Last week, typical week at work. [I work in an agency which provides clinical services to Asian immigrant communities.] I have been poring over state and county materials pertaining to clinicians as mandated reporters of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse, in an effort to update our agency's internal policies and procedures. This is what I do; I research, recommend, write, and revise.
In the cubicles adjacent to me are the RN Manager and Prenatal Program Manager, and it's nice to have this circle of women with whom to dialogue. I asked them if professionally encountering incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault, and even reading material pertaining to domestic violence ever bums them out. They both nodded, even after many years of work in this field, and they expressed their empathy that all of last week, my current work project had me flooded in the state's and county's various agencies' literatures.
I don't ever directly interface with clients here at my day job, given my degree, scope of work, and lack of formal experience in non-English, Asian languages. My coworkers see in me a writer seriously bummed out by graphic, and/or clinically detailed language. How to detect sexual assault and/or domestic abuse in one's bodily appearance, specific and unexplained wounds and injuries, behavior and demeanor. What lines of questioning, what words and phrases to use, and to avoid using. How to encourage clients/patients to press charges, how (if even possible) to quell their anxieties as you explain to them the importance of forensic examinations, why you must file reports, contact authorities, law enforcement, other various agencies, oftentimes not in English, and oftentimes via language interpreters, and oftentimes to clients unclear on their immigration status.
All these things, in neat, concise bullet points.
In this agency, as my full time job, I get to find out concretely how rape and sexual abuse is related to lack of economic power, immigration status, English speaking and comprehension ability, in the context of marriage and other domestic situations. I see how clinicians and social workers themselves cope with the stress of this work.
It's become really difficult for me to tune out or turn my brain off or elsewhere, to be whimsical, to aspire to lightness, to affect innocence and naivete, to be otherwise socially palatable, non-threatening in my writing and in my public self-presentation.
Language then. And violence. And Asian women, immigrant women. And absence of power, not as an abstract but in these concretes: years of spousal rape leading to many unintended and terminated pregnancies (not to mention STD's), these same husbands forbidding their wives to use birth control, to have their own bank accounts and/or deposit or cash their own paychecks, to go to school and/or learn English, and to see their families and girlfriends, while at the same time, safety and death threatening ("If you leave, I will..."), and preventing these wives from holding on to their own immigration documents.
The statistics, in addition to the above, or when humanized as above, are demoralizing.
* * *
I understand how actually commonplace the above actually is/are in various Asian immigrant communities, and then I see how locally, some progressive and socially conscious white feminists speak to me as if I am a statistical Asian wife, English or educationally or economically disadvantaged, and this mixes me up with rage and indignation big time.
I don't know what to do about this local white feminist over-political-correctness coupled with this gendered ethnic stereotyping:
(Filipina wife = ?, and/or Filipina wife = _____).
Not sure about the why of this. They need someone to save? They need to be "better" than me? I can't be "better" than they are? Haven't figured this out yet.
* * *
I am thinking also of this wonderful writer who read at Writers With Drinks a few weeks (months?) ago, and whose writing genre is sex, not necessarily erotica, not pornography. Just sex. And as a woman writer, how to handle the subject matter, how the subject matter, the writing, and the woman writer are received and perceived. Sluts, nymphomaniacs, you know. In my community, they'd call you a puta. So that's something else I am thinking about.
Maybe all of the above are not related. Maybe they are, or maybe they should be.