When Third World women are asked to speak representing our racial or ethnic group, we are expected to move, charm or entertain, but not to educate in ways that are threatening to our audiences
Mitsuye Yamada, ‘Invisibility is an Unnatural Disaster: Reflections of an Asian American Woman’, in Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua (eds), This Bridge Called my Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1981), p. 71.
Thousands of Americans tweeting #NotYourAsianSidekick have sparked a global debate about the way Asian women are thought of.
“Be warned,” the Chicago-based rights activist and freelance writer Suey Park tweeted early on Sunday. “Tomorrow morning we will be having a conversation about Asian American Feminism with hashtag #NotYourAsianSidekick. Spread the word!!!!!!!” Her very deliberate attempt to create a debate about the way Asian-American women “have to be SMART and PRETTY to be heard and "are objectified by Asian men and White men” was hugely successful. In less than 24 hours, the hashtag has been used more than 45,000 times around the world.
The conversation, which started with discussion of how Asian women are stereotyped, soon spread to cover racism (“Oh look. More bitter liberal non-whites expressing anti-white attitudes,” tweeted one user, who was roundly criticised), the under-representation of Asian-Americans in media, dating patterns between racial groups and attitudes towards mental health. Cartoons and humour were shared and the debate also spread around the world, having particular resonance in other Western countries with large Asian minorities. One user in Toronto quoted men who say “I’ve always wanted a Chinese woman to cook for me” with the reply “I’ve always wanted laser beam eyes, sadly you’re still alive.” Another An L in Sydney tweeted: “Change in social attitudes towards Asian women is a long way off, but opening up the conversation is a great start.” The British-Asian blogger Sunny Hundal said the debate had resonance in the UK because just like Asian-Americans “we see our faces on social media, but when we turn on the TV we see only limited stereotypes.”
Suey Park said the hashtag had arisen out of her frustration at the narrow ways in which the label “Asian-American” was defined, saying #NotYourAsianSidekick would allow marginalized Asian-Americans to voice their grievances. The topic trended in both US and worldwide on Sunday, in part because of Park’s own prolific tweeting. “How much longer can we get #NotYourAsianSidekick to trend?” she asked at one point. “I’m getting tired! Fresh voices, please speak now! We need you to keep it going!”
I am talking about what is happening to us right now, about our nonsupport of each other, about our noncaring about each other, about not seeing connections between racism and sexism in our lives. As a child of immigrant parents, as a woman of color in a white society, as a woman in a patriarchal society, what is personal to me is political.
Mitsuye Yamada, “Asian Pacific American Women and Feminism” from This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color
[we] are dedicated to keeping a collection of asian american feminist thought and resources within the context of women-of-color feminisms…this blog is a platform for us to identify, address, and provide critical perspectives to our needs as asian american feminists.
since the forms of oppression we encounter are so vast and complex, we see “asian american feminisms” as not really single-issue identity-based, but more like a way to communicate & engage in solidarity with various feminist liberation struggles (black, indigenous, latinx, and so on) both in the U.S. and worldwide.