Two weeks after the spa shootings in Atlanta where eight victims were murdered, six of whom were Asian women; my mind remains to be reeling.
As an Asian-American female, there’s something to be said about the precious qualities that define who we are as a race now wrongfully accused for the global pandemic, and as a gender often unfairly viewed in hyper-sexualized contexts. I decided to breakdown some basic constitutions of Asian women, if mass media obsesses over generalization, then I’d be more than happy to be a part of this glorious, magnificent and strong group of stereotypes.
This is who we are:
Asian women are respectful. We deliver the utmost respect toward elders not because Confucius told us to but because the philosophy of filial piety is embedded in our roots, therefore in our hearts. Since we were children, we were taught to let our grandparents and parents start the meal before we do. During Lunar New Year or Thanksgiving, they are always served with the biggest pieces of meat. If they refuse, we insist that the “best quality” of the main dish goes to them. Our stories come from ancestors who birthed our names, so we courtesy and we bow to those who have fought harder wars than we will ever come to understand. Someday, we will bury our elders and implement sacrifices after their deaths surrounded by incense fumes and spirits of our families. Respect is beyond a virtue when you’re an Asian woman, it is an imperative part of our breath.
Asian women are disciplined, which also stems from filial piety since being a well-mannered child is a form of giving back to our parents. Though often depicted as submissive introverts, do not confuse our disciplinary traits with weakness or silence. Sometimes, our reticence is our choice. Asian women can read the room and know which battle to fight, hence it actually matters when we do speak up. Our self-restraint means that we’ve been taught not to provoke, you will only hear us shout in times of attack. Just ask Xiao Zhen Xie, the 75-year-old grandmother who smacked her attacker – a Caucasian man in his thirties – after being punched in the eye on Market Street in San Francisco this month. Don’t mess with us, especially if we’re disciplined, quiet, and just minding our own business.
Asian women are communal. The loyalty we devote to our communities is unmatched, because we see strength in numbers and contrasts. Yin and yang. Young and old. Past and future. Dragon boats can’t be rowed by one, dumplings taste better when multiple aunties are filling the wrappers. Cherry blossom viewings are shared events, just as generously as the the spread of fifteen delectable dishes on a circular dinner table that spins. If peaches are in season, someone’s godmother will buy a batch and share it with extended families and friends visiting from afar. If someone in our community is sick, we step up and lend a helping hand. Back to grandma Xie, whose grandson created a GoFundMe page which has now raised close to USD $1 million. What was intended for Xie’s medical treatment will now be donated to fight anti-Asian hate crimes. You see, Asian women have always been taught by our mothers, aunties and grandmothers that WE is stronger than ME.
Asian women are incredibly hardworking, because we know that opportunities seldom come our way. When we seize them, we do our best. Even if we aren’t the smartest in the room, we’ve been conditioned to believe that hard work most likely lead to the path of excellence. If anyone is jealous that an Asian woman is thriving in a classroom, know that she is putting in the extra hours while setting an even higher standard for herself. The so-called “bamboo ceiling” is just as real as the fear of a missed opportunity due to scarcity. Worse, despite our diligence, we might never gain equal pay. So before Hollywood or the mass population further hyper-sexualize us, remember that these are the same women working tirelessly to provide for children in need of better education or sending money back home to ailing parents who live in different countries.
Asian women are grateful. Many of us have lived with stories of our parents’ hardships, tales that typically begin with words like: “back in my day.” These painful pasts often entail extreme poverty, war zone survivals, fleeing countries on boats, or living on yams and soups dotted with rice. These histories have woven into the tapestry of our families’ legends, hence we’re brought up to comprehend that nothing comes by easily. All that we have now has been earned through literal blood, sweat yet very little tears. So we, as the next generation, need to behold gratefulness. It has been ingrained in us, to move forward in life with deep appreciation for how hard our families have worked to raise us in an ameliorated landscape.
Behind every dark-haired girl, there is a common GPS that guides our internal values. Although, if you’re neither Asian nor a woman but can relate to these characteristics that constitute an Asian woman, then there’s truth in that we’re all far more alike than we are different. Ideally, human lives shouldn’t be sundered by race, gender, class or any preconceived barriers. Then why do so many of us live in fear of being shot or punched in the face?