Women and Gender Seminar: Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, Ohio State University

Women and Gender Seminar
Friday, March 14, 2008

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

“Women’s Internationalism and Orientalism: The Indochinese Women’s Conferences of 1971”
Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, Ohio State University
In April of 1971, hundreds of female activists throughout North America gathered in Vancouver and Toronto, Canada to attend the Indochinese Women’s Conferences (IWC). The conference offers an opportunity to analyze the opportunities for and obstacles against the formation of multi-racial and transnational alliances, i.e. “global sisterhood.” The paper will focus in particular around the conflicts that emerged during the conferences concerning race, sexuality, and nationality. North American women of varying racial backgrounds exhibited what I characterize as a radical orientalist sensibility. Through travel, correspondence, and meetings, they learned to regard Asian female liberation fighters, especially from Viet Nam, as exemplars of revolutionary womanhood. These idealized projections countered classical orientalist depictions of exotic, sexualized, and victimized Asian women. Nevertheless, these radical portrayals tended to serve an orientalist purpose by representing a contrasting image to western women’s critiques of gender roles in North American societies. The dichotomy between the oppression that they identified in the West and the revolutionary hope that they perceived in the East helped North American women to redefine their own identities and political goals.