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.

For those interested in race bending and white washing…

Here is a link to RaceBending.com, the watchdog group that focuses on racialized (mis)representation in mass culture. As referenced, they emerged out of the controversy over the casting of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but continue to monitor and comment on casting in Hollywood films, TV, comic books, etc.

They offer a fairly good discussion of race in the Star Trek movie (as briefly mentioned in class), Star Trek: Into Whiteness. As talented as Cumberbatch is as an actor, the racial politics at play in the larger context are rather glaring.

Even hardcore fans notice, as this humorous critique points out:

Originally posted at billboned.tumblr.com.

Recommended Reading and Viewing on White Privilege

As mentioned in class, here is a short article by Peggy McIntosh on recognizing white privilege. The aim, is not to demonize of blame white individuals, but to help them recognize their advantage (and the disadvantage of ethnic others) as a result of larger systemic and structural forces. It also opens the possibility of moving from discomfort or guilt toward more productive coalitions, alliance, and collaboration.

And a short clip from the popular show Modern Family that obliquely illustrates the importance of allies: http://www.trailercodes.com/tv/modern-family–chirp/blinded-by-the-spotlight

For those interested…

I heard some commentary about C-dub’s shirt during the movie, and for those interested, here is a link to Black Lava, an Asian American web store that sells that  shirt and related projects. This site is particularly related to Asian American consumer production and counter-production and is of interest for this class.

And related to the brief lecture earlier (e.g. stereotypes, assumptions, the constructed nature of race and examples of humor used to address and critique):

What kind of Asian are you?

Things Asians Hate: