MAASU For Change

The Official Tumblr of the Midwest Asian American Students Union

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Please join Project Ava, Reappropriate, Fascinasians, Vanessa Teck and Juliet Shen to commemorate 32 years since Vincent Chin’s death.  1. Post a selfie tagged #IAmVincentChin to Twitter. Writings and photos will be curated at the #IAmVincentChin Tumblr. (iamvincentchin.tumblr.com) 2. Post tweets throughout the weekend remembering the Vincent Chin tragedy, and how it has impacted you. 3. Tag all your thoughts with #IAmVincentChin. Trend it. 4. Share this post and the #IAmVincentChin Tumblr with your friends, widely and often. We are all Vincent Chin

Please join Project Ava, Reappropriate, Fascinasians, Vanessa Teck and Juliet Shen to commemorate 32 years since Vincent Chin’s death.

1. Post a selfie tagged #IAmVincentChin to Twitter. Writings and photos will be curated at the #IAmVincentChin Tumblr. (iamvincentchin.tumblr.com)
2. Post tweets throughout the weekend remembering the Vincent Chin tragedy, and how it has impacted you.
3. Tag all your thoughts with #IAmVincentChin. Trend it.
4. Share this post and the #IAmVincentChin Tumblr with your friends, widely and often.

We are all Vincent Chin

Filed under vincent chin iamvincentchin

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I looked myself up and down in the full-length mirror. Blouse tucked in? Check. Pearl earrings on? Check. Lipstick flawless? Check. After a few minutes of primping, posing and deep breathing, I was off to my first day at a new job.

When I start a new job, I struggle with all of the typical trepidations and hesitations. Will my coworkers like me? Will I fit in with the office culture? Am I formatting this report the right way?

But one question loomed above all others as I started my job last week: what should I wear to work?

In many ways, it’s a concern everyone faces. On the first day, everyone wants to get their outfit just right. The morning before a new job, most of us spend an extra ten, twenty or thirty minutes making sure that our hair is properly coiffed, our deodorant is both effective and unobtrusive and our outfit is on point.

But for transgender and gender non-conforming people like myself, the question of what to wear to work becomes an exhausting question of identity and of survival. For us, the question changes from “how do I present my best self at work?” to “can I present my best self at work?”

As an undergraduate at Duke, I spent four years learning to love and appreciate myself as a gender non-conforming person. Going into college, I thought that my desire to dress androgynously and adopt a feminine gender expression was shameful; and for the first few months of college, I hid it from others and from myself. But after years of work unearthing internalized oppression and masculine shame, I finally learned to keep my head high as I stomped by the frat boys in my five-inch heels. I made a name for myself at Duke, and by the end of four years I wore pencil skirts and pant-suits to meetings with the Board of Trustees. During undergrad, I became fully empowered and comfortable in my gender.

Or so I thought.

Now, as a recent graduate confronted with entering the workforce, I find myself having to contend with a much bigger obstacle than frat boys. I have to contend with professionalism.

Professionalism is a funny term, because it masquerades as neutral despite being loaded with immense oppression. As a concept, professionalism is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, imperialist and so much more — and yet people act like professionalism is non-political. Bosses across the country constantly tell their employees to ‘act professionally’ without a second thought. Wear a garment that represents your non-Western culture to work? Your boss may tell you it’s unprofessional. Wear your hair in braids or dreadlocks instead of straightened? That’s probably unprofessional too. Wear shoes that are slightly scuffed because you can’t yet afford new ones? People may not think you’re being professional either.

For years, professionalism has been my enemy, because it requires that my gender identity is constantly and unrepentantly erased. In the workplace, the gender binary can be absolute, unfaltering and infallible. If you dare to step out of line, you risk being mistreated by coworkers, losing promotions or even losing your job. And if you are discriminated against for being transgender or genderqueer, you may not even have access to legal recourse, because in many states it is still perfectly legal to discriminate against gender non-conforming employees.

