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I am currently at New York City Asian American Student Conference (NYCAASC, aka "Nice Sak"), sitting in on a panel titled "Gender Expressions: Breaking the Binary" and taking poorly shot Photobooth pictures with my Macbook.

The description of the workshop:

Gender Expressions: Breaking the Binary

The popular idea that there are two distinct groupings of gender, with everyone falling neatly into one or the other, is simply nothing but a social construction. There is a broad middle ground that goes unaccounted, as every person is perceived to fall under one of two “checkboxes”. Not only does one’s speech and mannerisms influence this perception, but mere appearance is a sure instant telltale “sign” for classification: male or female. How does this affect APi/APi Americans? What are the tools that we need to strike down stereotypes? Why is this “clear-cut” mode of classification problematic for the APi community? Panelists ranging from various gender identities will lend perspectives in navigating the gender binary into more than just a spectrum and breaking down barriers set by society.

* Valerie Francisco (FiRE)
* Venancio Cabel (APiCHA)
* Calvin Sun (ECAASU)
* Shakthi Bhaskar (Columbia University)
* William Lee (betterasianman.com)

So far, there have been many awkward moments and hesitant conversation, but I think the speakers are getting into their groove. Though I was a bit turned off by William Lee's heteronormative introduction of himself. He describes his website as an Asian American Askmen.com, and says it teaches Asian American males how to get "tail" AKA women AKA OBJECTS. He focuses on what he means to be masculine and has introduced examples of masculinity, like "Denzel Washington". He says you can teach masculinity (which I am assuming involves sleeping with a lot of women and wearing a suit), as he was formerly an "effeminate heterosexual." Cracked out on insane energy drinks right now, I want to barf. His points reinforce the "gender binary" that we are trying to break down in this discussion. Fortunately, members of the audience and some panelists are keeping him in check. Granted, he admits his shortcomings and says he does not force his opinion upon anyone but rather "provides information." Still, I find this information a bit dangerous.

And gladly, we have a wonderful moderator, our own Blaaager and former NYCAASC Co-Directer, Marilla Li. I also have a soft spot for NYCAASC as I was a Columbia co-director with Marilla last year.

David, Katie, Sahil, sadness.

Oh shit, Valerie just knocked him down. I heard snaps from the audience.

Anyway, for more information about NYCAASC, visit the website here.


  1. Calvin/soho said...


  2. Marilla said...

    Moving away from the argument that betterasianman.com is hugely heteronormative (which it is), I also think that it was also completely unfair that his opinion seemed to be the only one that most of the audience spoke out against. Okay, so it's the most glaringly problematic organization, with its reductive opinion of masculinity and its near-comic glorification of sex (the activity, not the biological category), but a lot of the audience seemed to forget just how self-conscious and self-aware that William is of these criticisms. I think that a better stance, rather than asking him, "Don't you think this is heteronormative?" (He KNOWS) is to ask how he came to be this way in the first place, and why he thinks this is even a valid standpoint to take. Lastly, I still don't buy the argument that you're not fighting for anything, William.  

  3. David said...

    (I agree with mar's comment completely!) The only other panelist I would've wanted to question further would be Shakti.

    Also, betterasianman's actual site seems to be a lot more toned down than when he first came onto the internet - basically, it's no longer completely ridiculous and off the hook. I do think this is a testament to being checked constantly by those in the APA community who dare to question its existence. Hence, I think William Lee has had to transform what he defends to be more acceptable to people, erm, like us perhaps. The necessity of all the people who attacked him yesterday, I guess.  

  4. Calvin/soho said...

    Feel free to send Shakthi any questions via me or on here. I'll let her know you're interested in talking to her. She had a lot of opinions.  

  5. David said...

    Honestly I forgot. Lack of sleep + being myself = terrible memory of anything that day.  

  6. Marilla said...

    Also, Dennis Chin shoutout (inside joke).  

  7. Calvin/soho said...

    you really need to take a year off after you graduate.  


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