2022 RAW Name Change Statement
Raging Asian Women Taiko Drummers (RAW Taiko) was founded in 1998 as a feminist collective, and ever since then, we’ve been striving to carve space for sharing East/South East Asian women’s stories of internalized and systemic oppression, using loud drums to share an even louder message–stereotypes of Asian women as subservient, docile, or weak, do not represent our experiences, our desires, or the ways we are resilient. We’ve also learned a lot along the way in the last twenty plus years... invaluable lessons from radical people of colour, queer and trans activists, artists, storytellers, and teachers.
Recognizing that some feminist movements have used the category of ‘woman’ to exclude non-normative identities and bodies in harmful ways, recognizing that binary thinking can’t capture the beautiful complexities that we see in our feminist and queer communities, we’ve decided to update our name! Raging Asian Womxn Taiko Drummers reflects our committment to trans and cis women, non-binary and genderqueer drummers in RAW and folx in our communities. To futures built through ongoing learning, music, movement and collective resistance!
Why the change, and why now?
The original RAW was formed in the late 1980s by a group of Asian cisgender women to create space where their experiences of racialized womanhood could be explored and challenged. Today, we understand that not everyone who has experiences of racialized womanhood identifies as a woman. As identity politics and language evolved, so did RAW members’ understanding, language, practices and values.
While many of our current members and apprentices identify as non-binary, gender fluid or gender queer, we all talk about and share a common experience of having been raised, socialized, perceived or marked as racialized women. And we all navigate this world in relation to and often in tension with that construct.
Today, Raging Asian WomXn reflects our commitment to including and uplifting the experiences, perspectives, voices, anger and knowledges of trans and cis women, non-binary and gender-variant people, both within RAW and in the communities we love. To us, the “X” in womxn acknowledges those who often find themselves in the space between identity, perception, and experience.
While the term “womxn” can be used to deny gendered realities, we currently embrace the ways it has also created curiosity and openness. The “X” animates our differences while maintaining that what brings us together is our experiences at the intersection of anti-Asian racism and misogyny. It reflects our understanding that a world free of sexism and racism is a world in which we get to self-determine the meanings of our bodies and our identities. Raging Asian Womxn Taiko Drummers now moves forward as an affirming and inclusive space for Asian womxn’s resistance, community, rage and joy.
RAW exists for a place for Asian folx who have experiences or personal relationships to the category of “woman” to gather, share, rage, joy, drum and EXIST. We don’t require any of our members to identify as women — though many do, and we love this too! All we ask is that each member have a relationship to that term, however they define it. We welcome trans folx who have this relationship to audition and join us!
History of “WOMXN”
Language is powerful and words have a meaningful impact. And yet, language is often nuanced and not static; we know that words can have multiple and conflicting interpretations. We understand and follow the lineage of “womxn” which was set in motion by intersectional Black feminists & feminists of colour (2010) who at the time were seeking language that could respond to the trans-exclusionary radical feminist and White feminist use of “womyn” and “wimmin.” We understand these former spellings to have emerged specifically within trans-exclusionary spaces that championed biological definitions of sex and gender.
“Womxn” is a term we claim as a counter-response, though we acknowledge it has not always been used that way. We recognize that often, specifically within arts institutions, the use of the term womxn in practice denotes “cis-women and ‘others’”. This usage often exists alongside a need to tokenistically fulfill EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) quotas for funding or publicity purposes. It also reflects a lack of dialogue on the uses of the term womxn and the history of the term as it intersects with race and gender politics. For us, this exclusionary term has led to subsequent marginalization and exclusion of trans, non-binary, and genderqueer people of colour within arts spaces.
As RAW members we use a term that, for us, would explicitly mark the inclusion of racialized women and trans women. Today, this term also marks for us the inclusion of non-binary and genderfluid RAW members whose genders do not fit within binary definitions of gender, nor do they sit entirely outside of the way this binary has shaped our experiences of the world. Ultimately, we in RAW have chosen to use the X for the disruption it offers, for the way it creates room inside discussions and perceptions of racialized womanhood for those who do and do not identify as women. For us, it creates spaciousness and invites ongoing, nuanced and complex discussions amongst ourselves and with our old, new and future audiences. The X is an invitation to always question our assumptions about gender, and to allow them to grow, shift and evolve.
*To learn more about these terms, and other vocabulary about sex and gender, check out this glossary by QMUNITY, a Vancouver-based queer, trans and two-spirit resource centre.