reasons for blog / internet neglect
- there's a lot of living through screens today. which is fine. i just want to enjoy the wondrous universe of this precious earth before...well, let's just say i wish to bathe in the riches of my physical environment & present.
- after being objectified, sexually harassed, & exoticized by the a few patriarchal white men, my mind is still undergoing true rumination of such traumatizing feelings of disgust, disempowerment, fear. i also have been watching too many episodes of scandal. i just don't want my photos or my stories to become objects that are used, manipulated, or sexualized without my muthafuckin' consent.
actually, this trauma & fear...something i wish to flesh out, uproot, examine, understand, & express.
this is probably the first time i have dedicated x amount of time on the internet to express this fully.
about 2, going on 3, years ago right out of college, i interned at an environmental justice nonprofit in san francisco. this nonprofit, hxstorically, was started & ran by womxn of color from the community. however, the nonprofit underwent rough times & lost funding & so forth. the original directors were out, & a new executive director & operations manager were hired. the executive director was new to the nonprofit & replied to my eager email within a couple of days.
when i arrived to the office building, the front door was locked. it was a 1970s looking building that housed a medical practice opened by an incredible community figure in the hxtorically black community during the 1960s or so. i was let in, by a older white man with white pepper whiskers for a mustache & beard. he wasn't the most formal, but i could care less, for i wanted to delve into the actual praxis of environmental justice & understand nonprofits & just live accordingly.
in our interview session, i was a shoe-in. the older white man reminded me of my good friend's dad, which freaked me out. this white man was the new executive director & was overseeing 5 womxn working under him. it was interesting at first glance. a white man as a director of a hxtorically black womxn environmental justice nonprofit...who wasn't from the neighborhood...but some of the ladies working were from vallejo, slash i did not want to jump to conclusions before actually immersing myself into the situation. this executive director mumbled gruff words that felt sandy. he mentioned how he was divorced and how his son had ocd like me.
hmm. okay, i thought. he then proceeded to tell me that he googled my name & found the student newspaper article about me & my ocd from circa freshmen year of high school. okay.
basically i was going to intern for a bit & he said when they got funding they would offer me a job depending upon how the internship goes. fair. the ladies working there were dope, especially the operations manager & the program director. they were the trillest. the operations manager was also an api womxn who was goofy & full of inspiring wit.
my workspace was in a linoleum mellow yellow white cubicle outside of the executive director's office. it was definitely a small little chicken coop space, but i lived in closet in college, so i could give a fuck. he said he wanted me there "so he could see me". okay.
basically i was there for about a month or two. the community members i met were everything. for example, the beautiful soul george who was always at his friend's house working on cars next to the office parking lot. he was great. an older black man with grey tints and a cheerful demeanor & smile. thinking of him now makes me so...alive, thankful, happy & full of love...of course mixed with that certain sadness associated with folks that you never got a chance to say good bye to or keep in touch with. anyway, i am not sure how our friendship came to fruition, but it started as i would just say hi to him every morning. i would smile and say good morning. he would wave & smile & walk over to my side of the car. i would roll down the window & say "how ya doin' george?!" his responses would vary. i often saw him when i left the office as well, which was in the afternoon, considering this was a part time gig.
george & i would talk about our daily mindsets & wanderings. one day i asked him about his life, & we stood there chatting for about 15 minutes upon mention of the topic. he grew up in frisco. in fact, he grew up in the fillmore - the harlem of the west. he went to rafael b. wells, which is today, rosa parks elementary school. my mind brightened up like straight up golden honey sunshine.
he told me he would hang out at the buchanan ymca. he told me that yori wada was his friend. you see, yori wada, i have heard so much about. his face is in the japanese cultural community center of northern california entrance hall & his name engraved on various stepping stones & plates throughout jtown & the fillmore. i knew he was a director at the buchanan ymca & helped start jcccnc, but that's it. george's mention of him lit a candle in this cavern of my vast, curious mind.
george said that before wwii, yori wada would organize youth events at his own house - for high schoolers. many of them were for community purposes & organizing. george mentioned that yori really cared about creating a welcoming community of / for black / japanese-american youth -- because that was the community at the time, before the internment, before the development of jtown / fillmore. george told me that even after the war, when yori got a job with the city government, yori connected many folks from the fillmore to city government jobs. yori even attended george's wedding.
