無意間看到很久以前儲存的，迪士尼版花木蘭的歌曲 “I’ll make a man out of you”在Soundcloud 上的中英雙語版本。要說是什麼時候發現這個連結我還真的不記得了。只記得當時朋友講耳機遞給我的時候我半信半疑地把耳機戴上，左耳傳入中文右耳卻是英文的同一首歌。旋律相同，歌詞相近，講述著同樣觸動我內心的故事。
“I’ll make a man out of you” 中文版是由成龍主唱的“男子漢”。歌曲襯托了李翔將軍將一群東拼西湊的男兒訓練成能夠保家衛國的男子漢的過程。我並不會什麼歌曲賞析但總是覺得每次聽到這首歌都有種非常熱血的感受。中文歌詞並不是英文歌詞的逐字翻譯，卻別有韻味。當然，中間穿插的士兵無助的“抱怨”會讓我會心一笑。合唱的部分把音量調高會讓我有種全世界都在幫我吶喊助威的錯覺。
艱辛、 困苦、 漫長、被我拖延太久的故事。
Growing up, I saw myself as a sort of rebel girl.
I didn’t like pink, I refused to wear skirts, or dresses.
I got into fights with boys. So I was violent.
I always wanted to lead, to have my voice heard. So I was bossy.
I once challenged a boy who lived next door to race on a bike because he assumed he’d be better because he’s a boy. So I was aggressive. We even crashed into someone’s gate near the end of the race (hence I never found out if I was better, or if he was.) So I was ruthless and careless.
I was furious. I was a rebel.
I was the rebel girl.
So over the years I toned everything down. Notice how I said ‘was’? I started wearing skirts and dresses when I was required, and sometimes when it wasn’t. I’m still not madly in love with pink, but I do own a few pieces of pink clothing. I stopped fighting with boys, I stopped swearing back at them when they did at me. I drifted to the sidelines, I stopped interjections in group discussions to disagree with a boy because I was told it was ‘rude’. I started objecting to boys versus girls in P.E. class because it was ‘unfair’, because ‘boys are stronger than girls’. My scar has faded from the bike crash, so I guess the rebel girl has gone.
I started to conform. I started to blend in.
I was, just a girl.
I could list my excuses for conforming, for blending in, for toning it down. Although none should excuse the face I pulled when one of my closest friends told me in school that she was a ‘feminist’, these excuses have featured overwhelmingly in my self-reflective process.
Was it the time when my parents told me to close my legs when sitting down because ‘you’re a girl, not a boy’, or ‘think about if you’re wearing a skirt and people are looking up your skirt at your pants?!’
Was it the time when my teachers held me back after a certain fight with a boy, sorry Ian I did kick you quite hard a few times, explaining to me that ‘you should be the bigger person here because boys are just looking for trouble’.
Was it the time when a certain volunteer supervisor told me that ‘I almost didn’t pick you after your story of the bike crash, I thought “this girl is quite angry I might not be able to control her”‘in a space that supposedly advocated free speech, self-expression and learning to not judge others.
Was it the time when I was dragged to buy more ‘feminine’ clothes or the time when all but one of my classmates chose to stay silent when a boy ridiculed those suffering as sex slaves.
Was it because I grew up in a household that still functions as one where mum works a full time job and cooks all meals on Sunday whereas dad freelances and is always ‘too busy’ to help with cooking? Or is it because my WeChat (a further developed Chinese knock-off version of WhatsApp and Facebook combined) is still flooded with articles such as the one that credited the success of Dong Qing, a famous Chinese television host, to her university-level educated father. Although her mother matched him, and in fact graduated from the same university. The only time her mother was mentioned was in the line ‘both her parents were graduates of Fudan University’, as if her mother never played a role in her upbringing or education. Furthermore, the article praises Dong’s father for calling up his friends when Dong was 14/15 and offering her to work for them on no pay without her prior consent. At least said friends were kind enough to offer 1 RMB payment (around 8-10p) per day for her labours, right? Or could it possibly be the fact that “In 2014, according to the data, Chinese women gave birth to 115.9 boys for every 100 girls. (The natural human birth ratio is around 105 boys to every 100 girls.)”  and that despite governmental ban on pre-birth ultrasound to determine the sex of the infant in efforts to prevent sex-specific infanticide/abortions, illegal ultrasounds and abortions in favour of boys still persist.
