#NotYourAsianSidekick reveals the best — and worst — of Twitter

December 17, 2013

abc_not_your_asian_sidekick_ll_131216_16x9_992

Over the weekend, something magical happened.

Suey Park (@suey_park) — graduate student and activist — rallied Asian American feminists to start a Twitter conversation on the intersection of Asian American race activism and feminism. She asked us to Tweet under the hashtag #NotYourAsianSidekick.

And then Twitter blew up.

By Sunday evening, 45,000 Tweets had referenced the #NotYourAsianSidekick, and spent nearly 8 hours as the top trending topic on Twitter. More importantly, Twitter spent that time highlighting such meaty topics as sexism, feminism, body image and immigration rights.

(I unfortunately was out-of-town this weekend, so jumped into the party Monday afternoon, when I returned to computer access).

As an Asian American feminist who has been blogging at this intersection for upwards of ten years, this was amazing, heart-warming, and redeeming. For far too long, Asian American feminists have been at the margins of both mainstream feminism and Asian American race activism. We have been pushed to the side, told to sit back and wait. We have been promised that one day it will be our turn to be heard; but not now, not yet.

#NotYourAsianSidekick — and the attention it garnered not only from the Twitterverse but from mainstream media outlets like Salon and ABC — was a reinvigorating demonstration that it’s time to end the silence.

I consider myself a dedicated Asian American race activist. And the Internet has been a proven and powerful vehicle for advancing our cause, raising awareness for our narratives and helping to organize our community efforts.

But, the fact — fact — of our community is also that institutionalized sexism has long silenced the voices of Asian American feminists. Race activism to promote Asian American identity and equality has been seen as at odds with feminism, largely with the accusation that pointing out the very sexism within the APIA community is too critical and divisive. On the other hand, feminists are told a sort of “When and Where I Enter” argument — that achievement of racial equality will magically sweep with it gender equality, or that discussions of feminism can wait. And so, a disheartening pattern emerges wherein APIA men dominate the dialogue on the Asian American identity.

In parallel, the fact — fact — of the feminist community is that it typically marginalizes the voices of women of colour. Black and brown feminists often find ourselves pushed aside in mainstream feminist circles, again seen as too divisive. We are viewed as diluting the (predominantly White) feminist “message” when we point out how mainstream feminism isn’t always applicable to the lived experiences of women of colour. And even within WOC circles, APIA feminists are sometimes cast as “not the right kind of ‘of color'” — as if being Asian means we are “too privileged” or “not oppressed enough” to count.

I tweeted that being an Asian American feminist is what happens when Oppression Olympics meets the Model Minority Myth.

And so, enter #NotYourAsianSidekick: a refreshing and positive movement to centralize the narratives of Asian American women. Not in the context of Asian American men, or in the context of White feminism, but Asian American feminists in our own right. And, for the most part, that’s what happened. And it was awesome.

We were able to express our feelings of marginalization. We were able to point out how APIA feminists are too often not taken seriously, seen as a “fringe” identity, or told to choose between being a woman or being an Asian American.

Here’s a link to the full hashtag conversation, because Storifying 45,000 tweets is insane. Grace Hwang Lynch also has a great write-up over at BlogHer.

But inevitably, the hashtag was subverted. Not only was there the innocent (if largely predictable) subversion that expanded the hashtag so that it lost the feminist focus, but there also occurred a more sinister subversion. Internet trolls combined #NotYourAsianSidekick with the hashtag #AsianPrivilege to willfully dismiss the notion that Asian Americans experienced racism (or that Asian American women experience sexism).

One of the most popular tweets was the misguided argument that because Asians represent a large segment of the global population, we cannot be a minority and/or be oppressed in America (where, at the last Census, a mere 5% of the population). This assertion is — let’s face it, guys — just plain illogical.

Others argued that class privilege — access to higher education and high-skilled jobs — negated any oppression of Asian Americans. This counter-argument fails for two reasons: 1) anti-Asian racism (and sexism) occurs at all classes, and even in high-skilled industries like STEM, where Asian Americans are highly represented. I have experienced this first-hand; and 2) many non-East Asian APIA folks are very economically underprivileged yet receive virtually no attention. The entire #AsianPrivilege hashtag was a subtly racist reinforcement of the Model Minority Myth.

Still others argued that the entire hashtag was anti-White, or anti-Black. This criticism confused me; how can me being Asian and speaking from my identity be an attack upon someone else? My mere existence is not — should not be — an affront to you.

But, perhaps one of the most bizarre subversions of #NotYourAsianSidekick was trolling by real, or possibly fake, accounts. For what purpose I have no idea; why does any troll do what he or she does? But, nonetheless, some participants found trolls setting up fake accounts to pretend to be them, but by sending inflammatory anti-feminist tweets. Other trolls took the opportunity to make countless anti-Asian jokes, best left to the likes of Seth MacFarlane. And, last night, a number of accounts puporting to represent Jewish American Tweeters spent hours arguing that Asians Americans were — en masse — anti-Semitic.

The rapidness with which the Internet built up, and then tore down, a phenomenal conversation on racism and sexism is a quintessential example of how Twitter is great, but it is not enough. #NotYourAsianSidekick demonstrates that our ideas as Asian American feminists are out there, under the surface, waiting to be heard. But #NotYourAsianSidekick also proves that Twitter is the wrong place to have this conversation. 140 characters isn’t enough to express a lifetime of experiences — both oppressive and uplifting — and to be able to do it in a place where it can be heard and taken seriously.

Suey Park ended #NotYourAsianSidekick with the sentiment: this is not a trend, this is a movement. I couldn’t agree more. Asian American feminists need a space where our experiences can be expressed and advocated for and unsubverted.

I hope #NotYourAsianSidekick is the first step towards the construction of that space and the initiation of a dialogue decades in the making. I know I, for one, have been waiting for this for far too long.

48 thoughts on “#NotYourAsianSidekick reveals the best — and worst — of Twitter

  1. Jenn

    Would you clarify what it is you mean by “institutional sexism within the community”? I find that confusing because in the West, Asian men do not control the institutions.

    As for Asian men dominating the dialogue on Asian-American identity, I think that is true in some ways, untrue in others. I think we kind of skirted this subject on BigWOWO, where we were talking about why there are so few Asian female bloggers or feminist bloggers, compared to men.

    In this day and age of free, easily accessible blog platforms and social media, there can be no real blame placed on Asian men for the lack of female voices – surely you cannot be suggesting that Asian women are somehow forbidden from the blogspaces by Asian men? Why there are not more Asian women doing this is an interesting question, but I think it is too easy, and probably inaccurate to say that sexism may be a significant factor in this.

    Having said that, I’m not entirely convinced that Asian women are excluded from or, in fact, do not contribute significantly to the dialogue of Asian identity. Asian women are often spokespeople for activism, and lead the way in garnering support for activist causes, and regularly write Asian-related content in mainstream media platforms.

    My real interest though, is in hearing what your thoughts are on what are the most significant issues of sexism faced by Asian-American women in 21st century America, and how the dynamic of sexism within the community is related to these issues?

  2. Ben,

    Maybe what happens is that Asian American women grow up within the confines of an Asian American community, which is probably often patriarchal.

    But we’re talking about very limited spheres here such as families, churches, tight-knit minority communities, etc.

    In other words, Asian patriarchy is being extrapolated onto greater American society from what goes on in the tiny spheres of the Asian American community.

  3. Hi Ben and Pozhal, thank you for your comments. Sorry I wasn’t able to get to them until now.

    Would you clarify what it is you mean by “institutional sexism within the community”? I find that confusing because in the West, Asian men do not control the institutions.

    Within the boundaries of the Asian American community, there is an institution of cultural and political norm; wherein certain identities — male, heterosexual, wealthy — wield power in a way that can silence other identities. We don’t deal with a single institution in the West (or anywhere), but Ven diagrams of institutions. Within the AAPI community, there is clear systemic patriarchal attitudes that often serve to silence the voices of women; as is true in many minority communities. The fact that these communities are en masse disadvantaged within the larger context of America does not negate internalized systemic oppression of women, the poor, queers, etc.

    One clear example (taking it away from men vs women) is how we have an implicit heteronormative assumption when we speak about Asian American issues that marginalizes the Asian American queer identity. We do not, as a group, take up the cause of equal rights for gay Asian Americans, or fight for greater acceptance WITHIN the Asian American community. This is a form of instutionalized heteronormative-ness and homophobia that warrants further attention.

    In this day and age of free, easily accessible blog platforms and social media, there can be no real blame placed on Asian men for the lack of female voices – surely you cannot be suggesting that Asian women are somehow forbidden from the blogspaces by Asian men?

    No, of course not. But it is interesting to note that — as a woman — I’m faced with greater scrutiny within the APIA community than a male blogger in regards to whether or not I’m sufficiently “down for the cause”. There’s skepticism that I can be a fully-committed APIA race activist by virtue of my feminism, my personal history, etc. This is a common experience for most APIA female bloggers — one that was demonstrated on Twitter over the weekend when we spoke about it. When someone like Byron blogs, there is a greater implicit assumption that he has a “pure” Asian American agenda; were he a woman, he would face greater innate skepticism and have to “prove” himself more.

    In other words, there is an assumption that a feminist Asian American woman splits her time between being Asian American and being feminist, or (because she might want to talk about patriarchy or sexism sometimes) that she is too divisive to be accepted as a mainstream voice for Asian Americans.

    So yes, she can start a blog. But will she be accepted as readily as is a male speaker? Probably not. That, in my opinion, is why there are many APIA female bloggers, but almost none of notoriety.

    Asian women are often spokespeople for activism, and lead the way in garnering support for activist causes, and regularly write Asian-related content in mainstream media platforms.

    When it comes to “mainstream” blogs and media outlets focusing on the Asian American identity, I find a disappointing underrepresentation of APIA women. It’s not that we’re not there, it’s that we’re not taken as seriously.

    My real interest though, is in hearing what your thoughts are on what are the most significant issues of sexism faced by Asian-American women in 21st century America, and how the dynamic of sexism within the community is related to these issues?

    Whoo boy — that’s asking me to synthesize 45,000 tweets into a single comment, isn’t it?

    What was clear from #NotYourAsianSidekick is a feeling that Asian American feminists are seen as illegitimate — within the Asian American conversation and within the feminist conversation. We are seen as “too privileged”, “not oppressed enough”, “too divisive”. We’re stuck having to constantly validate the existence of sexism — within the APIA community and within the larger American landscape — and this prevents us from being able to develop our identity further. In short, we’re constantly having to justify our presence “in the room”.

