The Common Stereotypes About Asian Women

tumblr_o31mouVrKO1snerhxo3_1280I remember being asked for help in Maths, but Science and Maths were not my best subjects. When I gave help to other classmates, I knew my explanation could be wrong, but I knew that I was singled out for help because of the stereotype that Asians are good at Maths and Science. When I sat in Music, I remember a classmate would always sit beside me and try to look at my answers when we had class tests. It’s common that Asians are thought of as the passive minority, in where many racism directed at Asians are often quietly tolerated or ignored. The general stereotypes about Asians that are very common are: hard working, studious, nerd, intelligent, striving for A+, bad drivers, rich, musically talented, a doctor, engineer or lawyer and the list goes on.

However, there are also a lot of stereotypes of Asian women. I did a lot of research and readings on the perspectives of the East last semester at uni, and I feel that there are many stereotypes of Asian women (and men) from the West’s perspective. Although, I would agree that there are many, many Asians that work very hard, but that goes for anywhere there are hard workers and lazy workers. The way Asian women are portrayed in films, literature, art and media can have a significant influence on how people view Asian women.

Asian Mother’s being strict and overprotective. You may have heard of the term Tiger Mum. It’s a parent that pushes their children to pursue academic excellence and excel in their career and life. They can be very demanding and over bearing. This is a common stereotype in Chinese parenting. Unfortunately, true for some, but definitely not for all. My sister and I were never overly pushed to be high achievers. We just did our best, and pursued what we’re passionate about.

Dating a white person means you have white fever. There is a stereotype that if an Asian woman dates a White man, she has white fever. Vice versa, if a White man dates an Asian woman, he has yellow fever. There are cases where that is indeed true, or the individual has a preference. However in most cases, such as my Mum and my Stepdad, it’s because they both like each other for who they are. The attraction is simply on personality, but unfortunately because Asian stereotypes can be so strong, that some people will make assumptions quickly based on ethnicity.

Being quiet, submissive, mysterious and exotic. Unfortunately, I’ve talked about how my friend and I had a strange experience of white men talking to us for the wrong reasons. This is one of the most common stereotypes of Asian women. It’s also common in the sexual stereotype of Asian women, that we’re submissive and obedient. Sadly, this has been one of the ways the media views us. This is one of the reasons I feel put off by men who do have yellow fever, because they want to find an Asian woman who fulfills their Asian fetish of the stereotype of the Asian woman.

Slim, long black hair and almond eyes. Picture an image of a slender frame, porcelain skin, long thick black hair and brown almond eyes. The description makes me think of a Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways advertisements. It’s true that many Asian women are petite, but everyone comes in different shapes, size and shades. However, growing up I would often hear “How do you stay slim Katie,” and sometimes someone would say “because she’s Asian.” Genetically Asians all have black hair and brown eyes.

Always being seen as an “Asian” women. As a woman, I won’t ever be just viewed as a woman. I will always be an Asian woman. This is something I’m proud of, but I’m also aware that it comes with a lot of labeling, generalisations and stereotypes. I previously wrote about how people seem to have to mention when someone is Chinese, Indian, Black etc when it’s not always necessary. It also means dealing with people from time to time who say certain things to you because you’re Asian, that can be insensitive.

In Asian American Women Faculty: Stereotypes and Triumphs by Celeste Fowles Nguyen, she writes “The model minority stereotypes Asians as hard workers who quietly achieve high results. The lotus flower, or geisha stereotype, defines Asian females as feminine and passive.” Asian women are viewed as uncomplaining, tolerant and passive. However, I want to challenge this view, and encourage people to speak more about it with friends of different ethnicity. We rarely see Asian women in the news media, and many other areas. Representation is important, and I hope that we will see more diversity and conversations about these issues.

What are some other stereotypes of Asian women? Feel free to share your experiences down below.

