"Shi Tou and Mingming Karaoke." Art China.
Accessed March 20, 2017. http://art.china.cn/huodong/2008-03/22/content_2135512.htm.
As my readings continue to trend more towards the sociological end of things, I will attempt to draw more historiographic (and, in future, historical) parallels to certain points of interest. For example, in Conditional Spaces: Hong Kong Lesbian Desires and Everyday Life, Denise Tang references several sociological studies in order to establish that "spaces are gendered according to hierarchies of class, gender and sexuality" (26). This observation easily extends to historical studies of homoerotic sensibility in late imperial China, wherein sexual hegemonies were based in class dynamics and gendered roles.
Tang opens Chapter 4 with a critical investigation of "what counts as tongzhi politics" amid the "dual process of g/localization and regionalization of sexual rights" in Hong Kong (89). My past readings have defined tongzhi in terms of abstract intention – such that the identity was constructed with the intent to encompass all sexual minorities. However, Tang argues that, in fact, tongzhi has become almost solely associated with gay middle class conformity. She highlights the role of the media in popularizing the term and relegating bisexuals and trans people to the sidelines of political discourse. (She makes no mention of sadomasochists.)
Likewise, in “Beyond Identity Politics: The Making of an Oral History of Hong Kong Women Who Love Women," Day Wong integrates a similar poststructuralist view of identity into her discussion of oral history as a historical method. Wong is self-conscious of alienating "women who love women," opting not to label the project "lesbian" in nature. Like Tang, she is wary of the push-and-pull effects of assimilationism, aiming instead to reduce normalization (and, thus, marginalization). Both ironically and constructively, Wong builds upon Euro/American paradigms of grass-roots LGBT historiogaphy (i.e., oral history project implementation). She connects issues of underrepresentation for Black, Chicana, Jewish, and Asian American lesbians amid dominant narratives of white middle-class lesbians to the experiences of Hong Kongese "women who love women" – rejecting "lesbian" for its Euro/Americentricism, classism, and generally narrow classification of same-sex desires.
As I have previously discussed, the limitations of sexual terminology exist both in the present (i.e., the aforementioned race and class dynamics) and in the past (i.e., presentisms that obscure historical, contextual understandings and experiences of sexuality). This issue is especially pertinent for "lesbian" history. Most of my studies have tended to center solely around the "gay male experience." I could blame my egregious androcentrism on a lack of primary source material and/or the fact that most of the big names in the LGBT history field (those scholars who are afforded more spotlight) are queer men who write about queer men. But, in truth, I have both internalized and contributed to the invizibilizing of lesbianism/female homoeroticism by allowing these issues to manifest in my research interests. Indeed, in her seminal essay, "Venus in Two Acts," Saidiya Hartman reflects on the gaps in our records of the past (the underrepresentation of oppressed and silenced peoples) as they are reflected in the biases of the historical canon and reproduced by an engine of intellectual conformity.
In other words, (white) male homosexuals were more likely to possess the means and agency to act out on their desires, as well as assert a communal-political presence. Their materials make up the majority of what remains for us to study. Even before more public forms of homoerotics, primary sources documenting woman-womanly eroticism are more likely to be classified as "romantic" and "affectionate" – due, in part, to our phallocentric conceptions of what constitutes sex, as well as social constructionists' reluctance to "read too much into" close female friendships of the past.
There is no simple solution. However, the creation of spaces (be they physical, intellectual, or cultural) is one way to begin. In much the same way nü-tongzhi activists have fought to make room in the larger tongzhi movement for themselves, so too have grass-roots historiography and archival work helped to make queer history a discipline. It is neither "niche" nor "divisive" for a community to take it upon themselves to demand representation and acknowledgement. As such, "women who love women" must confer with one another to determine how to both expand (indeed, "popularize") the field, while addressing broader issues with primary source materials.