It’s not always easy being Asian in Spain. For one, people don’t understand that they should feel intellectually inferior around me since I am good at math. Yes these are stereotypes, at least in American culture.
Other than my mother in-law telling me that Chinese people have big heads and small eyes, I haven’t heard many Asian stereotypes in Spain. Even now, I’m not sure if her comment is a general stereotype or a personal observation. Where I live there aren’t enough Asians to warrant generalizations. It’s a shame really, because I miss being stereotyped.
Back in the U.S. being Asian means something. Although we’re taught to see stereotypes as something bad, many of the ones regarding Asians are benign. Actually, a lot of them tend to work in my favor.
Except for this poor bigot, most men find Asian women attractive. In fact, some men consider Filipina women to be the gold standard in terms of wives. Why wouldn’t we be? We’re docile, submissive, hard working; we’re the model minority. So they say.
“Now Howard’s earning seven figures, and he’s married to a swell Filipino gal.” -30Rock
Since we’re super studious, Filipinos usually end up becoming nurses, accountants, or physicians. In order to fuel our tiny industrious bodies we eat rice everyday, sometimes balut (a partially formed baby duck embryo). We communicate by saying “Pst” or “Oy.” At home we take off our shoes and wear slippers around our plastic covered house, while outside in the real world we’re bad drivers and bad tippers. I could go on but you get the point.
Although only a handful of these stereotypes apply to me, all of them have in some way influenced my identity. American culture is laden with disparate cultural values. Whether you agree or disagree with these generalizations, one thing is certain; you are not void of them. Thus I learned early on to be aware of the preconceptions surrounding me. At times I used these expectations to my advantage.
Unlike other minorities, I didn’t have to work as hard to prove my intelligence growing up. Society had already proven that for me. While I don’t necessarily agree with making generalizations, it’s much easier to navigate a system once you learn the rules, particularly when the rules afford you undeserved merits.
Now that I’m older I’ve learned to be conscious of which stereotypes I choose to reject, accept, and sometimes, embrace. Every time I do something as simple as take a picture of my food or flash a double peace sign in a picture, I’m mindful of how others might interpret my actions—as Asian.
In a utopian society, my actions would represent my actions alone. Though I truly believe we are slowly spiraling toward a more egalitarian understanding of others, part of me will miss having a loaded deck, in which others are able to perceive me as intelligent and attractive. Half-Asian girl problems, right?
Chopsticks holding map of U.S., Image Credit: Shutterstock
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