Monthly Archives: September 2012

What are we celebrating?


I really appreciate Asian womyn who speak their minds, even if I don’t agree with them. I came across this conversation, “So, Sherlyn Chopra Will Be The First Indian Woman To Pose Nude In Playboy?” and it immediately caught my attention.  I was excited to read their thoughts, hoping to find something I could relate to. I was surprised by their comments, but ultimately pleased that they tackled this issue. However, in my totally bias anti-porn opinion, there were several points I wished they had discussed in further detail.

1. Womyn, especially Asian womyn have historically been objectified, sexualized, and fetishized to validate the invasion and colonization of Asia by White men. Playboy is another venue for this practice to continue. We should not be celebrating that mainstream society has finally gotten around to objectifying a South Asian womyn.

2. Womyn who look like Chopra and see her pictures in Playboy are still receiving the message of an imaginary standard of beauty. These pictures are altered to make womyn look flawless, and pretty much the same shape and size. Having womyn of different “colors” isn’t revolutionary if they all look the same.

3. We womyn often get blamed when we attempt to claim power and visibility through our sexuality. In a world where our value is determined by how we look, how fertile we are, and how “doable” we are, it is not a surprise that we get confused and think that being sexy is the only way to get attention. This message is internalized so much that generations of womyn blame each other for our gender’s status. In reality, there is a larger system in place (sexism) that tells us womyn that no matter what we try, we are still not good enough.

4. Pornography limits our sexuality. Somewhere along the line, porn has told all of us how to think about our sexuality, and in turn, affects how we have sex. Magazines like Playboy tell consumers that this is what a womyn should look like, this is who you should want to have sex with or what you should look like if you want to have sex. The womyn who were part of the above conversation totally skirted around this issue. In the U.S. and I’m sure in other parts of the world, porn is one of the key tools to teaching people about how to have sex. Instead of us working with each other (as awkward as that sounds) and talking about what we want around sex, we can just look up on the Internet or in a magazine to see what we should do.

These are just some of my thoughts on the issue. As I said earlier, I really appreciated Gayatri Bajpai, Diana Nguyen, Jen Wang and Asiance Magazine, talking about this issue. It really got me thinking about where I stand when it comes to Asian womyn’s visibility. As a young adult womyn who is being sexualized regularly by just walking out the door, I want to know how my people are handling it. I’m happy to see that we haven’t given up on figuring out how to be visible and empowered.  It’s confusing and difficult, but we have to keep trying.



If we can reach just one girl ….


It’s always hugely satisfying to hear from folks after our show. We often get comments on Facebook or via email. ImageWe like to forward them on to each other or read and discuss them during our community announcements time at practice. 

This email from an adoptive mom of a Vietnamese girl came in and touched my heart:

Hello! Thank you for being with us yesterday at —– . My whole family loved it, including my eleven-year old son, Noah and four year old, Quynh. Quynh wore her Genki pin today and talked ALL DAY about you. At the market, to her cousins, at her karate class, she recounted your presence at church yesterday. She said things like: “the beautiful women in rainbow colors,” “the sparkles!”, “Wasabi…sushi!”, “kiai” “the big drums”, “the shakers were not too heavy” and how we had a chance to try the drums! Your ears may be ringing for a long time as I’m sure Quynh will continue to talk about you! Thanks again for sharing yourselves and your Genki sparkS! We look forward to seeing you again sometime. I’m also moved by your blog, and look forward to following it as well. Best regards to you all — Tina

I love thinking about 4 year old Qunyh running about excited about our unapologetic affinity of color and sparkles and our ‘Be Genki’ message. When I decided to take the giant leap and establish The Genki Spark, I was scared to launch a women’s-only troupe. Sure in my head, I understood the need for women/girls only spaces but I was afraid of what doors I might be closing. It wasn’t until after our first appearance at the Boston Asian American Film Festival in 2010, where we high-fived, cheered, and celebrated that we had done something that felt so scary that I realized that there was no turning back. There is something totally exciting about stepping out and supporting each other AS women.

I don’t think there are many places for us to feel proud of being female. I don’t mean the crammed down our throats societal presentation of what women are supposed to be – I mean the ‘you are great just as you are’ version of female. I was very confused by this growing up. Growing up in the 70’s, the ideal version of female presented was blonde, thin, leggy, and she was supposed to not focus on herself but on being everything for everyone.

Does anyone remember the commercial for Enjoli perfume? ‘I can bring home the bacon, I can fry it up in a pan, and I can never let you forget you’re a man – ’cause I’m a woman – Enjoli.’ Ew, yuck. I was more interested in the lifecycle of ladybugs and dissecting worms, I had absolutely no interest in figuring out how to be the 24 hour woman that the commercial was saying I could be. This left me confused and instead of thinking I could grow up to be the woman I wanted to be, I felt I had to reject the whole package and ended up just not liking being female – which ultimately meant not liking myself.

ImageI think we have to work hard to undo the conditioning we were fed as girls. In fact, I think we have to work really hard to undo the conditioning we were fed as humans. I love it when rowdy girls yell out ‘GIRL POWER’ during our school assembly program and I love it when college students erupt when we say, ‘no one but YOU gets to decide what it means to be you’ because I know we are contradicting ridiculous messages of what you ‘should’ be and instead encouraging people to be their full selves, whatever that might look like.

If we’ve somehow let someone like 4 year old Qunyh know she’s okay just as she is, well then, I’m pretty happy.