The cultural stereotype of Asian women as sexual, exotic and submissive objects is historically dated back in the Western colonization of various Asian countries. Asian women were viewed as objects to be possessed. Asian women are portrayed in the media as sexual objects. Asian women identities of being Asian females no longer exist because their sense of individuality was viewed by Westerner as “Asians”. Asian women who immigrated to the United States were only seen as an exotic object. During the US involvement with wars in Japan, China and World war II, Asian women were perceived as prostitutes and sexual objects to American soldiers because they had provided sexual activities from the war zones. Asian women at home who are expected to be domestic by providing care, rest and recuperation. These stereotypes led throughout the years have been perpetuated in media and films. By showing Asian women as only sexual beings in films and the media, this then offers Asian women only two choices in films to either be naïve and hopeless or untrustworthy and devious.
Although throughout the years, the media had made improvements to eliminate stereotypes from films, televisions and advertisement of Asian women it is still arguable that the sexploitation of Asian women is still apparent. There are more Asian women who play in films such as actress Lucy Liu who plays in Charlie’s Angels. She is one of the most well-known Asian women actresses who play one of the main characters; however they still make her looks erotic in the film. There is also an actress name Brenda Song who plays a not so smart rich girl in the Suite life of Zack and Cody. Though, her character is a normal character and there isn’t a stereotypical portrayal on the show, it is very rare to see that an Asian woman plays a non-stereotypical character. I feel that I can name more movies that have Asian women in film that plays a sexual object in films oppose to Asian women that plays a non-stereotypical character of an Asian women.
Studies show that how Asian Americans are portrayed in the media began only in the 1990’s. Asian American representation is sparse and often virtually invisible and when Asian American is assigned a role they are narrowly defined roles based on the model minority stereotype. American entertainment media have defined the Asian image to the public, and usually, that image has been shaped by people with little understanding of Asian people and their culture and with the little foresight into how such portrayals would impact the Asian community. These stereotypes portray Asian Americans as lacking in leadership, innovation and motivation. More often, many Asian Americans encounter a point that prevents them from being promoted to a main character movie role or a top administrative position.
I didn’t think too much before about how the world portrays Asian women. I knew the typical stereotypes that Asian people had which was being nerdy and anti-social. I do remember when I was in high school; I was speaking to one of my teacher about how excited I was to go off to college. She then told me “to be careful because American men tend to take advantage of Asian women”. That was the first encounter I had with realizing that Asian women are portrayed as being exotic sexual objects. Also, Asian women are also known as being “mail order brides” meaning that Asian women are desperate to come to America so therefor they are willing to marry any American men. I notice that when people see an Asian woman with an American man they start to think that she was probably a mail order bride. That shows a valid reason how people portray Asian women. However, that is arguable because I know many couples who are in a happy interracial relationship and the Asian woman is far from a mail order bride.
Asian women aren’t only as portrayed as a sexual object but they are also portrayed and being nerdy or anti- social. People tend to think that Asian people are all smart and usually Asian women are raised to be perfect and successful. That is because their parents emigrated from another country and didn’t have the chance to go to college so therefore they push their children extra hard to study, finish school and find a good job. Asian women come off as being quiet and vulnerable, which they are portrayed as being anti- social. That dates back to how Asian women are brought to be domestic house wives and they are raised to respect their husbands and elders to not speak back, it’s their culture. Being raised the way they are, makes them be anti-social to society.
After analyzing one of my sources the TV show “Fresh off the boat” it made me to believe the stereotype of Asian women is still an issue. The TV show is based off a memoir of Chef Eddie Huangs life. Since my identity is Asian women, I mainly analyze the Asian woman that plays the mother. I think the show makes good points on which some things as being Asian in general I can relate too but I also feel that some things on the show can be offensive. The mom on the show portrays many stereotypical ways of how an Asian woman is portrayed. She is a stay at home mother, which is typical for Asian women. She has a heavy accent which is something I can relate too growing up because my parents are immigrants. They made her be very “cheap” which another stereotype of Asian people is. They didn’t make her as submissive as most movies with Asian women in them because this show is more of a family show.
My secondary source was a YouTube video I found on YouTube called “18 different types of Asian girls.” After analyzing this video, it wasn’t helping the stereotypes of Asian women. This video explained basically every type of Asian girl there is. Of course, the submissive Asian women were analyzed as being import models which are basically models wearing little to no clothes and the model with cars. The video also explains how Asian women dress, of course they dress provocatively. They also state the nerdy Asian women that are the smart ones and also they state the quiet good girl Asian girl. After analyzing the video, they were Asian people that made the video and it was an Asian girl that portrayed all these Asian women. The go into detail with each different Asian women and how they are all different. Though, the video was obviously made to show the different types of Asian girls, they brought up obvious stereotypes of Asian women that are still portrayed in our society today.