    When it comes to 21st century sexism, within the community, the largest problem seems to be that conversations of feminism seem to be invariably co-opted and subverted so that the focus on women is completely lost. We see that at BigWoWo. We see that in the mainstream. We saw that happen in #NotYourAsianSidekick.

    More tangibly — my three PERSONAL gender equality issues are

    1) that Asian Americans have the highest gender income gap of all races. APIA women make 73 cents to every dollar that an APIA man makes, which is the lowest of all other races by more than 5 cents.

    2), mental health issues which we’ve discussed, which I would like to maintain a focus on APIA women, but which the community largely doesn’t talk about, and

    3) human trafficking/immigration rights. Asian Americans, particularly women, are the second largest undocumented immigrant population in the States and growing, and worldwide, most trafficked sex workers come from Asian nations. Yet, this is an issue the community — either the APIA community or the feminist community — pretty much ignores.

    The “dynamic of sexism” as you put it is the simple fact that these issues are virtually never tackled, under the guise that Asian American women are “too privileged” to experience actual racism or sexism, or that issues of sexism/patriarchy can wait until the whole Asian American community has somehow magically “achieved” racial equality.

    @Pozhal

    Maybe what happens is that Asian American women grow up within the confines of an Asian American community, which is probably often patriarchal.

    But we’re talking about very limited spheres here such as families, churches, tight-knit minority communities, etc.

    In other words, Asian patriarchy is being extrapolated onto greater American society from what goes on in the tiny spheres of the Asian American community.

    I’m not sure I follow… please elaborate?

  4. Jenn,

    What I meant was that an Asian American woman may grow up in an Asian American sphere (i.e. family circles, churches) that amplify Asian male power. And once she leaves this very limited sphere, she still remembers Asian male patriarchy and wants to fight in the greater American society.

    The only problem is that outside of the Asian American world, Asian men don’t have a lot of power, in relative terms. As men, we do have male privilege, but when compared to White men, we’re still voiceless and invisible in the greater American sphere.

    I’m just bringing this up because Asian feminism is often accused, rightfully or wrongfully, of lambasting Asian men for perpetrating sexism in America while giving White men a free pass.

    Basically, it means, “Because my Asian dad was a patriarch who ran my family, it means that Asian men are patriarchs who run American society.”

  5. Hi Pozhal,

    With all due respect, that strikes me as a somewhat uninformed representation of APIA feminism. APIA feminism doesn’t “give a pass” to White sexism — not at all. Mainstream sexism, for example, is quite often spoken about, particularly when APIA feminists are speaking within larger feminist circles.

    However, male privilege is still male privilege, whether a man is White or minority. And, I would beg to argue that Asian men — while disadvantaged based on race — still quite readily enjoy the privilege of being men, whether within the APIA community or within the larger American political landscape. One prime example I’ve given is the income earning gap within the APIA community, but that’s hardly the only example.

    So while I don’t discount that APIA men suffer a certain “voicelessness” when it comes to race, this doesn’t negate their privilege and power when it comes to benefiting from institutionalized sexism.

    In short, this:

    Basically, it means, “Because my Asian dad was a patriarch who ran my family, it means that Asian men are patriarchs who run American society.”

    …has never been a viewpoint I have encountered or espoused as an Asian American feminists. APIA feminists would argue that Asian men can, and should, examine their male privilege. However, no APIA feminist would misguidedly believe APIA men “run American society”.

    And — unless you are erroneously characterizing APIA feminism as what aardvark in BigWoWo aptly refers to as “Joy Luck Club feminism”; a great term, by the way — I don’t think it’s fair to even suggest APIA feminists are interested in giving White men a free pass to be sexist. A great deal of the #NotYourAsianSidekick discussion focused predominantly on sexism coming from outside the APIA community.

    And, within the smaller sphere of the APIA community? It’s important that APIA men not be given the “free pass” to ignore their male privilege and sexism in favour of focusing on their disadvantages due to race within mainstream society. I think the problem is that, too often, non-feminists hear a discussion of sexism within the APIA community and assume that APIA feminists who want to focus within the community wouldn’t also focus outside of the community, when in truth, those folks aren’t interested in being in the room to hear when APIA feminists are focused on so-called “mainstream” sexism.

    Meanwhile, non-APIA feminists won’t take up the issue of sexism within the APIA community (nor should they, necessarily), so this becomes one of the prime concerns of the APIA feminist. The problem is, I think, y’all only here this part of what we say, so you assume it’s ALL we say, which isn’t true.

  6. Jen,

    Yes, I would agree that “Joy Luck Feminism” is definitely not real Asian American feminism. My point is that there are some people out there who espouse those kinds of views while thinking they’re being feminist. These people unfortunately cast a bad light on actual Asian feminists and cause potential Asian male allies to turn away because they think that Asian feminism is only interested in bashing Asian men.

  7. I agree with what Jenn said above about male bloggers vs. female bloggers. It’s a form of male privilege that I’ve come to understand more and more, the longer I’ve blogged. I think the blogging paths that I took might be different had I understood this earlier. It’s really unfortunate.

    And once I get over my blog burnout, I’m probably going to be moderating my site a bit more. I’ve heard so many complaints about the stupid bottom tier commenters on my site, that I’m thinking of putting them out of business. I just need to get my energy up so that I can take them all out at once.

    Pozhal:

    “These people unfortunately cast a bad light on actual Asian feminists and cause potential Asian male allies to turn away because they think that Asian feminism is only interested in bashing Asian men.”

    While I agree that much of Asian American feminism has been a Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Asian-Male Joy Luck Club pinata party, and while I also agree that the Asian male bashing turns Asian men away, I think it’s dangerous and wrong to sell Asian feminists on the idea that Asian men will somehow jump in and become allies. It’s just not going to happen, whether we get attacked or not. And if it does, I wouldn’t trust those men. I’d tell my daughter to avoid those Asian men like the plague. They can’t be trusted.

    Look at standard “white” feminism, with Hugo Schwyzer and friends.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/alisonvingiano/why-did-controversial-feminist-hugo-schwyzer-have-a-twitter

    I’ve seen this kind of thing happen more than once. The problem is that feminism should be about women, not men. When you bring men into the picture, it screws up everything.

    Everyone needs to drop the idea that men are necessary for feminism. We’re not. They don’t need us, and if they do, we’ll screw up everything. Women can do it on their own, and they ought to be calling the shots.

  8. Jenn

    I think that the way that arguments are made is just as important as the argument itself. To label something “institutional” is to state categorically that there are rules and laws in place that prevent Asian women from pursuing their own agenda. For example, laws that prevent women from serving as soldiers on the front line.

    While I agree that there is probably heavy family pressure put on Asian women to follow a certain path in life, I think that Asian men are largely under similar family pressures. But this can in no way be termed institutional – doing so puts an unfair and inaccurate burden on Asian men to address something that does not actually exist and can therefore not be resolved. In other words, framing the argument in this way, closes off dialogue and must mislead both Asian women, and the Asian men who may well wish to show support.

    What you say about “hetero-normative” is interesting, but I would not necessarily put that down to any kind of institutional oppression, and this highlights another problem with framing issues in this way. I just think that people are so caught up in trying to find their own piece of turf where they can identify. Such situations leave little opportunity for generosity and that is sad all around, but it is human nature and the nature of living with the racism beast.

    Having said that, I’m not entirely sure that there is actually complete separation of interests – I think that Lt Choi got a lot of support from the general Asian-American community, and much of the Asian blogosphere does seem geared towards diversity. I”m even doing my part and link to two gay Asian male bloggers – mainly because they present unique perspectives and that is my focus, new ideas, or unique perspectives.

    Thanks for outlining your three most significant issues of sexism facing Asian women, and I agree entirely that Asian-Americans are silent about these things, but I don’t see the sexism (except in the case of Asian women’s income), and I definitely don’t see the any kind of Asian-American institutional sexism here.

    Unless you are saying that Asian women’s pay scales are generally determined by Asian men – which is probably not true – that is not necessarily an Asian male/female dynamic. As for human trafficking and mental health, I think that Asians just don’t talk about mental health regardless of who suffers from it, and as you say, neither Asian men or women are talking about it much, so a sexism claim seems not entirely far-fetched, but certainly unlikely as a reason for why we don’t talk about it.

    In any case, at least in the examples you gave, apart from Asian women’s pay scales, I’m just not seeing sexism – and particularly Asian institutional sexism – as integral to any of these issues.

    To finish, I agree 100% that Asian women are not often taken seriously in the blogosphere, and I’m not really sure how to address that. I’m open to unique perspectives and ideas, and I will push those. Perhaps the problem is that – and we skirted this as well in a previous discussion – the way we use the blogosphere has not evolved into a platform for the exchange of ideas and unique perspectives between blog authors and not just between bloggers and their followers. Maybe we have allowed the spaces to be dragged down to a place where meaningful dialogue and unique ideas cannot thrive.

  9. There is no “AAPI” community. Pacific island men dominate – really?? Pacific island women are over privileged?? Please. Asian privilege is assuming you have a right to speak for pacific islanders when you are only talking about yourselves.

  10. Fifty bucks says this is a bored white troll masquerading as a person of color because he has no life and nothing better to do. :D

  11. I don’t know. Kare’s points are valid, and I’ve heard them before. On the other hand, they are “in-community” enough that it’s unlikely that a non-AAPI person would be aware of this particular line of argument.

    More on the rest soon.

  12. The comment seems to fit a certain template to me. I mean, you could substitute “Pacific Islander” for Uighur, Tibetan, Burmese, Hmong, Japanese, Filipino, etc and it would pretty much be driving home the same content.

  13. @Pozhal:

    Yes, I would agree that “Joy Luck Feminism” is definitely not real Asian American feminism. My point is that there are some people out there who espouse those kinds of views while thinking they’re being feminist.

    We don’t judge Islam by the Taliban. We don’t judge Christianity by Nazis. We don’t judge Asian American race activism by our community’s sexist misogynists. Every political idea has a subset of folks who a) don’t get it, and/or b) subvert it.

    I have no idea how many “Joy Luck Club” feminists there are out there, but “Joy Luck” feminism is not representative of Asian American feminism. While I think both “Women Warrior” and “Joy Luck Club” are feminist works, I think they are feminist for reasons that are not the reasons you might think I think they are feminist. Hint, it has nothing to do with White men.

