Amy S. Choi is a freelance journalist based out of Brooklyn, NY and one of three winners in our So You Think You Can Blog contest. Her work has appeared in BusinessWeek, Women’s Wear Daily, The Philadelphia City Paper, Time Out New York, and The Wall Street Journal, to name a few. She also sits on the board of Ugly Duckling Presse, an independent publisher in Brooklyn, that specializes in poetry.
A feminist in her free time, she volunteers with Girls Write Now, the premier writing program for high school girls in NYC, mentoring a high school senior. The three places she calls home are Chicago, New York and Hawaii. In 2010, she spent a month doing a Buddha pilgrimage in India. Her favorite thing about the trip was seeing the monks’ laundry hanging out to dry. She also traveled through Colombia, Tunisia, Lebanon, India, and Southeast Asia and is currently working on a book about her travels.
When she’s not being an awesome feminist, she can be found reading cookbooks, playing Settlers of Catan, listening to Mariah Carey, making lists, experimenting with Korean skin products, shopping for bras, sitting in awe of her girlfriends, and daydreaming about her next trip.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Amy S. Choi:
AS: When did the term “feminist” come into your life? And what has your relationship with Feministing been like?
Amy S. Choi: I think I was scared of the word “feminist” until I was like, 30. So probably when I was 30. Not joking at all. Traveling changed a lot for me. I started reading Feministing when I got back into the country in 2011, while on fellowship with the Women PeaceMakers program in San Diego. I thought (think!) the site is a smart, funny, and sensitive take on sometimes horrifying issues and the writers effectively use the best tools in any activist’s arsenal: information, rage and humor.
AS: What spurred you to take a pilgrimage through the developing world? Did your travels change any of your thoughts on feminism and/or gender norms?
ASC: My husband and I promised each other we’d travel before we had any real obligations, like kids or elderly parents or a mortgage. The recession opened the door. Where we went was mostly serendipity. We started in Colombia and ended in Korea, to visit family, but the rest of our itinerary was mostly about what would be easy and cheap as young backpackers with a high tolerance for discomfort and easy capacity for joy. Turns out we were drawn to history and religion. And food. Our rough 18-month itinerary: Colombia – Tunisia – Egypt – Jordan – Lebanon – India – Thailand – Vietnam – Laos – Cambodia – New Zealand – Hawaii – China – Korea. Oh, yeah, and in the Middle East we stuck to the Arab countries and skipped Israel (we went a few years back) because it makes life a million times easier with an American passport.
We’re both first-generation immigrant kids, and we’d both always identified as being Asian or Latino more than being American. That changed while abroad – we came back AMERICAN, goddamnit, loud and proud. Surprise! I also emerged from traveling with a much deeper disregard for the idea of “culture” than I had previously. Culture is the biggest weapon of patriarchy and abuse around the world. Culture is not the end-all, be-all. Culture is not a defense for misogyny. Culture can, and should, change.
AS: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge facing feminism today?
ASC: Separatism. Feminism isn’t an issue that stands alone. In order to attack misogyny and reshape society, feminist advocates have to be able to thoughtfully consider the intersections between sex, gender, race, religion, culture and class. Sometimes I think we forget that patriarchy isn’t the only sin.
AS: What recent news story made you want to scream?
ASC: Not exactly a news story, but oh hey look, I’m screaming!
AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine and who are your heroines in real life?
ASC: Sula. She may have been a bad girl, but she never compromised. And Joan Didion. Joan balls hard.
AS: You’re going to a desert island and get to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?
ASC: Spam musubi. Cold New York City tap water. My husband.