New Affinity Group on Campus: Asian Women Empowerment

Hazel Koh ’21, pictured left, and
Katherine Wang ’21, pictured right, are the co-heads of AWE.

Asian Women Empowerment (AWE), a new affinity group for Asian women on campus, gathered for the first time in the Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) office for Thai food and discussion this Wednesday.

Co-heads Hazel Koh ’21 and Katherine Wang ’21 founded AWE in order to connect Asian women on campus and to provide a safe space for discussing issues pertaining to race and gender. The affinity group is open to both cis and queer, Asian, female-identifying students.

Koh said, “We wanted a safe space for Asian women, and we felt that we wanted a space where we could talk… We know that since Asians are considered the model minority, some of our problems can get overlooked.”

The faculty advisors for AWE, Lilia Cai-Hurteau, Instructor and Chair in Chinese, and Coreen Martin, Instructor in English, are looking to create an environment of support and conversation for Asian students who identify as female.

“I’m just looking to empower a group of students on campus that may have not seen a lot of role models that look like them both at the school level and the international level. I think the kids are excited, too, because it’s something they’ve been wanting to have: a space for them,” said Cai-Hurteau.
Martin said, “It’s possibly game changing for the participants because… believe it or not, even in 2018, we still struggle with the model minority myth and in particular how it plays out for girls and women. Because, on top of that, we also… [still] struggle against sexist ideas about how women aren’t natural leaders.”

Martin continued, “Even though there are Asian women who have groundbreaking politicians and scholars and activists, we still tend not to recognize them as such. The very first woman of color elected to congress in the history of the United States was an Asian-American woman, [Mazie Hirono], but we don’t celebrate that. We don’t acknowledge that as much as we should.”

Cai-Hurteau attributes the silencing of problems Asian women face to “positive stereotyping” and wants students to utilize AWE as an outlet to feel that their problems are real and worthy of attention.

Cai-Hurteau said, “[Asian women are] supposed to be the quiet and hardworking people, and that’s the positive stereotyping that we sort of need to debunk so that kids can come forward with their issues and they can have a place where they talk about it and see that other people have issues, too…”
Ava Long ’21, who attended the first AWE meeting, said, “I feel like I’ve [had a hard time] to face the fact that I’m Asian, and I’ve been a little self conscious about it. There are just certain stereotypes around it, and I feel like certain people look at me and see that I’m Asian and they think that’s all there is to me. I want to feel empowered to step outside of that.”