Sex does not determine racial identity

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.

(And again.)

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.

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This entry was posted in Gender Caste, Privilege, Racism, Sex, sexuality, and sexual politics. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Sex does not determine racial identity

  1. Jenn says:

    …. is there a word that more effectively describes “I agree with you” than “Amen”? Because that would be the word I would use.

    Thanks for posting on this — I hope you don’t mind a re-post :)

  2. tekanji says:

    MY VAGINA DOES NOT CONTAIN A MAGIC WELLSPRING OF POLITICAL SOLIDARITY, THANK YOU.

    And this line still wins at the internet.

  3. Jenn: Thanks! I would have commented at your site, but wasn’t up to dealing with the Male Privilege Brigade. *shudder* You are a braver woman than I for engaging them.

    tekanji: Win! :D (I still think that should mean that all of Jenn’s trolls should cede their Internet rights to me.)

  4. Pingback: reappropriate » Blog Archive » “Single Asian Female” Comic Strip

  5. Revena says:

    MY VAGINA DOES NOT CONTAIN A MAGIC WELLSPRING OF POLITICAL SOLIDARITY, THANK YOU.

    Ahh, a perfect end for a wonderful post!

  6. Racy Li says:

    I agree! Great post! My favorite is the last line as well.

  7. Thanks for the kind words, everyone. Sorry I’m late in replying!

  8. Katie says:

    Don’t you mean “doling out my race” in that last bit?

  9. Katie: I see what you’re saying, but I actually did mean to say “doling out my sexuality” – as in, it’s not my duty to have sex with a man or not based on what his race is. Or with a person based on hir gender, etc.

  10. Puhleez:) says:

    OK
    In respect to the featured writer: I do understand her angst but my EXPERIENCE has shown me that a great, great many Asian women encourage and, indeed, seem to require what you are opposed to. I don’t know a great deal about AAM, but my observations over time do not bear out your contention that AAMs compete with the white males. Perhaps, I misundertsood you?
    Have a good one

  11. my EXPERIENCE has shown me that a great, great many Asian women encourage and, indeed, seem to require what you are opposed to

    I’m not sure what you’re referring to here – do you mean that AAW require that AAM judge them as more/less Asian according to their dating habits?

    As for AAMs competing with white males, certainly not all of them do. But there is definitely racist stereotyping that presents AAMs as less attractive, masculine, aggressive, etc. than white men. As a result, some AAMs feel competitive with white men, and some even take that competition to mean that AAWs are some sort of “prize,” like the ones mentioned in the post.

  12. Puhleez:) says:

    To Sigel I offer an apology for not being clear.
    First; NO, I was not referring to AAMs, when I said AAW seem to encourage the image complain about in this article. I admit my post sounded the way you took it. I really meant that most AAW behave at the beck and call of white males … body and mind. Many white males consider AAW THEIR special property,as a result of this widely shared Asian obsession. So, it was strange for me to see an AA female actually rebel against this long-standing fact.Moreover, current statistics support my statement.

    Second; many AAMs appear to be at peace with competition for AAW partly because,an ever growning number are getting bolder pursuing their long-standing fascination for white females over AAW. Every AAM I’ve ever observed in the presence of Asian/white pairs behaved as though they were raised to see it as natural.

    Thanks for your reply … sorry for the confusion.

  13. I accept your apology for not being clear, though it certainly wasn’t necessary since you cleared up your meaning. What I would appreciate is an apology for this blatantly sexist statement:

    I really meant that most AAW behave at the beck and call of white males … body and mind [...] So, it was strange for me to see an AA female actually rebel against this long-standing fact.

    I am not an anomaly among Asian women. Every single one of my female Asian friends is her own person – separate from white men, and men in general. Telling me that I’m one of the ‘good’ ones who doesn’t fit this stereotype is not a compliment to me. It is condescending and insulting to Asian women as a group.

    Certainly there are some AAW who have fallen prey to racist stereotypes that make white men seem ‘better’ than AAMs. (Just as there are certainly some white men with racism-fueled fetishes for AAWs.) Do not confuse the existence of these individuals with ‘facts’ about the behavior of AAWs in general.

