Friday, April 13, 2012

Chicago is the World » Helping Asian American girls and women navigate a crossroads of stereotypes and expectations

My twelve-year-old daughter was recently backed up against a wall at school by someone much taller and heavier than her—that classic pose with one hand against the wall behind her head, body leaning into her as he talked, running his other hand through his hair, acting so cool. She did not feel like she was in any danger, but she did not like the feeling of being trapped there.
So back home in the safety of our kitchen, we practiced different strategies for what she could do if it ever happened again. She could push him back with two hands. She could casually take one step away from the wall. She could even point, “Look, over there!” She does not need to make a big deal out of it, but practicing these small adjustments empowers her to discretely shift control of the situation.
I shared this story with the very cool Lisa Lee, former publisher of Hyphen Magazine and a co-founder of She works with young Asian Americans on issues of body image and self-esteem. I peppered her with awkward and inappropriate questions. Together we worried about young women finding themselves, staying safe, having fun, demanding to be treated with respect, and cultivating their characters. It is not easy, especially with all the different messages they get. There is a fine line between sexy and slutty, free-spirited and cheap, nice and taken advantage of. We like to think we can navigate that line with spirit and style, but as this perfectly titled article in Jezebel says, “People Are Terrible, So Stop Putting Your Boobs on the Internet.”

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