Asian Women As Perpetual Prostitutes: “Yellow Slavery” (Part 1)

To commemorate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, I decided to make an abridged video trilogy, focusing particularly on the modern day implications of Asian women.  This trek into the past is not only for general educational purposes but to properly understand how legacies of Orientalism and White imperialism and colonialism, affects us to this very day. There seems to be two camps of people when it comes to confronting racism and history:

  1. The Subtle-Asian-Traits-esque people who replace having a personality with juvenile boba memes. They seek to trivialize history and any cause for social justice in favor of “self-deprecation” to the point of a self-flagellation of their Asianess. They seek to be tokens.
  2. Model Minorities who may admit to racism happening in varying degrees but minimize it overall. Will say things like “Asians don’t have it as bad as [insert time/place/other poc”.

When we are able to have these dialogues and not get stuck into an Assimilationist Asian trope, it has to move beyond tinder match making racist pick-up lines. The concept of the Sociological Imagination differentiates the spheres of “private troubles” and “public issues”. Essentially we’re still stuck at internalizing racism as something we can fix with a basic self-help book or having an Asian in a movie.

“Know that many personal troubles cannot be solved merely as troubles, but must be understood in terms of public issues- and in terms of the problems of history-making. Know that the human meaning of public issues must be revealed by relating them to personal troubles- and to the problems of the individual life. Know that the problems of social science, when adequately formulated, must include both troubles and issues, both biography and history, and the range of their intricate relations. Within that range the life of the individual and the making of societies occur; and within that range the sociological imagination has its chance to make a difference in the quality of human life in our time.”
C. Wright Mills

Sources for this video are in the video description if you’d like to do more reading. If you have any feedback please let me know.

– Sen

 

 

Under Construction

Sorry for the silence these past few months! A number of personal responsibilities and issues kept us from updating our website and providing new content. But we’ve been discussing the many changes we’re planning to make to improve our zine behind the scenes, and we’re excited to share a new mission statement, new aesthetics, new ideas, and new resources in the coming months.

Along with these changes, we’ll be streamlining and migrating existing content to a new host to gain more design freedom than we had before. This will take some time, so please bear with us as we find and settle into a new online home.

In the meantime, the Journey to the West podcast will be returning soon, though at a reduced frequency due to scheduling difficulties.

We look forward to sharing new media with you, and we hope you’ll rejoin us once our site transformation is complete.

J, Editor

Image Comics Doesn’t Want Joshua Luna To Talk About Racism

(5 min read)

When we tell our own stories, we’re told they’re not “relatable”. Relatable to whom?


Joshua Luna is one half of the Luna Brothers — a duo responsible for writing and illustrating best-selling comics Ultra, Girls, and The Sword — and the creator of Whispers. But he’s also known for making more openly political comic strips that center the Asian American and Filipino-American experience, from celebrating queer Asian love to challenging anti-Asian racism:

Because of its emphasis on decolonization, this is combat art — what Franz Fanon calls “combat literature” in The Wretched of the Earth¹. Luna’s work encourages self-love and community healing while deconstructing racist behaviors and ideologies with sharp social critique. This made his publisher, Image Comics, uncomfortable.

He recently pitched a collection of his Asian American comics to Image for publication, but was treated so poorly during the process that communications broke down and he decided to go public with his ordeal.

For details, see the following Twitter thread:

It’s much easier to point the finger at the Richard Spencers of society than to turn inward and examine one’s own implicit racial biases. So Image Partners gave various excuses for their reluctance to publish AMERICANIZASIAN: it was too “angry” and needed to be “more positive”; it tempted legal action for parodying trademarked characters; and it had “no story for people to relate to”.

One white male Partner even implied that Luna could make the Asian American experience more relatable by taking inspiration from the Hulu show PEN15, which is about a half-white, half-Japanese protagonist (he also mentioned that his wife is half-Japanese)². Luna is Filipino, and it makes no sense for him to center white characters in strips that focus on his own experiences.

