Although the model minority myth may seem like a positive representation of the Asian community, it fails to acknowledge the darker side of constant perfection

The model minority myth paints Asians as highly successful individuals due to their innate intellect. However, is their intelligence truly innate or does the pressure of conformity cause the Asian community to succeed in this standard? Society tends to view this community as perfect individuals that all racialized people should aspire to be.

However, is their intelligence truly innate, or does the pressure of conformity cause the Asian community to succeed in this standard?

However, the conceptualization of the Asian community as a "superior" minority group also isolates them from the broader racialized population.

This narrative has also been perpetuated in television as it reflects how society views Asians compared to other racialized individuals. For example, The Proud Family episode titled "Teacher's Pet" explicitly perpetuates this narrative that all Asians are high achievers with innate intelligence.

The model minority construct places the Asian community within a confined box where there is immense pressure to achieve success. Then to ensure success, Asian cultures tends to prioritize nurturing their child's intelligence, though sometimes to the detriment of other aspects of their lives, including their mental health.

Just as in any other community, there are those within the Asian community who may struggle in STEM-related subjects, while others may have challenges with the arts. However, for this community in particular, failure to live up to this myth can cause a disconnect between an individual's actual self, and ideal self, in turn further degrading their mental health as they may feel like they are not living up to their potential. Furthermore, to achieve this standard set forth by the model minority myth, people hide the areas they struggle in which leads to neglected mental health.

The model minority construct enacts harsher consequences on outliers, inducing stigma around mental health that prevents the Asian community from accessing the support they need. Additionally, this construct limits appropriate support for Asians as society sees their success and not their struggles. Why would an intelligent and successful population require support? 

We also tend to overlook the socioeconomic barriers Asians face, hindering their ability to achieve the model minority construct.

The model minority construct especially can impact Asian individuals who experience adverse circumstances beyond their control; they are still expected to perform as well as their peers, or better, as the pressure to achieve perfection remains constant, even at the cost of their mental health. Success is the only option, leading their needs to be overlooked as society fails to see beyond the model minority myth.  

However, by acknowledging that this myth often does more harm than good, we can work towards rewriting the dominant narrative and creating a safe space for people to relieve the pressures of perfection.

The Proud Family reboot, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, aired "Curved," an episode paralleling "Teacher's Pet." During the lunchroom scene, Penny frantically asks the Chang Triplets to join the debate club, thereby perpetuating the dominant narrative. As Penny is desperate to win the debate competition, it is implied that Asian individuals will give her the best chance of succeeding due to their intellectual superiority. 

However, as we grow more aware of the dominant narrative, we learn to resist it. "Curved" demonstrates this as the Triplets confront Penny about perpetuating the model minority construct. Rejecting Penny's requests demonstrates that each triplet holds interests beyond stereotypically academic activities associated with the model minority ideals, reinforcing that society should recognize individuality rather than the stereotype. 

Similarly, we can resist the dominant narrative by confronting and educating those perpetuating it. Creating alternative narratives that showcase contrast to the dominant narrative creates opportunities for society to change its perception of Western constructs.

By acknowledging that this myth often does more harm than good, we are working towards rewriting the dominant narrative and creating a safe space for people to relieve the pressures of perfection. By allowing the Asian community to explore their interests and be who they truly are as opposed to what society expects them to be, it also opens the conversation on mental health and accessing support.

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On Jan. 29, the Women and Gender Equity Network successfully launched as an official MSU service. The group brought in keynote speakers who focused on trans* and gender-queer people; however, the WGEN aims to create a safer space for women and survivors of sexual assault as well.

“This is an essential service because these are topics that are not necessarily talked about in our mainstream media or even in our day-to-day interactions even though these problems are pervasive,” said coordinator Shanthiya Baheerathan.

She hopes that the WGEN will assist students in breaking down the gender identities society imposes and understand that these identities need not be a person’s defining characteristic.

“We want to bring in narratives that aren’t really talked about in society and in the media to make people really question and understand what gender means.”

The WGEN will use educative programming to raise awareness about gender issues both on campus and in the greater community. A travelling art exhibit will move from Thode Library to Mills Library to MUSC between Feb. 11 and 13 to commemorate missing and murdered Indigenous women. The group has a number of special events planned for International Women’s Week, including a body positivity workshop and a session with Girls in Code. There will also be dialogues to discuss gender socialization both domestically and abroad, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as corporate environments.

The WGEN has also secured a space on campus. Starting in mid February, the WGEN will hold drop-in hours on weekdays in MUSC 226 from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

“In that space we hope to have a healing space, where women, trans* people, and survivors of sexual assault can talk about their experiences and feel supported and validated and understood,” Baheerathan said.

There are efforts underway to bring in a trauma counsellor and a response coordinator, an ongoing initiative Baheerathan has been working on with MSU President Teddy Saull and VP (Administration) Jacob Brodka.

While professional counselling would be beneficial to the safer space, Baheerathan was also quick to say there are opportunities for students to become a vital part of the WGEN. The service is in the process of looking to recruit volunteers who will work in the safer space with women, trans* people and survivors of sexual assault. Volunteers will go through mandatory anti-oppression and positive space training and will learn how to create a safe, welcoming environment for survivors of sexual assault.

Despite the recent launch, Baheerathan and the WGEN executive have been working on a variety of initiatives and have set high goals for their first year as a service.

“I think there’s a real thirst for this type of conversation and bringing in experts in the field to talk about it. I think people are becoming more familiar with the idea of what feminism is and I hope to provide students with the opportunity to talk about these issues,” Baheerathan said. “I hope to build a sense of community within the safer space and I hope to bring in women and trans* people and to provide them with the resources and space to feel validated in their experiences.”

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