Category Archives: gender

For the Women

There has been so much going on at work lately. So much, that I can only say, “I cannot even tell you. It’s confidential.”

I can tell you, however, it’s been tough. In all this, I reflect on the people I have leaned on. So this entry is all about the women. The ones who have made this slice of hell not only bearable, but a place for me to walk through the fire with my head held high, principles clutched tight.

I think of my friend who made the time to talk on the phone. Who asked questions to prepare me for the ones I would be asked. Who clearly said, you are doing the right thing.

Another friend who said the students will thank you, eventually they will understand what a big thing it is for someone to stand up. And I smile to think of her tough-as-nails attitude, when she said, if you need lawyers, give me a holler.

Yesterday, I went out with another friend, and we reflected on our positions as Asian-American women. She began to reflect on her experiences as a middle school student in a private school and her experiences with teachers and parents there. It brought us closer to think about how migration, language, and other forms of social capital have shaped us. And when my friend saw the chamomile flowers a student picked, she reminded me, one day that student will look back and remember you.

(Also, we both got to dress up, and there is nothing better than feeling good one’s own skin. Oh, to be in a body.)

I even think back to the professor whose class involved blogging, which led to my current WordPress account. I thank her for pushing the boundaries and offering classes that no one else could think of nor facilitate the way she did. I remember our shy tongues when we saw how she graced the classroom. I imagine the fires she’s walked through to arrive at her magnificence. I think about my 6th grade math teacher and her tough love. But always, we knew it was love. I picked flowers for her on my way to school and cradled corn snakes in her class. I think about how important it is to know that you are cared for because others work for you.

Oh yes. There are great men in my life too. Thank you to my colleague who has been a solid rock at work. Whose politics and morals extend into every fiber of his actions and words. To my friend this morning, who I drove to the airport, finally taking a long-awaited and much-deserved trip into the future of his dreams and fight for food justice. This friend’s gentleness reminds me to be there for myself, and when I am ready, the work will be there. As he handed the keys to the car to me, he handed me my own trust that I can always get myself back home.

Thank you and peace.

Peace.

 

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Filed under education, gender, love, non-fiction, prose, race

Asians healing to love, loving to heal

“It is easier to be furious than to be yearning. Easier to crucify myself in you than to take on the threatening universe of whiteness by admitting that we are worth wanting each other.” –Audre Lorde from “Eye-to-Eye: Black Women, Hatred, and Anger”

 

 

For a while now, I have been thinking about Asian/American women, love, and interracial dating. How talking about love and putting judgments on who someone loves (and how and why) is challenging. In college, I would participate in discussions about Black couples, love, and interracial relationships. The conversations were intense, emotional, and would eventually return to the point about how difficult it is to assign judgment or value on love. As much as we can be critical about the context in which love develops, how could we judge emotions and attraction? This same discussion gets raised in Oakland (or really the world) too about Asian/American women, and particularly we are commenting on the number of Asian women dating white men.*

 

I’m going to admit I’m bothered by the great number of these couplings too. What are the power dynamics? What does this mean about Asian/American assimilation? As someone who questions our socialization—specifically our internalized racism and colonialism—I’ve prioritized dating men of color. And I know people who try to prioritize dating within their race. This might seem restrictive, but if we are to challenge the self-hatred that has been fed to us, I believe we can give our people a second chance. In the extra date, second glance, or self-reflection, we may see that our lover’s flat-nose is more beautiful than we were taught by white media. We may see our difficulties communicating as weaknesses we are only growing stronger by addressing through practice. We may realize how healing this opportunity is to love one another.

 

But sometimes that doesn’t work. Sometimes, we fall in love with someone who is white. Maybe this person has grown up around a variety of healthy relationships and don’t have years of trauma to work through. Maybe they are able to be present and ready in ways that previous lovers and partners have not. So maybe an Asian/American woman ends up dating a white man. (I recognize that this pattern may exist in queer relationships too, but I have not observed such a great number as with heterosexual couplings. Am I wrong? Is this essay needlessly heterosexist? Please correct me if I’m in the wrong.)

 

In the case that you are walking down Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, or some other middle-class strip of shops (I believe this phenomenon is completely impacted by socio-economic class), and start to make some comment about that Asian and white couple, I have two things to say to you.