"yori meant a lot to the black folks...to the fillmore"
i will never forget that encounter. i will never forget george. he had some health problems & i think housing problems as well. we would shoot the shit about local politricks, racism, & the greedy direction of san francisco. he reminded me that san francisco was still here. that compassionate community was still here. that love was still here. that home was still here.
where i left off in terms of the chronicles of the anti-oriental fantasy...oh yes.
well it didn't take long for me to figure out that this nonprofit was quite scattered & unorganized. the executive director would time & time again, give me things to do, that totally failed to utilize my knowledge, but i figured that's the life of an intern. of course i proposed numerous topics & so forth. i also helped organize an annual breast cancer luncheon with some kick ass ucsf female surgeons (one womxn i connected with, laura esserman, who i later found out was the homey's mama!). but often i was asked by the executive director to attend community meetings or even the executive board meetings...the executive director would often flaunt to me his wonderful executive board he put together...he would also often have me come into his office & tell me about his vast knowledge & health care career & all of this & that...i just sat & listened & shook my head & smiled.
soon, he began to give me sass. he began to talk to me as if i wasn't doing exactly what he told me to do. he began to probe all of my executed tasks & wonder if i did this or this or that or that -- which i all clearly did & already mentioned to him...knowing me i dished that shit right back in my own way...with my firm tone & radiant vibes of robust, femme power.
ah yes. toward the end of my 3 months there, i told the executive director that i was going to dip & work with kids & families instead up the block, in the neighborhood. when i told him he was rather disappointed, mentioning how if i stayed he would get me a job there & funding & a great position, woop woop woop woop. cool. he fed that shit to me for a while.
then my second to last day interning there, literally right before i was leaving the office to attend my first introductory day at this children center, i was called into his office.
i went into his office, with his plastic fan spinning furiously, a medley of papers fluttering in the artificial, stuffy wind. he began to apologize to me. "look i'm sorry i've been short, rude, to you lately" he said, "i've been stressed" with funding matters & department of public health thangs & licensing.
"i'm sorry...but i just hafta tell you, i've been looking at your cleavage".
his face was straight, dry, & of course crusty with his white pepper walrus whiskers. he had this face of regret.
a surge of cortisol & adrenaline, or so i presumed, electrified my entire body. my mind was blasted, a huge flash of bright light, blinding my internal navigation.
his acting & manipulation was quite good, for my brain went so blank, i just said "uh it's okay" without truly thinking & just walked out his office stunned & shook up.
what the fuck? i thought. am i imagining things? that wasn't that bad right? i mean i wasn't raped...he didn't touch me...he could have said worse things, right?
i left the parking lot on that fine, sunny august day. i drove straight down 3rd street replaying the situation over & over & over while mediating the fact that i was about to embark on my first day at my new job at the children's center.
my eyes were fat as i approached the children's center & began to dam the tenacious flood of thoughts of disgust, distraught, confusion, belittlement, trauma, violence...pull it together for this moment, i thought.
yet, as i was introducing myself to the sweet faces of our future, tucking in these 2 year olds before their afternoon nap, my levy walls were barely holding...streams began to bleed out...memories, i never even knew.
it was as if this simple phrase dug deep into the caverns of my mind & unearthed the lived hxstories & future stories of my ancestors, my grandmothers, my mothers, my sisters, my daughters...this collective past, that i failed to remember in this lifetime, came charging forth...like a tsunami...above the levy walls through the passages, corridors of my mind...i needed to cry.
but i remember i couldn't. i remember i didn't.
my body pulsed with this toxic filth...my heart strangled by a stress i couldn't even understand or articulate. my uncertainty & hesitation & lack of clarity all scared me the most. "i am overreacting", "no one will think this is a big deal", "he probably didn't mean it like that" ; a sample of the massive number of thoughts sprinting through my mind. "this wasn't obvious enough".
my mama of course, set me straight, helped me process & organize my thoughts & my experience. at this point, i was engulfed by a delicious rage...so fierce & so powerful, i knew i was in a fact a fucking crazy force to reckon with. i slept that night with that angry excitement...like that "i'm finna pop awf" / "murk this muthafucka" type feeling. these blistering hot moments of infuriation are honestly some of my favorites. in fact, typing about the experience, makes me feel a fraction of that energy surge meow. that heat in the depths of myself...the type of power that reminds me: oh shit, i have agency. i am in fact the author of this hxstory, of the present - the past & the future all at play. these moments are the best as well for my true self unravels so fucking dramatically & so fucking quickly, like my body is rolling down a fat ass, vertical grass hill in golden gate park...i kind i used to roll down in middle school...(haha).
the morning came, & oh shit was i fucking ready. my mind was literally off the chains...quotes from bell hooks, audre lorde, elaine kim, maxine hong kingston just fucking poppin' off in my brain in the most absurd, obnoxious 4th of july patriotic as fawk firework extravaganza fashion. hyperfocused isn't even a strong enough description. i guess you could say i was "in the zone". it was like tucking in my jersey at the beginning of a sasf tournament game, after a ballin' ass warm-up & bumpin' stilettos by crime mob in my silver sony cd player.
