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New Comic Strip Seeks Single Asian Female Perspective


Angela Pang, Nov 10, 2006

"If you look at comics in newspapers, our experiences are not represented, our voices are silent," said Bay Area resident Ethan Lee. "I want to change that by giving a voice and face to Asian Americans through my new comic strip, Single Asian Female."

Lee, majored in Asian American studies at UC Berkeley, and came up with the idea in 2003. He originally wanted to base his comic on an Asian male, but found it difficult and limiting.

"Asian American females suffer dual oppression and they experience racism and life differently from Asian American males," said Lee. "With an Asian male lead character, I couldn’t tell the story about Asian females getting hit on by white guys with Asian fetishes."

Lee gets his story ideas from things he hears from his friends, family, the news or the Internet.

"One of my [female] friends told me a white guy came up to her as she was sitting down at Upper Sproul Plaza and said, ‘You’ve got a nice rack!’ and then walked away," said Lee. "They would also tell me about how the white guys that do approach them are kinda dorky. That was how I created the dorky white guys strip."

The main character is fictional Jennie Low, a 21-year-old junior at UC Berkeley. Majoring in Asian American studies, she learns about race, gender, class, sexual orientation, feminism, dating, and life in general inside and outside of class.

Jennie is a fourth-generation Chinese American who grew up in the San Francisco’s Richmond District. Her great-grandparents immigrated through Angel Island and settled in San Francisco Chinatown.

So far, Lee has produced 25 strips, with each strip containing a common Asian American experience.

"My strips aren’t geared toward comedy, but more social commentary in the Asian American community," he notes.

In one of his strips, he touches on the most common question Asians get asked, "What are you?"

"All Asians at one time or another have been asked this question. I wanted to put this out there because a lot of times people don’t know how to respond," he said. "We Asians always feel like we have to explain ourselves. Jennie turns the tables on the situation and calls that question rude."

As a male, writing from the Asian female perspective, Lee makes a point of running his dialogue by his young female friends.

"I want to make sure that my dialogue is something 20 year olds would actually say," said Lee.

One person Lee turns to for advice is his friend and AsianWeek copy editor Catherine Chen.

"I’ve known Ethan for many years and we’ve talked about Asian American issues ever since we formed a study group back at Cal," said Chen. "I’d talk to him about my dating life and he’d use my experiences as fodder for his comic."

"Comic strips are often frivolous, but Single Asian Female has substance because these are everyday things that happen to everyone," said Chen. "But it’s also applying a critical lens to make you think that maybe these experiences speak to a much larger issue at hand."

 

Single Asian Female is drawn by Chinese American freelance illustrator Lanny Liu.

Liu graduated from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, majoring in traditional illustration. She is working hard to make her dreams come true as a manga artist.

"Even though Ethan is a guy, he manages to be so accurate in properly portraying an Asian female’s point of view. A lot of times, I’m like, ‘Yeah! I’ve been there,’" said Liu. "I’m really glad to be part of this project, because I think it’s a really cool idea."

Lee aspires to use his comic strips in his own classroom one day to educate and generate discussions affecting the Asian American community.

www.safcomic.com



Angela Pang is
AsianWeek's community editor. Reach her at apang@asianweek.com.

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D   Jul 03, 2007 01:20:03  
Speaking as an Asian, I find the comic to be offensive. It's shallow, and rather than representing actual problems it shows unusual social situations. Yes, you do experience some racism from time to time, but it's hardly the norm.

And in the comic Jannie shows as much, if not more outright racism and bias against white people than they ever do toward her. In one she criticizes an Asian man, calling him a "sell out", just because he happens to date a white woman. She does not know the man, he simply happens to be out with his girlfriend. That is far more offensive than anything anyone does to her.

At best, it shows the ignorance of the occasional white man who doesn't know how to interact with someone who isn't white. At worst, it glorifies a hypocritical, uppity racist girl and sullies the reputation of Asians as a whole by calling itself commentary on the Asian-American community.  

Anonymous   Jul 03, 2007 00:56:47  
This comic is awesome! We at 4chan's /co/ use it everyday to make fun of how stupid and racist single asian females are. There must be close to fifty photoshopped images of his comic and each one is hilarious. Still, few can top the original comedic stylings of ethan lee.

I think the secret is the irony of a comic trying to deal with discrimination against asians and females by creating a lead character who is extremely racist and sexist who at the same time seeks to propogate negative stereotypes that all asian women are bitches who hate everything and shout at people trying to make casual conversation. Comedy gold.  

Craig   Jun 20, 2007 09:31:49  
This comic sucks. it is offensice and racist to everyone but asians. it calls them dorks, and makes them out to be inferior. SHIT. SUCKS.  

Tish   Jun 19, 2007 17:36:32  
I find this strip shallow, insincere, misrepresentative of every single party it depicts, and above all, racist.

Were the comic pitched as *one* Asian-American woman's experience and hang-ups as a college student in California and had a heavy focus on social issues, that would be one thing. Pitching it as an all-encompassing exploration of *every* Asian-American woman's issues belittles them as individuals and would make the ignorant reader assume they were petty and insecure and that this was viewed as a typical/normal state of mind.

It's especially unfortunate because I think people would be more than happy to read a comic like this that didn't pretend to have a deep, important meaning that applies to all Asian-American women. It's too one-sided for that.  

