Growing up as an asian girl in the UK, it was unlikely that I’d see myself represented in books, on TV, in magazines or films. Even when I did see the odd Asian woman or family on TV, it would often be a complete stereotype; teenagers in arranged or forced marriages, young women being oppressed by their family and constant misunderstandings when trying to fit into British culture, which was often used for comedic value. Think Apu in The Simpsons and Coronation Street. This is because so many portrayals of Asian people were not written by them.
Even now as an adult, the media and publishing industries are overwhelmingly run by white males, and of course there are still so many two-dimensional representations of Asian people in print and on screens. However, there is a strong desire from all minorities to see themselves not only represented but represented accurately. The movie industry is even seeing how valuable (and profitable!) it is to invest in these stories, and we can see this in the success of films like Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther.
But, mass appeal is not the only reason to tell our stories. So why is it so important to ensure our voices are heard? Firstly, when we see ourselves in the things we consume it helps us find our identity. Riz Ahmed summed it up perfectly when he explained: “People are looking for the message that they belong, that they are part of something, that they are seen and heard and that despite, or perhaps because of, their experience, they are valued.” He also warned that narrow representations of minorities can lead to them believing that that is all their destined to become.
Another reason it is so important to amplify our voices is that sharing our stories breaks down taboos, of which there are so many within Asian culture. Recently, I read the book ‘Chase the Rainbow’ by Poorna Bell, an Asian woman, who writes about her husband's struggles with mental health. It was really refreshing to hear someone from an Asian background being so open with the world about how mental illness affected her relationships and life. It is a topic which is often brushed under the carpet within Asian communities and starting a dialogue about it is an act of rebellion in itself.
From something as small as an Instagram post that discusses what it’s like to be a queer Asian or a poem that discusses finally coming to terms with your heritage, each time we share something that we experience, it helps to break down a barrier. In a world where Asian women can feel like outsiders in so many ways, in their homes, at work and on the street, it is more important than ever that our stories connect us so we don’t feel alone in a world that often dismisses our voices.
Here at Asian Woman Festival, we want to become a platform where we can share our experiences. I recently joined the team as the content manager and it is my mission to ensure we amplify the voices of Asian women. We all have a unique story to tell and if you want to contribute to the conversation, find out how you can become a contributor.
Guest blog by: Kim Bansi
Kim is the content manager at Asian Woman Festival. She also works as an editor for a student app, as well as running her own blog, Brown Girl Kim. She loves writing about the experiences of being an asian woman and bringing to light subjects which would ordinarily be taboo, such as gender, mental health and body image. She also creates short videos on these subjects.