aapi, Art, asian american, comedy, Essay, Gender Studies, ideology, korea, Korean-American, Literature, philosophy

the INTJ-female Korean American rationale

The first Google search engine result when I look up “INTJ woman” is an article written by a fucking MAN.

Can you believe that shit? The system is against us. This is why we’re always yelling at you or rolling our eyes and just not bothering. We just can’t be bothered. We must ignore you.

The rest of the search engine results for “INTJ woman” were articles all written by white women. I don’t have anything against white women other than I don’t (can’t) always relate.

This essay is about INTJ-womanhood as me—a Korean American woman with the INTJ personality type.

The thing about these Myers-Briggs personality categories is that they just offer a surface-description of personalities and don’t offer any explanation as to why it is (nothing ever just is [unless you’re on psychedelics or meditating very deeply or something]).

I am the INTJ personality type. INTJ stands for Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking and Judgment. It’s also referred to as the “architect” personality type.

I took this test about 10 years ago and had the same result whenever I took the test again since (2 more times).

I can relate to this personality type a lot. For one, being INTJ-female is the rarest. INTJ women make up less than 1% of all women. I’m bad at math but it’s like 4 out of every 500 women are INTJs (according to those other sources written by white people).

here’s a descriptive list of INTJ females:

independent

confident/assertive

eye-on-the-ball/focused

appreciates alone time (isolation)

not a good team player

doesn’t respect or trust most authorities

no-nonsense

type-A

creative thinkers

appreciates authenticity

are good leaders by design but does not want to lead most of the time

extremely private

hates incompetence

hates time-wasters

hates inefficiency

loves (good) art

loves newness/innovation

appreciates professionalism

appreciates good skill/talent

A weird Google search engine result for “INTJ female” is the question, “Are INTJ females attractive?”

What a stupid fucking question. Why don’t you cut to the heart of what you really want to ask which is, “Are INTJ females bitches?”

That really depends but if you ask me, I’ll say that if an INTJ woman is being a bitch, she’s being a bitch because the situation 100% calls for that reaction/response, and she is nothing but RIGHT.

INTJ women are efficient as fuck. We hate wasting time and energy on anything not worth our damn. So if we take the time to engage, we do it because we feel it is worthy of our engagement, even if it means giving someone a talking to, yelling, or expressing assertion and/or correction. But most of the time, we really don’t want to be bothered with anyone’s shit.

Why are we so bent on being corrective? Well, have you seen the world? It needs constant correcting and changing. We can see the mistakes, errors, injustice, etc. We see them very vividly and clearly. They torment us.

So when we speak up, trust that we know what we are saying/doing. Thank us for offering some guidance.

Even if you don’t think we are right, you will never ever change our minds. We will always wonder, “Why aren’t they just thanking us for telling them that they walked out of the bathroom with their skirt tucked into their underwear?”

You think that INTJ women are “insensitive.”

We are. We have no time for sensitivity. You know why? Because we see the bigger picture. We’re focused on getting the job done and not so much on anybody’s fucking feelings.

Does that mean INTJ women don’t feel? Absolutely not. I feel everything all the time. That’s why I have to ignore certain people when I enter the room or disengage a lot of the times. As an INTJ woman, I have a hard time not being a deep empath. I feel everything very intensely so I developed boundaries as a skill. This took many years to hone. I did it for my survival and my own sanity.

We’re intuitive and quick to judge not because there’s anything wrong with you but because we are highly sensitive. The irony is that we may appear insensitive. But whenever you see anyone being insensitive, you can bet your money that that person is acutely sensitive. That is, in fact, how the world is, and how most people are.

INTJs are not good team players.

Yeah, this is true. I don’t like being part of assigned teams that I had no part in creating. Even when I create my own team, I still find one or two players I regret adding (and they become reminders of my mistake/error, and I despise them for it even more).

I don’t like working as a group or in teams. Why? Because of the same problem mentioned earlier. I see how everybody is doing something wrong. I can see a faster path or direction but the rest don’t. And I have trouble communicating that politely—in a way that would not hurt anyone’s fucking feelings. I’m gritting my teeth trying not to say, “Are you stupid?” So I either shut down completely (disengage) or I speak up and watch people cry.

