Dear Asian women; express your confidence whether others like it or not, appreciate it or not. It’s yours to grow and nurture…
Arundhati Roy, Indian author and political activist once said “there’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”
For me, as a young Asian girl who has grown up, immersed in the outdated traditional thinking that women and girls should be seen not heard, this quote really spoke to me because it made me come to terms with the fact that, even inside our own communities, female relatives, aunts and even my own mother have had their voices pushed down, not being appreciated or cultivated in a space that should be a welcoming and supportive environment. Instead, it is the opposite.
Not only does the disregard for emerging female voices (commonly perpetrated by older male relatives) lower their sense of self-worth, but in a male-dominated society, it tells these vulnerable women that their voice isn’t valid nor wanted, thus causing an abrupt lack in confidence as their age progresses. Returning to Arundhati’s quote that voices are either “deliberately silenced or preferably unheard”, women (whether confident or not) are expected to conform to their elders’ and societies’ flawed (and sexist) expectations of them.
Whether that means they must be submissive to men in the household, unwillingly slaving away in the kitchen all-day or even just being forced into cleaning or childcare, the application of these set gender roles diminish any remaining rays of confidence or motivation to seek a better life for themselves as independent Asian women.
Because let’s face it- if those around you are constantly reinforcing the idea that you are worthless and inferior to them, you’re going to start believing it sooner or later, consequently chipping away at your increasing zone of self-doubt. To dive deeper into this discussion, one prominent trend I have noticed within my own Southeast Asian community or even just via research on the topic is that moving away to university to seek out an education is frowned upon and shunned.
The very fact that our women are not encouraged to pursue a fulfilling education is a shocking reminder that we still have so much work and unlearn of internalized traditions, to bridge the confidence gap that holds back Asian women from being successful. Likewise, pursuing male-dominated careers has typically been met with disapproval and shame, the argument constantly falling back on the unfounded belief that ‘women should have women’s jobs and men should have men’s jobs’. It, it seems as though in an Asian household, a strong educated woman pursuing a position that doesn’t conform to her stereotypical gender role is like committing to a lifetime of humiliation for her and her extended family.
Oh – what a shame. *eye roll*We live in a man’s world. A white man’s world. Where Asian women already have to breakdown the barriers and stereotypes of race and sexism thrust upon them when entering a new space. It, sure doesn’t help when there isn’t a network of support from your own family to overcome these challenges and nurture your capabilities. If you can’t rely on your own family to cultivate your confidence and ensure that it thrives – then who else are you to rely on?
To un-learn this cultural norm, not only do we need our women to have a headstrong attitude to overcome their hardships with confidence, but we need our male friends and relatives to support us too. The simple act of making them aware of our struggles can put pressure on them to change for the better and give us the room to stand up for ourselves and say No– to the expectations of having to give up a career as soon as we’re married, to wanting us to conform to their standards and desires, to us being belittled and treated as lesser than them – we have a voice, so let’s use it to strengthen our rights.
Asian women have so much potential curled up inside of them, all it takes is a single shred of decency and support to let them know that their voice is valid, wanted and heard by their community; not forgotten, silenced, or disregarded. The confidence within us all can grow, but it won’t happen overnight. To begin, it is imperative we have these sorts of discussions and conversations with our elders and male relatives, to bring light to our issue and ensure our voices don’t go unheard.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.
You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!
We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.