So. I have briefly blogged about a comment over at BJ that was directed at me by a commenter (woman, I think. Ed. note: I think it’s a man now. Which makes more sense as men, in general, have a more aggressive style of commenting) who was angry that I would dare mention my race and/or gender when discussing an issue. Now, the issue was a paternalistic pat-on-the-head blog entry from a male to Sarah Palin, concern-trolling about her delicate woman parts and how she just can’t defend herself against her mean critics. This blogger was an enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter, and I don’t think he’s over it yet.
Anyway, he was saying how, like Clinton, Palin was pilliored by the press because she’s a woman. We have to remember, he admonished, that she was once a little girl. She’s someone’s mother, daughter, etc.
Excuse me what the fuck? Did he say the same thing when Sanford was getting ridiculed for his escapade on the Appalachian Trail? “Oh, be nice to the poor guy. He used to be a little boy once. He’s someone’s son and someone’s father.” I would guess not.
I digress yet again! Anyway, he went on to say that Clinton had been demonized. Many commenters took him to task at his sexist tone and ‘there, there, little girl’ manner. Some were women who mentioned that as feminists, they didn’t appreciate his trying to portray women as delicate flowers who need to be pillowed in soft, fluffy stuff so she won’t shatter.
I came along late as night (as I always do) and made a rather long post. I started out by saying that as an Asian American woman, I had watched the primaries closely to see what kind of racism emerged and what kind of sexism emerged. I posited that I thought there was more racism coming from Clinton’s team than there was sexism coming from Obama’s team. In the end, I said, that’s why I went with Obama.
I went on to discuss other points of the media surrounding Palin, and none of it had to do with my race or gender. In fact, I said much the same thing another commenter did at roughly the same time, and he thanked me for my perspective as an Asian American woman. Imagine my surprise when I visited the thread the next day, and there was this woman (I think) asking when I went to college. She said my post was grating and–something else. I don’t remember. Just because I was a woman of color, she informed me, and my victimhood in the past didn’t make my opinion any more valid.
She ranted further, but at that point, I was seeing red. First of all, I am painfully aware that if I inject my race into a discussion (and I’m pretty sure it was my race that pissed her off. Maybe not, but she didn’t call out the woman who talked about being women), then I run the risk of being told I’m playing the race card. I was going to point out that I was just basically saying the same thing Sonia Sotomayor had said in her wise Latina remark, but I didn’t want to compare myself to her. I’m not even half the woman she is.
I wrote back that during the primaries, media kept going on ad nauseam about whether women were voting for Clinton only because she’s a woman while also wondering if blacks were voting for Obama only because he’s black. Race and gender were very much a part of the scenery, and no one addressed the question what those of us who are both female and of color would do. I said my opinion isn’t more valid, but it’s an opinion that is different from the usual one. I concluded by saying that if she that’s all she took from my post, then I wasn’t the one looking through a prejudiced lens.
It bothered me a great deal. Not because I thought she was right in that context. I didn’t. It was pretty clear that I had touched a nerve in her and that she was lashing out. Did it hurt and bother me? Yeah. Was I wrong in what I said? I don’t think so.
No, what bothered me was, am I using my identity as a crutch? Let me explain. As many of you know, I use some variation of asiangrrl as my handle on various blogs. I have been using it ever since I first got onto the intertoobz because I wanted to proclaim my identity upfront. Being Asian and a being a woman is important to me. My background does inform my personality and my being. It’s just easier to have it out there. I’ve gotten shit for it for a variety of reasons, but I have stuck to it throughout the years.
It’s served me well, but I’m wondering if I should change it. Here’s why. I’m afraid that I’m using my identity as a shield. Let’s take the example of theatre. I love it more than I love almost anything else in this world. However, I haven’t gotten back into it since I moved back from the Bay Area to MN. I am a fat, middle-aged Asian woman. There are no roles for me.
That’s my mindset. Now, it’s true that there aren’t a plethora of roles for someone who looks like me. Indeed, even in my youth, I often got cast in the matronly role because of my sturdy frame (I wasn’t fat at the time). I once played the mother of a woman who in real life was twelve years older than I. The sad thing is, I looked like I could be her mother. So it’s fair to say that roles for someone who looks like me are limited. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any roles for me. In addition, by unilaterally dismissing the issue like that, I don’t have to even audition and risk failing utterly.
One more example–politics. I have wanted to run for awhile. However, I’m a bi, agnostic, Asian American woman who isn’t married and who doesn’t have children. There is no way I would get elected, right? Probably. It’s true that I would be a hard sell as a candidate, but who knows if I’m definitively un-electable? Who can say that for sure if I don’t actually run?
So. This has been what I’ve been chewing on for the past few days. I have been aware of my Identity (yes, capital I) for many years. It has shaped me and how I’ve been received in the world. What I need to do now is to realize that yes, there are all these existing isms in the world that might make it more difficult for me to accomplish what I want to do, but that shouldn’t stop me from at least trying. I can’t control what others think of me or act towards me, but I can certainly control what I think of myself and what I do in the world.