Woman of the Week: Ashley Tsai

Today while wandering around the Internet, I came across a campaign being run at Duke University in North Carolina called WHO Speaks, and it’s honestly one of the best and most effective ideas I have seen in a very long time.

Ashley Tsai, a student at Duke, collaborated with three other students on campus, Sarah McCaffery, Shaoxin Lu, Diana Xie, and Ting-Ting Zhou to make an online photography site to spark a conversation about different things girls have been told about their own bodies.

In each photograph, there is a girl who writes on her body something derogatory that’s been said to her about her appearance, and she also gives a short background story about it. The pictures will do a better job showing the effectiveness of this campaign than if I were to just write about it, so I’ll let them do the talking:

I’m going to take a chance here and guess that at least some of the people reading this post can relate to the comments made in these pictures. I know that for me, I’ve had certain comments made to me time and time again:

“You looked so pretty when you wore contacts. Why are you wearing glasses?”

I originally started wearing glasses because of problems with allergies (my contacts would be really uncomfortable), but then I started to love how I felt in glasses and continued to wear them. What’s the point in people telling me they think I’m not as pretty now? As long as I like how I look, shouldn’t that be enough?

“Are you tired today? No? Oh, you just look like it I guess.”

I’ve always been really self-conscious about the dark circles under my eyes, and for years I’d try to cover them up with foundation, but to no avail. People have been making this comment to me for years, and I’m still having a hard time brushing it off.

“Cute, look at all the baby fat you still have!”

This comment was made to me by a friend when I was about 14 years old. The person who made the comment probably doesn’t even remember it anymore, but I know that it’s something that will stick with me for the rest of my life, because it made me feel so embarrassed about my body.

What are some comments that have been made about you, and how did they make you feel? Have you made those comments to or about other girls as well? I know that I have, and even now I have a hard time stopping myself from making a comment about a girl’s (or guy’s) appearance. But my hope is, with people like Ashley Tsai bringing attention to this issue in such a powerful way, we can slowly stop caring about what people look like and focus on the kind of person they are instead. I don’t know Ashley Tsai, I only read her story and saw her campaign on the internet, but I could never thank her enough for photographing this campaign and encouraging people to think about their words. She is such an inspiration to me and to girls everywhere!

To see other images from the campaign, here’s the link to the WHO Speaks tumblr:

http://dukewhospeaks.tumblr.com/

Here’s Duke Today, the website where I originally read about the campaign:

http://today.duke.edu/2012/12/whocampaign

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5 thoughts on “Woman of the Week: Ashley Tsai

  1. This is awesome! It just proves that hardly any woman, thin or curvy, short or tall, black or white, ever feels “good enough”. Comments like “you look great with some makeup” or “what an awesome figure you have” may seem harmless; even positive, but they still enforce the idea that a woman is nothing more than the sum of her physical features.

  2. Ashley is one of the most phenomenal women I know. I’m so proud to see you mentioning one of her campaigns. You might also be interested in the “Who Needs Feminism” http://whoneedsfeminism.tumblr.com/ campaign that Ashley and a group of Duke Students started last year, that has spread to different universities and cities around the world. You couldn’t be more right about naming her your woman of the week. Honestly, she’s probably deserving of woman of the year. But as someone lucky enough to call her a friend, I may be a little biased :)

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