An Open Letter to Those Who Tokenize Me…

When you ask “Are you adopted from Korea?” I hear the underlying tide of your English is so good! When you follow up my measured response of “No, I’m not” with “Are you adopted at all?” I hear the barely concealed because there are many Asian refugee children! And when you continue with “Are both of your parents Asian?” the blatant suggestion of colonialism oozes to the point I have to physically cringe.

I tell you I’m Filipino-American because I fully embrace and love that title. It does NOT mean that you can talk to me about “Asian stuff.” What does that even mean? I don’t watch anime, I’ve only seen one Korean Drama in my entire life, and my entire existence is not the plot of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before or Crazy Rich Asians.

The very phrase “Asian stuff” completely dilutes every ethnicity and culture that lives within the continent into one mono-ethnicity. My experiences and ‘stuff’ as a Filipino-American varies wildly from the experience of a Korean-American or a Japanese-American. If you want to talk Filipino culture with me, let’s talk, but I’m surely not the person to share your obsession with Kim’s Convenience. And before you get ahead of yourself, no my culture does not only consist of “Lumpia and Chicken Adobo.”

When you say “I love Asian people!” I recoil in reaction. With a history of fetishization, the comment is more predatory and offensive than a way to get into my good graces. At this point, you’re past three strikes, but I continue to speak to you because it’s only polite.

And that’s another stereotype, isn’t it? The Asian girl who will laugh and nod and accept what is being said because I’m submissive. In honesty, it’s the complete shock that someone has the audacity to pry so deeply into my personal life and then put me into the label that you deem all Asians to be. I’ve been incredibly lucky in my life for this to be the first experience of something so blatantly racist, and I’m hyper-aware now, knowing that this will definitely not be the last.

To the person who tokenized me, I leave you with this: challenge yourself and your problematic speech when it comes to Asian-Americans. Realize that we are our own individual people with individual interest and beautiful, rich, different cultures. Don’t expect us to hold your hand and explain every problematic thing to you. Do you own research! I’ll throw you a bone and give you this Ted Talk by Canwen Wu. Neither I nor any other Asian you come across are your Asian Stereotype.

Quite Sincerely,

Mariam Bagadion


CF Staff pic  Mariam Bagadion is a Filipino-American fourth year SCSU student who double majoring Gender and Women’s Studies and English. Mariam has loved writing from a young age and is excited to use this passion to bring attention to and start conversations about feminist issues surrounding identity and pop culture today. Mariam is a writing tutor at The Write Place and in her free time runs a personal blog at micarlixx.wordpress.com and is Game Master for her friends’ Dungeons and Dragons games. Social Media Consultant.

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Taxi Man

Glance glance glance over

Leather shoes, worn and authentic
Cotton adorns their clean skin.  I circle
like a hawk smelling their wealth.  

One two three shekels

I smile, pop my yellow door open
And my dimples feel like craters
On my face.  Lure them in with smiles.

Ache ache ache in my back

I make eye contact with a large man
And I take in his clean nails.  Drive him
A mile to his home, feed my children for the week.

Driver cabby hackman are titles

Bright eyes meet mine and he sits
In the front passenger seat.  I glance over
Him once last time and I wheedle out ten shekels out of him.

Rip off thief cheat

I park my job and put a tarp over it
Stretching out my back, my body is being pulled through the ground
I set my alarm for six and collect all the loose change from the day.


Lake

Kholood Abuhadid is a fourth year Biomedical and Medical Lab Science student with minors in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies.  She is Palestinian-American and is passionate about Palestinian rights as well as encompassing feminist intersectional ideology.  Kholood is an avid reader and loves to dabble in creative writing.  She hopes one day to establish herself in the world of medical research as well as have an active voice in the Public Health world.  She also thinks she’s good at knitting but in reality is actually quite horrible! Managing editor.

When My Culture Becomes a Children’s Film

Thick eyebrows, big nose, and a permanent snarl.  Portrayed with sinister music or a drive for bloodthirst or greed, Middle-Eastern people are generally cast in a negative light. They are made to be a stereotype for children to watch and absorb, while Middle Eastern culture is watered down and the land they live on oppressed.

Recently, there’s been news of a new live-action Aladdin film coming out.  Initially, I felt trepidation and hesitance about the film.  Would there be any redemption for the Middle-Eastern culture of Jasmin or Aladdin?   Or will they be it be stereotyped and white-washed to fit the high demand of a light protagonist?

I don’t want for myself to be left feeling hopeless with this new adaption.  I want to be able to watch this film and take pride in some of the components that fit my culture. I want to root for the powerful Jasmin or the mischievous Aladdin. 

