEANWHILE ... in another part of the Facebook forest ...
LP: 45 mutual friends
I said that after a phonecall A YEAR AGO in which you yelled at me for an hour, I decided not to engage with you anymore. I didn't decide in advance to 'exclude' you from an article I didn't know I'd be writing. You're twisting the facts, and you'll probably delete this comment, but please don't outright lie.
Anna Chen: People can read the entire thread and make up their own minds. Talking of lying, it wasn't me who urged people to vote for the LibDems at the last election and then claimed on TV that they hadn't voted for them … Unless you told people to do what you had no intention of doing yourself. You wouldn't do that ... would you, Laurie?
I told the exact truth. You're behaving appallingly right now. I've asked you not to contact me again, please stop.
Let's rewind to the beginning of the week ...
Anna Chen shared a link 31st March
I may do a great job making occasional radio programmes for the BBC once in a blue moon. I may make a good fist of making stimulating radio series for Resonance FM. I may be have been "the best press officer in the country" according to Paul Foot. I may be different, add diversity and offer an intelligent progressive perspective, but I still can't get a look-in when it comes to BME representation and a paid job in the media. (Tagged) Paul Mason Owen Jones Laurie Penny http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/mar/31/sir-trevor-mcdonald-warns-risk-apartheid-media
LP: · 45 mutual friends
Am I tagged in this so I can share it?
31 March at 22:52
Anna Chen: Do you think it should be shared?
31 March at 22:52
LP: · 45 mutual friends
Yes, I was just wondering.
31 March at 22:53
Anna Chen: Laurie, you often have things to say about BME and women and solidarity and all that, as do others in the media. I just wondered, too, if you had any thoughts on what I wrote.
31 March at 23:18
Owen Jones: Cheers for this. I spoke at a BAFTA event the other week, and the audience was incandescent at the institutional racism of TV, radio, the media etc. Actors, producers, and so on shared their experiences, and I left far more educated than when I was arrived, but the anger really impressed me - made me think there's surely a basis for organising this and launching a campaign to challenge it?
1 April at 09:05
Anna Chen: Thanks, Owen. Absolutely. The British East Asian Artists went into battle over the shameful way the RSC continued the archaic practice of yellowface casting. We wrote to Ed Vaizey after he'd pledged to do something about lack of non-white faces, and he's responded positively. Letter exchange at this page: http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/p/rsc-orphan-of-zhao.html
LP: · 45 mutual friends
I didn't write about this, though, this is about New Media and doesn't mention Trevor McDonald.
3 hours ago
Laurie didn't have any thoughts. Neither did she share. But she did write the New Statesman piece about the exclusion of people like me … who she just happens to exclude.
Some background to this story.
The fall of the SWP: Edward Platt in New Statesman.
BAME artists take the diversity debate into Parliament.
Sometimes the sisters ain't sisters.
When a real sister shows principled solidarity: Somi Guha challenges BBC Top Gear's casual racism by Jeremy Clarkson.
People of colour aren't supposed to express anger over issues of race and discrimination. "And so, appropriately goaded into a response, like a sleepy bear who has had its belly prodded once too many times with a spitefully sharp stick, here I am.": Musa Okwonga on Jeremy Clarkson's use of the N-word.
Harpy Marx writes
Angry Asian Woman Suey Park writing on Colbert: @Suey_Park A founder of Hashtag: #NotYourAsianSidekick
Fascinasians Juliet Shen, another founder of the Hashtag: #NotYourAsianSidekick
Julia Carrie Wong in The Nation: A very serious problem with very serious journalism
Playwright Jingan Young on the docile, submissive Asian woman stereotype.
A clear analysis and a sharp view of the terrain: Twittersecionalists and the commodification of dissent.
Native Species on the new ruling class in the leftish social media and an imagined bourgeois utopia.
British East Asian Artists
There are serious consequences for not humanising minorities through representation.
Laurie Penny's Twitter response.
Wednesday, 2 April 2014
A wonderfully clever short film made of St Ives in Cornwall, superimposing old black and white shots of the same views, made by Alban Roinard of St Eia Films and posted by St Ives Films.
St Ives is where I often do all my best poetry and music performances for the May Literature and September Arts Festivals with Charles Shaar Murray and friends, and I know it well. So it's fascinating to see my old haunts as they were a century or more ago.
Also a must-see for anyone familiar with the town and Porthmeor Beach, here's The Boilers of the Alba.
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
Charles Shaar Murray visits Chalkie Davies at Snap Gallery at his rock photography exhibition in London
The great rock photographer Chalkie Davies was reunited with his old NME mucker, the great music journalist Charles Shaar Murray, when we visited him at his exhibition at London's Snap Gallery last week.
All the photographs evoke the age of the Clash, the Sex Pistols, David Bowie and Mick Ronson, Blondie, The Specials whose Jerry Dammers is a bona fide genius, he tells us. Many are iconic. Ian Dury stares at his teeth in the dentist's mirror. A large print in three sections of David Byrne catches your eye and fixes it (1981). Johnny Rotten in handsome profile as if he can't be bothered to acknowledge your existence like all good punks, stares off camera at more important matters than your humble presence: a cat may look at a king. And then there's THAT Sid and Nancy photograph. Doomed lovers in the bathroom — where else?
Charles and I took some pix of Chalkie at the Gallery.
Not the first, though. Here's the one I took of Chalkie standing behind Keith Moon (who's wearing my Vivienne Westwood customised leather jacket) in younger days.
Restaging Revolutions: alternative theatre on Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge tonight 5pm, Resonance 104.4FM
Tonight live at 5pm on Resonance 104.4FM, Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge's guests are Dr Susan Croft and Neil Hornick of The Phantom Captain theatre company.
Presented by Anna Chen. Charles Shaar Murray rides shotgun.
The alternative theatre movement in Britain was a post-war explosion of talent and ideas that took theatre to the masses in the two decades from 1968. Dr Susan Croft, curator of the Restaging Revolutions exhibition currently on at Holborn Library, talks about this rich cultural period with Neil Hornick, veteran of the movement in his role as founding member and director of The Phantom Captain theatre company.
With clips from The Phantom Captain's productions.
Unfinished Histories website — a great resource for the period.
Listen live (click on the Resonance FM widget in the sidebar) or afterwards online.
Full set of Madam Miaow on Resonance FM.