(1941 - living) U.S.A.
A pioneering Korean-Chinese American lesbian spokesperson, educator, and courageous activist.
Merle Woo is a popular, respected writer and university lecturer in Asian American, Women, and Lesbian/Gay Studies. An outspoken lesbian, mother, and leader in Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party, Woo rips to shreds the racist, sexist image of Asian American women as demure, invisible, subordinate "model minorities."
Her uncompromising support for student protests against racist and conservative policies at the University of California at Berkeley caused the administration to fire her twice. Both times, she lodged free-speech lawsuits and won reinstatement. In the process, her students learned that to triumph against oppression, they must form multi-issue alliances - and that they can help shape a new society.
Woo has never accepted being a victim - or even merely a survivor - whether she is battling for child support, demonstrating against legislation to eliminate affirmative action, or taking on the medical industry to get proper treatment for breast cancer. Woo is fighting to win.
In 1991 the Asian American poet Merle Woo argued in Wang and Zhao's Chinese American Poetry: An Anthology that "Art and politics are integrally linked... We are freedom fighters with words as our weapons-on the page or on the picket sign. And as we fight, we educate. We encourage our people to change the reality and to demand it all. And no amount of censorship will ever silence us"
An erotic lesbian sex poem by Merle Woo, not only breaks the silence about lesbians but also breaks a silence about sex that has traditionally existed in Asian American culture.
My legs around that great horse's neck not riding
but my body singing down under
in front of the beautiful dark head
feeling her moist tongue in my center -
I am risking my life for these moments
My head possibly dashed against the rocks...
Merle Woo's poetry collection, Yellow Woman Speaks, was expanded and reissued in a much nicer format by Radical Women Publications in 2003.
Source: Woo, Merle, Untitled, Lim et al. 1989, 131
Woo, Merle, Yellow Woman speaks, Seattle, WA, Radical Women Publications, pamphlet, 1985
Photo: Merle Woo, from Imagery: Women Writers 1996, © Jean Weisinger
Web Site: http://www.redletterpress.org/rwpubs.html#yellow