The shit people search for and end up at my blog

Best search engine words thus far: “fucking girls while applying red lipstick.”

Pretty sure whoever searched for that amazing string of words was looking for some homo femme porn and was subsequently blessed (disappointed?) to find my text-heavy post about queer make-up.

Now I’m just waiting for whoever searches for “girls wearing lipstick reading zines eating pork” to land on my site.

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Make up, my bane and saviour

I was recently told by someone close to me that I “don’t need make up.” This is nothing new; this good-willed sentiment is not unfamiliar to most women. Well-intentioned people, particularly men, like telling women that they are beautiful as they are, blah blah. After the feeling of being validated wears off (I am farrrrr from being immune to white patriarchal standards of beauty), I interpret these “compliments” as unsolicited advice on what I “need” and “don’t need.” Here is a to-the-point visual of this very common phenomena:

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Source: unfortunately unknown.

The thing is, as much as it does make me feel good to know that someone else thinks I am beautiful “the way I am,” I want make up to be a part of “the way I am.” And this is incorporation of cosmetics into my “way” is actually really tough for me. I think about wearing make up a lot. I am around cosmetics often. I spend hours on the internet, watching Youtube make up tutorials. I re-blog photos of interesting and innovative ways of doing make up on Tumblr. I like to stop by cosmetic stores and counters after work, just to have a little browse (I’m at the MAC counter at Yonge Station all the fucking time). This is pretty much as close as I get to make up – in my head and around me. I have a number of tubes of lipsticks, but I don’t use them often.

Two thirds of my entire make up collection.

I love make up, but I’m scared of it. Aside from not really being able to wear any eye make up due to some eye conditions I have, I have some internalized shit around gender and drawing attention to my body (particularly my face). I remember being in grade six or so, and spending my saved-up allowance on a shitty ring from Ardene. I used to  only wear the ring in the safety of my bedroom, where no one could see me taking pleasure in admiring my ring-clad hand. I never, ever wore the ring in front of my parents. I felt ashamed of adorning myself in this way. The ring symbolized some sort of feminine maturation that I was uncomfortable with. As a boy-ish girl whose chose baggy t-shirts over little tops, but simultaneously wanted to explore a realm she was unfamiliar with, I didn’t know how to reconcile those things. Instead, I hid that gender curiosity in fear of being asked what I was trying to do and feeling embarrassed. And now, well into my adult years, I can still feel that same shame when I step out the door with bright pink lipstick on: I feel like a fraud; I think my lips are “too wrinkly” for lipstick; I never used to wear lipstick, why am I starting now?. I ultimately feel like I have to justify why I am doing what I’m doing, even though I know I don’t have to.  (doesn’t help when I nervously decided to Skype my parents one night wearing dark burgundy lipstick and they asked me, “what’s on your lips?!?”). So. I’m scared of indulging myself in this way.

But what helps me move through this internalized shit, bit by bit, is knowing that, I think, for queers, make up is not only about correction and emphasis; it’s also about exaggeration, breakthroughs, and self indulgence. Exaggeration is about making things bigger and more prominent. Exaggeration takes up space. Breakthroughs come with the boldness to try things unthought of. And self indulgence is about treating ourselves well in a world that doesn’t pay us enough (money) nor treats us with all the respect we deserve. We are not always only interested in covering up certain parts of ourselves and then accentuating what we think are our assets. Queer make up isn’t always neat, natural, and pretty; it can also be trial-and-error, freaky, and totally unnatural. It’s like, I love blue and yellow, I should wear them all the fucking time, so why not put it on my fucking face??? And in queers’ fearlessness in pushing the boundaries of aesthetics, I am finally starting to feel like I can “come out” with my make up-obsessing self. In their confidence that is fueled by risky boldness, there is so much to appreciate and to take delight in.

Where would we be if not for lo-fi lesbians, dangerous drag queens, femme warriors, badass mamas, aunties, and grandmothers?