    @Byron

    I agree with what Jenn said above about male bloggers vs. female bloggers. It’s a form of male privilege that I’ve come to understand more and more, the longer I’ve blogged. I think the blogging paths that I took might be different had I understood this earlier. It’s really unfortunate.

    Yay!

    While I agree that much of Asian American feminism has been a Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Asian-Male Joy Luck Club pinata party, and while I also agree that the Asian male bashing turns Asian men away,

    This is a weird characterization to me. In the same way that Asian American activism isn’t about villanizing White people (at least it’s not for me, can’t speak for some on your blog, Byron), I also don’t see discussions of institutionalized sexism and patriarchy as “pin-the-tail-on-the-Asian-man” thing. Interrogating male privilege isn’t and hasn’t ever been Asian male bashing.

    But, pointing out sexism — and how it benefits Asian men — is not an attack. I think it becomes an attack when Asian men see it as an attack. If I ask you to confront your privilege — unpack your invisible backpack as it were — I’m asking you to see what advantages you have and help with me to fight to ensure that I have those same advantages as you. I don’t blame you for benefiting from an unfair system, unless you are disinterested in changing the system so that it is fair. No more than I can blame rich people for being rich, White people for being White, and straight people for being straight.

    I think it’s a false battle between the genders, that is made more polarizing because men honestly see feminism as “girls looking to beat up guys”. It’s not, and hasn’t been that way from our end; at least not until guys refuse to consider changing the status quo. But that’s fighting the act of wanting to prop up the existing system, not fighting your identity as a guy.

    I think it’s dangerous and wrong to sell Asian feminists on the idea that Asian men will somehow jump in and become allies. It’s just not going to happen, whether we get attacked or not.

    Why is that? Feminism is basically “men and women should be treated equal; women shouldn’t be disadvantaged because we are women”. Why is that something men can’t get behind?

    I strongly believe in the idea of the male feminist, just like I strongly believe in the White race activist, and the straight queer activist.

    Hugo Schwyzer was a very bad male feminist. He is not representative of what a male feminist looks like at all. If you check the #NYAS hash-tag, you’ll see plenty of great male feminists out there, including this year’s Mr. Hyphen, Sean Miura.

    The problem is that feminism should be about women,

    Feminism is about gender equality. Women should be empowered, but it’s not a girls’-only club. Contemporary feminism has largely done away with the notion that women should exclude men from the movement, although we want to include men who are behind the idea that while they can participate and take a lead, they don’t HAVE to be in charge. Most male feminists recognize their own male privilege, recognize that they are not women so don’t live a life disadvantaged by their gender, and willingly take a backseat. But that’s not a top-down rule, nor should it be.

    We don’t need men in the feminist movement, but it sure as heck helps to have more -people- on-board with the message of gender equality.

  14. Jenn

    I was kind of interested in hearing your feedback on my comments about what constitutes “institutional” discrimination. The easiest examples of institutional discrimination are Jim Crow, the Black Codes, as well as laws forbidding property ownership and citizenship of Asian immigrants and so on.

    Are you suggesting that what you term “institutional sexism within the (Asian-American) community”, is institutional – like Jim Crow – in that laws exist that prevent Asian women from prospering?

  15. @Ben

    Sorry I didn’t have time to get to your comment, as it was the third down and, as you can seen, I was busy writing a fairly long post yesterday.

    I think that the way that arguments are made is just as important as the argument itself. To label something “institutional” is to state categorically that there are rules and laws in place that prevent Asian women from pursuing their own agenda. For example, laws that prevent women from serving as soldiers on the front line.

    That’s a fairly rigid and dated definition of “institutionalized” oppression, from which activists have moved past. While Jim Crow is a great example of laws and rules that have explicitly been used to keep one group down, the notion of “institutionalized” have evolved away from needing to be based on explicit laws and regulations, and have come now to recognize cultural institutions, defined by cultural norms and practices handed down from generation to generation.

    For example, the institution of name inheritance male parent is not reinforced by law, but nonetheless is a common cultural practice handed down from generation-to-generation, a system that we all exist within, and which we either participate in or maybe rebel against. Institutionalized racism against Asians, for example, would include various stereotypes you and I face, including the model minority myth which is deeply ingrained within our society, and which both Asians and non-Asians are the impacts of which (through hiring practices, social stigma) are felt from generation to generation.

    Similarly, insitutionalized sexism absolutely exists, both within the larger American cultural institution, as well as the smaller Asian American cultural institution. Some are reinforced by laws — laws prohibiting women to serve for example. Others, are supposed to be corrected by laws — income, for example, should be the same for a man and a woman, yet in the aggregate women do earn less than men.

    Within the Asian American cultural institution (of which I hope you do not deny the existence), there are further evidences of sexism, some profound, some subtle; but all that produce quite real impacts in our lives the effects of which are felt generationally. Women face quite severe body image problems within our community, reinforced by latent sexism that includes the heightened expectation that “thinness” and “lack of curviness” are distinctly Asian traits or phenotypes for a woman. Female children are still in many Asian cultures less valued than male children, and are treated thusly when we are born; in situations of poverty where money is limited, such as the ones my parents grew up in, male children were given the best opportunities for education from the family, whereas women had to work much harder to “earn our own way” or to get “second best”. While these sorts of sexism are informed by overall patriarchal structures within America, they are nonetheless nuanced and reinforced by the Asian American community’s general unwillingness to consider its own sexism and to make strides to combat it. When we continue to blame larger cultures while trying not to look at how we may be contributing to the oppression of our women — in efforts to avoid looking like “the bad guy” — than we subtly condone the existing sexist system because we say, “not my problem”.

    What you say about “hetero-normative” is interesting, but I would not necessarily put that down to any kind of institutional oppression

    Hetero-normative refers to our general assumptions that we when we speak about relationships and marriage, we assume straightness. Byron’s site is strongly hetero-normative in this way; in most conversations on IR for example, the conversation assumes straight women and straight men who are interacting with (or should be interacting with) one another by race. Within the larger AAPI context, there is also the assumption of straight marriage as part of our expected life path.

    Unless you are saying that Asian women’s pay scales are generally determined by Asian men – which is probably not true

    As a whole, no. you don’t write labour laws. But, in aggregate, it’s clear that while there is a bamboo ceiling to both of us to managerial positions, that Asian men are more likely of our men and women to be in positions of power for hiring. On an individual level, some APIA men do excel, being in positions of power either by owning their own companies or in higher positions within a larger company.

    The argument is not that you need to stop the income gap overnight. The argument is that Asian men a) recognize that male privilege has afforded them an easier time to get where they are than is afforded to women, even if they are still disadvantaged based on race, and b) if they are in positions of achievement to be sensitive to Asian women who are working without male privilege to achieve.

    So, if you are in a position to do so (which Asian men are more likely to be than women), take time to find, meet, and mentor Asian women in your company who are trying to rise the corporate ladder. Perhaps if you are able to influence a hire, promote more Asian American female candidates to the pool by suggesting qualified names, encouraging your female friends to apply, and encouraging others on the hiring board to take a female candidate seriously. Encourage your boardroom culture to be less sexist when they are, by not being tolerant of sexist jokes (which happens in all bro cultures).

    No one thinks Asian men have a magic wand that can end sexism. We do want you to get on board as a feminist, and be interested in doing what you can, where you can. Even if that means not dismissing feminism as “not your problem” or “none of your business”.

  16. Also, as a clarification, the reason we call this stuff “institutionalized” is also because otherwise it encourages the labelling of individuals as sexist. So, in the example of my mother, who wasn’t able to get a college education in the States because she wasn’t male like her brother and the family could only afford one college tuition, there’s an instinct to blame my grandparents as just horribly sexist. But my grandparents were not just being bigoted and horrible people, they were living within a patriarchal institution where such a decision is expected, makes sense, and not really something anyone would question. Sexist cultural institutions rationalize that decision, not individual bigotry and ignorance.

    That’s why I work really hard to point out that when I ask that Asian men examine their male privilege or that we talk about sexism within the APIA community, that we’re doing it without “male-bashing”. It’s the wrong framework for thinking about the debate. No one is looking to villanize anyone, because the problem is an unfair culture, not the people who grow up in it.

  17. I wonder how it would be taken if I were to say that “female privilege” exists also?

    For example, that causes involving women are immediately taken up by the mass media because there is this assumption that this world is made by men and favors men when it may not be so, while men will struggle to do the same for any story or news outside the dominant narratives.

  18. “Also, as a clarification, the reason we call this stuff “institutionalized” is also because otherwise it encourages the labelling of individuals as sexist.”

    Perhaps otherwise, it may also encourage the labelling of cultural norms as sexist, so the usage of a word is broadened into a catch-all phrase.

    But this does not make its meaning or intent any clearer. This new word can still be used to imply cultural or even individual bigotry but under the cover of something more “acceptable” because it is one level more obfuscative.

    And I think it could have follow-on effects. The body image problems, for example. Where does it come from? Would it be more useful to broadly categorize it as “institutional”, whereby cultural norms and individual bigotry has already been unspokenly lumped into, implying once more that an entire social system is defective and needs to be replaced, or more useful to specifically pinpoint the drivers of the body image such as the mass media and certain agents within it?

    Some of the other things you have mentioned, such as regarding how female infants are valued less in poverty stricken societies, and how they were last choices to be afforded resources in families, is very unfortunate, but there are other sides to the story as well, and I think that these sides will challenge the mores of readers not accustomed to thinking about what people, and our species as a whole, has had to do to survive immense hardships and incredible uncertainty throughout the history of our existence.

    If because of how discourse is “guided” and shaped by organizations with power, Asian women see everything Asian, from its culture, history, families and even the choices and acts of its men as “institutionally” sexist, could there be unforeseen effects to this?

  19. Jenn,

    You’re right in that Asian men should support Asian women in gender equality, whether it be in the wider American society or just Asian American society.

    But Asian American men are also part of a marginalized group, and the there has to be reciprocation. Asian American women shouldn’t expect Asian men to acknowledge and accept responsibility for disadvantaging Asian women while doing nothing themselves when it comes to improving the situation of Asian men.

    For example, I’ve talked to some self-identifying Asian female feminists who don’t think that they have any special part to play in fighting back against discrimination and emasculation of Asian men. Often, they’ll say things like, “Well, why don’t you go tell white girls to stop being so racist? Don’t get us involved with Asian guy issues!”

