The handmaidens’ plight: an investigation of survivor ideologies of marginalized Asian women

Thumbnail Image
Issue Date
Kwa, Gladys Siok-Hian
Zoller, Peter T.

Many subjugated Asian women have been overwhelmed and expunged by their traumatic ordeals, and yet many have emerged triumphant despite inconceivable odds to proclaim their tragic narratives, even as they undergo great trials and suffering. Such desperate struggles beg the question: “What sustainable ideologies embraced by these women helped them to transcend the intensity of their perpetrators’ harshest and at times inhumane treatment?” This study investigates the nature of women oppression, at the intersections of racism and sexism represented by three respective Asian protagonists, and their corresponding narratives: Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s concubine, in This Earth of Mankind, Nora Okja Keller’s sex slave in Comfort Woman, and Maxine Hong Kingston’s depreciated daughter in The Woman Warrior. The investigation is two-fold: understanding the nature of oppressive systems and documenting these women’s evolving “survivor ideologies.” While the socio-historical methodology is employed to understand the machinations of repressive systems, the psychoanalytical approach is adopted to explore the psychology of patriarchy and trauma. Finally, the autobiographical process is used to understand evolving cultural hybridity. The investigation reveals resilient “survivor ideologies” of the concubine’s transforming accomplishments, the “comfort woman’s” affirming intersubjectivity, and the “woman warrior’s” defining selfhood. The study also implicates societies’ collusion with hegemonic powers and/or monolithic ideologies, and societies’ perpetuation of oppressive tyrannies. Although oppressive systems such as patriarchy are anachronistic in 21st century modern societies, yet vestiges of traditional repressions are metastasizing into such modern day cousins as pornography, illiteracy, and abject poverty that continue to perpetuate a woman’s subjugation.

Table of Content
Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of English