By Lily Reavis
Emma Tang is a self-professed “feminist in progress.” Although she has spent the past three years participating in political debates, growing her online advocacy network and planning her 2040 presidential campaign, the 17-year-old firmly believes that she will never stop learning how to best fill the ever-changing role of a feminist leader.
As a young, bisexual, Asian, dual-citizen American, Tang checks several diversity boxes. As an advocate, she said she fights for equal rights for all people, regardless of which boxes they tick.
“Having younger brothers was my first chance to be a leader,” Tang said.
Tang is the oldest of three children born to a first-generation, immigrant family. As such, she was the first member of her family to experience modern America from birth. Her family is tightly knit and supportive, and yet when Tang left them in Utah to follow her figure skating career to Colorado in 2015, the dynamic shifted. She stays in close contact with her parents, while the uniqueness of her multi-faceted youth, as well as the strength of her personal convictions, meant she had a different high school experience than most.
In 2016, even though she wasn’t old enough to vote, Tang stayed up-to-date with election news. She launched an online account titled Intersectional.ABC as a place to discuss her political opinions. The acronym in Intersectional.ABC stands for “American-Born Chinese,” an homage to Tang’s identity as a first-generation Taiwanese-American with Chinese ethnicity. The presence has amassed some 37,800 followers on Instagram and pushed Tang’s version of advocacy across the nation.
Tang, who has aspirations of one day being elected president of the United States, graduated in May from Colorado Connections Academy. She plans to take a gap year before heading to college and is currently working for two campaigns: Jillian Freeland, a Democratic hopeful for Doug Lamborn’s Fifth Congressional seat, and Stephany Rose Spaulding, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner for his seat.
Because of her experience running a successful digital advocacy platform, Tang earned a competitive role in Spaulding’s campaign as social media intern. She plans to stay in the role until after the 2020 election.
Shenika Carter, political director for Spaulding’s campaign, described Tang as an “impressive, mature young woman who has been able to truly make a mark via social media.” She added that Tang is on a “fast track” to becoming an expert in social media campaigning.
“She’s very passionate about inclusivity and social justice,” Carter said of Tang. “So much so that she will be successful running on that platform alone.”
Tang recently took time from her busy schedule to discuss the entrepreneurship of advocacy and how she has, despite her young age and somewhat by accident, carved out a role as an up-and-coming leader.
Why did you decide to launch Intersectional.ABC?
For me, it was a place to rant and talk about what I thought feminism should be. I had followed a lot of feminist accounts before but I wasn’t sure that I liked their narrative, so I wanted to be able to put my version out there. Some [accounts] I disagreed with. Some things were too far left or not left enough; a lot of things weren’t talked about.
A lot of [the online resources] were white feminism: just very focused on white females and cisgender females, whereas I wanted to talk about everyone.
How has running Intersectional.ABC been so far?
It’s been an overall good experience, and it’s taught me a lot, like who and where to put my fire toward and how to be vulnerable.
Have you faced any backlash online?
Every picture, there’s just a lot of negativity: That [I’m] not doing enough, the body shaming, people say things like, ‘We don’t like your face.’ It’s kind of like being a public figure, but also not because the account is not about me.
If we can’t be united within our communities, how can we fight outside of them?
How has your identity as an Asian-American influenced your advocacy?
Most people, including people of color, don’t even see [Asian-Americans] as people of color and don’t even think that we face racism at all. If we didn’t advocate for ourselves, no one would advocate for us.
Can you tell us about the charges you introduced [via Intersectional.ABC] for debates?
It’s mostly a way for me to get people to leave me alone. I don’t actually want anyone’s money, I just don’t want to talk to you — especially because I’m expected to debate every single person that asks me through comments or direct message. My time is no longer free; you have to pay for it.
How did you get involved in the Colorado Springs advocacy scene?
I actually just saw a Facebook ad by accident one day, and I went to one of their meetings. I met this lady named Catherine [Grandorff, founding president of Colorado Springs Feminists]. She actually planned the [Women’s March]. And that’s how I got involved. I helped bring the march here in January.
How has the local advocacy scene impacted your work as an advocate?
Making connections, showing up to places and getting my name out there has brought me a lot of opportunities.
What specifically angered you during the 2016 election cycle?
Eighty-five percent of my anger at the time was toward the Republican Party, but the other 15 percent was the fact that the Democrats only supported Hillary [Clinton] half-heartedly. After all, empires fall because of fracturing in the government. Or the party, in this case.
[Donald Trump’s] policies on immigration deeply affected me as I am the daughter of immigrants.
Do you know who you will support for president in 2020?
I like a lot of the candidates. I haven’t picked who I like the best yet, but I kind of know who I don’t like.
I think it would be amazing if a woman was elected to office, especially a woman of color. And I think the nation is ready. I’m just not sure that [the Democratic Party] will vote that way, seeing how a lot of people voted in the last election. [The year] 2020 is going to be really big.
Why do you want to be the President of the United States?
I’ve always wanted to help people, and I think being in the position of president is the highest position I could use to help people.
Do you have any policies in place for your presidential campaign?
I haven’t put any policies into place yet. I don’t even know if the climate is going to make it to 2040. … My generation may not live to our 80s.
What do you want people to know about you above anything else?
Being an advocate and an activist is what I want people to know about me. I’m hoping that will carry throughout my life.