Hyphen, a break for Asian Americans

It is no surprise to many Asian Americans when they are asked “where are you really from?” or are told “Wow! Your English is great!” Forever foreigners in American society, Asian Americans have had to overcome the boundary of being foreign in a land where many of them were born or immigrated to as a young child. Along with the idea that Asian Americans carry Asian values, there exists little distinction within society between being “Asian” and being “Asian American.” Perhaps this is why Hyphen magazine attempts to dissemble the conservative image many Asians have and break free from the stronghold that Asian Americans are unable to speak about pressing, controversial issues. Through the articles presented in the “Features” section of Hyphen, it is clear that the Asian American media has taken a more modern, liberal persona to shrug off the conservative cloak of misconception that Asian Americans are unable to openly and professionally speak about “taboo” issues. By doing so, the Asian American media is subversively uprooting the forever foreigner stereotype and unapologetically assimilating into American culture.

Being American is tightly associated with freedom, especially freedom of speech. American media does an excellent job of leaving almost every stone overturned when it comes to speaking about certain issues that would be considered shameful in other countries, such as sexuality. Asian culture and tradition, through the eye of American society, has largely been labeled in a way that condemns promiscuity or speaking openly about sexuality. Looking specifically at the posts under the “Features” section, Hyphen is attempting to dismantle the taboo that exists about sexuality and reproduction within the Asian American community as well as inform those that contain a preconceived notion about the so called “prude-ness” of Asians and Asian Americans. One of the banners that runs at the top of the website also demonstrates an attempt to lose the awkwardness and instill comfort when discussing such issues, as depicted below. Having this banner as part of their website had to be strategic as the picture is overt and the topic is blatant.

hyphen banner

In the article titled “Long Live Raja” by Lauren Kawana, she interviews Raja Gemini, an Indian American drag queen about his journey into drag and how he learned about sexuality. She asks him, “How did you learn about the birds and bees?” to which Raja replies “I don’t think my parents and I ever had the birds and bees talk. I basically learned it all on my own.” This sentiment is undoubtedly shared among many Asian Americans, including myself, as sexuality was not something to be openly talked about. It emphasizes the idea the mindset of many Asians, which automatically gets associated with values held by Asian Americans. Asian Americans are thus cast as “forever foreigners” because American society feels they are Asian and share the same values as those held by Asians. By having such articles featured, Hyphen does a great job at giving a voice to the topics that may have been stifled by the forever foreigner stereotype.

Hyphen features

In addition to dismantling the conservative image that many believe to be associated with Asian Americans due to their Asian roots, the magazine also presents these issues in an American manner, subtly assimilating via the methods used by the American media. By having articles about liberal topics, Hyphen caters to an audience that is labeled Asian American but can expand past that as well, as the method in which the topics are presented are those that resound within other American groups. Having an “LGBT” tab on the website speaks to the liberal nature of the magazine, demonstrating acceptance and approval of a hotly debated issue. The decision to run an issue on sexuality is used as an assimilatory technique, telling non-Asian American viewers that even the Asian American community is able to talk about adult issues like sex and sexuality in the same manner as any other form of American media. Hyphen approaches these topics from real-person perspectives, such as the article on “sex nerd” Sandra Daugherty. When Asian Americans speak about these issues, it says to American society that Asian Americans are not the so thought “prudes” after all. Asian Americans are American and are able to actively participate in contemporary dialogue, remaining free from the “conservatism” of their Asian background and upbringing.


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