Growing up in a massively sexist and feminist-repressing culture which manifested itself at the familial level, school level and societal level I expressed myself in two extremes. Initially my response was to fight back, to reject all gender-associated norms and sexist stereotypes that were assigned to me. However, I soon caved in when it became difficult.
It is hardly an experience I wish upon others, and one that I continue to find difficult to navigate around. In a recent conversation with a friend I expressed my unwillingness to give birth or raise a girl.
‘But didn’t you just tell me about the gender-imbalance and how you shouldn’t prefer boys to girls?’ he exclaimed, ‘If you’re worried about feminism you could always raise a feminist daughter.’
True. Yet my experiences of being a feminist even before knowing the term ‘feminism’ or understanding what it was all about was a difficult one, and one that I would not wish upon my daughter.
On Women’s Day, I reflected upon what I had said the other day and my own experiences. I am now in a college that celebrates the achievements of women every day, and in a bubble that advocates the rights of women and all other marginalised groups with unceasing efforts.
I have come to realise that even the actions that I had considered to be feminist were conforming to gender stereotypes.
Pink should be a gender neutral colour, violence should not be tolerated whichever gender you are, being bossy and not letting others expressing themselves is censorship not feminism. However, making claims are always easier than taking action.
It is perhaps time that we teach boys not to peek at pants through a girl’s skirt, whether or not she has left her legs open accidentally or just to relax herself. It is also time to teach our girls to call others out for peeking, regardless of the reason or excuse.
It is perhaps time that we stop excusing boys for ‘being boys’ and girls for ‘responding to provocation from boys’. It is also time to teach all children that violence is never the solution.
It is perhaps time that we stop judging an individual from a single incident, regardless of gender. It is also time to let our girls know that they do not need to challenge boys to prove they are better, because girls can and girls will just as boys can and boys will. Every individual develops differently and your gender inhibits nothing, girls shouldn’t have to try harder to impress, nor should boys.
It is perhaps time that we educate everyone that clothing is self expression and that everyone should be allowed to wear anything they want, no matter their gender and even age. It is also time that everyone speaks out on behalf of those marginalised when they are ridiculed or prejudiced against, so their voice is at least not marginalised.
It is perhaps time to consider our roles in front of children, or even for yourselves. It is also time that we stop assuming a boyfriend is to pay for, carry things for, support, a girlfriend. That in a relationship everyone should be treated equally and that your actions are always watched by the young around you and that your actions do have an impact.
It is perhaps time for me to embrace the title as a feminist and to make my actions count.
Happy International Women’s Day
[Another piece of old writing, this time from Winter ’16. Here goes.]
Winter had descended upon Toronto, leaving the branches bare and any grass remaining in a brownish- greyish- rare sight. As a result, I can’t tell if the grass is greener on the other side of the pond.
The GO Trains, however, are a delightful shade of green that cut across the chilly view out of my window as I roll ever so slowly towards Burlington, where I will transfer to a bus that will take me to the Niagara FallsThere is something about trains and rail traveling that calms me. Perhaps it is the wide windows that unfolds an endless scroll of scenery in a movie-like fashion, ranging from puffy clouds, perfectly reflective buildings in cities, barns, and even the occasional school and its playing fields. Perhaps it is the predictability of it; a relatively predictable schedule and speed, that makes it possible to read, take a stroll, and of course, write.
[Found an old piece of writing I made whilst waiting to board my plane at Heathrow, 20th June 2016. It’s interesting to see how my tangent spiralled off entirely. This piece was scribbled on a tiny notebook I was carrying along with Harper Lee’s newly published Go Set a Watchman I had picked up in the WHSmith an hour ago. I have also now found out that Harper Lee is a pen name but nonetheless it was a middle name given to a woman that I would have assumed was a man. Many edits could’ve been done with the writing but it has mostly been kept the same.]
English names are gender-neutral to me, I associate names with people I know.
Alex had strictly been a name for boys until I met a girl named Alex. The same for Jamie. I still see the girl named Jamie as an exception to the rule, although I’ve known her for years.
