Betrayal and Other Acts of Subversion: Feminism, Sexual Politics, Asian American Women's Literature

By Leslie Bow | Go to book overview

Two

To Enjoy Being a Girl

SEXUALITY AND PARTIAL CITIZENSHIP

TA: What is your ambition? What do you want to be?

LINDA: I want to be a success as a girl. Oh, it's nice to have outside accomplishments like singing, cooking or first aid. But the main thing is for a woman to be successful in her gender.

( … sings contemplatively)

When I have a brand new hair-do, With my eyelashes all in curl, I float as the clouds on air do— I enjoy being a girl!

(Rodgers and Hammerstein, Flower Drum Song)

[T]he attention I first gained as a majorette went hand in hand with a warm reception from the Boy Scouts and their fathers, and from that point on I knew intuitively that one resource I had to overcome the war-distorted limitations of my race would be my femininity.

(Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, Farewell to Manzanar)

THE IMAGE that accompanies these lyrics in Flower Drum Song is nothing if not camp. In portraying the Americanized Linda Low as the quintessential “female female,” the film represents self-conscious Asian femininity in the form of multiple images of Nancy Kwan striking poses before the mirror in a towel that seems to defy the natural laws of physics. The song attests to the pleasures of femininity: to coquetry, to gossip, and to dressup, all of which assume the air of heightened artificiality at the same time that they confirm the essential frivolousness that lies the heart of female nature. The image both relies on and reproduces a common belief: that Asian women embody the hyperfeminine.

-37-

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