Shortly after the U.K. voted for Brexit and hate crimes started rising to unprecedented numbers, I received messages from Hijabis (Muslim women who choose to wear the traditional veil “hijab”) asking me if I could post some self-defense videos:

It came to no surprise to me that the first request I received the day we found out America voted a racist and self-admitted, sexual assault perp into the highest office, was a request to re-post the Hijabi self-defense videos. But it didn’t stop there. I have received hundreds of messages from all kinds of scared women, a good 80% from Hijabis asking me what else they can do and what type of weapons they should carry.

For those people who only know me as a filmmaker and also those who automatically assume that a woman can't possibly know anything about personal safety or self-defense (yes I see you in my Twitter mentions) rest assured I know what I’m talking about. I will not list all my titles and qualifications here, but I will tell you that I used to do this for a living, as a matter of fact the first job I had in the US was teaching hand-to hand combat to an organization I’m sure you’re familiar with:

Now that that's out of the way, let me tell you a little bit about the safety pin campaign.

I don’t know exactly who started it, but I know that it came out of the U.K. after Brexit. As far as I understand, it was never meant to be a “hey-look-at-me-fixing-racism” campaign. It was created as a signal for people most vulnerable to hate crimes, so they can identify people willing to help. Similar to the #IllRideWithYou and #IllWalkWithYou campaigns.

If you think even for a minute that none of us in the personal safety world thought about the fact that it could be abused by exactly those people we’re trying to protect hate crime victims from…you are arrogant and unhelpful. We have more than thought this through and speaking for myself, I not only analyze every safety tip I post a hundred times over, I also consult with other personal safety professionals to make sure I have thought of every scenario.

But thank God for white American men who post hot-take think pieces (I’m not even going to link to it because I refuse to give him more clicks) half of the crowd who would have liked to wear the safety pin are now confused about the sincerity of the campaign.


I asked a friend of mine from England if there had been backlash like this in the U.K. as well. She forwarded me a couple of similar pieces, written by….yes you guessed it…men.

Now even women-of-color are jumping on the bandwagon, because somehow a campaign that started as “emergency-assistance-offered” has been misinterpreted into “I’m-wearing-a-safety-pin-to-fight-racism” campaign.

Come the fuck on people.

I know everybody is riding on raw emotions this week…but this is inexcusable in my opinion.

What you publicly hear about Hijabis getting attacked is only 1/16 of the amount of attacks actually happening against them. I have young Muslim girls sending me messages, telling me about how and when they were assaulted, but begging me not to tell anybody. When I ask them why they won’t share this with authorities or family members, they explain that they will lose all personal freedom if their family, especially male family members, would find out. No more trips to the mall or to a friend’s house without a family member in tow (and before you start saying anything about patriarchy in Islam…I will remind you that there are thousands of photos posted on the web of angry white Dad’s posing with a rifle next to their daughter’s prom date…so please, spare me).

Are there other marginalized groups under attack now, who won’t be helped at all by a safety pin? Yes, absolutely. I am mortified for Black people who now have to fear an even more empowered, racist, deadly police force. I promise you, I will fight on your behalf as much as I will fight for anybody who is now at a greater risk…unfortunately, I can’t do that with self-defense videos or safety pins because neither will be effective against racist cops with guns.

I am also mortified for my Muslim family members and friends who are now worrying about being banned from entering the U.S. or even getting deported.

Not all of the threats we face can be solved with safety pins and it certainly isn't a tool that will help fight racism...but the people who are endorsing it for personal safety never claimed that.

Imagine you’re a 14-year-old Hijabi girl getting on a subway car, you turn your head to the left and spot a group of young, loud white men already giving you dirty looks, so you turn to the right and there you notice a group of eclectic strangers, 3 of them wearing safety pins…two of them adult women. Chances are pretty good that those 3 people are not secret Nazis who went through the trouble of getting safety pins to commit premeditated assault. Could it happen? Yes. But the chances of that happening are much slimmer than our Hijabi girl getting hurt by the vile, fuck boys to her left.

I’d like you to consider not ruining something that could help this one, vulnerable group…just because some people misinterpreted its meaning or because it doesn’t help the much greater danger you’re facing.

We are all afraid. But we cannot be ruled by fear…or we will certainly lose this fight.



At The WGC Awards

by Nathalie Younglai

This is long, so… fair warning.  

Initially, I wrote a massive rant. It tumbled all out, messy and cussing and yelly. Then I erased all the anger out and “toned it down” because I want to work again. 

Which is stupid. I’ve just fallen into the racist, sexist trap/trope and I can’t shake off the stink.  