Noticing when something goes wrong and being attentive to it makes INTJ women great problem solvers but it doesn’t mean we can always solve the problem. The fact is, harmonium is required in a team mission. Feelings should not be injured. Ideas should not be shot down. But INTJ women are impatient and we have a hard time dealing with the “normal” slow-paced “warm-up” to reaching those goals. We’ll be rolling our eyes the whole way through. Even though a part of us knows that this is the right way, we still won’t agree with it or trust it. If an INTJ woman is particularly silent during group work, just know that she is doing everything she can to PRESERVE harmonium by not speaking up and damaging morale. Just thank her for that. She’ll contribute when she feels ready/wants to.

INTJs are not good with authority.

Yes. Of course we’re bad with authority. We don’t trust anyone but ourselves. How could we trust a fucking stranger who was randomly assigned to be the leader in our lives? Does it mean that we NEVER trust authority? Not true. We all need good mentors/leaders/examples/teachers. INTJ women have GREAT role models and teachers at all times. In fact, see who INTJ women look up to. You’ll learn a LOT.

INTJ women befriend many strong and successful women. We gravitate towards them naturally because they’ve already EARNED our respect as fellow successful women. They are living the life WE aspire to. So they are our respected leaders/examples, and when they say “go” or “sit” we will militantly oblige. However, if anyone who is an authority figure LOSES our respect, there’s a good chance that they will never regain it back fully in this lifetime. (Perhaps we can begin again in another lifetime. But as for this, it’s over.) There are jobs I had where I saw my performance dipping real fast in direct correlation to how much respect I had for my supervisor. No matter how much I tried or how much they tried, once the respect was gone, there was no bringing it back. Scary for some people but completely logical for fellow INTJ women like me.

Bosses have been baffled at my behavior and comments. If they tell me to do something that I don’t understand, I never do them. If I do, I’ll fuck it up. If they say something that offends me, I straight up tell them that what they said was rude (because it is rude to be sexist, racist, classist, stupid, etc.)

It’s not that we stubbornly wish to be this way. It’s that we have major trust issues. This difficulty with authority comes from experience. We’re not just anti-authority a priori. We have lived experience with untrustworthy authority figures be they parents, teachers, any adult, any older person, church leaders, politicians, bosses, etc. Call us jaded. Call us stubborn. Call us pitiful. Call us enlightened.

The fact is, all leaders have some dirt, and it’s a good thing INTJ women are here sitting with our legs crossed in the corner with a cigarette, side-eyeing some rich fuck who thinks they’re hot shit just because they think they have the right to be. We can’t even bother to laugh. It’ll exert energy onto an undeserved place.

For INTJ women, we don’t respect anything that insists on being a GIVEN. We need to see the goods, the work, the proof. We need to see it and feel it. And even then, as long as you have authority, there’s a good chance we still won’t trust you because the very notion of hierarchy is absurd to us anyway.

We’re just like, “Why aren’t you under a tree somewhere smoking a joint and coloring in a sketch book? Instead, you’re sitting here talking way too much about shit that nobody cares about and calling yourself a leader. Just buy some big shoes and call yourself a clown instead. That’s all you’ll ever be: A CLOWN. And a shitty one, too.”

INTJs make good/bad leaders.

INTJs have the make-up to become good leaders but we hate leading because it means we’ll have attention. The INTROVERTED part of our personality and our agitation with authority make us detest being leaders. We won’t lead unless it is absolutely called for. I noticed this about myself very viscerally when people asked me to co-produce live comedy shows with them. I would think about it and make a long as list as to WHY it would benefit me in the long run to do such a thing because producing shows is a huge fucking pain in the ass. I hate doing it. I hate my co-producer while doing it. I hate everybody while doing it. It’s a nightmare. Everybody sucks.

I did it twice, and I never want to do it again. Co-producing live comedy shows as an INTJ woman is a fucking nightmare. If you’re an INTJ woman, I think you can relate.

We don’t like it when a million parts are moving and people keep asking me STUPID fucking questions. Whenever anyone asks me a question, I almost always ask myself first if that question is stupid. 65% of the time, yes, it’s a stupid fucking question (why are they asking it?!).

It annoys me when people make me repeat myself (inefficient; shows that they lack listening skills). It annoys me when people don’t know how to help themselves (incompetent; shows that they lack problem-solving skills).

In this regard, we’d make terrible leaders, and we know it fully.

Good leaders are attentive and respectful of all questions and contributions. We fully know that we don’t have the emotional bandwidth to handle that, so we will naturally back out.

We’ll only step up as leaders IF AND WHEN a situation absolutely calls for it. And that’s not to say that we’re not bossy anyhow. We are hella bossy, and not fucking sorry.

