Guess what, love’s getting louder…

Those of you who follow my writing know that I am all once homesick for family across the globe, and firmly anchored in my louderARTS poetry family in New York city. My louderARTS family have embraced everything about me, and in their embrace I have found new fire and authority in my voice as poet and woman.

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The work that The louderARTS Project does is amazing, and I am giddy to  have become part of their  100% volunteer crew. Ours is a labor of love and service, firmly anchored in our belief in the power of poetry, art and language to shift the conversations in culture. The generosity of our features, poets, artists, sponsors, and community of audience members is what has allowed us to do the work that we do for sixteen years now.

This generous louderFAMILY that has given so much to the New York poetry community now needs our help.  Check out our Indiegogo Fund raiser rooted in our mission and commitment to developing spaces to grow and learn as artists and writers. Our big hearted community of kick-ass poets, performers, writers and teachers have generously volunteered their time and expertise to offer mentoring courses that are extra special we can hardly contain our excitement! Find out more here, share some love and poetry.

And just like that, my love and your love  just got really loud!

We Do Because We Can

1Q Instagram 612px (DEB)I had the honor of speaking with Oasis Rescue’s Debbie Rodriguez, builder of safe spaces and advocate for women.

Here is a peek into the inspiring conversation about life, creative subversion and how much stronger our voices are when they work together. Our our-long exploring  is captured in this article in which she says

“In all the places I’ve lived, you can take a beauty shop and put in the middle of a crisis area and all it does is that it brings back a degree of normal. And sometimes that’s what people need. Give me a little box I can go into and feel normal for an hour. Sometimes, that can mean the difference between sanity and insanity. Often, all a hard place really needs is just a moment of normal to soften things.”

What an honor it is that I get to share spaces and conversations with amazing  friends, colleagues, co-conspirators. They inspire me to stay doing the work of creative subversion and generosity.

On the one hand, we have made so much progress. On the other hand, there is so much still to be done.  I continue to strive and give voice, texture, heart to the stories and the work of leaving this world better for those who’ve come after me.

Dove Schmove. There, I Said It.

I’ll be the first to admit that at one point in my career, I worked on Dove. And yes, Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty has received a lot of merit and attention. And yes, the campaign has been helpful in bringing awareness to the media’s role in self-esteem issues. But let’s face it, Dove will never truly be an activist brand fighting at all cost on behalf of women’s self esteem. And for all the money it has and all its good intentions, Dove will never truly be able to get to the heart of the issue because it simply does not get it.

How could it? It plays in the exact same category it alleges to take a stand against. It profits from the same exact women it alleges to advocate. At the end of the day, you cannot dip your heavy marketing hands in and out of an issue as deep and complex as this.

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 3.15.24 PMThis has always been my criticism of this campaign, even when I was involved in it. There has always been a heavy handed lack of depth, one which makes the people at the core of the campaign think they can take a stand against beauty stereotypes by lifting up what is stereotypically un-beautiful – fat, dark, flat, gray, old.

There is also an almost defensive self-consciousness that misses all the subtleties and nuances that comprise beauty diversity at its best. An inclusive view of beauty recognizes all beauty and does not pit one kind of beauty versus another, in this case it is the beauty stereotype vs. the un-beauty stereotype.

This is because they simply don’t get it. This is because they still somehow believe (as most Anglo entities do) that they have a messianic part to play. I have news for you, Dove. Our self esteem is not yours to save. If you truly want to take a stand, then you need to stop hiding behind marketing and match your rhetoric with actions of consequence.

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Stop using photoshop and post-production to airbrush out and correct what your graphic designers deem to be unsightly.

Stop assuming that the stereotypical non-beauty doesn’t own bangin’ underwear.

Stop focusing on imperfection and prying on insecurity, we already know we aren’t perfect. We don’t need your big media dollars barraging us.

Start having real conversations with no other agenda than to understand.

Start celebrating true diversity by opening your minds to a broader understanding of what is beautiful.

The more you pretend you are part of a fight that you aren’t prepared to go the distance with us on, the more we see that all this is marketing. No more, no less.

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Photo credit: John Van Hasselt

We see you, Dove. And despite all this, we are rooting for you to do your part in raising children with healthy self-esteem. We are rooting for you to get it, and to get really real.

Talking about Talking

In this bustling global city that goes by many names, I have found the perfect window to the weekend! For a few years now, my Fridays have involved an ongoing conversation with TEDxNewYork. I have the honor of being part of their organizing team this year. 

