By the grace of God I was able to interview two beautiful Asian women that I love dearly. These ladies radiate beauty and are some of the smartest women I know. Both Victoria & Darshi discussed their heritage and culture. They also, gave me insight on what it means to be an Asian American woman.
*1. What are some misconceptions about the Asian woman in America?
Darshi– I am going to go based off of what people ask, “Do all Indians have arranged marriages?” Arranged marriages is a things of the past but in small towns in India it does happen. It does not happen as much in big American cities. Arranged marriages happened before because in India, think about how much poverty there is. You want to make sure your children are taken care of. Women now are being educated and we make our own living and establish our own selves.
And so having an arranged marriage doesn’t always fit into that. It does happen to some families but it is pretty much a thing of the past. There is something called the bio data. It’s a picture of you, your age, where you are from, what you do for a living and what your family does for a living. This happens in old fashioned households even if they’ve been in America. They forget that they have to change and adapt. They still want to hold on to the old thinking of bio data. I’ve never seen one for me because my mom and dad are not old minded people. I don’t want my kids to ever think that they have to be married. The most secure thing is being with your self.
Victoria– Most people think that Asian women are obedient and docile. One of the most frustrating things is to think that we are not able to speak up for ourselves. I would say this seems to be a recurring thing in different aspects. Like my career. My second job after school, I was becoming a private banker and I worked with only male bankers and they are very protective of their commission but they also, thought it was okay to take the commission that I earned. They were trying to take a piece of my pie that I earned. They didn’t think I was going to speak up but I did because I earned it. I said I was going to call HR if that behavior continued and they stopped. It was the thought of them thinking that I wasn’t going to say that. And at first I didn’t say anything because I’m non-confrontational. But I exhausted every option so I had to say something because it’s my career. Once I made a stance they stopped. I wish I did it sooner. But it was a learning experience. We can all win but with sales in commission it’s more cut throat.
2. Where are you from? Where is your family from?
Darshi– I am Indian. I am Gujarati. There are different states and that is where we are from. My mom is from India and my dad is from Kenya in Africa. He was only in Africa until the age of 8. My dad, then moved to India for a year and then he moved to the UK. My mom’s oldest sister lived in London. One day my mom went to visit my aunt and met my dad while she was visiting. My grandfather eventually, raised money to move my mom and grandmother and the remainder of the sisters to the United States. After a couple of years, my mom and dad got married and then she moved to London. Later, my parents decided they wanted to move to the United States. I always say I am Indian and I am soo proud to be Indian.
Victoria– I was born in New York and raised in New Jersey. My parents are both from Hong Kong. My dad immigrated here when he was 9 and my mom immigrated after high school. They met here but they found out they grew up a block away from each other in Hong Kong but they found out years later.
3. Have you endured discrimination because of your ethnicity?
Darshi– I feel like from the top of my head there is not a time that sticks out. But I think a part of that growing up in the US, I sounded like everyone else. I looked more white than anything else. In my school days I felt like an outsider because I went to a predominantly white school but it still wasn’t bad. I was looked at as being different.
My friend is from Malaysia and is darker complected and has experienced things. I am a brown girl but I am privileged. I feel more hurt for other people. My heart hurts because I know others have a different experience and I am treated differently because I am lighter. I have had privilege. I live in the south and I feel like people are so backwards. When I was in Indianapolis or Cincinnati it was so different they wanted people of color to grow, including me. Companies wanted growth. I feel almost uncomfortable saying that I am privileged. I am sure there have been comments but I haven’t personally had to deal with them but I have empathy for others that have had to go through discrimination.
Victoria– Luckily, I haven’t had too many experiences where I have endured discrimination. But looking back I had a few during my childhood but I didn’t really know. I just know that it felt icky. It wasn’t directed towards me but my mom. It was simple and we were waiting in line to pay and for whatever reason they would not take us. I don’t really know why. Sometimes I would hear people say to me go back to China. Now, maybe I am numb to it but I don’t really register to it as much but for my own mental health I try not to think about it too much.
4. Do you feel as if Asian American women are under represented? If yes, how? Or Do you think there has been major progression when it comes to representation in business, entertainment, education and healthcare?