INTJ women are not sorry.

This is true and not true. I am sorry all the time for the way that I am, and this is why all the blog posts you read on INTJ women say that “INTJ females are the most misunderstood.”

We can’t help but be who we are and how we are. Greater self-awareness and mindfulness help a lot but can only go so far when we start to feel like our own space is being taken up by others.

We are radically independent (like hamsters!!!). We are fastidious and quick (we love efficiency!!!). We like PARTICULAR people. We LOVE them. We dislike or are not interested in most people.

We are misunderstood because of this. And people think we are unapologetically bitchy or mean. Not true. The damage that our personality types cause do bring us grief but we’ll never show it or tell you to your face. We will tell our closest allies or our therapists or ourselves when we’re on mushrooms, and do what we can to adjust to your needs.

But we won’t guarantee it. Because we really fucking love ourselves for who we are and how we are.

I love myself so much and I am grateful to my personality type for protecting me at all times. This personality is an armor. That’s why INTJ women are so misunderstood. That’s why your stupid fucking question, “Are INTJ women attractive?” is the wrong question.

To assume that INTJ women are unfeeling, disassociating, insensitive, or lack insight is a grave mistake. We are hypersensitive, always feeling, fully in-the-know of how we impact people, and that is why we compartmentalize the way we do, and we do it by ignoring or not responding or withholding or whatever demeaning words you want to replace the aforementioned with.

We’re the rarest because we’re special, and we’re required in all societies. Having one of us in your corner is a blessing, so count us in your prayers every night, little babies.

But leave us alone to do our thing at our own pace. That’s the greatest gift you can give us. We’ll notice you doing this and grow lonely and come to you on our own. Respect the dance of push-and-pull (밀당). But don’t over-do it. There’s nothing we dislike more than affected anything (words, behaviors, art, conversation, etc.). If it’s not authentic and not called for, we’ll just be like, “Why the fuck is this in here?”

INTJ women are creative.

Yes, and we have to be. Creativity doesn’t just apply to the arts although I am an artist. Creativity applies to any kind of critical thinking. Whenever I work in groups and I see people thinking just one way, I lose my shit because I’m like, “Hello? Why are you not looking out the fucking window? There’s a bigger world out there.”

We manage our creativity by spending time alone to recharge, meditate, self-reflect, grow, heal, and listen to our “muse.” We need that alone time to hear our own independent/authentic voice so that we don’t repeat what others say (inefficient!!!) or offer a no-good idea (incompetent!!!). We’re the hardest on ourselves. If an INTJ woman hurt your feelings today, check in on her. She probably demolished her own feelings that same afternoon. You got off easy, kid.

“The INTJ Korean woman is a fucking weirdo and she scares me.

Yeah? So what. No one asked you. Sit down. Go read a book in the corner or something.

Being Asian American, I often encounter confusion, chaos, and offense as a reaction to who/how/what I am. I don’t believe in uncalled for politeness. I abhor despise small talk. I don’t understand hierarchy. Living this life in the female body as a Korean, Korean American and Asian American is tough.

The world expects me to be subservient, unopinionated, quiet, “respectful,” caregiving, emotionally available to others and not myself according to information they got from the dumbest places ever–wanna hear it? OTHER SCREENS. Projections imagined/constructed by filmmakers, TV writers, internet bloggers, etc–people who are not ME and have no business creating and projecting some hull of what I am supposed to be on massive mediated screens that you absorb and wind up believing (ugh–when the fuck will you learn?)

These non-Korean-American-female-INTJs with influence think they know something. Now is your cue to laugh: LOL. They don’t know jack shit.

I am the opposite (or completely off-the-wall something else) of all of that which was imagined FOR you by those who are NOT me. And I wasn’t always like this. When it came to those I really loved and admired, I poured all of these very limited affective labors (awareness, sensitivity, respect, dedication) onto them, and they all let me down. Sometimes the JUDGMENT side can be weak when it is tarnished by admiration or love (this is why we often times don’t adore or love or respect). ‘Tis a lonely life for the INTJ woman.

And our judgment protects us because of the pattern we noticed in our lifetimes which developed the mantra, “There’s nobody you can rely on but yourself.” And we firmly believe this despite its limitations which we know about already so don’t fucking come at me.

So say all you want about what your expectations of me was, and how I am blowing your mind right now. That just sounds like YOUR business.

