Monday, March 27, 2006

Boys and T-shirts

“Everyone Loves An Asian Girl”

Sure you could substitute a lot of different adjectives in the blank and have some sort of justification for each of them, but what is particularly offensive about ethnic/racial ones, like this one? Well I aim to show you. Recently, I casually lamented my minority status and was immediately rebuked by my non-minority friends, both of whom blurted out longings for physical Asian features, their main thrust being that boys like Asian girls.

So I ask, what boys? All boys? White boys? Can we make such a blanket statement? (What about the boys who don’t prefer Asians?) But that’s very much beside the point. Drawing from educated, scholarly writing I’ve read in my classes, I am convinced that general male affection towards Asian girls is chiefly based on established stereotypes of the latter group, and that its formation must be understood in a historical context of imperialism.

1 Submissive
2 Exotic

The popular opera, Madame Butterfly, weaves a poignant tale about a tragic romance involving an American officer (Pinkerton) and a young Japanese geisha (Butterfly). He is conceited, callous and confident, while she is like a toy: delicate, pitiful and eternally submissive. They get married in Japan, but then trashface Pinkerton jets off to America and marries “a real American wife.” Poor babygirl Butterfly is left with a baby boy and unwaveringly clings to the hope that her beloved Pinkerton will return for her. After three years, he does swing by again, albeit just to take back his kid, but when Butterfly realizes that he is married to another, she gives up all hope and stabs herself with a knife just as he runs in, recreating an honorable death. The play ends with “Butterfly, the little Asian woman, crumpled on the floor.” What makes this such a beloved and satisfying story?

“Consider it this way: what would you say if a blonde homecoming queen fell in love with a short Japanese businessman? He treats her cruelly, then goes home for three years, during which time she prays to his picture and turns down marriage from a young Kennedy. Then, when she learns he has remarried, she kills herself. Now, I believe you would consider this girl to be a deranged idiot, correct? But because it’s an Oriental who kills herself for a Westerner – ah! – you find it beautiful.”

It was this Western view of the Orient as exotic, mysterious, sensual and timeless that facilitated imperial conquest of Asia a few centuries back. Critic Edward Said explains, “colonization was an engendered subordination, by which European men aroused, penetrated and possessed a passive, dark and vacuous ‘Eastern bride.’ “Another facet of the theory: “Basically, her mouth says no, but her eyes say yes. The West believes the East, deep down, wants to be dominated…” Skip forward to today; now there are no more lands left to conquer, but this fantasy still exists in Western minds and continues to narrowly define Asian femininity, despite that it has lost functionality in constructing political meaning. An outlandish example illustrating this rigid idea is from the 1986 trial of a “former French diplomat and a Chinese opera star … Mr. Bouriscot was accused of passing information to China after he fell in love with Mr. Shi, whom he believed for 20 years to be a woman.” This degree of deception was undoubtedly aided by such cultural conventions of women and the Orient being played out in different spheres.

All this to say, I love learning about how things got to be the way they are today and possessing precursory knowledge about modern society that helps me better understand it. In more primary terms, I am seeking a more accurate view of reality, leading to truth. As to my personal opinion regarding these stereotypes, frankly, I don’t really care because they don’t exert much pressure on the formulation of my identity. Since I was spared from those ideals being instilled in me in my earlier years, I don’t fit neatly in those categories and therefore, need not attempt to. It’s still kind of annoying though and I’ve got to think of a more concise answer to counter such expectations.

In the meantime, if I have pricked your interest in shattering stereotypes, try to take a class on race or gender. We are largely products of socialization – it determines what we believe and the way we think, on conscious and unconscious levels. It is only when you become aware of these controls that you can start going anywhere.

Wow, these rants have gotten longer.

By the way, did ya’ll ever listen to Weezer’s 2nd album “Pinkerton”?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Gender Day

Oh Peru, I miss you already.

