Sunday, May 12, 2013

Masunaga - Week 6

In Lisa Long’s Contemporary Women’s Roles through Hmong, Vietnamese, and American Eyes, she examines the representations of women in Vietnam verses the US.  Long specifically looks at the representations of women in literature and writings. She emphasizes the importance of comparing such representations in texts by Vietnamese and Hmong American women to those of Southeast Asian contemporaries, as to not measure them against Western traditions of womanhood. I thought that was not only the most vital, but extremely relevant evaluation of such text because of the tendency that Americans have in relating the Vietnamese and Hmong experience from a third world country to a first world country.

The militaristic aspect in primarily Vietnamese, but also in Hmong, literature is interesting to think about in how on the surface it portrays a “woman warrior” and the strength, sacrifice and spirit that supposedly embody a woman. This along side the negation between the two notions of gender roles that Vietnamese American woman face is interesting to think about as well. When Long writes about Cao and the awareness she has with regard to how Western Feminist may perceive Vietnamese gender roles, she utilizes the “woman warrior” strategy to portray Vietnamese woman in the traditional way that texts have often reflected them, as equal yet independent from male protagonist.

The use of the traditional Vietnamese woman in comparison to the American idea of woman, more specifically the Western notion of Vietnamese woman as being oppressed and from a third world country, is interesting because it appears that the Cao is fighting two battles.  One against the mechanisms of the oppressive nature of the self sacrificing woman verses the judgment and condescending nature of Western feminist.

My question is how do Vietnamese American women today negotiate between their traditional gender roles and those of western society? Although aware of the condescending viewpoint western feminist have tended to take with regards to the Southeast Asian gender roles, the issue is far more complex. What theoretical perspective could best reveal the female gender role in Southeast Asia and the complexity associated with the "woman warrior"?

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