My Mom is a Fob

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FOB (“fresh off the boat”) is used to describe foreigner Asians who have not quite assimilated to American culture. It is often used by non-Asians to describe Asians and also by Asians to describe other Asians. According to asian-central.coma fob characterizes the following:

  •  You were not born in America
  •  You know who Edison, Jay Chou, Ayu, or G.O.D. are. In fact, you have seen them at Atlantic City or Las Vegas recently
  • You speak your native language fluently and so do all your friends
  • You do not have any non-Asian friends
  • Your parents do not speak any English
  • When you speak English, you like to make everything plural
  • You get extremely good grades in school
  • You cannot dance
  • Your fashion sense comes from whatever country you’re from and you incorporate nothing from American fashion into your wardrobe

mymomisafob.com is an online blog and submission page about the funny things that fobby moms say or do. The website is a playful approach to the passive-aggressive, stubborn, “tiger mother” stereotype that Asian moms face (or embody). It is about the mothers who characterize Asian Central’s definition of a fob, use umbrellas and arm sleeves to block the sun, leave mispelt email messages to say hello among others. The website has become a place to find solace in the fact that there are nosy, loud, and endearingly fobby mothers in the world like our own. While scrolling through the site, one can find videos, pictures, voicemails, and screenshots of emails, texts, and dialogues that unintentionally give off a good laugh. Many of the submitters are second generation Asian Americans with foreign-born and raised immigrant parents. MMIAF was begun by 2 Asian American girls who wanted to start a blog documenting their mothers’ hilarity.

Although the word “fob” is sometimes used with a negative connotation, the blog does not intend to use it in a derogatory sense. This comes into conflict with Asian American’s ongoing problem of being stereotyped as the unassimilated foreigner in American media. By sharing their mothers’ foreign qualities to the web, aren’t the submitters contributing to their problem? I believe that the Asian American children who submit to the blog are unintentionally perpetuating their alien stereotype because each post confirms how Asians can be foreign, clueless, funny, etc. However, their intentions lie in sharing the unconditional misspelled love with the rest of the second generation Asian American community.

As Lisa Nakamura states, Asian Americans make up a large majority of the internet’s users. They are powerusers because they are acknowledged as an online force and because the web is an outlet for “resistant cultural practices that allow Asian Americans to both use and produce cyberspace” (263). The users of MMIAF are not necessarily creating a resistant culture against common stereotypes, but they do utilize the cyberspace to produce and share their own content. The lack of Asian American productions in mainstream media encourages them to find other channels of production and communication such as blogs and Youtube. MMIAF allows for interactivity, in which the submitters can question identity while building discursive community in ways that static media cannot (264). People on the blog can share their own stories or comment on others. The interactions on the site sometimes lead to deeper discussions and debates about racial identity and generational differences, though the blog is hearty for the most part.

8 thoughts on “My Mom is a Fob

  1. I do agree that many times, the word “fob” has a negative connotation. However more recently with younger generations, I hear a lot of people taking pride in their “fobbiness”. Of course, usually this pride in being a FOB is only discussed amongst Asian groups, and this pride is rarely expressed or voice between an Asian American and a Caucasian (once again, this is just from my own personal experience). I guess according to http://www.asian-central.com , the group of people I am talking about are the “fobulous” group. This website does a great job of making being a FOB a funny thing. It’s also interesting to see how they grouped the different FOBs together, because until they split the groups up like that, I never thought that there was more than one group of FOB.

    The website about the moms being a FOB to me is a really good thing. While some people may laugh and take it as only a humorous website, for others it could be a site showing that they’re not the only ones dealing with moms who are FOBs (which could be a sense of relief for some kids who feel like they have no one else who can relate to them). I definitely agree with you that the entries on that website are most likely 2nd generation Asians. It’s interesting to see that most of the ratings on the entries (at least for the 3 pages I looked at) are given a score of 3.5/5 or higher. Either a lot of people can relate, or people think it’s really funny. I’m guessing it’s mostly people who relate because I saw a lot of comments that said “my mom does this too!” or saying how they can relate to the experience.

