Being an Asian woman in America is complex. There are stereotypes we face by dint of being Asian: myths perpetuated about being subservient, obedient and model minorities. There are the notions others inflict on us from their own lens: nativism in the phrase “go back to China” (even when we’re American, even when our families have been in the United States for generations, even when we’re not Chinese) and sexualization by men who hit on us because they have “an Asian fetish.”

There are the typical biases, and then there are the surprising ones: as an Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) woman, much of the racism and microaggression I experience actually arises in response to moments when I exercise my voice and take up space.

Well-meaning and “open-minded” White people will say things like “you’re so articulate!” or “it’s so refreshing to see an AAPI woman who speaks her mind!” without realizing that they are reinforcing the very stereotypes they think they are bucking. These are the “compliments” I receive as an AAPIwoman—backhanded compliments that serve more as insults. Added to this mix are the battles we face just as women, creating a double-bind for those of us with hyphenated identities.

This Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, it’s time for some truths about the AAPI community and about AAPIwomen. We are actually overwhelmingly progressive, and a key part of the women of color voting bloc. AAPI women have been at the forefront of the resistance to the Trump administration, and continue to challenge the status quo. Women still make less than men, still don’t have mandatory paid parental leave and still live in a culture that normalizes sexual harassment and rape. We fight alongside other women on these policy fronts every day, while also countering issues specific to AAPI women—like fighting U.S.militarism and anti-immigrant policies that have led to so many of the most damaging sexualized and exoticized stereotypes about us.

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Say My Name: On the importance of taking up space and making noise by Sung Yeon Choimorrow

May 24th, 2019