You know what’s sexist? White guys who see Asian women as exotic sex objects, something they can use in their porn-based fantasies about “sideways” vaginas. Why? Because everything about me is obscured by my sexual utility for them – they are attempting to define my identity through their penis.
You know what’s also sexist? Asian guys who think that Asian women aren’t “Asian” enough if they don’t exclusively date Asian men. Why? Because once again my identity is being defined by a man’s penis.
Take a look at this post by Jenn at Reappropriate, where she criticizes a new webcomic called Single Asian Female. While she mentions the good points about the comic (mostly its good art style), she worries that it attempts to portray the Asian-American women (AAW) experience as centering primarily on sexuality: white guys who try to date them, and the Asian-American men whom they should be dating.
Lo and behold, one of the first comments attempts to discredit Jenn’s perspective through – you guessed it – bringing up her sexuality.
Another comment attacks Jenn for criticizing AAMs – it’s the “What About the Mens?” Phallusy, except in a racialized version. These instances are harder to recognize than most examples of non-racialized (read: white) male privilege, because it’s true that AAMs do face oppression as well. All men of color experience a male privilege that is intertwined with, and undermined by, racial oppression – AAMs in particular are often viewed as feminine and therefore not even ‘male’. They face racism based on both the challenge that their skin color presents to white people in general, and the challenge they present to white men in particular.
However, this fact should not be used to re-direct their animosity toward AAWs, or to obscure the ways in which AAWs face both racism and sexism – and yes, that includes sexism from AAMs. Imposing a ‘duty’ upon AAWs to date AAMs, and criticizing those who don’t, is belittling and disempowering. It minimizes the contributions of AAWs to anti-racist efforts (have these people even read Jenn’s insightful blog?), reducing the importance of AAWs to their bodies and sexuality – to what they do for AAMs. It also treats racial identity and solidarity as something tied to sex – specifically, who the women of color have sex with – instead of theory and activism.
It also reproduces the attitude that caused problems for women of color in the 1970s during the U.S. civil rights movement, when men of color excluded them from political activity and reduced their contributions to producing babies for the sake of the race.
Look. I don’t hold with the fringe view that women can only be feminists if they’re lesbians, as if having sex with other women was the only way to be in solidarity with them. This is because women can have meaningful and supportive relationships with people that aren’t characterized by what goes into their vaginas. Asian-American women can also have meaningful and supportive relationships with people – like AAMs – without having sex with them.
They can also have sex with non-Asian men without being “sell-out AF trash”, because for the love of all that’s holy, a woman’s personhood is not defined by her vagina.
I am not defined by my body, or what goes into it. I am defined by my mind, and what I choose to do with it. I can have meaningful and supportive relationships with people, I can be an anti-oppression theorist, and I can be an anti-oppression activist. And none of that hinges on whether or not I sleep with someone of this or that gender or race.
Get it? What I do, who I am, and what I believe are not determined by whom I choose to fuck.
Oh, wait – that would be who fucks me, because clearly these perspectives treat women as passive sexual receptacles that can only have sex happen to them.
Stop exerting male privilege over me to make yourselves feel more important. Just stop. I don’t care if you’ve got layers of privilege coming out your ass and this is just one more way for you to oppress people; I don’t care if you’re disadvantaged because of your color or class or whatever, and penis-privilege is all you’ve got. You do not have the right to lift yourself up by taking advantage of the power society gives you over me.
I have the right to define my identity in the way that I want. That means who I date, but that’s just a tiny part of it. It also means: who my important relationships are with, how I spend my time, what I learn, how I challenge the power structures around me.
I also have the responsibility to be aware of how my choices about my romantic relationships – among all the millions of other important choices in my life – affect me. That means negotiating the power dynamic of dating someone who holds privilege that I don’t, whether that’s white privilege or gender privilege – or someone who lacks privilege that I have, due to my class or ability. This is not even considering the everyday difficulties of having an intimate relationship, based on the fact that people are complex and inevitably conflict with those who are close to them.
What all this doesn’t mean is doling out my sexuality based on the color of a man’s penis. Or lack of penis. Or anything else.
I am not defined based on which men do what to me. I am defined based on my mind, not random parts of my body. My body is not the important part of me and my activism. MY VAGINA DOES NOT CONTAIN A MAGIC WELLSPRING OF POLITICAL SOLIDARITY, THANK YOU.