Archive for March, 2009

“Single Asians”: a harmless joke or a perpetuation of stereotypes?

March 26, 2009

On Monday morning I emailed this question and the “Single Asians” video out to the InSight panlist, wondering what the responses would be at the dinner meeting that night.

Obviously, racist jokes based on stereotypes are not cool; but how does this change, if at all, when those who are telling them are part of the satirized—or maybe more accurately, victimized—race? Our consensus was that regardless of the teller’s race, racist jokes are destructive because they perpetuate harmful stereotypes, the long-range effects of which cannot be controlled by the good-natured intentions of the teller. However, looking at the collection of comments under the YouTube and IvyGate posts of the video, the consensus seemed to be that racial self-parody is benign and humorous:

wow. it’s amusing how some people can take jokes so seriously.

whether you are asian or not, it’s supposed to be funny. they

are just making fun of the stereotypes that asians get everyday.

there really is nothing harmful about this. lighten up.

HELLO, it’s a JOKE. Are you familiar with the concept? I am

also a Yale Alum of color and I think this is *funny.* Lighten

UP people. Anyone remember ‘Mean Gays?’ Calm down,

Asians– you’re not the only ones who get poked fun at.
I wonder what bubble all the people offended by this video are
living in. For heavens sake Family Guy and The Simpsons are
more offensive than this on a regular basis! Bad dancing aside
(sorry girls) this is a well written parody by some smart girls
who are willing to poke fun at themselves and not take it too
seriously. Everybody needs to chill out and just appreciate it
for what it is.

(emphasis added)

My first reactions to these comments included the following:

*Of course Asians aren’t “the only ones who get poked fun at”; but that doesn’t mean that any group should be stereotyped!

*One “Yale Alum of color” does not have the authority to speak for everybody!

*Comparing this video to “Mean Gays”, “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” doesn’t justify it!

*Just because these are “the stereotypes that Asians get everyday”, doesn’t mean they aren’t hurtful—being told that you are a nerd is not pleasant at all, and the image of Asians as overachievers has been used to justify everything from poor working conditions to underpayment!

But more subtly, I noticed that there was a lack of comment from those who found the video offensive, and understandably so: being told to “lighten up”, to “calm down” and to get out of your “bubble” isn’t exactly conducive to dialogue. At the risk of sounding like a killjoy “[un]familiar with the concept” of a joke, I’ll provide the other perspective.

I was offended by this video—not so much by its portrayal of Asian Americans per se, but rather by its demeaning portrayal of Asian American women. We have all heard of the Asian fetish, a term describing an attraction towards Asian women that reduces them to obedient and submissive sex objects. Although this so-called “Yellow Fever” may seem benign at first (perhaps a little creepy at most), it can have real, dangerous consequences: serial rapists have admitted to targeting Asian women precisely because they are see them as more compliant. Sallie Kim and Shannon Stockdale wrote in a 2005 YDN article of the trend in violent Asian fetish incidents on college campuses. Particularly shocking was their description of the abduction and rape of two Asian college women who were videotaped, and “told that if they told anybody what had happened, the videotapes would be sent to their fathers. The three white assailants admitted targeting Asian women precisely because they had a sexual fetish for ‘submissive’ Asian women, but also because they believed that this same submissiveness and cultural shame would prevent the women from reporting the assaults.”*

“Single Asians”—however inadvertently—is a part of the media that includes Family Guy and the Simpsons and that degrades and objectifies Asian women as “geisha[s] just for you”; and this not only leads to popular perceptions of Asian women as passive and docile but to real tragedy and harm. In light of this, the comment made by one viewer (which perhaps wouldn’t have been made on a non-Asian themed song) becomes rather upsetting:

    I’m both turned on and offended at the same time. I want
    an apology…and a date.

With all that said, I wish I knew the perspective of the producers of this video. I wish I knew for sure that it wasn’t meant to be offensive or to say that all Asian women are China dolls and geishas dedicated to bringing “honor to the famiry.” I wish I knew that they had intended to be funny and cute in its light-hearted spoof of “the stereotypes that Asians get everyday,” in the same way that the movies “Bend it Like Beckham” and “Bride & Prejudice” poke fun at stereotypes of South Asians. As one viewer pointed out:

I assumed not so much that it was a parody of Asians, but

more that it was making fun of people who think Asians are

like that. My Asian friends always get annoyed when people

assume that they’re into math and science, or that they’re

Chinese when they’re not.

