27 February 2009
We just received this email, and it's really thought provoking and certainly something that we didn't consider when first forming the Ninjas. Let us know you think about it.
To Whom It May Concern:
I am Erin ____ and am a third generation Asian-American woman. I admire your cause at least in part but I find it appalling and degrading that your organization so casually appropriates the symbols of another culture with not so much as a mentioning of the source of it. The ninja while popular in Japanese culture and prevalent due to internet memes/movies/etc in the West, it is still a part of the culture from which it originated. However, the implications of that term are present.
The term ninja really only invokes negative things, personally: first, the high-kicking, screaming Asian-as-marital-artist-and-
nothing else feeling. It's a symbol of exoticization in the West at least, and an alienating one; it's Japanoserie writ large and made apparently netural by ubiquity. 'Man, look at those Asians over there, I bet they're ninjas! Let's ask them if they can teach us martial arts, etc.' To tote the term around without recognizing its implications and cultural baggage hurts me, as a woman, and as an Asian-American. If I were to tell people I was a 'feminist ninja,' the racial implications to the passerby would be quite different if I were white, no?
Furthermore, if you called yourselves the Feminist Apaches, the Feminist Mau Mau, or the Feminist Fighting Irish it'd probably raise eyebrows since it appropriates racial identity at least in part and reinforces the old notion of Asian-As-Foreign (at least implicitly). Furthermore, for those of us who remember the atrocities of World War II committed by the Japanese, they may be loath to so adopt such an uncompromisingly Japanese term for a cold-blooded, sneaky assassin to refer to themselves. If you had called yourself the Feminist Irgun, wouldn't that alienate and offend your Palestinian or otherwise Middle Eastern members while insulting your Israeli ones by appropriating part of their identity and/or history?
Why can't we just be feminists? Again, your efforts are great and strong but I feel that a reconsideration of the implications of your group name is important.