i park in the parking lot, run up the stairs - skipping every other stair step, that's how serious, & roll through the dimly lit 1970s hallway with old doors & that mustiness of old rotting metal pipes. "HELLO!" i say as i roll through the executive director's office. "oh eryn, i thought you weren't feeling well & not coming in today -" "OF COURSE I HAD TO COME IN", i said with my eyelids fucking up, eye wide with that tingly surge of straight up fiiiiiyah. basically i turned on my iphone recorder & did my thang asking him "so you had the audacity to say sorry for looking at my cleavage yesterday?!" "yes i said, that" he said. well that was easy, i remember thinking. boop. recorded. done. i briefly chewed him out with my fat voice, & he said i could talk to the operations manager if i had a problem, woop woop woop. & boom. winner winner chicken dinner.
the days following up i met with the asian-american womxn operations director. it was incredible because when we met, after i gave her my exact play by play of the situation alongside the voice recording, homegroh comes through with a straight up l a u n d r y list of sexual harassment incidents with this executive director. the funny thing is, is that he favored us two asian-american womxn the most in the office, to the point where we were placed on his side of the building. he would say shit like "oh 20-year olds love me" (he's 62, aka like my dad), "oh funders would love to have a beautiful asian girl on my right arm"...it was in that moment that the dots connected. that the shimmering constellations shone bright in my mind.
present. i am here.
long story short, filed formal complaint with executive director, older allegations of racist asian remarks uttered by this man surfaced, & sooner or later he was out.
although it "could've been worse", fuck off, we aren't playing the "who's the most oppressed game". systematic oppression, specifically systematic oppression & objectification of womxn (trans / femme / womxn of color), is expressed in a spectrum of ways...all must be addressed with fucking sharp poignant power in order to destroy the entire patriarchal structure in place.
now. for an api womxn analysis of this white man's acts...okay, this is really redundant for my brain so this is brief & quick:
- the long fetch of history has painted api womxn in america as docile, exotic, weak, quiet, hypersexual beings. american cultural production - newspapers, magazines, movies, commercials, dolls - have framed api womxn as these meek background figures that can be objectified - picked up / manipulated - & perform sexual acts at the whim of the white man such as massages & strip teases.
some modern day examples: fuk yoo & fuk mi from austin powers; the ladies giving jackie chan & chris tucker massages in rush hour; sandra oh in grey's anatomy as this smart model minority womxn (the hypersexualization not necessarily majorly present, but i want to illustrate the stereotyping of api womxn on the lines of the model minority myth which also is in interplay), madam butterfly (which is still performed in muthafuckin' yellowface as of 2014 by san francisco fucking opera), etc.
- do you know that asian female pornography is the number one pornography category searched & watched?
- the 1875 page law which stated that asian womxn could not enter united states soil based upon the assumption that these womxn were "heathens" & mere prostitutes. by law, asian womxn were framed as sex objects. keep in mind the context; this was during the gold rush period in which hella folks from guangzhou were immigrating to san francisco in hopes of finding "gold mountain". this page law act was also a structural prevention against formation of chinese-american families / communities.
this law & this current period strikes me very personally because my chinese family was in san francisco during this time. my maternal grandmother's maternal great grandfather worked on the railroad & her maternal great grandmother had a laundry mat on valencia street during the barrio days of mission dolores area. this law impacted the womxn in my family, along with the stereotypical misrepresentations of api womxn in the womxn.
there's more. of course. but i need to sleep so later.
during times like these i know this all sounds angry. but so much liberation & power comes from anger. especially since womxn aren't supposed to unleash their anger, but men can cause they're men right? fuck off. i remember actually my best friend's dad telling me this: you know eryn, i know womxn like you [empowered, conscious, feminist]. & their not happy." this made me laugh inside. still makes me laugh. still makes me cringe.
still makes me realize how much work there is to be done.
ah, but yes. here are my own representation of myself as an asian-american womxn:
here is a link to my past artivist campaign: we will be respected (2015)
I, one of the overwhelmed, wandering college grads, and one of the extremely underpaid, marginalized educators in this society, am raising money to produce stickers & t-shirts with my signature "artivist" design. My main goal is to change mainstream culture, or at the very least to respond to it with a big, fat "Fuck You".
Here is my story.
My name is Eryn Kimura and I am a 5th generation San Franciscan and 5th generation Chinese-/Japanese-American, respectively. I am a narrator, creator, and educator/facilitator, and a proud polycultural product of the San Francisco public school system.