So, the first morning before work, as I put on my pants, blouse, heels and pearls, self-doubt came roaring back. Would I still have the respect of my boss if I showed up in heels? Would I be treated as a professional if I wore earrings? Would I be taken seriously wearing lipstick? Would my colleagues respect me for who I am?

As I walked to work, these doubts kept creeping up over and over in my mind. I thought back to all of the times that people had told me to “tone it down for work.” I thought back to conversations with my father, where he told me to put away the “flamboyant shit” if I wanted to be respected. I thought back to former internship supervisors who told me that I would not be respected around the office if I chose to express my gender identity. I thought back to the countless memories from childhood of being mocked for being a ‘sissy.’

I thought back to all of this, took a deep breath and walked through the front door of my new office, heels click-clacking on the concrete floor.

As transgender, genderqueer and gender non-conforming people, we deserve better. We deserve to have our work ethic and intellect respected regardless of how we choose to express our gender identities. We deserve to be able to wear clothing and behave in ways that affirm our gender. We deserve to be treated fairly in the workplace.

While people may try to discriminate against me and tell me that I’m dressing “inappropriately” for work, I will hold on to my gender identity and sense of self. In the workplace, I will stick up for those who, like me, find that their gender does not match a prefabricated box. I will wear my heels, pearls and skirts to work until, hopefully, the world can learn to respect people like me.

So to all of the discriminatory employers out there, you better watch out, because I am genderqueer, professional and unafraid.

- via Jacob Tobia in “Why I’m Genderqueer, Professional, and Unafraid


How do you define “Professional?” Do you think professionalism is universal? What do you think we can all do to make professionalism more inclusive? What do you all think?

Here is a article is that very thoughtprovoking because it brings a very different perspective of professionalism from a transgender and gender nonconforming lens and challenges all of us to think about professionalism more equitable and inclusively.

As college students we’ve been gradually told that we need become more professional, we need to develop professional skills, we need to dress certain ways, and we need to act certain ways. But this can be more difficult for some people, as the article discusses.

Filed under genderqueer genderequality proffesional maasu huffingtonpost jacob tobia

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An Asian American's Debt to Martin Luther King

Scot Nakagawa writes in this Colorlines article about his debt to Dr. King, and how and why Asian Americans are stakeholders in the fight for racial justice and equity.

The reality is that the experiences of Asians-Americans in the years just before and during the black-led Civil Rights Movement illustrate the complex nature of white supremacy in the U.S. and the centrality of race in our conceptions, both legal and cultural, of citizenship.

Our diverse stories as Asian- and African-Americans are simply different branches on a tree with shared roots.

Filed under mlk martin luther king asian american civil rights movement solidarity coalition african american

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What has always been so disturbing about yellowface, blackface, brownface and redface is how far the industry is willing to go to not employ people of color. Instead of hiring an Asian-American actor to portray an experience written by an Asian-American writer — an experience that can certainly include a penchant for kung fu — television has historically, aggressively, employed white artists to write about and portray nonwhite people.

But this practice continues in entertainment for reasons far more complicated than the refusal for white Hollywood to employ entertainers and performers of color. Whites donning theatrical makeup and costumes to display blackness, brownness or Asianness is utilized for white viewers to explore and have fun with their collective fears and anxieties surrounding the other.

According to the show’s apology, posted by its co-creator via Twitter on Wednesday, HIMYM simply wanted to create a “silly and unabashedly immature homage to Kung Fu movies, a genre we’ve always loved.” But despite their well-meaning intentions, this is by-the-book yellowface. It’s white people acting “silly” or “funny” when acting Asian, in a performance written for the enjoyment and consumption of non-Asian viewers. And it cements nasty racist stereotypes. Silk-robed women in accented English pouring tea? The lotus blossom. Fu Manchu? A perennial foreigner and criminal archetype that has been featured in pop culture for almost 100 years. These are caricatures that have been plaguing Asian Americans for generations.