I got my own to take care of. Any reaction you have in response to me is all about you, and it has nothing to do with who/what/how I am. I just am and I have my own reasons for it unrelated to you. So sit down. Go in the corner and read a book or something.

That’s all I can think of for now. I’ll re-post if I think of more INTJ-female related stuff.

If you’re an INTJ Asian diaspora woman, please share your experiences. Thank you.

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aapi, asian american, cinema and media studies, comedy, Essay, ideology, korea, korean drama, Korean-American, TV

new journal article publication on Johnny Yune

I wrote this back in 2017, submitted it to the Society of Cinema and Media Studies TV SIG’s essay contest, won, and now it’s published in the New Review of Film and Television Studies.

Check out “Recovering the TV career of Korean American comedian Johnny Yune” here.

I also made a video about his life and career a few months ago and it has pretty much the same content.

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Art, cinema and media studies, Essay, Film, ideology, philosophy

Ideology, FGM and Sembene’s MOOLAADE (2004)

I read about female genital mutilation (FGM) in an anthropology class as a freshman in college, and what I recollect the most is that one of the main purposes of FGM is to make sex unpleasant for girls in order to prevent infidelity—essentially, perform a painful circumcision on women for an ideology that suits the dominant group—the patriarch. But notice how in Ousmane Sembene’s Moolaade (2004), polygamy for men is the norm at the village in Burkina Faso; women must remain faithful to one man and not enjoy sex, but men can have more than one wife and enjoy sex.

moolaade

While reading Althusser’s “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus,” I thought a lot about what causes harmful/oppressive traditions and practices to continue in spite of being inhumane. Althusser notes ideology’s “reproduction of production” and the agencies that allow this production to perpetuate. While watching Moolaade, I kept wondering why the male elders in the film persistently remained ignorant to the problems that were arising from the practice of FGM as a ritual for young girls in the village. As Althusser might put it, the male elders’ ideology does not “correspond with reality,” and as agents of reproducing the product of their ideology, they must uphold tradition (protect their ideology) and all of its rituals including FGM. For instance, when news spreads that the girls have run away from the “purification” ceremony, the men simply say that the girls must return to the ritual and have the performance done. When news spreads that two of the girls committed suicide at the well to avoid the circumcision, the men simply move on from the topic and avoid discussing it (meanwhile, the women of the village all gather in the night by the well to stand vigil). When Binetou dies from the performance, the men remain firm in their stance and express no remorse for the death of yet another young girl. While doing so, they cite Allah, and say that a man’s word trumps that of a woman’s, and so Colle must undo the Moolaade. Althusser’s diagnosis of a hurtful practice continuing in spite of its harms would simply be that this village is performing what any other Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) would perform, and that is protecting the actions and agents that produce the State’s ideology by putting it to practice, thus allowing this ideology to regenerate, perpetuate and reproduce.

Jacqueline Bobo writes in “The Color Purple: Black Women as Cultural Readers” that “traditions are made, not born.” Similarly, Althusser argues that ideology is a concept that is universally present in the minds of individuals and as a collective: “Ideology has no history.” If this is true, then it introduces the possibility that a new idea that gets upheld as an ideology can also permeate through groups and enter the collective consciousness to become the new ideology; as Bobo puts it, “When an articulation arises, old ideologies are disrupted and a cultural transformation is accomplished.” In Moolaade, this articulation begins with Colle first claiming a Moolaade for the girls who ran away, and protecting them. Then Colle is beaten in public before everyone in the village including the male elders. The transformation happens in the form of encouragement from the women standing by for Colle, telling her not to give up or fall down; this begins to materialize a new ideology by disrupting the old ideology; the tears shed by Amasatou while watching her mother get beaten is another disruption of the old ideology, where she would have done anything (buy new clothes, get her genitals cut) so that she could marry Ibrahima—a wealthy man of a respected family. This breakdown of the old spirit leading to an awakening for all of the village women is finalized in the film through the death of Binetou, one of the youngest of the group of girls who fled the ceremony.

When the women arrive at the center of the village—at the site of the phallic-looking mosque—where the women’s confiscated radios burn, the women confiscate the Exciseuses’ knives and throw them into the same fire; the women no longer need the radio to inform them of what is right and wrong; they hold that information internally, they have a voice to express what they believe in, and the willingness to put those beliefs into action. Furthermore, when the Exciseuses give up the knives, they become allies with the mothers—even for a moment; the mothers who suffered pain and loss stand together with the women who performed FGM and killed their daughters while upholding an old ideology: “An articulation results from a coming together of separate discourses under certain specific conditions and at specific times” (Bobo, 105).

