“You know what?” an acquaintance told me recently. “You’re, like, an angry Asian feminist.” When I pressed him for an explanation, he floundered and said that I just said and did things he didn’t think I’d do—and as you might expect, that answer wasn’t very fulfilling. The hidden implication in what he said was that as a young woman, I shouldn’t be opinionated or argumentative. But what bothered me most was the fact that he’d thrown my race into it. Why would he point out I was not just an angry feminist, but an Asian one at that?
My stances on different topics and my refusal to back down startled him—my behavior just wasn’t part of the image he’d formed in his mind about who I was. It didn’t fall under the cultural expectations for my race and gender. Asian women are not supposed to raise hell.
Why can’t I scream and shout and make some noise?
Women in general are told to sit down, shut up, and just “take it” when something comes up that they don’t totally agree with. Some races bear the brunt of this more than others. Women everywhere are chastised for having strong opinions and speaking their minds, whether on social media or within their own families, by people who think they have the right to dictate women’s lives.
While black women are often unfairly written off as “angry black women” when they dare to speak up about issues that affect them. Asian women are swept to the other extreme: they’re expected to be quiet, obedient, and demure, never raising their voices to complain, never diverging from the status quo.
I think not.
There has long been a fascination by the West about the “Oriental,” the “Other.” Western nations naturally assumed dominance over those they were unfamiliar with long ago, and this subjugation of “lesser” countries carried over into the way the people of these countries were seen by the West. Besides the disturbing amount of Asian fetishes, the concept of so-called “yellow fever,” and the exoticism Asian women are subjected to, Western countries themselves silence Asian voices through media exclusion and plaster an entire race with the idea that its people may be pushed around and herded to suit someone else’s needs.
Modern stories and popular narratives like “Miss Saigon” perpetuate the belief that Asian women are meant to be plied and molded to fit whatever story they’re a part of, rather than trailblazers who drive their own destinies. Google searches for Asian women return millions of results crammed with submissive images and stories tailored for the Western male gaze.
And all of this reinforces the way that Asian women are perceived.
Ching Shih was one of the most successful and fearsome pirates in the world, and she was Chinese! How’s that for demure?
There are so many incredible Asian women who are taking charge and making a difference, and to generalize us all as obedient and malleable is to do a disservice to all the badass women who’ve lived their whole lives as examples to crush that stereotype into the ground. Check your racially insensitive views.
Face it: I’ve got opinions, I want to share them, and I’m not going to let anyone, or anything, hold me back.