It became an academic, dry and a measured examination of casual racism. Boring. Done before. Also, a disservice to my fellow Asian writers who are breaking into the TV industry. Besides, why do I have to be the calm one to explain things that louder voices refuse to listen to or acknowledge? Louder voices that would rather hear their own expert opinion on matters they’ve never grown up with. Louder voices that cheer when Glen Mazzarra talks about the need for diversity and what it means to be inclusive, but refuse to see that they themselves are silencing the very people they purport to support. So why do I have to be the calm one while others can rant all they want about how reactionary everyone else is?

Because I want to work again. Because I can say the exact same thing that someone who is not a Person of Colour does, and one of us will be heard more. One of us will be seen as “so angry”, the other will be seen as just stating facts. Because I know whatever I say will be seen through the lens of “being too PC”, “the internet”, “outrage culture” and other incredibly dismissive labels that don’t see me as a person, but a symbol of knee-jerk reactions to things that apparently Did. Not. Happen.

Instead, I thought it might be useful if I shared what was going through my mind as this one little incident happened. This goes through my mind (and for other PoC too) every time these random acts of racism happen, which they do more frequently than we’d like to think. Every time, it’s a huge but somewhat instantaneous decision process – Do I say something? Do I call them out? What will the backlash be? Will it suck me into a longer argument I don’t have the energy to get into right now? How can I do it in a way that will get through to the other person? How do I get out of this situation?

Thing is, I went to the WGC Awards like any other writer, wanting to celebrate and connect and stuff my face with fancy grilled cheese sandwiches I never found. Instead, the night was tarnished. As soon as Frank Van Keeken, winner of showrunner of the year award, pivots from doing his Dutch father’s accent to saying something like, “That was a bad Dutch accent. But if my father was Chinese, I could do that accent…” All I can feel is heat rush to my face. Then blood draining. Thinking, “Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it.” Then he does it. This supposedly funny Chinese father accent. My next thoughts coming at me: “Am I actually sitting here as this is happening? Is this really happening? Am I hearing this right?” Then, “Don’t look around. Don’t listen to the woman laughing behind me. Don’t move a muscle, don’t let them know it’s punching you in the gut while you sit in a room full of hundreds of your peers. Is my face hot? Is anyone looking for my reaction? Can I hide the fact that I’m Chinese?”

I transport to an alternate reality where I can do what I really wanted to do: throw my arms up in the air and double fist the F-U fingers at him for the rest of his speech. But I know that I can’t. I don’t want to draw attention to what he just did, to how it’s coursing through me, to how humiliated I feel. Why do I feel humiliated when it should be him who should feel embarrassed for doing such a blatant foul? I really want to stand up and walk out. But I don’t. Again, I don’t want to draw attention. Why? Because I actually want to work again. I don’t have the safety net of being a white man or white woman. And I don’t have the seniority in the industry to mouth off willy-nilly whenever someone says or does something accidentally racist. (I know I’m not supposed to use the r-word, it’s too incendiary. It’s more polite and acceptable to call it “offensive” or “stupid”. So maybe I should delete that too. Or maybe I won’t and I will give myself the freedom to say what I really think. For the most part.) So I sit and try not to move a muscle. This entire debate is happening in my head all within the space of the minute or so that he is performing his stupid fucking Chinese accent bullshit and the slow minutes after.

I hear his anger at being canned from his own show. I empathize, it sounds horrible. But I have to work really hard to hear it through the fog of the grossness that I feel. When the show is thankfully over, I get up and want to leave entirely. Leave the WGC, leave the post-reception, just leave. Instead, I walk slowly and put on my own show, pretending like it never happened. I run into my posse of Asian women and immediately… “What the fuck was up with the fucking accent?” “Trainwreck.” “I know.” In that half-minute, it was a relief to find my sisters and have our mini-hidden purge. We shake it off and do what we are supposed to do: mingle and meet writers and producers and execs. Because we want to work. Apparently, that whole accent thing was a figment of my imagination and was supposed to be ironic because he was Dutch and I, as a woman of Chinese descent, am not highbrow enough to enjoy ironic, self-referencing comedy. Anyone who disagrees is overreacting. And I didn’t hear it right. The sad part is that my first reaction to reading that reaction, was to question myself and wonder if I really did mishear. Did a bunch of us have the bad batch of wine at the pre-cocktails and have the same hallucination?

I am grateful for those senior writers who were there who have backed me and shared their same perception – we did hear what we heard. It did happen and it was wrong. Yes! I’m *not* the crazy angry Asian woman ranting about nothing! 

It sure would be nice if the WGC issued a statement saying they don’t condone what Frank did. They can even crib from notes from my wall from people who have said it better than me, to cobble together the statement. Of course I know WGC has no control over what people say when they accept their awards, and that is not the expectation. But taking a stance lets people know that their perspectives also deserve to be counted. Especially as the industry moves towards being more inclusive.