Asian Women to Twitter: I'm #NotYourAsianSidekick

4 years ago

On Saturday evening writer, graduate student and organizer Suey Park tweeted an announcement about the hashtag #NotYourAsianSideKick. By Sunday night, it had been trending across the U.S. for over 11 hours.

This is a discussion I've been waiting a long time to have. The Twitter conversation gave a lot of Asian American and Pacific Islander women a space to unleash a lot of stereotypes that we face-- and it seems like many of us are pegged by the same tired stereotypes over and over.

And one of the complicated things about discussing the damaging nature of stereotypes about Asian women is that so many of them are packaged as "compliments", such as the portrayals of Asian Americans as the "Model Minority" or as docile, sexually available and desirable partners.

And the most damaging part of stereotypes about Asian women? When white feminists remain silent when Asian women are misrepresented in the media, such as when Katy Perry all but painted her face yellow for her culturally appropriated mashup of geishas and gongs at the American Music Awards. Even progressive spaces are not immune to perpetuating stereotypes that Asian women are somehow undercutting the playing field by working too hard or being too sexually available.

Or perhaps people assume that Asian Americans wouldn't share the same values.

Like the #solidarityisforwhitewomen conversation earlier this fall, this discussion revealed a lot of ways that even feminist or progressive communities don't acknowledge the issues of Asian American women. #NotYourAsianSidekick also raised awareness of the unique and particularly tense place that AAPI activists often find themselves in: caught in the push-pull between black and white. Even when advocating for people of color, our own presence and histories have often been erased. Lawyer and activist Mari Matsuda tweeted an old protest flyer featuring herself, along with Helen Zia and Grace Lee Boggs.

The longer #NotYourAsianSidekick stayed on the Twitter trends, the more angry commenters started posting with the hashtag. But I'm encouraged the the outpouring and also to see non-Asian feminists such as Mikki Kendall, Liza Sabater and Lauren Chief Elk joining in the conversation this time. I hope this is a discussion we'll continue to have.

Also check out these links from the BlogHer community:

Aisha Saeed: On Asian-Americans and Why We Are #NotYourAsianSidekick

Feministe: All of the things we were told never to talk about

Also check out Reappropriate's examination of What does an Asian American feminist space look like?

Are you following #NotYourAsianSidekick? Share your thoughts in the comments.

News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs about raising an Asian mixed-race family at HapaMama.

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