About ssay2015I'm attending PSU as my first year. I am earning my BS in Human Resource Management. I enjoy learning and meeting new people.
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Irene Ly, a sophomore majoring in psychology, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.
Media Credit: Emily Robinson | Design Assistant
I’m the kind of person who prefers to maintain a quiet presence. I don’t speak out about controversial issues, especially on social media. But recently, there has been one issue I want to be loud about – Asian representation in the media.
While Asian representation in the media was already something I thought about a lot, the controversy surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s casting in the anime adaptation of “Ghost in the Shell” has reignited my frustration. And if it weren’t demeaning enough that directors chose a white woman to portray an Asian woman, producers tested digital effects to make actors, presumably including Johansson, to appear more Asian.
Whitewashing – or casting white actors in the roles of non-white people – for Asian roles isn’t new. Asians have long been underrepresented and misrepresented in the media. Asian representation in media can make it difficult for Asian-Americans to find their identity when they are not fairly represented.
I’ve wondered why this particular issue is so important to me. Many people in the Asian-American community may not care about media representation or may choose to focus on bigger societal problems. While their feelings make sense, my sentiments about why this issue is still a significant one are summed up perfectly by a YouTube comedy pair, the Fung Brothers, in a recent video.
“How we get portrayed in the media does kind of affect how people treat us in our real lives,” Andrew Fung, one of the brothers, said.
When what you watch on TV isn’t representative of who you are, it’s easy to lose your identity – something that I have always strongly felt.
I’ve grown up proud of, and interested in, my Asian culture. I enjoy the language, food and music. I also grew up in a community where others around me celebrated the same culture. We enjoyed one another’s customs and shared similarities.
When I was in middle school, I fell in love with Hong Kong dramas and music. While I didn’t realize it then, my fondness for Asian entertainment gave me a more positive and well-rounded view of Asians in general. Since the dramas I watched had all-Asian casts, I understood that Asians could play any type of character with any personality.
But when you change the channel to Hollywood movies, Asians are either left out completely, or horribly stereotyped. If we even manage to make it on screen, we’re almost always the nerds, the kung fu fighters, the immigrants or the ones making fools of themselves.
At a panel event before the premiere of the TV show “Fresh Off the Boat,” a journalist shared that they loved Asian culture and chopsticks, in particular. The journalist then asked if they would see chopsticks on the show, or if it would be “more Americanized.” This awkward question showed how misrepresentation of Asians in the media have created a misleading and one-sided image. This image has reduced the richness of Asian culture, which stings for someone who appreciates her culture so much.
When every portrayal of an Asian on TV is simplified to one sort of character, Asian-American children aren’t taught to be proud of who they are. If I had grown up only exposed to American media, I would have felt less proud of my Asian-American identity. I would have felt like no one understood my culture.
It’s easy to say “It’s just a movie.” But so much of art imitates life. If you’re a big TV fan like I am, and your identity is presented with the same stereotypes over and over, whether for Asians or any other race, it can become easy to believe those stereotypes must be true.
When I came to GW, I realized in less diverse communities, people probably do believe those stereotypes, and I experienced some culture shock when I came to school. There have been many times when I realized I was the only Asian in the room, and I’d be lying if that didn’t make me feel like an outsider. But after growing up with a healthy image of culture and diversity, I know I’m not. I had moved on to a new environment, but my upbringing allowed me to eventually become comfortable with it, while still maintaining my identity.
I grew up proud of my racial identity, and I’m lucky that has stuck with me during my time at GW. It also helps that I still get to spend time with my parents and regularly talk to my closest friends from my community. But many Asian-Americans aren’t as lucky as I am, and stereotyping in the media may keep them from being comfortable with who they are.
Every stereotyped Asian representation pulls us back and simplifies our culture, and as a result, paints a false picture to those who don’t know any better.
Thankfully, my identity as an Asian-American has never been something that gave me discomfort or confusion. I knew that Asians could have a wide range of personalities and interests and still have a great culture in common.
What I hope people will realize is that we need to be represented in the media in a way that acknowledges our own complexities and uniqueness, so that all Asian-Americans can grow up confident in their racial identity and non-Asians can know there is more to us than our chopsticks.
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This article appeared in the May 9, 2016 issue of the Hatchet.