Simone Biles Withdrawing From The Women's Gymnastics Team Final Sends a Big Message About Media Pressures
Leading up to the Olympics, I couldn't help but notice the way commentators talked about Simone Biles. Usually when we talk about the media's negative effects on high profile individuals like Simone, we're used to it being more or less overt bullying that is the cause of distress amongst these celebrities. However, the way the media has covered Simone Biles reminds me a lot of parents with high expectations for their children, who (sometimes unintentionally) put huge amounts of pressure on their kids. And I remember thinking, even just a couple days ago during the qualifiers, that they need to stop talking about her like she's superhuman. That amount of pressure is unfair, even if the comments are well-intended. I, as a spectator, was feeling the pressure--I can't imagine how Simone has been feeling!
An account I follow on IG recently shared a clip of Miss Singapore strutting down the runway in a remarkable outfit for the National Costume portion, which had a very powerful statement: Stop Asian Hate. It looked amazing, she looked amazing, I loved it. Then I decided to check out Miss Singapore 2021's IG page, whose name is Bernadette Belle Ong, and watched an interview clip of her response to dealing with hate crimes against Asians and I was gravely disappointed. This is a prime example of someone appropriating people's pain for their own gain and the Asian version of white privilege. Let me explain why.
Last week, a friend mentioned to me that she has many Asian American colleagues, but I'm the only one she sees speaking out about it. I thought about this, and wanted to share 3 reasons your Asian friends/acquaintances may not be speaking out about anti-Asian hate.
If you know me, you've probably heard my story about being verbally and racially attacked at Disneyland when I was in second grade, and that my mom simply apologized. The man accused us of killing his father in WWII, and she apologized to him so as not to cause more of a scene and to protect us in case the man became physically violent. What I don't often talk about, but have been thinking about a lot, is the other man that was in line in front of us, who turned around to confront the racist and stop him from further verbally assaulting us. The trauma of that moment often overshadows that man's allyship in my memory, but I've never forgotten it. As the rise in anti-Asian attacks continues, escalating with this week's mass murder, amongst the daily attacks that continue, especially in the Bay Area, I've been thinking a lot about that ally at Disneyland and I've been thinking about bystanders in other situations I've been in.
This week, once again, the Catholic Church was in the headlines for disappointing, painful, and harmful news. The Church claims that it does not have the power to bless same-sex unions, because it is "impossible" for God to "bless sin." To love is not a sin, and this is the kind of ass backwards shit that infuriates me and often makes me question my Catholic identity. Over the last decade, I've strengthened my faith and even consider myself a proud and devout Catholic. As the Interfaith Representative of my parish, I'm proud of the work we've done and continue to do to build bridges with our neighbors of other faiths in order to do God's work in our community. I'm also proud that we welcome same sex couples in our parish. I have felt like we as the people are the ones actually leading the way in the Church. But when the Church makes these kinds of official statements, it feels like a punch in the gut for all the work many communities are doing to progress the Church away from its antiquated ways. And frankly, I sometimes feel lost because my faith is the foundation of my life and being Catholic is as much a part of my identity as being Chinese American, only I can't walk away from or change my ethnic identity. So, where does all this leave a Catholic woman in today's world? Where does this leave me and my faith?
By now it seems people have finally caught on to the anti-Asian racism the Asian American community has experienced the entire pandemic, with the recent increase in vicious attacks, especially against our elderly and women. Anti-Asian sentiment and racism isn't new. It has existed for as long as Asians have been here, as long as the first Filipinos were brought as slaves during the colonial period. While many of our parents and grandparents have always brushed off racist attacks, we're tired of having our voices silenced or ignored. If you're wondering how you can support the Asian American community right now, here are a few ways:
Last year, I had several conversations with several different people explaining why using the term "China [or Chinese] virus" was racist or at least incited racism. People of course would always reference the Spanish flu, and to that I say read this article which explains why that was racist, too. A point I have oft made is that, had the virus first been found in the UK, I highly doubt that we'd suddenly see a rise in hate and attacks against British people. Funny enough, there now is a "British mutation" of COVID-19, or at least a mutation that was first found in the UK. Isn't it ironic, that people are careful to point out that this mutation was first found in the UK and not that the mutation itself is British and that British people are to blame for this? Now there's also a South African strain and I've wondered if we might see racist remarks about Africa in general, the same way that the "China virus" affects and affected all Asian Americans and other Asians who are minorities in their countries, such as the UK and France. I would think (or at least hope) not, since at this point it seems the virus itself is mutating faster than we are all able to get vaccinated and it's clear that that cannot be blamed on any one ethnicity or race.
