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missesdash
08-09-2012, 02:05 PM
This is specific to what I'm writing, so feel free to move it elsewhere.

Essentially I have a character (a teenage boy) who is attracted to children. While he tries to deal with this, he ends up on dates with several different girls. He eventually finds himself most comfortable with a very shy, passive girl with whom he shares a lot of academic interests.

The issue is that she's Asian and that makes her terribly stereotypical. I'd like to offset that.

I was thinking about giving her a sister who is the exact opposite. She'd be mentioned in passing, rather than in a scene. But I think it would be enough to establish I didn't write her as Asian because I think all Asian girls are childlike.

Another thing I had considered was making his interpretation of her behavior somewhat stereotypical but giving her little moments where it becomes apparent she's not all that passive and quiet. Small moments where she asserts herself and astute readers will interpret this as an introvert rather than a "passive Asian girl."

I am pretty set on keeping her Asian. It leads to some interesting conversations later (his father calling her 'oriental') I just don't want too many people to question my intent. I know some will be upset regardless, but I want to make an effort to address that.

Any suggestions? Thoughts?

TudorRose
08-09-2012, 02:49 PM
I think this stereotype perhaps revolves around the quiet, submissive girl having very strict parents who want her to achieve academically or marry someone suitable?

Could you have her coming from a very liberal Asian family who encourage her to explore other things in her life (she might have a non-academic talent that could make her famous but she's too shy and retiring to seek the spotlight, just as an example?), or urge her to get her nose out of books and have a bit more fun?

Purple Rose
08-09-2012, 03:08 PM
As an Asian living in Asia with family in the US, I have to point out that the people from the two countries holding one-third of the world's population - India and China - are very, very different from each other. From your details, your character is Oriental. Is she Chinese? If she is a Chinese American in her teens, i would be very surprised if she is passive. Reserved, very likely but passive? No more than any other person born with that personality trait anywhere in the world.

Even the young adults in China are no longer passive.

At this point, stereotyping may not be the problem. Inaccuracy might be a bigger issue.

If you must make her Asian and portray her as such, then I would suggest traits and cultural practices that are more evident - respect for elders (maybe she helps look after a sick parent or grandparent), family unity (grandparents living in the same house), competition/drive to succeed (studying hard, private tutors), conservative (in dress, mannerisms), diet (preference for their own food, eg rice with several other Chinese dishes), pride in heritage (celebrating the Lunar New Year with family) etc

Just a thought. There are more ways to convey a person's Asianess than the inaccurate portrayal of a passive girl.

Hamilton
08-09-2012, 03:39 PM
Purple Rose, I don't think that missesdash is trying to make this character seem Asian by making her passive and shy. She's created a character of an Asian ethnicity who happens to be shy, and she wants to avoid making her look like a stereotype.

I like the idea of a sister with the opposite personality. Then, instead of the readers dealing with a shy Asian girl stereotype in isolation, they're seeing her as the quiet half of the sister pair.

You could also try giving her a hobby or trait that clashes with that stereotype.

Purple Rose
08-09-2012, 03:47 PM
Purple Rose, I don't think that missesdash is trying to make this character seem Asian by making her passive and shy. She's created a character of an Asian ethnicity who happens to be shy, and she wants to avoid making her look like a stereotype.

I like the idea of a sister with the opposite personality. Then, instead of the readers dealing with a shy Asian girl stereotype in isolation, they're seeing her as the quiet half of the sister pair.

You could also try giving her a hobby or trait that clashes with that stereotype.

Thanks for the clarification, Hamilton. I understand it better now, but I still see the shyness coming before the Asian-ness. I mean, the way I see it - he is attracted to her because she is shy. She just happens to be Asian.

Regardless, I think missesdash is on the right track to go all out to avoid stereotyping.

I think the opposite sister could work well, but the character's personality could also be fleshed out with other Asian traits or practices. Just a hint, wevaed in where appropriate.

Amadan
08-09-2012, 03:57 PM
I dunno, it's one of those stereotypes that actually exists, not uncommonly, in the real world. Which doesn't mean people won't raise their eyebrows at you when you write it.

Honestly, If you are set on her being Asian, any conscious attempts to "offset" the stereotype ("Look, readers! I know my character is kind of a stereotype but I did it for a reason, I'm not trying to stereotype Asian girls, honest!") will probably be transparent and more annoying than the stereotype.