One of my favourite make up and style goddesses is Arabelle Sicardi aka Fashion Pirate. She coincidentally just wrote a short piece about the best lipsticks for “girl monsters” (girl monsters!!! omg, I love it.). A green-haired, blue-eyelined, purple-lipped feminist writer, Arabelle recently wrote about what it is that she wants in fashion:

I want ridiculousness in fashion. I want ugly. I want destruction, I want imperfection, flaws, ripped seams, extra armholes, mutated glory that when people walk by me they whisper that they just don’t get it. [Source: Fashion Pirate]

Kyisha Williams, director of the short film Red Lips [Cages for Black Girls], insists on accentuating her lips with red lipstick as an anti-racist statement. In talking about Red Lips, Kyisha says:

In the film, I talk a little bit about how I came to start wearing red lipstick. It was a really hard thing for me. I had made this decision when I was a really young girl that, well, my lips are too big and I can’t call more attention to them . . . Later on, when I was an adult, I thought, ‘Hey, why don’t I do this?’ and I remembered. It just popped up as a memory, the reason why I wasn’t doing that. I thought to myself, ‘That’s totally racist! I should totally do this if that’s something I want to do. My lips are beautiful, and they can be accentuated!’ and all of this stuff. Obviously, I had that knowledge [only] later on in life. When I did start wearing red lipstick, people reacted really weirdly to it. Men on the street would catcall and be really forceful. I would reject them, and they didn’t understand. They would get upset. It was like, ‘I’m wearing red lipstick, but it doesn’t mean that I’m available to you. It doesn’t mean all of these things that you think it means.’ For me, wearing red lipstick is an anti-racist statement. [Source: Xtra!]

And this is not a blog post about queer make up, queer aesthetics, and boundary pushing if calloutqueen, Mark Aguhar, is not remembered. Mark committed suicide in mid-March of this year because the world is fucked up and did not have enough space for them. Mark once wrote this simple poetic manifesto:

These are the axes:

1

Bodies are inherently valid

2

Remember death

3

Be ugly

4

Know beauty

5

It is complicated

6

Empathy

7

Choice

8

Reconstruct, reify

9

Respect, negotiate

Mark Aguhar, 1987-2012

And so, I’m remembering the fabulous queers for whom the world was simultaneously too much and too little. I’m grateful for all the queers who put on blue lipstick and don’t give two shits what people are whispering about them as they sashay by in all their gloriousness. I’m thankful for the queers who are, similar to me, just starting to wear any make up, particularly accentuating parts of themselves they have been told was disgusting or ugly. Thank you for making it feel easier for me to put on that pastel pink lipstick a la mid-90s I bought on a whim. I might only ever put it on a couple of times this summer, but having y’all feel like my personal cheerleading squad (1-2-3-4, “natural” make up is a bore! 5-6-7-8, yr green eye lids look fucking great!) is a blessing to my 27 year-old self.

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I’m staying at the Tulip Farm in Montreal for two weeks to work on a zine!

My life rules because I have been accepted to the Fight Boredom Zine Residency in Montreal! I will be staying at the Tulip Farm with Amber Dearest (of Culture Slut), right by Ste-Emilie Skillshare, for two whole weeks in August, to work on a zine called Repeat Conceit (working title). The zine is going to be a practice in what Mimi Thi Nguyen calls “the politics of repetition,” as I scour old zines by queers and punks of colour and write reflections in response to their work. It will also contain interviews with older queer zinester punks, as a way to pay homage to queer lineage. 

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April 2012 in Review

What happened

- I continued to be out of my apartment for the entire month of April while the place is renovated. had a few phone conversations with my landlord that involved lots of yelling. In the end, Meg and I won because I yelled at him enough for him to give up on me and to give me what I had asked for (pro-rated rent reduction, for everyday that he was going over a month. totally reasonable).
- Uranus began to square my natal Venus early April (and continues to do so), during which time some scary bullshit happened with one of the roommates of the place I was temporarily staying at. I had to leave that place as my home-base and move elsewhere.
- I finished the 2011-2012 school year. Not much to report.
- I was accepted into the BEd program at OISE! Hooray, another year of mindless schooling so I can get to where I want to be!
- Enjoyed the spring colours immensely. This is one of my favourite times of the year, when the city is greenish-yellow, yellow-ish green all over! As my astrology teacher, Julia Beyer said to me a few weeks ago, Taurus and Gemini seasons are the best because it’s only during those times that beautiful chartreuse shades cover the city. Ain’t gonna get those nice greens during Leo season! Nope!

- I didn’t cut my hair all month! It’s actually been, like, more than two months since I last cut my hair. I’m trying to grow my hair out as much as possible because…wait for it…wait for it…I AM GETTING MY HAIR CUT PROFESSIONALLY FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FIVE YEARS. Yes, I’m waiting to get my hair cut by my hairdresser, Kitty, who is the best. I want her to have as much hair to work with as possible. Soooo, I’ve been lookin’ a little shaggy and feelin’ a little unattractive sometimes. Oh well, come the end of May, I will be a smokin’ hot again.