Photography by Sun Jun of Nini for L’Officiel China March 2016

14 thoughts on “The Common Stereotypes About Asian Women

  1. In Southeast Asia countries, some people assume that Asian women are the gold diggers if they are in the relationship with the white guys. When I traveled in Asia, people surprised when I shared the bills with my boyfriend. O_o

    1. I’ve heard about this! I suppose it shows that it’s definitely one of the stereotypes that can create assumptions between Asian woman/White man relationships.

  2. You nailed this article, Katie. These are definitely many Asian women face. Some of them might be applicable, but some might not. Definitely agree when you say that an Asian woman will constantly be seen as an Asian woman and race isn’t always necessary to quite a number of situations. Cultural background does play a part in our values and the way we are today. But that doesn’t define if we are good at something – whether or not we can do something usually depends if we try and work hard at it.

    I always get steretyped as the Asian woman who is submissive and has no backbone. Admittedly I am an introvert and quiet, and while I have an opinion I generally prefer to let others share first before me…and sometimes time runs out before I can share.

    1. Thank you Mabel. Agreed, it doesn’t define if we are good at something. Anything requires hard work. I understand, as I’m very soft spoken and calm, and I am aware that that can cause people to assume I must be like this or that as a person. I find in general that introverts and those who are more quiet can have misconceptions and assumptions made about them, but I guess we can keep a sense of privacy in a way that not many people will see our complete self. I’m sure you may relate to the feeling of being more completely yourself with those you’re close to.

  3. I agree with the yellow fever / white fever thing mostly because it happens with my family. Also anytime I hear boys talking about Asian women, you tend to hear the same things from them. I remember my mom telling me to keep going out with this white guy even though he wasnt that great, didn’t work (which is what she cares about), and lived with his mom. Then I was with, and still am, with a non white person and she makes it so hard for him even though hes literally my soulmate lol. With my mom especially, it’s like if you’re with a white man, it’s a successful relationship
    So anytime I look at a woman of color with a white guy I always wonder if its them who chose him or their mom/family since I was very close to just dating that white guy.

    Also when I was younger I didn’t realize “model minority” was a bad thing, but then learned that its pressuring to those who really aren’t that smart, or aren’t skinny or pale/have porcelain skin.
    Very interesting post Katie. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

    1. Thank you for sharing this with me, it was interesting to read. I do find it’s common in Asia, that some people do believe that a White man will likely be attractive and successful (but everyone’s in a different situation regardless of ethnicity). That’s true, I find the model minority can create many expectations. Your comment did make me think of how growing up and even til now, most of the racism directed towards me, have been from white boys/men. At this stage, I can only imagine dating someone that’s Asian or Eurasian, but it’s something I’m trying to be more open minded about and not create this restriction, but at the same time I think it’s important for a person to understand what it feels like to be a minority and embrace Asian culture.

      However, a personal memory was in high school when two white boys ganged up on me and were trying to intimidate me, they physically pushed me against the wall twisted my wrists. I remember feeling like they were trying to make me feel weak, and even though it may not of been the fact I was Asian (although there weren’t as many Asians at my school), I can’t help have a certain thought about some White guys in a negative way, and how many need to learn respect. I never want to generalise, but obviously not all guys are like this regardless of what colour they are, but because most of my experiences of racism are from white people, it makes me very hesitant to date a White person.

      1. yes! Exactly. My mom (who’s mexican) looked at the white boy i was so close to dating in the dark night but she still said he was pretty and i should continue with him, but solely because he’s white.
        Any white man she sees, she says he’s handsome and it’s just easier to marry them.

        That’s awful you went through that and in high school! I would imagine people in high school are smarter than to do that. Those kind of things sound like something from a movie. It’s very sad that’s real life.

        I grew up in a mostly mexican/spanish speaking high school so there wasn’t really any bullying, just straight up fights with girls and boys who like fighting with each other.
        The only time I ever felt weird was when me ex friend who happened to be white, just randomly wanted to fight me. I was the first friend she made when she transferred too. Luckily all my friends realized she was a psycho and we just stopped hanging out with her, she literally wanted to fight all the girls in our class lol. I think it was just a phase for her, she seems a bit normal now. The other time was when I went to the guy’s house I was about to date. He showed me he was super proud to be white. Nothing wrong with that, but I thought it was awkward for him to boast about it randomly on this “date”. His mom also didn’t even look at me when I said hi and he didn’t say anything about it. Like, how rude? Obviously I could only think that it was because I’m a dark skinned mexican. His dad, though, was really nice to me so I’m thankful for that.