According to a keynote speech from last year’s Image Expo, Image Comics has a reputation for publishing content that “no other publisher would dare take a risk on… because we believe every one of those weird and wonderful series represents a new opportunity to capture a new audience.” In that same speech, Publisher Eric Stephenson proudly claimed that “fortune favors the bold”, implying that their commitment to publishing controversial content is what made them a successful company.³

The fear of copyright infringement sounds disingenuous when Luna’s previously published work at Image parodied trademarked characters (Ultra), and former Partner Erik Larsen’s own Savage Dragon character is heavily inspired by The Incredible Hulk.

Larsen, by the way, has previously drawn Internet outrage for making tone-deaf statements about women wearing practical costumes in comics⁴, as well as inserting gratuitous sex scenes in Savage Dragon that feature an Asian woman drawn to look underage. (Unsurprisingly, he is married to an Asian woman, yet has no problem hypersexualizing Asian women in his own comics.)⁵

Maxine is obsessed with sex in Savage Dragon — recalling Vietnam War-era propaganda

And in 2017, when Howard Chaykin released inflammatory “Divided States of Hysteria” covers that featured gratuitous violence against men of color and transwomen⁶ as well as a hijab of the American flag, Stephenson defended Image’s decision to publish them, saying, “If The Divided States of Hysteria prompts just a single productive conversation about the present state of our society, then it has succeeded in its goals and is a story worth sharing.”⁷

But when real marginalized voices like Luna speak about equally contentious and political topics like racism, they’re asked to water down their work. This tone policing double-standard implies that provocative content is only welcome when it comes from white male authors.

When we tell our own stories, in our own words, we’re told that they’re not “relatable”. To whom?


Since going public, Luna has received an outpouring of support and solidarity from his diverse fanbase, who all expressed their desire see this book made:

Collective action is the backbone of every civil rights movement. By making private issues of inequality public, it demands accountability for discrimination that would otherwise be kept hidden and unaddressed while granting power in numbers to those who would not have it individually. Larsen, who condemned Luna for speaking out about his consistent mistreatment by Image staff, tried to further dismiss and shame him for choosing to go public and draw on the support of his own fanbase to get AMERICANIZASIAN made with a POC-run publisher.

When creators of color challenge their white male employers to go public with the discrimination they face in the workplace, they risk losing a lot: their source of income, their industry connections, and their following. In a recent interview with The Beat, Luna expressed concerns about being sued by Image or blacklisted by other publishers or creators in the greater comics community:

“Within hours of going public with what happened, I received an email from the partner describing my post as slander, libel and outright lying…I think comics and the media industry as a whole has been dragging its feet in acknowledging the history and severity of anti-Asian narratives and imagery, to the point where it’d rather kill the messenger than acknowledge the message.”⁸

We at PAV are not here to placate or pacify those who willfully silence POC for talking about their lived experiences under structural racism. As our political climate marches in step with racist ideology, harming marginalized people at the institutional level through imperialist policies both foreign and domestic, it’s important for us to support creators whose works challenge the false narratives spread by white supremacy.

Please help Joshua Luna continue to make a living and get his comics published by a POC-run publisher by sharing his content and donating to his Patreon or PayPal.

https://www.patreon.com/joshualuna

https://www.paypal.me/JoshuaLunaComics


The cover for AMERICANIZASIAN

J Maraan edits all the things and sometimes writes. She co-hosts Journey to the West, a podcast that centers Asian women’s views on diaspora issues and current events. Find her on Twitter at @j_maraan and @JTTWPodcast.


End Notes:

  1. Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press, 1963.
  2. https://twitter.com/Joshua_Luna/status/1134522564196347911
  3. https://imagecomics.com/news/fortune-favors-the-boldimage-comics-publisher-eric-stephensons-image-expo-k
  4. https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/erik-larsen-image-comics-female-superhero-costumes/
  5. https://www.bleedingcool.com/2017/11/25/savage-dragon-goes-outrage-april/
  6. http://www.comicosity.com/transmyscira-why-im-boycotting-image-comics/
  7. https://www.bleedingcool.com/2017/06/30/image-creators-speak-howard-chaykins-divided-states-hysteria/
  8. https://www.comicsbeat.com/joshua-luna-americanizasian-image-comics/

[JttW #46] White Freeze 2.0

We return with special guest Shang to talk about White Freeze again. This time we expand upon real-life implications which include finding housing and mental health.