 

1) You don’t get to assume anything! Maybe—just maybe—this chica is the most down, self-loving, politicized and racially aware person. Her partner or date may even be a radical anti-racist activist. You don’t know. Even if she wasn’t and he wasn’t, you don’t know what that relationship has given these two. Maybe with this partner, she does not have to relive the trauma of being with someone who is not present or abusive. Maybe with her, he is challenged in new ways. Maybe this is a love that is good for the world and healing for these two.

 

When I hear men of color in particular judge these couplings, I wonder if their words perpetuate patriarchy in the name of anti-racism. There is a distrust of Asian/American women. Is there  even a glint of self-hatred in my own distaste for seeing Asian/American women with white men?

 

2) If you don’t like these racial dynamics, are you doing the hard work to change it? And no, I don’t mean the work of writing another patriarchal, racist, woman-policing blog post. I don’t mean holding a discussion about interracial dating. I mean the gritty, painful emotional work that men/ men of color avoid. Asian men and other men of color have work to do to prepare them for what Audre Lorde calls a “rigorous loving.” It takes re-conditioning to be in touch with our anger, our sadness, and our joy so that it does not strangle our ability to be in relationship.** What are men doing to heal the trauma that makes loving openly and deeply difficult? I write these questions with full awareness and love for the men I have been privileged to know who are doing this work for themselves and thus, for the benefit of generations to come. There are people—and beautiful Asian/American people for that matter—who are overcoming these challenges.

 

I also write this to hold Asian/American women and the entire Asian/American community accountable. We must do the work it takes to challenge our internalized racism and colonialism. While people have no right to judge us or make assumptions about our relationships, we still owe it to our lovers and partners (and families and communities and ourselves) to un-do the impact of racism. We too owe it to ourselves to dig through the dirt of trauma and commit to the hard emotional work of re-learning how to love ourselves and our community, whether or not we are in relationship with someone who is also Asian/American.

 

After war, colonialism, years of racism, all around us lay scattered pieces of ourselves we are collecting to learn to love again, wholly. The most crucial point is that we must heal in order to love and we must love in ways that heal. In that, we must develop a critical lens that recognizes how history and politics impact attraction and love, whomever our partners are.

 

*Remarks made in popular culture includes what Junot Diaz wrote in his short story, “The Cheater’s Guide to Love” which appears in This is How You Lose Her, “Is it me or does every Asian girl on the planet marry a white guy? Is it written on the genes or something?” And more recently, even a rabbi on The Mindy Show praised a character for being very Jewish… by dating an Asian woman (Mindy).

 

And then there is bullshit like this that I am not even trying to respond to. This is a wonderful in-depth analysis: http://tympan.blogspot.com/2012/09/i-refuse-to-ever-date-asian-man.html

 

**I think this essay can apply to people who prefer other dynamics in their relationships, be it friendships over romantic relationships, open relationships, casual sex. These relationships don’t absolve us from the responsibility to act with love and question the contexts that make love between people of color more difficult.

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Filed under asian americans, essays, gender, love, race

church with audre

it is the 7th day of spring.

i return to audre

like followers to the bible

holding the cover

my hands peel back

the pages

i am at prayer.

 

 

audre writes of fallen sisters

i am on my knees

and mouthing rosary

pondering ancestry

beyond shared bloodline.

 

 

audre writes of anger and growth

of honesty and growth.

a storm is brewing

that can feed the earth

or bend trees

or break them.

 

 

it has been raining

through a drought.

on the 7th day of spring

i return to audre.

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Filed under gender, poems

La madrugada

“Women who learn to love represent the greatest threat to the patriarchal status quo.”  -bell hooks

La madrugada.

I had forgotten my favorite Spanish word. The word meant dawn and felt as musical and magical as dawn itself when it slipped up and down my tongue out into the open air.

La madrugada, I repeated to myself one day as I walked away from his place into the bright summer day. The sun was already reaching its zenith just moments ago as we had started lazily getting ourselves together. I was pulling my hair into a messy bun, wrapped the strands around itself. He was choosing a shirt from the closet and buckling his belt around dark blue jeans. As I slipped my dress over my head, I imagined that he checked his curly black hair in the mirror and pulled on his favorite beanie with the frayed edges. These morning moments were how we were—comfortable and natural without any second-guessing. We still sometimes stopped and looked at each other in bewilderment. How did this happen? we would ask ourselves. We felt easy.

