Yumei and Yulan are sisters who grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, aka the 626. Mei is a rising high school senior, and Yulan works as a programmer by day. They are both passionate about feminism, justice, and intersectional Christianity. This is a recent conversation they had.
My Taiwanese dad said my middle name should’ve been “it’s not fair!”, because that’s what I said all the time. I was the middle child, and I lived up to every inch of that stereotype. I wanted things to be fair. I wanted the pie sliced within a millimeter of accuracy, always.
Maybe that childish desire instilled in me this concept of “fairness” – that I was always going to get the cookie if I behaved well and did my chores.
Maybe I was too naive
Maybe I didn’t notice the extra cash in my brother’s red envelope
Maybe I wanted to believe that I would be judged based on my character, instead of my race, my gender, my age.
Maybe I didn’t notice – but maybe I just didn’t want to.
Mei, do you remember the first time you realized you would have to walk the tightrope of womanhood? Our conversation went something like this:
Mei: I can’t believe that my teacher told me that my words will be received differently because I’m a woman! It’s just not right!
Me: I know it’s not right, but that’s how the world will be.
In that moment, I was torn.
There was a part of me that desperately wanted you to live more freely, walk more confidently, and speak more boldly. I didn’t want you to go through the same mental gymnastics I do every time words come out of my mouth.
Am I “too feminine”?
Do I sound “too aggressive”?
Do I come off as … bossy??
I wanted you to be free from all of that.
At the same time, I didn’t want you to be too naive. I wanted you to have the freedom and agency to be fully yourself, while knowing the consequences of doing so. God created you articulate, bold, and with a passion for integrity and justice. I want to see you live into all of that, but I also want to protect you from the battles that are to come, or at least see you be prepared.
I want you to have words to say when someone comments on your legs instead of your work. I want you to know that how you dress is going to matter in ridiculous, stupid ways. I want you to know that you’ll always have to walk the line between bossy and doormat, and that there really is no winning.
My voice cost me. I can argue it should, or shouldn’t have, or maybe the boy shouldn’t have said this or the teacher shouldn’t have said that, but screw that. Screw them.
I’ll speak my mind – if I was a boy and said these things, they wouldn’t blink an eye. As a girl, they’ll crucify me for saying them. So let them. God only knows Jesus was crucified for doing what was right.
I’ll wear that dress. My legs look hella good and I know it. I ran forty miles a week, and my legs aren’t for your viewing – they’re so I can kick butts in my races.
And I won’t be free. But I’ll fight. Because battles aren’t always fought on the fields. They’re fought in the minds of those who refuse to change.
If I’m never going to win, some say that I might as well keep my mouth shut. Hell, if I’m never going to win, you can bet that my voice is going to only shout louder until someday, someone hears me. Hears us.
Because I’m not just a “tiny asian girl”. I’m not a mannequin to be gawked at. Neither are any other women. I have a voice, and I’ll use it to speak my mind.
And I’ll use it to apologize.
And I’ll shout for the people who have no voices left.
And there will be people after me who when I have no voice left, will shout for me.
But today is not that day.
Today, we fight. Together.