Even journalistic coverage of then Knicks star Jeremy Lin was especially revealing: ESPN’s “Chink in the armor” snafu and MSG Network’s fortune-cookie advert made it abundantly clear: Americans, well intentioned or not, simply don’t know how to write about Asian people.

Kai Ma, Why Yellowface Episode in ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Is Not Funny | TIME.com   (via pag-asaharibon)

(Source: citizenshipandsocialjustice, via pag-asaharibon)

Filed under HIMYM how i met your racism how i met your mother racism yellowface media

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globalvoices:

themindislimitless:

This is a part of a campaign started in India to counter celebrity support of skin-lightning creams. It’s meant to be a direct contest to the idea that light skin is necessary to achieve beauty or success. This actress here, is Nandita Das, who’s part of this project (aside from being a part of campaigns against domestic violence and the stigma against HIV-positive people).
And with that, I present to you a blog celebrating our dark-skinned Indians and their stories: darkisbeautiful.blogspot.com

‘Dark Is Beautiful’ Campaign Questions India’s Skin Colour Prejudices

globalvoices:

themindislimitless:

This is a part of a campaign started in India to counter celebrity support of skin-lightning creams. It’s meant to be a direct contest to the idea that light skin is necessary to achieve beauty or success. This actress here, is Nandita Das, who’s part of this project (aside from being a part of campaigns against domestic violence and the stigma against HIV-positive people).

And with that, I present to you a blog celebrating our dark-skinned Indians and their stories: darkisbeautiful.blogspot.com

‘Dark Is Beautiful’ Campaign Questions India’s Skin Colour Prejudices

(via angryasiangirlsunited)

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Why “How I Met Your Mother” was racist

Here’s a post written by one of our own MAASU Executive Coordinating Committee Members, Norman Chen:

I consider myself an avid How I Met Your Mother fan. The show is normally witty and well written (to an extent). However, when I saw the newest episode, “Slappointment in Slapmarra”, I was quite disappointed in the show. Without question, my reaction to it was that it was downright racist and outrageous that it would even be included in the episode. I posted this to Facebook and a lot of people seemed to be confused as to why I felt this way, which is what prompted me to write this blog post.


To really understand why this is offensive, it helps to understand the context and history of “Yellowface,” which is basically when a White actor plays an Asian character complete with “exotic” clothing, exaggerated accent, and eyes taped back. When many people question why something is offensive to Asian Americans, it may help to examine blackface and how it is offensive to the African American community. The history of
minstrel shows and the intentions behind them prove to us why blackface is racist. However, there is a severe lack of understanding and engagement as to how and why yellowface is racist. 

One of the prime examples of yellowface in mainstream media can be found in the popular Audrey Hepburn movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s:




Mickey Rooney plays an extreme caricature of a Japanese man in this clip. As you can see, Mickey Rooney is not Asian but he nonetheless portrays this character in a very over-the-top fashion. He openly stated that he never thought anyone would be offended by this character; sadly, not only is it offensive but it’s quite unrealistic and stereotypical. As a result, given the almost non-existence of Asians in the media and how popular
Breakfast at Tiffany’s was in its time, for many Americans this may have been the only depiction of an Asian character in mainstream media that they ever saw…one that is not even played by an Asian actor.

Additionally, there is a precedent for Hollywood movies to be set in some mystical and mythical Asian country starring a Caucasian male character (never an Asian character) that usually ends up saving the day. Good examples of these types of movies are
The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise and the recent 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves (who admittedly is part Chinese/Hawaiian) which was severely lacking in the box office. Interestingly enough, Reeves’ character does not actually exist in the original tales about the 47 ronin but presumably because the studio felt that it would not perform as well using a Japanese character as the protagonist, they fired the original director and hired a new one to re shoot the movie with Reeves’ as a focal point.