Sources:

The Subtleties of Social Exclusion: Race, Social Class, and the
Exclusion of Blacks in a Racially Mixed Neighborhood
https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1034&context=soc_fac

Researchers ‘Averaged’ The Faces Of 400 CEOs — And The Results Say A Lot About Race In Business
https://www.businessinsider.com/the-average-face-of-400-ceos-2014-12

Scientists Start To Tease Out The Subtler Ways Racism Hurts Health
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/11/11/562623815/scientists-start-to-tease-out-the-subtler-ways-racism-hurts-health

Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/10486479/Phobias-may-be-memories-passed-down-in-genes-from-ancestors.html


Asian Women As Perpetual Prostitutes: White Sexual Imperialism (Part 3)

The final part touches on Asian women’s exploited sexual labor during colonial and war times. This leads us to the modern day implications of the perpetual prostitute stereotype and how that manifests into our lived realities. #APAHM#AsianPacificAmericanHeritageMonth



Follow Us on Twitter: @JttWPodcast @sen_tient @j_maraan

Asian Women As Perpetual Prostitutes: Asian Invasion (Part 2)

Hi everyone.
Just would like to thank everyone who has watched and the first part so far. I’m also glad many of you are commenting on the video as well. Unfortunately, there were a few terrible comments I had to address. It somehow does not surprise me that white fragility incarnate found my video and got viscerally offended. This was even before the video was a day old.

I don’t have much to write regarding the content of this video since it speaks for itself. Part 3 is definitively the longest (twice as long as this one at this point) so it will probably take more than a few days for me to edit.
– Sen

Let’s Talk About Hawkeye

(8 min read)
hawkeyejapan(Hawkeye visits Japan)

*Note: this article contains major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame

In a world where Green Book is lauded for its “white savior” approach to race¹, and its director Peter Farrelly decides to team up with Brian Currie and Pete Jones (an unholy trinity of white men) to write a dramedy set during the Vietnam War era about a beer run², we’d hope that POC who are conscious of their racial identities would have something to look forward to watching in theaters these days without shaking their heads.

Enter blockbuster-maker Marvel, which recently vowed to commit to making their cast of heroes more inclusive after the unprecedented success of Black Panther and Captain Marvel³. While young Asian Americans nervously await the release of Shang-Chi, which is slated to feature MCU’s first Asian lead, Avengers: Endgame premiered last week.

Despite earning a 95% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Endgame has also received criticism for its cinematic flaws. From the fatphobic treatment of Thor’s PTSD⁴ to the use of women as props during what little screentime they were given⁵, fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were quick to point out the film’s missteps. But for some reason, Endgame’s low-key racist scenes are noticeably missing from these critiques. A recent AV Club article that rightfully called out the film’s lackluster women’s character arcs (glossing over ScarJo’s legacy as an honorary Asian) even praised Tilda Swinton’s appearance as the whitewashed Ancient One⁶. So a number of viewers took to Twitter to speak out about Hawkeye’s disturbing scenes, which are much worse than hinted at in the official trailer:

https://twitter.com/AsianTomiLahren/status/1122254253471309824

https://twitter.com/AsianTomiLahren/status/1122257030381654017

Unsurprisingly, none of Earth’s heroes are Asian. The only Asian men on screen are either brutally murdered or played martial arts sidekicks for the white Dr. Strange. Even Mantis, who is played by an Asian woman, is dismissed as “that girl with the antennas”, taking the same abuse on screen as she did throughout Guardians of the Galaxy 2⁷.

Since Endgame is about the trauma of war, we at PAV can’t help but draw a connection between Hawkeye’s actions in the film and American imperialism. There is a multitude of U.S. military bases in Japan, with 34 occupying ¼ of all the space on the island of Okinawa alone. The presence of over 50,000 U.S. military personnel and 40,000 of their dependents have taken a toll on the long-exploited locals, who have suffered countless thefts, burglaries, arsons, assaults, rapes, and murders over the last four decades⁸. Along with the lack of proper convictions for these crimes⁹, bases are killing the surrounding coral reefs and destroying marine habitats¹⁰.

