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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

CNN Article on Suicide Among Asian American Women

A front page CNN article on suicide among Asian American women is big news. Asian Americans! On the front page! [EDIT: Um, it's not on the front page anymore. But I swear it was last night.] According to the article, among 15-24 year old women, Asian Americans have the highest suicide rate. The article also relates scholars' speculations on reasons behind this rate--including pressures from family, community, and the nation to live up to the stereotype of the model minority. The article also discusses other possible causes, like pressures to be a good wife and mother, having a restricted social life, not being able to question parental authority, and genetics.

First off, what is up with that front page photo? [EDIT: I know it's not there anymore, but hopefully my description will suffice.] Why is it appropriate for an article on suicide to feature a young woman's bare shoulders and long hair? This leads me to think about how convenient it is that we are focusing on 15-24 year old women. I dunno... maybe these are the Asians of most concern to white America?

On one hand, I feel somewhat vindicated by this article. I've always felt these inexplicable pressures. Even my hapa husband who understands most everything about me tells me to relax. I don't think I'd classify myself as depressed and I don't know that my pressures are exactly the same as those mentioned in the article, but my friends and I have often talked about how difficult it is to stray from being the nice Japanese girls we're expected to be.

The distinction the article draws between how Asian American men and women react to similar pressures also rings true for me. I often am frustrated with men (but maybe not necessarily Asian American men) because, in my experience, they do seem to act out rather than internalize. If someone's acting stupid, I've got no patience for them, but if someone's hurting, well, I have to be sympathetic to that. Cuz at least they're not taking it out on anyone else. (Oops... maybe this is where Asian American suicide comes from...)

And the things that annoy me: It seems parental pressure is highlighted above societal pressure. Parental pressure is the first cause mentioned and CNN knows how ADD their readers are. (Hence the unnecessary but handy bullets that now front every article.) Readers might easily assume they've learned the cause of the problem and move on! At least three reasons unrelated to Asian or Asian American culture are given, but all at the end of the article.

And while the article may attempt to disrupt the stereotype of the model minority, it perpetuates the one about pushy Asian parents with their backward sexist culture, othering Asian Americans, as if white Americans never push their children to achieve or guard their daughters more closely than their sons.

1 comment:

Fumbling said...

good analysis of that Robyn. I was so dumbfounded by the stats that I didn't even read it critically.