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Adult workshop review I: Growing up Asian-American

As a white female raising an Asian-American daughter, I have to rely on other people's narratives to get an idea of the sorts of things OmegaDotter will face as she grows up.  I regularly pop into the blogs of a few adult Korean adoptees.  I wander around sites such as Model Minority, Also Known As, and AngryAsianMan.  Sites like these can give me an idea of what it's like out there for folks who are of Asian descent.

So when I saw that there was a panel discussion about "Growing Up Asian-American", I had to check it out.

Since the panelists were female, it was pretty much a strictly "growing up as an Asian-American female" talk.  No discussion of the minimizing of Asian males in American pop culture.  But, since what we have in the house is--gasp!--a budding Asian-American female, the talk was very apropos.  (Though it would have been nice to have an Asian man talking, too.)

Featured were two ladies, V. and C.  V. is a developmental psychologist; C. is in the sciences.  Both are second-generation Chinese; C.'s parents immigrated around World War II, V.'s in the (I think) '60s.  They both grew up in white-bread America, the midwest.  And they report similar experiences, though their family backgrounds were quite different.

They talked about the delicate balance between being different being perceived as being "bad" versus being "special".  They both report that their first experiences of racially-based taunting occurred in kindergarten.  They both felt that they had to come to terms with what being "Asian-American" meant to them--a journey of self-exploration that started in their teens and culminated in what they are now, self-confident and professional women who honor their heritage yet consider themselves fully American.

Over the years as I have read about the Asian-American experience, I've heard, over and over again, about the encounter with the white guy who sees the Asian-American female as the submissive, sexually voracious, perfect woman, with the added titillation factor of "is she different 'down there'".

Both the panelists discussed this.  When one would bring up an anecdote, the other would nod her head in instant recognition.

V. had emailed a survey to her sisters, her cousins, and a bunch of Asian-American female friends.

ALL of them reported numerous encounters with this type of guy.

It wasn't 25%.  It wasn't 50%.  It was ALL of them.

They had ALL had to come up with strategies to deal with creeps like that.

They had ALL had strangers come up to them in bars and ask them if their c*nts went sideways.

Picture me with my jaw dropped.

Oh, they recounted it with wry amusement.  They had tales of how they had learned to separate out the idea that it was okay for some men to prefer Asian females as a "type" versus the men who were fetishing the Asian female.  V. told a story of how she was at a bar with some girlfriends, and they played a game of "checking out the goods"...when V. was asked which three guys in the bar she'd prefer, she picked them out, and her friends laughed.  "Oh, V.!  They're all D.!"--D. being her husband.  She had an epiphany then--that she had a "type", and that for some American guys, their "type" happened to be Asian.

But--that they all had to have that epiphany to begin with, that they had to learn to recognize the signs of the creep to be able to forestall the sexual come-ons--this is saddening.  Depressing.

I look at OmegaDotter, and know that she, too, will be subjected to that.  She, too, will have to learn to recognize that particular subset of Creepy Guys.

They both married Caucasian men.  They had been raised surrounded by Caucasians; their ideas of what was attractive were inevitably colored by that experience.

They both talked about having a Moment, when they caught their reflection in the mirror or a window they were passing by, and wondered, "Who is that?!", because they looked different from the outside than how they internalized themselves.

V. talked about how children go through a stage when they totally identify with their parents, which can cause the "my skin is different" realization...which, coupled with an equally developmentally appropriate "different is probably not good" stage can result in a child saying, "I'm brown, therefore I'm bad."  (V. touched on the idea that the innate categorization abilities of small humans was probably a good evolutionary strategy:  you don't know if different-looking foods are going to be good for you or good to eat; you don't know if different-looking people [people outside your kin group] are going to be nice, so it's good to err on the cautious side, etc.)

They spoke of the importance of role models as a child is growing up.

There was a lot of laughter and a lot of sadness.

It was a very good discussion.

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posted by Kate @ 9/05/2006 08:56:00 AM  
5 Comments:
  • At 9/05/2006 11:01:00 AM, Anonymous Johnny said…

    I think I may have commented how my "name" came about because the kids taunting me in kindergarten couldn't say "Chinese" right. So it was "chiny, chiny, chiny".

    Also about "down there"? Yeah, guys used to ask if my sisters was sideways too.

    Welcome to America!

     
  • At 9/05/2006 01:09:00 PM, Blogger Miss Cellania said…

    Just makes you wanna cry, doesn't it?

     
  • At 9/05/2006 09:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As an AA woman I can affirm this pretty much reflects my experience too.
    Lin

     
  • At 9/06/2006 07:59:00 PM, Blogger MomEtc. said…

    SIDEWAYS????? Holy Jesus! I truly have no idea how to prepare my DD for that bullshit, so I better start thinking about it now.

    The workshop sounds like it was awesome. I'd love to attend one like that.

     
  • At 9/07/2006 07:35:00 AM, Blogger Kate said…

    Johnny, Lin--All I can say is, "I'm sorry" and "I didn't know". It's easy to not see things when they aren't about you or your family, I guess. I dunno. I'm sorry. Which doesn't help. (Lin--I don't happen to know you in real life, do I??)

    Miss C., yes, it does.

    MomEtc--Yes. This is an honest-to-god myth that exists out there. The world is full of dumbfucks.

     
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About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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