ArchivesAsian ActivismThe Following Issue

Are you a Disempowered Asian?

By November 28, 2018 December 18th, 2018 90 Comments

You deserve the world. Demand it.

What’s your name? Yes, yours.


I used to cut out the part of my name containing the Chinese pinyin (latin letter-spelling of Chinese characters) which was incorporated in my Western name. Joanna Wang Lan Hansson became Joanna Hansson. It was easier, shorter, less awkward to look at and just… just sounded better. We didn’t want to confuse anyone, did we? I am mixed, and therefore I found it very natural, when my parents named me, well, a mix of a Swedish and a Chinese name. Being proud of all that I am, I kind of like the way it fits my mixed background now.

But enough about me. What is your name, when you tell it to other people? No matter where you are from. When you update your online professional profiles, such as LinkedIn, or when you state it in school papers etc.? If you changed your original given name or cut out parts of it; but why is that? Maybe you had very specific reasons to, but maybe you just found that the original version was inconvenient, unnecessary, confusing, un… unnatural in the given context. But for whom? Why is it so important to keep someone from finding out your ethnicity right away?  Are you not proud of who you are? These are harsh words, I know. But I want you to think about this, just as an exercise, so bear with me. I only want the best for you, trust me. To reach a conclusion, we must answer the following questions: Am I currently disempowered? How am I empowered / how can I avoid disempowering others?

Why is it so important to keep someone from finding out your ethnicity right away

Am I currently disempowered?

First, look at yourself in the mirror. Notice how you look, what beautiful colours you possess, and what unique facial features your have. Now, think of how the average person in your immediate circle may view you. How the average person on the street views you. If they know you, what do they think about your cultural identity; who do you feel like in their presence? If they do not know you, who do you feel like in their presence? Are the two identities different (eg. my Swedish friend vs. ‘she-looks-exotic’or constant ‘where-are-you-froms’)?


The root of all this is that if you are ‘different’ and you’ve never considered this question before, or how it makes you feel, chances are that you are not empowered. The truth is most probably that you have even more empowerment to achieve! This question should make you think about who it is that you want to be. The way that you view yourself. The dreams that you’ve had for yourself since you were a child, coupled with the possibilities that your unique skillset and interests can open up for you, and only you.


What a disempowered girl does:

            1. Doesn’t call out people for mispronouncing or making fun of their name
            2. Feels bad for calling someone out for the above
            3. Starts the stereotypical jokes herself to shield herself from attacks*
            4. Plays in on other’s stereotypical and hurtful jokes
            5. Fights against people asking why you don’t emphasize your heritage more


*note on jokes: find out which level is comfortable with you, if you think a witty and non-derogatory comment is fine, then it is! But don’t assume that what is fine with you, is fine with everyone.


How do I become empowered?

Don’t assume that what is fine with you, is fine with everyone

Being empowered in who you are is realizing that each part of you, physically and intellectually is you, and if you find those parts valuable, each and every part, then they are. That nose that doesn’t look like everyone else’s? Those hips that don’t look like what’s in trend right now? Those are your unique assets that none else has access to. A successful entrepreneur once said: “It’s not what you have, but what you do with it.” These are assets that can be used for your own fulfillment and advantage, And that statement because it doesn’t always matter what exactly you have, but what you choose to do with itholds for many facets of life. It may sound simple, but you are what you make yourself, and what you choose to show to other people! So own it. Let everyone know how you feel about yourself [read: fabulous].


Now look back into that mirror from before. What do you see? A full, beautiful human being, worthy with every inch. A worth you do not have to prove or convince anyone of before you deserve it: no, you always were worthy, completely and wholly. You came out of your mother’s womb worthy.

Always remember. You can be strong and brash, demand power and attention, and still not give up your femininity. Each of us has a different need for feminine attributes, and typical girly topics may resonate with us differently.

You can be strong and brash, demand power and attention, and still not give up your femininity

A lot of these things go for most people. But for Asian women, more often that not there has been an unfair reason to feel insecure or not good enough, or not considered fit for a certain role in society… you should know that that’s purely thin air, with no meaning, reason, rhythm, or rhyme to it. You bang your own drum and should only walk to that.


Empowering others:


The first and most important step is setting an example. By being fiercely you (whether that you is loud or not, regular or wildly different: own it!), you show that it is alright to be whatever ‘type’ of Asian you are. By being confident, you exude the readiness to disarm anyone who puts you into a box or wrongly judges your ability or personality based on just a name or a look. Everywhere you are, treat everyone the way you would like to be treated when people meet you for the first time. Do not fall into conformity and ask the questions ‘people normally ask’. Think about how you like to be received when people notice you are different than them. We can all be together and create wonderful moments! If we just have respect and consideration for one another. And sometimes this means thinking a little further, putting yourself a little bit more in the shoes of a minority group whose feelings and experiences you know nothing about…

Do not fall into conformity and ask the questions ‘people normally ask’

So let the people around you KNOW that you prefer to lead with love, show them a good example, and never be ashamed or unsure about standing up for yourself, no matter what the people in the room may think! This concerns how you feel and your happiness, not anyone else’s.


Finally, check out this infographic if you know you’re a yellow wonder woman beneath.


Joanna is a Chinese-Swedish girl who just moved to Amsterdam to study. She is interested in pan-Asian topics, feminism, LGBQT+, and wants to work against discrimination of any sort, including fat-shaming, slut-shaming, ableism, sexism and more.


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