Names in Chinese are less repeated, even if they sound the same the characters are often different. That said, my name – both Given and Family name, is bizarrely common.
Such oxymoron, make a sweeping claim yourself and then immediately finding the exception in yourself. I’d make a terrible scientist.
Names, returning to names. English names are gender-neutral to me in the sense that I have difficulty deducing from the name someone’s gender. And almost overwhelmingly I catch myself assuming a name is male somehow.
Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mocking Bird, I for a long time assumed was male. I wonder if she is an exception, or if I am culturally imprinted to assume authors are male unless told otherwise.
“It’s your alarm babe, get up before I push you out of bed”
Romantic isn’t it, the morning after Valentine’s day at 6am and this is the first thing he says to me.
As if a threat, he turns around and tugs on the single duvet we share on my single bed. I am once again reminded that this bed was never made for two, but we make do.
I pull on the duvet and hug Pooh closer, not yet awake enough to comprehend what day it is and why I had set an alarm for 6am. Then the thought hits me. Ah, it’s essay due-day.
Cruel, I think to myself, should’t I deserve a cuddle in bed with my boyfriend on the morning after Valentine’s day? Why, I hear you ask yourself, does one deserve a lie-in on the day AFTER Valentine’s day, surely that’s a thing you do on Valentine’s DAY?!
–Let’s rewind to 5am on the 14th of February, 2017.–
(I have also scrolled up again and highlighted the narrative bits that makes up usual blogs in a darker colour than my rambles in grey. I often regret that my mind goes off tangents so often but I have been told it makes for good conversation? And there I went again… *highlights ramble in grey*)
Ah yes, I had an early start on Tuesday too. This attempt was less successful though, and resulted in a dose-off between 6 and 7:45. So perhaps my current level of tiredness and inability to have a lie-in in bed is payback, or karma, for being lazy on Tuesday.
Tuesday was scheduled as a morning of reading about “Power” for my HAP seminar later that day. I struggled through a book that was really a compilation of articles that each chipped into the discussion on power in 12th century Europe.
This struggle was intensified as a result of the persistent lack of wifi in my room, I somehow felt transported back to the 12th century where the will for one to study was limited by the resources available. Especially when you’re a woman.
The book which was edited by Thomas Bisson had a chapter/article that discussed Woman and Power, which essentially boiled down to the fact that a woman’s power relied on the men in her life. The most interesting and shocking discovery I made was that they earned love and respect from their sons through care, ensuring that they had a voice at old age.
I am once again reminded that my access to schooling and equal opportunities (or near-equal…) in the 21st century is quite a blessing. Then I am reminded of my current location, an all-girls college that had been stormed by celebrating undergraduate students when a vote to include women as full members of university was defeated.
Eventually my thoughts stopped drifting and I made it through 9 of the 13 articles in the book in addition to the introduction and conclusion and called it a day. Lunch was left-overs from the night before – a stir-fry noodle with bacon, broccoli, onions and mushroom. Mmm.
I was really too excited for leftovers but I guess I have made significant progress from either eating-out or walking to college buttery for every meal to making soup noodles, to making stir-fries that not included meat but also vegetables. Am I a responsible adult yet? Perhaps the leftovers could have been considered as meal prep, then my excitement and sense of accomplishment would be better justified. But a voice inside me says I’m just stretching it a bit too far now.
The afternoon was spent trying to understand the Qing Empire in the 19th century, whether the internal problems had outweighed the significance of external pressures, for my essay due the next day. Pages were turned, notes were written, tea was sipped and the sun shone on me.
It was certainly a century marked by turmoil, one that is therefore both loved and hated by history students alike. Loved because of the insight and action that happened, hated because it ultimately means a more difficult topic to fully grasp. I particularly enjoyed the topic as it connected various bits of Qing history that I had not realised I acquired throughout my life. Through conversations during family car trips, in novels about time travelling, and on tv when the Emperors always (and this frustrates me for so many different reasons, most of all the obstruction of actual historical knowledge in favour of young love) struggles to win the love of the one girl he loves that is sadly not included in his mighty concubine. Oh man, oh, man. Men.
