Curatorial Statement: The Search for the Truly Intersectional Approach

Having to drop another course in order to make room for Asian American Sexualities, particularly one that is a requirement before I graduate in two quarters, I had to think long and hard about my intentions for taking this course. In the end, I justified this move, telling myself that I could not seriously claim an intersectional approach to the social issues I focus most closely on without ever having taken a class on Asian American experience. So, I came in with the intention of answering the question of: how do Asian Americans fit into the current social movements? Furthermore, how do I, as an Asian American female, understand and plan my attempts at social change? Mostly, as someone who aspires to a career in non-profits focused on women’s health and reproductive health, I was interested to understand the role of Asian Americans in gender equality and reproductive justice movements.

In thinking specifically about Asian Americans in reproductive health and wellbeing, I wrote about sexual assault education and visibility for Asian American males and Asian American feminist activism against sex-selective abortion bans. In interviewing two of my East Asian American male friends about their experiences with sex education, I came to notice the lack of visibility of Asian American sexual assault perpetrators. I argue that the lack of media coverage and representation of Asian American men, along with the shift in their stereotypes from ‘yellow peril’ to ‘racially castrated’ and ‘hyposexual’ account for this erasure. I believe that further consideration is needed to understand the best methods for ensuring the visibility and accountability of Asian American male perpetrators as well as best practices for sexual assault prevention programs that adequately take into account the social norms and stereotypes faced by Asian American men. In my last blog post, I analyze the framing of Asian American women as ‘oriental,’ ‘forever foreigners’ by anti-choice policy advocates as a means of enacting bans on sex-selective abortions, which would unduly target Asian American women seeking abortions.

Beyond my explorations of gendered Asian American experiences in reproductive health and justice, I was able to use the readings and discussions from this class to explore my and my family’s personal interactions with other social movements. Starting off my series of blog postings, I explored a movement that was, to me, the most visible site of Asian American activism at the time. I considered how the Letters for Black Lives movement succeeded in bolstering visibility for Asian Americans and garnering support through pan-ethnic alliances, while failing to meet the personal needs of my ‘liberal’ family and Korean American community. In my third post, I reflect upon the two perceptions of plastic surgery within my Korean American community. While some instances of plastic surgery are deemed as a disloyal desire for whiteness or Westernization, others are understood as being necessary for the recipient’s social or economic wellbeing.

These blog posts allowed me to explore more than the intersections of identifying factors, but also pushed me to consider the intersection of different facets of my life and studies. While my analysis of sexual assault visibility and education for Asian American males allowed me to consider the intersection of gender, race, and sexuality, my post on the Letters for Black Lives movement pushed me to understand the intersection of my political efforts and my family life. Meanwhile, my personal investigation of Korean American plastic surgery pushed me to consider the meeting of Korean and Korean American culture. Most relevant to my major in Social Policy and career ambitions, my final piece on sex-selective abortion bans allowed me to bring together analyses of policy and racialized and gendered culture.

This course, along with the recent presidential election and my current job search, has left me questioning what truly intersectional work looks like. It seems to me that nowadays, most white feminists, among many other groups of social activists, have decided to throw around ‘intersectional’ as a buzzword without truly being held accountable for their follow through. Our class discussions have again and again forced me to confront the decision of addressing social issues through resistance within existing mainstream structures or addressing these issues through the creation of counter movements or frames.

Personally, I have generally involved myself in and anticipate my continued involvement in more mainstream, less intersectional organizations. My hope is that I am able to use this class as a jumping off point for my study for Asian American experience and involvement in the social movements I involve myself in. I hope to use the materials from this class to assess the implications and impacts of the projects I work on, just as I have used them to assess Letters for Black Lives and sex-selective abortion bans. These understandings will be crucial in my ability to bring visibility and understanding to discriminatory issues faced by Asian Americans within these organizations.

 

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