I have experienced some interesting feedback on my posts and book lately. What I’ve noticed is that women rarely comment. And when they do it’s positive. On the other hand Asian men have provided the most negative feedback so far. Only after a lengthy discussion with my boyfriend did I start to understand why other Asian men reacted the way they did. Although I’m still not sure I completely understand, I am looking forward to pushing the expanse of my mind and attempting to learn the perspectives of why my fellow brothers are upset when I talk about women’s empowerment.
Now that I think about it I suppose that makes sense. Or I can see why they may feel threatened by it. I just had hoped that they would be supportive. As I mentioned in a previous post I recently discovered why I felt a bit off at Asian American events during all of my twenties. At a recent speaking engagement, I realized it was because it was a male-dominated atmosphere. Even though racism was being discussed in a progressive atmosphere, sexism was barely touched on at all. This included spoken word events and even my Asian American studies curriculum.
I never realized, unwittingly and a bit ignorantly, that other men, specifically Asian men, would have a problem with me talking about sexism and feminism. (I must clarify that the negative reaction was by a few Asian men which obviously does not imply all or even most. But I guess negative reaction is often louder than positive.) My idealistic ignorance most likely came from a couple positive reactions I received from male acquaintances when the book first came out. Maybe if I had negative reactions from the very beginning it would not have been as shocking.
It also, honestly, felt hurtful as some people thought I didn’t talk about other oppressions enough, like classism, or maybe I talked about sexism too much and also assumed that, in my book, I was idolizing white men since most of my negative experiences had been with Asian men. Of course, this is a completely incorrect interpretation of my book and the points I was making. Like I said in the book, my two main points I wanted to get across to Asian women and girls in general is to pursue their dreams and put themselves first. I also wrote I had a really good first two years with my ex-boyfriend, later husband, and he was my first serious relationship and taught me true generosity and caring. Simultaneously, my worst boyfriend experience was with a Brazilian extreme surfer in Hawai’i who showed me how crazy abusive men can be and how strong I could be when pushed to the absolute limit.
By pointing out bad experiences with Asian men does not mean however that I am perpetuating racism. It is revealing sexism–another important oppression and one where men are in the oppressor role and women are in the oppressed role. Asian men were confusing my pointing out of sexism in our Asian American community for their past experiences of racism. To them it felt like racism all over again. They are being targeted in this country again. However, racism is when white people are acting out their confusion and hurts from when they were forced into the oppressor role against people of color. Sexism is when men act out their patterns of how they were hurt by being forced into the oppressor role towards women. I pointed out when exes were Asian because, for me, dating Asian men has always had an immediate intimacy that non-Asian men did not have.
I’m sorry that hearing about sexism from Asian men felt like another attack. But it is a reactionary feeling and is not reality. Oftentimes it’s easier for us to complain about our oppressed roles than to accept where we are the oppressors.
I for example am in the oppressor role in terms of sexual orientation, and ableism. People who are gay or queer or disabled are much smarter in these areas and I have a lot to learn from them about gay oppression and disability oppression. I have the luxury and privilege to be ignorant about their oppression since I am in the oppressor role in those areas.
I am asking for my Asian brothers to step up to the plate regarding sexism and dare to be courageous and humble enough to listen to their Asian sisters talk about sexism. To keep their minds open about an oppression in which they are in the oppressor role and admit they have a lot to learn here. They are in the oppressed role in regards to racism just as Asian women are, but if we really are to combat and end racism we have to unite as Asians and as People of Color to do so.