    I also agree with you when you say that a lot of Asian American media isn’t expressed on mainstream media, but more on YouTube and blogs. I have seen a lot of YouTube channels that involve Asians, and it’s interesting to see how they all seem to know each other or get involved in each other’s work. Wong Fu Productions and KevJumba did an entire internet series called “Funemployed” together, and I know that in the series there was even a song that they made with David Choi. Each of them has their own YouTube channels. I also have seen Nigahiga and KevJumba in a few videos on YouTube together, even showing off Asians as good dancers with their video as “Best Crew” and inviting an Asian dance team (Poreotics) to do some moves in the video.

  2. I also agree that the term FOB is often taken as an insult or put-down towards 1st and 1.5 gen-unassimilated Asian Americans. However, when 2nd generation and later Asian Americans poke fun of their families FOB traits in the form of comedy like on “My Mom Is A Fob,” it can help bring these two generations closer together and potentially help them understand and appreciate each other’s differences.

    I have had a similar experience with my mom, since she is a 1st generation Filipina. She has been living in America long enough to not even have an accent in her English, but she still has noticeable FOB traits like my other family members have, like pronouncing her ‘F’s” as “P’s” sometimes and taking a conversation way off topic. I came across a youtube channel called “HappySlip” a couple years ago in which a Flipina-American girl, Christine Gambito, performs a series of comedic skits in which she plays herself, impersonates her parents, and aunties and uncles. In these skits, she portrays herself as the assimilated 2nd generation Asian American, and her family as the FOB Filipinos who often misunderstand her. I showed my mom the videos and she loved them because they mirrored her relationship with me and my siblings. She showed our aunties and uncles and they loved the FOB humor as well.

    Overall, the FOB humor may seem offensive to some, but to most of us, I think it provides a window in which the two generations can interact with each other, while identifying with their differences (Nakamura 264). Also, here is a clip from Ms. Christine Gambito as I mentioned earlier- I’m sure any of you guys with Filipino parents will be familiar with situations like these. Enjoy!

  3. While mymomisafob.com can carry and perpetuate some of the negative stereotypes about Asians and first generation Asian moms in America, as a platform for popular culture in cyberspace media, the site also allows for seemingly anti-assimilation images to reappear as acculturated. Through this site, contributors are able to reappropriate the static definitions of what a FOB is and transform them into dynamic situations more relatable to a general audience while retaining the uniqueness of Asian parents through FOB humor. Not only are the posts funny, but some comments also reveal relatability among readers who aren’t Asian American. With every blog post on this site, the perpetual foreigner image carries reiteration; however, it also brings Asian American mothers closer to our hearts as well as a cornerstone of American motherhood.

    Another example of this reappropriation would be one kid’s youtube response to a Southpark episode that used the connotation of “gingers” or people with red hair and freckles to talk about the dangers of racial signifiers especially to an uneducated mass who can be guided by this misinformation to extremes.

    Ensuingly, another youtuber posted in response to this to reappropriate the humor and diffuse the situation.

  4. I’m a first generation immigrant from Iran so I know a thing or two about being a fob, and what’s more is that in the Armenian community that I live in, where the majority of individuals or their parents are first generation immigrants, that term is not solely defined by our extra-ordinary attributes, but also by the determination and resilience of our strive to make something of our lives in a new country. The connotation of the word fob ensnares the perception that we are filled with little quirks when compared to the dominant culture of our present citizenship, but that’s the devil that accompanies assimilation. The succeeding and younger generations see these humorous misconfigurations with a grain of salt usually, maybe a little bit of embarrassment. But in reality, being categorized as a “fob” seems very natural: your entire life you lived adhering to specific culture with your own language and daily norms, and now its basically gone, all that remains of it is in you. Do you just strive to give up the last remnants of home or do you, subconsciously, try to save the last little fabrics from you past?
    Another thing that I have been curious about is why try to assimilate to this “dominant,” white culture at all. Especially, to this “culture” that is so devoid of culture. The majority of the tenets that define this society we try to assimilate to, especially in modern times, are so commercialized, degraded, and lack any real significance for the greater good of humanity that I fail to see the point. The majority of white Americans I have met, especially the younger generation, lack all concepts of community, morals, and even common sense. Maybe it’s just me, or the strong familial ties that I’ve grown up with, but I don’t hold the immigrant generation’s mildly silly antics in disdain or embarrassment. Instead I believe there is a deeper something that we need to understand and incorporate into our lives.

