You said that you’re a feminist and that you’re passionate about women’s issues. Do you have any comments on feminism and women’s issues regarding Asian Americans?
I’ve been having really interesting conversations in my classes, and an interesting person to read up on about this is Gayatri Spivak. She is a professor at Columbia University, and she talks about the subaltern, the group in society that tends to be marginalized and to lack a voice. I would say that it’s one thing to be a woman; it’s another thing to be an Asian woman. The more layers you have, the harder it is to establish yourself in a positive, non-stereotyped light. Personally, I have not struggled too much with this, but it’s not because I’m not aware of it. I know when it’s happening, but I find myself speaking up more often or demystifying any myths or stereotypes that are aimed toward my culture, heritage, and religion.
How do you think we can see more Asian American women and women of color in politics? There’s a need, but how do we fill that need?
We don’t have a strong Asian electorate, and I think that’s very much caused by our motherland cultures. When we move to another country, we tend to assimilate, and when we assimilate, we want ourselves to come off as polished and able to carry ourselves in any crowd — but where did your heritage go? Where is your voice in the public sphere? I don’t think that a lot of Asian countries emphasize the importance of having a voice in government, and they leave it up to those who are elected. But here, we have a voice to determine who is elected to give them the voice to make the policy changes. I think that’s changing more with our generation. The fact that we’re having this conversation right now is a lot
more different than what it would have been like in 2000. So I think that more so is where the change will come from, and that is what needs to happen. We need to be more involved because that’s how we are going to give ourselves the voice to influence policy. More and more, we are getting involved in liberal arts and political science, so I think the change is coming, it’s just not going to happen overnight. As long as we continue to have these conversations, it’ll happen more and more.
Do you have a message to Asian American women or women of color in America?
Be comfortable in your identity, whether that be your Asian identity, or your American identity. Support each other because you’re the only people who can understand each other’s experiences, if at all. And be open to the experiences of others because there’s more than just our Asian identity at stake here; it’s also our influence as women, and that experience doesn’t only apply to Asians. So always take the time to use those experiences to relate to other ethnic and minority groups.