Asian bodies have long been viewed through an Orientalist lens, which means our women are often viewed as feeble and delicate and our men as sexless and weak.
The way we perceive East Asian and Asian-American women relates, of course, to depictions in cultural artifacts like “Madame Butterfly,” “Full Metal Jacket” and “Memoirs of a Geisha,” in which Asian women are dainty, small and, of course, “yellow.” And the most vivid example informing our view of Asian men is Long Duk Dong in “Sixteen Candles.” He’s nerdy and othered, depicted as the punchline.
Buying into these images as the definitive Asian avatar has real-world effects. It can make Asian women who don’t fit an archetype feel they don’t measure up and make men impose self-limitations.
We photographed Asian Americans who defy any sort of stereotype ― they’re strong, “plushy” and proud ― and have bodies with a background story to tell. Some are refugees, some immigrants, some second generation. The men and women photographed below told us about how societal expectations, a desire to fit in, lack of representation, sexual objectification and a connection to culture via food all play into how they view their bodies. And they share their journey of how they arrived at a healthy relationship with the way they look.