“FLY IN POWER” GIVES VOICE TO ASIAN MIGRANT MASSAGE WORKERS
by Kathy Ou
Co-directed by Yin Q and Yoon Grace Ra, Fly In Power (2023) is the feature-length follow-up to a short film of the same title, which Q spearheaded after the death of Yang Song and which was released on YouTube in 2019. In the feature-length film, we see the filmmakers develop their aesthetics of collectivity, for example, by incorporating crowdsourced images and outsourced phone footage as alternative perspectives to one scene.
We also see the added perspectives of the massage parlor workers themselves. One of the main characters, Charlotte, is a Korean massage worker, who tells about her upbringing in a big Korean family that prioritized educational and developmental opportunities for boys while the girls learned to care for the boys’ needs. Initially skeptical when Q—the film’s co-director and leading member of Red Canary Song— first approached her, Charlotte recounts slowly opening up after seeing Q’s persistence and genuine care for her. Q treats her like a close friend even though they met not too long ago. Charlotte is now a core organizer of Red Canary Song’s outreach team.
Khokhoi is another fascinating character. Hailing from the Philippines, Khokhoi holds the spirits of the film. She identifies herself as a body, plant, and cultural worker who has lived in occupied Lenape land (New York) for the past 10 years. Land acknowledgment has a significant presence in the film—Q powerfully declares early on in the film, “Our care evolution must include remembrance.” Indeed, from mourning Yang Song to Indigenous land to the victims of the Atlanta shootings, the film is a thoughtful meditation on loss in both public and private spaces.
Throughout the film, we see abundant footage of foodmaking, massaging, and other acts of body contact, all filmed in close proximity that emphasizes the tenderness and dexterity of the women’s hands. As Q thanks Charlotte for the food and altars she made for the one year anniversary memorial of the Atlanta shooting, the film seeks to make visible the often hidden and unrecognized labor performed by women. It’s in scenes like these that we see the inevitability and sensuality of our physical existence. If we can agree that the bodily is essential, why should massage, sex, or body work be invalidated, discriminated against, or criminalized?
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Elena Shih, RCS core member and dear friend, has published a book that exposes the truths about the anti-trafficking movement's white saviour complex and harms done to women worldwide. She is a fierce ally who uses academic social capital to give voice to the workers themselves. She leads oral history work, promotes our outreach teams to panels and conferences, breastfeeds on camera while expounding on how the anti-trafficking movement is yet another arm of white supremacy. She is an ultimate woman warrior. And she wrote this book.
Read it to better understand how and why decriminalization and destigmatization of sex work is so necessary world wide. We are not just a niche of activists. We are a network of workers across a globe who use our basic resources to survive and thrive.
Rights not Rescue. Resources not Raids.
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