Althusser says that an ideology “recruits.” Ideology functions through “interpellation” or “hailing.” It catches the attention of the subject through a Subject (mirror effect). In Moolaade, the Exciseuses finally recognize themselves in the mothers who suffered child loss and pain, and most especially in Colle—a martyr figure (like Christ, as Althusser might put it). The women in the village who previously stood with the Exciseuses later come to tell Colle that they “felt the blows” when Colle was being beaten before them, thus hailing them towards a new ideology. This cross recognition leads to what Bobo calls a “cultural transformation.” Bobo is not naïve, though. She says, “[Cultural transformation] is always in the process of becoming.” Ideology—new or old—can only exist when there are agents who keep it in function, and allow it to materialize.

In the second to last scene, when Amasatou tells Ibrahima that she is and always will remain a “Bilakoro,” her stance is as important as Ibrahima’s decision to accept her for what she is without trying to fit her into the outdated ideology—one that silenced and ignored the women’s cries against FGM; the union of these two will put the new ideology into motion through practice. Sembene’s maleness as a filmmaker is important for this film. The two men who express their support of the women’s ideology—Ibrahim and Colle’s husband—do so by physically walking away from the shade where the male elders sit; they each come to terms with leaving behind what ideologically defined their masculinity in order to find union and happiness with the women in their new ideology. This recognition from agents of the patriarch is also noteworthy. This alliance is also part of the articulation that Bobo describes, and part of the unity that must be “strengthened.”

(Originally published on UCLA’s FTVDM Bulletin.)

*There is a new film out entitled Sembene! (2015) which recently played at the AFI Film Festival. Check your local theaters to find play dates.

 

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eBook, Essay, ideology, Korean-American, Literature, Novel, Short Story

interview with The LA Review of Books

Colin Marshall of the LA Review of Books interviewed me for my book DELI IDEOLOGY which was released last Memorial Day. Find it HERE.

We discuss millennials, Al Pacino, the military duty in South Korea that men are subject to, Virginia Woolf, Korean literature in translation, jobs, careers, life, evolution, and a bunch of other ponderous questions we ask or don’t ask while drifting through life. It’s a good listen. Thanks for tuning in.

You can find my book HERE. Thanks for reading.

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Art, Essay, Literature

lena dunham sadako Saturday, October 11, 2014

“Women of color come of age and have the same experiences Dunham depicts in her shows, but we rarely see those stories because they don’t fit the popular imagination’s rendering of Other girlhood, which is generally nonexistent in popular culture. At least there have been a few shows for black women to recognize themselves–the aforementioned Girlfriends, Living Single, A Different World, The Cosby Show. What about other women of color? For Hispanic and Latina women, Indian women, Middle Eastern women, Asian women, their absence in popular culture is even more pronounced, their need for relief just as palpable and desperate.” —Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist 

 There is a certain feeling that most diaspora Asians (Asian-American, Asian-Canadian, Asian-English, etc.) are accustomed to. It’s the feeling that whenever a conversation involving something or someone Asian by non-Asians occurs, that conversation is indirectly directed at you or about you; you’ve inspired it just by being in the vicinity of it; it’s happening because the participants want to engage you somehow, kind of/sort of; the participants want to see some kind of reaction from you so that they can add an element to their day in the form of enlightening entertainment; the moment will be added to their barometer to use for future reference, and you are a kind of experimental social study; these are the reasons why they are talking about sushi versus sashimi right now while standing behind you in line to get into the theater.

This kind of thing happened to me at a work function once. The filmmaker our company invited for a screening and dinner happened to be Korean, so my boss said I had to join. (He does things like this very often. For instance, when I recently criticized DocuSign’s silly way of offering prepackaged “styles” of signature for the signatory to choose from, I said it was “so American,” and my boss shot back, “Don’t say that. For all you know, this was originated in Korea.” This man has a PhD in art and literature. He also refuses to use the word “foreign” when speaking of foreign cinema because he deems the word “xenophobic.” He prefers the word “international.” His company also docks half of my pay to pay for all kinds of taxes because I am an American, but he still says shit like this to me.) At this dinner, I was seated at a table full of older white men and women. Everyone was super lovely. We talked about Pink Floyd, MoMA, Russian cinema, Iraq, theater, etc., and then out of the blue, one white lady–after a few glasses of wine–said to me, “I just love Japanese aesthetics. They just seem so minimal and lovely to me.”