    Either we’re in this together or not.

  20. @Sengge

    I wonder how it would be taken if I were to say that “female privilege” exists also?

    I was just having this conversation over dim sum this afternoon. It would be fair to argue that under some specific contexts, “female privilege” exists. For example, we have seen a growing trend in the States towards an information technology (vs manufacturing); this is an economic trend that seems to favour conventionally female skills over those of men. Some have argued that men are disadvantaged in this shifting job market.

    So, while I don’t think the example you give is a great one — I don’t experience a willingness for women’s issues to be readily taken up over those of men, either in the mainstream or within the APIA community — I don’t a priori have a problem with the concept of “female privilege”. However, I think this is a phenomenon that is highly specific to context. Male privilege is far more widespread, in my opinion, based simply on the fact that both America and Asia are historically patriarchal, and so the resulting cultural intersection that is the Asian American experience is as well.

    But this does not make its meaning or intent any clearer. This new word can still be used to imply cultural or even individual bigotry but under the cover of something more “acceptable” because it is one level more obfuscative.

    I think this broadened meaning is important because it removes the “blame game” element of identity politics. Are White people to blame for institutions of racism like “Stop and Frisk”? More specifically, is Bob the guy who lives next door to you to blame? He benefits from the institution, but he is not “racist” because of his benefit.

    It’s not that this makes oppression “acceptable”; instead, it focuses our energies on the sources of the problem — the institution — rather than on villainizing individual people. If Bob grows up in a racist institution and derives certain benefits and opinions because of it, is he to blame for it? Or is the institution’s fault for raising him in privilege?

    Would it be more useful to broadly categorize it as “institutional”, whereby cultural norms and individual bigotry has already been unspokenly lumped into, implying once more that an entire social system is defective and needs to be replaced, or more useful to specifically pinpoint the drivers of the body image such as the mass media and certain agents within it?

    Mass media is a tool of entertainment. Should we dismantle the machines of Hollywood to eliminate body image? Or should we focus on cultural norms of beauty which is, ultimately, a replacement of an entire set of social values? To be frank, these are questions that are still grappled with in feminist circles.

    I know where I fall on this, but I don’t speak for all feminists.

    The idea is that in both cases, we don’t blame Bob for body image issues, just because he’s a straight White guy who likes skinny White girls. He’s a manifestation of the problem, but he is not “the source” of the problem, so social change doesn’t start by labelling him “the bad guy”.

    If because of how discourse is “guided” and shaped by organizations with power, Asian women see everything Asian, from its culture, history, families and even the choices and acts of its men as “institutionally” sexist, could there be unforeseen effects to this?

    Of course. Asian men see this as “male-bashing” and an attack on them. But, are these consequences not worth having the conversation of institutionalized sexism, if it is actually true? If Bob sees discussions of race as an attack on White people, does that invalidate the need to have the conversation?

  21. @Pozhal

    Asian American women shouldn’t expect Asian men to acknowledge and accept responsibility for disadvantaging Asian women while doing nothing themselves when it comes to improving the situation of Asian men.

    What makes you think APIA feminists aren’t race activists? I mean, hell, on this blog, my Asian American blogging is far more active than my feminist blogging. To be frank, I’ve been far more active in working to improve the situations of Asian Americans — men and women — than to specifically focus on feminism. That is my fault, something I’m hoping to correct.

    But, on the other hand, women shouldn’t be expected to take a backseat either. We shouldn’t be expected to wait our turn until Asian men have their say. It’s not men first (or women first) — Asian women are 51% of our community. You are not an Asian American race activist if you are willing to ignore the interests of half your community.

    I initially showed up at BigWoWo precisely because I think the perspectives on that blog, even if they may be the extreme of men’s rights arguments in the APIA community, are part of our community and are worth hearing. Until right now, there has been no interest in reciprocating a feminist conversation either on BigWoWo or on other sites like mine.

    Regarding the women you’ve spoken to, that is surprising, because if you take a look at all the self-identifying APIA feminist voices online, you will see all of us taking up the cause of Asian American male emasculation in Hollywood. The “mainstream” APIA feminist does not espouse the viewpoint you write.

    If there’s disinterest, it’s coming from your end. Not from the feminists.

  22. “self-identifying APIA feminist voices online..all of us taking up the cause of Asian American male emasculation in Hollywood”

    This is a major surprise to me.

    Can you name some? (what keywords are you using)

    I tried searching but didn’t find anything much except your blog. In fact, you’re one of the top results. the other one I found that seemed relevant was http://fascinasiansblog.com/

  23. Jenn

    I actually think that redefining the term (institutional) like that pretty much makes it meaningless because it encompasses so many possible issues that it loses its descriptive power. For a fledgling movement, vagueness is probably not your best friend. Worse still, using the term in this way actually demeans and trivializes actual institutional discrimination that legally enforced what was often totalitarian control over behaviour of blacks and other minorities.

    Which brings me back to my original point, using language that is so vague that it becomes meaningless makes for great rhetorical flourishes, but may possibly close down debate instead of fostering it, but worse still come off sounding shrill and hyberbolic.

    If you are trying to say that there are habits of sexism and racism that propagate through custom, trend, or tradition, then I can certainly agree with that. But I think that the last thing that Asians need is an unsophisticated conceptualization of our very complex issues, made worse by hyperbolic delivery that seems to want to place the 21st Century existential feminist angst of post-grad Asian-American women on a par with those who suffered under Jim Crow.

    If we want to make a difference we have to be smart about how we present our arguments. For example, it may be true that poor Asian families who can only afford to send one child to college are likely to send a son (at the expense of his siblings – both female and male), but I don’t think it honours the hardships of poverty to take those possibly heart-wrenching decisions that parents might have to make and try to sell a hard-luck scenario for feminism. This is especially unnuanced when we consider that the actual evidence shows that there is a higher percentage of Asian-American women who have higher degrees than Asian men.

    I don’t think this helps the feminist cause – it just makes it look uninformed, and gives ammunition to those who don’t take Asian issues seriously. Clearly, the reality is far more nuanced – Asian families obviously value educating their daughters. To frame such a scenario as sexist – even though it may well be based on unconscious sexist presumptions – is judgemental and ungenerous.

    Plus, I’m not really convinced that the Asian community is unwilling to consider sexism – at least I think it is unfair to expect that the community would have feminist issues on its daily agenda especially when the very subject of this post is that there has not really been an Asian-American feminist agenda that details the specific voices of the Asian female experience. The “notyourasiansidekick” tweets state that very thing – that Asian feminism does not have its own space, so how can we criticize the Asian community for not facing its sexism when there – apparently – has not been any initiatives presented by Asian feminists to make that happen?

    Instead of asking the Asian community to “consider its own sexism”, or demanding that Asian men recognize their privilege, why not actually try something more constructive like actually enquire what Asian men think about things like trafficking, uneven salaries, or mental health. Why not ask Asian men for their support in tackling these issues – and others – instead of insisting that they accept a label, or address a vague sociological concept? My guess is that most Asian men would be supportive, but when you come out swinging (like Suey Park did when she made the racist tweet that “Asian men slut-shame if Asian women are dating non-Asian”), then people are going to put up their guard. Why would you expect them to do anything else?

    For instance, I think that you are trying to shoe-horn the salary gap to fit the narrative of Asian male privilege and power over Asian women. Are you really suggesting that the handful of Asian men who do attain upper-level positions have a significant effect on Asian women’s pay scales? That would have to mean that this small band of successful Asian men have huge swathes of Asian women working under them. But that is the problem with rationalist arguments – people tend to get carried away with how much rationalizing they can do without realizing that they have moved passed the boundaries of the absurd.

    All we know about the income gap is that Asian women average less than Asian men, but this could actually come about in several ways that belie the stat. There could actually be more women who make higher salaries than men, but a handful of hyper-wealthy Asian men skewing the figures, and a handful of Asian women making hyper-low wages. The point is, you don’t actually know (and neither do I) how it breaks down, but are presuming that male privilege has something to do with it because that is the rationale. And you don’t know – cannot know – if successful Asian men have had it easier than successful Asian women, or even if male privilege had anything to do with these men’s success. What if – for instance – the Asian guy got hired because it was presumed that he would perform well, and the boss thought he would not be a sex competitor? Or, what if the Asian guy got hired because it was presumed he would not make waves, and would be a long-term hire who would not expect too much advancement? I certainly would not want to make those kinds of presumptions of who had it easier, and claiming male privilege is merely going backwards into unsophisticated rationalizing.

    Like I said, I think that many Asian me would be quite open to getting on board (as you put it), but so far – as the tweet campaign says – there has not really been a board to get on to. And I’m not convinced that Asian men are not already helping other Asians of any sex.

  24. @Pozhal

    Are you saying that the gender divide is 100% Asian men’s fault?

    I’ve written several comments now on this. You tell me if that’s what I’m saying.

    @Yun

    Can you name some? (what keywords are you using)

    I tried searching but didn’t find anything much except your blog. In fact, you’re one of the top results. the other one I found that seemed relevant was http://fascinasiansblog.com/

    Me. Fascinasians. Hyphen. The women of Racialicious when they were in charge of the blog. The women of Disgrasian before they slowed their blogging down. Several Asian feminists who write for larger group feminist blogs (although I’m not totally familiar with their entire archives; I speak from knowing their personal opinions). And that is about the entire list of Asian American feminists currently active in the blogosphere.

    In other words, you’ve hit on our general invisibility. There aren’t many of us out there who have been successful at maintaining long-lived AAPI feminist blogs.

    Meanwhile, I’d challenge you to find a list of Asian American feminists who would characterize Asian American feminism as male-bashing, or who are not interested in taking up the cause of Asian American male emasculation. We may not make it our top priority, but it’s definitely something we’ve written about and done work to try to challenge.

  25. @Ben

    I actually think that redefining the term (institutional) like that pretty much makes it meaningless because it encompasses so many possible issues that it loses its descriptive power. For a fledgling movement, vagueness is probably not your best friend.

    You write this as if I came up with the concept of institutional sexism. Try googling it. It’s not a novel or vague concept. It’s just novel and vague to you because it’s possible you are encountering it for the first time. But this shifted notion of “institutional oppression” — to extend beyond codefied law — has been in feminist (and race activist) circles for going on thirty to forty years now. It’s well accepted in most social justice circles, and is — contrary to your characterization — a far more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of “institutional systems of oppression” than “there must be a law for me to accept that it constitutes institutional oppression”.

