In college courses, I studied Asian American women and their vast contributions to feminism. Oppressed both as women and as Asian-Americans, amazing ladies have fought for their civil rights since the days of the Transcontinental Railroad (and before). But we have a long way to go before we truly embrace what Asian-American women have to contribute to feminist discourse, and we can start by hearing what racial justice advocate Lindsey Yoo has to say.
In the wake of the #solidarityisforwhitewomen discussion, our eyes have been opened to the way women of color have been marginalized and ignored in conversations about women’s rights. The term “women of color” is confusing and must be more clearly defined to be inclusive; Yoo asks in her brilliant and bold discussion with NPR, “When people say ‘women of color,’ am I included in that equation, or does it not apply to Asian-American women?”
Yoo finds the black-and-white discourse that surrounds much of contemporary feminist language to be binary and exclusive. In school, many of Yoo’s professors implied either that Asian-American women fell under the “white” umbrella or that they were not relevant to discussions on American feminism.
Lindsey Yoo of Filthy Freedom
While acknowledging the progress and importance of the #solidarityisforwhitewomen movement, Yoo argues that it hasn’t done quite enough. Perhaps it has excluded Asian-Americans by failing to acknowledge them fully, by lumping them in either with white women or with the general term “women of color.” She writes, “Mikki Kendall states that ‘we use umbrella terms referencing race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc., but we are all aware (or should be anyway) that no community is a monolith.' In my experience, however, the Asian-American community has always been portrayed as a monolith.”
As an Asian-American woman, Yoo feels her “body is constantly orientalized and hypersexualized by people who are more comfortable seeing me on television as a giggling, sexually repressed school girl [...] than they are with seeing me as an empowered individual with a dynamic history and voice.”
The treatment of and attitudes towards Asian-American women laid bare by Yoo is certainly a conversation for feminists; it is an issue that profoundly concerns a large population of women. But Yoo draws upon recent discussions of popular culture to support her claim that this group of women has been largely ignored. As she points out, Chris Brown’s abuse of women has been addressed, but few people have acknowledged the racism in his song and video “Fine China.” Yoo notes that although Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black has opened up discussions on sex and race, the only Asian-American women in the series is relatively unexplored and stereotypically represented.
It’s important that we include all women in discussions of women’s rights, and it’s also crucial that we don’t lump groups of women into broad categories. In conclusion, Yoo demands that “in our respective fights to be heard and empowered as women of color, we must be careful not to further stigmatize and marginalize other voices in our midst.” And I could not agree more; let's embrace every feminist voice out there!
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!
Thanks to NPR
Image via NPR and Filthy Freedom