Survival Kit
// by
Elizabeth Tsung

 

 

Here are the things real men have called me: my oriental flower, hot steamed buns, sweet lil’ dumpling, and kung fu bitch. These are true remarks I’ve experienced since my junior year of high school. I have also been on the other end of these comments. Once, I was walking out of the subway when a random white dude called me “chinky slut!”
The world has looked at Asian women under archaic stereotypes for too long. We have been objectified, exoticized, fetishized for too long, and I’ve had enough. So how do we, as people of color, women of color, fight our way through the injustices we see? How do we carve our path and make a name for ourselves in a society that’s constantly belittling us and telling us we are not worthy?
I honestly don’t have the answers. All I can do is have faith that one day, the world will live harmoniously and respectfully with all kinds of people, regardless of their sexual orientation and identity or color of their skin. Right now, all I can do is be inspired by these beautiful pieces of work that hauntingly capture the essence of what it means to be otherworldly and simultaneously human. I hope you agree. 

 

Three Pieces of Art

1. “Chinky,” Franny Choi:
I have loved Franny Choi’s work for years. And I’ve come back to her pieces, especially the ones on identity and what it means to be Asian over and over again because they’re timeless. They truly embody the essence of being an outcast, of being inferior. Her poetry makes me feel less alone.

2. “Song to the Siren,” Matthew Papa (NSFW):
Papa is a queer lens-based artist in New York City whom I’ve been fortunate enough to cross paths with. This photo series is haunting and refreshing at the same time to me, because of the message it portrays - how men are just as beautiful, if not more, than women. This series deconstructs the beauty standards of today, and poses a more relevant question - when will we finally see men the way we see women? 

3. “Please Don’t Squeeze Me ‘Til I’m Yours,” Elizabeth Aoki (NSFW):
Aoki’s poem documents the day to day life of street harassment and inappropriate behavior towards women. It’s something I believe all people can relate to, especially women of color and trans people, because we have all at one point felt the repugnancy and shame from being objectified on the streets.

 

Two People That Make You Feel Less Alone

1. Farnoosh Fathi:
“Where does "inside language" begin? Where does inside language begin and poetry end? "Inside" language, the mysterious language of friendships, has always meant a lot to me.”
“All these qualities that you also see in children and in babies, and sometimes you think in teens it's hard to access, or that's sort of a notion people have about teens, and I find that untrue if you're able to connect with someone through their writing, as an equal in the mystery of that process, and it's an incredible gift to me, and it makes me much freer, and it strengthens my own dedication because I see theirs, intimately. They teach me by virtue of who they are, and I endeavor to do the same.”
I’ve always loved Fathi’s poems. They’re rare and delicate, yet have the impact of a sword gutting your intestines. In this interview, we learn about Fathi’s mission to provide young women authors ages 12-19 with the platform to be heard.

2. Wo Chan:
“I think there’s something misleading going on whenever a marginalized group is asked to provide the solutions to institutional problems that oppress them. As undocumented poets we are fighting for our right to stay in this country. We are hiring lawyers we can hardly afford. We are fighting to keep our families together. We are doing this and we are producing some of the best poetry in the English language. That is us fulfilling our responsibility to our communities and to our stories.”
Wo Chan’s poetry speaks to me in such a way that words literally come to life. In this interview, he discusses citizenship and the battles that many immigrants face, which I find deeply courageous. Not enough people want to fight for these things. Not enough people care either.

 

One Thing You Carry With You

“never
trust anyone
who says
they do not see color.
this means
to them,
you are invisible.”
― Nayyirah Waheed

Every single poem I have read from Waheed has brought tears to my eyes. This is no exception.

You have to remember one thing ― you are perfect just the way you are. Don’t let anyone take that from you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We, as marginalized peoples, are always finding ways to balance opening our shells and letting the world in. But be soft. Let them see your grace, your beauty, your ability to love. And hold onto it for as long as you can.

 

 

I am a Taiwanese American poet and writer living in Queens, NY. As someone who has struggled all her life to navigate her identity in this world, battling body issues, mental illness, being an incest survivor and more, these tools have helped me tremendously whenever I was in need of community and understanding. My poetry can be found in espnW, Bone Bouquet, BuzzFeed, Dead King, sea foam, Rogue Agent and more. I am also the Founder/Editor-In-Chief of Dulcet Quarterly, an inclusive feminist literary magazine (p.s., we’re seeking submissions!). Find me on Twitter or at elizabethtsung.tumblr.com.


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