Readers may judge you based on one character, but they are more likely to judge you based on a trend. (Try to avoid using passive Asian girls in all your stories...)

It will help if she has some personality traits other than being shy and passive (without them being so blatant that, again, you're obviously trying to lampshade her stereotypicality -- "Oh, and by the way, she is also an INTERNATIONAL KRAV MAGA CHAMPION!")

missesdash
08-09-2012, 04:43 PM
Purple Rose, I don't think that missesdash is trying to make this character seem Asian by making her passive and shy. She's created a character of an Asian ethnicity who happens to be shy, and she wants to avoid making her look like a stereotype.

I like the idea of a sister with the opposite personality. Then, instead of the readers dealing with a shy Asian girl stereotype in isolation, they're seeing her as the quiet half of the sister pair.

You could also try giving her a hobby or trait that clashes with that stereotype.

Yes this. I'm not concerned about her "asianness." She isn't passive because she's Asian, this is just her personality.

Amadan brings up a good point about whether or not attempts to offset it would be transparent. I think I could do it without being obnoxious or obvious about it. But perhaps the suggestion of just making sure she's complex would be more subtle (and better written anyhow). Making it apparent that she's a passive girl that happens to be Asian.

leahzero
08-09-2012, 05:44 PM
I think her specific nationality and culture is important here. "Asian" covers a lot of ground, the way "European" does.

Is she Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Filipino, etc.? "Oriental" suggests far eastern countries, but that could just be an ignorant comment coming from an uneducated character, so IDK. Details?

missesdash
08-09-2012, 05:56 PM
I think her specific nationality and culture is important here. "Asian" covers a lot of ground, the way "European" does.

Is she Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Filipino, etc.? "Oriental" suggests far eastern countries, but that could just be an ignorant comment coming from an uneducated character, so IDK. Details?

Well the reason I left it out is because I don't think it's terribly important to my question. Culturally she's an average american girl. But she's Korean American.

Lola Dodge
08-09-2012, 07:20 PM
I think this is only a stereotype if you think it's a stereotype. I live in Asia, and very very few of the children and teenagers I interact with are the shy academic type. I'd say they're proportionate to the number of shy academics wherever you call home.

I'd even go so far to say that (from where I'm standing) this is a false stereotype, where the perception doesn't match reality.

Don't stress over the character's ethnicity...just write a deep, 3-D person and the reader will focus on her instead of her trappings.

missesdash
08-09-2012, 07:34 PM
I think this is only a stereotype if you think it's a stereotype.

Methinks you're not all that clear on what a stereotype is. It doesn't need to be true to be a stereotype. It just needs to be a commonly held belief despite any evidence to the contrary.

Passive Asian women is definitely a stereotype.

Lola Dodge
08-09-2012, 08:21 PM
Methinks you're not all that clear on what a stereotype is. It doesn't need to be true to be a stereotype. It just needs to be a commonly held belief despite any evidence to the contrary.

Passive Asian women is definitely a stereotype.

Sorry. I meant as a specific reader. Whether it is or isn't a stereotype, I'm not going to be thinking about it when I'm reading. You write some jock stereotypes and I'll get sensitive, but the timid Asian girl doesn't hit me like that. My experiences have been so to the contrary of that particular stereotype that I'm almost guaranteed to read the character for who she is without noticing the baggage.

Other readers will read it differently.

It doesn't matter. Write a strong, believable character. She can be shy and Korean as long as she's other things as well. I'd go quirky rather than crazy impressive. Maybe she obsessively makes those Starburst wrapper chains or walks dogs for extra pocket money. Focus on who she is rather than her labels.

Rachel Udin
08-09-2012, 08:29 PM
Passive Asian girl is a JAPANESE stereotype. It was taken from the Japanese war where men sexualized women, (and no doubt there was rape too--yeah, a girl seems really subserviant when you're raping her... BTW, random, go Vietnam!). Blech. That's a whole can of worms I hate.

BTW, you shouldn't say Asian when you mean Korean. It's like saying European and you want to know how a European acts. Uhhh... You mean Italian v. Spanish v. French. O.o;;; Whole different countries and cultures there.

