feature: In conversation with editor and author, Zing Tsjeng
Zing Tsjeng is pioneering through women's journalism and activism as the editor of Broadly and founder of the Unfollow Me campaign, which fights against domestic abuse. Her admirable efforts supporting women doesn't stop here, in 2018 Zing successfully launched her first book series, Forgotten Women. The four-part series is a celebration of women who created, invented and discovered elements of history, adding to their societies. The unheard voices of these inspiring women featured in Zing's books offer young women the education they never had and offer a sense of empowerment and courage for those who might not find their place in these heavily male-dominated sectors. We were lucky to chat with Zing to find our more on her own wellness, feminism and experiences with empowerment. Keep up with Zing on her Instagram here and the entire Forgotten Women series can be purchased here!
As the Editor of Broadly, Vices women’s platform, it would be great to hear your opinion on what it means to be a feminist, would you call yourself one?
Yes, of course! Feminism to me is about gender equality. Men and women should be treated equally – it’s as simple as that.
How did you start working at Broadly UK, when did the opportunity come about?
I was headhunted to work at Broadly while I was a month into a new job at Konbini. I’d just left my job as News Editor at Dazed, so it was kind of a gamble leaving my new gig so soon. But I’m really glad I did it –I’m so proud of everything we’ve been able to accomplish at Broadly.
What do you think about the current mediascape? Is it doing justice for female readers?
I think we’re in a very new and exciting place for female readers. Women’s publications are political and angry; we’re not afraid to advocate for change and activism. That’s really exciting for me.
We often see a battle between the Me Too movement and online critics, with many people defining certain opinions as “too far”, how do you think the ideology of the movement will adapt and grow in 2019?
I want to see us be more critical of corporate feminism and institutional racism and sexism. Feminism is now being repackaged and sold back to us in these media-friendly, cuddly and fundamentally toothless ways that do nothing for advancing equal rights.
How has the representation of women in the media changed in the last 2 years?
It’s definitely improved for the better. I’m just looking at publications like gal-dem and Burnt Roti which have done a lot to change the representation of women of colour in the UK. That, in turn, has pushed a lot of commercial and mainstream publishers to do better.
Did you always know you wanted to be an editor and book writer?
No! To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what I wanted to do. By my third year of uni, I was panic-attending random job seminars. Then I won a Guardian Student Media award and that opened my eyes to the possibility that writing could be a viable career.
Where there any books that you read when growing up that taught you about female empowerment? That has influenced you?
I read a lot of literature growing up, but I always had a soft spot for Jeanette Winterson. I read her work when I was quite young and her account of growing up in the closet and coming out in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit really affected me.
What led you to start the ‘Forgotten Women’ book series?
My editor at Octopus approached me and said they were thinking about doing a book series about forgotten women and I jumped at the chance to work on it with them. I’m really proud of what we’ve done together.
Tell us about a female role model in your life?
This is going to sound very cliche, but my grandmother. She smuggled food to British POWs during the occupation of Hong Kong while raising seven children. I’m in awe of her.
From all your work exploring forgotten female artists, leaders, writers and scientists, which area of work did you enjoy the researching the most?
I try not to play favourites – I loved researching them all for different reasons! But researching writers was a real joy as it meant that I got to read their original work and get a sense of who they were in their own words, which was not always doable with women from the other books.
Historians, explorers or athletes. What will be next in the Forgotten Series? If you could give us a clue!
Sadly, there are no plans to expand the series - yet! But I still think the four books already pretty good stacked up next to each other.
I’m curious to know and learn about if there were any interesting new-found truths when researching heroic women of history that you might share with our readers?
First thing: We are very, very lucky that we’re able to go to school. So many women in The Scientists and The Artists were initially thwarted because they couldn’t attend higher education or other institutions that would teach them the skills they wanted. Second thing: We are also very, very lucky to be able to marry who we want (and have the choice to remain unmarried). Historically, marriage was an institution that trapped women into inequal relationships where they were expected to – in some cases – even give up their career to become homemakers. In one scientist Ruby Payne-Scott’s case, she was fired from her job because it was illegal to remain in public service after marriage!
What did you learn about women in 2018 that really stood out for you?
That we’re inexhaustible.
What advice would you give to young writers that are keen on writing about topics that are meaningful to them but might be seen “too political”, is this something you have dealt with yourself?
Don’t shy away from being political! If you’re a woman of colour, your very existence - the way you move through the world and perceive things - is probably already political in a country like the UK. But don’t just stick to writing about your opinions, either – go out into the world and find stuff out for yourself. Speak to people, get a sense of what’s happening around you in society. Don’t just stick to what you know.
What milestones did you have to overcome in order to get where you are today?
I had to overcome a lot of paralysing self-doubt. I spent most of my career until recently feeling absolutely terrified that I wasn’t good enough and that I’d be found out. I never thought about this as imposter syndrome – it just seemed so real to me. Now I just think: OK, just do your best, it doesn’t have to be perfect – it just has to get done.
Tell us about a key moment in your life when you felt most proud of yourself?
I think publishing four books probably does it! But I’m also really proud of the work I’ve done for Broadly on Unfollow Me, our campaign to raise awareness of stalking and domestic abuse. It’s just been nominated for an Amnesty International award.
How do you think your upbringing might have shaped your outlook on life and wellness?
I grew up in Singapore which is food-obsessed. So a good life, to me, always has something to do with good food. I think I would die if I got put on a Huel diet.
I’ve previously read that you are often the person in your work and friendship circle that encourage others to go after the pay they deserve, could you tell us more about this role as a friend, who is Zing outside of Broadly?
I don’t know if any of my friends would agree with this, but I hope I’m always the person they can talk to about work or anything deep and emotional. If nothing else, because I’m actually very bad at small talk.
How would you describe a perfect day?
See my previous answer on food – beginning it and ending it with a great meal. Preferably somewhere sunny.
What are your top places to visit this year?
I just came back from Baja California and I’m desperate to visit the rest of Mexico.
Do you have anything that you’re currently working on that you’re excited to share with us?
I'm currently working on a podcast about successful women with Ace & Tate called Career Girls. In each episode, I meet a woman I admire to talk about how she built her career from the ground up – missteps, teething problems, and all.