Once upon a time, there lived a girl who was born into a family deeply entrenched in traditional gender biases.
Her father’s lineage hailed from the mainland, where the desire for a male heir was ingrained in Chinese family culture. During her formative years, she often heard relatives chastising her mother for not producing a son. They’d criticise her mother, saying, “What’s the point of earning money if you can’t bear a son?”
“Why couldn’t you have been a son?” Her mother’s reproach was cutting.
Right from birth, her worth seemed measured by her gender, relegating her to an inferior status. A simmering resentment grew within her. “Why should having a son automatically make someone better? Are boys inherently more capable? Can’t I excel just as well as a boy?” Many things perplexed her during her childhood. As a spirited tomboyish eldest daughter, she refused to believe boys were superior in any way. Yet, “gender” was a recurring theme in her life from an early age. With time, she evolved into a registered social worker, a sexual therapist, and an advocate for sex education.
She is Miss WoW, where “WoW” stands for “Woman of Wisdom”. This knowledgeable woman navigates the complexities of human sensuality. But her mission goes beyond ‘sex education’ – she tackles “gender education”, “gender hierarchy”, “gender disparity in professions”, “the dynamics of patriarchy and feminism”, “the autonomy of one’s body”, and more.
Amid the pandemic, Instagram saw a surge of pages discussing sexuality. She observed “anonymous confession” posts, many concerning sexual violence. However, the page administrators often lacked expertise, unable to provide appropriate guidance. In some cases, even online users blamed the victims. She, a survivor herself, decided to share her own journey through IG Live, aiming to offer support to those facing similar challenges. Thus, the “heymisswow” IG page was born, delving into the “politics of orgasms”, exploring topics such as the “(non-academic) survey of Hong Kong sexual fantasies” and even deciphering the “intent behind erotic pictures”. She unveiled a world of sexuality that was expansive and intriguing. Seeking to dispel biases, she started with education, aiming to increase awareness. Miss WoW’s messages were easy to digest, relatable, and backed by academic rigor. Perhaps, as she put it, societal expectations, stereotypes, and the assumption of a female social worker’s role all played a part in shaping people’s perceptions. Difficult topics, when articulated by her, carried a special kind of persuasiveness.
Born to be feminist
Emerging from University at the tender age of 22 or 23, she fearlessly stepped into her first job at a sex worker advocacy organisation. A fledgling advocate, how did she manage to garner the trust of the sex workers? “You must understand your own boundaries and position. If there’s something you don’t know, admit it. Education doesn’t automatically translate into comprehending their world. Never approach them with a saviour complex.” Her method was rooted in the power of storytelling. Confronting challenges from the sex workers, she opted for empathy from their perspective rather than the stance of an expert. Sex workers inhabit the fringes of society due to systemic issues like poverty and the struggles of newcomers in Hong Kong. Collective advocacy is their key. “Honestly, what can we contribute? Perhaps not much.”
In her teenage years, Miss WoW sported blonde hair, savoured a drink, and frequented nightlife. People would jest, “You’re a social worker? You come across more like a girl needing counselling.” Despite her friends knowing she wasn’t indulging in risky behaviours, the “bad girl” image clung to her. Another pivotal experience was her encounter with sexual assault.
“Did I inadvertently send the wrong signals? Or was I naive? Foolish for allowing someone to escort me to a hotel room? Did my actions unintentionally convey something? Or was it my inability to refuse?” After grappling with self-blame, she became emotionally numb, unsure how to respond. When she crossed paths with the perpetrator later, she pretended nothing had transpired… During that time, while she championed justice for the sex workers, she refrained from reporting the assault or speaking out. Perhaps she, better than most, understood the unaccommodating nature of the criminal justice system for victims. This distressing experience morphed into suppressed emotions over time, an intricate web of feelings concealed away. It wasn’t until she departed from the sex worker advocacy group that she resolved to delve into sexuality-related work. Joining a group in The Association for the Advancement of Feminism, she aimed to further her education. Unexpectedly, this journey rekindled memories she had long sealed off. Equipped with professional social work training, she chose to personally embark on gender education and carve out her distinctive route to justice.
When discussing her vision for the ideal approach to sex education, Miss WoW’s aspirations are nothing short of grand. “The most ideal form of sex education wouldn’t require dedicated courses.” she elaborates. “I strongly believe that every parent should step into the role of being their child’s primary sex education mentor and trusted adult. Many aspects of a child’s growth are directly influenced by parental guidance. The journey of self-discovery and identity formation during their developmental stages is deeply shaped by their parents, underscoring its significance. If every adult in the community is equipped to provide sex education, and there’s someone available to address questions during casual conversations or mealtimes, I’m confident in the community’s potential. Once accurate information is accessed through reliable channels, anyone can serve as a sex education advocate. That encapsulates my ideal.” She is currently dedicated to a community-based sex education project, working towards realising this envisioned state.
Education encompasses attitude, knowledge, and skill. Traditional school-based sex education tends to emphasise knowledge, but this knowledge doesn’t always seamlessly translate into practical skills. “In my sex education efforts, my highest priority lies in building strong connections with the individuals involved, helping them clarify their values, and providing supportive companionship throughout their journey of personal growth.”
In 2016, she made a resolute decision to quit her job and chase her dreams. Little did she know that this choice would be the genesis of Miss WoW. Yet, the journey towards achieving broad social acceptance of sex education is as long as her steadfast determination. “When you’re truly passionate about something, it’s like a persistent thread woven into your heart. You find yourself constantly contemplating how you could make a difference – thinking, ‘If I approach it this way, I could definitely create an impact.’ Of course, some endeavours might only become feasible after many more years,” she reflects.
But it’s clear to me that she was born to be a feminist, and an activist too. Even a decade from now, I wouldn’t be surprised if Miss WoW is already hatching her next groundbreaking initiative.
Photo source: Unsplash, Miss Wow