Meet Mia Mingus: She identifies as a queer, physically disabled, Korean woman, transracial, and transnational adoptee. It’s a mouthful, and if it is a lot to say and a lot to wrap your head around, imagine how it felt growing up with all of those hurdles to overcome. But overcome she did. And she’s not just a feminist — she is an intersectional feminist, meaning she deals with oppression not just related to sexism but also racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and more.
According to Kimberlé Crenshaw, civil rights advocate and law professor, who coined the term “intersectional feminist” nearly 30 years ago, it refers to the fact that “the way we imagine discrimination or disempowerment often is more complicated for people who are subjected to multiple forms of exclusion.” She continues to say that in order to truly fight oppression and fight for women rights or human rights on a larger scale, “we might have to broaden our scope of how we think about where women are vulnerable.”
Mia Mingus is a powerful, passionate, get-sh*t-done kind of intersectional feminist, and she’s the kind of feminist everyone loves and the world needs. Here are 13 reasons we can’t get enough of this powerhouse.
She Is Not Ashamed of Who She Is
In her 2011 speech at the Femmes Of Color Symposium Keynote Speech in Oakland, CA, Mingus was open and honest about who she is. “I always think it is important to say that I’m here today as a queer, disabled, Korean woman, transracial/transnational adoptee, raised in a US territory in the Caribbean,” she states. She goes on to explain, “None of which are more or less important. For me, these are not just descriptive terms; they are political identities, based out of my own and other people’s lived experiences, and I understand them — all of them — to be powerful ways of moving through and understanding the world…” Not only is she proud of who she is — disabled, queer, transracial — but she believes that her experiences have helped her understand the world, and more importantly, understand how she can help change it.
She Acknowledges Her Privilege
While Mingus is disabled, and she suffered several years as a disabled Korean youth surrounded by abled, white adults, she doesn’t look at herself as a victim. In fact, she is very open about her privilege. Not all disabled people are able to speak in front of massive crowds of people. Not all disabled people are able to be visible to others, to speak about who they are and what they stand for, and represent a severely underrepresented segment of society. She is relatively privileged in a lot of ways; in the past disabled individuals were locked up, institutionalized or not publicly seen. Mingus is aware of her relative privilege and she’s not taking one second of it for granted.
She Is a Feminist But She Is Not Femme
something i love abt femme and/or woman of color and/or people who do not receive male or masculine privilege culture:
how we will do the work that needs to get done.
not the work we necessarily want to do, but the work that needs to get done.
i appreciate this about us. <3
— Mia Mingus (@miamingus) June 13, 2018
Feminism is an interesting concept, one that comes with a lot of preconceived notions about what a feminist should be. But Mingus redefines that role. She is a feminist but she is not particularly focused on being feminine. Perhaps because of her upbringing and her experience growing up as a disabled child, but she is still trying to find her way “into ‘human,’ let alone ‘woman.’” She explains she always felt like a different species, like she didn’t belong, like a freak, because she wasn’t an able bodied white woman. She admittedly does not identify as femme, and that’s okay. She is who she is, and she is proud.
She Believes That Justice Depends on Connection
Mingus focuses a lot on the idea of interdependency. Despite a lifetime of feeling like an outsider, she is passionate about belonging and creating a community of interdependent, collective beings who all feel like they matter, they are valuable and they are not disposable.
She is a Writer and She Keeps It Real On Her Blog Leaving Evidence
Mingus’ blog, Leaving Evidence, is all about making our voices heard and reminding others that we are here and we are alive. It is inspiring and honest and poetic and real. According to her site, “We must leave evidence. Evidence that we were here, that we existed, that we survived and loved and ached. Evidence of the wholeness we never felt and the immense sense of fullness we gave to each other. Evidence of who we were, who we thought we were, who we never should have been. Evidence for each other that there are other ways to live — past survival; past isolation.”
She is Fighting to Protect Children
It’s no secret that disabled children suffer a great deal of torment from able bodied people, just because they are different. But it’s more than that. They are also at a higher risk of being victims of violence than their non-disabled peers. Mingus strongly believes that disabilities must be a big part of the conversation when discussing childhood safety and putting an end to physical violence, especially among youth.
“Magnificence comes out of our struggle.”
She Challenges Traditional Beauty Standards
After a lifetime of feeling like she didn’t fit in, or she didn’t meet the expectations of how she was supposed to look or feel, Mingus is empowered and is empowering others to redefine how they see beauty. She’s challenging the idea of what it means to be beautiful, and the fact that so many people only find beauty in what is familiar, as opposed to what makes us all different, whether that be race, gender or physical abilities. In an interview with them., Mingus says that she prefers the word “magnificence” as opposed to “beauty.” “We literally get taught that you are only worthy if you’re beautiful; that there are no other pathways to worth besides desirability. This is where magnificence comes in to me,” she explains. “Magnificence comes out of our struggle.”
She Has Dedicated Her Life’s Work to Helping Her Community
As a core member of The Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC), Mia and her fellow community members work to build and support transformative justice responses to child sexual abuse. They hope to create a world where everyday people (independent of prisons or the criminal justice system) can intervene and help prevent violent encounters and incidences of sexual abuse.
She Advocates For Prison Reform and Abolition
One of the key areas of focus for Mingus and the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective is to reform the prison and criminal justice system. She argues that reform and abolition can go hand in hand, with the understanding that reform is a way to reduce the harm already done, and abolition is the ultimate goal. She believes that there are a lot of people caught up in the prison system only as a result of their circumstances and the oppressions they have encountered. “I understand reform work as harm reduction work. It is work to reduce the harm our people’s face at the hands of the system — inside of the burning house.”
She Tackles Tough Topics
i cannot stress enough how important preparation is when it comes to transformative justice. read, learn, get trained, build your individual, pod and community capacity NOW. have conversations NOW about accountability, consent, values, safety plans, political analysis.
— Mia Mingus (@miamingus) June 12, 2018
In a recent article for Everyday Feminism, Mingus addresses a tough topic of consent — one that is front and center in the media thanks to the #metoo movement, among other issues of sexual assault and physical abuse. She discusses that for people with disabilities, consent doesn’t really exist, and forced intimacy is a common occurrence, especially for individuals who need physical assistance to perform basic daily functions. It’s not something most able bodied people probably think about, but Mingus is working hard to make sure the issue of consent is not ignored, especially where disabled people are concerned.
She Values The Comfort and Safety of Home
One common core value so many of us have is the deep desire to find a place to call home. Having a safe haven in your life, regardless of what that home may be, is a dream people of all backgrounds, races, upbringings, and genders can relate to. It’s something Mia Mingus values deeply, and it’s a value we can all relate to. In an interview with The Feminist Wire, Mingus notes that “home can be many things: a bestie, a car, a lover’s embrace, a piece of music, nature, land, chosen family. It can be the way that someone helps you down the stairs, a political movement or the sounds that let your shoulders loosen and your heart open. I work so that we can all have homes where we feel loved and safe and understood.”
She Was Recognized By The White House For Her Work
In 2013 Mingus was recognized by the White House Obama Administration as a Champion of Change during Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
She was honored for her dedication to ending child sexual abuse and her endless work fighting for social justice.