Chapter 1 / Chapter Notes
To feel whole and unafraid.
Words and photo: Courtney Chew
This month the world is celebrating women. Women of all forms, identities, cultures, ages, bodies, and energies, and the challenges we’ve overcome, the ceilings we’ve broken, and the achievements we’ve pushed forward, together. But, it’s also an explicit reminder of how much more there still exists to fight for.
There is a lot I’ve had to unpack for myself with what it means to me to be a woman, but also what it means to be a woman of colour, and specifically, what it means to me to be Chinese. The layers are full of experiences deeply impacted by cultural, societal, and professional context that are complex and hard to articulate.
As an Asian woman, there lies intergenerational trauma — suffering indirectly passed on with unrealized impact between generations and generations. There is cultural trauma — not being “Asian enough” or “Chinese enough” while not being “white enough” as well as tension with the traditional confines of the role of a woman in the Asian culture. There is female trauma — as a woman in industries dominated by white males, putting up with unwanted sexual aggressions, and learning it’s sometimes easier to be agreeable than be seen as “too…”: too outspoken, too confident, too ambitious, too bitchy, too successful. There is societal trauma — the challenge of being too feminine or not feminine enough, being sexualized, the challenge with and becoming a mother, and the natural instinct of the woman being the caretaker of the family and having to do it all, all while not having access to the same opportunities, pay, support for our minds and bodies, and respect as our male counterpart.
Identity and race is complicated and irrespective of our culture and ethnicity, comes with all this trauma that we often use as our excuse for the way we choose to act, or not. But we can no longer let the things we use to identify us, oppress us, define us, and divide us. We can no longer turn a blind eye at the suffering that is happening and has existed for centuries towards people of colour and other marginalized communities. At our core as human beings, we’re the same: all one people, one family of this Planet we share. But, where we can differ is our heart and our soul. How we show up. When there is need, are you altruistic? When there is fear, are you strong? When confronted by ego, are you brave enough to be humble? When there is sadness, are you compassionate? When there is hate, are you kind? When we need you, are you loud or do you stay silent?
The shooting that recently took the lives of eight people, six of them Asian and four of them Korean women, hits so hard. This act of violence is an example of our broken system: a system that has been complacent for too long around racism, xenophobia, discrimination and gun violence. A structure of white supremacy propelled by misogyny, classism, sexism, ageism, to list a few, that dismisses and diminishes experiences, divides cultures and communities, and turns perception and assumptions into weapons leaden with no accountability or responsibility. We need to be better at calling it what it is; naming it so we can address it and work to change the legislation that protects it.
This system is not working, but in order for us to fight against it and to dismantle it, we need to unite and focus together. It was designed to thrive off opposition, to peg us against each other - between communities and even within our Asian diaspora. So, in this fight our biggest obstacle is not letting the system divide us. We cannot let it win.
We speak up now without hesitation for our families, our ancestors, and the trailblazers before us, for what they sacrificed to let us live in a “better world”. For Yong Ae Yue, Suncha Kim, Soon Chung Park, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Kim, Paul Andre Michels. For our Indigenous communities, for our Black communities, for our women, for our LGBTQIA2S+ and all marginalized communities who’s voices have not been heard for far too long. We speak up for ourselves, so that we can feel whole, proud, and not afraid of being all that we are.
The unique perspectives we bring from our experiences with gender, culture, heritage, language is what keeps our world colorful, beautiful, and inspiring. It should all be celebrated, not feared. More than ever, we need to offer safe spaces for these perspectives, to be curious, to learn, unlearn, and evolve, and to persevere. To protect each other. To save each other.
In the words of powerful activist Yuri Kochiyama,
“Remember that consciousness is power. Consciousness is education and knowledge. Consciousness is becoming aware…Consciousness-raising is pertinent for power, and be sure that power will not be abusively used, but used for building trust and goodwill domestically and internationally. Tomorrow’s world is yours to build…
So, transform yourself first…to do something meaningful, that in itself, makes you our future and our hope. Keep expanding your horizon, decolonize your mind, and cross borders…
We are all part of one another.”
To my fellow Asian sisters and brothers, our Aunties and Uncles and elders; please take care of yourself, look after each other, remember to give yourself space and rest.
For peace and humanity and a world full of wholeness and love,
For resources on how to support our AAPI community right now, please see a non-exhaustive list below, and our IG @ocin for more.
go fund me: in memory of HyunJung Kim to support her two incredible boys
Follow and support:
@youngqim - "We are human"
@samueljhyun - "Dear America"
@ogorchukwuu - "Meritocracy & the Model Minority Myth"
@nextshark - "Anti-Asiam racism and discrmination did not start with COVID-19"
@kimsaira - "How to be an ally + help Asian Americans fight Anti-Asian Racism"
@janvincentgonzales - "Talk to your friends"
@by.ksoon - "Asian spaces and communities to follow"
@the.korean.vegan - "What is a hate crime?"
NY Times daily - A murderous Rampage in Georgia
On Earth we're briefly gorgeous - Ocean Vuong
Minor Feelings - Cathy Park Hong
Pachinko - Min Jin Lee
The Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan
If I had your face - Frances Cha
NY times: Tales of Racism and sexism from 3 leading Asian-American women
NY Mag: 61 ways to donate in support of Asian communities
NBC news: Racism, sexism must be considered in Atlant case involving killing of siz Asian women, experts say