I was confused so I just nodded at her without saying anything until the realization firmed up inside of me. As I continued to nod, I looked at her straight in the eye. Soon, the woman reached for her wine to take another sip, and began to turn red.

Another instance: Not too long ago, two white colleagues and I were standing in the hallway, talking about dogs and how cute they were. All of the sudden, out of the blue, the male colleague said to the female colleague, “It’s so fascinating how some Chinese cultures eat dog.” He said this in front of me but without looking at me. His remark was aimed at me but addressed the other colleague–the white female one, who didn’t have anything to say in response except for, “Yeah. That is really interesting.”

When this remark was made, I immediately felt myself distancing from the conversation–like a lone planet coming off loose from the solar system and hurling itself elsewhere, out there–some place else. While just a moment ago I was just as avidly discussing dogs and breeds, and at one with the other two–in tune, circulating fine. I was now clammed up, and didn’t feel like saying anything, and my mind began to wander the same few paths it always traverses whenever something like this happens to me:

I immediately assume that the conversation is happening because I am there and because I look/am Asian; the person who brought it up did it to bait me into the conversation somehow, hoping that I might drop some knowledge on whatever it is that he is talking about, add some constructive input, some textured analysis to the shallow discussion on the culture of dog-eating, or he is doing it to see what kind of reaction I might have: would I snap at him and insist that this is a cultural stereotype and that it isn’t true? Does he expect me to agree and admit to having tasted dogs? What exactly does he expect from me?

I went to an all-white school from age 12 through 18. I know how to pronounce names like “Deirdre” and “Siobhan,” even though I don’t have the slightest interest in knowing how to do it. In high school, I openly spoke out against the Japanese internment camps during World War II when we were learning about it in US history class. All the other white students in class raised their hands and said that the US was right to put them away because they were a threat to this country. Then they turned to me and said, “Why do you even care so much? You’re not even Japanese. You’re Chinese.” (I’m Korean-American.)

It was the same year when the World Trade Center was bombed. I saw quite a few white kids walk around in black T-shirts with Osama bin Laden’s face on it with a big sniper’s target pointing to his forehead. I found it distasteful but I didn’t dare say anything because everyone at the time was an emotional explosive. The teachers didn’t say anything either–the same teachers who had a problem with seeing kids make out by their lockers, or when I cursed off racist shitheads who said racial slurs. The same teachers who didn’t correct the students when they openly said that the US was RIGHT to put Japanese-Americans–Americans–away at internment camps.

I can understand a fresh-off-the-boat Irishman when he speaks. But these kids I graduated with in 2005 never learned how to pronounce my Korean name. They never bothered. They tried, but mockingly. When the teacher took roll call aloud and butchered my name, my face burned the fuck up red, and the kids laughed hysterically. And if there were one or two other Asian kids in my class witnessing this, they would clam up and look down at their desks silently, thinking very hard to themselves: “Don’t look at me or come near me, you name-diseased Asian girl. I don’t know you. Life’s hard for me as it is. Leave me out of it.”

I legally changed my name in 2009 right before graduating college. It took THAT long to do it. (My father was naturalized as a US citizen just days before I turned 18, so I became, by default, an American citizen, too.) So from kindergarten through my senior year in college, my legal Korean name was on everything, and I always had to take preemptive measures to keep whoever was going to take roll call from calling me out by my Korean name and saying it all fucked up–correcting them with an easier one to pronounce–one that is biblical and chosen by my parents’ reverend when I was age 11. One that is on my US passport today but the other one still haunts me every now and again whenever people can’t find my records:

Me: “Try looking up __________.”

Person: “Ah-ha! Found it.”

The persistence of these kinds of situation happen consistently throughout my life and has made me more accustomed to tuning people out completely when I feel a slight jolt of discomfort from a sensitive scenario (like the defector planet scene), or feeling an arresting sense of paranoia: I get tunnel vision, my heart thumps loudly inside my ears, and my whole body clenches. These instances have made me develop a condescending bias when it comes to white people who try to have a conversation with me about Eastern anything or Asian anything, and I look down on them, as if they were below me–dumb, ignorant and clueless.

All of these things are a form of defense. I see my defenses rise up at a distant attack’s most inchoate stages. I can interpret something as simple as two people talking about Chinese food into some kind of warped plan against me: I’ll think that I’m involved in this conversation, and that those two people forced me to be involved just by having it where I can hear it. Maybe my looks inspired the conversation. Maybe they want to ask me something about what they’re discussing. Maybe they want a recommendation.