- Applied to the Fight Boredom Distro Zine Residency! And I actually applied, like, five days before the deadline, which, for me, is pretty much unprecedented in terms of applications and deadlines. I hope to be going to Montreal for the two week residency sometime in June or August!
-  Began reading my first Octavia Butler novel. This is long overdue. I first tried with Parable of the Sower, but just couldn’t get into it! I renewed my public library card and took out Kindred at the end of the month and have been devouring it. It feels so good to enjoy fiction because I haven’t been able to lose myself in novels for the last few years.

Some things I learned this month

- Hard transits from Uranus to my natal Venus is a terrible transit. Hopefully the next time it comes around, it won’t be as horrible as this one.
-  That’s it. That’s all I learned.

A list of things I am thankful for this month
mud masks, library cards, that my landlord isn’t raising our rent for the next year (that will make it five years without having my rent raised once), sarah creagen and her apartment.

The keywords for April are edginess, rage, productivity, and irritation. So…not too different from March’s keywords. Sounds about right; April feels similar to March, but ampli-fucking-fied.

What I’m looking forward to in May

- GOING HOME AKA TAIWAN AKA BEAUTIFUL ISLAND AKA MY LOVE. Going home with lil sis, Ruth, from May 10th to June 3rd. We are meeting our parents in Hong Kong first, to pay respects to my paternal grandparents and tomb sweep, and as a family trip. Then, it’s food food food. The best food in the whole, wide world. THE BEST, I TELL YA. And humidity (good for the skin!), heat, sweat, tropical fruits, scooters, pollution! 再見 Toronto!

This is my neighbourhood! And that’s my apartment building! The orange building with “Dadun 12th St” across it! Ahhhhh!

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Chicago Zine Fest 2012 Part 1: General thoughts and a Dyke & Their Hair update

Being a part of the Chicago Zine Fest re-kindled my love for zines. Prior to the trip, I was feeling really uninspired by the very thing that I was so passionate about for years and was leading workshops on how to make. The same thoughts kept spiraling in my head: Maybe this isn’t the right medium for you anymore. Maybe the things you want to express isn’t best done through paper. And those thoughts never actually led me anywhere because I didn’t have any new, concrete ideas for art projects so I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to express and how I wanted to express it (I blame the lack of creativity on the soul-sucking, unstimulating institution I paid $7000 to be at this year). I didn’t make anything new for the zine fest, and instead, lugged copies of my three old zines, the oldest one being four years old and the newest being a year and a half old. I did make a new four-page insert for Dykes & Their Hair because I felt like so much as changed since April 2008, both in terms of queers and aesthetics, as well as where I am at theoretically and experientially. So off I went to Chicago with Sarah, feeling a little shameful about my stash of old zines and a little disenchanted by the genre of zines in general.

Logan Square, Chicago

TEXT FROM NEW FOUR-PAGE DYKES & THEIR HAIR INSERT

It’s been four years since I first put out Dykes & Their Hair. I feel hesitant making copies of it and distributing them this many years down the line. Urban, metropolitan, young, queer aesthetics change quickly, and also stick easily. So in some ways, the aesthetics described in this zine are slightly outdated. But I like to think of it as a historical document, highlighting specific aesthetics of a specific period in time, something that might be really awesome to come across twenty years down the line.

But really, the reason why I feel hesitant about distributing this zine is because, over the course of the last four years, I’ve come to learn that it is largely consumed by white queers who just think my drawings are funny. Most of the responses I’ve received are from white readers who say they love the zine and shamelessly tell me that they have the haircut in figure-number-so-and-so. Yah, yah, yah, I know you are page six or whatever…I knew that before you knew; that’s why I made this thing.

I get frustrated because I feel like a lot of people are not getting my point. I’m pretty certain most people just skim over my introductory write-up, or just pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s way more fun to just look at the drawings and match you and your friends up to the figures. Sure, the zine is funny. But it’s also serious and asks readers to think about the amount of space, little or a lot, one can take up with their hairstyle alone. I tried to point out the valuing of certain queer aesthetic symbols and the devaluing of others as “not queer (enough).” I wanted to draw attention to what I felt like was a subtly racist perception of who can and cannot be queer. And most of that just gets overshadowed by the kitschy sketches that make up the majority of the zine.

Luckily and awesomely, things have really shifted in the last four years. I see queer people of colour resisting these hairstyles that they not only can’t mirror, but choose not to mirror. Or I see people taking styles that are depicted in this zine and tweaking them to fit their hair types and aesthetic tastes, creating a different and creative look. Others are styling themselves so that their hair plays a role how they experience their spirituality. There is so much creativity, imagination, and resistance outside the pages of this zine.

