Goodbye!

As our internships come to a close, we’d like to thank everyone who read this blog, made comments, and came along with us on a journey to be better interns and community advocates. Over our month of blogging, we explored the best places to eat in D.C., gave you tips on how to impress your boss, and talked about some hard-hitting and often unaddressed activism issues in the AAPI community.

Even more importantly, as the weeks went by, the four of us at Capitol Goods became quite close friends. We certainly fought and argued, but in the end, everyone learned to swallow their pride and put the integrity of our project first. I’m excited to have earned 3 life-long pals (who will allow me to crash at their place when I’m visiting San Fran and New York. Right, guys?).

I’m proud to have been involved in this labor of love with such an intelligent and close-knit team. Thanks, CAPAL, for making this a summer that we won’t soon forget!

Brittney


For more from Brittney, you can visit her at Another Beautiful Thing.

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Art, Baby: Hirshorn Museum

What do D.C. interns do for fun? They write this blog They find new places to explore, new food to try, and make crazy memories. For our final full week of posts, we bring you the sights and sounds that we will miss most about our nation’s capital.


During last year’s internship, when I was still a 20-year old excluded from D.C.’s world of happy hours and nightlife, I had to find creative ways to spend my time after work. Creative is just the word I’d use to describe the Hirshhorn Museum, a modern art installation that houses the craziest, wackiest, and most thought-provoking art I’ve seen. Located near the Air and Space museum, Hirshhorn is the satirical hipster of the Smithsonian family, boasting a sculpture garden in the back that makes you feel that you’ve fallen deep into Alice’s wonderland.

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My favorite sculpture in the museum is currently ‘Venus of the Rags’, which takes the traditional pose of ancient Venus statues and juxtaposes her against the decaying bits of our clothing. I see it as a commentary on our wastefulness (she has all these clothes, but nothing to wear) and our consumerist culture.

As for sculptures like the following…well, I’m not sure how to interpret this one..

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Whatever your kink, Hirshhorn hais sure to satisfy. Be sure to take a visit to the basement, where Barbara Kruger has created a charged photomontage that addresses conflicting perceptions of democracy, power, and belief. Known for her political pieces, Kruger doesn’t shy from questioning the status quo. For those of you who don’t think modern art is truly art, I can hear Kruger whispering, “But who made you believe that?”

Image from Huff Post

Best,

Brittney

Don’t Call Me Fat: Asian American Body-shaming

Welcome to our second round of blog posts on AAPI issues. For previous posts on racial identity, click here.


Last week, at work (yes, at this internship), a fellow Asian-American coworker joked that I was “obese.” Another coworker chimed in that I might be considered a “pig.” You’re probably thinking that I should’ve run to Human Resources as fast as my chubby little legs could’ve carried me. Unfortunately, I was not all that fazed. You see, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before—from my Asian-American family, friends, and myself.

When I was little in China, I resembled a watermelon, which earned me the name “Fei Mei” (fat little sister). But that was in another country, where people had grown up in austerity and where Botticelli’s women might have been persecuted for excess under the Communist regime.  Certainly, the girls in China are much smaller than they are in the US: I am 122 pounds, in the perfect BMI range for my age, and I still have to wear XL or XXL in Chinese sizes. On a trip back to China, a photographer remarked to me that I must like “fatty pork” because I was so much bigger than most girls he photographed.

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The culprit.

These cultural differences are expected and understood; my expatriate family might seem like the epitome of excess to our friends back home. What’s disturbing is that these remarks and attitudes don’t just stay in Asia—they seem to have migrated along with our immigrant parents and are still pervasive in our American communities. I can’t count the number of times that my parents or their Asian-American friends have remarked that I have gotten a little plump, or that my baby fat was going away thank goodness. These kinds of statements are made in earnest, and supposedly for our own good: how was I supposed to attract a husband, without being stick-thin and white as a lotus flower?

In my Asian-American community, being fat was a sign of shame. Whenever my friend Raina’s* mom picked us up for tennis practice, she would compare how skinny each of were and lament the fact that Raina was the heaviest, leading to some of the most awkward car rides ever. At some point, I realized that these fat-shaming attitudes were rubbing off on me: suddenly, I looked down on Raina for having extra arm fat, and I would weigh myself constantly to make sure that I wasn’t gaining any weight.

While it’s true that all Americans are obsessed with dieting and losing weight, I can’t explain to my American friends that it’s a whole different ball game when it comes to AAPI’s. Americans want to be slim, but the AAPI’s that I know want to be microscopic. For some AAPI fashion bloggers (Stylishpetite.com and extrapetite.com), being able to fit into XXS sizes is a source of pride and the reason for their blog popularity. Some AAPI girls even diet before they go home for vacations, just so that their parents won’t call them fat (http://www.xojane.com/issues/fat-for-an-asian-the-pressure-to-be-naturally-perfect) . Not only are we constantly expected to uphold the ideal “small and delicate” Asian-American stereotype, but because of the shame involved in discussing our weight, we never get to have a healthy conversation about body image issues. All these factors add up to a maddening, inescapable circle of shaming and purging, all for a beauty standard that doesn’t make sense.