These thoughts are obviously crazy, but about 80% of the time, my crazy thoughts actually align with the reality you and I exist in, only that my experience is hell, and your experience is just, “Today’s simply a rainy Saturday in New York,” and you’ll look at me with eyes widened, head frozen in place thinking: ‘You are so crazy.’

I was at a work-related party around this time in October. We were promoting a project created by a Chinese artist. I said that I really liked the artist’s style to a colleague in the room, and a white woman (my boss’ wife actually) eagerly asked me from way across the room: “Wait, what? What? What did you say?” just so she could hear what this Asian girl had to say about that Asian man. To see if anything would illuminate what she perceives to be so foreign and mysterious…

Crazy thought–maybe. But I know what I feel. And that feeling is defensiveness and anger at her misguided curiosity. My feelings don’t lie to me. They come before words do. There’s nothing more honest than that.

I recently finished reading Lena Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl. It was an easy, entertaining read, and I liked how everything she discussed was quite ordinary. Nothing was really especially unique or particularly amazing. They were all ordinary events. What I admired was how she was able to give her ordinary events a platform and a prominent voice–a home-run bestseller. Good for Dunham. Not too many young women can accomplish something like this. My only take away from the reading experience is that Dunham was a very beloved girl. She had a strong foundation when it came to family, and she learned how to communicate well at an early age because of her social exposure and her childhood therapy sessions. Such privilege.

While reading, however, I experienced the same feelings I mention in the above. So I marked down every instance in the book when she mentions Asians, an Asian country, Asian food or places in the Middle East. Here they are along with my raw, immediate and deluded reactions to them at first-glance:

P. 30

“I try and look relaxed as pierced NYU kids and pink-haired Asian girls stream past me.”

1) Lena Dunham is afraid of Asian girls who dye their hair because the very act that they’ve turned their hair a color other than black means they are potentially volatile and aggressive. 2) Why did Dunham feel that it was necessary to mention the fact that the girls were Asian?

P. 34

“It was the twenty-page account of a young man very much like himself trying, and failing, to seduce an Asian girl who worked at J. Crew in Soho. Although the prose was unusual and funny, the story sat with me like a bad meal.”

1) Dunham is experiencing a bad feeling in her stomach because this Asian girl in her love-interest’s story is someone that the love-interest pines for, and Dunham herself is not Asian. This depresses Dunham. 2) Why did Dunham feel that it was necessary to mention the fact that the protagonist was pining an Asian girl? 3) Dunham wishes to be an Asian girl.

P. 44

“We went out to a twenty-four-hour Pakistani restaurant and, having been rejected, I was hungry for the first time in days.”

1) Dunham eats at Middle Eastern establishments when she loses an appetite. 2)’Exotic’ flavors bring back her desire to eat again.

P. 55

“Mike was the first person to go down on me, after a party to benefit Palestine, on my dorm room rug.”

As a college student, Dunham’s participation in activism was only to find boys who would give her oral sex.

P. 58

“When he turned around, it wasn’t Joey. It was Barry. Uh-oh played in my head like a loser’s sound effect on a Japanese talk show. Uh-oh uh-oh uh-oh.” 

1) Dunham has come across Japanese talk shows in the past, and probably watched it with a condescending or offensive fascination. 2) Dunham thinks participants of Japanese talk shows are inferior. 3) Dunham occasionally sounds out the way Japanese people speak in her head, or at least her writing voice.

P. 69

“As we sat, smiling and satisfied, an old Chinese woman passed and hocked a loogie on his shoe.”

1) How does Dunham know that the woman was Chinese? 2) Dunham felt it was necessary to mention that the miscreant was Chinese.

P. 75

“It was 1977, and they both lived downtown and ran with the same crowd of artists who wore Chinese slippers and played tennis ironically.”

Dunham finds Chinese slippers to be frivolous fashion choices. 

P. 91-98

*Dunham lists all the things she ate and logged at the time of her diet. A great deal of the food she consumed originate in Asia, including but not limited to Chinese broccoli, green tea, rice noodles, etc.*

Dunham believes Asian food items will help her to lose weight and look like the stereotypically thin Asian women who at past lover finds attractive.

P. 112

“I bought my wallet while high off my ass on legal prescription drugs in the Hamburg airport. It is decorated with clowns, cars, and dachshunds, and is uniformly beloved by children and Japanese women alike.”