There’s also so much more to say about hair, aesthetics. and queerness. There’s so much missing from this little zine. Always connected are issues of:

- class (eg. access to resources like the Internet where a lot of us get style inspirations, money to get haircuts and nice hair products to keep our tresses healthy and strong)

- patriarchy (eg. devaluing of conventionally feminine hair styles)

- colonialism (eg. Manchurian Qing Dynasty’s violent imposition of the queue hairstyle on the Indigenous peoples of Taiwan in the mid 18th century and Koreans in the late 19th century)

- desirability (eg. a hip haircut definitely gets you more queer desirability points)

And as for myself? I’m more interested in trying not to be read as queer these days (though I don’t think it’s working out very well). I’m not doing this for reasons of safety or anything because I can generally deal with the shit that gets dealt to me. I just feel a bit repulsed by the normalization of queer aesthetics, and I don’t think it’s at all about being self-loathing. There’s something about the normalization of queer aesthetic symbols that makes me feel embarrassed because I thought “queer” promised the unexpected. And this zine was all about how queerness can be so predictable. I’m reverting back to my earlier straight-aesthetics days accessory by accessory, top by top, shoe by shoe; that’s how I’m trying to escape Queer Predictability. I know I’ll never be fully successful because that’s just how aesthetic symbols work; they stick to bodies and birth meanings. And I know that Queer Predictability will always catch up to me, but it’s also just fun to play tag with my style, try to outrun its symbolic grasp, and fuck with queer readability as much as I can.

Teresa

March 2012

THE BACKGROUND

I’m going to diverge and write a bit about my shame around and disenchantment with zines. I felt ashamed of my zines because I am continuously changing, from month to month, not to mention from year to year. And here I was, hauling all these old ideas of mine across the border to sell to people, many of whom will likely think (and I don’t blame them) that Teresa Chun-Wen Cheng is Dykes & Their Hair. And really, I don’t want people to think those are necessarily still my politics/beliefs. I don’t trust that readers won’t ahistorized my work. I suppose this is an existential problem for printed matter and documentation of any sort.

On to the disenchantment part of this. I was feeling shitty because I felt like it was largely white people consumed my zines. White dykes love Dykes & Their Hair! They love to love it! What does this say about my work if most of my audience is white? How do I attract a mostly POC audience? What do POCs want??? This makes me feel totally not radical. A close POC friend of mine told me, “Who cares? Take the white people’s money!” And yes, I’m super happy to take money from white people who want to buy my shit, but really, I would rather be making art that resonates with people of colour and not make that toonie off of them.

Sarah and I, at New Wave Coffee, the day after the fest, reading our stash of zines.

THE FEST

So, I had lots of feelings going to Chicago. Turns out, Chicago Zine Fest did wonders for my blues! I attended an incredibly inspiring workshop called Meet Me At the Race Riot: People of Color in Zines from 1990s to Today; met one of my QPOC zine heros, Mimi Thi Nguyen; met Osa Atoe who makes one of my favourite zines (Shotgun Seamstress); met some badass QPOC gender rebelling punk nerds who publish all sorts of radical and thoughtful zines through their press, Not Yr Cister; picked up a big stash of zines, including old gems like Evolution of a Race Riot #1; and lots of these totally cute and stylish young queer POC punks bought my zines!!! HOW FUCKING AWESOME DID THAT ALL SOUND??? HUH???

I felt so energized by the cute QPOC punks who came by our table. I didn’t engage with them beyond talking a bit about the zines and selling some to them, but the little bit of interaction I had, I cherish. I was inspired by their solitude; most of them seemed to be at the zine fest alone. I was inspired by their creativity in dress. I’m talkin’ little GI Joe-type figures dangling from earrings and short, bright pink hair done in pin curls. Like, amazing, brave shit! I also remember an older QPOC who came by the table and read Dykes & Their Hair in front of me (which, obviously made me so nervous), closed the zine, and nodded at me while making “mmmhmmm” sounds. So good.

I mean. Obviously the majority of the tablers and people who came through the fair were white. And that’s fine. I just want to celebrate the awesomeness of the people of colour who DID show up, who decided that our shit was worth them spending money on, who took the time to stop at our table to carefully look through our zines, who decided it was worth their time to table at the fair so that other people of colour like myself feel a little more at home.

Chicago Zine Fest 2012 Part 2 will be a reflection on what Mimi Thi Nguyen calls “the politics of repetition,” and its impact on the future of my zines, which I will post in a few days or so!

