The Common Stereotypes About Asian Women

Culture

I remember being asked for help in Maths, but Maths and Science were my worst subjects at school. 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 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 top marks, 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. Many of these stereotypes become perpetuated, exaggerated and repeated in the media. 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 love each other for who they are. The attraction is simply on personality, but unfortunately because Asian stereotypes can be so strong, some people will make assumptions quickly based on ethnicity.

Being quiet, submissive, mysterious and exotic. Unfortunately, I’ve had strange experiences of old white men talking to me 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 an 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 remember talking 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