Ive always felt at home in my Asian-Americanness and my feminism, but there was a time when I felt like the two identities didn’t fit together. My parents, Taiwanese immigrants raising three children in a foreign country, didn’t exactly prioritize activism. And at times, I felt like we also bought into the “model minority” myth, which presumes that we, as quiet, hard-working Asians, should just keep our heads down and stay out of trouble by supporting the status quo.

Media representations of Asian Americans tend to bolster that stereotype. In recent years, it feels like the only Asian-American activism that makes headlines in major publications is from one end of the political spectrum—mostly East Asian Americans who oppose affirmative action, favor standardized testing, and support officer Peter Liang. But I know that the people behind those movements aren’t nearly the only Asian Americans doing activist work in the US; there is a whole spectrum of people pushing back in ways that defy the “model minority” narrative.

Asian Americans have long fought for intersectional inclusion and equity. Over five decades before Constance Wu called out Asian fetishization at the 2018 Women’s March in Los Angeles, Yuri Kochiyama was one of 600 people arrested for protesting in demand for jobs for Black and Puerto Rican workers during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1969, Asian-American radicals at UCLA published their first issue of the Gidra, a magazine that tackled racism, sexism, and white supremacy. In the 1980s, queer journalist Helen Zia fought against anti-Asian violence in the wake of the murder of Vincent Chin. In 2012, Cambodian refugee Chhaya Chhoum co-founded Mekong NYC, fighting for the rights and livelihoods of Southeast Asians in the Bronx. There are so many underreported movements and overlooked figures, I can’t possibly list them all here.

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14 Powerful Portraits Showing Diversity of Asian American Feminism by Tiffany Tso

September 5th, 2018