This is an overview and analysis of Yen Le Epiritu’s Asian American Women and Men (Labor, Laws, and Love).
An accurate understanding of inequality is a prerequisite for effective social change.
As an Asian American, and more specifically, as a Filipino immigrant, it’s important for me to understand the dynamics of my history and the social conditions that mold my current situation in the United States. From a sociological standpoint, studying the history of inequality can lead to a clearer understanding of what must be done in order to progress forward.
Know History, Know Self
In mainstream education, the history of Filipinos and Asian Americans in the US have been glossed over and degraded into a pitiful representation of the facts. Media also propagates an image of the Model Minority that stereotypes and objectifies Asians in order to effectively assimilate them into a system that does not necessarily benefit ethnic minorities.
This book is a discourse on the histories and cultural conditions that mold the contemporary Asian American.
Progress can only be made once the intersections between sexism, racism, and classism, are clearly understood. These forms of subjugation not only parallel, but they also intersect and confirm each other.
- Asians were brought into the United States and viewed strictly as laborers in the 1800s to the early 1900s; railroad construction and farm labor.
- Specific immigration laws limited the number of Asian women allowed to enter the United States. This led to a bachelor community of mainly male laborers.
- Propaganda and media depicted Asian males as hyper-sexual and malicious; along with anti-miscegenation laws which frowned upon the union of white females and colored men.
- World War 2 shifted power roles within the traditional Asian American family structure, giving wives more independence and children more economic power.
- Asian men have been constructed as hyper-masculine in the image of the “Yellow Peril,” but also effeminate in the image of the “model minority.”
- Asian women have been depicted as superfeminine in the image of the “China Doll,” but also as castrating in the image of the “Dragon Lady.”
- Both the feminization and masculinization of Asian men and women exist to define and confirm the white man’s virility.
- This can lead to decisive material outcomes – Asian American women are intermarrying at a much higher rate than Asian American men, usually with white partners.
Though Asian Americans and people of color have been marginalized in the United States because of ideological distortion, they continue to resist oppression through the creation of media and works of art that expresses their own voices and stories.
The psychosocial form of control conditions the subject minority to become the stereotype. To live it, talk it, embrace it, measure group and individual worth in its terms, and believe it.
Once aware of the inequalities and powers at play, it then becomes the responsibility of those marginalized to take the initiative and break those stereotypes. They must tell their own stories with their own voices.