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Viral video shows stereotypes about Asian women's role persist

By Chang Jun | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-03-14 13:19

When female pioneers in the US century started their campaign for change – shorter working hours, better pay and voting rights – in the early 20th century, they probably didn't foresee that 100 years after, women as a group still need to fight for equality and against gender discrimination.

International Women's Day on March 8 not only celebrated the tremendous progress made toward women's emancipation, but reminded us that worldwide gender parity has not been achieved.

A recent live-stream video, which has generated much media attention, sparked a public argument about whether women are still stereotyped as inferior to their male counterparts, especially in an interracial marriage.

It started hilariously on March 3 when Robert Kelly, a political science professor at Pusan National University in South Korea was commenting on the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye on BBC Live. His two children, first his preschool daughter then his son in a squeaky walker, crashed their dad's interview by whooping it up in the background.

Then a flustered woman dashed in, knocking books off a table before falling to her knees to drag the two troublemakers out of the room, finally grabbing the handle to close the door.

The video, shorter than one minute, went viral, accumulating more than 15 million views on BBC One's Facebook within a few hours and generating wide coverage by domestic and international media.

The flood of commentary ranged from parenting to work-life balance to globalization. But one point of view resonated: Was the woman rescuer the wife or the nanny?

Many assumed that she was the nanny, given her casual outfit, her frantic demeanor, her crawling on the floor and her Asian features.

"This nanny is absolutely unemployed," wrote Podfathers Podcast on Twitter, winning about 464,000 likes.

Joyce Carol, another social media commentator, wrote "Poor nanny will be fired."

However, the truth is that the woman, Jung A-Kim, is the children's mother, Kelly's wife and a yoga teacher.

Although hiring a nanny to help working couples is not rare in Asian countries such as South Korea and China, the assumption that Kim was a domestic helper rather than the children's mother revealed that the stereotypes about an Asian women's role in an interracial marriage are deep-rooted.

Asian women are often portrayed as "gold diggers" and subservient to men, white men in particular, said Athena Han, a graduate from UCLA's Anderson Business School and now a senior market analyst who has many Asian companies as clients.

"That stereotyped mentality helps explain why many intend to project Kim as a nanny being panicked and fearful in this situation instead of an embarrassed mother who wanted to help her distracted husband," Han said.

The immediate assumption is problematic, misleading and equates to racism, she said.

"Can everyone please stop assuming the woman in that BBC video is the nanny? She is his wife," wrote Ashitha Nagesh on Twitter, using the hash tag "stop being racist".

"Loved the BBC video. But do not assume an Asian woman with a white man is the nanny. Such subtle racism," echoed Natashya Gutierrez.

I could not help but recall comments made at a gathering on March 7 at the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco to celebrate International Women's Day.

"The purpose of observing this holiday is to remind all of us (that) women and men to date are still not equal," said Consul General Luo Linquan. "There is still a long way for women all over the world to claim the same equality in all aspects as their male counterparts."

Nonetheless, this clip instructs viewers about their biases.

We can at least "laugh it off … grow smarter", as Maria Chong suggested on Twitter.

Contact the writer at junechang@chinadailyusa.com

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