    I’m really not sure what else to say to you on this subject, except to again suggest you google these ideas. I didn’t make this stuff up, these are contemporary ideas in most forms of ethnic and women’s studies academies.

    This is especially unnuanced when we consider that the actual evidence shows that there is a higher percentage of Asian-American women who have higher degrees than Asian men.

    Actually that’s not true. Approximately 6% of Asian American men earn a doctorate; only 3% of Asian American women do. According to the NSF. Most stats show APIA women earn equal the number of higher degrees as Asian men, or less than. I’m not aware of studies that show more APIA women have higher degrees than men.

    For example, it may be true that poor Asian families who can only afford to send one child to college are likely to send a son (at the expense of his siblings – both female and male), but I don’t think it honours the hardships of poverty to take those possibly heart-wrenching decisions that parents might have to make and try to sell a hard-luck scenario for feminism.

    …. So, Asian American women shouldn’t point out that this institutionalized sexism is sexist because…. it might hurt someone’s feelings? Gosh, you might want to tell that to my mother, for whom this is actually what happened to her. Or my grandmother, who had to teach herself to read (secretly) because she wasn’t allowed to go to school. They’d love to know that those decisions weren’t parts of a systemic sexism at all, because, y’know… poverty.

    You’re basically telling women to suck it up, because confronting the inherent sexism is uncomfortable. I don’t even…

    Is it a tough decision? Of course. Did my grandparents or great-grandparents have a choice? No. But does that excuse the sexism? No. Women should be able to express how this kind of sexism has affected their lives, not be told to be quiet because what they have to say is uncomfortable.

    Plus, I’m not really convinced that the Asian community is unwilling to consider sexism

    Look at your earlier part of your comment, where you say you don’t want to confront sexism in the community because it’s too much of a “hard luck” story. I think that’s a great example of trying to not consider sexism.

    at least I think it is unfair to expect that the community would have feminist issues on its daily agenda especially when the very subject of this post is that there has not really been an Asian-American feminist agenda that details the specific voices of the Asian female experience.

    I think you misread this post. I think individual feminists have a really good idea of what a feminist agenda is. I think #NYAS may not, yet. The Asian American community has been – so far – in the business of excusing latent sexism in the community which has caused the feminist community to suffer. We could use more focus, but that’s not justification for not giving feminist ideas and thinkers the oxygen to present and shape those ideas within the blogosphere. Without a space to make those arguments within the larger APIA blogosphere, the focus isn’t there.

    But it’s not as if we have NO concept of an agenda. It’s not as if there’s nothing there that could be integrated into the larger community. There’s enough of a school of thought that the inattention that feminism receives in the APIA community is a gross oversight.

    Instead of asking the Asian community to “consider its own sexism”, or demanding that Asian men recognize their privilege, why not actually try something more constructive like actually enquire what Asian men think about things like trafficking, uneven salaries, or mental health. Why not ask Asian men for their support in tackling these issues – and others – instead of insisting that they accept a label, or address a vague sociological concept?

    That’s worked out really well so far over at BigWoWo, Ben. And, this post (and others) IS about asking for support. Asking you to understand and examine systems of sexism is asking for support.

    If men cannot embrace the notion that they receive male privilege, than they are fundamentally denying the notion of gender iniquity.

    More later. Dinner now.

  26. Bottom line is this, I think:

    Feminism is about taking away excessive masculine privileges for greater gender equality. This is a goal that I support.

    However, Asian men are in the midst of a fight to obtain masculine EQUALITY of our own relative to other men, particularly white men.

    Some Asian men feel that Asian feminism intrudes upon this struggle, seeking not only to obstruct our path to masculine equality, but also augment white men’s privileges (either intentionally or unintentionally).

    Asian men themselves often get confused as to where masculine equality ends and masculine privilege begins. They may push for too much, thus upsetting the goals of overall gender equality.

  27. @jenn

    Thanks for the list. The invisibility is a big factor.

    Let’s get a list of problems and DESIRED solutions and DESIRED tactics/strategies.

    For example,

    sexism – I got some commercials in my head that we could put out on youtube or get free air time as a public service announcement.

    For example, various typical man’s jobs…like…welding..90% of the shot focuses on the speed and competency of this worker. The viewer’s mind has ASSUMED it’s a guy. The welding mask comes off to reveal a woman. viewer’s mind = blown.

    another one, to address that women aren’t taken seriously. use role reversal. some corporate guy goes starts discussing his ideas and the women around him keep talking, ignoring him, rolling their eyes etc. When a women comes up and starts talking just basic common sense, the women start clapping…then the scene morphs into a room filled with men and one woman. with the tag line “why is ok when you do it?”…

    these videos are designed to challenge the viewer’s mindsets to see the world through a female’s eyes

    there are also good riddles (I heard at least one) that threw me off big time.

    “The surgeon riddle?

    A man is driving with his 2 month old son along a motor way
    when he crashes,the dad is instantly killed but amazingly the son has survived but is extremelly injured,the son needs a major operation FAST but there is only one surgeon in the whole world who can do it. It just so happens that the surgeon is playing golf on a near by course so a helicopter is sent over to pick the surgeon up. son is rushed to hospital and prepared 4 the op, the surgeon gets scrubed up and turns to the operating table and says I can’t do this! a doctor asks why, and the surgeon says because thats my son! How can this be possible when the dad was killed?” (see answer below)

    hopefully, we can make a shorter riddle, but again, it challenges us. I didn’t think I was sexist but I got this wrong. I think many men may SUPERFICIALLY understand sexism, but it’s not deep in their core.

    We need to trigger that shock. We can use all the challenges that women go through that never register in a man’s mind. We can also use all the privileges that men get and flip it on it’s head so we can at least be aware.

    I hope af/am can work together but this won’t work (will probably self destruct fast) if af don’t support us. You can already see some of those reluctant attitudes here that I alluded to in an email about 2 months ago.

    Let’s stop ranting and start blueprinting something – anything.

    answer: it’s the son’s mother. If you got stumped then like me, you also had a built-in assumption that doctor = male only

  28. Jenn

    My point is that it may be the case that that term has outlived its usefulness, or may be insufficient to describe the gender dynamics of 21st century Asian-America. This may be particularly true when trying to mainstream arguments, or even just to accurately assess what the reality of these gender dynamics are.

    I don’t believe that Asian men are hell-bent on keeping Asian women’s feet bound and would submit that most would be empathetic and open to supporting Asian women’s struggles. One of the necessary conclusions that one can draw from such habituated attitudes is that for the most part, people are mostly complacent, unconscious, or simply ignorant, that their beliefs drive their actions towards sexism, or even that it has a negative effect on those around them. Labelling such people only makes them defensive, expecting them to do better might help them to rise above their own blindness.

    But okay, let’s agree that graduation rates of Asian women are roughly equal or only slightly less than Asian men, the fact is that Asian women have surpassed white women in educational attainment, have equal rates to Asian men, and hold 8% of bachelor’s degrees whilst being 5% of the population. However you slice it, at the very least it is fair to say that using access to education to identify sexist attitudes requires a hell of a lot of presumption and cherry-picking.

    But I can go there too. According to the latest world economic forum figures, the Phillipines ranks 6th in the world gender gap ladder – surpassing the US and many western countries. I know several Filipino men (some of whom were trafficked) mention that their access to education was blocked in favour of their female siblings, one because their strength was needed for the fields, two because it was believed that there are greater opportunities for women to gain employment in the overseas job market, which in the long-run helps the family. Of course, this is unfair, and I could cry sexism – which by your criterion it is – but I know that the bigger problem lies in economic hardship that forces people to make hard life decisions for which they themselves may well live with regret about having made.

    So yes, you can point out the sexism of your mother missing out on college – and I empathize with her – but coming out swinging and labeling people does nothing but make those folks turn their backs on you. It’s not about not wanting to hurt people’s feelings because my guess is that parents who these things may well live with regret and a sense of failure that they could not provide the best for all of their kids. What it is about is recognizing that in that specific situation – and others, like the Asian-American gender conflict – there circumstances outside of the control of the people who are made to live in unfair situations. Racism no doubt complicates and possibly drives the Asian gender dynamic, and economic hardship might create a situations that look like sexism, and behave like sexism, but sexism did not create the situation, and that is an important point. If sexism did not create the economic hardships that force people to choose which kids to educate, then focusing ?n it is like hewing down a tree to get an apple.

    The point is that to confront the inherent sexism misses the vital point that the apparent sexism might disappear if the economic situation had been better. So, no don’t suck it up, and no, don’t not bring it up, but be more nuanced about how we help people to understand why such circ?mstances arise without creating unhelpful and finger-pointing dichotomies of good and evil.


    “Look at your earlier part of your comment, where you say you don’t want to confront sexism in the community because it’s too much of a “hard luck” story. I think that’s a great example of trying to not consider sexism.”

    You will have to point out where I said that we should not confront sexism because that is exactly what I have been doing – have I not tried to suggest ways in which the manner of the discussion might better serve the advancement of a meaningful dialogue on the issue? I’m all for confronting sexism, I just don’t see the point in doing it in a way that confuses and divides more than enlightens and unites.

    To finish, I will say that I agree 100% that Asian feminists have not been able to present their ideas on sexism in the blogosphere, but I also think that there is a general tendency towards insularity amongst bloggers, in the sense that there just is no “cross-over” of intellectual ideas between Asian bloggers, and certainly very little debate amongst them. But the fact that there have been successful Asian feminist bloggers like Disgrasian and Hyphen (who are largely embraced by male and females alike), should give us hope that there is willingness to examine our prejudices.


    “That’s worked out really well so far over at BigWoWo, Ben.”

    Fair enough, but are you willing to say that there is no support for Asian feminism amongst Asian men based on a few extreme and unsupportive anonymous posters on WOWO’s site? Most of the bloggers that I link to on my site seem extremely open to women’s issues – I think it better to focus on the folks who are willing to be supportive (even critical folks like myself) than on anonymous posters with bad manners.

    Finally, I want to say that ? appreciate that you have engaged in this dialogue, and that you are creating the space for this to happen.