In Marvel’s Endgame, Japanese lives are portrayed as disposable, as they have been since WWII.

unclesam(Anti-Japanese WWII propaganda)

Guest writer Jason Thinh expounds on this orientalist trope as he shares his thoughts on the film.

Hawkeye is the MCU’s version of Jeremy Renner: someone who nobody can really find any use for, yet he still gets chance after chance.

From his seat-filler role in the original Avengers movie to Captain America: Civil War — where even the other characters verbally expressed that they didn’t care about his existence — Marvel has tried and failed to make this character even remotely compelling.

rocket-raccoon_opt(Yet we can still root for a talking raccoon.)

Now, with Endgame out in theatres and everyone online taking turns dissecting their piece of this puzzle that’s been ten years in the making, let’s talk about what the hell they did with Hawkeye.

When the initial teasers for the film came out, we saw the original Avengers in various stages of grief due to Thanos’ snap. Our first glimpse of Clint Barton is him adopting his new Ronin persona, standing somewhere in Japan after he’s laid waste to countless faceless Japanese extras. Upon my first viewing, my racial spidey-senses were already tingling.

“Ugh, here we go again. Generic Japan. Dead Japanese men everywhere, likely yakuza. Great. But who knows, maybe I’m in for a surprise,” I foolishly thought.

The first scene of Endgame starts off with Hawkeye losing his entire family. So how does Legolas deal with this traumatic experience? Well, he certainly doesn’t go to his second family, The Avengers, who have been experiencing their own share of losses. Instead, he randomly decides to invent the identity of Ronin — which is vaguely based on Japanese culture — and proceeds to go on a mass murdering spree, going after some not-so-obvious targets.

Does he track down any remaining supervillains? Does he prowl the streets of New York for random, lowlife scum? Surely with such a sudden drop in the world’s population, crime would increase, right? And aren’t there more than enough white supremacists in the U.S. alone?

If you’re thinking that Barton went Nazi hunting during these first few years post-snap, then you are severely overestimating Hawkeye’s abilities when even generations of activists have been trying to rid the U.S. of one of its main exports.

Instead, he travels all the way to Mexico and Japan to kill people he deems unworthy of living for…reasons? The justification for these executions is that these people are members of drug cartels and the yakuza, therefore their lives must mean less. But like, how random is that? That’s like being upset that the waiter screwed up your order so you go home, see someone deliver a pizza to your neighbor down the street, and walk over to harass the delivery driver. Or something like that.

liamneeson(Sounds eerily familiar, actually.)

What made watching this movie, and specifically the yakuza scene, even more uncomfortable was that I was watching it in a theatre in Japan. Granted, the audience wasn’t too loud to begin with, but the scene really didn’t go over well. Imagine watching a foreign film, being excited about seeing not only your country but also one of your country’s most well-respected actors (Hiroyuki Sanada) in it, only to see everything reduced to stereotypes by some 3rd-tier character. Hawkeye is a guy who just randomly took pieces from Japanese culture to empower himself, motivated by his white man trauma to somehow both learn Japanese and beat the Japanese at their own game.

Look, I know that coping with grief can take on different shapes and people go down different paths, but this soured me for most of the movie. It doesn’t help that we’ve seen things like this play out in real life: someone who once served in the military, with little to contribute, spends the next phase of his life taking out his aggression on the “enemy” (aka random POC) under the false pretense of trying to “stop crime”. Maybe I’m being generous. Often times the incidents that make the news are committed by pitiful, directionless white men who have bought the idea of this power fantasy and have taken upon themselves to clean up the streets and go after POC who just so happen to commit all of the crime, all in the name of “freedom”, nationalism, or some other disingenuous garbage.

killbillwolverine(Slicing up those evil, faceless, Asians. Top: Kill Bill, Bottom: Wolverine)

It’s the same tired trope. We’ve seen it in Kill Bill, Netflix’s Daredevil, The Wolverine, and countless other Western movies and shows. When we do see any AAPI representation, our bodies are treated as disposable and our deaths are used for comedic effect (e.g. the gratuitous deaths of Nobu in Daredevil and a character’s ex-boyfriend in Agents of SHIELD). Now here we are, in a time where media, and Marvel specifically, is supposed to be doing better in terms of providing better POC representation. But instead, we get…this.

