How I Became an Angry Asian Feminist
"So...what are you?"
This question is one that's followed me around for my entire life. Asked by strangers and friends, usually out of naivety and curiosity, my ethnicity has always been called into question. Jokingly, I call myself "the ambitious ethnic grab-bag."
Oh, I should probably introduce myself; I'm Danielle, and for those of you wondering I'm Japanese-American.
I've always been immensely proud of my heritage. I started consuming Japanese pop culture at a young age because of it. I was lucky to be born in the mid 90s, so I was exposed to the patriarchy-crushing, feminist awesomeness that was (and still is) Sailor Moon.
I distinctly remember picking up the first edition copy of the Sailor Moon manga. I was about 10 years old, wandering around a Books-a-Million in Destin, Florida. I picked up the bright pink cover, feeling something I wouldn't understand until much later in life.
I now know what that feeling was: pride.
Growing up, Asian-Americans, especially women, were not well-represented in media. Sure, we might be the nerdy sidekick or the stereotypical Mr. Miyagi/Master Splinter type of role (not that there's anything wrong with that when it fits with the narrative), but we never really get the chance to be the star.
Sailor Moon was my first exposure to a strong Japanese, feminist role model. Sure, she had flaws and weaknesses like everybody else, but still she persevered. The creator of the series, Naoko Takeuchi, was revolutionizing manga and anime alike when she created an all-female superhero team. When I picked up that book, I saw myself represented in the characters. Sailor Moon loved, struggled, and fought like me -she was Japanese, like me. I had found myself represented within pop-culture. Even seeing Mulan, who was Chinese, was a win for the Asian-American population. Finally, an east-Asian Disney princess (and one who could fend for herself)! It says something when one ethnicity can bring pride to an entire continent because we're so severely underrepresented.
Fast-forward to 2016-2017.
We have movies like Doctor Strange, The Great Wall, and Ghost in the Shell...except there's one very noticeable problem here:
These are all roles supposed to be represented by Asian actors, and yet Hollywood continually whitewashes us out of the narrative. It's happened time and time again, always allegedly to avoid stereotype or making some other arbitrary excuse. It pains me to see my ethnicity being pushed out of frame in order to let caucasian leads take their spot simply because of the color of their skin.
This is why I applaud directors like Jon M. Chu, who is currently casting for Crazy Rich Asians, and is planning on using an all-Asian cast for the movie since it's about, well...Asians. What's more remarkable is that this tidbit is newsworthy—if that doesn't make my point for me, I don't know what will.
Rather, maybe this powerful video will.
And then we add feminism to the mix.
Seeing strong women in media is not common, let alone a strong Asian woman -I'm not even asking for a strong Japanese woman (I know we're not there yet to be requesting specific Asian ethnicities since Hollywood loves to lump us all together). But that's why I love women like Constance Wu and Ali Wong, Asian women who are not afraid to be unabashedly themselves. We are finally breaking the stereotype of being quiet stepping stones who do nothing but agree with everyone else.
That's why my handle on social media accounts is "Angry Asian." Because I am angry—but I'm ready for change too.
Our minds really love absolutes—something has to be one or the other, with no in-between. Rather, I am a blend: I am an American, I am Japanese, and I am a feminist. I am proud of that, and no one will ever be able to take that away from me—ever.