Tiffany and I were first grade bff’s. We grew up in “Little India” in New Jersey before I moved in the fifth grade. With the exception of a couple holiday or birthday parties hosted by mutual friends, I rarely saw her. Fast forward eight years later, we attended the same university and four years after that, we are both living in the Big Apple.
When describing the common stereotype for Asian females, Tiffany mentions words such as nerdy, quiet, and quirky. “I feel like they’re often bullied in television shows and movies,” she says. She identifies, “In Pitch Perfect, there’s that one Asian girl who’s mute and kind of weird.” And unfortunately, that has not been the only time Asians have been portrayed as weird or different ie. the “Cool Asians” in Mean Girls who are unable to properly speak English and Christy Ling in The Social Network who is dramatized as the exotic and aggressive groupie girlfriend. Interestingly, Tiffany points out that she noticed almost all Asians in media were Chinese. She questions, “There are not a lot of Korean and Japanese people. I mean, have you ever heard of Vietnamese people in Hollywood?”
“I feel like our generation of Asian Americans are finally breaking out of stereotypes and are speaking out more.”
Reflecting on her parents and their generation, Tiffany hypothesizes that as immigrants, their objective in America was to work and to focus on stability. She believes, “They didn’t have the opportunity that we do to focus on things other than providing for their families.” This may explain why many Asian parents heavily persuade careers in STEM instead of those in liberal or fine arts. For many parents, their main goal is for their children to be financially stable and comfortable, unlike how they may have been prior to emigrating to the United States. As a result, Asian Americans are often discouraged and feel uncomfortable to pursue careers in Hollywood.
Nonetheless, we are within a generation in which more people are sharing, commenting and responding to issues through social media than ever before. “I feel like our generation of Asian Americans are finally breaking out of stereotypes and are speaking out more,” Tiffany exclaims. In addition to generational differences in career goals, Tiffany recognizes the dissonance between our generation and that of our parents’ in sharing opinions. While our parents’ generation is painstakingly concerned about the consequences of obstructing the peace, our generation is actively aiming to break barriers and to change what is considered the norm.
“Guys say ‘I did great’ while girls say ‘I think I could have done better.’”
And that is exactly what Tiffany has been striving for in the workplace. Tiffany works in a predominantly male industry. When you look at her, you will see a small girl who looks like she’s eighteen (her words, not mine). She explains, “My job is a huge part of my day and if I’m not confident in what I want and don’t show others that I am knowledgeable, people won’t take me seriously.” To shed the image of the little quiet Asian girl, she has to constantly remind herself to speak up when necessary.
However, any time she does speak up, she feels she cannot without being confident that she is a hundred percent correct. She quotes, “Guys say ‘I did great’ while girls say ‘I think I could have done better.’” Similarly, in a 2014 article in The Atlantic, a study at Cornell University reveals that while men overestimate their abilities and performance, women underestimate both. Tiffany finds it frustrating that women are more likely to second-guess themselves than men do before expressing their ideas. To combat this, Tiffany has made it a mission to engage with coworkers with more assertion and conviction. In order to fulfill this mission, she claims that she has even yelled at a few people to get stuff done at work, which strays far from from the common stereotype of Asians, nevertheless Asian females.
In some ways, Tiffany agrees she abides by the stereotype. For example, she loves to play the piano. When she was young, she used to be forced by her parents to practice until she cried. She clarifies, “I actually now appreciate it because if they didn’t push me, I would not have this valuable form of artistic expression.”