The Search for Balance

Actor Chris Pang looking sexy
International Women’s Day Ambassador… no wait, masculinity reclaimer, no., sorry – just Actor, Chris Pang.

Or, why we’re talking about men, to men and with men this International Women’s Day.  

This year’s United Nations International Women’s Day theme is think equal, build smart, innovate for change. Hear that, team? Get cracking.

So, what will you be doing on this day designed to celebrate women (in the complexity and difference that “women” must now imply), to recognise the barriers which continue to impede equality, and to mobilise for a better collective future?

Will you attend a breakfast, or a community celebration, sport a purple ribbon or otherwise virtue signal with a nifty hashtag or purchase of a suitable t-shirt? These are all options. Indeed, many of our team will be doing likewise, with sincerity, cynicism, clarity, reflexivity and hope.

Yet in many ways, it’s International Women’s Day every day at Peril. So it feels strange to mark this day out more than others.

We were built by the collective action of women and queers, by queer women and others who resist traditional, binary gender norms. From our founding editor, Hoa Pham, and advisory powerhouses, Tseen Khoo and Tom Cho, to our current team – Peril has always been led by women, governed by women, and worked in ways that speak to a lived experience of what it means to dwell in the borders, between countries, between genders, between a feminist and decolonial lens, between the ache of home and the familiarity of the foreign.

We don’t pretend to lay down new truths, but if you search the term “gender” in Peril, you will uncover the manifold competing truths of stories about gender and race in this country, from representations of Penny Wong to challenges to mainstream feminisms, from reflections on keeping a Vietnamese surname after marriage to reviews of artists grappling with memory and trauma. This is no uniform picture of women, of gender, or of the interrelationship between gender and race in a colonial country like Australia. It’s a goddamn mess. Sometimes a hot mess. Sometimes just a brutal wound.  

What is clear however is that the category of woman, and particularly the woman of colour — the racialised female body and the politics that surround them — is one that has been interrogated aplenty. Subjected to an excoriating gaze, we have often made women the problem to be fixed. The woman who needs to be lifted up, not the system that needs to take its boot off our necks, so to speak.

This year for International Women’s Day, we want you to Man Up.

Reject, embrace or identify with the naming as you will, but we want to know what you think about masculinity and the way masculinity is constructed and construed in Australia. How do Asian men in Australia engage with the ways we are learning and unlearning to be a man?

If ethnic stereotypes of Asian men in the west relegated East Asian men, in particular, to “neutered ninjas”, what histories, presents and futures must we embody to enable a complex vision of manhood? Is the Crazy Rich Asian option really an option to debunk masculine sterotypes? Chris Pang told us he was sexy (implicity) back in 2012, why isn’t this already fixed yet, folks? Can we love our K-Pop flower boys, or are we craving our version of Black Panther? What of #MeToo and the multiplier risks of racial and gender stereotypes in enabling sexual assault and harassment? If Asia stretches from the Suez Canal to the Pacific Ocean, how are the geopolitical specifics of gender changing?

From now until Tuesday 30 April, we are opening these questions to you.

As always, consider our contribution guidelines and hit us up if you want to pitch before preparing. And remember, think equal, build smart, innovate for change, and tear down patriarchal colonialism. Not necessarily in that order.


Author: Eleanor Jackson

Eleanor Jackson is a Filipino Australian poet, performer, arts producer and community radio broadcaster. Eleanor Jackson is a former Editor in Chief and Poetry Editor of Peril and currently Chair of the Board.

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