The fourth installment of the hit podcast focused on “the demystification of the Dragon Lady,” featuring comedian and actress Margaret Cho, television broadcast journalist Lisa Ling, and sociologist and author Nancy Wang Yuen as the episode’s guests. Each woman spoke vulnerably and poignantly about their experiences as Asian-American women, and one topic that was honed in on was the fetishization of Asian women in American media.
Before launching too far into the conversation, the Archetypes episode led with a snippet of Markle’s conversation with Yuen, who broke down what exactly the Dragon Lady trope is. The sociologist explained, “East/Southeast Asian women are either stereotyped as lotus flowers who are submissive and quiet or Dragon Ladies who are overbearing and unlikable.”
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She continued, “The Dragon Lady stereotype is essentially the femme fatale stereotype, but kind of exoticized and hypersexualized in a very kind of specific Asian way, that’s not actual Asia, but Asian in terms of the imagination.”
As Markle’s conversation with Cho began, the women talked about the 2021 Asian hate crime shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, during which three Asian spas were targeted and 8 people died, 6 of whom were women of Asian descent.
Markle said, “[The authorities] were saying part of the motivation for that shooter was because of this fetish he had surrounding specifically Asian women.” She asked Cho to explain how she felt at the time, and her lived insight spoke volumes.
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“It was so infuriating,” Cho began. “I mean, from the fact that these guns are legal to buy to the law enforcement excusing his actions as he’s had a ‘bad day’ to this idea that somehow he was, he felt justified because of these representations of Asian women, which are creating us as not as human, but somehow fantasy.”
Markle responded, “That’s such a key point. The dehumanizing of it all.” Elaborating further, Cho said, “Yeah, exactly. Like this fantasy object is not a real person. That also, with the Dragon Lady archetype within there, is somebody who should die to make the world a better place somehow…That they’re somehow out to get you.”
The two women then discussed how vital it is to understand the origins of the Dragon Lady stereotype in order to fully understand its current impacts on the Asian community, with Markle saying, “You have to take it back to the beginning because people don’t realize how that’s seeped into us…It’s a different version of saying like, ‘Oh, I know, I don’t read the stories. I don’t read tabloids,’ but you see the headline, so it makes an imprint. So you might not know where this unconscious bias or this stereotype that you have in your head about someone comes from.”
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Markle continued to express her surprise at how the victims of the Atlanta shooting were portrayed in the media, as well as the public’s reaction to the tragedy, and Cho explained, “The framing of it was that they were Dragon Ladies…The reality of it is that these were women, they were just at work. The Dragon Lady still holds true even in news coverage, even though they don’t say Dragon Lady; it’s almost like the shorthand of massage parlor or Asian spas. It’s dehumanizing and it’s, like, only a fraction of who we could be.”
Cho concluded with the hard truth of where society stands, saying, “But it really is very much down to society’s only, like, wanting us to appear a certain way or only allowing us to appear a certain way and not allowing the totality of being that they do of white people.”
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In Markle’s conversation with Ling, the broadcast journalist said a significant contributing factor to the lack of proper representation of Asian people stems from a lack of representation all together. “Asian people in this country have been historically just overlooked,” she explained. “I mean, look, our history isn’t told in our history books. I mean, one could go their entire educational career without learning a single thing about Asian-American history or the contributions of a single Asian-American.
Ling said that in addition to being fetishized as a woman of Asian descent, she and others of Asian heritage also face “feeling like you exist on the periphery,” which she said is “its own kind of oppression.”
Markle proved in yet another episode of her podcast that her mission is to uplift women, especially minority women, by lending her massive platform as a vehicle for giving lesser-heard voices a means of telling their stories to the masses. Each episode has included huge revelations and incredibly important takeaways, and we can’t wait to continue to learn and grow from next week’s episode.