But with the history of how Middle-Eastern people are portrayed, I may not be too far off in my assumptions and uneasiness. 

Belly DancerThe general stereotypes of Middle-Eastern people are the nomad, the Sheik, the belly dancer, the terrorist, the haggler, and the angry “Arabs” shouting death to all and in between.  Those are the many stereotypes often portrayed in Western film.  It’s incredibly easy to create an “Other” culture to infringe on the Western dream and society that is set. Movies and TV shows are key ways these ideas have been perpetuated.

Prime examples are films like Raiders of the Lost ArkRoad to Morocco, and Never Say Never Again.  The Middle-Eastern antagonist is often portrayed as infringing upon or causing harm to the white male lead or the exceptionally white heroine.  When a Middle-Eastern woman is portrayed, she is either in a haram or she is being ‘rescued’ by a white male lead from the evil of the Middle-Eastern culture.

Can we also ask the important question of why all Middle-Eastern men never smile or show any other emotion aside from anger or lust?  I think it’s because it is better to control how they are perceived by Western culture.  If they are painted in a threatening or dark light and goodness forbid they show any positive emotion, it is easier to control what the West should think of them. muslim-152856_960_720

What makes the stereotype of Middle-Eastern people petrifying is the portrayal of the children. The Western culture has made it incredibly easy to justify the demonization of children in war-like situations happening in the Middle-East.  Two examples are Rules of Engagement, when they paint a little girl as an honest to God terrorist and in the film American Sniper, where it was so easy to callously point a sniper at a child’s head – but wait, he’s a terrorist!

What makes these films frustrating is the lack of understanding about what is actually happening in the Middle-East and the direct effect the West has had on it.  Thousands of citizens dead from useless wars (but in the defense of the West, they were collateral damage).  The land is being cultivated for resources and ground, but the Middle-Eastern people are not appointed their rightful representation of culture or ethnicity.  They are painted in these caricature stereotypes that are so easily accepted that when an actual Middle-Eastern person exhibits a component of themselves, they become the exception to the standard media has created.

It’s numbing. 

I had the unfortunate run in today when I gave my name with the intention to explain its origin with a classmate.  I proudly say Abuhadid and she laughs and says “Abu like the monkey!”  I was flabbergasted.  I wish I hadn’t laughed along to ease the tension but I had to explain that “no, it was abu like father.” My name is powerful and my name has meaning.  It is not an “Arab” little monkey who was given a name that literally makes no sense.  She exclaims and asks me why they would name a monkey abu. 

Well, when no Middle-Eastern person is making the film, it’s far more likely that the culture to get slaughtered and watered down.

I wish I was able to explain the whitewashing and brutalization of my culture.  I am met with blank stares and confusion. 

Will I be watching Aladdin?  I’m not sure.  I honestly don’t know if Middle-Eastern culture will be portrayed authentically.  With the characters look Middle-Eastern?  Will there be a caricature of the culture?  Will they be painted in greed and lust, or will it just be another kid’s film?

 

LakeKholood Abuhadid is a fourth year Biomedical and Medical Lab Science student with minors in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies.  She is Palestinian-American and is passionate about Palestinian rights as well as encompassing feminist intersectional ideology.  Kholood is an avid reader and loves to dabble in creative writing.  She hopes one day to establish herself in the world of medical research as well as have an active voice in the Public Health world.  She also thinks she’s good at knitting but in reality is actually quite horrible!

 

 

 

Black Cool

By Sharai Sims

I have started a new phase in my life. I am a black woman, 22 years old, and living in rural Minnesota, ­­ where assimilation is a must for social acceptance. For so many years, I thought I was accepted because of my light skin and the ability to flat iron my hair so bone straight that you never saw my nappy roots at the nape of my neck.  I thought it was the traces of whiteness in my family line that separated me from the other black kids. Just as ambiguous as my looks, I couldn’t be placed nor did I try to limit myself when moving through social crowds and groups.  I was accepted seamlessly.

Because of the necessity I felt to assimilate, I never acknowledged the things that were actually setting me apart: my humor (black), my style (black), and my insight (black).

When I was a sophomore in high school, I remember a party that my white friends were throwing. At the party, all the popular girls (there were about nineteen of us) wanted to do a group shirt saying “sophomore class of 2012.”  Funny, I was actually flattered to be considered a) popular and b) the only black person invited, even though our whole school was pretty diverse.

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Special Edition: Critiquing the Critique

Women on Wednesday is a critical program with a rich, 26 year history of highlighting the voices of diverse, intelligent, savvy and  creative people, especially women working to end sexist oppression and promote a safe, inclusive and engaged community through advocacy, education, alliance-building and women’s leadership.

On March 30th, the Women’s Center hosted Vednita Carter and Joy Friedman from Breaking Free, one of the nation’s leading organizations for working with victims and survivors of sex trafficking and prostitution, at a Women on Wednesday session titled “Sex Trafficking 201: Dynamics of Prostitution and Sex Trafficking.” We’re excited to report a record-breaking audience of 157 for this engaging presentation from two survivors about the realities of the sex industry and the experiences of prostituted women. (Follow this link to listen to an audio recording of the session and hear their powerful stories yourself!)

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Interacting Respectfully with Other Human Beings – A Guide

By Jo Benson

You might laugh when I describe my fashion/style/the way I dress as “lesbian.” I do! Of course it is, I mean, I am one, right? But it’s a thing. Flannel, short hair, and wearing no makeup sound eerily like a mashup of stereotypes, but to me, it’s scraping the surface of a meticulously constructed wardrobe. Which, now that I think about it, a little like dressing like a 14 year old boy, only 20 and a woman. A little. But let me tell you, I look fucking fresh. I am hot shit.

Unfortunately, this way of presenting myself – my sexuality, my woman-ness, things I deign “worthy” of adorning my body – is usually completely misinterpreted by the non-queer world. Usually this doesn’t matter to me: people in stores don’t usually walk up to me and comment on my clothes, and I’m used to my family and their friends shaking their heads when they see what I’m wearing. But in professional and work spaces, it matters. And I hear about it.

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Scrutiny

Emma Watson, Beyonce, Amy Pohler, and Amandla Stenberg.  These women enjoy fame in today’s society.  Each of these women also provide a great role model to women and girls in terms of reaching out with feminism to better the world for women everywhere.  And yet, what I see in magazines and media coverage mostly is someone reporting about their hair, their looks, their clothing.

The scrutiny of women in the media is extremely pervasive.  Have you ever taken a look at some pictures from awards shows?  A reporter might mention the designer of the tuxedo a man is wearing, but they certainly don’t pick apart the choices he makes for his hair, clothing, or jewelry.  A woman is posed and paraded from the time she steps onto the carpet, and then each choice she makes is dissected by a panel of people, the so called “fashion police.”

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Web Series as a New Form of Media

By Mariam Bagadion

The LGBTQ+ community started garnering attention and momentum in television beginning in 2004 with The L Word. Glee drew a larger audience and initiated a sort of normalization of queer characters in the media, (even though their portrayal of some of the queer characters perpetuated a few stereotypes and could be seen as just a little problematic, but that’s another can of worms) and newer shows like The Fosters and How to Get Away with Murder have queer characters as part of their main ensembles.

But there’s another form of media that has become the unsung hero for queer representation: the web series.

A web series is a scripted show, much like mainstream television that appears online in episodes that are only a few minutes long. Web series have all of the components of a mainstream television show by utilizing writers, directors, producers and actors with all of the creative freedom of a YouTube channel. Media censorship can limit what viewers see on television screens (which is a problem in itself, but again, different can of worms). These hoops are virtually non-existent for web series creators and many take advantage of it, promoting the visibility of all sorts of sexualities and gender identities. While definitely not complete, following is a list of web series that I’ve personally watched and thoroughly enjoyed for you to devour with hosts of queer characters and identities.

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On Queering Valentine’s Day

Our staff found this Feministing.com article today.  It is critically important to think about how holidays affect people who are marginalized within society.

Tell us what you think about Katie Barnes’ idea that Valentines Day is “super heteronormative and kinda sexist.”

What other kinds of holidays do you see following these same patterns?

 

Continuing Conversations About Islamophobia

In St. Cloud, Islamophobia and xenophobia run rampant. We have discussed Islamophobia and xenophobia on this blog before, and it is important to keep these conversations going. When I read that “St. Cloud is the worst place in Minnesota to be Somali” my first reaction, as a white woman who not only attends school at the University but also lives and works in St. Cloud, was shame.

Islamophobia and xenophobia extend beyond the University and into the city itself, from systematic spaces like school systems to everyday spaces like grocery stores and in cars stopped at traffic lights. It happens, abruptly, in the flow of everyday life, and so, as a community, it is in everyday life that we must choose to stand against it.

Here is another link to this important article.

Also, on Tuesday, February 2nd at 5:00 pm, St. Cloud State will be hosting a discussion on “Islamophobia in Minnesota” featuring Jaylani Hussein.  Here is a link.  Be a part of this important, ongoing conversation!