An Unconventional Activist: Princess Joules
Julie Van Vu, better known by her YouTube vlogger handle Princess Joules, inspires me. I first stumbled upon her channel when I was searching online for eye makeup tutorials. Hers are amazing. I tried my best to replicate the above-pictured look but just couldn’t come anywhere near her level of skill. I confess I’m an avid subscriber. I love all her YouTube beauty guru showcases–the shopping hauls, the what’s-in-my-bag glimpses, everything, even the sweet and tender moments with her little sister that she captures on camera for us.
Imagine how much that fandom amplified when I watched her more substantive videos. Ms. Vu uses her spotlight to bring attention to feminist, gender equality, sexual equality, and anti-bullying issues in a provocative, engaging, yet convivial manner. There is an essence of feminine beauty that is natural and effortless about her. As a result, she is an inspiration to many, including me. I was prompted to reexamine my own view of my femininity because of Ms. Vu.
To learn more about Princess Joules, watch her video, “19 Months MtF Transition.”
Also check out her “Draw My Life” video. The below are screenshots from the video I’d like to discuss.
Why did that give me pause? The pureness of her embrace of natural femininity.
This is what I mean: I can’t imagine Michelle Phan, another prominent YouTube beauty guru, illustrating the above in her “Draw My Life.” Or for that matter any typical woman who has internalized male dominance. Why? Because from an early age, we females are taught to detach ourselves from our sexuality, to not flaunt it, and to be demure about our biology. So in illustrating birth, most of us women would show the baby bundle or a mother figure covered in blankets resting on a hospital bed. We are taught not to express ourselves in any way that would call attention to our sex organs. We talk about babies coming from storks or cabbage patches just to avoid imagining mothers in conjunction with their sex. Why do we avoid that? Because men want to avoid that.
Thus, I saw the suggestive yet innocent illustration of birth from Princess Joules to show what natural, unabashed embrace of femininity really looks like, untainted by the “ladies, now be ladies” male-dominant older-generations-of-females-perpetuated social norms we other women have internalized. Her illustration of birth is what women actually picture when we think about birth, but don’t express because we have been taught detachment.
Throughout her videos, Ms. Vu celebrates the physical aspects of femininity in a way that society has told women is the unnatural way to exhibit our femininity, is scandalous, imprudent, not what a “true lady” would do. Ms. Vu, however, can approach femininity in a way that is seemingly immune from internalized male dominance, at least in the ways of expressing femininity, because of her unique perspective. So her embrace of femininity now is particularly innocent, fresh, and more attuned to her personal form of expression that does not have to take into consideration what others might think. Most women would hold back because they still want to be perceived a certain way by society’s standards. Most women adopt the male perspective of female beauty and try to conform to that. Ms. Vu, in contrast, is fearless with her sexual expression, and that is something women can learn from her.
While she doesn’t hold herself out as an activist, she is. She is a role model and is not just an inspiration to the LGBT community, but also an inspiration to women everywhere. She teaches women what natural expression of feminine beauty looks like and to be honest I haven’t yet wrapped my mind around the implications of that.
I love her spirit and her advocacy. For example, she stood up and spoke out when JustKiddingNews, a spin-off from JustKiddingFilms, a popular Asian American YouTube comedy channel, covered a news report about a husband who found out, after 19 years of marriage, that his wife was born male and posted a crude video of themselves pointing and laughing and at one point even suggesting that the wife be killed (of course, they were just kidding). I came across the video response Ms. Vu posted, with the following caption:
For those who don’t know the story… Well what happened was the debate was on a marriage of 19 years that ended. The husband found out that his wife was born a man and she never told him. (justkiddingnews) made a video on the topic and they stated some valid points that I agree on but the fact that they were making really rude, ignorant and offensive terms disgusted me. I’m so sick of people being stupid and standing up for that nasty video. I am not being sensitive. Sorry but people like me aren’t witches. “KILL HER!” reminds me of the olden days where they would say “STONE HER!” “BURN HER!” “HANG HER!” because they thought they were witches. Just because you’re a comedian doesn’t allow you to cross the line and get away with it. It was not funny one bit. Being shunned by society is hard enough, but for people to taunt and laugh about it like it’s okay and acceptable is definitely not right. Not on my terms honey.
I can’t find the original video now. I’m hoping that’s because JustKiddingFilms / JustKiddingNews removed the video and also issued an apology for their insensitivity.
Here’s the response from Princess Joules:
Ms. Vu is beautiful, embracing of her sexuality in a way that is almost preemptive against objectification (how she pulls that off, I can’t explain but she does), is vibrant inside and out, and most important of all, lets her voice be heard. She is opinionated, she won’t be silenced, and she won’t let others be silenced either: she is an advocate that stands up for others. And that’s why she is an unconventional activist and feminist, helping to forge an uncharted path to redefining what it means to be a real lady today.
Photo Credits: Julie Vu’s Facebook Page.