What’s more, I feel like body-shaming is the one topic that I cannot talk about with my non-AAPI friends, despite the fact that it’s the one that affects me daily. Any other topic about AAPI’s, including racial discrimination and hate crimes, leads to intelligent debate among my pals, but when I complain about Asian-American body-shaming, I am met with blank stares. “If you are fat, what am I?” my white friend would ask, to which I have to stammer that she is at a perfect weight. Which is true—even though she is 30 pounds heavier, she might be at her perfect weight for her culture. Whereas I am on the fat side “for an Asian”. However, there is just no way to bring up that issue in non-AAPI company without making it seem like I am humble-bragging.

The lack of discussion over this pervasive body-shaming has led me to feel estranged from both American and Asian cultures. While Americans admire curvaceous girls with golden tans, Asians are obsessed with skin-lightning creams and petite figures that look good in a tight qipao. I am both too chubby for my parent’s liking, but too skinny to fill out a bikini top. I tan easily, a fact that my American friends are jealous of, but I still carry an umbrella to block out the sun so I don’t tan too much, or else I will “look like a Mexican.” I am caught on the fence between two cultures, and what makes it worse is that staying on the fence makes me feel like I don’t belong in either.

I can totally fit into this qipao—if they don’t zip up the back.

As you can probably predict, this kind of cultural priming has probably contributed to thousands of eating disorders among Asian-American women. I was anorexic for a while, but I had to say “F that”, because I just love my fatty pork too much. That’s the reason I consider myself one of the lucky ones, because I can still have a good relationship with food. I can’t imagine the other Asian-American women who are out there counting calories and crying over a heartless comment by a loved one, women who can’t be happy with who they are because they are constantly bombarded with conflicting views of what to look like.

There is no easy solution. For most of us, the damage is done. I will never forget my Asian-American coworker’s astonished “You’re a HUNDRED AND TWENTY-TWO POUNDS?” for the rest of my life. And I’m scared that I might be guilty of transmitting these poisonous attitudes to the next generation, if my children ever see me compulsively dieting.

So for now, I will laugh off the comments (although I did talk to one of the coworkers about being insensitive, and he did apologize). I’ll eat my Mexican cheesy fries, and I’ll go to the gym for hours later to make up for it. It’s not an easy compromise—but since when has being AAPI ever been easy?


*Names have been changed. To read more from Brittney, you can visit her blog at Another Beautiful Thing.

How to Dress for an Internship (Ladies)

For this week, each of us will be posting about how to survive in the workplace: from looking sharp to impressing your boss. Come back daily for tips on how to be a memorable and effective intern.


As an intern veteran, I can tell you that, when it comes to internship fashion, there are usually two types of interns: the first type believes that, as unpaid interns, they simply do not have enough money or incentive to preen for the office environment. The second type wants to show off the fact that they can dress well, and can be found in fashionable skirts that are, alas, four inches too short. This blog post will hopefully give you a few tips on how to be the third, much rarer type of intern: one who uses what’s already in their closet to create internship outfits, who strays on the “business” side of business casual, and who is ultimately known for being chic and brilliant, not dowdy or distracting.

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{Images from Another Beautiful Thing}

Some tips to keep in mind for making your wardrobe memorable (for the right reasons):

Skirts:

1) Ladies, keep the skirts close to knee-length, and fingertip-length at a minimum. This includes the slit in the back—it should not reveal any of your leg above finger-tip length.

2) Bandage skirts are not pencil skirts. Don’t wear them to the office.

3) If you cannot sit down in your skirt without having to pull it down, do not wear it to work. Wear pants. Revel in your equality and the fact that women can now wear pants to the office.

4) Lined skirts are best—but there isn’t a peekaboo problem in the world that a half-slip can’t solve.

Pants

1) Usually, pants straight from the store are a little long for the average woman (if they fit perfectly on you, congrats!) Don’t let the hem drag on the ground: find a tailor on Yelp who can shorten the pants leg for about $20. Optimally, the pants should hit at the middle of your heel, if you are wearing heels, or one inch off the ground in flats.

Heels

1) If you can wear those heels to the club, they don’t belong in the boardroom.

2) Now is not the time for platforms or shoes with studs and other hardware.

3) Err on the side of conservative and invest in a pair of closed-toe pumps.

Shirts

1) Keep your shoulders covered—besides, your office will probably be too cold to go sleeveless.

2) If your shirt is semi-sheer (polyester blouses from Forever 21, anyone?) , wear a blazer or cardigan over it. No, a tank top underneath will not suffice. Everyone can see the tank straps, and your bra straps.

