Asian Americans have made tremendous progress over these past few years, from Obama doubling the number of Asian American federal judges to Kevin Tsujihara becoming the CEO of Warner Bros. So, one has to ask, “Is the bamboo ceiling finally broken?”
How One South Korean Magazine Set Out To Change Asian Body Image
Asian girls and women are usually expected to be very thin, and that’s not a standard most young women go out of their way to break. Recently in South Korea, a country famed for its beauty products and nearly unattainable standard of beauty, model Vivian Kim (also known as Kim Ji-Yang in Korea) began her own magazine celebrating plus-sized figures in men and women. With 66100, the respective numbers for women’s and men’s extra-large sizes in Korea, Kim hopes to encourage positive body images and help people accept who they are and how they look.
Kim, who’s 5’5” and 154 pounds, was the first Korean model in Los Angeles’ Full Figured Fashion Week and used her own funds to print the 1,000 debut copies 66100. She said it’s hard to find plus-sized models in Korea to pose for the magazine, but hopes 66100 will encourage more women to feel more confident with themselves and show Korean clothing companies that there is a market for plus-sized clothing.
“Beauty is not about whether a person is fat or not,” Kim’s motto says. “It’s about having the confidence to know you are beautiful the way you are.”
I’m a Chinese adoptee on the curvy side who wears a size large in American stores and an XL or XXL in Asian sizes. For me, 66100 is a much-needed breath of fresh air. I feel out of place when I see other Asian girls my age weighing thirty pounds less than me while eating just as much as I do. I know I don’t live a very food-conscious and active lifestyle, but if society expects me to be a skinny twig, and I’m not, then I must be a freak of Asian nature. Along with my tanned skin, short legs, and non-flat stomach, I fail the Asian beauty standard on all counts.
Further driving the pity party home, I’m also a big fan of Kpop. Even though I know their look is very image-conscious and the pop industry promotes plastic surgery and wearing more make-up than Barbie, I can’t help but compare myself to the beautiful female idols. Watching music videos on top of hearing the stereotype that all Asian girls are skinny, my body image has plummeted. There are times when 2ne1’s “Ugly” became my personal anthem and I refuse to listen to Girls Generation out of jealousy.
My wallowing never lasts long, I know everyone is beautiful in their own right, and I too could look like a Kpop star if I set aside college and instead invested in massive plastic surgery. But seeing a strong and confident woman like Kim publish 66100, it helps instill the same confidence in my own body image and remind me that I’m not some Asian freak of nature.
Silence the Tiger Mom’s Roar
Defined by UrbanDictionary.com as a stereotypically Asian mother, the term Tiger Mom has been widely used in popular TV shows, YouTube videos, and other popular media. But, the question remains as to whether these mythical creatures actually exist and whether this style of parenting is really as effective as it’s been made out to be.
I had a friend whose mother attempted to micromanage just about every aspect of his life. She would conduct elaborate Chinese torture on him for getting a B+ in class and wake up him at 4:00 AM for “oversleeping.” And that was just the tip of the iceberg. This was in the 8th grade. His mom was a Tiger Mom.
Obviously, not all Asian mothers are Tiger Moms. And not all Tiger Moms are Asian. But, clearly they do exist. So on the next important question: is their style of parenting effective?
I would have to say no.
Case in point: my life.
My sister and I are five years apart. And though we were raised by the same parents in the same household, we may as well have been born into separate families. Our parents adopted vastly different attitudes when it came to their parenting styles.
With my sister, they were the usual, painfully stereotypical “Tiger Parents.” They drilled her with the multiplication table when she was just five, punished her for receiving anything less than an ‘A,’ and mandated that she study for hours and hours every single day. They employed mild corporal punishments to enforce their lessons, such as spanking her with the bright red plastic fly swatter or making her hold her arms above her head for two hours at a time.
The result? My sister went through a rebellious phase in high school, deliberately disobeyed my parents, and refused to concentrate on her studies.
Upon seeing the failure of their parenting ways, our parents adopted a more laissez-faire approach with me; a sort of hands-off approach. Though still emotionally present and supportive, my mother allowed me to pace my own studies, regulate my own grades, and take responsibility for myself. I didn’t suffer the same academic terror my sister went through. In the end, I was able to be more academically successful in high school even though my sister is just as, if not more intelligent than I am.
According to the sociologist Paul Tough’s findings in “How Children Succeed,” early parental behavior affects the development of children in both animals and humans. Drawing the link between high stress level and poor academic achievement, Tough argues that children who are either neglected or abused find it more difficult to cope with stress which leads to lower academic results.
Granted, Tiger Mothering is not necessarily abusive parenting. And the rubric of what is in fact good mothering is subjective. But based on my own upbringing and the experiences of those around me, I think Tiger Mothering rarely leads to the results said Tiger Mother expects. As well-intentioned as these Tiger Moms may be, their overly strict style of parenting just isn’t conducive to either the emotional well-being of the child or the child’s academic success.
The Ongoing Portrayal of Asian-American Characters on “Glee”
Today, March 18th, marks the air date for the 100th episode of the award-winning musical dramedy Glee. Since its 2009 debut, the show has not only been praised and noted for its popular covers and ability to tackle controversial topics, but also for its diverse casting.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Glee, there are two Asian-American characters on the show: Tina Cohen-Chang and Mike Chang. Tina (played by Jenna Ushkowitz) is introduced as a shy Goth girl with a fake stutter who has a beautiful singing voice, whereas Mike (played by Harry Shum Jr.) appears as a football player who dances like a boss.
Not your stereotypical geisha or model minority student, right?
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The Problem With Racial Humor and Representation
When it comes to the portrayal of Asian-Americans in the media, visibility is not always positive or enriching to our community. At the risk of sounding like a broken record: I, being a male of Asian descent, am tired of being portrayed as the forever social outsider who will never be part of the crowd. Society tells me that what I lack in testosterone, I supposedly make up in intelligence. Or something.
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Alex Dang on “What Kind of Asian Are You?”
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Alex Dang is an aspiring poet who wowed us all with his performance of “What Kind of Asian Are You?” for the Portland Poetry Slam at the 2013 National Poetry Slam.
A strong voice full of passion and emotions, Alex delivered a powerful piece of poetry about Asian American stereotypes and the undying questions that are asked over and over to many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, questions like “What kind of Asian are you?” and my favorite, “Where are you REALLY from?”
Alex dissects the root of the question, starting out with sarcasm linking everything Asian to himself, because obviously everything Asian has to be connected in some way.
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