The legend of Auntie Po makes me directly think about this Japanese painting named “Girl power” that I saw in the National Museum of Asian Art, and I am surprised to find how many similarities they share.
This painting is created in 1856, around the same period as the story of Mei and Auntie Po, and it is demonstrating three female sumo wrestlers preparing for the match. The greatest similarity between this painting and the legend of Auntie Po is that they both try to show the power of women by letting them do something that men are supposed to do. Just like how logging is supposed to be male-dominated work and the legend of Paul Bunyan is a legend of a man, sumo wrestling is also considered a men’s sport in Japan. Moreover, in great contrast with the low social status of female in Japanese culture in history, sumo wrestler has high social status and is always respected by society as the symbol of power. By letting female be the myth of logging and doing men’s sport, both of these two works rebels against the traditional label of being weak women and shows that women can also be powerful.
Another similarity is that they all have an Asian background. Although discrimination against women is everywhere around the world, it is more severe in Asian culture, in which women are always supposed to be passive, be the ones waiting to be saved, and sacrifice themselves for men’s success. However, in these two works, we see that Asian women, dressing in traditional clothes, can be the hero! We can see Auntie Po saving people from the river, and the three strong girls ready to fight, and these are all opposite to what they are supposed to do in their culture. Indeed, they even surpass most men, as Auntie Po is the one who can log the greatest number of trees, and sumo wrestlers are considered to be the strongest group of people in Japan.
The last similarity they share is that although they are trying to show that females can be strong and powerful, they both show it through the male’s frame. They do it by drawing females with muscular bodies. Especially in this Japanese painting, all these girls are giants. In other words, they show women are powerful by making them like men, which might imply that only the figure of men is powerful.
Louis’s contradictory attitude about sex reflects the dilemma of sex or AIDS that facing by the queer community at that time.
In Act 1 Scene 4, after Louis visited Prior in the hospital, he went to the park and hooked up with another man. In the beginning, the man didn’t want to use the “rubber”, but Louis consisted that he wouldn’t have sex without the “rubber”. At this point, as a gay man who just saw his boyfriend suffering a lot from AIDS, Louis was really terrified by AIDS and can give up anything, either boyfriend or sex, to get rid of AIDS. However, when the condom broke, it was Louis who wanted to keep going without the rubber but the man who chose to leave. So, what made Louis change in such a short time? When they have sex, Louis was not a gay man who has a sick boyfriend anymore, he was just a man who wants to be happy at this moment. His fear of AIDS went away just like the shame of having sex in a public place. Louis’s words “Infect me. I don’t care. I don’t care” are also the voice of a group of other gay men like him at that time. For them, life just becomes another thing, like family, like social status, that they need to sacrifice to be themselves.
Having sex and taking the risk of AID or yielding to AIDS and saying no to sex is a hard choice to make for not only Louis and this man but the whole queer community at that time. The author, by letting the rubber brock, shows how even the thought of AIDS can make gay people change their behavior and how greatly AIDS affects queer people. Louis and that man’s vacillation also reflects other queer people’s vacillation. Rather than being clear about what they exactly want to do toward AIDS, there is also a group of people that are still being shocked by AIDS, can’t get used to it, and don’t know what to do.
“Before I left, I was a rural, mixed-class, queer child in a straight, rural, working-class town. Afterward, I was an urban-transplanted, mixed-class, dyke activist in an urban, mostly middle-class, queer community. Occasionally I simply feel as if I’ve traded one displacement for another and lost home to boot.” – (Eli Clare, p46)
The word “traded” here is really revealing. What is the author wants to trade for? He wanted to use family and home to trade for acceptance and a feeling of not being “queer”. However, the list of adjectives that are full of contradictions shows that he failed. “Mixed-class” vs. “working-class” vs. “middle-class”. “Rural” vs. “urban”. This long list of words is like “tags” on him that show how alien he is to the environment he lives in, either before or after, nothing changed. More heartfelt is the word “lost”: he doesn’t get what he wants, but lost something that is really important to him.
Moreover, the word “traded” also reminds us of the cruel fact that for queer people, acceptance is something we need to “trade” for. We can’t be easily accepted by just being ourselves. We must give up something, for most of the time the family, to get what other people are born with. This reminds me of the “Christmas effect” which is also caused by the conflict between family and identity. Without family, we lost the place to “boot”, and most people, like the author, failed to find another place to be home and thus being haunted by loneliness and isolation all the time.
Where (say it)
Are we going? — Jasper, 1998
The repetitions of three “Where” here are definitely noticeable. Even without putting them in the context, they by themselves express a strong feeling of uncertainty and anxiety from one who keeps going but doesn’t know the destination. The question “Where are we going” itself implies passivity: the one who lead the way couldn’t ask this question. It must be someone that passively follows the group that asks this kind of question. The words in the parentheses are also revealing. “(say it)” here gives me a feeling that the author maybe once fails to speak out this question in the real life, and it is a question that is hard to ask. Accordingly, “(louder)” shows that even if someone is brave enough to speak out, their voices are still not loud enough to be heard. “(louder)” here, contradicting the word “quiet” that shows up repeatedly in previous lines, shows the author’s strong will that doesn’t want to keep silent and be represented.
When I consider these words in their context, they are the emotional apex of the section, even of the entire poem. In section 2. There are a lot of hints that “I” in the poem is on the road that “I” am not willing to go, that “I” am following others, with a “smile” on face but feel loss inside. Given Jones’s identity as an African American Gay, it reminds me of what Dennis said in the interview as an Asian American gay “there’s such a societal instinct to try to act white, to act straight, or to act gay”(15). As Gloria Anzaldua said in her letter to 3rd world women writers that “we cannot allow ourselves to be tokenized. We must make our own writing.” (168), the author also says in this poem that he doesn’t want to just follow the “white men” and he wants to speak out his own voice.