By: Anusha Asim
Over recent years, feminism has progressed into a more intersectional movement. A movement that acknowledges all kinds of systematic inequalities, privileges and when to pass the mic over.
However, there is something we still need to work on. Feminism needs to be universal as much as it needs to be intersectional. Its eurocentrism is the reason why marginalized people in Asia are often reluctant to associate themselves with the movement.
Most of the time, Asian activists in the West perpetuate this eurocentrism by either applying standards of western feminism to Asian activists in their home countries or making bold statements about local issues they aren’t properly educated about. I’ve seen a lot of feminists in the West downplaying issues in our countries. Issues like honor crimes, domestic violence, religious extremism, persecution of religious minorities, etc. For example, a lot of Indian and Pakistani feminists seem reluctant to talk about the political climates of their countries or how they treat their religious minorities.
I’ve seen some go as far as to say that these issues don’t exist or they do but on the same extent as in the West.
An example would be the time when Linda Sarsour undermined the feminist movement in Saudi Arabia. She said something along the lines of, “Why are you concerned about driving when you have longer maternity leaves than we do?”
Here are some ways in which I think Asian activists/feminists that reside in different regions can be better allies to Asian activists/feminists that reside in Asia.
- Recognize the variety of privilege structures
Asian countries have very different privilege structures than European and North American ones. White privilege and supremacy aren’t issues here. Racism is, colorism is, casteism (in India and Bangladesh) is, religious discrimination is, except it’s different groups that are being affected. Understanding that POC are capable of perpetuating racist and oppressive systems as well is crucial.
Oppression isn’t only important to talk about when it’s done by white hands.
- Acknowledge your privilege
Educating yourself about issues in Asian countries, especially your homeland, is very important. While doing so, keep in mind that education does not equate to experience. A lot of the issues may not directly affect you or to the extent that they affect Asians who live there. Make sure you’re not making bold statements you can’t back up or speaking over marginalized Asians. Also, don’t simply reflect your parents’ views about your home country. I find it very hypocritical how some Asians who are proud leftists in the west will identify more with the right-wing when it comes to their home countries.
Do some research of your own.
- Acknowledge internalized racism and classism, and how it affects your perception of non-Western Asians
Asian activists don’t have to be fluent in English or familiar with feminist buzzwords to be taken seriously. It would be discriminatory and unfair to apply standards of Western feminism to all Asian activists.
We understand how racial stereotypes are harmful to you and why destroying them is so important. We understand the need to prove to white people how alike we are to humanize us in their eyes but remember not all stereotypes about Asian people are problematic. Sometimes, the only problem is with how they’re perceived and used to degrade us. Some stereotypes are worth reclaiming.
There is nothing wrong with being a studious Asian kid, a South Asian cab driver or an East Asian that enjoys martial arts.
There’s nothing wrong with having thick accents or broken English.
What’s wrong is how these stereotypes are used to lump us all together, to reduce us to caricatures. However, it’s equally wrong to see the people that these caricatures were based on as inferior.
I’ve come across a lot of Asians in the west who look at us through eurocentric lenses of acceptability. Who mock our accents, our appearance or anything that meets stereotypes which white people have used against them.
We don’t exist to satisfy eurocentric standards of “acceptable” so please don’t look at us through them.
- Don’t treat your culture like a mere aesthetic
Reclaim it. Study your history, your roots and appreciate your people.
Embrace the positive aspects of your culture, speak up against the negative ones.
How much feminism has evolved to encompass all kinds of marginalized people is truly remarkable. I just hope this wonderful inclusivity extends globally to encompass marginalized communities in all sorts of places. I can already see it happening.
Anusha Asim is a 16 year old social media activist, born in Pakistan and residing in Dubai, UAE. She considers herself a leftist and enjoys reading fictional books. Her ultimate goals in life are to pursue journalism and achieve spiritual contentment.