Photo by Maddy Wong
When she is not debating policy, playing piano, or studying chemistry, Rachel Chau, a first-year biology student, dedicates her time to educating her 45,000 Instagram followers about various intersectionalist issues. Rachel, the account manager of @angryasianfeminist, embraces her Asian identity and empowers those experiencing discrimination and stereotyping through initiating discourse. Social media grants her the opportunity to transform the stigma of the “Angry Asian Feminist” from insulting to empowering, and promote the conversation among people with differing perspectives.
In 2015, MSNBC published an article about the growth of millenial feminism in relation to social media, attributing the “democratization” of the feminist movement to the widespread blueprint of youth activism. Nonetheless, the surge in activism on social media concurred with a subsequent rise in counter activism, which UCLA’s @angryasianfeminist often references.
Rachel started the account in 2015 after several of her peers at a debate tournament mocked the Asian women debating, associating their arguments with irrationality. Their peers’ constant belittling of the quality of their debating and the validity of their ideas was one manifestation of the microaggressions against Asian-American women in academic and social realms. Debaters asked Rachel stereotypical questions about the intelligence and employment opportunities provided to Asian-Americans. Debaters commented on the quality of her English. Often, she found that being a woman of color implied she had to bear the burden of seeking the respect and recognition automatically awarded to her male counterparts.
As an outlet for her to maturely express her frustrations, she found Instagram as a platform to unite intersectional feminists based on their unique positions at the cross-sections of various systems of oppression. @angryasianfeminist represents so much more than Rachel, and she wants people to know that.
For her, one difficult problem faced by many activism-centered Instagram accounts is the “presence of trollers.” According to @angryasianfeminist, “trolls” have the tendency to revert to comments representing ignorance. “It gets to a point where you just have to block and delete.” And it’s hard. When tens of thousands of international users follow her, the probability of negativity surfacing in the comments arises. And it is exhausting. She constantly feels the need to police the commenters on her post, and she even encounters cyberbullying. Nonetheless, we can rest assured that Rachel has contacted the institutions past cyberbullies were a part of, some of those institutions even taking action to suspend the perpetrators of violence. Despite the frequent frustration of dealing with negative commenters, she notes the importance of holding her head high and continuing to express her opinions, despite the ease of deleting the account.
For anyone who wants to start a social media page, Rachel encourages you to do it. Do not get discouraged by larger accounts; every post and every conversation matters towards facilitating perceptive discussion. According to Rachel, normalizing discussions on social media empowers communities, building the foundations for a more politically active and open-minded generation. Last but not least, as we approach the November midterm elections, Rachel encourages anybody who is able to vote to do so!
“The ideas we share on social media only hold as much power as our voices, and the more we vote, the more recognition our voices receive,” Rachel stated.