“I met a woman who told me that she wasn’t attracted to Asians. “No worries,” I said. “I’m not attracted to racists.”
― Simon Tam, The Slants
Taking on and breaking open the idea of racialised masculinity in one short edition is almost impossible. And, yet, bringing this edition together feels like nothing less than a rare privilege: ‘right now / it all comes down / to being unprepared for what takes root /’ (Chris Tse, ‘Pedestal Triptych’). Thank you to the many writers, thinkers and creatives who sent their responses to our Man Up edition, which will be coming to you over the next month.
If the academic conversation is all about taking a more holistic approach to gender, seriously considering the meaning and relation between femininities and masculinities, the transfer and movement between the historical manifestations of the binary, then how do we, as writers and artists, experience that? How do we invite unstable constructions of masculinities and men? Where do we look to find stories of the patriarchy, violence, spirituality, non-normative sexualities, marriage, cooking, racism, feminism?
Without spoiling the pleasure of discovering each piece in its own right, we are delighted to offer just a sample of the vast and varied experiences of, meditations on, critiques and analyses and love letters to the many iterations of masculinity. Suffice to say, there is no one ‘man’, and no single direction in which ‘he’ is going.
This edition’s poets, Chris Tse, Darlene Silva Soberano, Jarad Bruinstroop and Shastra Deo, all implicitly, sometimes explicitly, address the idea of masculinity in terms of its fluidity, its ungraspable nature and the “what even is it-itness” of it. It is always the poets – the ones who want to talk about uncertainty, and the ones who do it so well. From Darlene Silva Soberano’s poem, ‘My father the sky’: ‘And I— / Move through the world with a certainty / Mistaken for confidence…’.
Across these poems, too, is a shared fascination with beauty, often the classical idea of beauty, and it made us consider this poetic tradition of speaking on masculinity with a kind of monolithic reverence (We cannot know his legendary head / with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso / is still suffused with brilliance from inside / like a lamp…).
And, on fathers, our Prose Editor Mirandi Riwoe writes:
‘Reading Melanie Cheng’s story, ‘The Man in the Green Suit’, about her grandfather led me to think of my father, the eldest son of a Chinese family. When he was a baby, my grandparents pierced one of his ears: he would look like a girl, and the ghosts wouldn’t bother taking him (Papa is adamant that this was carried out because it was well-known that, statistically, baby boys died at birth more often than baby girls did, and not because of any residual sexism).
‘Over fifty years ago, my father arrived in Australia with little money but enough English to study at the University of Queensland. I’m not sure what might be expected of a Chinese father, in a generic sense, but what we got was a father who expected as much of his daughters as his sons; who wanted as much for his daughters as for his sons.
‘I know you will enjoy reading Melanie’s moving piece, a fond exploration of the complexities of Asian masculinity, as much as I did. As in her beautiful novel, Room for a Stranger, Melanie’s essay considers the generational and cultural divides we so often have to face. And Melanie, my dad had a green suit too! His uncle bought it for him especially for his first flight to Australia all those years ago. He still speaks very fondly of that suit.’
We’re also delighted we’re able to share work that analyses the ways in which masculinity is approached, by artists, in visual arts and culture. Tanushri Saha, Visual Arts Editor, speaks on these pieces:
‘This edition’s theme made me think of the words of a group of contemporary philosophers: “I wanna be a good man just for you” (0:56). These words, uttered by the immortal K-Pop group BTS, raise for us some important questions: What exactly does a “good” version of a man look like? And how might we imagine the shape of new and alternative masculinities?
‘In this edition, I have sought the perspectives of people who articulate how masculinity is embodied in divergent ways across different times and place, by and for different people. Vivien Nara’s essay focuses on imaginaries of masculinity in East Asian popular culture, in particular film. Nara discusses how certain articulations of masculinity in East Asian cinema are informed by intriguing, complex histories wherein “intellectual prowess” is valued over physical power.
‘In an interview with Shahmen Suku (aka Radha la Bia), we discuss family and cultural preservation, lime-pickling, and negotiating the balance between religion and sexuality in performance art. In Shahmen’s words, “I can be a drag queen and a Hindu at the same time.”‘
In this edition we’re also able to share an extract from the recent, timely anthology #MeToo: Stories From The Australian Movement (Pan Macmillan, 2019), Shakira Hussein’s ‘#MeToo and the uneven distribution of trauma’. Within this incredible anthology are several powerful stories from migrant, diaspora, and other groups and networks. Kudos to the editors, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott, Natalie Kon-Yu and Miriam Sved, for gathering together this fractured, terrible view of the conditions that enable and perpetuate violence, harassment and assault in our culture.
The writers from this anthology no singular message, instead their stories attest to the complex interweaving of the personal with the political, the individual with the collective and ask all genders what can be done to ensure #metoonomore.
This is also a perfect juncture to recognise and thank the Australia Council for the Arts and Creative Victoria for their generous support of the coming year’s work at Peril. We are humbled and grateful for your investment in us.
With this financial support, we can support more frequent publication, better payment for our contributors, events (events!) and compensating the tireless work of our editorial team, our volunteers and board members, all of those who work behind and in front of the scenes to make Peril the publication that it is. So: thank you to everyone who has continued to support us in big and little ways, and to Creative Victoria and the Australia Council for supporting Peril in this one big way.
– The Peril Editorial Team
Mindy Gill, Eleanor Jackson, Mirandi Riwoe, Tanushri Saha, Tanya Ali.