Feminist Hero Friday: Margaret Cho

By Michelle Kiang

This week our Feminist Hero is activist, actress, comedian, author, and singer-songwriter  Margaret Cho. Cho was born in San Francisco on December 5,1968, began writing jokes at fourteen, performing them at sixteen, starred in the first TV show about an Asian American Family, the ABC sitcom, All-American Girl (1994), toured the U.S. several times in one-woman shows - I’m The One That I Want (1999), Notorious C.H.O. (2001), Revolution (2003), released albums, starred and guest starred on television, competed in Dancing With the Stars, did about 1,000 other projects and throughout all of this work has remained a loud voice for the marginalized.

I am not doing justice to everything Margaret Cho has accomplished (it’s a lot) and I recommend you engage with her comedy, music, acting, and follow her on twitter. Margaret Cho is my Feminist Hero because she incorporates justice in everything she does. Aptly named the “Patron Saint of Outsiders,” Cho uses experiences of racism, misogyny, sexual violence, homophobia, addiction, and disordered eating to give a voice to the most marginalized and oppressed individuals in our society. Cho uses her narrative to entertain, make others laugh, bring awareness, and make demands heard.

I first found Margaret Cho’s comedy when I was sixteen and I haven’t looked back since. Cho uses her stage and star power to always be an activist - this makes her a hero to me and to many marginalized and seemingly voiceless Others. Her willingness to candidly bring forward difficult conversations into mainstream media, particularly those about sexual violence and eating disorders, have made her a mainstream feminist voice in media:

“Feminism isn’t just a white middle class movement. It is a white middle class movement. It’s also a movement for people of color. It’s also a movement for poor people. It’s a movement for people who need to empower themselves, no matter who they are. We need to understand that we still don’t make equal pay, no matter how much you work. Feminism is a lot of things. And the expression of feminism is different for everyone. The patriarchy likes to shame us and belittle us by criticizing feminism. Feminism is a way to heal from patriarchy, from abuse, from inequality. There’s so much more involved in feminism that goes beyond race and class and that goes beyond countries’ borders.
I’m a feminist because I have no other alternative.  I’m a feminist through and through.” - From an interview with Katie Halper at Feministing)

In November of 2014, Cho tweeted “I am a rape victim and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I come forward in solidarity with all women who have suffered. #tellyourstory.” and released this music video (trigger warning for violence and a mention of rape and sexual assault). 

While researching Margaret Cho’s activism, I couldn’t pinpoint one organization, or project, or movement, or interview, in which she participated where her earnestness, honesty, and power don't shine through.

“I think today’s feminism is very exciting because it’s now become very, very urgent.”