3) Before you wear the shirt to your office, take it for a stretch. Pull your arms back, and make sure there are no gaps between the buttons. Stretch your arms up, and make sure that it’s long enough to meet your skirt or pants.


So what can you wear to the office? Most likely, you probably already own some appropriate office clothes. Here are some key pieces that will last you throughout the summer:

1) Cardigans–one instance where bright colors and prints are recommended, to bring personality to your outfit.

2) Pencil skirts or slacks.

3) Knee-length dresses or shift dresses .

4) Simple flats or low heels.

5) Black blazers.

6) White or gray button-down shirt.

If you want more internship outfit inspiration, you can visit me at my fashion blog, Another Beautiful Thing. And remember, no matter what else you’re wearing, a confident smile will help you look more vibrant and enthusiastic, guaranteed.

Best,

Brittney

“Your Asian Wasn’t Quiet”: The Need for Asian American Activism

Our second week of blogging has begun! This week, we are addressing an issue near and dear to our hearts: the need for Asian American activism. If you already know what activism is (hint: mobilizing people for a cause through media, protests, or education programs), then you might be really confused. “Why do Asian Americans (AAPI) need activists?” you might be muttering to your computer screen. Besides the fact that you are talking to yourself, a classic symptom of some neurological disorders, you have a point. Aren’t all AAPI’s doctors, or lawyers, or really smart?

What you’ve brought up is the model minority myth, the idea that AAPI are submissive, good citizens who don’t make trouble, get steady middle-class jobs, and pay their taxes on time. However, this myth can be harmful to AAPI’s, causing us to be passed over for promotions (we are too meek and submissive for leadership positions! And we don’t fight back!).

But Asian American activism isn’t just to fight back against this perception of AAPI’s as weak. It also intends to bring light to injustices committed against our community. For instance, many of you are probably following the case of Trayvon Martin, a black teen who was shot by a neighborhood watch member. But how many of you know of Danny Chen?

In 2011, Danny was killed/committed suicide (we don’t know which to this day) because of the torture and race-motivated bullying that he underwent during training. His fellow soldiers and higher-ups called him “gook” and “chink” while forcing him to crawl across gravel. Danny’s fellow soldiers were allowed to throw rocks at him and kick him with their knees. Where was Danny’s sergeant during this abuse? Oh, that’s right: he was dragging Danny across 15 meters of gravel, leaving cuts on his back. This kind of racial hatred and treatment should have made headlines across the nation. Unfortunately, it was up to AAPI activist groups to raise awareness of the racial problems between Asian Americans and the rest of America.

Activism doesn’t just happen in large groups or organizations, however. It can start with each of us. For instance, how many of you have seen the movies “Red Dawn” and “Olympus has Fallen”? In both movies, North Koreans take over the US, kill the president or wreck havoc. You’d expect people to realize that it’s a fantasy, right?

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Nope. There have been plenty of racist tweets in the aftermath, some of which are puzzlingly directed at Chinese and other Asians (who were not in the movie at all. Guess we all look alike—oh wait, that’s another stereotype that needs remedying). What’s worrying about these tweets is that they aren’t just innocuous ramblings—some of them show an intent of violence toward AAPI’s, all under the guise of patriotism. We could have another Danny Chen incident on our hands, unless we step up and educate those around us about what AAPI’s really are, the differences between our groups, and our history in the US.

As you see, AAPI activism is needed now, more than ever, here and everywhere. We hope you will join us this week for new blog posts every day on important issues affecting our community.

Best,

Brittney

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

Welcome to Capitol Goods, a blog by four students interning in Alexandria, Virginia and Washington D.C. Our placement organization CAPAL, an Asian-American leadership group, has forced us together given us the opportunity to document our summer here in this blog.

Each of us has been assigned one day per week to post, and we’ll be covering topics like the events we attended, the cool spots in D.C. and VA, significant Asian-American political issues, as well as stories of our professional development. We hope that our experiences and tips can help out future interns. Here’s a picture of your 4 mentors now: (I’m the cute one in the green shirt, and I’ll be the one cheering you up on Mondays).

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This week’s theme is “Intern Lyfe”, ’cause we ’bout that lyfe and we will be posting about the following topics:

Tuesday: Julie will be taking you through a tour of her day as an intern.

Wednesday: Laura will be giving you her tips on buying food on a budget and stretching out your stipend dollars.

Thursday is our “snippet” day, where we will upload “snippets” of our intern experience like the music we listen to, funny conversations we’ve had, photos from our adventures and crazy quotes from Daniel (he initially wanted to name this blog “Capitol Punishment”.)

Friday: Daniel will share his tips on finding housing and transportation in the area.


Although the main goal of this blog is to help out and entertain fellow interns and future scholars, I’m also excited to document our progression and development as young adults and friends. The title of this post, after all, is from the movie “Casablanca”, and I sincerely hope that this summer and the fun that comes with it will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Best,

Brittney

P.S. We had to take the above photo about 50 times because Daniel KEPT LEANING OVER.

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