Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Posts Tagged ‘Asian women’

Don’t you LEARN from Stereotypes? Doctors, Geisha and All That Jazz

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 25, 2008

A post in Racialicious yesterday about stereotypes opened a discussion between me and another poster. The other poster had replied to a thread on stereotypes that she would like a stereotype free home for her child. There’s no such thing. Everything out there is a stereotype. Cristina Yang (doctor of Korean descent) from Grey’s Anatomy is as much of a stereotype as Cio-Cio San (Madame Butterfly). Oh yeah, I forgot. A doctor is POSITIVE, while a geisha who commits seppuku is not. Especially if she gives up her life because she proves “tragic beauty and nobility by sacrificing yourself for the white man and abandoning your hapa kid!” (post number 61). I guess she doesn’t realize that Pinkerton, the American character is a stereotype too. The stereotype of the Evil American who Just Doesn’t Care. The authors of the story (can’t give Puccni all the credit, since it was adapted from a John Luther Long play, which was in turn, adapted from a Pierre Loti (yeah, French dude) work) were trying to show the West’s cruelty.

Another poster said:

…whatever Puccini and his collaborators had in mind, somehow that’s not what’s being seen on the stage–that’s why Madame Butterfly is such a contested piece of art. Especially when Madame Butterfly is still seen in a country, like the US, that continues to stereotype APIA women as “submissive girls.” So, Madame Butterfly is seen, therefore, as another vehicle that folks just looooove as art but perpetuates that stereotype.

I don’t understand this point because I also see the evilness of the west (represented by Pinkerton) and the east (represented by Butterfly) being a victim of the evilness. However, one stereotype I DO see is that Butterfly is a love-struck teen.

So really, what *IS* supposed to be shown on TV, film, etc when it comes to non-whites? You can’t make an Asian woman too submissive/tragic, because it’s stereotypical/racist. She can’t be a bitch either, because that’s the dragon lady stereotype. She probably can’t be a doctor (or accountant), because that’s what lots of Asian parents want their kids to become (nor can she be a music prodigy….Asian parents stereotypically send their kids to CLASSICAL music lessons). Maybe that’s why writers have trouble putting non-white characters on TV. They’re worried that someone will be turned off.  In any case, it’s probably better to confront stereotypes and learn why it’s wrong than to ignore it all together.


Posted in Asian, culture, education, ethnicity, Opera | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Images of Asian women in (western) magazines

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 10, 2008

Ok, so it looks like every blog is talking about this, including Jezebel and Racialicious. I’m going to focus specifically on Asian women because, well I’m Asian.

OK, so this is the “ideal” look for Asian women, as posted in Guanabee, the original source:

Brief Overview: Asian women hold a curious place in the beauty stratum. Often, what is perceived as their “natural” physical traits are encouraged and often emulated by White women trying to achieve a certain standard of beauty. The idea of a natural physical ideal is a harmful one, because those who do not possess such traits are ignored or considered somehow inferior, physically. The Asian ideal, as perceived by American fashion magazines and elsewhere, revolves around the idea that one must be petite, slim, fair and delicate. Doll-like would be the best way to describe this ideal, both in terms of physical appearance and attitude.

The ideal: Ziyi Zhang

Hair: Straight. What was interesting to me, actually, was that a former Korean roommate of mine had all these magazines that featured girls with curly hair all dyed a sort of reddish color. Seriously, every. Single. Girl. In her magazines had the exact same hairstyle. She also had one magazine dedicated to Japanese girls who wanted to emulate the style of American Black women -this included wearing afros. Also interesting? Girls in Japanese and Korean magazines are generally much, much thinner than in American ones.

Skin: Clear, light. Although there are many, many ethnic groups prevalent throughout Asia, only porcelain-skinned girls find representation in American fashion mags.

Ass: N/A

Breasts: N/A

How magazines fucked up: Some Asian girls are chubby. Really! Some are muscular, some are tall, some are dark, some are doughy, and some are boney and awkward.

I kind of have an issue with the original poster’s skin comment. Fair skin has always been a standard in Asia as it was in the west until the 1920s. Skin lightening creams and other products would likely still be sold in stores had colonists and Hollywood never invaded Asia! Dark skin has historically been linked to peasants who worked in the fields, while light skin meant that you had the time to be indoors. After all, no one wants to be called a redneck hick. It just bugs me that people go on and on about how this standard came to be when Europeans arrived. They obviously have no knowledge or understanding of East Asian cultures. It’s always “blame it on colonial culture!” and this is very prevalent in certain “liberal” groups, both white and non-white.  Usually the excuses they give are along the lines of “colonialism re-enforced it”.  Don’t see what you’re talkin’ about!  Are you saying that dark skin would be more acceptable without colonialism, even if said culture had historically idealized fairness (especially for women)?  I mean, I can understand issues regarding eyes and noses, but complexion is something else.

I also found it interesting that unlike other cultures, there’s no comment on breast and hip size. What is the “ideal” anyway? I’m guessing small-to-medium? As in no bigger than a 34B for breast size and perhaps 34″ for hips? Who knows?

On different body shapes: So some Asian girls are chubby, others are muscular and others tall. So? Why bring that up, anyway? Lots of black, Hispanic and white girls are chubby, muscular, tall, short, etc…Why bother bringing it up in the first place?

At least the “ideal” look here is more grown up than in Hong Kong. The innocent, cute, girl-next-door type is ideal over there (let’s just say that you’re pretty much over the hill by your late 20s…there’s no cute 30-something girl type a la Carrie Bradshaw over there). That’s why many of the girls involved in the Edison Chen sex scandal have been pulled from endorsements. When you have an innocent girl image, dirty pictures are just all the more scandalous, even in cosmopolitan, liberal Hong Kong.  As for other Asian countries, the looks seem to be very funky in places like Japan and Korea.  However, I’m not familiar enough with their cultures to really comment.

On thinness:  So Asian girls in magazines are much thinner than American girls.  Asians in general have smaller frames, so yeah, they’re going to look thinner.  Duh!

By the way, other than saying that the ideal Asian woman is “petite” there’s no other mention of height. So is the original poster referring to frame or height?  I have seen “petite” used both ways, though height is more common.  In any case, Zhang Ziyi is listed on IMDB as being 5’5″ (though she’s been listed as 5’3″ at one point too)…..

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