Tell me about your family’s heritage
My family is from a city in china called Guangzhou, in the Guangdong province, its in southern China. Both my parents grew up there and moved here as a couple in their early 20s and had me and my brother.
Have you had to negotiate many tensions between having a Chinese family at home and growing up in a western society.
Definitely, like my mum thinks of herself as progressive and Western but she has maintained traditional Chinese values. Cliché ones; like when it comes to education, she’s always pushed me to succeed and she is quite conservative towards drugs and alcohol. It was most difficult when I was in high school as she was really strict when it came to letting me go out with my friends and I didn’t understand why, it was very isolating. She’s also pushed me to maintain the culture and the language which I didn’t start appreciating until I got older. I’ve found speaking Chinese is really beneficial at work.
I want to understand your introduction to feminism so when did you start thinking about; gender roles, the patriarchy, sexism etc.
It’s always been very apparent in high school, because at my all-girls school they really focused on these values like our prescribed year 10 text was the handmaid’s tale. I didn’t really take any of this stuff very seriously, but once I started uni I enjoyed researching these topics in my own time. One real tipping point was watching a doco on the representation of women in the media and post-watching I was hyper-aware of the unfair similarities women are subjected to in their media portrayal. But I still don’t think I’ll feel the full weight of the patriarchy until I start working, because I’ve been so lucky in my upbringing.
Have you given any thought to how your racial identity intersects with your gender identity?
Yeah, I have, my mum has certainly pointed it out to me from a young age, that I face two levels of discrimination as a Chinese woman. I suppose I didn’t put too much thought into it until last year but I’ve definitely been profiled as a submissive Asian woman, and it’s just an annoying stereotype, cause I’m not submissive and none of my friends are submissive.
“I still don’t think I’ll feel the full weight of the patriarchy until I start working, because I’ve been so lucky in my upbringing.”
Do most of your friends have a similar cultural background?
Yeah, yeah definitely, I guess I was more sheltered in high school, then I branched out when I went to uni. The main demographic at UNSW is definitely Asian, so I’m naturally surrounded by people with a similar background, and it is comforting to know there’s a lot of other people going through the same things you do (discrimination and the struggle of navigating both Chinese and Western culture).
I want you to tell me more about the phenomenon of yellow fever
It’s a very complex issue and I can’t really generalize where it comes from…but from my understanding of it, its typically based on a white male perception that Asian females are submissive. I’ve seen it a lot in Thailand, in Pattaya, which is like the red-light district of Thailand I went there with my mum, and there were loads of old white guys coupled with younger Asian females. My step dad is actually Russian and my mum is Chinese so it looked really strange * Laughs*. There’s other, more vulgar fetish elements to it, that some of my friends have been subjected to like the idea that smaller Asian women have smaller vaginas which is more pleasurable for men when they have intercourse. There are some intense power dynamics at play when you question whether its comparable to criticise an Asian woman who exclusively dates Caucasian men. I’d argue it’s not, and that might be bias but there’s more of a history of male patriarchy that comes into yellow fever, where as an Asian woman’s desire for Caucasian males could easily stem from the white washing and huge reach of western media. Whiteness in general is considered to be the highest standard of beauty and reverse yellow fever could easily develop as a bi-product.
Ilias Bakalla is the producer, director and interviewer of Women of color: The Intersectional Experience. He is a young journalist based in Sydney, Australia a lot of his work centers around intersectionality stemming from his formal education in the Sociology of religion, Gender and Cultural studies. He has authored a number of opinion pieces on civil religion and racial identities published in his blog; Fouzi Thinks and in The Artifice. He also writes extensively for the online-based publication; Sydney Scoop about cultural events happening in Sydney.
Louise Dietz-Henderson is the Filmmaker and editor of Women of Colour : The Intersectional Experience. Lou is a film producer, freelance photographer and videographer who studied her bachelor’s degree at the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney, Australia. Lou currently resides in Sydney.