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March 2012 in Review

What happened:

- Anxiously anticipated Kenji’s return to the city from his mom’s, where he was recovering. We got to spend a few days together before I left for Chicago, during which time I cared for Kenji, tried to get school work done, and frantically made what felt like a zillion copies of my zines in preparation for the Chicago Zine Fair
- Went to Chicago with Sarah!

My bedroom after Day 1.

The kitchen on Day 6 or so. See? Inhabitable.

- A week or so after coming back to Toronto from Chicago, our landlord informs Meg and I he is starting to do major renovations in our house (wiring, plumbing, heating/ac, new kitchen, installing washer and dryer) in three days. He “gave us warning” about two weeks prior to this, but never specifying which of the four apartments he was going to start on. Meg and I frantically packed most of our belongings up into garbage bags in fear of the dust storm that was inevitably going to take place in our apartment. Our apartment is inhabitable, covered in plaster dust and completely trashed. Major added stress to our lives. We are closing in on two weeks now not being able to live in our home, with no firm completion date in sight. I haven’t been to the house in the last five days. I can only imagine it is even worse than the last time I was there, considering they hadn’t even started doing the worst part of it (kitchen and heating).
- Moved in temporarily with Kenji, as the apartment gets renovated. The space is very small, but we have managed for two weeks now without pissing each other off. It’s been really nice, actually! Unfortunately, my lack of time management skills has meant that we haven’t been able to do very many fun things together because I’m always scrambling to finish school work. This will be over by April 5th.

 Some things I learned this month…

- I learned wonderful and valuable lessons from being at Chicago Zine Fest which I will be posting about shortly!
- If you’re flying Porter, always anticipate delays. That’s just the price you pay for a comfortable lounge with snacks and free Wi-fi. So book your flights accordingly.
- The only way to effectively communicate with my landlord is to yell at him, to interrupt, and to treat him like he is an irritating and stubborn uncle.
- I need at least nine hours of sleep a night to function properly during the day. This never, ever happens, but I’ve been going to bed early since staying at Kenji’s, since he has to go to bed early because of his early AM job. It’s been amazing.

A list of things I’m thankful for this month:

- Kenji. For allowing me to stay at his place for the past two weeks while my house gets renovated, with no end in sight. So thankful for a place to go to after class and work every day. And the rubbermaid container he bought me when I moved in for me to store my shit.

This is a poster for a workshop Mimi Thi Nguyen (Punk Planet, Evolution of A Race Riot, Slander), Osa Atoe (Shotgun Seamstress), Mariam Bastani (Maximum Rocknroll), and Daniela Capistrano (POC Zine Project) have been facilitating. A version of this workshop was held at the Chicago Zine Fest and I got a chance to attend! Besssssst.

- Old lady punks like Mimi, Mariam Bastani, and Osa Atoe. For their persistence, for their creativity, for their fierceness, for their resistance, for their opinions.
- Sharing groceries with Kenji and therefore, staying more accountable with what I eat. This has meant I have been eating out less since I (temporarily) moved in with him.
- Coconut oil, coconut water, fish oil. These things have made my month so much more comfortable and healthy.

The keywords for March are frustration, anger, rage, gratefulness, and relief.

What I’m looking forward to in April…

- To be fucking done with this undergraduate, non-degree bullshit. I’m so over it.
- Finding out whether I got into OISE for their BEd program (and consequently, my future for the next year)
- Riding my bicycle (which is really just Meg’s bike) around the city! Not restricted by streetcar tracks, subway maintenance, and busses short turning!
- Going to see a Miyazaki film at TIFF Lightbox! Magical worlds on the big screen, guys.
- Applying to the Fight Boredom Zine Residency in Montreal! I HAVE TO GET ACCEPTED. I MUST GO. I am forming the application in head right now…
- Maybe, possibly submit an abstract to the Feminist Art Gallery‘s upcoming publication, TIME SENSITIVE. The pieces in the publication will all examine what it means to revive historical queer and feminist work in contemporary times. !!!!
- Working on a new zine with Meg about being maladjusted queers and the shit we have beef about within queer social life.
- Go to the gym…a few times? Okay, I think I can do that.

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Back from Chicago

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So much to process, to ponder over, to remember, to record, to write down, to respond to. Old queer POC lady punks like Mimi, Osa, and Miriam have rekindled something in me, making me feel like I need to keep making zines and that zines and I are *not*, in fact, over (which was what I was feeling before going to Chicago). More to come about these older punks, history of POCs and zines, the importance of revisiting words and texts, and new project ideas.

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