List of Asian countries:
Afghanistan
Armenia
Azerbaijan
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Bhutan
Brunei
Burma (Myanmar)
Cambodia
China
Georgia
Hong Kong
India
Indonesia
Iran
Iraq
Israel
Japan
Jordan
Kazakhstan
Korea, North
Korea, South
Kuwait
Kyrgyzstan
Laos
Lebanon
Malaysia
Maldives
Mongolia
Myanmar
Nepal
Oman
Pakistan
Philippines
Qatar
Russia
Saudi Arabia
Singapore
Sri Lanka
Syria
Taiwan
Tajikistan
Thailand
Turkey
Turkmenistan
United Arab Emirates
Uzbekistan
Vietnam
Yemen
(48--because of Hong Kong)

That's quite a range. So please, please don't say it doesn't matter. It does. Also specifying ethnic group too. Ainu v. Tocharians. Han v. Zuang in China (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_China).

Koreans, however, by and large are kinda loud... just saying. Koreans native to Korea tend to be loud too since the culture kinda calls for it with the speech pattern and habits.

There are quiet Korean girls... though, honestly, I don't know many. Unlike the US, the stereotype goes (in Korea proper), that Korean men are quiet (Especially around Kyeongsang) and that Korean women are the loud ones, especially as they get towards middle age and finally get enough authority to say whatever they want.

HOWEVER, there is variation in every population, so there are bound to be quiet Korean girls. I've met a few shy Korean-American girls. But really, it's very small.... but just saying. Koreans tend to favor extroverted girls. Also extroverted men (at least on TV).

Korean Americans have to deal with the BS known as racism where they have to work against the crap known from the whole Chinese Exclusion act. The subsequent immigration acts that were put in place in 1924 and weren't lifted until 1965 and the whole Korean War and fighting Japanese in WWII.

Anyway... that means that your Korean-American probably wanted to fit in with her friends and gave into the pressure. Is she first or second generation Korean? How much do her parents push her to fit in or exclude herself? Are they for or against interracial marriage? How much do they push her to succeed because they know she's in the bottom rung? How much has she bought the stereotypes or not bought the stereotypes? How much are those stereotypes reenforced by the community around her? Did her parents move to a predominantly white neighborhood?

Other than that, I'd show the variety too. Have other Korean American women who, say, are from Korea/Korean American, are out going, don't give a hoot about becoming a doctor. Also load up on Korean American books... I did list a few and I'd also look up East Asian racism too. (The history of it). For me, it was compulsory, because I kinda got sick of getting racism without understanding why I was getting it when the term was clearly, say Chinese. (Though the origin of the stupid chant about Asian eyes not only has to die, but I never found where that came from.)

I'll say this though: Being Asian in a mostly white community sucks. It's easier to internalize the stereotypes and harder to break free. Lots more exposure to idiots spreading lies too. It took me moving to a city where it wasn't mostly white-black to finally get a sense of things and get back to myself. Still fighting that.

Also, I'm far more extroverted in Korea than I am in the US. 'Cause I can get away with it and that was my original personality anyway.

Back to subject: More than one is the way to fight it. Fitting 100% into stereotype is bad. Having *aspects* that don't fit stereotype is good. She may be shy, but she might not be studious. Also having more than one FUNCTIONAL character that plays with and against stereotype is good too. Until they become just characters.

missesdash
08-09-2012, 08:37 PM
*facepalm* I'm not asking for anyone to explain how she should act. I already know how she acts, she's my character and she's already written.

So no, it doesn't matter what country or ethnic group she's from because I'm not asking for advice on how she should, based on her culture, act. This is also not a primary character. She has two or three speaking scenes and none of those scenes involve discussions of her culture.

I'm very specific in my OP. I promise you don't need to know anything more than what I've provided to weigh in on the question that I actually asked.

kuwisdelu
08-09-2012, 08:41 PM
Well the reason I left it out is because I don't think it's terribly important to my question. Culturally she's an average american girl. But she's Korean American.

If it matters that she's not white, then I'd say it also matters what kind of Asian American she is.


Koreans, however, by and large are kinda loud... just saying. Koreans native to Korea tend to be loud too since the culture kinda calls for it with the speech pattern and habits.