We meet at 5:30, view a TED talk and have a delightful, insightful conversation in which we reflect upon what was discussed. Last Friday, we listened to a man who, in losing his physical voice found a stronger, more decisive voice. We celebrate the man, the life, the message. We contemplate about one’s true voice. For your listening delight and enlightenment, the late Roger Ebert talking to TED in 2011 about remaking his voice.

What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?

I see you

I see you

Do you remember the first time you experienced sexism in the workplace? I do. Can you recall the first time a misogynist spoke to you about you? I do.

In a former life, I was living a different kind of dream. I had an important job at an important company where I had influence. An impressive amount of responsibility was laid upon my shoulders, as I broke through glass ceilings that were previously impenetrable for  women like me. It still gives me a great sense of pride to think about that time.

In the white-boys-club that is the Asia Pacific regional advertising scene, a group of us Asian women were slowly starting to gain the respect and recognition of our Caucasian male  colleagues and management. We were a tight and determined team. At first it was me from Manila, Geeta from Mumbai, Haruko from Tokyo and SuetLan from Kuala Lumpur. We were a good mix of fun and hard work, determined to succeed at both and we were on fire! We worked  long hard days and had many late nights. We spent a good amount of time traveling, as our responsibilities included supporting and supervising the twelve local offices in the region. The work was high profile within the organization, and it was relentless. You were all at once required to be firm and diplomatic, solve problems while keeping the peace. Stress levels were through the roof. You could find yourself having to be in three or four cities in one week, going straight from the airport to your meetings in Tokyo or New Delhi or Seoul.

So you can imagine that setting up a home base that provided a sense of calm and refuge was critical to our well-being. It was in talking about this with one of the most senior leaders of the company that I had my first direct experience of misogyny.

Living it Up, The Peak in Hong Kong

Living it Up, The Peak in Hong Kon

We were fleshing out the details of my contract when we came to the discussion of housing allowance. I naively thought that the company had standard allowance allocations based on level of seniority. When asked about my expectations on housing allowance, I said something like, “Well, I would expect the same housing allowance allocation that you would give to the other Regional Planning Directors already being housed here in Bangkok.”

To my sheer and utter shock, the man who was one of my bosses, this man who was speaking on behalf of a global organization for which he was the regional vice chairman said to me, “Well, one would think that a single girl like you wouldn’t need more than a studio apartment. You can’t really compare your housing needs to those of a man who has brought his entire family over to live with him in this part of the world.”

In that one sweeping statement, my sex, my life choices, my race all being thrown back in my face as a liability. As a reason to get less than I deserve. As a reason to give the white man more than me, even though he wasn’t generating as much business as me.

Of course I didn’t let him get away with it. Of course I said, firm and gently, “I don’t see how that that matters. I think people who have the same title and responsibility should get the same allocation.” I cannot say that I received the exact same amount, my single Australian male colleague whose client was less than half the size of mine had a house twice the size of mine. It woud be reasonable to assume that the size of one’s house is directly correlated to size of one’s housing allowance.

It took me years to finally extricate myself from that job and the sexism that prevailed not just in the industry, but specifically when the most senior management in Asia Pacific was exclusively Caucasian males living it up in the boomingest part of the world.

Living a New Dream

I no longer work for that company.

More importantly, I no longer tolerate behavior like that in my work life. I no longer have to.

I am living a different dream, a much better one that is fair and open and exciting. It is all mine. And this is the true mark of my success.

There are Burqas Everywhere

It can be easy to look at someone else and assume we are different, perhaps even better off.

I spoke with a fantastic women’s advocate today who helps rescue women from adverse situations and provides them with a safe place and reliable source of livelihood. She spent a significant amount of time in Afghanistan, and because of this she talked about how bored she was of the question about the Taliban burqa impositions.

Can you see me in the third row of this sea of eager to please girl scouts?

Can you see me in the third row of this sea of eager to please girl scouts, all around eight years old?

“It’s just a thing.” She expounded, “how different is that from your husband telling you that you can’t leave the house wearing what you have on? Or from uniforms, like school uniforms?”

That’s when it struck us. There are burqas everywhere.

Everything society puts upon us in an effort to control or suppress is a burqa. Everything we do, have, feel pressured to do/be as a result of society’s pressure is a kind of burqa. Just because we can’t see it, just because they don’t call themselves a Tailban, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Doesn’t mean it’s not a burqa.

Before we look to other people and feel all smug and superior, it might be wise to take a long hard look at ourselves and be really honest. It might be time to explore the difficult question: what Talibanesque burqas has society imposed upon you?

It’s a Women’s History Month Fund Rasing Storm!

