Gender and race connected
My father is from the States, he's of Portuguese and Irish descent. That's where I get my last name, it's Moran (or MOOR-an is the Irish pronunciation) and they live in Rhode Island. He's from Rhode Island and a very big Catholic family. And then on my mom's side she's from Japan, her family's from Osaka, Japan specifically. And I think just the fact that my parents are in that intercultural relationship has given me the privilege to see family in two different ways, one that is more Western and one that is more Eastern, specifically like in East Asia.
And Japan, I think, as an island, and just the fact that it's full of predominantly only Japanese people, makes me feel more like I belong – also, because considering I grew up there, like I belong there, I'm not a minority with my race, in terms of that, obviously. Considering that I'm biracial doesn't always mean that everyone is fully viewing me as a solely a Japanese person. Also considering that my education was I went to international schools can also kind of then cause grounds for discrimination. But overall, I don't feel particularly vulnerable, in terms of my race in Japan. But in the States, I think I feel it a lot more. And I also think it's very different, though, than let's say if you were Latino or Latina, or if you're Black, because not that there isn’t historical legacy in the discrimination of Asian people facing hardship in the States, but there's just so much more with like, let's say, Black and brown bodies. And so I think Asians also have been able to, like, put themselves in a position where under the model minority myth and stuff, try and escape some of that like… they're trying to… proximity, my proximity to whiteness, in terms of my colored skin, is lighter. Obviously, I'm East Asian so that's where I can make the argument. Obviously, if you're South Asian, or Southeast Asia, that might not be the case.
So when I say Asian I mean East Asian. So I definitely think in terms of colorism, like I don't experience discrimination as heavily as somebody who is of darker skin color, but at the same time, because I'm specifically Asian, and a woman, East Asian and a woman, I experience and I've noticed I've experienced vulnerability because of that, and this hyper-sexualization, and feminization of female East Asian bodies, if that makes sense.
I’ve received so much unwanted attention or comments from men regarding, I’m an East Asian woman, and what that means to them in terms of their arousal. For example, like, can you speak to me in an accent? Or like, can you – and in a context where it's supposed to be romantic, or even sexual. And it feels so jarring because I recognize that the way people view East Asian women specifically is very submissive, and it makes me feel concerned for my safety and the violence that could occur to me because of this need, I think, this masculine need or need for people in general to feel powerful. Maybe because they don't or because they're told that they're not a whole person or a whole man or whatever it is, without feeling those things. I just never realized like I was the target of that until I came here.
Mia Moran is a junior studying Political Science and Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. Moran was raised in Tokyo, Japan.