Asian Identity And The Tyranny Of The Majority
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Politics and Activism

Asian Identity And The Tyranny Of The Majority

Who do you see? I see a small bit of diversity.

Asian Identity And The Tyranny Of The Majority

As a freshman coming into college, you discover a lot of new things. You get to grasp on life a bit more, you learn a thing or two within your classes, and sometimes you get to see how people really see you. So, with that in mind, a couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of being insulted with the words, “Mmm… You’re not cute or pretty.” Which, in any other given situation, I would have shrugged off the comment, but you know, those words stuck a little.

You see, as an Asian-American, I’ve never found myself to be particularly attractive. In fact, when I look in the mirror, all I see is an “Asian girl.” Someone with dark hair, dark eyes, and a plain face— I fit the bill for the majority of the “Asian girl” stereotype. But that’s the thing, why is that? Why am I not able to self-compliment myself? Why do I think that I am “plain” in comparison to the rest of society?

I thought about it for a while, and I asked my other Asian-American female friends the same questions. They also thought, “[they] were just Asian.” But what does that even mean?

These questions took some investigating; I asked some of my friends what I honestly looked like to them. To my surprise, their comments were more specific than I would have ever thought myself. One said that I had a kind face, another said that my hair was unique because it was wavy and not pin-straight, and a different friend said that I had a sweet smile. To be honest, I was expecting generic comments such as, “you’re pretty” or “you’re cute” or other quick comments, but to compliment and pinpoint someone’s distinct features is a larger feat than most people would really think. Regardless of the fact that these comments came from people who are my friends, their comments made me wonder more about why I didn't have any confidence in my Asian features.

Now, perhaps this is a self-esteem issue, but when I was younger, I was told constantly that my physical features weren’t the most popular. I was often told off for having “chink eyes,” for “being yellow,” and for being short in general. Which, now that I am older, I have learned to embrace my given features despite the occasional demeaning remark.

But let’s face it here, self-appreciation takes a long time to muster. And who are we to look up to besides our family members and our friends? Media. Mass-media which can accommodate to all sorts of views, but has a particular bias nonetheless.

Just look at your average beauty magazine. Who do you see? I see a model, a singer, an actress, and an A-list socialite. Their hair is blowing in the air, their makeup is flawless, their skin is airbrushed at all angles, and their clothes are perfect. Not a single part of them seems faulty— they are the exemplars of society. Mind you, that’s not always the case with every person featured on a magazine cover. But at least physically, they’re what the rest of us should strive for.

Okay, now let’s look a little bit closer at the variety of magazine cover figures. Who do you see? I see a small bit of diversity— mainly Caucasian and a perhaps Hispanic or African-American figure here and there.

Yet just where are the Asian-American models and celebrities in magazines? There are plenty of talented Asian-American individuals such as Margaret Cho, Mindy Kaling, and Constance Wu (just to name a few) who are beautiful people that are wholly deserving of having exposure on Vogue, Cosmopolitan, or Glamour. And while there are specific magazines such as ( or Mochi ( which discuss Asian-American cultures, why is there no mainstream exposure to the Asian-American community?

And while on the topic of no mainstream exposure, why are Asian characters often white-washed in cinema? Now, I am fully aware that Asians are not the only ones being white-washed by media. However, let’s focus in on Asian white-washing for a moment. In this past year alone, there were controversies over major Asian characters such the Ancient One (Doctor Strange) and Mulan having Caucasian actors. I’m sure that there are probably reasons for the choices, but is it too hard to ask to keep the Asian characters Asian?

From magazines to cinema, Asian representation is eclipsed by Caucasian representation in mass-media. Tell me, how is a growing Asian-American girl supposed to have confidence in her looks if characters or figures of her ethnicity are not present on television or on magazine racks? We underestimate the power of media more than we’d like to acknowledge, but to have a role model that you identify with from a media platform is a bigger part of oneself than you might realize.

If you’re an Asian-American female who is reading this, I will tell you right now that the color of your eyes and your hair are beautiful. That even if you yearn for lighter hair and eyes, you are still wonderful in your own way. Your features are unique to you and your ethnicity— be proud of who you are and have Asian pride. Whether you have dark skin or light skin, wavy hair or straight hair, your features are a part of you and your identity as an Asian. Admire yourself for who you are because you are pretty, gorgeous, and cute— don’t let anyone, especially society, tell you otherwise.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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