Like the title implies, today's classes were all about gender in different aspects of society. We talked a lot about marriage and occupation, and in what ways the implications differ for males and females. First off, I have never been more scared and reluctant about marriage. Here's the modern world's view: Marriage benefits men more than it does women, because men are mainly in charge of providing an income by working, which is something he would do married or not. Women, on the other hand, have much more diverse responsibilities having to do with housework and child care, and then many more women hold outside jobs nowadays. What's so inviting about laying down 20+ years of your life? (And that's just for one kid.) Should we be pursuing our interests more passionately at this time of life, when there is no particular one we need to be looking after? Selfish, yes. But this shattering of the fantasy "happily ever after" love story most likely has something to do with the very high rates of divorce in this country. What's realistic, and is it good? Note to self: don't marry someone with a secular view of marriage, whatever that entails.

Even Biblically, males exercise authority over females. I believe it to be natural, but sooner or later, I'm going to have to relinquish much of my independence, initiative, choice and leanings to serve another's. How did I get so independent in the first place? Is that even a good thing? Are even Christian parents still subscribing too much to American ideals?

Also, yes, everyone and their mom is fretting over internships nowadays, but as women, how much do we need to be building our careers by accumulating human capital (i.e. education, work experience, credentials, etc.)? Is it worth getting higher degrees if you are just going to settle down and raise kids for a few decades soon after? HM. Ok time to go to the next class, where we will be discussing gender in the classroom.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Limon y sol

Hello from 2 days into work! Wow! I have never done much manual labor before, so this is a first for me. We cleared rocks and rubble from the plot of land into two large piles yesterday and today we dug 2.5 foot deep trenches around the clinic perimeter, 20 x 60 meters. At the end of the day, we are all caked with sand, sweat and grime and we all jam into taxis for the harrowing ride home. How do things ever get built? The efficiency of the task has been debated many a time, but the Gospel is by no means efficient in the world´s terms. I gotta get over that, the rationalization of society and of my life! The older brother of Elizabeth, Andrew´s girlfriend is on this trip, but I just realized that a moment ago. Ah, we´re going to eat out tonight, although the food prepared by the pastor´s wife is muy delicioso! The corn here is gigantic great and there´s a sweet drink made out of purple maize. It`s been great trying to speak to the locals here and I wish I reviewed my Spanish. There is a worker here named Adrian and he´s been friendly and patient with my words.Well, I had better get off since there is an Internet line. ¡Ciao!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

¡Nueva Entrada!

Hola, estoy in Peru. I am writing from the little computer corner we have in "Hotel Country," which seems more like a house than anything, since we take up half of the rooms, there are living rooms, and the roof, well there isn´t really one over the common area.
My stomach hurts. The only questionable thing I ate was in Lima, ceviche, raw fish marinated for a long time in a lime-garlic mixture. Not used to raw meat, even if it´s clean of bacteria .Oh, and I tried some Inca Kola on the plane and wondered how anyone over the age of 13 could stomach more than a few sips of the radioactive-looking soda. Saw one llama though on the way to church. We take taxis to most places not walking distance and they are crazy: you think you could die each time they swerve from a car/pedestrian/dog/speed bumps, but very few accidents occur on the road. Unlike at UT, pedestrians definitely have no right of way.
The Presbyterian church in Trujillo looks sort of like a castle made of large concrete stones and a flat, wooden roof. We will be laboring on the clinic on the lot next to it, which is currently uneven, sandy and empty. The mountains are a welcome change of scenery for sure, although we will not be able to traverse one this time.
I love our group! It has bonded pretty well so far and I´ve gotten to chat with and get to know better some acquaintences, such as David Breeding, Michelle Lafitte and Jill Waters, not to mention most of the A&M folks. They´re an eclectic bunch, like us, I suppose, but different too. The real test will start tomorrow, when we all sweat and toil together. Also, it was weird to kiss so many people on the cheek when the congregation greeted us this morning with a welcome song.
Visited the English Language Institute today as well and enjoyed the 3 story office building. The classrooms are pretty small, each consisting of about 15 chairs, and there are maybe 6 total. The view from the windows are great, you can see all the bustle going on out on the major roads intersecting. We gave them our books, ranging from multiple copies of To Kill A Mockingbird to a Jeannie Oakes love story (anyone else know who she is?). Their bookshelf used to be 1/4th full, but now it should be looking much better.
Life and the city here reminds me a lot of Reynosa, Mexico. There wasn´t much culture shock when I stepped out of the plane into some very humid weather, but I cannot imagine living here either. Please bonk me on the head, because it most likely has something to do with the poverty level of the area and contrasting (to the US, Austin, Dallas) unkempt environment. But it feels great outside, highs and lows in the 70's. Can´t complain about that. Well, I suppose I must try to go to my cardboard-stiff bed now, since breakfast is at 7 manana and I don´t want to miss the hot water + espresso = coffee and the fresh oj (have seen or had any concentrate juice yet. why would they even want to try?). As of now, I am glad that I am in Peru and didn´t stupidly back out the last few days because of cold feet. ¡Buenas noches!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Light Rotation

