In Pop Asian American News today, this very inspirational young Asian kid (kkpalmer1000 on YouTube) dances and lip syncs to Beyonce’s “Countdown.” Amazing computer graphics aside, I love how boldly and proudly he is just himself. You go!!
Where I reminisce on not missing high school and my life-saving discovery of the existence of racism.
17 years ago, when I was still in high school, I was terribly shy. Which meant I was terrified all of the time. Terrified of being called on by teachers (middle school in Taipei instilled that in me perfectly— even though teachers were loathe to hit me since they knew about my white dad), of getting anything below an ‘A-’, of other kids, of all the white kids, and the few black kids. I wasn’t friends with any of the Asian kids. It was all around not a great time for yours truly.
One significant experience was in junior year when I had the random fortune of being sent to a day-long Asian American conference: CAPAY (Conference for Asian Pacific American Youth). There I met more Asian American youth than I’d ever seen in my life and had the amazing opportunity to talk about our Asian American identity, the generation gap between us and our often immigrant parents, and racism — a brand new concept for me! (I had the hardest time with History in school because the textbooks and teachers just acted like racism did not exist. No wonder I had a hard time understanding the subject… )
Too bad I didn’t get to learn about sexism at that time too— would have been perfect as a young woman of color in high school and all the confusing things I saw around me: a pregnant classmate dropping out of school, people making out in the hallways (which fascinated and repulsed me both but more the latter), that weird ‘sex test’ that was smugly passed around which would score you on how sexually experienced you were (that was easy since I was a big fat zero), and just the prevalence of (male) jerks in our class— but racism was a good start. It helped loads with my self-esteem and self-confidence. So I could start being aware of where I was feeling bad and blaming myself for things that were really a cause of racism and internalized racism. Why blonde Kelly whats-her-name ignored me with a holier-than-thou air when I said hi to her in homeroom; how I felt deficient because my boobs were so much smaller than all the white girls who loved to flaunt theirs; how I simply felt constantly timid and shy. It all must have been horribly stressful. And so a whole new world opened for me when I realized, hey, a lot of other Asian girls feel this way too— it’s not just me! How liberating, how empowering, how wonderful!
Read more in my Manifesto for Young Asian Women.
I regularly hear women ask, “Do young women these days care about feminism?” Or I see them exclaim in horror, “My twenty-year old niece doesn’t even know who Gloria Steinem is!”
However, we are asking the wrong question if we keep coming at it from the angle of “Why haven’t they learned from us?” We need to instead reach out to young women and ask them how sexism affects their everyday lives. Since they are the experts on their lives and since we know sexism abounds.
Many adult women these days don’t realize how hard sexism is on young women and girls. And we need to know. Just because young women may not know how far we’ve come in feminism does not mean they lose their right to complain about sexism in their lives now. For example, did you know there’s “Facebook branding” where girls post pictures of themselves aka American Apparel style—young, innocent, and very sexual— thus intentionally creating a slutty brand of themselves on Facebook to increase their reputation among their friends? I’m talking about eight, nine year-old girls here. I was shocked when I learned that. And therein lies the problem.
We as older women are “shocked” when younger women don’t know the history of the women’s movement. They don’t realize “how far we’ve come,” “how much we’ve done for them.” Older women see that as disrespectful, arrogant, and ignorant.
Apparently, we as older women have forgotten what it’s like to be young. We need to pause and go back and remember how difficult our childhood was, our teen years, all that sexual tension, and so little information or support was provided by older adults. I think most of us have forgotten. I’m 31 and I know I’ve forgotten tons. Because the moment I moved out at age eighteen I said, “Thank god,” and I never wanted to go back there, not even mentally.
So the question isn’t and never has been, “Do young women these days care about feminism?” Of course they do. The real question is are we willing to listen to our daughters and other young women in our lives about their everyday concerns and worries and how can we empower them to speak up and stand up on their own behalf? Are we willing to share the struggles we went through as young women with them so they have a clear picture of how we got to where we are today? Because if we don’t, who will?