Cultural Center Overview
We started off at the Chinese Cultural Center and museum, where, as we expected we saw Chinese Canadian’s represented through a historical lens. Masculinist, militarily driven, and immigrant stereotypes were represented. Women were relegated to one small area—women who has successfully broken into areas predominantly occupied by males—a lawyer, one in the navy, etc. The museum displayed many Chinese Canadians who were merchants and often times women were referred to someone’s wife or daughter, nameless and not recognized. As suspected this experiences solidified the type of Asian representation talked about by Gary Okihiro.In an attempt to re-center women as Okihiro suggests we examined the cultural center with a feminist lens, looking for the women and their stories. Where were they when their husbands were brought to Europe to clean up after World Wars or to North America to build the railroad? The answers were not easy to find.
We asked one of the staff members what she thought of NAAF or if she identified with it and her response was somewhat surprising. She took us over to a wall of Asian judges and politicians and pointed out that three out of twelve were women. She also mentioned that she felt she was treated fairly in Canada a country that celebrated multiculturalism and preferred living here to living in the United States. This was interesting since we have discussed a fair amount in the course that multicultural policies can be a smoke screen for continued racism.
Women in The Chinese Cultural Centre Museum: Layers of Marginalization
A particularly interesting observation made during the group’s visit to the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver was that these sites of cultural activism, though mandated to offer an alternative to dominant discourses of Asian-Canadian history, nevertheless have their own dominant discourses that they assert. These discourses bring with them their own biases, assumptions and problems. In the case of the Cultural Centre, we noticed that the marginalization of women was particularly prevalent. Only two sections of the museum displayed information on the stories of female Asian-Canadians, and in one of these two cases, this display was relegated to an almost-invisible corner of the room located behind the door.
Follow-up Discussion #1
Following each of our site visits, the group engaged in a series of videotaped discussions in order to document our experiences and observations, as well as provide a forum for any insights gained. These discussions were intended to reflect our respective positionalities as group members with respect to North American Asian Feminism and draw on the diversity of our experiences to locate relevant data. After Center A we all sat down and wrote before we talked, so we could all focus on what we learned. We knew we would all have picked up on different things.