Backgrounds, attitudes and motivations of six classes of Asian women in the United States.

by Andrew Shiung


Parsing Asian Women

henever a discussion arises about Asian women in America, I am amused, amazed and, sooner or later, annoyed. No one seems able to attain common ground when talking about Asian women. More likely than not, that's because each has in mind a different socio-economic segment. Obviously, any effort at sorting human beings into classes commits every sin of generalization. But that's the only way to dispel some of the confusion that clouds understanding of Asian women in America. Insight is only achieved by seeking patterns.

     At a minimum classification provides a rudimentary vocabulary with which to compare notes. As with women of other races, I've found that the attitudes of Asian women toward race, status, money and men are almost invariably dictated by socioeconomics. Obviously many women succeed in defying neat categorization. To those individuals, my apologies.

1. Asian American Princesses

Origin: Born in the U.S. or immigrated before the age of 12.

Socioeconomic Status: Parents are successful entrepreneurs, investors, executives, professionals and academics. Typically pursue careers in media, marketing, law, finance or the arts.

Language: Native English fluency with little or no Asian language ability.

Education: One or more degrees from respected universities.

Attitude toward Money: Grew up with material comfort or luxury and are secure enough to resist flaunting obvious status symbols. Are turned off by people who feel a need to flaunt money or status symbols.

Attitude toward Race: Are comfortable with Asian heritage but prefer to be low-key about race. Are conscious of a culture gap with other classes of Asian Americans but make an effort to identify with them and to be supportive. Are aware of racial prejudices among Whites and other ethnicities, but are generally more understanding and tolerant toward all races. When it comes to socializing, they gravitate toward others from the same socio-economic level.

Attitude toward Men: Are impressed by men who are secure enough not to show off and have the cultural awareness to see each woman as a unique individual rather than a racial type. Asian American Princesses are offended when lumped with Asian women from lower classes and often privately see themselves as sharing more in common with upper-class white women.

Estimated Share of Asian Single Adult Female Population in U.S.: 8%.


2. Transpacific Princesses

Origin: Immigrated after the age of 12.

Language: Accented or stilted English with fluency in Asian language.

Education: One or more degrees from top or second-tier universities and proficiency with a musical instrument.

Socioeconomic Status: Parents are successful entrepreneurs, professionals or high-level corporate executives. Some parents continue to live overseas but send children to study in the U.S. and establish a second home. Pursue attainment in arts and culture, often as stepping stone to marriage.

Attitude toward Money: Have grown up with material comfort or luxury, but coming from societies in which most wealth is of recent vintage, transpacific Princesses assert their status through conspicuous consumption. They are drawn mostly to people with money or those who have attained social or cultural distinction. Most tpac princesses come from families with money but not necessarily social status in their homelands. Consequently, they entertain hopes of improving their social position in the U.S. the way turn-of-the-century American heiresses sought European titles. PAGE 2

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“Asian American Princesses are offended when lumped with Asian women from lower classes.”

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