The soft morning light in his apartment gave way to the harsh sun outside where the shadows were short and bold. I could see now my dark shadow moving alongside me. I realized I had so many concerns and questions about the feelings he gave me. Was the discomfort a sign for a problem? For what seemed like my whole life, I was comfortable running towards men who were distant and dismissive. By definition and through experience, I wanted to run away from men who were available and intimate, kind and reassuring. By definition, I wanted to run away from him. The one who held me as dogs growled and fireworks popped throughout the Oakland night. As we marched again and again for the lives of young black men in the town, he held my hand and we walked in protest, bearing witness to what it meant to live in danger. Meanwhile, I felt privileged. I was with a man who could talk about the politics of protest as well as he could listen to my grief.

What does it mean to be in a relationship that did not hurt? In fact, what does it mean to be in a relationship that made me stronger than I ever imagined?

***

It was fitting that it was in la madrugada we found ourselves, bodies overlapping each other, whispering our confessions of love.

We were as soft as dawn’s glow over the East Oakland hills. I nestled into the nook of his neck the way puffs of fog must feel in the early morning against the hills. We made promises to each other, knowing that the light would soon lead us to see. We understood the beauty of la madrugada, the inevitably of new days.

At dawn, the world awakens to itself, with the help of the sun.  The beginning of that day with him, I am awakening too.

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Filed under gender, love, prose

Hairstories

In college, a white boy I once called a friend told me that I had hair like every Asian girl—long, straight, and black.  It was one of the most trivializing statements I have heard.  Needless to say, this comment marked a moment I began to drift away from this group of friends into a more intentionally developed group.  I started to identify with college activists of color.  I sat in the “black” section of the dining hall.  I had to confront my own ideas about classism and racism.  I’ve never told people this—but as many close friends as I had to sit with in that section, I always wondered if I was accepted and how I would be perceived in that space in the dining hall.  I knew though that there were too many similar struggles.  And I was not one to overlook the shared experiences we had of being silenced, erased, disrespected, and oppressed by the institution that we knew we were privileged to be at.  This point though is a story for another time.

My point is this—Asian Americans also have our own hair stories and our own hair traumas.  These hairstories are both political and non-political all at once.

After this happened, the next time I was in Oakland, I cut my hair into a short bob.  It looked horrible because my working-class consciousness only allowed me to go to the cheapest place I could find.  And, well, bringing a picture of Rihanna didn’t help my 70-year-old Asian male “hairstylist” any little bit either.  Luckily hair grows and so did I.

This short haircut marked an important period that I still believe has shaped the trajectory of the rest of my life.  I just finished taking a class on the Black Diaspora and was developing an internationalist perspective.  NAFTA and the WTO became terms in my back pocket.  I was building an academic relationship with a brilliant Leftist professor who would later advise me on my thesis.  I was becoming involved in political conversations in the 5-Colleges area about Asian American Studies.  I had my hair cut when I was in Oakland, just before I would fly to New York and catch a flight to the Dominican Republic.  I studied abroad there, which allowed me to visit Haiti and Cuba.  And on and on, the understanding and radicalism dug its roots deeper, and deeper still into me.

I kept my hair short and a year later, pierced my nose as a signifier of my politics.  There was no going back now.  The truth could not be unlearned.  It demanded that I lived it with integrity.  In my senior year, my advisor taught a class on Black Marxism, and we began a grueling (and self-imposed) timeline to research and write my senior thesis.  It still is one of the most focused years I have had in my life.  One I am proud of.

About a year after I got back to Oakland, I was thrust into a world of Vietnamese-American activism that I had never dreamed of.  My hair was cropped shorter. And shorter.

The politics and experiences continued to evolve.  To both my enjoyment and disappointment, my hair scared my parents into questioning my sexuality for a moment.  This is new because—to my parents—I am not a sexual being, and they will do anything to cling to that belief.  Also, I began teaching middle schoolers in Oakland and students commented on my short hair.  It didn’t bother me personally but made me ache to have more conversations about gender.  “Why is your hair like a boy’s?”  “Because I think this is beautiful too.  Because short hair can be woman’s hair.”

My own ideas about how to live my politics changed.  Every year could not be as intense as my last year in college.  I had been so angry the last few years of college.  And anger is important, but it was also deafening to ears that knew life was composed of other melodies.

Another point began to bug me.  Whose politics was I trying to live?  Was that white boy always going to live in this hair of mine?  What was I saying about the relationship between politics and presentation?  I was tired of carrying around a beehive of politics on my head.  I have nothing to prove to anyone, I thought.

