Today, The Toast published an illustrated-essay/comic I wrote in November called “What Would Yellow Ranger Do?”. You can read it here. It’s about a few things, but two of them are the frustrations of being an immigrant(and the constant reminders of not fitting in) and exoticism. There’s quite a few drawings of the Yellow Ranger too, who I think is really cool.
I think it’s my first fully autobiographical piece, and it’s kind of harsh, and a bit mean, and pretty dismissive at times. I actually winced a bit while reading it over yesterday, because I don’t think I’m portraying myself in a particularly pleasant light. If just five years ago, if I’d met the rude, brash, unapologetically feminist person I am today, I’d be appalled.
In the six weeks between when I wrote this and today, the #NotYourAsianSidekick hashtag exploded all over Twitter(organized by the remarkable @suey_park). It’s about a lot of things, but the thing that struck at me the most was about carving out space for an radical brand of Asian American feminism that’s rooted in solidarity with other people of colour and rejecting the presumptions of white feminism when they do not work for PoC.
I’ve spent a lot of time buying into the myth that the only way for the marginalized groups to be heard is by politeness. Subservience, even. Logic. Intelligence. Scholarship. Proof. Evidence. Charts and graphs and studies and sources.
Postcolonial study has always been an undercurrent in a lot of the work I do, even if its mostly implied(it’s hard to make work that references museums a lot, without acknowledging how the concept of a museum actually started). But even when talking about race and feminism more overtly, I’ve always been academic about it, practically Spock-ish in my approach.
And I’m not sure it really works anymore, because I’m just not that kind of person. I’m not a great public speaker; I freeze up when I’m angry. I have lots of feelings and emotions when things are important to me, and my hands shake when I try to argue for them. But, it’s not my job to handhold people through the intricacies of postcolonial and feminist theory. I’m perhaps - a little bit tired of referencing Gloria Andalzua and bell hooks and Edward Said when what I really want to say is FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU FOR NOT LISTENING TO ME.
Which is to say, I think I’ve been spending an undue amount of time telling people why they should listen to me, why I’m worth listening to, why I’m smart and intelligent and make good points - rather than just standing up and speaking.
And I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make work that is more aggressively “me.” And it occurred to me, after decades of believing that there were just certain ways for women(of colour, especially) to behave or they just wouldn’t be heard, that the best way to make work that is aggressively me is to be aggressively me. And, I’m not very nice sometimes. I’m loud and frequently impolite, and sometimes I’m an antisocial hermit, and sometimes I’m gregarious and entertaining, and sometimes I’m an asshole. I am vast, I contain multitudes.
But, I don’t have to be logical to be heard. I have a voice, and I have the internet, and that is enough. I won’t always be right, but I deserve to speak, just as loudly as anyone else(besides, apologizing is something I’m pretty good at). I don’t have to be afraid that I am not speaking for all women, because I’m speaking for at least one woman of colour, and that’s enough. I will talk, scream, write and paint and sculpt and write and write and write because I am valid. My feelings are valid. My emotions are valid. My anger is valid. My sadness is valid. My happiness is valid. My disappointments are valid. My internal conflicts are valid. My mood swings are valid. My bad days are valid, as are my good days, and all the days in between because they are mine, mine, mine.