While we’re already talking about Hawkeye and his inability to cope, let’s briefly look at Black Widow, someone who has had “red in her ledger” and has done everything to atone for her sins. Throughout many of the MCU films, we’ve witnessed Ms. Romanoff’s transformation from a lone spy with questionable ethics to someone who has found a family and would do anything for them. She deserved to be in that final fight. But instead, her pain and eventual death are used for an arguably less-deserving character’s motivation.

Throughout Endgame, all of Hawkeye’s “redeeming” moments felt unearned. And even Black Widow’s response to his murder-spree, “I don’t judge you by your worst mistakes”, sounded more like complicity than consolation. He learned nothing from his toxic coping methods but he still managed to get the soul stone and some scenes of man-pain. He also got to run around the battlefield with the gauntlet and…that’s pretty much it.
As the story wraps up, the past is restored and he gets his family back. Clint’s arc throughout the movie and the past 10 years of the MCU is a peak example of white mediocrity: just add a little bit of racism and that character will still be deserving of a 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th chance at redemption. Just slap on some tattoos and a vaguely ethnic-inspired aesthetic and you’re good to go.

While this is not necessarily an indictment of the movie as a whole, it’s unfortunate that with all the development we’ve seen over the course of the past 10 years, the writers continued to put white men first regardless of the quality of the character and their story, but that’s a whole different article.

As Marvel’s Endgame ties up loose ends from the beginning and plots come full circle, I hope that old, stale practices like these — elevating white men and using the slaughter of POC as a plot device — will finally be put to rest while we get ready for a more diverse main cast. At least that’s what I’m trying to tell myself.


Jason Thinh is a Bay Arean currently living in Tokyo. You can find him on Twitter at @JasonThinh.

[Edits and additions by J]


Endnotes:

  1. http://time.com/5527806/green-book-movie-controversy/
  2. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/peter-farrelly-direct-vietnam-war-film-greatest-beer-run-ever-1205077
  3. https://observer.com/2019/04/avengers-endgame-marvel-diversity/
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/apr/30/avengers-endgame-cinema-fat-shaming
  5. https://io9.gizmodo.com/avengers-endgames-women-deserved-more-1834388344
  6. https://film.avclub.com/avengers-endgame-doesn-t-earn-its-big-girl-power-mom-1834366317
  7. https://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2017/08/need-talk-mantis-abuse-guardians-galaxy-2/
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/mar/07/okinawa-japan-military-tension
  9. https://apjjf.org/2018/03/Mitchell.html
  10. https://truthout.org/articles/us-military-base-threatens-biodiversity-in-okinawa/

Pre-Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Livestream

Update: Missed the stream? The entire 3 hours is available on YouTube for streaming below.

We’ll be kicking off APAHM celebrations early for this coming May. We’ll just be doing live recording and chatting to you guys so please stop by. It’s currently scheduled to go live on Tuesday 23rd at 6PM PST or 9PM EST Friday 26th at 4PM PST | 7PM EST. Although keep an eye out on our Twitter @JttWPodcast for the latest updates because last time, it was a bit of a mess. You can also click the bell on the video below for a notification when it does go live. Also if you have any questions right out the gate, you can comment on the video right now and we’ll get to it as soon as the stream starts.
– Sen

[JttW #45] Decolonial Love: Swipe Left On Internalized Racism

By Sen Tien

We unpack “A Very Offensive Rom-Com”, an episode of NPR’s Invisibilia podcast with special guest, Maka (@_fakeMT).

“A Very Offensive Rom-Com” (NPR):
https://www.npr.org/2019/04/04/709948132/a-very-offensive-rom-com

Breaking the ‘girl code’ and internalized racism (Vi Nguyen):

Breaking the ‘girl code’ and internalized racism

White Sexual Imperialism: A Theory of Asian Feminist Jurisprudence (Sunny Woan):
https://scholarlycommons.law.wlu.edu/crsj/vol14/iss2/5/