With all this said, I was very happy to see that President Joe Biden released a Memorandum Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. I feel seen. I'm not sure we've seen something like this before, because often times Asian Americans are overlooked in race talks. So, thank you Mr. President for seeing us.
In December, as part of 16 Days of Activism, a global movement to end gender-based violence that starts every year on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ends on December 10th, Human Rights Day, I moderated a panel on behalf of Amnesty International's Los Angeles Chapter, to discuss the COVID-19's impact on gender-based violence. The pandemic has had a major effect on everyone, in multiple ways, and it has brought out of the shadows the widespread and and large scale of issues that often gets tucked away in the shadow of society.
A recording of the panel is now available on YouTube for you to watch. We had a stellar panel including Tani Ikeda, and representatives from Break the Cycle, SafeBAE, and AmnestyUSA.
There's a scene in Bridgerton, after Daphne finally learns how babies are made and is upset to realize that her husband has misled her into thinking he can't have children, when it is that he won't have children. In their next bedtime encounter, before he is able to finish, she forces herself on top of him until he finishes inside her, instead of outside of her as he usually did. This is a consent issue and equates to a sexual assault. Yes, a woman can sexually assault a man. Yes, a wife can sexually assault her husband (and vice versa). And yes, you can be in the throws of sexual intimacy when consent is violated and assault is committed. It's important to recognize this, because I think many of us may have overlooked this. If the roles were reversed, it would have been very obvious and we would have said that Simon raped Daphne. The series highlights the lack of sex education women had back then, and how important sex education is. More importantly, sex education must include education on consent.
I was gutted to hear that Daisy Coleman took her life yesterday. I was shocked. I had to read the words at least three times before I fully comprehended what was happening. I didn't know her well, but I met her and the SafeBAE (Safe Before Anyone Else) team she co-founded a couple of years ago when I had the privilege of speaking on a panel at the end of a screening for their short GAME ON! The short was an educational piece to show teens how to look out for each other and prevent sexual assault by being an active bystander.
They, like myself, have a mission in life to help our younger and future generations change our culture for the better. After watching her story in the Netflix documentary, "Audrie and Daisy," I felt a sisterly connection with her, the way I do with all survivors. Daisy didn't deserve what happened to her. No woman or child does. She was just 14 when she was raped and left out in the freezing Missouri cold. But instead of her town and school supporting her and helping her heal, they turned on her. They bullied her at school and online.
Healing is not a straight and narrow path, but one full of ups and downs, U-turns, and off-roading. I, myself, know this well. Daisy did a lot of work on her healing, including EMDR, and was in the process of making a documentary showing her journeh. Daisy gave the world a gift when she became an activist. She turned her nightmare into a million dreams. And I, like so many others, was inspired by her. She was also an artist, and became known for tatooing other survivors. She took what happened to her and lit the way to help other young survivors.
We must continue that work. We can't let children continue to have their innocence robbed from them and then slaughtered in front of their faces. We can't let a culture of sexual assault to continue. This means educating young people on how to protect themselves and each other. This means not letting offenders get away with a mere slap of the wrist like so many young white male rapists have gotten away with. You can help continue Daisy’s and SafeBAE's work by donating to their organization. For the rest of the year, I will also donate a portion of any profit I make on Pocket Full of Dreams to SafeBAE. Please also consider purchasing the book for any young person you may know, or a school--middle school, high school, or university age. We must end this culture of abuse together.