  29. @Ben

    the fact is that Asian women have surpassed white women in educational attainment

    Also not true. A smaller percentage of Asian women are enrolled in college than are White women (although larger than Black or Latino women). A smaller percentage of Asian women receive Associate’s, Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees than do White women.

  30. So yes, you can point out the sexism of your mother missing out on college – and I empathize with her – but coming out swinging and labeling people does nothing but make those folks turn their backs on you.

    Here’s the point — I’m NOT coming out swinging. I’ve posted above that the purpose of pointing out male privilege is to examine institutions of oppression, not people. I’ve explicitly said that the point is NOT to villainize, not to label people. Frankly, the whole reason why social justice activists have turned to an institutional oppression model for understanding iniquity is because there’s no point in blaming or labelling people; that examining privilege is simply saying “where are there things that are unfair? where do I benefit? what can I do to help those who don’t have those benefits?”

    Take, for example, class privilege. You, me, all of us have class privilege. I know this because we have internet access, are generally literate, can understand percentages, and have the leisure time to be on the internet debating Asian American feminism in an academic context. There are folks out there for whom this is not possible. For me to examine my privilege is not to say I am oppressing people who don’t have the benefit of wealth and education; it is to say that I understand that I have advantages others don’t and to work towards making it so they have those advantages too.

    It’s the same thing with male privilege. I’m not running around pointing fingers at people. I’m asking you — Asian men — to take a minute to examine your male privilege, as a starting point to understand the institution of sexism we all live in. When you get those advantages that you otherwise take for granted in your day-to-day lives, than you and I have a common starting point for working to end those inequalities.

    I’m all for confronting sexism, I just don’t see the point in doing it in a way that confuses and divides more than enlightens and unites.

    I think saying, “I see that’s sexist, but I don’t think it’s worth pointing out because everyone is poor”, or “it’s too divisive for us to consider what you’re saying” is a strategy that has been used for a long time to tell feminists not to prioritize feminist work. I mean, consider what Yun is saying above — that feminism is simply too divisive for Asian men to want to work for. That’s a drum that’s been beaten in our community since the inception of APIA feminism. And before that, was what many minority men said to minority women during the Civil Rights Movement — that latent sexism is tolerable and should go unchallenged within the community, because there’s a different brand of equality we need to deal with first.

    To finish, I will say that I agree 100% that Asian feminists have not been able to present their ideas on sexism in the blogosphere, but I also think that there is a general tendency towards insularity amongst bloggers, in the sense that there just is no “cross-over” of intellectual ideas between Asian bloggers, and certainly very little debate amongst them. But the fact that there have been successful Asian feminist bloggers like Disgrasian and Hyphen (who are largely embraced by male and females alike), should give us hope that there is willingness to examine our prejudices.

    That’s true, but the common thread of Disgrasian and Hyphen is that — while I highly respect their work — that success was achieved by obscuring feminist writing. Hyphen is a general APIA magazine that employs some feminist writers, but is not the focus of their blog/magazine. It’s not clear that their feminist work is what makes them popular, or even something that readers associate with their work. Disgrasian has been successful primarily as a humour blog; while the women who run it are strong APIA feminists, their feminism is not a major focus of what they write.

    The point is that a dedicated space that focuses explicitly on APIA feminism has not found a home in the blogosphere. When you google “Asian American feminism”, you should get this site as a top Google hit. That’s pretty sad, in my opinion, particularly considering that I know my site isn’t as popular as others’.

    (Edit: actually, at the moment, you get articles on #NotYourAsianSidekick. Before this week, you would get me on the first page…. ah, I can’t fight the traffic of Time Magazine… ^_^)

    Fair enough, but are you willing to say that there is no support for Asian feminism amongst Asian men based on a few extreme and unsupportive anonymous posters on WOWO’s site?

    Of course not. But I am saying that the conversation at WOWO frustrated the living hell out of me. Byron’s characterization of Asian feminism — as fetishism and a defense of dating White men — really sucked, and really demoralized me. If that’s the starting point on feminism for a site that purports to represent the interests of Asian American men, than I hope you can understand that I see no hope for asking for support?

    There are obviously far more moderate Asian American men out there. Some will touch upon feminist issues. But one reason I frequent WOWO is because you all are part of the Asian American community, too. And yes, I do feel like asking for your support has gotten nowhere.

    But, to be fair, I am far more receptive to you and your interest in parsing feminism, and do appreciate having the conversation.

  31. @Yun

    So two things:

    1) Your comment in general kind of confuses me. Not sure what you’re trying to get at.

    2) I’m surprised that the “surgeon riddle” stumped you. Seemed fairly obvious to me.

    @Sengge

    I smell propaganda and must withdraw my support.

    Alright — we’ve got you down for “not supporting gender equality”. Got it.

  32. There is a problem with that riddle, at least with the way you told it. The original riddle goes something like this:
    ——————————————-
    A young boy and his father are in a car accident. The father dies at the scene. The boy is transported to the hospital, taken immediately into surgery… but the surgeon steps out of the operating room and says, “I can’t operate on this boy – he is my son!”

    The question: Who is the surgeon?
    ——————————————-
    In the way the riddle was stated in an above post, there is one glaring part at the end:
    “How can this be possible when the dad was killed?”

    This changes and gives the riddle itself a whole new meaning. By adding just that one line the riddle could take on the meaning: “It must be a man”, almost forcing the possibility that a woman is not the answer. Not trying to nit-pick, but i could see how this new version of the riddle could throw off a lot people.

    Incidentally, I got the original riddle “correct” as well as this modified version. I said his mother, though this could also STILL be incorrect. I could just as well say it was his dad. How could this be? His dad is dead already. Ah, but maybe he (the son) has two dads? Mind blown yet? :D

  33. Jenn,

    But I am saying that the conversation at WOWO frustrated the living hell out of me. Byron’s characterization of Asian feminism — as fetishism and a defense of dating White men — really sucked, and really demoralized me. If that’s the starting point on feminism for a site that purports to represent the interests of Asian American men, than I hope you can understand that I see no hope for asking for support?

    Can I say something in my own support? (I’m following because you have an interesting convo going on here, but I don’t want to derail.)

    I’m the father of a little girl. I pay lots of money for her education right now–she’s not only going to college, she’s also currently going to private school. I want her to have equal rights in the home and in the workplace.

    After years in this space, I realize that supporting equal rights for Asian American women still doesn’t make a guy an Asian American feminist. MOST Asian men will never fit into the “Asian American feminist” mold. MOST Asian men will never find acceptance among Asian American feminists. It has something to do with different styles and worldviews. I was the one who stated above: “I think it’s dangerous and wrong to sell Asian feminists on the idea that Asian men will somehow jump in and become allies. It’s just not going to happen, whether we get attacked or not.”
    http://reappropriate.co/?p=3832#comment-25688

    So yes, I think it’s often pointless to ask for an Asian man’s support. Just reading this thread, Sengge is out. Pozhal is struggling to stay in, but he’s eventually going to be out too. On my site, both John Doe and ChineseMom (and Linda, if you’ve read her comments pre-pregnancy when she had more time) are out. Most mothers, whom I referenced in my original thread, would probably be out. I was the one who predicted we’d all be out.

    Jenn, I don’t know if this comes out in writing, but I’m not necessarily against Asian American feminism. I’m not necessarily for it either. My perspective is probably most similar to that of Michael Gurian, who wrote the Wonder of Girls and the Wonder of Boys. I think some ideas of Asian American feminists, such as equal rights, are good; most of it isn’t. I don’t mean to demoralize anyone. I just feel like I have to say something about what I think is healthy and what is not. I think it’s fair that I have an opinion, given that I have such a big stake in this. It’s just a highly complex situation for people like me, especially people with both a daughter and a son, like me and ChineseMom. We still support equal rights; it’s just that we don’t support it on the terms that most Asian American feminists prefer. I hope this doesn’t make us bad people.

    If we discuss this further, I think it would be best to do it in real time, not in writing. Writing is fine, but it’s easy to understand the main points with speaking. It’s a highly emotional issue on both sides.

  34. @Byron,

    You are of course entitled to your opinion. The reason I take time to engage your site, and your commentors, is because I value everyone’s opinion, even most of your “bottom-tier” participants. Your opinion is valid. It’s just not one I share.

    What perhaps frustrates me most about this debate is this notion that “people are out” when saying they are out in the same breath that they completely mischaracterize your typical Asian American feminist. The most egregious example is — no offense — the one you wrote in your post; which largely prompted my decision to not participate in your comment thread. If your starting point is what you wrote, there is absolutely no way that mainstream AAPI feminism can hope to get a fair shake on your site. On that thread, we’re starting from your assumption that we’re all just about defending White dick. That has NEVER been a defining tenet of Asian feminism, and is about as insulting a thing as I’ve ever read pertaining to AAPI feminism.

    It would be as if I walked into your space assuming that you and all your commentors were just angry bitter Asian dudes who are pissed because you can’t date White girls. That might characterize some of your bottom-tier posters, but it’s not my impression of your space, by and large. But if I walked in making that generalization, you would be well within your rights to conclude that I’m not there to make a productive stab at building a bridge of communication with you.

    Similarly, my brand of feminism — which is far more in line with the average Asian American feminist (of which there are like 6 of us active online right now) — is nothing like your blanket generalization. No surprise, therefore, that if that’s where the conversation starts, the vast majority of participants will count themselves “out”. You’re judging (and dismissing) an entire school of thought without fully understanding the message of that school of thought.

    Even here, it’s hard for me to grasp what exactly is damning about feminism for you. Feminism is about gender equality. Part of understanding gender equality is understanding manifestations of gender equality. In Asian American circles, it’s about understanding manifestations of gender equality that advantage APIA men and disadvantage APIA women — all of this with the general understanding that men and women are still hugely disadvantaged by race.

    The only way I can wrap my brain around the criticism is if either a) one’s understanding of oppression finds a person being simultaneously privileged and disadvantaged impossible (i.e., parallel forms of -isms cannot co-exist) which is a pretty unnuanced understanding of identity politics, and/or b) one feels that sexism is “less important” a battle to fight for Asian Americans because racism is either worse, or more important, and/or c) talking about sexism makes Asian American men feel bad.

    My impression is that it’s one or all of these things working in tandem that inhibit discussions of sexism. But if any of them are held to be valid, than the underlying message is that combating sexism is important, but not THAT important.

