Discrimination Against Asian Women: I’m Asian, I Know How It Feels Like

While Australia is considered the melting pot of cultural diversity where people from different cultures are welcomed, many Asian women still feel them surprisingly different.


Racism & Prejudice Against Asian Women

Lindsay Li, a Chinese-Australian woman who was just waiting for bus in Sydney, went through racist abuse in 2015.

Lindsay Li (left) and the woman who has been arrested after a tirade on a Sydney bus. Photo: Supplied
Lindsay Li (left) and the woman who has been arrested after a tirade on a Sydney bus. Photo: Supplied

While Ms Li was catching the bus, a white woman came to her and started abusing her verbally, “We all know what you are, China!”. Ms Li filmed it on her smartphone and then uploaded the video onto Facebook and the video got tons of comments in no time. In the video clip, terrible words like “F***ing ugly f***ing chink” came out of this Jew women’s mouth and Ms Li was told “take your f***ing language and piss off, f***ing chink”.

The worst part of the whole thing was, when Ms Li asked for help on bus, she got on response from anyone, including the bus driver.


A similar incident happened to me last year when I was hanging out with my boyfriend. I was simply chatting with my boyfriend over drinks and dancing a little bit until my boyfriend noticed that a mid-aged white girl had been staring at me for quite a while. When I looked at the girl, she was still staring straight through me with a snigger. So I came to her to say hi, and she goes: “Do you speak English?”

Irritated as I was, I still made effort to stay calm, “Well you know I do, I am speaking English right now.”

Then she raised her voice: “Do you f***ing speak English? I don’t understand a word!”

Her attitude truly pissed me off, “I am speaking English right now! So what is the matter?”

“Go back to your country!”, she shouted.

Then my boyfriend pulled me back before things went crazy.

To be honest, I really had no idea about where that attitude came from. Could it be any other reasons or it was simply because I was with a white guy? I was rather shocked and upset that night. I never thought I would be some easy target for racist bullies. I’m an overseas student with an outgoing friendly personality, I like socialising and I have oodles of friends from different cultural background. I believe I’m fully aware of cultural taboos and I never had any problems as such ever before. Australia is such a beautiful, relaxed, warm and friendly country and it took no time for me to fit in. I used to always consider Australia THE country that I would love to spend the rest of my life in until similar cases happened to me time and time again. But where did the hatred and discrimination come from?

The other day as I accidentally clicked on the “people nearby” function of WeChat (one of the most popular messaging app in China) and immediately got quite many friend requests. One of the friend requests was from an old white guy along with a message “Can we meet for sex?”. In fact, that was not the first time I experienced such harassment and barely any Aussie friends of mine ever go through that. Pathetic truth is a lot of Western guys have this stereotypes over Asian women due to the lack of knowledge about Asian culture, Asian women are being labelled “stupid”, “obedient” and “easy”. And that is just one of many challenges Asian women in Australia are facing nowadays. So what are the other barriers?

Ly Phan, University of Sydney PhD graduate, who had studied and worked in U.S and Germany frankly urged for question if most Australian people combine Asian women with the immigrate desire when many people in her first meets asked “Do you stay in Australia?”. She even wondered if her job applications were ignored only because her Asian name or if people staring at her, inferring her purposes when she was in dating with a local guy.

Supporting Ly Phan’s article, Eric Chew, an Asian Australian woman, found herself not seen as Australian but an Asian. And from that point, Australia is said being “so white centric and wanting to maintain some invisible status quo finds this (Asian immigrants) as a threat more than an opportunity”.


Cultural Barriers for Asian Women

When most arguments consider Ly Phan and Eric Chew’s stories presenting the racism in Australia, let think regarding cultural barriers. It seems that cultural barriers formed by both sides Australians and Asian originated ones when their mindset clashes with each other. Instead of considering the culture diversity and that a sensible communication need to take into account, we may unintentionally create or defense for cultural barriers.

As a crucial part of culture, language is considered a reason of cultural barriers. However, it is not the real barrier because to live and work in Australia, English is fundamental and everyone makes their efforts to improve their English. Therefore, what important to communicate is people are willing to listen and accept differences with the open heart.  They can do without stereotypes and prejudices.


1396188872Stereotypes and prejudices are obstacles to communicating and understanding culture because they undermine the opening mind to learn about differences and create defensing mechanism. Their formation is rooted from cultural imperialism when powerful nations imposed their cultures over less powerful societies. Being dominated by powerful countries’ cultural presentation, national characters become too faint to be considered. Even though the concept “globalisation of culture” has been replaced “cultural imperialism” since the end of Cold War to better capture the international communications in the more complex landscape, is there much different while the culture flows mostly take place hierarchically: from Western countries to Eastern ones, and from rich countries to poor ones?

However, globalization comes along with achievements in human equality and technology development which allows representatives for their ethnic groups to assert on their identities and characteristics. Ms Li, Ly Phan or Eric Chew had opportunities to strictly raised their voices against racism; and together with other Asia women to suppress barriers.


  1. hey Katie! That is a really good work you’ve done. I don’t have to imagine myself as your target reader, because I am your target reader. And like you said, I also came across this discrimination when I came here. Actually, the first thought I had in my mind when I face that situation was not inferiority, but felt sorry for their ignorance. They clearly can’t see the real meaning of Globalization—we all have contributed to the world today, and China is like the biggest business partner of Australia within Pacific region. As for the cultural aspect, it doesn’t mean westernize everything but means that all kinds of cultures can be appreciated by everyone(though you can still keep your own opinion, but there’s no need to attack others just because they are different). As an Asian girl, I’m proud of where I come from and I am trying really hard to get into this country’s culture, and at the same time, I still can see the cultural differences, yet, unlike them, I embrace the differences. Isn’t it the point of Globalization? And cultural imperialism only does good to the ones who made them. In my opinion, cultural diversity is what we really need. And I don’t think I am weaker than anyone just because I am a girl, an Asian girl. Thank you again for sharing your experience.

  2. Thank you for sharing Katie (and Jingqi). It looks like these forms of discrimination are much more common than the few stories that occasionally make it to media. I like they ways (cool reasoning, focus on sense of strong self worth) you deal with these unpleasant situations.

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