Whoa, okay, so the New York Magazine article that Wesley Yang was writing ended up being about Asian American dudes and didn’t really talk about how the girls are doing. I was interviewed and photographed for this article, and I’d been nervous about how I’d be portrayed since I’ve never been interviewed for anything racial before. So on the one hand, I’m glad that I didn’t get misquoted, and on the other hand, I feel like the article would’ve been a much richer depiction of Asian Americans in North America had it included more quotes from girls.
Not only did the article not feature as many female perspectives (bird’s eye view?) as male perspectives, it also largely ignored the vastly different experiences male and female Asian Americans have in North America. We are brought up differently by our parents and perceived differently by non-Asians based on our gender. Therefore, it is is difficult to talk about Asian American identity without talking about gender.
Actually, based on correspondence with Wesley Yang when he was still writing the article, I thought maybe there would be a gender angle to his piece. One night, he had emailed me what he said was a quote from Columbia law professor Tim Wu, which read:
In law firms, people value Asian American women for the sense that you can give them the brutal cruel labor and somehow they won’t complain. And the fact is they don’t.
I didn’t know who Tim Wu was, just that this was something he had told Wesley. So the first line of my response was:
That is so wrong… who is Tim Wu?
Now, I don’t know if it was a real quote from Tim Wu, or maybe just a didactic device that journalists use to get strong opposition quotes from their interview subjects, but I did get all riled up about it and stopped watching late night National Geographic TV to refute Tim Wu, whoever he was. I’m a little bit embarrassed by it now, but this was how I concluded my response to the proposition that Asian American women are valued in law firms for their ability to take a bunch of poo-poo:
[This quote] falls under the category of denigrating rationalizations bitter AA males make because AA females assimilate more easily into western culture.
That was a little bit over-sweeping.Anyway, point being, I would’ve liked it if the quote that may or may not have actually been uttered by Tim Wu about Asian American women in law firms had been included in the article because even though I don’t agree with it, it probably would’ve forced the author to talk a little bit about the possibility that Asian women may be perceived differently than Asian men. Instead, this is the gender-neutral “bitter labor” Tim Wu quote that ultimately went into the piece:
There is this automatic assumption in any legal environment that Asians will have a particular talent for bitter labor,” he says, and then goes on to define the word coolie,a Chinese term for “bitter labor.” “There was this weird self-selection where the Asians would migrate toward the most brutal part of the labor.
Nothing about non-complaining Asian women.
Well, here’s a complaint from this Asian woman: I am THIRSTY for a bold, layered, multi-dimensional article about Asian American identity to be published in the mainstream media.