        Later on I realized white men like to be proud of their whiteness lol
        These definitely aren’t the only two white people I’ve encountered in my life since my brother grew up with white people and still has them as friends. There’s one who’s flat out racist, but with my brother grew up thinking the same as my mom so their relationship is kinda strange. They don’t let politics or whatever get in the way. It’s strange really.

        My brother is the type to only date white girls. I always wondered why since they were racist towards him. That’s why I can’t get myself to date white men. It’s confusing, for example my friend who talks about how shit white men are, still only dates white boys.
        I know there are good white men like the guy she’s dating and many other guys, but the fact that I have to worry about it in the first place just makes it off putting. I’m lucky enough to have found someone like me who feels the same way as me.
        My boyfriend was kinda bullied too by white kids and also boys who just hated their ethnicity. I think whats worse is people of your ethnicity acting like they’re a white person so then they treat their own people like crap too.
        So, in the end you just gotta go with your heart and gut and make sure you’re dating the right person lol (sorry this is long it’s just an interesting topic!)

      2. I’m so curious what causes some Asians to have this perception. Although, perhaps the media and history plays a part. Thanks for understanding, it was many, many years ago, so the hurt left a long time ago. That’s why I can talk about it more directly now. It’s tricky in those situations, because I’ve had experiences where it made me question:

        1) Is it just the person themselves, and their problem?
        2) Is it the fact that I’m Asian, and they are intolerant towards Asians?
        3) Is it simply they just don’t like me as a person?

        In a way those experiences make us grow and learn to not care so much. It makes you recognize people who love you for who you are. I’m glad his Dad was nice to you. I do have great girl and guy friends that are White, but I completely relate to when you said “the fact that I have to worry about it in the first place just makes it off putting.” because it stems from the bad experiences we’ve had. I have white friends that have said something slightly racist, but it’s not ever intentional. But I’ve learned to point it out just so that they can recognize and understand. I’m happy to hear you are with someone who understands. I’m sorry to hear that your boyfriend was bullied. I also think it is common, especially in Western countries for a lot of Asians to forget to also embrace their Asian roots/culture. It’s natural to assimilate, but it’s also important to maintain your own cultural identity. Thank you so much for sharing with me, it didn’t feel so long at all!

  4. I’ve been watching a “Yappie” – a Youtube video series by Wong Fu Production, and I’m sure you’d enjoy it (if you’re not already watching it) :)

  5. I remember in high school back in NZ in awards ceremony, there was this one portion where there was a string of Asian names being called…this was followed by comments and whispers in the crowd ‘they’re all Asian’. I’ve noticed that even though Asians have the stereotype of being intelligent and striving to do well, we are also criticised for doing well. It’s very odd to me.

    1. That’s very true. I find it’s common when people notice there’s lots of Asians, as opposed to when there are lots of White people. I remember reading a book called Being Chinese – A New Zealander’s Story by Helene Wong. She talked about the media stories in 1989 about immigrants, which used the phrase ‘Asian Invasion.’ she said that they didn’t say the same of the South Africans who were also arriving in the country under the same immigration policy. Cos she mentioned how Chinese were too different in looks, speech and behaviour. In a way, some people still need to point out differences. But, sadly it can cause an invisible line of division when that happens in a negative way.

  6. Thank you for writing out a more balanced view! This is important, too, and should not be overlooked. Often when we want to debunk a stereotype we use extreme language like “always” and “never”, but you were careful and I appreciate that. I also watched the Amy Vagabond video you linked to in your other post. Thank you!

    As far as stereotypes, I’m so obnoxious :P that folks usually figure out pretty quick that I’m not your typical Asian :P xo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s