Intersectionality: Activism of Asian Women
By Maia Mongado
In the past decade, there has thankfully been a growing acknowledgement and interest in the history of
people of color in America, ranging from the experiences of the Native people of this land to immigrants
who have come from a range of diverse backgrounds throughout the long existence of the United States.
There are many things in common that people of color have experienced, but there are also differences
based on their backgrounds. This is where the key term of intersectionality comes into play.
Intersectionality is a concept that, despite having taken many history classes in college and studied on
Asian issues throughout high school, I did not encounter until college. Intersectionality is a term coined
by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to describe how intersections of identity can completely change
someone’s experience. For example, while there are many problems that both Black women and Black
men face, there are also many issues unique to the experience of Black women.
Historically, Asian women have shared many of the hardships of their male counterparts; however, there
have also been key moments in time when these experiences differed in significant ways. Not only have
Asian women had to deal with racism from the American world, but also misogyny from other Asian
men, both in their home country and in the U.S. This theme has been explored in many novels by Asian
American women, like Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.
Studying this intersection is more important now than ever when we see events such as the Atlanta
shooting. Understanding the experience of Asian women specifically and supporting activism that pertains
to problems they face is key to avoiding and preventing events like those.
Asian women themselves have always been involved in activism; from campaigning and rallying against
the Vietnam War, to speaking out about the indignity of segregation, to getting involved in politics. Asian
women such as Yuri Kochiyama spoke out not just against Japanese interment in the 1940s, but also
advocated for the Latina and Black women of New York and fought for desegregation in inner city
schools. Helen Zia, a queer Chinese American journalist, fought for the rights of Asian immigrants to be
protected by federal civil rights laws.
Today, there are more Asian women in the U.S. than ever before, and also more Asian women speaking
about their experiences specifically. This number only continues to grow as activism begets more
Gender is far from the only intersection that affects how an Asian person experiences the world. Things
like class, sexuality, or disability can all compound on a person’s race or ethnicity and change their
experience. Acknowledging or educating ourselves about these existing divisions does not divide us further, as some opponents of intersectionality believe, but actually is the first step in eradicating them.
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