  14. Puhleez:) says:

    Yes, yes … I expected your assertion of independence. It IS true, however, that rarely does anyone, subject to group control, get to SEE themselves from an external vantage point. A parallel might be that few white males would draw attention to the fact that most AAW chase them because they ARE white guys. They enjoy the spoils so to speak, so why mess with tamper with it? As I meantioned, stats reflect this AA female obsession with whiteness.”Some AAW fall prey?” Far, far more than “some”, Ms Siegel. Current stats say, there are “more Asian American women co-habiting with white males in America than co-habit with Asian males. Interesting? I thought so, too. (That is just ONE of the stats.) Would YOU say a statistic is “insulting to Asian women, as a group?”

    That stat wasn’t MY invention, Therefore,I cannot accept the label of sexist OR racist.

    THESE findings reflect a long standing trend. There are few phenonmena as predictable as the AAW’s predilection FOR the white male. Can YOU explain what is behind that finding? If you trace this circumstance back to, what seems to be, it’s obvious root, would YOU say YOU were sexist OR racist?

    “Good ones?” I didn’t assign value because of your position. I only said I was surprised. I was surprised because, in my experience, I’ve almost never witnessed an AAW being anything but compliant with the general, social politics of her group. Nevetheless, I remain open to different points of view. I hope this adds concrete data to your assumed “facts” about AAW. Again, I promise. I am not anti-anyone. What IS, is. I’m just an objective observer.

  15. Katie says:

    Dora! Look what I found…
    http://thefreeslave.blogspot.com/2006/06/un-realist-and-meditations-on-keeping.html

    “On the surface this black guy appeared to be black oriented…” What exactly does this mean to be, “black oriented?” She cites subjects such as the black holocaust that I have written about as indicators of my “alleged” black orientation. But, alas, I have “an obsession with white women,” evidence of which is the white woman I married, plus the little zebra that I have running around here somewhere. I cannot be pro-black and sleep white, according to the Un-Realist. I cannot love black people, or myself AND love a white woman; I cannot learn, know or speak the truth about Racism/White Supremacy because – who I’m layin’ up with negates all and renders my blackness/black consciousness null and void. She chides me for “loving her (my ex’s) whiteness and paying lip service to anti-racism.” So, I can’t wish or work for social justice, nor could I be a sincere anti-racist freedom fighter because I’m having sex with a white woman.

    When niggas in the diaspora can accept each other for the diverse people and populace that we are and stop our ‘trifling ass-Willie Lynching’ of each other – maybe we’ll have some Black Unity and move on the external oppressor who dropped the ‘Race-Rape’ drug in our coconut in the first place, you know, the one who’s still stirring the drink. And yo’ baby girl, if the criteria for membership in the black race is sleeping black – I gotta shovel; we can go dig up Strom Thurmond’s spindly carcass and mount him on your dasboard.

    Looks like, if not in the mainstream the way Jenn & you seem to confront, in the world of liberal academic discourse, there may be a good bit of men experiencing what you & Jenn experienced from the mouths of women.

    (That makes sense if you ask me…people who try to transcend illogical gendered behaviors in some aspects of their lives might be more likely to transcend illogical gender divisions in hurtful behaviors…)

    I do, by the way, really like that he tries to analyze the why of people talking like he, Jenn, & you were talked to:

    A PostScript: What’s maddening about US is our adoption of simpleminded, global prescriptions to salve our wounds. “You can’t love a white woman and love yourself or black people,” even if your life’s work is helping black people. This is comfort food for those in deep pain.
    Complexity sucks when your soul hurts.

    I know that some people MUST “Keep it Stupid, Simple” in order to feel mastery/control over that unwieldy emotion, that deep cut of racism. I feel it, felt it, struggle with it daily. And I understand why folks have to use that crutch. But…
    …when we maintain these “take no prisoners”, racial hierarchical – “you got to act this way or that way to be a REAL black man” – we debase ourselves and our humanity, we debase what made us great, and reduce ourselves to white minstrels in blackface. We are better than that. I think.

    some charlatan wearing the right clothes, talking the right talk can get away with murder with us, cuz we have some shallow, symbolic criteria for what blackness/pro-blackness is that any con-man can read.
    Complex truth never has sold well. I say we’re all black who say we are; what say you..?

