The prevalence of anti-Asian violence and harassment, whether through racial slurs or killings, has escalated recently; But, this has been a problem well before the pandemic, and I’m glad that people are finally starting to recognize the problem and are beginning to have conversations about it. The racism, xenophobia, fetishization, and misogyny that bring about violence against Asian women, in particular, is so normalized in our societies. It has become deeply embedded in our culture, and this is an incredibly pressing issue.
It’s important to remember and honor all the fierce and powerful Asian women who have made and continue to make marks across different industries and fields. The contributions of these women, alongside many other women who are not mentioned, are helping to dispel society’s false perceptions and changing the face of the stereotypical Asian woman.
Here is a list of four Asian women who have personally inspired and influenced me. I have no doubt that their stories and work will do just the same for you.
- Corazon Aquino
"I’ve reached a point in life where it’s no longer necessary to try to impress. If they like me the way I am, that’s good. If they don’t, that’s too bad.”
Corazon is the first female president of the Philippines who ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Her husband Benigno S. Aquino Jr. was a strong opposition to Marcos, and this eventually led to his imprisonment and the couple’s exile to the United States. Upon returning to the Philippines, Benigno S. Aquino Jr. was assassinated, which encouraged Corazon’s brave and astonishing fight against Marcos. Her presidency restored a sense of democracy in the Philippines after years of dictatorship. She served as an icon of peace and unity in a country that had only seen violence and disorder for many years. As someone who started as a housewife, this is incredibly badass of her.
- Patsy Takemoto Mink
“We have to build things that we want to see accomplished… to make sure that others do not have to suffer the same discrimination.”
A woman of many historical “firsts,” Mink was the first Japanese American woman to practice law in Hawaii, the first Asian American woman to serve in Congress, and was the first woman of color to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Mink faced many obstacles along her way, such as getting rejected from every medical school that she applied to and being unemployed due to her interracial marriage. Even through such obstacles, Mink always found creative ways to overcome them; she even became the first Asian American to run for president. In addition, Mink made impacts when she wrote bills like the Women’s Educational Equity Act and Title IX.
- Nisha Ayub
“I will never forget or forgive them. People tell me all the time that I should let it go and forgive those people. I have let it go but I will never forgive them.”
As a trans woman living in a majority Muslim country, Nisha faced violence, ridicule, discrimination, and sexual assault in society, especially in the male prison that religious authorities sent her to for three months. Her past experiences have influenced her to become a prominent transgender rights activist in Malaysia. She is the founder of SEED and Justice for Sisters, which are NGOs that aim to provide support to transgender people, HIV positive persons, and sex workers. In addition, these organizations work to eradicate Malaysia’s discriminatory laws. Nisha’s work exists to protect vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community so that no one has to go through what she did.
- Junko Tabei
“I can’t understand why men make all this fuss about Everest-it’s only a mountain.”
Junko Tabei is the 36th person to climb Mt. Everest and the first woman to reach the top. She was also the first woman to climb the highest peaks of the seven continents. Her passion for climbing started at a young age, and she faced many obstacles along the way. Tabei faced lots of criticism for defying Japanese cultural expectations of women being housewives. Additionally, several men did not want to climb with her because they believed she had underlying intentions of finding a husband. Eventually, she founded her own all-women climbing club that was premised on the idea that women are capable of leading their own expeditions. In addition, she is an influential advocate in fighting to preserve wild areas.
Stereotypes and perceptions should not hinder you from achieving your dreams and aspirations. These four women serve as great examples of individuals who have truly disproved societies misogynistic and xenophobic perceptions. Remember that these are only four of the many inspirational Asian Women. There are so many more amazing women out there, and I hope that a glimpse into some of their stories and work has inspired you.