  5. I have been to this site years ago and shared amounts of laugh of how I can relate to some of the contents they shared. To me, only some of the actions depict “fobness” because their behavior is different from the dominant culture the new generations were raised, such as the second generation. Many of the contents that include grammatically incorrect messaging and dialogues may seem “fobby”, but I see it as a way they are assimilating to the dominant culture by learning new things and for them to blur the gap between cultures by attempting to interact with us in a manner we know. For myself, I was more than proud to see my mom sending me her first text message. Plot twist, my dad is teaching her how to SMS when he barely knows how himself. It does hurt when fob receives negativity when I witness “fobs” and first generation alike trying to adapt to the cultural changes and all they receive is ridicule. However, this site and others allow us to relate to how parents are attached to their roots and upbringings, and how far they have progressed. Fob in this context, shows no negativity but a universal meaning of different than the dominant culture with no intentions of hurting another. We can laugh it off because we can relate, but because others cannot relate to this, they view it in a different light than how we perceive it, which restricts the images of Asian Americans (or any foreign group) instead of moving forward.

  6. I liked your mention to the ways Asian American users are interactive in sharing, discussing, and debating subjects of racial identity and generational differences in the online world. So blogs then, as you also pointed out, act as a mechanism of community building for Asian Americans. In the same light, Nakamura notes how Alllooksame.com also produces an Asian American community of “collective self-reflexivity”. Nakamura recounts Alllooksame.com’s producer Suematsu responding to the idea of community building within Asian American’s interactivity via the web in a very seemingly provoked way. I felt strongly about his interrogation on the term “Asian”, only to find myself ultimately asking the same questions. Are we as Asian Americans by making race a discourse among ourselves we think constructive might be in reality deconstructive? Nakamura ‘s recognition of “racism between Asians” evoked from Suemastsu suggests we have taking the racial discourse among ourselves because a wall that is blinding, and thus inhibiting. The screens of the web we constantly put ourselves in front of reflect this wall that takes over the our sense of visualization where we categorize identity based on the “differences” of Asian-ness among Asian Americans.

    This article reminds me of a (very) short-lived segment on “60-minutes” featuring Morgan Freeman and his response to Black History Month.

    “Stop talking about it” resembles Freeman’s expression to not be categorized in the way Suematsu may have expressed his thoughts on “Asian”.

  7. I also agree that the term “FOB” may have a negative and derogative connotation it, BUT as a second generation Asian American, I understand how this site (plus countless others), attempt to smooth out the “roughness” of this term by adding a little humor to it. When I see sites like this, as well as videos on youtube, it creates a type of resistance against he oppressiveness and other stereotypes directed towards Asians. I agree with many of the other blog responses on how there are people who are proud to consider themselves “fobs,” showing their opposition to assimilation into the dominant culture. I honestly think it’s great – why try to be something that we’re not. These sites show that minorities are becoming more accepting of their differences. I believe associating the term “Fobby-ness” with a negative connotation perpetuates the idea that people who are different in America must conform to dominant culture, but as others become accustomed to the term, it propels Asians into being accepted for who they are, rather than trying to change them. I have a real great appreciation for out generation, as we strive to create ways in order to challenge the norm.

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