There are quiet Korean girls... though, honestly, I don't know many. Unlike the US, the stereotype goes (in Korea proper), that Korean men are quiet (Especially around Kyeongsang) and that Korean women are the loud ones, especially as they get towards middle age and finally get enough authority to say whatever they want.

This has been my experience, too. The Korean girls I know don't tend to be shy and quiet. It's not really a stereotype that's associated with Koreans, I think.

kuwisdelu
08-09-2012, 08:44 PM
*facepalm* I'm not asking for anyone to explain how she should act. I already know how she acts, she's my character and she's already written.

So no, it doesn't matter what country or ethnic group she's from because I'm not asking for advice on how she should, based on her culture, act. This is also not a primary character. She has two or three speaking scenes and none of those scenes involve discussions of her culture.

I'm very specific in my OP. I promise you don't need to know anything more than what I've provided to weigh in on the question that I actually asked.

Honestly, I wouldn't really worry about it. If she's already a pretty fully-fleshed character in your mind, just write her the way she is. Then go back and read it and have other people read it to see if she comes off as the character you had in mind. I don't think you need to add a sister as a "disclaimer" or anything.

missesdash
08-09-2012, 08:48 PM
If it matters that she's not white, then I'd say it also matters what kind of Asian American she is.

I think it only matters if it's made clear in the story, and it isn't. The reader will know she's Asian (in US terms, not UK terms) they'll know his father refers to her as "oriental" but no one actually specifies her ethnicity. So I discussed it under the wider scope of "Asian" because that's how it will be viewed by a reader.

No one is going to be able to go "oh, she's korean, so this isn't a stereotype, it's her personality."

I also wonder if the perspective here is, frankly, too cultured. Most americans can't tell the difference between Korean, chinese and japanese and therefore any stereotype that applies to one if often spread through them all.

Rachel Udin
08-09-2012, 09:03 PM
"oriental" BTW, is a misnomer, and it's fine for objects, like rugs, but not fine for people... just saying.

You seem to be on the defensive here... and that kinda puts me on edge. You seem to want someone to pat you on the back and tell you a few things, like reassure you, but really, it does matter if she's Korean American v. Japanese American v. Chinese-American v. Mongolian American. People are telling you such. Maybe it may be hard to hear, but really, I think it's time to listen if you are prepared to ask.

I'll tell you up front, I'm not Indian (subcontinent) but if my current work fails to show the variety of thought in India, I'm prepared to rewrite the whole thing. I won't defend it one bit. It's some 10,000 words I've been working a year on through intensive research. I'm still hoping that stuff will be actively uprooted.

If you want a pat on the back that it will be all OK and you can write to stereotype all you want, you aren't getting it from me. Sorry. And I'm speaking as a Korean, frankly, to you.

If you are willing to listen, I'm willing to teach. Will you try again?

missesdash
08-09-2012, 09:13 PM
"oriental" BTW, is a misnomer, and it's fine for objects, like rugs, but not fine for people... just saying.

That's the point -_-


You seem to be on the defensive here...

Not at all. I just find you to be rather dense.


You seem to want someone to pat you on the back and tell you a few things, like reassure you, but really, it does matter if she's Korean American v. Japanese American v. Chinese-American v. Mongolian American. People are telling you such. Maybe it may be hard to hear, but really, I think it's time to listen if you are prepared to ask.

I actually found the earlier replies addressed my question well enough. I've explained why her ethnicity doesn't matter in another post.


I'll tell you up front, I'm not Indian (subcontinent) but if my current work fails to show the variety of thought in India, I'm prepared to rewrite the whole thing. I won't defend it one bit. It's some 10,000 words I've been working a year on through intensive research. I'm still hoping that stuff will be actively uprooted.

Completely irrelevant. I don't need a year of intensive research to write a secondary character.


If you want a pat on the back that it will be all OK and you can write to stereotype all you want, you aren't getting it from me. Sorry. And I'm speaking as a Korean, frankly, to you.*

You're right, I obviously needed you to list every country that's considered Asian in any part of the world in order to address the OP. I'm going to go ahead and put you on ignore to keep the thread from being locked.

kuwisdelu
08-09-2012, 09:13 PM
I think it only matters if it's made clear in the story, and it isn't. The reader will know she's Asian (in US terms, not UK terms) they'll know his father refers to her as "oriental" but no one actually specifies her ethnicity. So I discussed it under the wider scope of "Asian" because that's how it will be viewed by a reader.