Ah, just left my midterm in AAS light as a feather. Big tests are great for student morale! Can't have the good without the contrasting bad, right?

Here are some songs that I squeeze in for amusement (a-muse = no thinking) :

Destroyer - Painter In Your Pocket
.. How could you not love a band with a name like that? Clue to goodness: leading band member is also in the New Pornographers.

Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
.. A reference to Radiohead, maybe? This is the kind of soft stuff that grabs me at first listen, so it's good for mixes and mediocre for purchases.

And a local find:
SOUND Team - Electric Stallion
.. Don't hate on instrumentals.

Preparing for Peru! Packing, packaging, praying, panicking, paying, pondering, prancing, pilfering, paddling, pundle, Palladio ..

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Letter of Complaint

Dear (Sociology) Professors,

As a new Sociology major, it suddenly dawned on me that regardless of my awakened love for this subject, sometimes I still feel like an alien in the classroom. To explain this feeling, I have a question for you: Despite that you teach us the definitions and restrictive effects of stereotyping, why do you still hold stereotypes of your own students? Statements that hint at our wild late-night parties, excessive drinking (of cheap alcohol), disdain for attending class, inclination towards the path of least resistance, unhealthy eating habits, and devotion for instant gratification are offensive to me. What are the demographics of the student population at UT? Can you back these ideas up with hard evidence gained through reliable research? (Will I be eating my words after a search on the JSTOR database?) Surely it cannot be inferred that students at a nationally recognized university lead the stereotypical college student lifestyle – according to admission qualifications, unless we are masters of deception, most of us should be above that.

After spending fifteen years in the public school environment, I’ve learned that the appropriate response to these jabs at the product of our undeveloped values is to laugh it off with a knowing, half-guilty grin. However, this rigid depiction of a college student describes me rather poorly and instead of nodding to allow you to get your point across, it would do me well to not consent and not let these ill-formed perceptions influence your and my opinion of myself. Your speech reveals a lot about your intended audience; even though unmotivated students are the hardest to offend, ironically, they are the ones who need the most encouragement.

I suggest that you, the professors, before even thinking about your students through the current structure dictated by extreme examples, popular culture, and hearsay, allow your students space and time to unfold individually, each with his/her own styles of learning, values, insight and areas of malleability. I think then that you will find that the average student will exceed your expectations and perhaps even reshape your ideas of what it means to be a college student. And instead of authorizing complacency, why not expand and stretch our minds, which we often willingly give you, like your own teachers once did for you? Of course, I am just one person and I can speak confidently only for myself. But as you taught me, there is also the notion of an “expectation theory,” that people tend to live up (or down) to their expectations. So demand our best, assume our interest in learning, and if the task of getting to know us seems too daunting, that’s ok. Just don’t box us into tiny structures, because not all of us fit in them.

Thank you.



Is that too nerdy for school, even? I just got tired of being looked down upon by people from whom I should respect and learn. Can you relate? Don't get me wrong, I think most of my professors are great and very knowledgeable. But too bad I can't send this out to them anonymously.