[To read more about 47 Ronin and its many issues, this article is wonderful]

Mickey Rooney and Keanu Reeves are part of a long history of yellowface and Asian exclusion in movies and TV series. What does this have to do with How I Met Your Mother? HIMYM plays into this history of yellowface and exclusion by dressing cast in stereotypical “Asian” garb and keeping the Asian actors as subplots. By placing focus on the white cast members, the show is inadvertently perpetuating several ideas.  To mark Kung Fu as distinctly “Asian” they use “Asian” wind chimes as background, dress the characters in “Asian” garments and give them “Asian” hairstyles. Secondly, the Asian actors are used only in the background to add atmosphere to the storyline. Essentially, they are props. Already, there is limited amount of Asian faces on TV and even in this particular episode which supposedly aims to satirize old Kung Fu movies, the Asian actors were only used to mark the setting in which the Slap of a Million Suns is taught.


If the writers intended for the main characters to remain the focal point, Ted, Lily, and Robin could have quite easily retained their normal wardrobe, make p and hairstyles. Instead, to mark them as Asian and in essence, foreign, they were given fake names and rather ridiculous looking outfits at varying levels of outrageousness.
I am not advocating against the use of comedy and humor, especially that of satire. I think it would be perfectly fine to produce a comical skit that depicts kung fu, but there is a difference between being smart in your production and doing it simply because it is Asian. What do the Kung Fu outfits add to the characters of Ted, Robin and Lily?  What is really the point of Robin having chopsticks in her hair or having Ted sport a fu manchu moustache?

Intelligent satire would have a reason for each and every decision made instead of just dressing up for the sake of dressing up. The Fu Man Chu moustache is especially concerning because it has dangerous and mystical connotations, seen on villainous East Asian male characters. It has in essence become the symbolic mark of the Yellow Peril, which is the fear that Asians will eventually take over the world. We see Yellow Peril themes present in other movies such as Red Dawn and Olympus Has Fallen which produces a fear or hate of Asians, who are portrayed as nothing but evil and unfeeling. One of the more famous products of Yellow Peril is actually the supervillain Mandarin from the Ironman comic series, who also sports a fu manchu moustache. By wearing this particular moustache, Ted becomes a symbol of notoriety and a generator of hate toward Asians in general. For Asian Americans, this symbol challenges their very essence as Americans because it marks them as other.

[Here’s a Wikipedia article on the Fu Manchu moustache and how it creates the “Evil” East Asian]

In addition to marking Asian Americans as others, the show in essence presents Kung Fu as a stereotypically Asian trait, which is a product of the lack of proper Asian American representation in media. For the characters on the show and non-Asian people in general that caricaturize Asian culture, the decision to participate in this is as simple as changing into another outfit. Asian Americans are not afforded this opportunity of slipping in and out of character: We cannot remove the way our skin, eyes or body looks.

Statistically speaking, Asian American students are bullied more than any other racial group in school. Typically, one in three students are bullied up until high school, however the number rises up to more than half for Asian American students.

[See MAASU’s Bullying PSA here!]

We need to ask what exactly contributes to this bullying? Are Asian Americans just simply easier to make fun of? Are Asian Americans docile and refusing to fight back? Part of the problem lies in the severe lack in media representation. When your role models on Television only consist of Apu from the Simpsons and Jackie Chan from Rush Hour, the chances of you getting made fun of or being called names (likely just because you look similar to one of them) is significantly higher.

