kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 candy mountain)
[personal profile] kaigou
Sidenote: I think I got a stress fracture in my foot last monday. Foot's definitely reacting like it. I've been getting these off/on (in either foot) since 4th grade, so I'm pretty blase about it. It was a little more complicated by the fact that on Tues/Wed, my team at work had a major offsite team-building/innovation thing that I absolutely could not miss -- followed by four days in Philly for the Association of Asian Studies (AAS) conference that I absolutely refused to miss. I tried to minimize the walking on Tues/Wed, with minimal success, but there was no minimizing any walking between airports, hotel, going from panel to panel, and then going out to find things to eat. Only got to go to Chinatown once. If I hadn't been limping so much by that point, probably would've spent a lot more time in Philly's more-than-a-block Chinatown.

On the plus side, coming back, I somehow lucked out and got on TSA's pre-boarding. No more shoe removal! Which was both good and bad. Bad, because I really really wanted to take the boots off (I wore hiking boots in the possibly-false hope that some compression would help) and good -- because if I had taken the boots off, there was a good chance I'd simply not put them back on. My hiking boots have the least flex in the sole, which in this case is a good thing.

But enough about me. Some random observations about AAS.

1. I didn't attend a single panel where there wasn't at least one woman. While I didn't exactly attend every single panel, browsing through the listings showed very few that were all-one-gender, let alone all-white and simultaneously all-male.

2. Especially for [personal profile] brainwane, because this might be an idea in our industry: in the rare panels that were all men presenting, the discussant (the person who provides a response-critique-commentary on the four panels) was a woman. We should adopt that concept into tech conferences, as a way to up diversity. (Let me know if you want me to expand on that for geekfeminism.)

3. I saw a total of maybe three black scholars (two of which were young enough to be grad students). Given that "asian studies" covers a massive land-area, from the far eastern stretches to the south and a bit of west, it was a startling absence. Unsurprisingly, east Asian scholars (China, Japan, Korea) dominated to the point of near-equivalent with white/Anglo scholars, but there was a fair contingent of South Asian scholars, too.

4. At least four times I saw a young woman (most often Asian, but saw Anglo, too) run to catch up with an older (usually 50s to 70s) woman, and then trot alongside her while thanking her profusely for some previous assistance or encouragement. Each time I distinctly heard the professor say something like, "and how did it turn out" or "how are you coming with that" or similar. I saw that happen only once, with men (and worth nothing that the older male response did not include follow-up questions as to progress, just acceptance of the thanks). It is very much of the awesome to see firsthand the old-girls-network mentorship going strong.

5. I ended up in a conversation about the horrors of teaching freshman, with a professor from Tel Aviv University and a professor from University of... I want to say Berlin. Apparently American students are universally maligned as the most over-protected, most-entitled, most-lazy of the lot. After hearing CP's stories about his students, I'm having trouble disagreeing, but I also think it's a relatively recent phenomenon. Sad to say, it's probably more due to my own generation's parenting style, than anything else. We're the ones helicoptering, after all.

6. The most surreal moment of the con: explaining to a Korean professor of Korean literature why he's missing out when he dismisses Korean dramas. He'd complained in passing that students join his class, then anywhere from a third to a half drop out within two weeks, once they realize he's not going to be talking about anything resembling the K-dramas they're hooked on. I get that professors don't often have time to keep up with pop culture (unless it's their area), but he was dismissing the entire thing as "well, that's stuff my wife watches". Way to gender it, dude.

It was a little strange to be an American woman mildly chastising him about missing a great opportunity to draw students in (with examples of Delightful Girl Chun-hyung and Arang and the Magistrate; at least he'd heard of My Girlfriend is a Gumiho). After he said certain plot-points made no sense to him (the emphasis on Cinderella-like storylines, lovers revealed as siblings and/or secret-parent plotlines, and of course Everyone Gets Leukemia), I found myself explaining to him how these all tied into mid- to late-20th century Korean history -- you would think, having grown up in Korea, he'd know this shit! He even admitted he'd never known (nor even thought to ask) why his parents insisted on a long string of medical exams for his wife, prior to permitting their marriage; he said his wife didn't mind, but he'd thought it was bothersome. Not until I explained the issue of families divided during the Korean War did he realize what his parents had been worried about. Dude!

Not sure I changed his mind, but he did seem curious enough to consider ways to incorporate that accessibility of K-dramas into an interest in Korean literature. Or at least to recognize that dramas aren't all shallow, useless pop culture; they're just more recent culture in a different medium and have just as much to say about where, how, and why the culture defines/sees itself.

Still. "Oh, my wife watches that stuff" -- hard not to roll my eyes at that.

7. And in the "water is wet" category of obviousness, I attended a great panel on Tang/Song/Yuan gender roles. Divorce in the Tang/Song, intersex people in the Song/Yuan dynasties, and the political issues revolving around multiple 'primary wives' in the Tang, and tracking auspicious burial dates in the Tang (with footnote of doing the same up through the Qing, for comparison). The one about intersex was both interesting and a little depressing in the sense of 'more of the same' -- men who suddenly 'became' women (ie, were men, but became pregnant, w/no interrogation of the method) inevitably suffered considerably worse fates than women who 'became' men (growing a beard, discovering/gaining changed genitalia). The trans* men (to use the modern term) were far more likely to end up canonized as saints, made immortal, or even given superpowers.

Sidenote: there's also a difference in reaction between the Song seeing intersex cases as victims of the country's imbalanced chi, and a small symptom alongside other, larger symptoms like drought, famine, earthquakes, versus the Yuan's demonization of the intersex cases as the cause of the country's imbalanced chi, and therefore also the cause of any other natural events like drought, etc. The Tang politicized, but did not demonize.

In the Q&A at the end, a young (Chinese, male) scholar stood up and proceeded to observe -- in a tone like OMG I JUST REALIZED -- that wow, MTF suffered horrible fates (exile/outcast, sometimes torture and brutal execution) while FTM were valorized. Hrmm, maybe, it sounds like women are such low-ranked people that MTF means the person has lost all value and/or should be punished for moving from high- to low-status, while any woman that can 'stop being a woman' is to be celebrated, and even that the only way a woman could be sainted/immortal/superhero is if she's, basically, not a woman!

To which the (Taiwanese, female) professor's response was pretty much: "yeah, that was kind of my entire point."

Next to me a professor from Kenyon muttered, "and the light dawns." I figure, sure, so he missed the presentation's point -- but he figured it out himself! Go him. Maybe this means it'll stick, and he'll start seeing this pattern elsewhere.

8. I got to hear the scariest, spine-chilling firsthand ghost story ever. OMFG. And here I thought dealing with the Doctor (back in the bookstore in Fredericksburg) had been unnerving. The Doctor had been pretty benevolent compared to the OMFGWHUT experience I got told.

9. I think I spent more on books than I did on the airplane fare. Conferences are truly dangerous things. No wonder they only hold it once a year.
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kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
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to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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