2 Years ago I had a public beef with an Asian male blogger who used to say I inspired his work. I'd always been cool with his voice that helped other Asians find a voice. But as his blog grew, he started to omit this fact of origin. He began to consistently say in public that he came up with it. People began to wonder who was first or if our work was related. I was first and we are not related. And I believe he saw the impact that my work that I self-published on my website was having and thus changed his name to catch the wave. He originally blogged under the url www.minsoolove.com and then he registered the url www.angryasianman.com in 2002, four years after my 1998 launch of the www.angrylittleasiangirl.com website. His blog had similar features and slogans. It irritated me, but I let it be because he was a hobbyist and we were already in the public eye and I still had years of "be a good Asian girl" beliefs I had to unlearn. This is why women are mad. Because we are socialized to be polite and nice. And while we are being polite and nice, someone comes and takes advantage of the expectation that "women should be nice" so we become the hidden figures whose contributions get overlooked. We get pushed around. It was evident in the sexist language used during the presidential campaign to put a woman candidate in her place.
I read the book "Men Explain Things to Me" and understood that what happened to me was #mansplaining. A woman will come up with something, but a man comes a long and takes credit for it. And then everyone goes along with him and heralds him the greatest.
Years later when it got to the point that I had to say something to the blogger, I spoke up for myself when he sent me a jovial email stating that his trademark application was rejected because my trademark was already registered. It was not funny to me, to my twenty years of building a brand by myself. I spoke up for myself and told him it bothered me. In several exchanged emails, he said he would change his name. Then I waited and he did nothing. He ignored me. (this is a man dismissing a woman's complaint--also a #mansplaining method). I emailed him again. He ignored me again. Then he gave an interview where he stated that he came up with the idea of "Angry Asian" because he was bored. I could no longer stand what he was doing to me behind closed doors. Telling me he'd change it. Then coming back with his lawyer bullying me and telling me he'd file a petition to cancel my registration if I enforced my trademark rights. THIS is what happens to women behind closed doors. I wrote about my frustration with him on my blog to expose his tactics. Then he went on his blog and painted himself as a victim. His Asian male writer friend wrote an article calling me "the man." Since when is an independent woman artist working out of her garage "the man?" And the hypocrisy is that he was trying to trademark it!? The trolls came out and bashed me. They bashed me hard. People told me to "let him have it." "Apologize" "You don't own "Angry Asian!" (That's not what I'm arguing, what I'm arguing is that he built his blog on all of my features, name, slogan and ideas. He is taking credit for my ideas.) "You're a crazy bitch!" they said. This is misogyny. And it is rigidly sexist in Asian culture. (Characteristics of the Traditional Asian Family) The Asian men and women who came to reprimand me, reminded me a lot of the ajussi Korean men and ajummah Korean women who tell us we have to defer to Korean men and sons because we're women. In an email I called him a Korean male prince because that was exactly how he was acting. I called him on Jan 30, 2015 and we had a conversation that I documented. He said I was "a mom who draws cute comics and doesn't your husband work?" (This I translated to "mom, stay in the kitchen and get your money from your husband.") He admitted he had talked to another Asian female artist who was going by a similar name as another trademark I own. He admitted they wanted to smear me but that he decided not to. He said he would change his blog name. We got off the phone. But then he didn't do the things he said he would. He ignored me again and now 2 years later he is still ignoring me. He has continued with no changes to his blog. His ignoring of me is another form of #mansplaining, it's called talking over a woman.
Now, I want to bring up that he and I are both Korean. Culture and how we are raised is important. It is the frame of reference that informs how we treat others, because we've seen this in our culture, it is the normal by which we operate. He no doubt has seen Korean girls have to defer to men and brothers because our parents and elders taught us so. The son in a Korean household has to look good for the family. And I became the girl we all beat and blame. The girl who spoke out and the Asian community came out and bashed me for telling the truth. How dare I speak out of turn and speak out against the golden son?! After the bashing I received, I went and hid. It was so painful to know that when I was speaking out about something that was so fundamentally wrong and unfair, I was met with cruel punishment. I felt like a pariah and I wondered if I should keep fighting. But I was in too much pain and I was so deeply upset, so I kept quiet as I tried to get my bearings. I tried to resume my business and art, but so many of my followers disowned me, just like Asian parents threaten their Asian kids when they don't do as they're told. I was going to remain quiet, but I can't anymore. At this point, I'm already a pariah and if I remain so, so be it. But this shirt, him using this image on a shirt for his "subscription drive" infuriates me. What does he know about why an Asian girl would be angry? Asian girls are deemed worthless at birth. Asian girls are raised to be quiet and married off. Asian sisters have to cook for their brothers and serve everyone's needs before their own. Asian girls are not listened to by parents who favor their sons. Asian girls are angry that they have to apologize for speaking up. Asian girls are angry that they get bashed for not being a "good Asian woman."
The Asian community has so many problems that we are not talking about. Our community has a serious mental health and domestic violence issue and this situation is just a small example of what Asian women have to deal with. When Asian women who are victims of domestic abuse go to their relatives, ministers or community leaders for help, they are told to not bring shame on their family. They are told to go back home because it is their duty to uphold their family. Asian women do not get heard.
In my case, something was wrong. I did speak up and I was beaten up by a collective Asian mob. So while the Asian community abandoned me and left me to tend my wounds by myself, I had to wonder is this how Asians roll? They beat down the person who speaks out against their perfect collective face? Is this what happens to Asian women who are beaten? There is still a lot of sexism in the Asian community and the Americanized children of traditional Asian parents still have these traditional beliefs woven in the fabric of their being. It's what I learned is called #unconsciousbias. The Asians who are witness all stay silent and do nothing and go along as if nothing happened while the woman internalizes her anger that she is not allowed to express.
(this is a good article about the double pressure Asian girls face)
That Asian male blogger claims to want equality, but equality starts in the home, in our community and culture. His calls for justice ring hollow like a glory grabber, catching whatever social justice topic is trending - women's anger this time. He's talking about all the right topics, but he should look at himself and his own community first. But since Asian culture values his male gender, he has a privilege that blinds him to what would make an Asian girl angry in the first place. That's why his using the image of an angry Asian girl is so infuriating. Not only is it a middle finger to me and my work, but I'd say that as an Asian girl, I'm angry that an Asian man is using an angry Asian girl's likeness and image for his profit.