Love_Feb2012Weaving the Women’s WebWe have the deep joy and humbling privilege of belonging to the Paris-based non-profit, The Women’s Worldwide Web, of which Tish is one of the co-founders and James has been an adviser. It is the Women’s Worldwide Web’s vision to harness the power of digital technology and the web as a force for the empowerment of the world’s girls and women. We invite you to join our online community of change-makers and inspiring friends.

Functional Literacy Programmes  for the Women of the DR of Congo
A decade of civil war has left the women of post-war South Kivu province most vulnerable and impoverished. We can do our part in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty by empowering women with literacy and knowledge that will equip them for significant employment opportunities.

The Women’s Worldwide Web is raising funds for a literacy programme in one of the poorest provinces in South Kivu, with over 84% of the population living in poverty. The inspiring project is run by the Women’s Worldwide Web field parter, The Collectif Alpha UJUVI, whose programme on Literacy for the peaceful coexistence of communities and good governance in North Kivu received the 2011 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy. 

Out of a Vicious Cycle and Into a Virtuous One
The collective builds classrooms, provides learning kits, and trains and employs teachers specialized in psychosocial support and literacy for adults, as well as peace education, so that the women are provided with a holistic education tailored to their needs, and provides day care for their children. By helping these women find words, books, literacy, calculation, voice, independence we are giving them the tools and the fire so they can rewrite their story. 

We fell in love with this project’s power to take the most vulnerable of the world’s women out the vicious cycle of poverty and give them a chance at the virtuous cycle of knowledge and independence.

Stronger and Stronger, Our Voices Together
We invite you to participate in our fund-raiser. Click here to find out more and make a donation. Do spread our word by forwarding this email on, or activating your social network through our Facebook event.

By changing the the future of women in the DR Congo, we are changing the future of women all over the world!

Sponsor functional literacy courses for a vulnerable woman in South Kivu, DR Congo
Sponsor functional literacy courses for a vulnerable woman in South Kivu, DR Congo

Rise, My Love and Be My Valentine!

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Love says NO.

Love sees that ONE IN THREE WOMEN ON THE PLANET WILL BE RAPED OR BEATEN IN HER LIFETIME.*

And says HELL NO.

Love sees that ONE BILLION WOMEN VIOLATED IS AN ATROCITY and says NO. OH, HELL NO.

Then love Rises and says YES.

True love Rises and says YES.

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True love says YES to putting a stop to violence against girls and women. True love says YES and joins in our community fundraiser and helps provide women survivors of sexual violence in DR Congo the opportunity to establish income-generating projects; true love helps them rebuild their lives and become fundamental actors in sparking social and economic progress in their communities!

Join our W4 community rise in support of the V-Day One Billion Rising campaign.

Sexism in the City: Who’s the Boss of You, Your Breasts and Your Booty?

I grew up in a culture of conundrums. On the one hand, it is a deeply Catholic society which upholds those double standards. And yet, we have had two female presidents and a significant number of women in corporate leadership. Machismo is celebrated but when the most macho of men get home, they understand that the home is the domain of women, who yield their strength with gentle force as CEO of the home and beyond.

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Filipina CEO-types Getting Together for Dinner

So it is easy for foreigners to be confused. Early in my career, we had a Brit named Geoffrey running the Manila office of the big multinational agency I was working for. As part of preparing for a big meeting for then-client Shell, Geoffrey sent out an email instructing his female colleagues to wear mini skirts to encourage, shall we say, favorable results from the clients. And while we had a good laugh at his ignorance and audacity, we did not for a minute undermine the seriousness of it all.

It is easy to brush this off and tell me things like, “Oh, Tish that was the Philippines. Things like that happen all the time over there.” Or you might even say, “that was fifteen years ago, things are different now.” Here’s the thing. It is still happening. Right in your community. Yes women of America and women of the world, there are Geoffreys weilding their memos to this very day – right in your neighborhood.

There are Geoffreys of the robe telling you what you can and cannot do with your body. There are Geoffreys of the legislature telling you that you do not have the same rights as your male counterparts. And there are Geoffreys in your industry telling you what you can and cannot do with your body and your wardrobe.

Ladies, I am telling you, there are Geoffreys cashing in on our awesomeness and in the same breath, sending memos stating rules which attempt to control it. Don’t believe me? Here is an excerpt from the Grammy dress code memo:

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Lady, wherever you live and however awesome you are, there is Sexism in your City. There are Geoffreys trying to control you. Do like the ladies of the Grammys and show the Geoffreys exactly WHO is the boss of you, your breasts and your booty.