Generally, I can agree that there needs to be “freedom of expression” etc, but with all these “freedoms” comes responsibility and the understanding of privilege in all forms. When a white man ( yes, this is the issue in this case) writes a creative non-fiction piece about a “white dude having sex with a Filipina woman”, and claiming it as a “creative piece”, then there are many problematic issues. And then to have an Australian arts journal like “Verity La” publish it, add a trigger warning and then validate its importance after calls to take it down – is considered complicity. A piece like that really shouldn’t be published anywhere at all because it promotes sex tourism, colonialism, misogyny and racism. Even though, Verity La finally caved in and removed it, it also started to remove criticisms from Filipinx and other POC writers, activists and individuals who commented on Verity La’s social media site condemning the arts journal on initially accepting and publishing the piece on its site.
The writer of the piece “About Lin” – Stuart Cooke- a lecturer in creative writing and literary studies at Griffith University, basically wrote about a white male narrator having sex with a Filipina woman in Manila. Just the idea of a piece like that irks me to no end, and it definitely caused huge outrage online when Verity La initially published it and amidst all the online condemnations from Filipinx writers, advocates and individuals for the publishing of the piece, Verity La just posted this trigger warning (via djedpress):
“Verity La aims to publish work that is strong, bold and provocative. At times, this approach runs the risk of us publishing pieces that some might find offensive. Two of our readers have communicated that the following piece, ‘About Lin’, may be considered offensive to women and to people of colour, particularly within the Asian community.
We’ve considered this feedback very carefully and, after extensive consultation with our Board, Advisory Board, Editors and a broad range of readers (particularly women of colour) have decided to keep ‘About Lin’ on Verity La, as we believe the piece addresses difficult issues relating to male white privilege in order to critique — rather than exploit—them.“
— extract from the Statement by the Verity La Board, on Stuart Cooke’s About Lin
Yes, that is pretty much what they said. I will not post any parts of “About Lin” because the more it gets suppressed the better. There really is no place for a creative piece about a white man having sex with a Filipina woman in the Philippines to even exist. Why is an arts journal okay to promote sex tourism and misogyny? Do they not realise that white dudes who go to Asia and engage in this act are preying on women who are vulnerable? Do they know that many of these women are trafficked and exploited? And why is a white guy and a lecturer from a reputable university even writing about this? Clearly he is sitting on his white privilege pedestal and ignoring the racial and sexual implications coming out of it.
After outrage, Verity La finally ‘unpublished” the piece and posted this on their Twitter:
Quite a piss weak response, and when more criticisms and condemnations were posted underneath this post, they apparently has selective thinking and deleted those which they deemed “unfavourable”. Writer Likhain wrote a very poignant piece condemning both Verity La and Stuart Cooke as well as discuss why this entire saga is problematic:
“I do not believe that the response is good enough.
It is disingenuous of Verity La to try and control the narrative by selectively deleting tweets from people, many of them Filipinx, who have criticised the piece and Verity La’s publication of it. On its Twitter account, Verity La began blocking people, many of them Asian, who have spoken out against the piece’s publication, and their subsequent Twitter response.
What is bold or provocative about silencing your critics? It is unethical (to put it lightly!), and comes from a place completely lacking in accountability or regard for the damage done, to try and paste over the horribly harmful piece that was ‘About Lin’, and to then seek to silence the voices speaking about the harm done to them by reading it. Isn’t this simply piling wrong upon wrong?
I refuse to pretend that this piece never existed. I refuse to silence or temper my response.
“A more palatable form of masculinity” indeed. My palate does not need to be spared. I will call this piece what it is: writing that spits on people’s wounds, that exploits their trauma, and gorges itself on their pain.”
I will end by showing you a Tweet by poet and educator Eunice Andrada who has summed up why “About Lin”, Verity La and Stuart Cooke is problematic and on issues around the fetishisation of Fillipina women:
To read the original article, please click on: DJED Press