The Woman Warrior: Reading Response

Woman Warrior The Woman Warrior presents some troubling issues with images of women, Chinese, and Chinese-American culture. Instead of presenting a narrative that attempts to queer the expectations of these cultures, I would agree with the articles in that Kingston seems to continue to follow stereotypes. For example, the idea that a woman became a successful warrior by dressing as a man is not a new concept. We have seen the same patterns in women authors and sports figures as well. What is troubling is that not only must the woman dress as a man to be a warrior, she must then come home unmasked and then fulfill the traditionally female role as if her time in battle never happened. She does not fit within the constructs of the “traditional” Chinese woman, but she also doesn’t use this difference to promote significant change. Furthermore, this character is at odds with the “no-name woman,” a character who is also outside the confines of traditional womanhood. Again, this woman is not threatening to the system because she presents no challenge to the patriarchy. However, unlike the woman warrior, she is condemned for her difference. As Yuan Shu states, “In pairing these two stories of women in terms of success and failure, Kingston sets up a problematic pattern in her work which never quite questions the implication of patriarchal discourses or discusses sexism and racism as both interesting and equally oppressive of Chinese-American women in the American context” (213). Speaking as a white American, I agree with this conclusion, the fate of these two characters did not necessarily surprise me with what I think I know about Chinese culture. In other words, I was expecting to read a new truth about these women but ended up being disappointed in them as I was with Sonja in The Round House.
An interesting point of Kingston’s writing is the origins of her “no-name woman.” While reading Warrior I was initially reminded of Hester Prynne because of the exile she felt for being in opposition with the expectations of women. In this way, Kingston manages to temporarily prove that some issues transcend specific races and apply to all women at one time or another. She may be contributing to a stereotype about Chinese Women in that these women are expected to be quiet, chaste, and private but she is also calling attention to the similarities of these expectations to those of the Puritan era. I don’t know if this creates more problems for Chinese-American women or less because of the gap in time. It could be said that Kingston is making a statement about the progression of both civilizations. Which culture is more civilized? Who determines this? How much behavior is truly cultural and what has been perpetuated based on the work of those in the dominant culture (white males)? These questions relate to The Round House, or any other literature concerning traditionally marginalized cultures.

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