Asian American Feminism Summit!
A couple days ago, Agnes recommended me to sign-up for this event held on Smith Campus. Her professor, Jennifer Guglielmo, teaches history (Agnes’ current class is about “Decolonizing US Women’s History”), and sent her an email about it!
Personally, I had my reservations going to it because I do not identify as an Asian-American. I’m from Indonesia, and I do not hold any residency permit here in the US, just a student visa. It was an incredible conference and I’m so glad I could go!
What is AAPI feminisms?
AAPI stands for Asian Americans and Pacific-Islanders, and welcomes anyone who identifies with being of East, Southeast, South Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander descent. Feminism was defined in my small group as “fighting oppression on all fronts”, as we know that gender equality is linked to so many other forms of injustice (e.g. trans rights, the BLM movement), that we should advocate and support for many other causes alongside our own. It is also a recurring problem that people tend to equate Asian Americans as East Asians specifically, overlooking other identities such as Indian-Americans and Filipino-Americans.
- AAPI make up about 6% of the US population (to put it to size, Miriam Yeung, our Keynote speaker said LGBTQA+ community was about a growing 3% of the population), yet AAPI are largely “invisible” in activism.
- Some people brush off AAPI activism because a subgroup, the East Asian-Americans, form the “model minority”, and are not as stigmatized as other groups who are in “immediate danger”. Yet this pushes away the platform to discuss and advocate for AAPI rights. It does not mean we are taking the movement away from others who also fight for equality.
- AAPI topics should be taught in college campuses. A diverse curriculum and education is one step to allowing people to understand AAPI history and current issues. It is also the doorway into AAPI activism, as many learned through oppression of their people and ways to fight in college classes.
- Representation matters. Asian Americans involve a huge group of 50 nations and over 100 languages, and though it’s impossible to have every person represented in activism, it is part of our job to also reach out to everyone possible.
- Prejudice/racism exists in many Asian American households, in which we perpetuate the “model minority” stereotype by diminishing people of other races. This should be realized and stopped. Sometimes, correcting parents that grew up with this lens is hard, and changing them is harder. Dr. Laura Fugikawa said fighting with parents is not a good solution, but gently and consistently pointing out to them how their statements could be prejudiced might work. Dr. Karen Cardozo also reminded us to be prepared for failure.
My takeaway point?
I came in feeling like a bystander, someone who didn’t quite fit the “Asian American” description, and might not belong to this cause. Through the summit I learned that we should not be restricted by our identity to be involved in activism. If we keep looking around for a group to join, then when will we act? It doesn’t mean we should erase our identities completely, but let it guide us to understand how we should act. And maybe someday, we can be the pioneers and start a group that would center around the social group we identify with.