1) Dunham equates Japanese women’s aesthetic sensibilities with that of children. 2) How does Dunham know that the Asian women who complimented her wallet were Japanese?

P. 139

“Three straight girls were experimenting with universal love in a corner at a party to benefit Palestinian rights and, when they offered me membership, I took it.”

Dunham’s Palestinian activism in college was primarily motivated by the desire to hook up with people.

P. 147

“‘Do you want a brother or sister?’ my mother asked me that night as we ate takeout Chinese off the coffee table.”

Dunham is well accustomed to the Chinese-American takeout cuisine. 

P. 153

“We were sitting at the dining room table eating pad thai, our parents out of town, as they often were now that we were old enough to fend for ourselves. Twenty-three and sponging mightily, I forked some noodles into my mouth as Grace described a terrible date with a ‘dorky’ boy from an uptown school.”

Dunham does not know how to use chopsticks when eating noodles. 

P. 157

“Did you know that there is a Colonial mansion in Brooklyn here a Japanese surgeon lives with his blind wife, or so I was told?”

1) Why is this something to write down in a book? 2) How is the person who told Dunham that the surgeon is Japanese sure that he is indeed Japanese? 3) Why is it important to mention the fact that he is Japanese?

P. 157

“Did you know that you can buy a tiny turtle with highly contagious salmonella in Chinatown that is so adorable you will want to risk it?”

Dunham believes Chinatown is the reason why its turtles have salmonella, but she doesn’t mind it because they are tiny and adorable.

P. 205

“In school, we are learning about Hiroshima, so I read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes and I know instantly that I have leukemia.”

1) Dunham is so self-absorbed that reading about Hiroshima doesn’t cause her to worry about the city that was bombed into oblivion by the US forces in 1945, nor the leukemia that is destroying Sadako’s young body. Instead, she worries about her self-diagnosed and fictitious leukemia. 2) The Hiroshima bombing does not mean anything to Dunham.

P. 228

” ‘Well,’ he said, ‘last week I was walking around late at night and I accidentally wandered into a gay bar and I met this Filipino guy and let him come to my house, and he fucked me in the ass and the condom broke and then he stole my wallet.”

1) Dunham felt it was worth mentioning the fact that the man she was beginning to dislike had had relations with an aggressive, irresponsible and criminal Filipino man. 2) How did the man Dunham had relations with know that the man who fucked him in the ass was in fact Filipino?

P. 229

“Is it a long line, like the Japanese girls lined up outside a newly opened Topshop?”

1) How does Dunham know that the girls are Japanese? 2) Dunham believes Japanese girls are vapid and eager women who are willing to stand in long lines outside of a Topshop that is yet to be opened.

P. 233

“Then I say something that would probably make the Buddha roll over in his grave: ‘I think I could be enlightened, but I’m not in the mood yet.’

1) Dunham has no respect for Buddha, although she borrows some of his practices such as meditation. 2) Dunham is not willing to become enlightened because it is too inconvenient for her. 3) Dunham prefers a mode of ignorance over enlightenment because ignorance is easier. 

I don’t know how long the paranoia will last. Not sure when the defenses will be lowered completely. Possibly never.

For dessert: Lena Dunham’s writeup about her trip to Japan.

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Art, Essay, Film, Photography

colorful Seoul

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My time in Seoul as a Fulbright scholar in 2009-2010 was a major period of healing for me. I had experienced so much trauma from family and friends back in New York that getting away from everyone to be alone and do creative things was extremely important. Meeting creative thinkers and great people in Seoul also helped me through the healing process. My revitalized spirit came through in the color schemes I was capturing through photography and painting.

I took these photos with a disposable Kodak film camera. Spring 2010.

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Art, Essay, Film, Photography

me & my grandmother in Korea’s countryside pt. II

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The cows in Hapcheon moo constantly. When I complained about their mooing, my grandmother promptly said that cows have a right to sing, too, and she is quite right.

That blue gate is very memorable to me. After I left Korea for the states, all I ever did was think about those blue gates. Whenever I got lost as a child in the village (impossible to get lost in bc it’s so tiny), I always knew my way back home bc of those gates.

My grandmother used to take me into the greenhouse when I was very little. To this day, the smell inside of a greenhouse makes me tearful and nostalgic. The greenhouse she took me to were filled with strawberries, cucumbers and tomatoes. Even the shape of a greenhouse’s hull (the plastic covering is removed in the one here) fills me with longing for that past.

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