1) Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do – whatever practicalities you’re willing to share with readers. Could you share with us what inspires to work tirelessly for social justice?
I suppose that I’ve always been passionate about social justice and equal rights, partly due to my experience as an orphan, adopted at 2 years old from China. I had such an uncommon insight into love and loss from a very young age and this created a very strong set of principles that I have tried to maintain ever since. I was desperate to make this world better and brighter; I incorporated that vigour into any side project that I could involve myself with. I had a very black and white view of the world when I was younger and as I grew older and more mature, I realised that social issues are very often caught in shades of grey and there isn’t always a ‘villain’ or a ‘hero’. Sometimes the problem lies with a mentality or an attitude, which can be much harder to tackle because it is so deep-rooted. However, that doesn’t mean that with a little perseverance, things can’t eventually be improved and we should strive to work until we can see that change.
2) What is an accomplishment that you are proud of? Why are you proud of this particular accomplishment?
One of my greatest accomplishments has been my involvement in a campaign that I kick-started over the past year, which focuses on raising awareness about sexual harassment and violence. I am so proud of the response and support that I have received about such a sensitive topic. It is such an integral part of my past that I feel I would not be the person I am today, had I not endured certain experiences. Truthfully, I feel proud that I have somehow managed to piece the parts of myself together enough to speak candidly and openly about something that definitely has the power to break me. I also feel proud of everyone that has helped me to actualise this campaign, the people who helped me create the photographs and of course, to my parents who have tirelessly encouraged me to aspire to great things. They really keep me grounded and stable, I would be nothing without their love and guidance. So I suppose that in that sense, I am most proud to be their daughter and to continue to project their strong, beautiful ideals regarding individuality.
3) Do you feel that your gender (however you self-identify) has contributed positively, negatively, or neutrally to your current life situation?
I feel that being a woman has definitely defined some of my choices and perhaps influenced the choices of others around me. Particularly given the prevalent sexism and misogyny that still exists in Chinese culture, I always felt like I had something to prove. I always felt that I needed to somehow justify my own existence and to prove that I had value despite being born a girl.
4a) Please elaborate on your above choice.
This mentality was very hard to shake off and I catch myself sometimes, feeling inadequate or doubting my own self-worth. It is so important to understand that cultural differences can deeply impact one’s self-esteem and as much love as my parents provided for me, it was sometimes hard to shake off the initial rejection that I faced as a child. Nowadays I am much stronger in my heart and my mind, I feel that I have had to toughen up in order to get to where I am now and in some ways, I’m thankful for it. I know how strong I am now.
4) Can you tell us a little bit about your understanding of gender-based violence? What does that term (and what it describes) mean to you? Has it affected you and your life in any way?
My understanding of gender-based violence is an unethical, unmerited attack on an individual purely based on their gender alone. This happens unfortunately to many people from all different backgrounds, religions and genders. Anybody is capable of hurting somebody else. I think perhaps this is the most terrifying thing, that I feel like I need to clarify that violence is universal. Whilst there are greater power inequalities between heterosexual men and women, it is paramount that we consider that power struggles occur in any kind of relationship. I really want to push the topic of gender-based violence that exists against men, it’s important to me that we recognise that suffering is not limited to a single gender. I truly believe that it is about power more than anything else and whilst often, violence exists as part of a vicious cycle – we need to break that cycle and we need to prevent more cases from happening.
5) Can you also tell us a bit about your understanding of gender equality? What does this term mean to you?
The term gender equality, to me is an ideal of how the world should exist and how we should exist within society. I use these auxiliary verbs with a degree of sarcasm, as it shouldn’t need to be pointed out. Equality shouldn’t have to be an ideal – it should be a reality. However, the world we live in does not exist in a state of equality, it can be incredibly divisive. I would say that ultimately gender equality is the notion that people from anywhere, can amount to anything with the same limitations and the same freedom of opportunity. We are only defined by the standards that we place upon ourselves, rather than society deeming us either inferior or superior due to our gender.
5a) Do you think gender equality exists? If not, what are a few ways that you think your life might change by the existence of gender equality?
No, gender equality does not exist which is why there is such a relevance to modern feminist movements such as HeforShe. I genuinely believe that whilst I cannot deny that people in my position certainly live in a state of privilege by having the freedom of speech and opinion; I do not believe that we are all equal yet. This means that we still have work to do. Living in an affluent country with many rights already, I personally don’t want my life to change monumentally, it is more about understanding that I am in no way limited by my gender and that I have the same opportunities as anybody else. It is a very different case however in more impoverished countries that have a more unstable social structure.
6) If you answered ‘No’ to question 5a, what is something you could do to contribute to a society that is more equal for all genders?
I think that education is always something that can be improved. We need to educate children that they have just as much opportunity as anybody else and that they don’t need to break free from any kind of social constraints. Nobody’s ‘worth’ is diminished purely by the way that they wish to define themselves. The sooner everyone accepts and advocates this, the sooner our world will be closer to being more equal for everyone.
7) Ending on a lighter note, do you have a role model who has been an on-going inspiration? If so, why do you look up to this person?
I think one of my greatest role models is Emma Watson; I greatly admire her work as a humanitarian and a human rights activist. As I previously mentioned, her work with HeforShe was so inspiring and I think that she has been incredibly courageous after leaving one very set profession to pursue a route that others have criticised her for. One of the biggest obstacles we often face with activism is prejudice and I’ve noticed people that are prejudiced against Emma Watson purely because she worked as an actress and thus believed that she was incapable of successfully campaigning for social justice. I’m delighted that she has proved them all wrong and paved a way for more strong, independent women to lead their own paths.