    (Though I will note that another blogger mentions some good stuff here talking about whether or not–or at least to what degree–all banding together is gonna work. Maybe it is just all about individual interactions and feelings, like you seem to bring up “the sex partners and racial identity thing” over, and not about making big changes, like Maxjulian seems to bring up “the sex partners and racial identity thing” over.)

  16. Current stats say, there are “more Asian American women co-habiting with white males in America than co-habit with Asian males. Interesting? I thought so, too. (That is just ONE of the stats.)

    I’m not going to argue the accuracy of your statistics. However, this has no bearing on whether AAWs “behave at the beck and call of white males … body and mind.” The numbers of AAWs in interracial relationships does not determine what their behavior is in those relationships. Are they compliant? Independent? Actively teaching their partners about anti-Asian racism? Engaging in racism themselves? Who knows?

    By looking at an increase in interracial relationships and drawing the conclusion that you know what AAWs’ behavior and motivations are, you are judging women based on their romantic/sexual choices. That is flat-out sexist. The whole point of my post is that AAWs’ attitudes towards race should not be judged based on their sexual choices.

    Consider this a warning. There are plenty of links along the right-hand sidebar for you to educate yourselves on basic feminist issues such as this one. You may ask questions for clarification if you wish, but further comments along these lines will be deleted.

    I was surprised because, in my experience, I’ve almost never witnessed an AAW being anything but compliant with the general, social politics of her group.

    This statement is on the same level of stereotyping condescension as expressing surprise that a black person is a “hard worker” or that a POC has good English. Do not judge a group based on stereotypes, regardless of how much anecdotal evidence you have to back it up. See #5 of our discussion rules. This part of your comment alone would have earned you a warning.

    Katie: Thanks for the interesting link, and especially what you said at the end about “individual interactions and feelings.” To me, that’s what it has to be about. There is no easy answer of “date people of X race and Y gender, and you’ll be fine.” We have to work things out on the individual level. While it’s true that we have to take into account how oppressive social forces influence and affect our behaviors, we can’t confuse lifestyle choices (like who we date, but this could also be expanded into whether women choose to be housewives, etc.) with our actual anti-oppression work. There’s just too much complexity involved for us to make blanket statements.

  17. Puhleez says:

    “We can’t confuse lifestyle choices…?”
    I fel you miss the grand picture, here. The point is that EVERYTHING is interrelated. Just as Doctors are,now, waking up to the fact that PHYSICAL medicine is strongly mitigated by SPIRITUAL and MENTAL forces, we must undertsand that you cannot split the symbiotic gumbo of Asian / white racial values.

    Also, if YOUR objective experience of Blacks was that almost all you ever encountered were NOT hard-working, then HOW could I argue that YOUR experience was a stereotyped fantasy?

    My purpose is to discuss things without prejudice or FEAR. My respect is for open, honest discussion. I am the last person to massage an ego for fear of excommuniaction.

    Be Well, my friend

  18. I fel you miss the grand picture, here. The point is that EVERYTHING is interrelated.

    It’s true that everything is interrelated. That’s why I said this:

    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.

    The point is that all of our choices, all of the time, are implicated in relationships of power and privilege. We can never escape those interrelations. We can never take actions that are completely free from perpetuating any privilege whatsoever. There are no perfect choices. The best we can do is resist and educate against privilege wherever we can.

    As a result, attempting to judge someone based on the impossible standard of political purity – as you did by judging Asian women for dating white men, with no consideration for how they engage in resistance against privilege – is unfair and condescending. Further, dismissing women’s political work based on their sex lives is misogynist, pure and simple.

    Also, if YOUR objective experience of Blacks was that almost all you ever encountered were NOT hard-working, then HOW could I argue that YOUR experience was a stereotyped fantasy?

    Because anecdotal evidence is not bulletproof evidence. It can be part of an argument, but not the core of the argument. See #5 of our discussion rules.

    I am the last person to massage an ego for fear of excommuniaction.

    You don’t need to kiss anyone’s ass to stay here. And if your comments are blocked, that’s hardly excommunication. It just means that your comment is not contributing to respectful, anti-oppression dialogue. The only reason a commenter would be blocked altogether is if that person repeatedly breaks the rules.

  19. belledame222 says:

    “sideways vagina??!”

  20. Pingback: things that are hard for me to hear « Sara Speaking

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