BY JANEL GEORGE
The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) voiced its thoughts on the upcoming film, based on Arthur Golden’s 1999 novel, “Memoirs of a Geisha.” “As a feminist social justice organization we are disappointed that the few American media representations of Asian women portray them as exotic, seductive, docile, and one-dimensional” said Kiran Ahuja, executive director of NAPAWF. “Memoirs,” at times, invokes some of these over-used stereotypes of Asian women and, in factually misguided fashion, presents three Chinese actresses as Japanese geishas. However, the movie does clarify the fact that geishas are not prostitutes and is devoid of gratuitous nudity, which is perhaps a step towards making a space for more complex representations of Asian women. But, the superficial glimpse that the movie gives into the life of a geisha is not enough to deflect the American fascination with Asian female sexuality.
“The international marriage broker industry is an example of how the American fascination with the idea of a docile, servient, and sexual Asian woman can have destructive consequences,” said Ahuja. In fact, foreign-born Asian women coming to the United States to marry American men experience some of the highest rates of domestic violence fatalities in the country. In response to several highly publicized murders of “mail order” brides, the Senate introduced the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA), designed to provide foreign women with background information on their potential spouses and information on domestic violence. Provisions of the Act were passed last week as part of the Violence Against Women Act 2005. “Media objectification of Asian women is not only harmful to APA women, it is even more harmful to the Americans who believe wholeheartedly in the accuracy of Hollywood depictions of Asian women,” said Ahuja.
“‘Memoirs’ is, after all, a movie about geishas and we do not wish to deny or diminish the experiences of these women. However, there are aspects to the Asian female identity that Hollywood and mainstream America choose to ignore or leave out of their depictions of Asian women,” added Ahuja. “Our hope is that a wider range of representations of Asian women will be given a chance to reach American audiences.”
NAPAWF’s mission is to forge a progressive movement for social and economic justice and the political empowerment of APA women and girls. We are committed to this mission, and advocate for positive policy and representations of APA women and girls. We call for media depictions of Asian women that are as complex, diverse, intelligent, thoughtful, complicated and multi-dimensional as the APA women who make up our communities.
The Seattle Chapter of NAPAWF is dedicated to forging a grassroots progressive movement for social and economic justice and the political empowerment of Asian and Pacific Islander women and girls. NAPAWF unites our diverse communities through organizing, education, and advocacy. Please check our Seattle Chapter website at www.napawf.org for more information. If you would like to get involved in NAPAWF, send us an email, [email protected] or sign up for our list serve [email protected] to receive up to date information about meetings, events, and postings. Our mailing address is NAPAWF Seattle Chapter P.O. Box 14115, Seattle, WA 98104.