Cover for SUEYOSHI: Discriminating Sex: White Leisure and the Making of the American Oriental. Click for larger image

Discriminating Sex

White Leisure and the Making of the American "Oriental"

The creation and evolution of a racial stereotype

Freewheeling sexuality and gender experimentation defined the social and moral landscape of 1890s San Francisco. Middle class whites crafting titillating narratives on topics such as high divorce rates, mannish women, and extramarital sex centered Chinese and Japanese immigrants in particular.

Amy Sueyoshi draws on everything from newspapers to felony case files to oral histories in order to examine how whites' pursuit of gender and sexual fulfillment gave rise to racial caricatures. As she reveals, white reporters, writers, artists, and others conflated Chinese and Japanese, previously seen as two races, into one. There emerged the Oriental—a single pan-Asian American stereotype weighted with sexual and gender meaning. Sueyoshi bridges feminist, queer, and ethnic studies to show how the white quest to forge new frontiers in gender and sexual freedom reinforced—and spawned—racial inequality through the ever evolving Oriental.

Informed and fascinating, Discriminating Sex reconsiders the origins and expression of racial stereotyping in an American city.

"Discriminating Sex will threaten some, infuriate others. Nonetheless, Sueyoshi's scholarship as well as the ingenuity of her narrative is sure to astonish as she demonstrates that Euro-American views of gender/sexuality—both their own and of people of color—are imaginaries formed in a crucible of desire, fear, and power."--Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, author of Japanese American Resettlement through the Lens: Hikaru Carl Iwasaki and the WRA's Photographic Section, 1943–1945


Amy Sueyoshi is the associate dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. She is the author of Queer Compulsions: Race, Nation, and Sexuality in the Affairs of Yone Noguchi.

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