Originally posted on: 2013/02/05
After I read John Cadengo’s short piece, “On Being Half-Asian,” I am now certain that with “half-Asian” as a condition of being, it is easier to be a girl than a boy (which is probably the only time anyone would ever say that). I’m not an expert in women’s studies or feminist theory (further than how it relates to certain post-modern artists), but even my basic knowledge of these subjects, coupled with my perception of how the world works, tells me that it is indeed a man’s world. However, James Brown never had the opportunity to live as a 23-year old half-Chinese/half-Scottish-by-descent-since-everyone-from-Cape-Breton-is-of-Scottish-stock Canadian female like me, so I’ll forgive him for not exempting my particular subgroup of halfies.
I believe you just have to decide to move past the token checkbox and own it. Be a token if you want (I do major in biology and I love calculus), but take it in stride and use your difference to be exceptional. I’ve found that half-Asian girls can be anything. Most of the halfies I know are superstars: they kill it at school, arts, sports, social life, and being all around beautiful people. This ability to have any identity is probably at least partly the result of no one knowing exactly what our racial deal is, so rarely do people put us in boxes that we may subsequently feel we have to fit into. “She’s partly Chinese so she’s gonna be smart”; “but she’s tall so she’s probably going to be into sports”; “but she’s always singing to herself so maybe she’s weird and party?”; “she’s wearing high top Dunks so she probably likes hip-hop”; “I saw her making out with Ramzi so I guess she’s not scared to date new people.”
Being random hybrids to begin with, half-Asian girls can fit into any subculture or stereotype they desire, and wear any style and express themselves in any way, and it’s unlikely anyone will ever call them out for those choices. This is primarily because half-Asian girls will never be seen as posers, because these girls are unique and slightly edgy just by definition. I consider my sisters as examples of this. My middle sister was a bit of a “tomboy” growing up, until her style got super trendy in high school, but throughout all this she was really into sports, grades, and was probably the most “boy-crazy” girl I have ever met. My youngest sister has also always been more stereotypically “girly”, preppy and into make-up, as well as really into school and music (and much less outwardly “boy-crazy”). All of these characteristics are, unfortunately, ones that may become the single identity for some girls. Luckily for me and my sisters, as half-Asian girls, we have it easy and are diverse from the get-go, so multiple identities are not problematic and are not constructed or pre-meditated- they just are. This is especially helpful in terms of making friends from different groups and moving between social circles, which is good for your personal development.
This may be true for half-Asian boys too, however I’ve generally noted a big difference between perception of half-Asian boys and girls: a half-Asian girl can date anyone, whereas halfie guys, to echo John’s point, might not so easily. And for the girls it’s not weird, because she’s already “ethnically ambiguous” and wouldn’t her babies just be the cutest babies ever?! It’s almost expected that since we are different to start with, we would be with someone dissimilar. Also, to relate back to John’s thoughts, there isn’t the already existing stigma of “yellow fever” that halfie girls have to contend with if they choose to pursue half- or fully-Asians as their partners. I’ve never in any way been ostracized for any of the guys I’ve chosen to see because of their race, but I know that’s not the case for some of those guys. “Yellow fever” is merely something we laugh at and that makes us feel superior to all those dudes of various races chasing after us; which is perhaps slightly unkind, but isn’t it nice to laugh in the face of potentially being festishised? Regardless, it’s awfully empowering. After all, if the way you look catches a lot of people’s attention, it’s less work for you the halfie girl, and it’s likely your interesting and diverse outlook on life will dazzle all these fellows waiting to meet you.
A lot of what I’ve just said is pretty light, but there are serious points to be taken, which have been informed by my lived experience as a young, half-Chinese female. Yes we can wear any style of clothes or date any kind of guy, but what that really equates to is that it’s markedly easier for a half-Asian girl to meet new people and have diverse experiences. Social mobility and access to various subcultures are possible without the fear of being laughed at or called out for pursuing new interests. And that is really the beauty of being a half-Asian girl. Often, girls are portrayed as simple and one-dimensional; half-Asian girls take that image and crush it under their Alexander Wang boots that go well with their Adidas leather jackets that incidentally really compliment their bags they just got from Opening Ceremony.
Emily Lai Ho MacLean has a Chinese mother from Hong Kong and a Canadian father from Cape Breton, NS, where mostly everyone is of Scottish descent but some have some Irish in them.