As I was walking on the streets of Hollywood at night, I began to cross the street with a friend when a group of guys stopped at the red light catcalled me. “Hey girl, how you doin’?” they slurred, waving at me from their car.
I attempted to ignore them, because as much as objectification is part of the woman’s experience, my choice is to not engage in it. No response is the best response in my book, because both positive or negative responses will reward them for their behavior. That catcalling will grab women’s attention.
But my deaf ear did not stop them. They took it one step further and proceeded to shout at me, “Ko’nichiwa! Ko’nichiwa!”
As if speaking “my language” will get my attention. As if it will woo me and have me in a fainting spell at their clever prowess. Regardless of the fact that I’m not even Japanese. All Asians look the same and all Asian languages are synonymous, anyway. A lifetime full of racist experiences I have had, the perpetual objectification of my female body, the stereotypes attached to my race and the gross romanticization of my racial identity I continue to experience on a frequent basis all flashed before me in a second’s notice and anger overtook me. And I did something so out of my character, that it still takes me aback what I did.
I turned to the boys in the car (they do not deserve to be called “men”) and shouted back, “Fuck you! I’m NOT Japanese, you racist pricks!”
That stunned them into silence. No words were spoken by them thereafter.
Years and years of repressed anger overflowed in that one moment and I found blissful release. As people of color, American society teaches us to sit and take oppressive treatment. And micro-aggressions push us to accept this kind of treatment or else, we’re considered “volatile,” someone with attitude problems, or “too sensitive.” No. NO ONE deserves to be objectified or oppressed or be seen for what their “race” represents rather than the content of their character. We have EVERY RIGHT to get angry about that.
This moment was very symbolic for me. Because for the first time in my life, instead of colluding with the racism, prejudice and oppression as I typically did in my silence, I rejected their oppression and gave it right back to them. Through my response, I transmitted a message: that objectifying me is not right. That not all Asians are alike or speak the same language, and making that assumption is fucked up. That their blatant ignorance pushed upon me is not okay. I, or any other person, do not have to take this kind of treatment. Regardless of what people in society say, we have every right to reject the oppression we live with in this society.