LAWLESS: Delinna Ding

Lawless is a series of articles which celebrate the stories, talents and passions of students at Melbourne Law School, beyond their experiences in law. Our first instalment features the wonderful Delinna Ding. So, Del… who are you when you’re not a law student?

When I’m not a ~law~ student, I am a social media and pop culture fanatic

I use social media frequently as a channel to express my ideas. People often message me in response to the things that I post on Instagram. Most of the time, it is to tell me they have learnt something from my posts which is really cool and flattering to hear. I find that people like consuming information in this form because it is more digestible and accessible than super long articles on traditional forms of media. At least among my friends, I’ve become known as ‘the girl that spams feminist shit on her Instagram stories’. I love and appreciate social media and the power it has to do good. However, I also recognise the dangers that come with being able to spread information so quickly, especially in the wake of recent international tragedies.

Despite all the SJW stuff, I am also deeply obsessed with pop culture which I know makes me sound really hypocritical and antithetical to my brand of feminism. Things like trashy reality TV, romantic comedies, Youtube explanation videos of movies or TV shows that I don’t have the time (or am too scared) to watch, catchy but crude/misogynistic rap and hip-hop songs all fall under my umbrella term: ‘problematic faves’. I do also like to redeem myself by watching a lot of non-trashy TV shows and movies. My all-time faves include Law and Order SVU or Criminal Minds, both of which I binge on repeat.

I think it is important to recognise that these categories of media can be entertaining, inspiring and relatable. However, we should still force ourselves to have the difficult discussion about why certain representations of certain people are problematic, and how we can make them better. These ideas do not have to be mutually exclusive.

I’m also very into supporting female artists or other independent artists in genres of music I like – mainly electronic and hip hop but sometimes I’ll venture out into more indie, feminist pop or rock. I love Anna Lunoe, Lady Leshurr, Kaiit, Camp Cope and Baker Boy as a few recommendations.

When I’m not a ~law~ student, I am a teacher

I tutor at the university across a couple of management subjects. Teaching is something I never thought I’d find myself doing but I absolutely love it. I unexpectedly got pushed in this direction after messaging one of my old tutors on Instagram. I find it super rewarding and meaningful, and I definitely get a lot of fulfilment out of the job.

Honestly, I’ve had a lot of very accomplished and smart teachers, but I haven’t had nearly as many inspiring teachers. This makes me try my best to inform my teaching based on what I felt I lacked in my own education and experience. I wouldn’t consider myself naturally academic, but I think this makes me a better tutor because I can relate to my students.

I have received some amazing feedback from my students and coordinators, some of which has even made me cry. It really goes to show that a student-teacher relationship goes both ways – great students who critique and encourage make great teachers; just as much as great teachers make great students.

When I’m not a ~law~ student, I am a second-generation Asian migrant struggling with my sense of identity

My Chinese heritage and culture make up a large part of who I am despite being born in rural NSW, in a small town called Armidale. We were one of only three Asian families there in the 90s – I even made it in the newspaper when I was born! I’m sure plenty of people reading can relate to the follow up question “where are you really from?” if you say you were born and raised here.

Sometimes I struggle with feeling too Asian and at other times, not Asian enough. It is also challenging to rectify my identity as an Australian born Asian, as my Western values and behaviours can conflict with my Asian habits and traditions.

I love literally all Asian food and I can read, write (very badly) and speak fluently in Mandarin. I really love watching historical Chinese dramas (延禧攻略, 还珠格格, 步步惊心 – those who know what I’m talking about I see you) and listen to Asian pop music from time to time (code for: I had a massive phase of it in high school). I learnt a super traditional Chinese instrument called the Zither for about eight years, did calligraphy, and went to Chinese School and Saturday tutoring every single weekend for basically my entire high school life. My parents are very conservative (not the red neck kind) and especially traditional when it comes to things like relationships (just ask my half-Indian partner), education and careers.

But on the other hand, I grew up with very Western values. This is reflected in my interests – in high school I was one of the few Asian students who didn’t do any science or health related subjects. I chose to study modern history and philosophy, while my friends were doing every maths and science subject possible. This meant I didn’t have a lot of things in common with them even though we spent every lunch time together. I think this is why I up and left to Brisbane as soon as I finished high school. I didn’t want people’s perceptions of me in high school to follow me into university. My standards and ideals of beauty have also been shaped by Western culture. The way I present myself, with tattoos and piercings and (relatively) tanned skin doesn’t align with typical Asian beauty standards.

In Melbourne, I interact with a fair amount of international students – one of my closest friends and housemates is an international student from China. But I also feel that I will never be able to assimilate into their world completely because my upbringing in Australia was so wildly different. On the flip side, there are definitely times when I feel like I’m not white enough for white people.

There are times I feel like I have stumbled into this strange grey-zone somewhere in the middle of being too Asian or not Asian enough. That zone is likely to be found when I’m having dumplings and drinking wine with friends at a restaurant in Chinatown – an amount of Asian that white people are comfortable with. Bringing traditional Chinese food to school for lunch and making the whole classroom smell? Too Asian. Speaking English fluently in public when I’m travelling throughout China with my Chinese family? Now that’s international. Driving scooters overseas without a license, skinny dipping with strangers, and getting tattoos in some random apartment whilst travelling by myself? Way too white.

It has helped to know that I’m not alone in this experience. The New York Times described the ‘Subtle Asian Traits’ Facebook group as a ‘global hit’, and with over a million of us in the group, the sentiments I’ve described are common among my generation of ABCs (Australian Born Chinese). I just hope that as we navigate through the struggles and joys of being first-generation Asian migrants, these Asian traits – or private school traits, or whatever other traits we identify as having – are not just subtle but are visible and celebrated.

Delinna Ding
(more than just a) 2nd Year JD Student

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