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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Where Are My Asian American Sisters?

Identity -- the quest to determine and develop an understanding of who we are and how we fit into this great cultural mosaic that is America. As an Asian American woman, I struggle with two, often unnecessarily conflicting identities that fall under the purvue of two distinct political communities: my identity as an Asian American and my identity as a woman. Let us not forget also my identity as a heterosexual person, a young person, a non-member of the religious ruling class, a liberal, a foreigner, an upper-middle classer, and a person benefitting from higher education. With this understanding of who I am as not a single identity but a participant in multiple, competing "-isms", I know that to develop my personal, unique identity is to explore my private niche within the matrix of oppressions. It is to find my voice not as a woman, not as an Asian American, not as all those other things I describe, but to cultivate a communal identity based upon myself as a person who is each of these things and all of these things combined. Thus, I blog. However, to develop a communal identity is to find a common voice amongst other men and women in or near my niche. I believe that to discover "Asian Americana", for example, is to develop a harmony amongst the cacophony of Asian American voices -- gay, straight, male, female, rich, poor, and more. We need to find the overlap, to figure out what about all of us makes us unique, and to understand who we are. Unfortunately, I find the resources for filtering the Asian American experience unusually slim. A long time ago, there was AsianAvenue.com, then there was GoldSea.com, but both these sites are frustratingly apolitical -- sending the message to Asian American youths that to discover one's Asian American identity is to forsake any activism inherent within that identity. Counterbalance that with Yellowworld.org, ModelMinority.com, and the Fighting44's -- all these sites are extremely political and polarized, but unfortunately have a hard time finding the nuance within Asian Americana. They act and react as if the Asian American experience is already coalesced when I still struggle to figure out exactly who I am and where I stand in the grand scheme of all the other things that make me, well, me. Not to mention that the latter two are frighteningly misogynistic; they are quick to label any APIA female as a race traitor should she choose to not date an Asian/Asian American man, while to bemoan the loss of "their" women. Blogs, therefore, are the ultimate solution. I developed the APIA Blog Network because I felt a need to bring together the voices of Asian American bloggers, to help spread the word of Asian American activism but in the context of self-determination as part of our activism. I sought out Asian American blogs that dealt with personal experience, political identity, and social consciousness. I hoped that this would shed some light on the question of what our community was all about and how I, as an Asian American woman, might fit in. And yet, something's still not right. It took me awhile to figure this out, but there's a strange, unsettling dichotomy in how we speak out. As I peruse the members of the APIA Blog Network, and other Asian American blogs I read, I find a bizarre pattern -- there is a significant underrepresentation of political Asian American female bloggers. I mean, check it out: we have Angry Asian Man but where's the Angry Asian Woman? Racial Pro-File? Male. Asian-Nation? Male. Asian American Poetry blogs (I and II)? Male. Even the aforementioned political sites are all run by Asian American men. And, while all of these sites are on my "regular reads" list, I can't help but wonder: where are my Asian American sisters? Some -- the more skeptical-minded of us -- might suggest that men are more avidly online than women. Well, we know that's not true: women under 65 now outpace men in Internet usage. Indeed, it's not hard for me to find Asian American female bloggers on Xanga or MySpace -- but usually, they're blogging about boys, relationships, schoolwork, clothes and movies. But, overall, I find the disparity of political Asian American female bloggers exploring their identity troubling. While writing this, however, I cannot forget the strong women who are representing. The Hyphen Magazine Blog includes several talented and notable female Asian American bloggers. Two of the most well-known Asian American bloggers on the Internet are women: Margaret Cho keeps a highly-popular blog that is known well beyond the circles of Asian American blogging while Michelle Malkin, though certainly not a proud member of Asian Americana, is undeniable part of that community (at least in a superficial sense). And in both these latter cases, I question whether the Asian American female experience, itself, is being addressed in these blogs or if we are talking about two blogs that embody the "accidentally Asian" paradigm. And yet, this notoriety and talent (although in Malkin's case, that second qualifier is questionable) does not make up for our sheer lack of numbers. Where else is the Asian American woman discussing our identity as hyper-sexualized? Where else are we conversing about the pedestal we are placed on when it comes to that immortal, irritating APIA issue: interracial relationships? What resource do we have to focus on issues of prostitution, body image, economic and labour equality, education, sex, media representation, and our relationship with our beloved male counterparts? Strangely, outside of the blogosphere, it is men, not women, who are underrepresented. Amy Tam not withstanding, most of the authors that comprise the ever-growing Asian American literature section are using the media of written and published prose to explore Asian American female identity. ALAG, the pre-cursor to SAM, was one of the earliest pioneers that paved the way for books like Yell-Oh! Girls and Unbound Voices. Sure, there's always Frank Wu and Ron Takaki, but their voices are drowned out by the Helen Zia's and Maxine Hong Kingston's that abound. While this might seem like a step forward for getting the Asian American female experience out, we must question the reason behind why Asian American women are so widely published, and what, exactly, is being published. For most (but not all) books, rather than a discussion of Asian American female politicized identity, we see the same re-hashed Joy Luck Club story of lashing out against oppressive, immigrant parents and/or a re-discovering of one's Asian roots via re-connecting with one's Asian mother/sister/aunt/grandmother. Though this is a viable part of the Asian American female experience, this is not our only issue, and this overrepresentation on our bookshelf in Barnes & Noble is misleading: it creates an exoticist illusion of Asia as hyper-reprehesive and assumes assimilation into American culture is the more feminist, more empowering solution that encompasses all of the Asian American female struggle. Question also who controls what is being published -- the publishing houses that produce these books filter what we can read and edit what should be an unadulterated Asian American female voice. Question also who buys these books: are they truly all Asian American women seeking a feminist identity? So, again, we should turn to blogging. While literature and cultural studies has its place, it is important to cut out the Outsider middle-man if we truly want to pursue self-determination and a melding of our strength as women with our strength as Asian Americans and deliver an unedited recount of our experience to others of our community. It is essential that we encourage more Asian American women to explore through the medium of blogging their place in the world, as women, and possibly even feminists, of colour. But only through exploring our identity and experiences for ourselves can we understand ourselves as more than just a single identity; only by seeking to determine how an Asian American woman can be both female and racial minority can we find a way to marry the identity into a more realistic representation of ourselves. And so, I'm still looking for my Asian American sisters, hoping that we can work together to one day find a voice that is our own. Tagged:

