For those of us who occupy the spaces between identities — because of our personalities or because we have a foot in more than one subgroup — finding representation anywhere, in any form of media, can be extremely rare. It can be tempting to hand a person a book and say, “This is where you fit in,” but in many, many cases, that won’t be true. It may end up alienating the person more than making them feel welcome.
this is some spot-on commentary.
my high school English teacher who was also Asian American herself gave me a copy of Woman Warrior to read. while I liked what I read and if I had to pick right now I’d pick Maxine Hong Kingston over Amy Tan, what’s frustrating was that in high school I felt like these were my only two options in terms of being represented as a Chinese American in Literature with a capital L. I read other books like Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (which, despite some pretty terrible purple prose and holy shit orientalist stereotypes, I enjoyed because of the relationship between these two girls who loved each other so much) and Memoirs of a Geisha (wow barf). this was super frustrating.
a little later into my high school career though our local library hired two really awesome, socially aware librarians who kickstarted the “teen” section and made sure to include a lot of really diverse novels and graphic novels and even a lot of manga. it was there I was introduced to folks like Gene Yang and a poetry anthology called Yellow Gurl where all the writers were Asian American teens which was super cool. also Street Magic by Tamora Pierce, which was the first time I had ever seen an Asian character in a high fantasy setting who was a badass and a mage. I saw myself more in those characters than I ever did in anything else I’d read up until then.
granted, I also read all of these books with a divided attitude because I was also somewhat resentful, like, “wow you’re only recommending me this because I’m Asian”, which is an attitude I’m still struggling to unlearn. it depends on the day, but sometimes when people ask “oh have you read this it has an Asian main character” half the time I’m like oh cool! I have to check that out!!! but sometimes I get ornery like…why are you expecting me to be some kind of authority on Asian American identity when I just want to draw my comics and I don’t speak for anyone but myself?
I think the only way to combat this box that we all get stuffed into because of x y and z is to keep making art to not necessarily INTENTIONALLY break all of the stereotypes but to let as many people’s voices be heard in whatever way they want to be.
Welcome to This is Not Asian, a blog dedicated to showing people just how bad orientalism and cultural appropriation can be. To learn more about what we hope to do and what we stand for, read our introduction below.
Anonymous asked: So I recently found out that its highly possible I have Asian ancestry, specifically Chinese. The problem is it traces all the way back to the Middle Ages, it hasn't been proven yet, and me and no in my family look Asian at all. :( However, when I found out the possibility I practically jumped for joy since I'm a huge fan of Asian culture such as Anime, Manga, videogames, Jpop etc. Would it be considered appropriation if I tried to be a master of Chinese and Japanese languages?
Ask part two, this is the girl who might have some Chinese ancestry: As of learning this I also want to someday move to either China and Japan, marry an Asian guy and try to pass myself off as Asian, by either checking the “Asian” box in demographic surveys, or telling people I’m Asian. I want to identify with Asian. Is this considered cultural appropriation? I don’t think so since its probably about 90% possible I have Chinese ancestry, I wanted to check with you guys to make sure though.
Yeah, this feels really uncomfortably like fetishization, anon. You may have Chinese ancestry, but it’s so far back that you aren’t assigned Asian by other people. That, and the fact that you say that you want to marry an Asian guy and become a Master at Chinese and Japanese languages, which frankly is bs because there are lots of different dialects of these languages. You also mention Asian culture as if it was some kind of generic thing that spans all of Asia (which, spoilers, it totally isn’t.)
tbh, you probably shouldn’t be claiming yourself as “Asian”. You can learn about Chinese and Japanese culture, sure, but don’t claim that you’re Chinese or even Asian.
mumblenews asked: Hey to the person with the yin-yang tat: there are tons of artists that specialize in cover-ups. You could use your birth flower, or your favorite animal (NOT "SPIRIT ANIMAL" BULLSHIT), or whatever. If you want to go with a "balance" theme, try scales, or an hourglass, or a moon/sun, or a moon in the half full phase, or a face in half-shadow. Try looking up alchemy symbols maybe, or trees/flowers/etc that symbolize balance that have an origin in your culture. You have a plethora of options. :)
Suggestions for that Tattoo ask!
Anonymous asked: Assuming you agree that the Avatar: the Last Airbender series was done well re: being inspired by different Asian cultures ("appreciate") without being offensive, what do you think sets it apart from all the other works of fiction that just appropriate?
The fact that they actually did they their research as well as treating the sources with respect. I haven’t seen the entire series, but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s been ok as far as “Asian-Inspired” goes.
Anonymous asked: Hi, I recently found out that the yin-yang is appropriative, and I have a tattoo of one on my back. I can't afford to get it removed, so I was wondering if your followers had any suggestions on how to cover it up with a new tattoo?
Anybody have any suggestions?
Edit: (Thanks to mumblenews)
Hey to the person with the yin-yang tat: there are tons of artists that specialize in cover-ups. You could use your birth flower, or your favorite animal (NOT “SPIRIT ANIMAL” BULLSHIT), or whatever. If you want to go with a “balance” theme, try scales, or an hourglass, or a moon/sun, or a moon in the half full phase, or a face in half-shadow. Try looking up alchemy symbols maybe, or trees/flowers/etc that symbolize balance that have an origin in your culture. You have a plethora of options. :)
Anonymous asked: Do you think there's such a thing as situational racism that's different from institutional racism? I was just thinking - say a white kid was bullied for being white by a PoC in school, threatened with physical violence, etc. Since racism is power+prejudice and the PoC has both, wouldn't that be situational racism? Which is much different from institutional racism which is a history of oppressing PoC through laws, media, propaganda and cultural "norms." Yes/No?
a white kid being bullied for being white is a consequence of institutional racism so i would be hesitant to call that any form of racism, situational or not
I’m reading through your blog and it’s sort of changing my life. I’m part of the “anime” club at my university and a lot of people refer to themselves as “otaku”, now I’m wondering if this is okay or if I should be hounding them to quit whilst they’re ahead?
Personally I’d take that as a warning sign for them to stop or for you to leave that group. I don’t think otaku carries positive connotations…
Anonymous asked: Is there such thing as Asian food? I get offended when people say that because I feel like they assume all Asians eat the same thing regardless of where they come from.
You mean like some kind of pan-asian cuisine? I don’t think that’s actually a thing. The differences between the cuisines from different countries and different regions of countries actually can be pretty big.