For HIMYM to participate in this marking of Asians + Kung Fu, Asians + background objects, produces an environment that has also lead to kids being bullied and offended in other ways. The Asian American experience often includes being asked if they have learned kung fu or karate growing up or if it is socially acceptable to put chopsticks in their hair. These tiny, seemingly harmless questions build up as microaggressions that assault ones claim to their identity. It is quite sad that I feel that I need to own up to how American I am despite being born in this country. A very simple example of a microaggression for me is being asked, “Where are you from?” My initial reaction is, and always will be, to answer: “I was born in Connecticut, but raised in Chicago.” Despite being blessed to be connected with my family’s culture, I sometimes viewed it as a burden because it discredited my claim to American citizenship. As an Asian American, I was afraid of being and feeling foreign at my American school…but at the same time felt disconnected and out of place when I went to Asia. Still despite all of this, CNN’s  headline only describes “Asians” getting offended, as if only half of me cares that we are being mocked instead of the entirety of my being. That is not okay.


However, there are certain truths about America television that we have to understand. Raymond Williams wrote about “Television flow” in 1974, explaining that American Television is haphazard but heterogeneous. Despite all the different things going on television and mainstream media (think about how many shows and commercials that are out there), it will always favor a “dominant cultural order”, which at this point right now is still white, heterosexual and male. Hence, it makes sense to be uncomfortable when you are not included in the intended frame of discussion. However, as viewers, our job is to interpret the discourse that exist within TV that we are watching. If Asian American and other types of viewers find this particular episode offensive and controversial, then that is their interpretation and they are entitled to that.

For those who found the episode humourous, I am not asking you to lose your sense of humor or your enjoyment of kung fu satire. Instead, I am strongly asking you to consider and reflect upon why is it offensive instead of dismissing it as mere sensitivity.  After all, we are not asking you to stop being entertained by HIMYM, but rather to understand the historical and cultural context that makes this episode offensive. For the writers of HIMYM, I ask you to write consciously and stop reinforcing existing Asian stereotypes like you did last Monday.

Filed under himym how i met your mother how i met your racism yellowface blackface racism asian american

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The One Thing White Writers Get Away With, But Authors of Color Don't

How many celebrated white writers have written characters who were not exactly like them? William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, Pearl S. Buck, Colum McCann, Yann Martel, and Arthur Golden immediately come to mind. In a society masquerading as post-racial, it is still only the white man who can speak authoritatively for every man. People of color, on the other hand, are expected to speak only for themselves.”

 There are many situations where Asian Americans are held to a different standard than others, and writers are no exception. We still don’t have the privilege of being judged solely on the content of what we create.

Filed under asian americans white privilege bill cheng writers authors

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#NotYourAsianSidekick is taking it to the next level!

fascinasians:

Back in December, you helped take Twitter by storm by participating in #NotYourAsianSidekick — the hashtag that showed up in over 95 million Twitter feeds.1

Started by activist Suey Park (with help from fellow social justice movers and shakers, Juliet Shen and 18MR’s own Cayden Mak), #NotYourAsianSidekick began as a digital exploration of Asian American feminism — but thanks to you and millions more around the world, the conversation has grown to cover issues of race, ethnicity, identity, class, and culture.

18MillionRising invites you to help channel our incredible Twitter energy into other spaces and places — starting by participating in 18MR’s first #NotYourAsianSidekick Google Hangout next week ThursdayWill you join us?

We know many of you are eager to take #NotYourAsianSidekick to the next level. Stickers are a good start. Now, we believe a series of public conversations about AAPIs, our history, and our activism can help set the stage for more local and national organizing. We hope you’ll be inspired by the panel of incredible AAPI women who will share their experiences and perspectives on the #NotYourAsianSidekick Google Hangout next week. If folks are inspired by the movement-building work of other AAPIs, everyone is more likely to stay engaged for the long haul!

Please tune into next week’s #NotYourAsianSidekick Google Hangout. In addition to listening, participants will also have the chance to submit questions to the panelists, so come ready to tell us what’s on your mind. You can RSVP for the hangout here.

Here’s to kicking things up a notch!

In solidarity,
PaKou, Samala, Cayden, and Cynthia
The 18MR Team

P.S. We’re planning to do more Google Hangouts, and want to hear your ideas. Tell us about what topics you want to discuss in future hangouts.

Join us on the google hangout!

(via racialicious)