Jenn Troop   Mar 04, 2007 04:18:06  
im a latino girl,in my personal opinion i think that SOME asian guys are very good looking and i dunt care about the sterotypes! i think that there are a very nice type of person, compared to the other white/black guys i dated recently. I think that there are abit to shy.. anyways i think that some asian guys r cute and hot looking sometimes!  

UofTstudent   Feb 19, 2007 18:09:07  
Im white, male, Canadian by nationality, greek/macedonian/irish by ethnicity.

I grew up in Toronto, Canada, which is the most multicultural city in the world.

I know alot about asian culture, especially Hong Kong, Chinese culture because I've grown up with it.

People are people. I think those who percieve individuals, not as individuals, but as a general, broad, large demographic are either ignorant or simply stupid.

Whether they are sociologists (which Im studying at UofT) or creepy guys hitting on girls, or people writing comics...

nonetheless, the comic illustrates some interesting points.
However, may I suggest that you write more about the double oppression of asian girls in the U.S. then creepy, dorky, white guys?

All the asian girls I know don't get hit on by creepy, dorky white guys often at all...if at all.  

ray   Jan 06, 2007 14:53:56  
I have to disagree with JMA. I am a 5\'6\" Chinese-American male martial artist who have the typical-asian build (compact). I alway go out with my white and asian friends to malls or to other places to check out all the attractive ladies our there. Once in a while we play a game of - who can give the longest conversations to the most girls. I have only experienced 1 times where the girl reacted negatively towords me and the rest was pretty much smooth. i do pretty much better than the people i hang out with about 50% of the time (to do the math - im pretty good at it). I think a lot of women dont care about race. I believe that the only reason why we dont see a lot of males picking up white females and asian females prefer white males over asian males is that - asian men tend to be quiet and shy. They do not go out \"hollering\" at women like how white or hispanics or blacks does. I can see that the \"typical\" asian men has a very strong respect for women...but that doesnt get them anywhere nowadays. I\'ve learned to speak to women and not be shy and not to be the asian guy who cant look at a pretty girl...and my sex life has been, well, much better since then. All we asian males have to do is look as good as we can every day and speak to women how they want to be spoken to.  

botos ovidiu   Jan 03, 2007 21:32:37  
I am from Romania,Europe.I'm a white guy, and this is my opinion: The white girls are bautiful, is true but the asian girls are more exotic, different, mysterious, etc. In my opinion I find asian girls more attractive and I will like to have children with an asian girl. I think this is the reason why white guys prefer asian girls - for this exotic mystery.  

gay   Nov 29, 2006 08:27:41  
ethan, you're lame. I'd rather be hit on by ppl than not.  

JMA   Nov 22, 2006 04:06:34  
I enjoyed reading your comic, but in a way, I think it's a bit misrepresented. One of your points in your comics about how Asian girls are waiting for an Asian guy to go up to them instead of dorky white guys is kind of wrong. I know so many asian girls that prefer white guys to Asians. Their reasons are usually they like the white guys' height, complexion, sense of security because they don't think an Asian guy will throw down for them, and just to be different therefore bragging to other Asian girls "Look, I got a TALL white guy while you got a SHORT Chinese guy!"
To say that Asian girls, particularly the good looking ones, are waiting for an average height and build Asian guy to pick up on them is totally wrong. The Asian guy would have to spit some serious game to succeed. Just to prove my point, when Asian girls go clubbing, their rejection rate of normal Asian guys is so ridiculously high that it really demoralizes many of us. Luckily, I am mentally strong enough to brush it off and move on until I get one. It just seems like if Asian girls were to get with Asian guy, they almost always meet though an acquaintance, friend, intro, etc. These girls have some kind of hatred being picked up by Asian guys in public, almost as if it's shameful. But when a white guy comes along, it is most likely a new ezperience for them. Sure some white guys like Asian girls, but the % of them dating their own white girls are always still much higher. Thus, giving the Asian girl the feeling of potentially "getting swept off her feet", which is really what they are all looking for. And that, is a more accurate description of Asian girls views on dating.  

C.H. Tsang   Nov 19, 2006 10:42:23  
I must disagree with your characterization of this silly comic strip having 'substance,' in fact it is almost as stereotypical, angry and meaningless as the insulting 'Secret Asian Man' strip which you run. The repetitious one note song in these strips about every white man being either an awkward cherry blossom seeker or closet racist really does get tiring. There is much more going on in this Country and far more important issues to address. Just FYI, I am a SAF and while it happens occasionally, guess what, my whole life experience is not about awkward white guys hitting on me or people asking about my ethnicity.  

tsang   Nov 18, 2006 06:17:38  
I must disagree with your characterization of this silly comic strip having 'substance,' in fact it is almost as stereotypical, angry and meaningless as the insulting 'Secret Asian Man' strip which you run. The repetitious one note song in these strips about every white man being an awkward cherry blossom seeker or closet racist really does get tiring. There is much more going on in this Country. Just FYI, I am a SAF and while it happens occasionally, guess what, my whole life experience is not about dorky white guys hitting on me.  

Vinh Luu   Nov 10, 2006 13:08:48  
"gwai lo" buwahaHAHAHAH made me laugh. my mom says that all the time. she doesnt agree with what alot of gwai lo people say either. thumbs up for asians!  

Cynthia   Nov 10, 2006 11:30:35  
Great Job Ethan. I think a comic strip is something that people can look to, for a quick comment on society, for deeper level thinking.  
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