My productive afternoon, however, didn’t last long. I ultimately succumbed to chewing on chocolate he had brought the previous night and staring at the roses that currently reside amongst my table of mess that had acquired the status of messy-beyond-redemption awarded by me. Which really says something…
Ah yes, in addition to pushing me out of bed this morning he had been an absolute fool by bringing roses and chocolate on the 13th February. The man is a myth. Ok fine, I am not complaining about the chocolates because who does? Ok fine, maybe also not complaining about the roses because they are a beautiful addition to my room and does somehow indicate I am capable of this whole adult-in-uni business (although I didn’t actually buy the roses, nor the vase, nor filled the vase up with water so the roses would stay alive for longer…Aaaanyways…) The man is bearable I’d say.
So tidying my room was in order. I blame the messiness that resided on my floor on two main causes: my duty as JCR Secretary and the missing bookshelf. As JCR Secretary I receive society post on behalf of them and then distribute them to the appropriate individual’s pigeon-hole (pidge). The catch is that no one ever claims their mail… So I am left with piles of letters that are addressed to random societies that have probably forgotten to change their mailing address after the president changed or graduated from one year to another. The most interesting post I have received repeatedly is addressed to the Cambridge University Teddy Bear. Out of curiosity and attempt to return this post to the rightful owner I have opened the letter once and it contained a bank statement from Met, indicating that there was £0 in the account and that there were no money due for payment. This continues to puzzle me. Perhaps it is a prank, or an entertainment for JCR Secretaries to come. The missing bookshelf is, well, missing. I had chosen to squat in my room after my First Year as it was a nice corner room with plenty of space and sunlight, and furniture that suited my needs. Except the bookshelf was missing when I came back, in addition to a wooden chair. Sad times. Therefore, as a history student with many binders and papers and books, I am left with no bookshelf. I have found corners in the room that are currently designated as bookshelves, and things just about fit, but this had been my excuse to leave piles of paper on the floor.
Yes, I did say excuse. Because they really are, excuses. I complain about the letters that arrive but I had run for JCR Secretary out of my own will, even wrote a manifesto and made a speech about it. So my room being messy because of my duties as JCR Secretary is an excuse. I complain about the lack of bookshelf but now everything has fitted into my designated spots so why did I have to leave mess around the room beforehand? I am hardly adult enough, is my conclusion.
Tidying had just come to an end, with a significantly improved but still in need of a hoover room. It was time to take a stroll towards my HAP seminar. 5-6:30pm, 90minutes of presenting and discussing ‘Power’ was probably not everyone’s favourite way to spend a Valentine’s evening. The hour-and-half spent in the Pightle Dining Room, yea it really is just a large dining room with a small door connecting it to the kitchen, did leave me with a clearer understanding of what ‘Power’ is and how it mattered in historical writing. But not really. I think I will skip that question in the exams. I returned to my room just in time to re-comb my hair and change into something slightly more attractive when my Valentine arrived for the grand Valentine’s dinner.
No, not really.
We each had a ready-meal and was accompanied by Sir David Attenborough explaining starving lions hunting giraffes in Africa. Thrilling, isn’t it. ‘David has a good voice and enunciates well’ he said in response to my complaint that there was no subtitles. Thanks for the support, a true romantic he is. Although the ready-meals were really delicious and hassle-free, would recommend for all other lazy souls like yours truly, the true highlight of the night still has to be credited to the Planet Earth team. We shared a great laugh at the team in Madagascar, if I remember correctly, chasing swarms in deserts for the perfect shot. Would recommend.
Then it was back to work. More reading. More note-taking. More tea sipping. No more sunshine though. The rest is pretty much repetitive. Made it to bed at about midnight with an alarm set at 6am so I could wake up, plan the essay, and finish writing it and send by 12pm.
That brings us back to this morning. My alarm sounded at 6, and with hardly enough sleep I had rolled over and pretended it didn’t exist. At which point he said “It’s your alarm babe, get up before I push you out of bed”.
Caring and supportive really, but I had an urge to kick him out of bed at the moment. Then I realised I had an essay to do. Oh well, what can one say. It’s no longer Valentine’s and I’m a student. That wraps up my ramble for now I guess.
Till next time.
>>Update: Essay came down to 3500 words, a new record really. Shall put this here as a memory of my glory days.<<