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Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Friday, March 9, 2001

Women in Hawaii have
come a very long way

WHEN I was hired to oversee the Star-Bulletin editorial section in 1993, it took me a while to warm up to readers. And vice versa.

It's hard to believe that, back then, I became the first woman to head the opinion page at either of Honolulu's two daily newspapers -- and both of these publications are well over 100 years old. Sheesh, about time, yeah?

In my very first Changing Hawaii column on Oct. 20, 1993, I lamented road crews constantly digging up the streets, residents fleeing to the mainland because they couldn't afford to live here anymore, and unresponsive, lackluster legislators.

Huh. Some things never change.

Except for me. I've transformed greatly over the past eight years, largely due to this job. And for that I am grateful.

I was a nice Japanese girl before I got here. Today, I'm an impatient feminist with a thicker skin and a greater awareness of the difficulties facing women of all ages in this state and around the world.

Thankfully, this space has presented me with a weekly forum to share such information.

But it was often like making a movie instead of playing before a live audience. I never knew whether these musings were actually connecting with people and fostering converts.

Except for the occasional "Oh, I really enjoy your writing" comment at the supermarket, drug store or University of Hawaii sporting event, I'd wonder whether a good segment of the population was actually nodding in agreement.

Let's face it, Hawaii's strong Asian influence and proximity to the Far East didn't exactly mean its females were as liberated, outspoken and unabashedly unafraid of their sexuality as their counterparts on the mainland, right?

WRONG. And if you disagree, you weren't at the university's Kuykendall Auditorium for yesterday's 4:30 p.m. staged reading of Eve Ensler's acclaimed play, "The Vagina Monologues."

The place was packed, standing room only, with so many disappointed folks turned away at the door that the island performers had to agree to a reprise at 7:30. For real!

And all this for a controversially blunt production that is a celebration of womanhood, and which discusses the joys and sorrows associated with that ne'er-discussed extremity of a female's lower torso.

The 200-plus wahine (and smattering of kane) in attendance took turns either laughing raucously at the funny side of sex, or being sadly entranced by tales of rape, abuse, genital mutilation and other atrocities still inflicted on females in the year 2001.

Then, at the end of the two-hour performance, the hopeful message, "Imagine a world without violence and make it come true," was flashed on the screen. The cast came out for its final bow and basked in a long standing ovation.

WOW. I had never been prouder of the women of Hawaii than at that exact moment. We were truly sisters at heart.

Aw shucks, I'm not saying that my column can be credited (or is to "blame") for liberating and uniting the females of this state. Wish that I could.

I'm just thrilled to know that there are hundreds, heck, thousands of ladies like me on this island who believe in the awesome power of their gender and are proud of it. And who want their daughters to be proud, too.

Silly me. I was never alone after all. Thanks for reading.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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