Unfortunately, for every person who laughs at the video, understanding it to be a clever parody of a stereotype, there will be one person who doesn’t quite understand, and buys into the stereotype itself.

Kavita Mistry is president of InSight: Yale’s Asian American Women’s Forum and Chapter of NAPAWF

Further Reading:



Introducing our First Guest Blogger: Leang Chaing, DC ’10

March 17, 2009

Re: Bone Marrow Drive-Coming to you soon!
I’d like to say what an important cause this is. They match bone marrow more specifically by background (and blood type) compared to blood donations. They need to make sure the tissue matches as closely as possible so the body doesn’t reject the donation. Since a majority of the people on the registry are Caucasian, there’s a huge discrepancy for “minority” donors. Being on the registry isn’t a forced contract to donate–many people go their entire lives without ever being called to donate. Even if you are a potential match, there are more tests to check compatibility and if you want you can opt out of them if the chance arises.

And if you do get called and decide to donate, the procedure used most of the time (called Apheresis) is pretty painless (the common perception of a painful extraction is used as a last resort with localized anesthesia so it actually doesn’t hurt).

As a bone marrow donor you have the chance to save a real life. I hope that you will 1) register to be one during these drives and 2) help volunteer [email your name & phone number] I’m ready to help out Vi 🙂

If you guys have any additional questions about the process feel free to email or call.

Hope your breaks are fantastically lazy.

PS–the NMDP doesn’t discriminate like the Red Cross. But that’s another issue…

Bone Marrow Drive–Coming to you Soon!

March 17, 2009

Hi guys!!

AASA hopes you’re enjoying Spring Break. =)

We wanted to present an opportunity to you and hope to have your participation.

The Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA) at the Yale Med School and AASA will organize a Bone Marrow Registry Drive this April. This national Bone Marrow Registry is the last hope for patients with leukemia or other cancers, allowing them to search for bone-marrow-transplant matches. Unfortunately, minority patients face significant disadvantage in finding potential matches because the closest matches are those who share ethnic backgrounds but few minorities are registered.

We’d love to have you help us change this by to running registration drives on campus. We’d like to get a list of 50 volunteers. We’ll then send out a list of times and dates where registrations will happen and you can volunteer according to your schedule. We know you’d be great help so if you are interested and/or have questions, please email me ( back with your name and phone #.

We hope to work with you. =)

First Asian American to lead an Ivy School

March 3, 2009

“quoted from the New York Times”

March 3, 2009
Dartmouth Selects Its New President From Harvard

Dr. Jim Yong Kim, a Harvard Medical School official who has fought diseases that affect the poor around the world, has been named the next president of Dartmouth College.

Dr. Kim, 49, trained as both a physician and an anthropologist, receiving his M.D. and Ph.D. from Harvard University.

He is an unusual choice for a university president. He is known less for his academic achievements than for his groundbreaking work as co-founder of Partners in Health, and then at the World Health Organization, bringing effective medical treatment for H.I.V. and AIDS and for drug-resistant tuberculosis to the poor.

Dr. Kim, who will be the first Asian-American to head an Ivy League institution, will take up the post in July, succeeding James Wright, 69, who has been president of Dartmouth for 11 years.

In an interview on Monday, Dr. Kim said he was excited about taking on a broad leadership role in education.

“At some point, you have to decide whether you’re going to keep throwing your body at a problem, which is what I’ve always done,” he said. “You realize that one person can’t do that much. So what I want to do is train an army of leaders to engage with the problems of the world, who will believe the possibilities are limitless, that there’s nothing they can’t do. Being the president of an Ivy League university is an amazing opportunity.”

Dr. Kim, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, immigrated with his family to the United States at age 5. He grew up in Muscatine, Iowa, where his was one of only two Asian families. He attended Muscatine High School, where he was valedictorian, president of his class and quarterback of the football team. He then went to Brown University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1981.

Since the 1980s, Dr. Kim’s career has been entwined with that of Paul Farmer, his medical school friend and the subject of Tracy Kidder’s popular book “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World.”

Together, they started Partners in Health, a nonprofit organization that focused on drug-resistant tuberculosis, first in Haiti and then in other countries, and helped drive down the cost of medication so that treatment could be widely available.

Dr. Kim received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2003. He is married to Dr. Younsook Lim, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston. They have two sons, one an 8-year-old and the other born on Friday.

Dr. Kim is chairman of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He continues to teach undergraduate classes, and plans to teach undergraduates at Dartmouth.