Reframing and Readjusting: A mini-Enlightenment

This year has been a tumultuous one for many, including me. Whether it was my exposure to more social science classes or the rise of identity politics in the media, I do not know, but I have become far more aware of the ways that identities shapes lifestyles, representations, attitudes, beliefs and ideas. This class along with the events that have transpired this year have completely altered my hopes and dreams for the future and I would not change these experiences.

The underlying theme of my four blogs revolves around the depiction of Asian American sexuality in different media and how that idealizes perception and behavior. In the analysis of popular manga, a Japanese-styled comic influences Asian American representation through globalization. The rapper MC Jin is a model for Asian Americans who aligns gender and sexuality with the pop culture norms to rise in entertainment industry. In the political scene, Indian American representation has mixed precedents for the future of minorities in politics. While the de-sexualization of arranged marriages frowns upon my mother’s choice to marry. I tried to further explore topics that resonated with me, yet brought to my limits. This made it all too obvious which identities were most easy to dissect and which gaping assumptions hindered my growth.

My fascination with history has surfaced in analyzing the experiences behind the current Asian American diaspora. In the growth of manga, particularly for Naruto, the character development reflects the changing attitudes toward the role of Asian American women, as well as showcases the extent to which globalization plays a role in manufacturing stereotypes. MC Jin’s struggle to make a place in the entertainment industry reveals the historic concepts of Black Americans in hip hop as well as highlights the tokenism that entertainers must overcome to find an individual voice. Nikki Haley’s unprecedented election to governor may seem to show a growth in minority voice, but her endorsement of the misogynist President and the principles that she used to achieve her standing signify the acculturation of politics. Globalization and the rise of neoliberalism has shown spread western values throughout the world, but a growing faith and appreciation of cultural heritage is required to overcome pressures to conform to them. However, as much as I may speak out against injustice to Asian American, I must always acknowledge the role other minority movements have played in shaping Asian American discourse in the US.

At times, we see gender and sexuality produce conflicting representations most prominent when cultural differences meet the western world. My mother’s decision to have an arranged marriage is queer to US ideals as is her view of love in relationships. While, MC Jin’s music showcases the Chinese and religious values, but treads along the lines of conforming to a historically African American influenced genre. Manga has shown many instances of fluidity in gender and sexuality. And even Asian American politicians, particularly women and LGBTQ, must be aware of how they carry themselves in a male dominated space.

If there is one thing I have learned, intersectionality is the crux on which all analysis of hegemonic structures exists. Asian American identities are inseparable from gender and sexuality among many others. To ignore them, we ignore the diaspora of Asian Americans, and the heterogeneity of many identities. Acknowledging the heterogeneity each person holds has given me a new sense of empathy for the people I meet. I can’t help but think an exploration of identity should be required by all students to foster a more accepting and considerate student body. However, the realist in me understands the hypocrisy in the idea. After all, I have much to learn.

As I become more aware of the role gender and sexuality plays in my life, it becomes increasingly clear that my understanding is limited by the experiences and knowledge that I have. For instance, as a cis-gendered heterosexual female, I struggle to understand the pressures that Asian American LGBTQ face as they reconcile their traditional parents with a Western individualistic society. Further exploration of the use of Asian American LGBTQ will be necessary before I feel like I can be a reliable ally to those groups who share few identities with me. What has become increasingly clear is that Asian American LGBTQ are an extremely vulnerable group in society. Yet the intersection of their marginalized identities has the potential to make progress on many fronts. This is most evident in the strategic essentialism of Asian American LGBTQ works in bringing together multiple communities to engage in discussion.

This leads me to my largest struggle. What do we do? While the ability to criticize the hegemonic structures that produce and reinforce white heteronormative ideals is frustrating, the methods to combat these social systems is even more so. In my ignorance, I have not fully acted on conflicts that persisted hegemonic structures and even when I have begun amassing knowledge of the influence of identity on society. Chou’s final chapter was especially uplifting and provided tools and counter-frames that would alleviate the burden of subordinate identities. In many ways, studying the progress that has been made to rectify the commodification of Asian American gender and heterosexuality has made me a cynic. At the same time, the study has been a timely reminder of the ways that our identity has deep roots in influencing society, at times almost therapeutic. At the very least, I am very eager to keep the discussion going and in the future, I believe my career will involve fighting for social justice.

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