Re-branding the Asian-American Image

I just saw this video earlier today, and once again, I am struck at how pervasive all the various stereotypical messages seem to follow Asian Americans around, like some pathetic sad hump we have to cart on our backs every day of the week.

It’s always the same, year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation.  Nothing ever changes.

Why are we all lumped together into one homogeneous pile?  Because we don’t stand up or stand out, that’s why.  I’ve always been told that the nail that sticks out gets pounded until it is even with all the other nails.  The message then is—DON’T STICK OUT!!!


I hate that message.  I HATE DON’T STICK OUT!!!  Why can’t we be ourselves?  Why do we have to act like everyone else around us?  Why do we have to be good little ASIAN girls?  Why can’t we play the drums?  Why do we have to play the stupid flute?  Why can’t we go outside and play soccer with the boys?  Why can’t we wear cut-off shorts and a tank top?  Why can’t we learn how to ride a motorcycle?

Why???  (as an aside, I was a tomboy, not a lesbian.  My father thought I was going to turn out like one of those girls who looked like a man and dated other girls.  That, of course, never happened.  To this day, I am an ardent—but straight—LGBT ally).

When I was growing up, I had to deal with this list:

  • We’re math geniuses.
  • We know how to play a musical instrument expertly.
  • We can cook noodles really well.
  • We are terrible at sports.
  • We are shy and don’t talk much.
  • We are good in school.
  • We talk with an accent.
  • If we are girls, we are submissive and deferential to boys/guys/men.
  • If we are boys, we don’t quite stack up physically (you know what I mean) to guys of other races.

And the list goes on and on and on…

I can definitely tell you that I don’t fit this stereotypical list very well at all.

Math:  I am just horrible in math.  My first semester as a freshman at the University, I had to take remedial Algebra because I couldn’t even place into Algebra 101.  By the time my I was able to take that class, I was sweating bullets.  I did ten times the amount of homework in Algebra just to get a B.  That was the toughest, sweetest B I ever received.  I kissed the hallowed ground of the mathematics department and almost cried in joy when I saw that B posted on the grade sheet on the bulletin board right next to my student ID.

Music:  I can’t play an instrument worth flap.  I can strum on my guitar with barely enough skill to back myself up when I sing, and I can pick at the piano well enough to write my songs, but that’s about it.  I think the only instrument that I can safely say I know how to use well is my voice, but come on…that’s not a serious instrument.  Everybody can sing.

Cooking:  I can cook.  More than just noodles too.  In fact, if civilization were to end tomorrow, you would want me on your team because I can make road-kill taste good with very little cooking implements.  I am not shy about killing chickens or ducks or birds or fish or even small rabbits for food.  I can’t handle the big animals like pigs or deer.  Those require big equipment and enormous physical strength, of which I have none.  Everything else is fair game.

Sports:  OK you got me here.  I can’t play sports worth a damn.  Except for ping-pong.  I can probably kick your ass in ping pong.  😀

Shy:  I am not shy.  In fact, I have been a stage performer since the age of 15 and I have dealt with much worse than you.  If you mess with me, I will get in your face and tell you something that you’re not gonna like to hear.

School:  OK you got me here too.  I did well in school, but that’s not because I was smart.  It’s because when I was younger, in order for me to do anything fun, the deal was that I had to ace all my classes.  My guitar was taken away from me in my eleventh-grade year because I made a B in math.  Math sucks.  I hate math.

Accent:  OK, you got me here too.  I am ESL.  This means English is my second (actually third, with Vietnamese and French being one and two) language.  But it’s not what you think.  I learned English in a tiny little town in Texas at the age of five, so now, when I am tired or distracted, my Texan accent comes shinin’ through and I sound like sum hick from Hicksville.

Submissive:  He he he.

Guy Parts:  Don’t know about the guy parts.  Don’t much care either.  I’ll let the guys deal with that issue.

OK.  End of rant.  Ranting always makes me hungry.  I’m gonna go make me some lunch.  I think some ramen noodles sound pretty good just about now.  😀

haruhi #22

3 thoughts on “Re-branding the Asian-American Image

  1. This made me lol.

    Your comment: “If we are girls, we are submissive and deferential to boys/guys/men.”

    And your response: “Submissive: He he he.”

    As a man married to an Asian-American (half Taiwanese, half Italian), I can say that she ain’t no pushover.

    Ah, to be the stereotype.

    Peace, Ik


  2. LOL. That’s funny. Since your wife is Asian-America, you get to see, first-hand, the stereotypes we AAs live with every day of our lives. And the strangest thing is, most of the AAs I know DO NOT fit into the stereotype. Everybody is different. We just can’t seem to break out of the ‘if you’re an Italian guy, your name is Guido and you’re a bruiser’ type of reaction.

    As for me being submissive…that’s not even in my vocabulary. I get my way most of the time. It’s not so much that I am demanding or bossy. It’s more because I’m a spoiled brat. 😀


  3. The only way to break stereotypes is to be unabashedly and entirely YOU. Lies shatter when the truth bounces up and introduces itself.


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