Almost a year ago, I decided reluctantly that I would grow out my hair.  I thought to myself: the feminine doesn’t mean un-political, doesn’t mean conservative, doesn’t mean anti-revolutionary.  Neither does the feminine mean weak, timid, nor the other infinite words that exist to put-down women.  This was another choice I was making.  And free choices are revolutionary.  And breaking binaries is important.  And just another Asian girl with radical politics was here to shake things up.  Just another Asian girl and not just another Asian girl.

And as they tend to, these decisions coincided with moments of big change.  I was and am coming to consciousness about the ways that war, trauma, and family have affected me.  My earliest connections had taught me little or nothing about a functional, thriving love.  Granted, learning to survive, sacrifice, and act out of duty have my appreciation.  Yet it wasn’t and isn’t moving me nor my community forward.  The pain was over-flowing and impacting the decisions I was making about the people and relationships I was investing in.  So this time, I did not go home to the politics, it had already came home and roosted in me.  I had to begin healing.  I am working on this.  Remember, hair is growing and so am I.

So why these stories and why my long hair?  Because the white boy was right—I’m just like every Asian girl: too unique for him to understand. Because my identity and politics are stories that my hair alone cannot represent.  Because the next time some dude yells, “Me love you long time” out the back of a truck, I know it was never my fault, no matter the length of my hair.  Because femininity is more complex and messier than hair.  Because Asian Americans have our hair stories too.  Because—even though it may mark points in our development—hair is not the only signifier of our politics.  Because, really though, it is none of your business.

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Filed under amherst, asian americans, dominican republic, essays, gender, love, poems, race

meaning of rain in alburquerque

it is raining in alburquerque

a blessing they say

a day where the wind does not blow me

it raises me

 

it is raining in alburquerque

and the clouds are heavy with possibilities

fat and black/ with the gravity of their cause

a blessing they say

 

it is raining in alburquerque

and maybe this means more than it seems

more than just heat rising from adobe

and the clouds are heavy with possibilities

 

it is raining in alburquerque

i am sitting still with a man

who loves and hates and is human

and maybe this means more than it seems

 

it is raining in alburquerque

a steaming bed of turquoise and

a curandera’s magic and

i am sitting still with a man

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Filed under gender, love, poems

The Application- A Leftist’s Dating Guide*

Needing a date, wanting a relationship?  Not sure how to go about sifting through your online dating profile messages?  Or heck- even those Facebook profiles?  Can’t zoom in on that perfect community organizer? No worries, we’re here to help! Introducing “The Application!”

 

The Application is a leftist’s best friend in the dating world!  Complete with multiple-choice questions, short response, and essay questions, The Application will help you make decisions on whom you should spend your time.  We understand that making time outside of your Marxist study group, organizing youth, and campaign strategizing is hard!  So make dating simpler with The Application!

 

Side-effects may include clarity as well as the likelihood of anxious, upset stomach.  1 in 2 of our users report having lost all friends and potential lovers.

 

1)    Are you a person of color?  If not, what was your class background growing up?

 

2)    What was your class background growing up?

 

3)    What percentage of time do you spend talking in a conversation?

a.     50%, I try to ask questions and listen actively
b.     90% This is my show, baby, and the world’s a stage!  If I get to teach you something that’s a plus.
c.     25% I’m just not that interested, I guess… but I’ll lead you on…
d.     2% people scare me and I’m a huge introvert

 

4)    True or false: It matters that my friends like you.

 

5)    Can men be feminists?

 

6)    Have you ever used your leftist ideals, work, or persona to actively woo someone? Passively?

 

7)    What is your stance in queer marriage?  Hint- marriage ain’t never done nothing for nobody but the state.

 

8)    Should the revolution ever become armed or always non-violent?  Please explain in a 5-paragraph analytical essay.  Be sure to cite evidence from radical writings.  Extra points for quoting Fanon.

 

9)    Define the following: feelings, needs, and desires.

a.     Do you know the difference between these and can you communicate them with me?

 

10)  When we disagree, will you

a.     take time to have a discussion with me and—depending on the topic—allow for the possibility to decide to disagree.

b.     agree with me.

c.     end all communication and our relationship.

d.     raise your voice and put me down while referring to examples that prove I’m wrong.

 

*This is a sarcastic, facetious piece of writing.  Yet we also know jokes are informed by truth.  A person’s answer to number 1-10 all matter to me, and the question’s importance ranges like they will for other leftists.  As with any healthy relationship though, it really comes down to #9 and 10.  And lord have mercy… someone answer #9-10 correctly please!

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Filed under gender, humor, love, prose