Let me start by saying that being a 5’2 Asian girl with perpetual baby-face in this world is not easy.
After spending close to two years in the United States, I’ve grown to love this country for the values that it holds: Freedom, tolerance and democracy. However, I do take one issue on the fact that most people here seem to believe the stereotype of Asians being meek, quiet little creatures. Or maybe they only believe that about me.
This is a problem that plagued me even back home. Usually men (Not a social justice warrior, this is merely an observation), but also older women with seniority, either perceived or not, would be surprised if I stood up for myself or spoke up. Case in point, I would request something to be done by my co-worker and he would not do it for weeks on end. But when I lost my temper and lectured him about personal responsibility, he would ask me why I was being such a harridan.
Before I left the Battalion at Texas A&M, I was criticized for not putting sufficient effort into the newspaper, i.e not suggesting story ideas, as well as picking up stories only to drop them at the last minute. When I protested that I had submitted story ideas dutifully every week and had only dropped one story since I joined the newspaper, the assistant editor’s eyebrows literally disappeared behind her hairline before she disdainfully remarked that she did not appreciate “my attitude”. The attitude of defending oneself when wrongly accused?
There was an article published at The Atlantic recently that convinced me to write this piece. An interviewee who faced the same problems as I did, described how being an Asian-American woman means often standing between a rock and a hard place. “We either have to choose to be that meek, compliant Asian person or we have to be dragon lady,” she says. “There’s no middle ground.”
I can at least confirm that this is not an Asian-American problem. I have lived in four countries, and this has been a problem for me everywhere I went. And I certainly don’t think that it is a problem that arises due to prejudice towards Asians, instead it is a combination of social construct and general impressions towards Asian women. People in general loathe conflict, and those that stir up conflict. That is why we dislike overbearing, aggressive dragon people. But for an Asian woman, if we took the compliant, non-conflict route in getting things done, nothing would ever get done because we aren’t taken seriously. And if we tried being more assertive, we would be accused of being unnecessarily hostile.
Stereotypes like these will probably always persist, and unlike in my home country, the majority of Americans generally try to be more respectful. However, given that I am a woman in my late twenties on track to complete my Master’s degree, I speak several languages and I am looking to enter a competitive, demanding job force, it would be nice to be treated like an intellectual equal, rather than be spoken to like a misbehaving child.
Joanne is a second-year Masters Candidate at the Bush School of Government and Public Service pursing a Master of International Affairs.