By Guest Contributor: Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Executive Director, NAPAWF
This week, as the Supreme Court begins hearing NIFLA v. Becerra, we need to remember what is at stake. This is a case that could redefine public accountability for organizations that provide false information or mislead women about their reproductive health options under the guise of religious freedom.
For years, fake women’s health centers have exploited women by masquerading as real health clinics, often locating next to real clinics, adopting nearly identical names, and even clothing their non-medical staff in scrubs – all to give the impression of being accredited health providers. The plaintiff in the case now before the Supreme Court, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), joins these fake women’s health centers in trying to overturn the Reproductive FACT Act – a commonsense California law which requires these storefront operations to explain that they are not a licensed medical facility and provide information on how to find one.
This law was enacted to curb the harm caused by fake health centers and reduce the delays in getting real care that women experience when they are duped by these blame-and-shame tactics. Women need accurate information about their options when it comes to pregnancy and family planning – not politically-motivated shame, coercion, or misinformation. We need to expose the truth about these fake centers before their lies endanger the health and safety of any more pregnant women – especially low-income pregnant women, women of color, and immigrants.
The night before my youngest child – whom we call Little Brother – leaves on a four-day eighth-grade field trip to Washington D.C., I double-check his suitcase against the school’s packing list to make sure he has everything he needs. He has packed too many shirts and pants, and not enough socks and underwear. He forgot deodorant, a critical item for eighth-grade boys. The long-sleeved green school t-shirts that the students will wear at all times during the trip are in the dryer. The batteries for his camera and phone are charging in the kitchen. I tuck a box of musubi into his day pack as a snack for the bus. I remind him to brush his teeth every day and to text me every night.
Then I tell him what to do in case of a mass shooting.
Stay calm. Barricade the door. Duck behind furniture. Keep moving. Get out. Just get out.
Little Brother is thirteen years old.
And then, so that he does not worry, I lie to my son.
I tell him that since the president will be out of the country the week of his trip, Washington will probably be quieter while he is there.
I do not know if that is actually true. But, I do know that even if he were here, at home, he would not be any safer. Any of us could be caught in a mass shooting or a random act of violence anytime, anywhere.
In the grainy black-and-white image – a blurred photocopy of a photocopy of the original photograph – a spritely Japanese American woman stands poised in defiance. She faces an unseen crowd, her head adorned with a headscarf and her eyebrows knitted with passion behind a pair of pointed cat-eye spectacles. The image catches her mid-speech, one hand holding a bullhorn microphone to her mouth.
This image of Asian American revolutionary Yuri Kochiyama was my first introduction to our peoples’ history of radical organizing and social justice activism. I remember the emotions it evoked in me: I was awed by the sight of a strong, unyielding Asian American woman and thought leader; I was proud of this historic evidence of Asian Americans radicalism; and, I was angered that this history had been not been made known to be sooner.
Contrary to the trappings of the Model Minority Myth – a stereotype of meek, apolitical Asian Americana rooted in anti-blackness – revolution is woven into our DNA. Our ancestors were not quiet in the face of racism: our history is replete with examples of Asian Americans fighting back against white supremacy and systemic injustice. We were not silent witnesses to American racism; we were active participants in a multi-racial movement against white supremacy.
Often, that Asian American revolutionary spirit took the form of the written word.
I Am Another You is filmmaker Nanfu Wang’s follow up to the gripping Hooligan Sparrow, named after the rebel activist Le Haiyan who leads a group of protesters seeking justice for six elementary school girls sexually assaulted by their school principal. In that film, Wang embarked on a harrowing journey to film Le, and both were eventually were targeted by Chinese officials for Le’s feminist activism. The film concludes with Wang recording how she was forced to smuggle her raw footage out of China in order to produce Hooligan Sparrow.
This time, however, Wang doesn’t become an enemy of the state while filming I Am Another You. Instead, she finds herself living on the streets with a free spirit named Dylan who has chosen a life as a drifter. I Am Another You makes us rethink social issues such as homelessness and mental illness, as well as what personal freedom feels and looks like. Wang’s storytelling compels us to think about our lives, through Dylan’s as he lives on the street.
Winner of the SXSW LUNA Chicken & Egg Award for Best Documentary Feature directed by a woman and the SXSW Special Jury Award for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling for I Am Another You, Wang was recently named one of Variety’s 2017’s Ten Documakers to Watch. I Am Another You is currently streaming on Independent Lens on PBS until February 15th. Watch it here.
Wang took time out of her busy schedule to talk with me about her passion for documentary filmmaking and I Am Another You.
Perpetual Foreigner stereotype alert: shortly after US figure skater Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman to land a triple axel in an Olympic competition, New York Times Opinion section editor Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) tweeted “Immigrants: they get the job done,” a line from Hamilton.
The implication from Weiss’ tweet was obvious: Nagasu should be celebrated as an American immigrant. One problem, though: Nagasu was born in Montebello, California. And yet, for Weiss, the place of Nagasu’s birth doesn’t seem to matter: instead, the colour of her skin appears to have marked Nagasu as foreign.