    My point of view is that unpacking one’s own privilege — one’s “invisible backpack” as it were (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google it) — is something everyone should do. Everyone has an invisible backpack. It doesn’t make you a bad person to have privilege; we all have privilege. But, a discussion on sexism starts with understanding sexism. As long as we’re still stuck on resistance to having the conversation, we’re still basically denying that sexism exists as a relevant topic within our community.

    Not everyone has to be a feminist. I get that feminism is possibly one of the dirtiest words in identity politics today; that there are those who associate the word “feminism” with what its Far Right detractors have labelled it: bra-burning, shrill man-haters. But that is not — has never been — what feminism is about.

    Feminism is about identifying institutional sexism, and working to eliminate the current disadvantages that come with being a woman. If you can’t get behind that, than it sounds more like you don’t like your stereotype of feminists, rather than you don’t like actual feminism.

    Frankly, I’m enough of a feminist to not really give a crap about whether or not you want to call yourself a feminist. But, I do give a crap if you’re not willing to work for gender equality. As long as you’re up for that, than I don’t really care what you call yourself.

    As for a better format, I’m not entirely sure what you’re proposing here. Like I said, if the starting point is that my belief system is little more than about defending White dick, than you can understand my skepticism that any face-to-face interactions are going to be productive.

    ***
    I just wrote a post about STEM’s glass ceiling for Asian American women. Perhaps it will address some myths that have been expressed in this comment thread about APIA female achievement relative to either Asian men or White women.

    http://reappropriate.co/?p=3898

  35. Jenn!

    Okay, so just to clarify, when I wrote that post about Asian American feminism, I believe I posted it before you posted yours. I wasn’t thinking about your views–they weren’t even posted yet. I was talking more about what I read on Twitter, 8Asians, Buzzfeed, the sign in the photo we both posted, and (quite honestly) just about everywhere else, both during this Twitter thing and before.

    “Feminism is about identifying institutional sexism, and working to eliminate the current disadvantages that come with being a woman. If you can’t get behind that, than it sounds more like you don’t like your stereotype of feminists, rather than you don’t like actual feminism.”

    As I mentioned before, you and I are in total agreement on eliminating gender-based disadvantages. Sengge, ChineseMom, Linda, Ben, John Doe, and just about everyone else you interacted with (with the possible exception of Kobukson) are also on board. I think most of the people I mentioned have opinions independent of what I post–most of their views, like mine, come from real, actual experiences with both self-identified Asian American feminists AND Asian Americans who don’t identify as feminists but fight for gender equality. Politics and religion are often like that–we don’t always see things the same way. In my case, I have my opinion, and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me.

    So we’re all on board, if you’re talking about gender equality. With that said, maybe there isn’t much to talk about, since we agree on what I think is the main point. So I think/hope you can’t count me as an ally, even if we don’t agree on everything.

  36. Dude! Why the heck do your comments keep getting caught in the spam filter? I’m sorry, it’s not doing that on purpose. By now, my blog should’ve learned who you are…

    I was talking more about what I read on Twitter, 8Asians, Buzzfeed, the sign in the photo we both posted, and (quite honestly) just about everywhere else, both during this Twitter thing and before.

    I haven’t seen the 8asians post, but I do think it’s worth noting that you might’ve jumped in and started characterizing #NYAS and APIA feminism by folks who themselves may not have been representative of APIA feminists. 8asians is run by some great folks, so I don’t know what was in that post. But the Buzzfeed article was pretty superficial and listicle-y, and while I haven’t seen the al Jazeera interview, I heard it wasn’t the best sum-up either. Depending on when you got on Twitter, it could’ve been some great stuff, or it could’ve been full of anti-Semitic trolling (cuz that happened at one point). Right now, clicking the hashtag produces an aggregate of a lot of very meaningful discussion on feminism, twitter, and social movements from some of our blogosphere’s bigger writers: https://twitter.com/search?q=notyourasiansidekick&src=typd

    I don’t necessarily fault you for not knowing much about APIA feminism. I think I just reacted very badly to your post, which I felt was a really unfair dismissal of … well… my blog’s entire mission. That being said, I understand you didn’t have my blog in mind and possibly didn’t mean to be as generally dismissive as you were. So let’s just leave it as water under the bridge.

    So we’re all on board, if you’re talking about gender equality. With that said, maybe there isn’t much to talk about, since we agree on what I think is the main point. So I think/hope you can’t count me as an ally, even if we don’t agree on everything.

    Pretty much. Gender equality = feminism. The word “feminist” has been dragged through the mud by detractors since the 70’s and 80’s (and actually earlier, since suffrage), but while I respect your decision not to associate yourself with the label, you should probably keep in mind that what you think a feminist is probably not what a feminist is. What mainstream pop culture thinks a feminist is is largely informed by folks who are highly critical of feminism as a school of thought and a social movement.

    Contemporary, third wave feminism basically says: “men and women should be treated equally” and “the voices of women and issues of gender inequality should be considered as it affects women of all backgrounds”. It’s more interested in addressing systemic forms of gender iniquity than… whatever it is that folks seem to have a problem with regarding the term.

    If you’ll note the prominent issues of third wave feminists (of which I and most WOC are), you’ll see that none of them involve male-bashing of any sort: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third-wave_feminism

    As for counting you as an ally, I’d very much like to. I think one of the reasons I was disappointed by your post was because I had considered you a reasonable and insightful contributor to APIA online thought, and was very discouraged with what I felt was a blanket — and unwarranted — dismissal of AAPI feminism.

  37. Jenn

    Here’s the rub; it is entirely presumption to suggest that you know that Asian men do not examine or are unaware of any privileges that might have helped any who have achieved. You seem to want to believe that progress can only occur if it is first preceded by some kind of grand proclamation of contrition, and then we can all sit down together. But I would submit that most reasonable people (including Asian men) would be happy to sit down at a table with you and contribute in some way to equality without even giving you their name, let alone a confession of privilege.

    Don’t you see that asking people to own their privilege is invasive, and that expecting people to own their privilege – particularly in light of your own assertion that Asian men have it easier – is simply another unnuanced way of viewing the world? Again, you just cannot possibly know what people’s experiences are, and to demand that they own this one aspect of it so that Asian feminism can have an ontological foundation is not only dehumanizing, but just plain counter-productive.

    Do you actually believe that people have to firstly acknowledge privilege in order for them to work towards ending inequality? How about appealing to people’s sense of justice? Or their compassion? Or their sense of empathy? Or their sense of fair play? I see no reason to attach such importance to acknowledging privilege as a means to motivate, or have people think about those less fortunate than themselves. That seems to be a peculiarity of Asian feminism.

    But even more disturbing is that I have to wonder why I keep hearing this one demand for privilege contrition from Asian feminism, and almost never hear appeals to Asian men’s sense of justice, compassion, or empathy. Is it believed that we do not possess these qualities?

    “I think saying, “I see that’s sexist, but I don’t think it’s worth pointing out because everyone is poor”, or “it’s too divisive for us to consider what you’re saying” is a strategy that has been used for a long time to tell feminists not to prioritize feminist work. “

    I think that is an ungenerous reading of what I wrote. Nowhere do I say that sexism is too divisive to talk about, but I do suggest that the specific circumstances of poor families having to choose which kids to educate is not a primarily sexism issue, and the apparent sexism in that situation might well dissipate given more generous economic circumstances. In that situation how exactly do you prioritize the feminist work without also addressing the whole circumstance when they are so intertwined in that specific situation?

    I will finish by saying that in defence of the WOWO post I will say that I was surprised by your list of most priorities for Asian feminism – none had any real connection to Asian patriarchy, or Asian sexism, and only one was specifically sexism focused. I think that in much the same way that you feel Asian feminism has been pushed to the margins and dominated by IR focused angry dudes, it seems to me that the “don’t take my white man” feminist has perhaps dominated the feminist voice in the blogosphere – at least in the perceptions of some of us. So, I was thrown when you listed the three things you listed as priorities for this reason, because we either hear the other type more, or they have made their voices louder than the other.

  38. @Ben

    I need a clarification. On the one hand, it seems as if you argue that Asian men as a whole are entirely aware of their male privilege. Yet, I find that hard to reconcile with your second argument that asking Asian men to interrogate their male privilege is both unnecessary and invasive. Yet, you acknowledge that Asian men will work towards gender equality; but, somehow they will do it without ever having to confront the realities of gender iniquity in the status quo?

    Put another way — if Asian Americans want racial equality in a racist system: does it not behoove Asian Americans to establish how Asian Americans are treated unequally? In that case, does it not require that we demonstrate how non-Asians derive a benefit that Asians do not? By extension, isn’t that pointing out White privilege?

    By your argument, are you not saying that the tactic of interrogating how White people “have it easier” is entirely inappropriate, particularly as a tactic that has manifested — time and again — on WOWO’s site as well as others (including my own)? Here, I use the same strategy to interrogate sexism and establish that gender inequality exists, yet here you are finding it both invasive and unnecessary when it applies to Asian men, but presumably find it an acceptable tactic when applied to Whites? Am I incorrect here? Do you personally believe it’s possible to discuss racism in the absence of discussions of White privilege?

    If so, I’d be interested to know your model of presenting racial inequality in the absence of discussing White privilege/disadvantage. Perhaps that might shed some light on the current disconnect.

    In my mind, asking for “compassion” makes sense and is ultimately the goal. Hence, my point above to ask that men practice mentoring Asian American women where they can. But, I have a hard time making sense of how to convince an Asian man that he should invest time in helping an Asian woman, if by your argument I cannot actually argue that Asian men are advantaged in professional advancement over Asian women because framing it as privilege is uncomfortable.

    (For context, the post I just wrote: http://reappropriate.co/?p=3898)

    the apparent sexism in that situation might well dissipate given more generous economic circumstances.

    Of course it would. I’m not saying that poor people hate their daughters, and would continue to make such choices were they given an option. But preferential treatment for sons rather than daughters is a reality for female children of poor families. It’s a rather bizarre hypothetical to assert that, if the poor family wasn’t poor, the sexism wouldn’t happen; ergo, this example is irrelevant. There are poor families who are making these kinds of decisions, today. The solution very well might be to elevate working poor above the poverty line; it still doesn’t eliminate the need to confront that sexism, as it manifests today, does take this form (among others).

    I will finish by saying that in defence of the WOWO post I will say that I was surprised by your list of most priorities for Asian feminism – none had any real connection to Asian patriarchy, or Asian sexism, and only one was specifically sexism focused.

