Constance Wu speaks out on mental health in the Asian American community: NPR

Actress Constance Wu, pictured in 2018 at the premiere of boobies rich asianspoke about mental health issues in a social media post.

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images


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Emma McIntyre/Getty Images


Actress Constance Wu, pictured in 2018 at the premiere of boobies rich asianspoke about mental health issues in a social media post.

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

After being largely under the radar for three years, Hollywood actress Constance Wu broke her silence last week, opening up about her mental health and in the process admitting that there is still a lot of work to be done for and within the Asian American community. .

It all started in 2019, when Wu’s ABC sitcom Fresh off the boat announced that it would be renewed for a sixth season. Wu responded to the news in frustration, writing on Twitter, “So upset right now I’m literally crying. Ugh. F***” and “Damn it.”

Wu, who also acted in the films boobies rich asian and Hustlers, later clarified that his grievances were related to a missed work opportunity. Despite her explanations, social media users still condemned Wu’s comments, calling her ungrateful, selfish and a diva. The backlash led her to a mental health crisis and attempted suicide, Wu revealed on Twitter Last week.

“I was afraid to come back to social media because I almost lost my life there,” Wu wrote.[Asian Americans] don’t talk enough about mental health. While we are quick to celebrate victories in representation, there is a lot of avoidance around the most uncomfortable issues within our community.”

When Asian American women try to be ambitious, they often face backlash

In her statement, Wu wrote, “I’m not poised, graceful, or perfect. I’m emotional. I make mistakes.”

Asian American experts say that while this confession may not seem profound to some, to others it speaks volumes about the pressures commonly felt by Asian American women.

“Asian American women want to be themselves, but their image and behavior are prescribed by society and family expectations,” says Hyeouk Chris Hahm, associate dean for research at the School of Social Work at Boston University, which has extensively studied mental health disparities in the Asian American community.

While no two experiences are the same, Hahm points out that in spaces like the workplace, many Asian American women are stereotyped as gentle, respectful, and followers rather than leaders. When they try to break out of that mold by speaking up for themselves, they can face pushback, Hahm added.

“When Asian American women try to be empowered, ambitious and self-fulfilling, it has historically been seen as a threat to social order and social norm,” Hahm said.

Recently, Twitter users pointed to this double standard after comparing Wu’s backlash to actors such as Robert Pattinson, who received more positive reception after speaking ill of his film, Dusk.

“The callousness behind the overall reaction to Wu’s tweets demonstrates the implicit but widespread hostility toward Asian women,” culture writer Roslyn Talusan said in a 2019 Playboy article. “As it stands, humanity is not given to angry and rebellious Asian women.”

For many people of Asian descent, individual reputation is tied to the reputation of their community.

In his tweet, Wu said it was not just the online harassment, but the shaming of other Asian American acquaintances that felt traumatic.

According to Wu, another Asian American actress – whom she did not name – condemned her privately, calling Wu a “scourge” on their community.

“I started to feel like I didn’t even deserve to live anymore. That I was a disgrace to [Asian Americans]and they would be better off without me,” she wrote.

Words like “scourge” and “disgrace” can be particularly hurtful to Asian Americans, said Jenn Fang, founder and editor of Reappropriate, a race and gender blog focused on Native Americans. Asian.

“As a public figure, especially on social media, criticism comes,” Fang said. “But for Asian Americans, this thread of criticism is particularly personal and difficult to bear because it suggests we don’t belong and should leave the Asian American community.”

Hahm points out that it’s not just people of Asian descent — many immigrants from all walks of life can relate to the burden that comes when an individual’s reputation is seen as a reflection of the reputation of their family or community.

“Reputation is important to many immigrants because it creates trust, and trust becomes a foundation for immigrants to rebuild their wealth, social networks and resources,” Hahm said.

Hollywood is just one of the places where representation matters

For Fang, part of Wu’s online criticism was also about fans’ undying loyalty to Fresh off the boatand the push for Asian American representation in the media.

When the sitcom first aired, there was a lot of anticipation among Asian Americans, Fang recalls, mainly because it was the first time in about two decades that network television focused about an Asian American family.

“There’s a feeling within the community that if we can see ourselves more in the media, we’ll feel more like we belong,” Fang said. “This question is common among Asian Americans: where do we stand, where do we belong?”

According to Fang, this is why on-screen representation is important and why much more needs to be done, from shedding harmful stereotypes to accurately reflecting the experiences of South Asians and Islanders. of the Pacific. But she also points out that Hollywood is just one avenue where representation matters for Asian Americans.

“The problem, however, is that when we focus exclusively on media representation issues without addressing them alongside other issues, we run the risk of forgetting that better media representation is not in itself a solution to anti-Asian racism,” she said.

James C. Tibbs