May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month

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May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month

by Katherine Quiles on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - 10:21am

Japanese American woman, 1940s (Source: Smithsonian image archive)May marks the anniversary of two important events in Asian American history. The first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States in May of 1843. The transcontinental railroad—built by the labor and sacrifice of Chinese workers—was completed in 1869. May is also the official celebration of Asian Pacific Islander Heritage month.  

We call your attention to some of the Gender News articles relevant to this month’s celebration, shedding light on class, workplace, literature, dance, and even pleasure.

Taming the 'Wild West' of domestic care work

Primarily composed of immigrant women who work in private households, domestic workers lead largely "invisible" working lives. Thus, a key challenge for domestic worker rights advocates is bringing visibility of domestic work itself. For employers, the lack of standards—a situation akin to the Wild West—means there’s nothing to mediate the relationship between worker and employer. The precarious legal status of domestic workers relegates them to the margins of society, and they are left devalued on interpersonal and institutional levels. In this article, activists Ai-jen Poo, Maria Reyes, and Irene Jor discuss ways to raise visibility and work standards for domestic workers. Read more >

Walking backward at the intersection of gender, race, and poetry

Shirley Geok-lin Lim explores her identity as an Asian woman in academia, and in creative writing in particular.  Her poem “Pantoum for Chinese Women” weaves the story of Lim’s journey from her childhood home of Malaysia to her emergence as a strong immigrant voice in American literature and criticism. Lim asserts that women poets have not been made as highly visible as they deserve to be due to problems of reception. Although creative work can exist for readers independent of the writer’s identities, Lim argues that critical writing is always linked to the larger persona of the academic. This is because being a professor necessitates presentations and teaching, which bring any identities visible on the body – woman, Asian, etc. – into play. Read more >  

Feminist pornography and the 'straightjacket sexualities' of Asian men

Can pornography be political? Can it be anti-racist? Maybe even feminist? Film scholar Celine Parrenas Shimizu, editor of The Feminist Porn Book, answers with a resounding yes. According to Shimizu, feminist pornography “opens up who and how we love and lust; opens up the ways we experience and understand our bodies." Within the pages of her book, plus-sized women, disabled women, Asian men, and multi-racial troupes all challenge racist and sexual Renowned Bharatanatyam dancer Savitha Sastry (Source: Sangam Arts) stereotypes about which kinds of sex are good and which are bad. This article explores the “straightjacket sexualities” of Asian men in western culture—along with the hypersexualization of black women. Read more >

Cross-cultural dance blends tradition, innovation

Dance, as one of the most archaic and vibrant art forms, attunes us to the rhythms of history. According to Usha Srinivasan, a first-generation Indian immigrant, traditional dance, with its embodiment of cultural values, gives people an opportunity to reconnect to their heritage and ethnic roots. A particular dance's meaning, however, may become less accessible to each successive immigrant generation. Srinisavan, along with Sandhiya Kalyanasunduram, has founded a dance organization called Sangam Arts which reinterprets Indian classical dance. What's more, Sangam Arts brings together audiences and performers from different communities, creating collaborative dance that reflects and celebrates the ethnic diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area. Read more >

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Looking for events on-campus related to this month's celebration? See the API events listing from Stanford's Asian American Activiites Center. 

K Quiles
Katherine Quiles
Clayman student staff

Katherine Quiles is an undergraduate at Stanford University. At the Clayman Institute she works on Gender News, publishing, and social media, and she is a member of the student writing team