How do US stereotypes of Asian girls affect students’ school performance?

by Akimi Yano

According to Pyke and Johnson (2003), Asian American girls feel that they behave differently, depending on if they are with Asian Americans or with non-Asian Americans. It is because white society has created stereotypes of Asian Americans connoting that whites are more egalitarian than Asians, and has expected Asian Americans to act in a certain way, which affects how Asian Americans think about themselves. Therefore, they feel the necessity to differentiate their behavior, depending on if they are with Asian Americans or they are with non-Asian Americans. Because of the stereotypes, they feel like they are expected to act that way by both Asian Americans and by non-Asian Americans. At the same time, Asian American girls think that Asian femininities are inferior to white femininities. Therefore, some Asian American girls distance themselves from other Asians by following not Asian femininities but white femininities.

According to what I can interpret from the article, there are at least three possible ways of Asian girls’ performance in the classroom:

  • first, being active in the classes because they do not want to be categorized as stereotypical Asian girls;
  • second, being quiet because they feel the pressure to follow the stereotypes of Asians as passive, shy, and quiet;
  • finally, being quiet because they know that a professor would not have them talk in front of the class, by being told by the professor that it is okay if they does not want to talk in front of the class, so they take advantage of it.

However, the authors did not summarize what makes the female Asian students make decisions for their performance in detail. The differences in their performance in the classroom leads to diverse levels of educational achievement as well. In the first pattern, they speaks their minds because they do not want to be labeled as typical Asian girls, which in itself shows that they are not submissive people, in contrast to the stereotypes of Asian girls. This kind of person could do well at school.

In the second pattern, they feel the expectations of being quiet in the classroom by both Asian Americans and by non- Asian Americans, and they are afraid of others’ reactions against them being active in the class, therefore they comply with the expectations. This kind of student might not do well at school.

In the third pattern, they are vocal people but they act as if they were quiet people in order to make use of the opportunity of not having to talk in front of the class. This kind of student could do poorly if they do not start being active in the class. In all these three patterns, they act the way they do since the action leads them to a profitable or at least harmless outcome.

Moreover, in this article, teachers’ stereotypes of Asian Americans such as being passive, shy, and quiet could contradict with their more common stereotypes of Asian American students being “model minorities“; however, the authors did not explain it. Therefore, I analyzed it by myself. Since the targeted Asian American students are second-generation, they are to some extent assimilated into American society, where Asian students think being typical passive Asian is a negative thing when they interact with non-Asian Americans. Therefore, those female Asian students who live up to the standards to be “model minorities” might have intentionally disobeyed the expectations to be stereotypical passive Asian girls differentiating themselves from other Asians in order to be successful in the U.S. society, where white society implies that following white people’s norms is the only way to become successful in the U.S.

Finally, the authors also mentioned as an example of Asian girls feeling that they do not fit the stereotypes of Asian girls “some claimed that because they are assertive or career oriented, they are not really Asian”, yet I think being career-oriented fits the stereotypes of Asian American girls, considering the fact that it it is well known that Asian parents constantly encourage their kids to do well at school and to obtain a good occupation as they did in their country of origin; thus there must be a stereotype of Asian American girls as career-oriented, which the authors did not point out, either.

Reference

Pyke, K. & Johnson, D. 2003. Asian American Women and Racialized Femininities: “Doing” Gender across Cultural Worlds. Gender and Society 17(1):33-53. Retrieved June, 1, 2014, from http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0891-2432%28200302%2917%3A1%3C33%3AAAWARF%3E2.0.CO%3B2-5

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