No one is going to be able to go "oh, she's korean, so this isn't a stereotype, it's her personality."

I also wonder if the perspective here is, frankly, too cultured. Most americans can't tell the difference between Korean, chinese and japanese and therefore any stereotype that applies to one if often spread through them all.

I don't think you really want to write down to what you're calling "US terms," though.

I'm not Asian, but as a Native American, if I read a book with a "Native American boy" in it, and no mention of tribe is ever made because the author assumed that all Native Americans are the same to the average reader, I'd be pretty annoyed.

Rachel Udin
08-09-2012, 09:18 PM
I don't think you really want to write down to what you're calling "US terms," though.

I'm not Asian, but as a Native American, if I read a book with a "Native American boy" in it, and no mention of tribe is ever made because the author assumed that all Native Americans are the same to the average reader, I'd be pretty annoyed.
THIS.

This is the bit you're not getting. Which is why I really don't want to deal with you. I'll be patient and wait for you to come around, but if you aren't willing to understand how the stereotypes function and exist, I can't help you out of them.

And BTW, I would spend a ton of time on one character, even minor if I was worried about stereotypes. I want to get the impressions right. I spent about 3 months on a Filipino character even though he had a minor role to make sure he was right and checked him about 4 times over. I checked it against a group of Filipinos too. I was still nervous when I was done. Internalized stereotypes are no joke.

missesdash
08-09-2012, 09:20 PM
I don't think you really want to write down to what you're calling "US terms," though.

I'm not Asian, but as a Native American, if I read a book with a "Native American boy" in it, and no mention of tribe is ever made because the author assumed that all Native Americans are the same to the average reader, I'd be pretty annoyed.

But would a first person narrator who is unfamiliar with that character know what tribe to name? I'm not writing down, I'm writing in voice.

Rachel Udin
08-09-2012, 09:28 PM
But would a first person narrator who is unfamiliar with that character know what tribe to name? I'm not writing down, I'm writing in voice.
Still sounds defensive. Your first post is not a *sample* of your work. Several people have repeatedly told you it matters. Perhaps it is time to listen instead of defend?

BTW, calling a Korean dense and unable to understand stereotypes of Asians when your character is Korean American... isn't that edging towards rude? I think I would know better than most people what is like growing up as a Korean American woman... just saying.

I know what it's like to get cat calls on the street about being Asian, being told to go home, being called slurs. And because of that I'm willing to also turn around and research deep, even for incidental characters.

I think I very much *get* it.

kuwisdelu
08-09-2012, 09:28 PM
But would a first person narrator who is unfamiliar with that character know what tribe to name? I'm not writing down, I'm writing in voice.

Fair enough. But now I feel like she would be annoyed at him if he hangs out with her enough to be comfortable with her but still doesn't know she's Korean American.

Which would be a perfect way and time for her to assert herself, by the way. ;)

Amadan
08-09-2012, 09:29 PM
Y'know, if you all are saying "OMG Korean girls are not shy and passive!" then it shouldn't be a problem if the character is, since she's not a stereotype, right?

I think the OP should be given more benefit of the doubt than assuming that she unaware that "Asia" is not a country and that there actually exist non-shy Korean girls.

Rachel Udin
08-09-2012, 09:34 PM
Y'know, if you all are saying "OMG Korean girls are not shy and passive!" then it shouldn't be a problem if the character is, since she's not a stereotype, right?

I think the OP should be given more benefit of the doubt than assuming that she unaware that "Asia" is not a country and that there actually exist non-shy Korean girls.
It's still a form of racism to assume that Asia doesn't have countries in it... and to then defend by saying one thinks it doesn't matter. Saying this as a East Asian, very sore at people constantly doing it.

It's one thing to write it as a story sample and to say, "How is this sample?" It's another thing to post and then defend. She hasn't really said sorry, I won't do it again... and that kind of irks me. Instead, she's defending more... instead of acknowledging it was wrong in the first place.

I give slack for flubs with a clear sorry. But I don't give slack for defending flubs. See Victoria Foyt's large mistake in defending.

Kitty Pryde
08-10-2012, 06:52 AM
OK, I think the OP has gained a variety of helpful feedback. I'm gonna go ahead and lock this one with a reminder to RYFW.