16 Comments:

Anonymous tekanji said...

I encountered a similar problem when I first started blogging. I wanted to develop my blogroll, but I didn't want to stuff it full of only the obvious A-list white feminist bloggers. I spent two days doing nothing but scouring the net for female Asian (from any region, not just American or Canadian) political/feminist bloggers. I came up with you, Cho (I had her on for a bit, but I'm not real into celeb blogs), and Malkin (I'm not a big fan of her politics, to put it nicely). The rest were personal a-political and often anti-feminist personal blogs, or blogs written by men.

Thanks for the heads up about Hyphen. I added it to my roll. I'm always interested in finding blogs off the beaten path, especially if they're minorities in ways other than (or in addition to) gender.

1/03/2006 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger nubian said...

i feel the same way about black feminist bloggers. yeah, there is blackfeminism.org...but what else?

i've tried not to link to the leading white-feminist sites as well---just to get a different view of women of color bloggers.

1/04/2006 05:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Bitch | Lab said...

Hi,

Yoshie hasn't been posting much because she's now running Monthly Review on line, but she still posts every once in awhile at Critical Montages.

I found this through the Carnival. How do I indicate I'd like to host a carnival? I didn't realize we could focus on a topic to some extent, something I'd like to do.

Thanks

1/04/2006 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger Gar said...

great post, with a title that says it all... let me echo, "where my revolutionay sistas at?"

though, i'm not an expert cataloguer of the Asian American blogosphere, a female blogger whose many varied topics that you enjoy:

http://www.minjungkim.com/

-g.

1/06/2006 12:48:00 AM  
Blogger Min Jung said...

