So I had the lovely pleasure of being part of the Diversity 15 at SXSW this year which was a series of 15 minute presentations on the ways that marginalized communities interact with the web. I was asked to talk about the ways that Asian communities interact with online spaces and ended up talking about the contradictory ways that Asian women are objectified online and also how Asian women use web technology for personal liberation through personal expression as well. Obviously the subject of “Asians and the Internet” is so expansive, you can’t even begin to discuss it in 15 minutes, but I thought I would stick with what I know. The ways women interact with and are sometimes objectified by online spaces. This is a clip of my 15 minute presentation. Also here is Baratunde’s presentation about “How to be Black” and Cinnamon Cooper’s presentation titled, “You Win When They Call You A Bitch.”
Redefining Asians and the Internet: I Am Not Your Fetish.
Partial transcript after the jump.
When Glenda first asked me to do the presentation, i was like, “let me google Asian women and the internet..” Whoops. So interesting, didn’t even occur to me, maybe I will get some cool studies, but just page and pages of Asian dating online, Asian porn, the biggest things was Asian mail order brides. There was an overabundance resources to date, own and sexualize Asian women online. And then comparatively I did a google search for Women online..first it was statistics and then it got to dating. We are all objectified, just to different degrees.
So I really started to think about the different ways that Asian communities interact online from my dad putting up a profile and Shaddi.com to get me married, to Sepia Mutiny, to the chinese sex bloggers and to RAWA and I started thinking about all these really different and interesting ways different Asian communities interact with internet technology.
As someone that works and writes and talks about gender. I noticed this tension for women online as either a moment of exploitation for Asian women online or it was a liberatory potential to use these tools to explore and disseminate a new and unique identity, something they felt they had full control over.
One example that I felt captured this moment where online technology was surpassing cultural norms, a couple of years ago there was this big story about a young girl who’s boyfriend had videotaped her giving him a blow job and he spread it virally on the internet. Read more about it here.
There was a claim that she was coerced into the act and and this moment shows that access to technology has surpassed cultural norms around sexuality. Who’s to say she was or was not coerced, but if she was not coerced then there is really no narrative to capture her sexuality.
Another one, the last time I was in India all the cyber cafe’s had private booths and people could come in and relieve themselves. I mean it was really sleezy, I kept thinking, I am not going to use these internet cafes. So people’s husbands, sons, etc were going to use these internet cafes and folks didn’t really know for what not knowing there is this whole underground network of pornography.
so technology has this potential to create this imagined or even your realized self to explore your sexuality or there is this objectification because the culture and country you are living in is not ready to deal with your self expression.
What is teh value of these spaces? How do we look at the ways Asian communities interact online, how do we change representation in these spaces?
One place to look is culturally specific social networking technologies to see the different conversations Asian communities are having online. Another example is all the super radical blogging happening in the US context there are really vocal Asian bloggers and they are highly vocal and radical and potentially show this moment of comfort expressing yourself online, in ways that you may not be able to in your family.