Empowered AAPI Women and Girls Launch #ImReady Movement

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By Brittney Le
AsAmNews Staff Writer

AAPI Women Lead co-founder Connie Wun experienced sexual harassment and fetishization on the streets and in academia, while her sister and co-founder Jenny Wun encountered similar situations in corporate America. Celine Jusuf, who’s had her own #MeToo moments, emphasizes that there’s no one right way to heal from or process an experience with sexual assault.

Connie Wun. Photo by The Green Ballon Media Group.

The three are leading what they call the #ImReady Movement. Formed by AAPI Women Lead, the rising movement hopes to raise visibility around self-identified AAPI women and girls and their experiences with #MeToo, racial discrimination, war, immigration, and more.

One of the movement’s main goals is to help end the intersections of violence within and against AAPI communities, in solidarity with other communities of color.

In light of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Brett Kavanaugh and the many women who waited years to come forward with their #MeToo stories, Jusuf reminds us that sexual assault survivors are under no obligation to come forward.

“Nobody owes you their disclosure,” said Jusuf, the Communications Associate’s & Youth Leader of AAPI Women Lead. “Nobody has to share anything with you regardless of your relationship with them and I hope that if you’re asking to learn or even improve a relationship or support that you’re always centering the life and identity of the survivor first – because it’s not about you, and nobody owes you these experiences, or reliving them.”

“I’ve been doing this work on violence against women and girls of color for more than 20 years,” said Connie Wun, a visiting scholar in women and gender studies at San Francisco State University. “And I realized that there we could use more of our communities’ presence in these conferences, in the campaigns, in the leadership positions, in the decision-making tables when it came to this work in violence.

“Also because I had witnessed so much of different layers of violence within my home and within the communities I’ve been a part of,” added Wun. “These experiences are very rarely highlighted.”

Celine Jusuf.

When Jenny Wun was working in a corporation, a client once approached her casually and said that he wants to go to Vietnam to bring back a wife. “And he said it without any hesitation, as if she was supposed to be okay with that statement,” said Connie Wun, who spoke about her sister’s experiences and her own experiences with AsAmNews.

Connie Wun said that a senior scholar and chair of a job search committee once told her at a faculty dinner about how he’s gotten Thai massages, followed by an explanation of what the massage was like and describing the masseuses as “small” but “strong.”

No one else who heard the conversation intervened. “I think it’s racism and sexism that enables people to think it’s okay,” she added. “It’s getting brushed off.”

The #ImReady Conference will be coming to Berkeley, California, this Saturday and will feature speakers, panelists, interactive workshops, and healing activities.

“The #ImReady Conference is one of our ways to increase awareness around our issues, to celebrate the leadership of Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls, and to help mobilize our communities,” said Wun.

One of the panelists will be an indigenous Filipina healer. Wun pointed out how the U.S. often refers to Asian practices as alternative medicine. “We’re reclaiming the power of our science,” she explained. “It’s not alternative; it’s part of the culture.

“We’re trying to remind ourselves that we’re not an alternative culture and we’re not here to be fetishized,” she continued. “When people remove you, your culture, from these popular practices, it’s a part of the racial fetishization; it’s appropriation.

“I’ve been both able to reclaim my power and history because I’m remembering this isn’t just about me,” explained Wun. “This is also for my sister, for our mom, who’s a survivor and also has experienced PTSD and a lot of health issues from being a Vietnamese refugee struggling to survive.”

Wun said that #MeToo “has helped destigmatize what it means to be a survivor of gender-based violence, specifically sexual harassment and sexual assault. Now more people are coming out as survivors.

“It was a normal occurrence but we didn’t have a platform to feel supported around it,” she added. It has “created a supportive space, a climate for survivors to feel somewhat supported and to believe that accountability is possible.”

“When all my #MeToo moments happened to me, I… didn’t feel traumatized,” Jusuf explained. “It was… expected, normal, scary, and I could reason with how it could have been my fault to certain extents. Sometimes, I was relieved it was me because one-fourth or one-fifth (either way disgusting) women experience [sexual assault] in college, which is grossly unethical that we set up society to over glorify it, but I was so f*cking relieved that it was me, and not another one of my girlfriends (because we all know more than 5 women).

“I think it’s extremely important to create spaces for us to acknowledge our experiences and also witness others and their experiences,” added Jusuf. “I know that this conference is going to be filled with so many womxn/girls/individuals who are the people I needed to know existed when I was younger, it’s going to be filled with all the women I wish to be and who I want to be, for all the people I wish I could’ve been for my younger self. We’re creating a space to witness and hold identity, and especially stories and identities that are under and misrepresented.”

Learn more at AAPI Women Lead’s website, including details on the conference and its speakers. You can also follow AAPI Women Lead on Instagram.

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