Growing up with white best friends that knew more Cantonese and Mandarin than me, I had no idea I was Asian until I left the Baytastic bubble to UC Santa Barbara, circa 2009. It was here in college that I experienced my first microagression - a social exchange in which a member of the dominant culture belittles or alienates one of a marginalized group. "You're really good at math, huh?"
The trend continued thereafter.
At UCSB, I found myself living on the lively 6600 block of Del Playa - the party street of the college town, alongside the breathtaking Pacific Ocean. The echoing sound of rolling red cups in the wind, the invasive presence of dirty dub step prying into your eardrums at 4 AM...this was where I lived. This is also where I came across a pretty white boy, who later texted me with "What are you up to, my oriental fantasy?" Mortified, I wanted to throw up in my mouth and peel off my skin, as if it was a spandex ninja suit, except a ninja suit that spelled: "Hi! I'm a demure, powerless, sexual object that will give you a massage for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! PLEASE call me a goofy, politically incorrect name that usually is paired with rugs or Panda Express dishes!" Oh hell no.
From then on, it was like my ancestors and the collective universe wanted me to feel such discomfort, extreme anger, and disgust at least once a week with such infuriating interactions.
"Do you give massages?"
"You blind, stupid, Asian slut...love, skinhead."
"...there's that Asian persuasion..."
"...you fuckin' chink."
"...I'm sorry, but I have been looking at your cleavage."
Obviously, I had to deal with the subsequent anger constructively. I ended up double majoring in Asian-American Studies and Psychology, with a minor in Black Studies. It was in my ethnic studies courses that I finally felt empowered to be a womxn of color, more specifically an Asian-American womxn. Through such academic rigor, I found myself armed with literary weapons forged by fellow brilliant and resilient creators and paradigm-shifters, such as bell hooks, Grace Lee Boggs, and Angela Davis. My personal wealth of witty sass hit an all time high.
Graduating from UCSB in 2013, I returned to the motherland: San Francisco. However, yet again my ancestors in the clouds decided to challenge me. One month into post-college life, I ended up filing a sexual harassment claim against a patriarchal 63-year old executive director of an environmental justice nonprofit I began interning for.
Salting the wound that had been open for more than a century, I was yet again, "orientalized". Based on my phenotypic similarity to the exotic, demure Japanese Madam Butterfly - an opera character still portrayed in yellow-face today (San Francisco Opera: Madame Butterfly) - I was objectified. Because I resembled the ladies in silk robes giving massages to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour series, I was hypersexualized. Like the courageous Asian womxn that sought a better life across the Pacific, only to be outlawed and assumed prostitutes by the unjust Page Law of 1875, I was stereotyped. All assumed, without consent.
Well, my great great grandparents did not toil through the extreme anti-Asian violence and the dehumanizing rhetoric of the mid-19th century or build the damn railroad for nothing. They did not struggle, sacrifice, or withstand hatred for their 5th generation offspring to continue to feel such feelings of anguish, shame, and powerlessness.
So I am pushing back.
By illustrating my truths, I am breaking the silence and making my struggle as an Asian-American womxn and the greater struggle of womxn of color VISIBLE & LOUD. Silence is invisibility, squandering true democracy; silence allows conformity to reign supreme - like the saying goes: "Only dead fish swim with the stream." By making the invisible, visible; bringing the marginalized to the center; we are actively resisting the status quo, we are actively swimming against the currents of complacency and conformity. We must go upstream.
I, an Asian-American womxn, wish to visually say "Fuck you!" to the exoticizing, stereotyping, confining, and objectifying - the mechanisms by which the systematic oppression of womxn of color operate.
Moreso than just a "Fuck You", I would also like to shed light on the multifaceted emotional experience of this specific form of systemic oppression . The fist as an homage to the legacy and impact of social justice movements, community organizing, and empowerment; the peace sign indicating the importance of expressing resistance against structural inequities and how this is in fact a form of holistic peace-making.
Contributing funds to this Indiegogo Campaign will mean actively engaging with and redefining the national culture we are all perpetuating on a daily basis. Donating to this cause will mean making the struggles of Asian-American womxn and the greater community of womxn of color VISIBLE and LOUD. Donating will indeed be an act of resistance to the oppressive system at hand. Contributing funds would actualize this American ideal of democracy; using cultural production as a means of establishing aesthetic and political representation (big ups to homegroh Lisa Lowe). Donating would mean rewriting mainstream culture, and reimagining the historical landscape of Asian-America. Donating would also give you a lovely new thread with my icon on the front (4" x 7"), vinyl stickers and oodles of love and gratitude!