Darshi– I think in the world of technology and healthcare we are not underrepresented. People always think Indians are doctors, lawyers or in IT. In healthcare and IT, I do see a lot of Asian women. In the other fields you mentioned one hundred percent. I don’t even see that many women in entertainment. We have Lilly Singh and Priyanka Chopra. Lilly Singh made videos, did comedy and she discussed a lot of issues that Indian women endure. The names are slowly out there. Having one or two people is not a lot. Priyanka became so big because people like exotic and beautiful and she looked different. Even in music I wish I saw more. We have Mindy Kailing. The amount of how they talk about Mindy versus Priyanka is a vast difference. Jameela Jamil also, is out there. They are coming. Not all of them. Asian women are coming into the industry but I am sure it is cut throat. Jameela Jamil talks about stuff that is sometimes dismissed by others. More Asian women are being represented in the entertainment industry. I still think there is work to be done.
Victoria– I think that there are 1 or 2 Billion Chinese people in the world so we are under represented but having “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Fresh Off The Boat” has brought more awareness. In finance I am usually the only woman in the room and 1 of 2 Asians in the room. Finance is very male dominated. I don’t know if I see a lot of Asians in managerial roles. I’ve seen coworkers but not a lot in executive roles. I haven’t seen too many.
5. How do you represent your country and culture?
Darshi– I feel like I represent by talking about it and being who I am. I answer questions when people ask me. I openly talk about my culture. When it’s a certain holiday I talk about it. I believe just keeping it to myself is the wrong mentality. I always talk about my culture from the way I dress, even when it comes to religion.
I thought I was going to go to hell because I am Hindu and I went to a Christian school. I equally learned about Christianity and Hinduism. I chose Hinduism. As I have gotten older I would go to church with my friends and I would talk to my friends about my religion and culture. Talking about it can be controversial but it is important to have those discussions. One day Jehovah witnesses wanted to talk to me and tell me about the Bible and I asked them if they read the Hindu Bible and they were like what?! And shocked. Talking about religion, the festivals and Indian culture is important.
Victoria– Honestly, I feel like I haven’t done a great job with representing my culture. I feel like for a long time it was about being cool and fitting in. I grew up in a predominantly Jewish, Italian, Russian neighborhood. It was just about fitting in. I feel like now I am proud to be Asian and being Chinese.
I regret not learning the language, cooking certain dishes and understanding my traditions. I probably did not do that great of a job. I do now. I live in Chinatown in New York City and I am enjoying all that there is to offer here. I do all of the traditions that I can remember to do. Especially, the Lunar New Year. That is very important to us. But it probably could have started a little earlier.
6. Who do you look up to in the Asian Community?
Darshi– In the Asian community there is not not one specific person or prominent figure I look up to. I choose qualities from different people. I gravitate to people. For example, Jameela Jamil talks about weight, gender and gas lighting and she brings it to people’s attention. I don’t look up to her but people like her have strong characteristics. I like that and it speaks to my soul. Lilly, she speaks up about being bisexual and I like how she uses her platform to speak about the LGBTQ community. Dr. Shefali is a phycologist. She talks about being ostracized in the community because she went through a divorce. She talks about why go through your whole life being with someone when you’re not happy or being true to yourself. Dr. Shefali said something like, “I paid the price of losing people to gain the price of choosing myself.” She said something like that. People like her inspire me to be authentic and speak up. Speaking the truth is not about picking sides but speaking what is right. People that speak up inspire me. People like that are inspirational.
Victoria– I don’t think so. I mean there are different aspects. There are people that I agree with some things but not one particular person.
7. How can more people support the Asian woman?
Darshi– I think when it comes to supporting Asian woman, the biggest thing is breaking down the stereotypes and getting to know the person. If you have a barrier ask yourself, why you do not like the person? Get to know people around you and have the tough conversations. Speak up for others even if it’s at work, support them. Also, by not speaking negatively. Not saying negative things towards women like a back handed comment. Filter yourself to be truly kind.
Victoria– I think a way to support women of color is to listen and be open minded. I think a lot of people are only talking. Something to be mindful of, is to not let your own personal experience cloud someone else’s experience. There is still work to be done. The biggest way to support is by listening and being open minded to an experience that is not yours.