A Day in the Life of an Asian-American Woman
By: Julie Saxton
A day in the life of an Asian-American woman begins like most other American women’s days. She might get up, get dressed, do her hair and makeup, and eat breakfast. She might leave the house for work or class and go about her schedule in a most ordinary way. But an Asian-American woman also risks several types of encounters and experiences that most other women do not.
While driving to work or campus, she may see billboards depicting thin, beautiful, women with unrealistic body proportions. She is reminded again, as she has been her entire life, of the ideal beauty standard in the society she lives in. However, for her, the ideal beauty standard generally requires one to be white, and therefore she will never be able to achieve that beauty standard. It is unlikely that any other ads she sees throughout the day – or TV shows, or movies, or any other form of media – feature more than one Asian woman, if that.
Throughout her day, she risks unwanted approaches from men she doesn’t know and doesn’t want any contact with, just like other American women. However, the kinds of questions and comments she gets differ, including “Where are you from?” or “What type of Asian are you?” or “I love Asian girls.” These comments are unnecessary and creepy. They make her incredibly uncomfortable, as she knows the man asking them has some strange fetish – they don’t necessarily see her as a beautiful woman or an individual at all, just an interchangeable member of a broad group.
After work, she might stop by the store to pick up a few things. Again there are no Asian women featured in any of the ads around the store. The “Asian” food they sell is Westernized, a caricature of actual cuisine from her culture. Makeup doesn’t exist in the shade of her skin, and she is forced to choose an unnatural shade or buy expensive options that do match her skin.
Whether it’s the moderately annoying questions or creepy comments, Asian-American women face different types of harassment than white women do, even in addition to the general harassment white women deal with. They also face either hypersexualization or undersexualization – whether it’s “yellow fever” or being called a “dragon lady” or facing the “schoolgirl” stereotype, or whether they are just seen as a geeky, unattractive, undesirable Asian girl. A lot of these judgments combine racism and sexism in a grossly unpleasant double standard that is tacked onto the other double standards most American women face.
While I cannot speak for other women of color, the experiences I have as an Asian-American woman remind me of a vast need for intersectionality in feminism. They are a wake-up call to feminists everywhere that we cannot ignore the fact that women of all different races, ethnicities, and backgrounds have different experiences, many of which stem from the misogyny present in our society. The lack of representation in media, the misrepresentation in media, and fetishization or hypersexualization contribute to microaggressions that many women of color face. Anyone who believes in equality for all genders must also support equality within the gender.
Image credit to Noah Johnson