Depiction of Asian Women in American Culture Essay

Depiction of Asian Women in American Culture


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Asian women have made extensive strides in the field of education and employment in different parts of the world - Depiction of Asian Women in American Culture Essay introduction. They have also extensively participated in different spheres of public society inside their home nations. The extensive and valuable contributions made by Asian women towards society have not been acknowledged as negative stereotypes are prevalent inside American media. Asian women in United States are conveyed by formulaic and conventional representation in the American society. Orientalist labels of chauvinist Asian women domination prevail in the American imagination. That is why progressive American men want to save Asian women from their domination and tyranny by recommending them the chance to become a member of the liberated American society. Many American whites, both men and women, have the desire to rescue Asian women from their cultures of origin and specifically from their men. What the Americans typically fail to witness and comprehend is that their attitude against Asian women is a gross oversimplification at greatest. Asian women in their cultures were granted a status that American critics do not want to recognize. In fact, there are many examples of Asian women having freedom and rights which their European contemporaries did not enjoy. This research paper addresses the issue of how Asian women are portrayed in the media.

The Role of Mass Media

Mass media is responsible for circulating images of Asian women which deemed all the way through the society. These images always label Asian women as inferior on wide range of dimensions such as intellect, morality and temperament. Simultaneously, it provides symbolic representation that assist in justifying and rationalizing material policies to dominate Asian women. Asian women in American cultures are portrayed as stupid, passive, oppressed, etc. Thus, these cultural symbols degrade the Asian women. Gina Marchetti writes that the images created by the Hollywood and American media have created fundamentally destructive portrayal about the relationship between the American society and their views on Asian women (Marchetti, 1993).

Asian Women Portrayal: Overview

On the contrary, the American society’s label of Asian independence and the associated supposition that the white American man is the most excellent and finest option for Asian woman has been verified as disastrous for Asian women residing in predominantly American society. Many Asian women narrate encounters of sexual harassment and violence which are clearly related to ethnic group. Asian American activists have displayed concern over media stereotypes of Asian femininity increasing sexual violence against Asian women by non-Asian men (Marchetti, 1993). Regrettably, their voices are not getting the concern they deserve. Asian women are over-represented in the American society due to the demand of American men’s mental images. Racial discrimination and prejudice for the lack of equivalent opportunity in the American culture can explain why some Asian women employ such methods to achieve something. But creating reasons for Asian women are now maybe less useful and advantageous than indicating the information and truth that Asian women were and are completely competent of taking care of them and their nations without the assistance of male rescuer.

Stereotypes of Asian Women

Asian females are portrayed in the media by their bizarre and eccentric looks. M. Butterfly was a play in which a French diplomat falls in love with an Asian singer. The singer is later found to be a man by the diplomat. Racist and sexist comments exist in the American society related to Asian women which is considered to be extremely politically erroneous and inaccurate in today’s world. Music schools in the United States of America tend to focus on American and European music. There are few references given to the rich cultural musical traditions of Asia. Some American universities have introduced the study of musical traditions from other cultures but this has been cited by researchers as being insignificant (Hagedorn, 1994). Asian musical traditions are still studied and evaluated in a superficial manner. The study of Asian music will take a long time to be accepted into mainstream American educational institutes.


Asian women are portrayed as violent forceful sexual individuals. Asians are portrayed and illustrated as evil and immoral ladies. This stereotype is known as the “Dragon Lady” stereotype. There are other illustrations of Asian women as they take up roles of prostitutes and sex workers. This has led to the notion of Asian women as being objects of pleasure and contentment. Research conducted by Hagedorn found that the sexist and racist portrayals of Asian women have boosted the business activities of Asian sex workers (Hagedorn, 1994). Another researcher believes that the stereotypes of Asian women have been more subtle and hidden in Hollywood movies because of the negative image that has been fostered by old movies (Claire, 1999).

The China Doll Stereotype

Asian women have been portrayed and represented as being passive spectators who are in constant need of assistance and protection from men. This stereotype is known as “China Doll” which has created several adaptation and alternatives inside the American entertainment industry (Prasso, 2005).

Dragon Lady Stereotype

The term dragon lady originated from the 1931 American film called Daughter of a Dragon which was played by the actress Anna May Wong. She brought the term Dragon Lady Stereotype to life when she played as FuManchu’s daughter, taking revenge for her father’s death (Prasso, 2005). The term Dragon Lady means a sexually enticing Asian film. She is capable of expressively causing emotional shock to males with the help of magic and sorcery. Physically she is depicted as small, slim, attractive lady but confusing, deadly and poisonous from inside. Western movies are promoting this stereotypical version of Asian women.

Asian Women are Restricted to Clichéd Professions

Asian women in American society are considered to be dumb and bounded by culture and cannot obtain education. American society has the misconception that they are restricted to clichéd professions such as restaurant workers, grocers, cab drivers, laundry women. Asian women who work and live inside the United States of America belong to different and diversified professions which are contrary to the image that is portrayed inside the entertainment industry.

Apathetic White-Asian Romance

The American media has promoted apathetic White-Asian romance in various movies in which they show that the Asian female helplessly falls in love with her white rescuer. Movies such as Daughter of the Dragon, the Bounty, Come see the Paradise, etc are all examples of white male and Asian women romance (Prasso, 2005). The recurrence of such pride and vanity signals that Asian women are passionately attracted to white men. It suggests that whiteness is intrinsically more significant than nay other romantic quality.


The attitude of American society towards Asians have always been opposite, especially towards Asian women. The American women have been portrayed as a strong, progressive, strong and rational female while the Asian women are considered to be backward, uneducated, docile and meek. In this way, the American media has assigned the white male to play the role of rescuer and the traditional female to save her from the tyrant Asian male. Jun Xing writes that there is sufficient proof which supports the dispute that the sexual practice has been used frequently to implement formal grading of groups based on gender, ethnicity and class in the American media. The stereotype that Asian women are submissive and exotic as well as earning the reputation of dragon lady has affected the American society negatively. Awareness must be created to remove these stereotypes regarding Asian women in order to understand that Asian women are liberated, educated just as any other American white female.


Marchetti, Gina Romance and the Yellow Peril: Race, Sex and Discursive Strategies in Hollywood Fiction Berkeley, Los Angeles, London (England: University of California Press: 1993

Hagedorn, Jessica “Asian Women In Film: No Joy, No Luck” MS January/February 1994

Claire Jean Kim, “The Racial Triangulation of Asian Americans,” Politics & Society, Vol 27. No. 1, March 1999, 105-138

Sheridan Prasso, The Asian Mystique: dragon ladies, geisha girls, & our fantasies of the exotic orient, PublicAffairs, 2005

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