Japanese American Women: Self-Determinism through Community Preservation.


Tim Anderson

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American discourse has feminized Japan since Commodore Perry?s 1853 invasion of Tokyo Bay. From the dawn of U.S.-Japanese relations, Japan has been designated as a site receptive to the ?masculine? West, open to political, psychological, and sexual penetration; this is doubly problematic for the Japanese woman, who is ?hyperfeminized? and seen as an exotic sexual Other. Japanese American (JA) women live face-to-face with this stereotype and the hegemon that has created it, and thus must deal with this unique sexual oppression in their daily lives. For JA women, self-empowerment must address both race and gender as two interconnected forms of identity. The Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) in downtown Los Angeles and other organizations like it are one avenue for JA women to assert themselves against the image of ?model minority? passivity. In addition to empowering women through women?s health outreach programs and domestic violence services, the LTSC has fought for the protection of historic JA neighborhoods at the state level, helping to end a long pattern of removal and municipal encroachment. The LTSC is staffed by a large majority of women, and their efforts to address both gender and racial issues give them a great deal of self-fulfillment. My project includes a detailed delineation of discursive and practical problems that JA women face, in addition to insights on how women are solving these problems given by female employees at the LTSC. My essay concludes with a discussion of whether or not their actions can be considered a form of feminism.


Morgan Pitelka




Ford Foundation Research Fellowship

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