The Ambiguous Practices of the Inauthentic Asian American Woman

Hypatia 29 (1):146-163 (2014)
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The Asian American identity is intimately associated with upward class mobility as the model minority, yet women's earnings remain less than men's, and Asian American women are perceived to have strong family ties binding them to domestic responsibilities. As such, the exact class status of Asian American women is unclear. The immediate association of this ethnic identity with a specific class as demonstrated by the recently released Pew study that Asian Americans are “the highest-income, best-educated” ethnicity contrasts with another study that finds Asian American women have the highest suicide rates in the United States. To understand these contrasting statistics, this article explores Asian American women's sense of authenticity. If the individual's sense of authenticity is intimately related with one's group identity, the association of the Asian American identity with a particular class ambivalently ensnares her as dichotomously inauthentic—as both the poor Asian American woman who fails to achieve economic upward mobility and the model minority Asian American woman who engages in assimilation practices. Feminist philosophers understand that identities change, but exactly how these transformations occur remains a mystery. The article ends with three speculations on the difficulties for practicing and recognizing individual acts that transform one's group identity

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Emily S. Lee
California State University, Fullerton


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