    APIA feminism is an intersection of feminism and Asian American issues. We are not particularly interested in male-bashing or Asian male-bashing. I linked the Third Wave Feminism article to Byron above; you might want to check it out as well.

    Feminists today are interested in advocating for issues that affect women, that currently receive anemic attention. The feminist would argue that the sexism lies in the lack of attention these issues receive — healthcare disparities for example; but do not necessarily require some sort of “magical male-bashing solution”. If you consider third-wave feminism, you’ll see it’s mostly interested in drawing attention to and working for these sorts of issues.

    I think that in much the same way that you feel Asian feminism has been pushed to the margins and dominated by IR focused angry dudes, it seems to me that the “don’t take my white man” feminist has perhaps dominated the feminist voice in the blogosphere

    I’d actually really be curious to know who these feminists are in the blogosphere. Without being a narcissistic fuck, the list of APIA feminists who blog are (off the top of my head; apologies to any feminist who shows up and yells at me for forgetting him/her):

    1) Me
    2) Juliet of Fascinasians
    3) The women of Disgrasian
    4) Half the board of Hyphen
    5) The women of Thick Dumpling Skin
    6) A scattering of women for various feminist group blogs

    I am not interested in bashing Asian men and defending White dick. Fascinasians is a Tumblr (so she does a lot of re-posting of stuff), but definitely this would not describe her site (or her relationship to her feminism). Disgrasian is run by two powerful feminists, but which largely sticks to pop culture and pointing out the racism/sexism of “disgrasians”. Hyphen has done lots of feminist work, and is responsible for the Mr. Hyphen pageant. Thick Dumpling Skin focuses exclusively on health and body image. And the other various feminists focus on… well… issues of interest to feminists, which is not typically White men.

    I can think of a handful of Asian women who have written articles defending outmarriage. But a) they have a pretty cavalier grasp of feminism and are not women I’ve ever read before nor ever read since contributing to APIA feminism, and b) the feminist viewpoint is “who I date is none of your damned business and doesn’t define me because I have a right over my own body”. That being said, it doesn’t define APIA feminism, because defining a woman or her feminism by the identity of her (male) partner is, itself, anti-feminist.

    In short, again, is it possible you’ve mischaracterized APIA feminism based on some pretty shoddy examples that isn’t itself representative of APIA feminism? I don’t speak for APIA feminism as a whole, but my list of three things are pretty similar to what others are listing right now as major issues to focus on in the wake of #NYAS.

  39. To me, gender equality = feminism. If you support gender equality, you should call yourself a feminist, so I’m not sure what BigWowo means when he says that he supports gender equality but not feminism.

    A lot of people like to pay lip service to “gender equality,” but then they show their true colours when they say that they don’t support feminism because feminism is about female superiority (or something like that). Then you realize that to these people, basic elements of equality are tantamount with male oppression. I’m not accusing BigWowo of thinking like this, but I think a lot of men do.

    I can relate to feminism because as an Asian guy, I’m part of a feminized minority. I can relate to what it feels like to, say, be seen as being inherently deficient in leadership or heroic qualities because we’re naturally meant for supporting roles.

  40. A few points.

    1. am and af should write out what EACH of them thinks af feminism is

    That way you two can see if you’re really that far apart or not.

    2. You write, this is not what af feminism is about – all 6 of you. I think that’s where the confusion comes from. 6 people represent a tiny voice.

    Meanwhile, who gains media traction? amy tan, maxine kingston, af who want to “empower” Asians by making an af/wm film where am are trash or background noise.

    That’s what mainstream means to me, at least. It’s also one of the main reasons you’ll meet lots of resistance from am[s] who have felt abandoned for a long time.

    3. My earlier comment was used to show that men’s privileges, women’s challenges are invisible to men not just am[s]. Most men cannot even analyze it if they tried.

    It’s not that they all don’t care, it’s that many of them can’t figure it out on their own because it’s so deep inside of their subconscious.

    It’s like telling men to analyze air or a fish to recognize water.

    The riddle explains that in many people’s minds, the role of a doctor can only be filled by a man. That’s the assumption that is so deeply ingrained inside some of us.

    4. Following from point 3, I think the best thing for af feminists to do is to list out the specific am[s] privileges and the way af[s] women are challenged.

    AND also what am can do to help out.

    When you tell us to analyze our privileges, it’s…

    a. hard work
    b. we’ll miss a bunch of stuff
    c. it’s more efficient for a list to be made so am[s] can just read it.

  41. Jenn

    I most certainly have not argued that Asian men as a whole are aware of their male privilege – where did I say anything even remotely like that? I said that you are being presumptuous in asserting that Asian men are not aware that they might benefit from privileges that others might not – but doesn’t every demographic have privileges?

    I hate to go there but it might be the best analogy for why your reasoning is unreasonable. There are those who will insist that the cultural phenomenon of Asian women and white men showing immense interest in each other bestows privileges on Asian women not available to either Asian men or other minority females. Just like your rationalist line of enquiry will assert that yes, Asian men experience racism but being male in a male dominated society must bestow privileges, a similar line of enquiry would suggest that since white males dominate in society, Asian women receive privileges by partnering with them. Furthermore, Asian women have to acknowledge and examine this privilege before they can even think about making contributions to the fight against the white patriarchy.

    Personally, I think that is flawed thinking and unfair to the individuals’ life experiences which are being rationalized into a neat little box of contention that can be railed against. My guess is that you would argue that dating white men does not mean that Asian women cannot be activists for APIA causes, and that they have no requirement to acknowledge that partnering with a white man has given them any privileges. And you would be right.

    I don’t see how insisting on owning privilege has to be the prerequisite that will motivate Asian men to want to contribute to the cause of mental health, female suicide rates, and even lower pay scales for Asian women. It is almost as though you believe that there is transformative power in muttering these words like the Christian proclamation of faith – something I question. No, I think Asian men might also see the injustice and unfairness of Asian women not being paid equally to do equal work, or opportunities being less available to them. I don’t see why you believe that people cannot fight for justice and empathize with injustice without the contritious prerequisite of owning privilege.

    Put another way — if Asian Americans want racial equality in a racist system: does it not behoove Asian Americans to establish how Asian Americans are treated unequally? In that case, does it not require that we demonstrate how non-Asians derive a benefit that Asians do not? By extension, isn’t that pointing out White privilege?

    Yes that alludes to privileges but mainly by pointing out the injustice, but it does not necessarily demonstrate that people have to own privilege before they can acknowledge that racism is unjust and that they are prepared to join the struggles against it. That is what I’m trying to say – if you are able to persuade people to see the injustice, and convince them to act on it, then the whole drama of “owning their privilege” becomes moot, although it is actually being addressed.

    I’m actually wondering if there is a peculiarly East Asian cultural influence happening here that may have something to do with the concept of face-saving. Much in the same way that we always seems to require that media slights are rectified by public (and therefore social) contrition on the part of the offender, I wonder if this need for public contrition of privilege derives from the same notion – the need for it to be shown socially and publicly that “transgressors” have accepted penance. My thoughts are only germinating on this idea so my language may be off base.

    It’s a rather bizarre hypothetical to assert that, if the poor family wasn’t poor, the sexism wouldn’t happen; ergo, this example is irrelevant. There are poor families who are making these kinds of decisions, today.

    I fail to see why this is bizarre – the evidence might suggest that greater economic power translates into greater equality in access to education. In poverty everyone suffers and I’m not prepared to pass judgement on difficult decisions that poor people have to make from the comfort of my warm house from where I order take-out delivered to my door every day, and have someone to clean my house three times a week. Like I suggested with my trafficked Filipino friends most of whom have left children back in the old country and whom they have not seen for years and years, and who live in fear of being sent back, or having money extorted from them by the police, poverty is hard on everyone – but probably most of all on children. These men and women put themselves through this so that they can create a better future for all of their kids – but in reality, they are absent parents, but what can you do?

    And no I’m not saying suck it up, I’m saying that it is impossible to separate the people and the choices they make from the circumstances of their economic situation – but the way that it seems you would like feminism to be feature is to separate it from these other factors.

    I’d actually really be curious to know who these feminists are in the blogosphere.


    I think you misunderstood my comment here. In the same way that you – rightly – reference those anonymous Asian male commenters on Asian forums and blogs as influential in forming your perceptions of how open Asian men are to gender-equality, I also submit that these same blog spaces bring out the kind of feminist that I described. Is it fair to form an impression based on this? Probably not, but I would argue that in the absence of intelligent feminists like yourself, the vacuum has been occupied by the trolls. So yes, I admit that my impression comes from dubious sources. That is why I admit to being thrown by your list of feminist priorities.

    Okay, I have to slow down my participation in this very interesting conversation – I’m neglecting my wife! I hope I’ve clarified things a bit more.

    Happy holidays!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


+ 3 = eight

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Comment Policy

Before posting, please review the following guidelines:

  • No ad hominem attacks: A person's identity or background is not up for debate.
  • Be courteous: Respect everyone else in this space.
  • Present evidence: This space endeavours to encourage academic and rational debate around identity politics. Do your best to build an argument backed not just with your own ideas, but also with science.
  • Don't be pedantic: Listen to those debating you not just for places to attack, but also where you might learn and even change your own opinion. Repeatedly arguing the same point irrespective of presented counterfacts will now be considered a violation of this site's comment policy.
  • Respect the humanity of all groups: To elevate the quality of debate, this site will no longer tolerate (racial, cultural, gender, etc.) supremacist or inferiority lines of argumentation. There are other places on the internet where nationalist arguments can be expressed; this blog is not those places.
  • Don't be an asshole: If you think your behaviour would get you punched in the face outside of the internets, don't say it on the internets.

Did your comment not appear right away? Here are some common reasons why:

  • Is it your first time commenting? All first-time commenters are reviewed by me before being approved.
  • Does your comment contain 3+ links? All comments containing 3+ links are held for moderation to ensure they are not spam. If you are otherwise an approved commenter, avoid hitting the moderation wall by breaking comments with multiple links into several comments.
  • Did you not play nice? You may have gotten banned. Sorry.

I monitor all comment threads, and try to approve comments held for moderation within 24-48 hours. Comments that violate this comment policy may receive a warning and removal of offensive content; overt or repeat violations are subject to deletion and/or banning of comment authors without warning.

I reserve final decision over how this comment policy will be enforced.

Summary:

Play nice and don't be a jerk, and you'll do just fine.