My roommate Jane Kim who ran for SF School Board is also blogging. She ran a very good race for the Green Party.

www.janekim.org
Loads of other bloggers on ricebowljournals.com and recently discovered that spoken word poet Shailja Patel has started blogging at
http://www.shailja.com/

And thanks for the hattip G.

Min Jung

1/06/2006 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger Min Jung said...

Oh and PS. tiffany brown who runs the blackfeminism.org site is a galpal of mine whom I met last year when we shared a panel at sxsw re: women in technology leadership roles.

Lots of good stuff came out of our panel.

1/06/2006 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger yellowbaby said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/07/2006 12:18:00 AM  
Blogger yellowbaby said...

I think this is the best carnival yet because of the variety and the interesting content and not just because I'm an Asian American woman. Thank you for doing this. I'm thrilled about this and the new radical women of color carnival. I would have submitted but have been too tired and pissed off lately not coincidentally about the white privilege in a young feminist community I've been lurking. Like you said, there is nothing to say (besides how it absolutely sucks that women of color are marginalized in communities of color and feminist communities) but more likely, there is too much to say, but with the tiredness and anger that comes with being a minority woman, I sometimes can only shake my head.

I agree that there are very, very few Asian or Asian American female political bloggers.

Thanks for the carnivals, ladies. I now have alot more quality material to bookmark and read.

1/07/2006 12:34:00 AM  
Blogger Ms.Maegan said...

I think the same can be said for Latina bloggers and women of color in general. There are communities like MiGente for Latinos but they are largely apolitical and are more about hooking up than creating actual community and identity. Thanks for writing this. I'm feeling it.

1/11/2006 11:25:00 AM  
Anonymous djchuang said...

While there are few Asian American political feminist bloggers, your very presence is indeed significant and is now developing that very voice! So blog on, and if politics is your things, you've got a captive audience who'll read your political perspectives, certainly many more than those who would read my apolitical perspectives. I've found the most popular blogs and/or blogs that generate the most traffic are those in the political realm, and maybe 2ndly in the technology realm.

Yes, I'm personally politically ambivalent, and don't get worked up about politics -- I find that the more vocal Asian Americans (online and offline) do tend to talk about politics, and I sure would like to find ones that would talk about identity and cultural impact issues aside from only the politic lens.

And, if I may say so, I think your little dig about Michelle Malkin's questionable talent might be tipping your hand about your difference of opinion on politics and AA identity, rather than a fair assessment of talent, yes? :)

1/15/2006 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

@djchuant:

Yes, I'm personally politically ambivalent, and don't get worked up about politics -- I find that the more vocal Asian Americans (online and offline) do tend to talk about politics, and I sure would like to find ones that would talk about identity and cultural impact issues aside from only the politic lens.

That's odd, because I think I find more apolitical than political Asian American bloggers. Perhaps it's just a case of the grass being greener...

And, if I may say so, I think your little dig about Michelle Malkin's questionable talent might be tipping your hand about your difference of opinion on politics and AA identity, rather than a fair assessment of talent, yes? :)

Of course, but why begrudge an unashamed, bleeding heart liberal a chance to take an under-handed swing at Michelle Malkin? It bothers me that she's the face of Asian American female political blogging at the moment, and, her politics aside, I don't think she's a talented blogger; in the sense that I read her blog and I still don't get a sense of her soul. Recently, she's taken to blogging as re-posting news items rather than as "opinionating".

1/16/2006 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

(ooops... apologies for the misspell of your name. "djchuang" not "djchuant".)

1/16/2006 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger fiercelyfab said...

Like Mala--I too feel the same way, and personally have made a commitment to write a bit more about feminism and political in my personal entries, alluding more to the structural analysis of "my life" and "surroundings".

I hear you about myspace--not a place to engage with political women of color exploring identity.

And I hear you on this "assumes assimilation into American culture is the more feminist, more empowering solution that encompasses all of the Asian American female struggle" in general about any woman of color and feminism within publishing. Great post and thank you for writing this.

2/02/2006 02:40:00 PM  
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