I remember when I was first added to Subtle Asian Traits, a popular meme-sharing group for second-third generation Asians (children of immigrants or kids of those kids), in the middle of the semester, I couldn’t stop laughing as I scrolled down my feed for about half an hour.
In this group, members share relatable funny pictures that capture what life is like being Asian in an increasingly Western world, where people can relate over the piano lessons and “fun limits” they had as kids, as when my sister showed my parents the kau kau kau kau kau Hokkien meme.
Scrolling through my news feed, I came upon a photo full of jars of sauce. As I mentally tasted the vibrant flavors of Hoisin sauce, sesame oil and chili bean sauce, I read the caption: “Asians don’t measure while cooking. We just sprinkle seasoning on until the spirits of our ancestors come to us and say ‘that’s good enough.’” The comments section says, “measuring cups are for the weak.”
I smiled and scrolled down a bit more. In big bold letters, it says “Asian auntie logic.”
“No, this is white flower oil. It cures everything: allergies, migraines, depression,” quips Jessica Huang (Constance Wu) in a screenshot of the popular ABC series “Fresh Off the Boat.”
Below it, there are memes about bubble tea interspersed with Spongebob and Pikachu faces. In a text post, Cassie Chang shares a funny experience with her Chinese teacher when she turned in her exam.
“我只有一個男朋友 (I only have one boyfriend),” she writes on the test paper.
“How many do you want!?” her teacher replies.
But it’s not all just memes. When the women of “Crazy Rich Asians” graced the cover of Entertainment Weekly as the Entertainers of the Year, the photos were shared in the group and everyone was proud of the Asian representation in entertainment.
As the goal is to bond over-shared culture and sharing culture, members talk about their favorite food and activities. (It goes deeper than the stereotypical stuff like Vietnamese and pho, Filipino and karaoke.)
It’s also about empowerment and solidarity with Asians who have been treated as the “other” minority group for so long. We are finally hearing each other’s voices and discovering we feel the same way.
Racial awareness is being spread, even those internationally underrepresented groups such as the Tsinoys.
Take, for example, Tiffany Bowman’s post: “Is anyone here ethnically Chinese but culturally Filipino? Does anyone speak Hokkien? Please comment/message – I haven’t met a lot of people with this specific cultural and lingual background. Also, if anyone is woke [being aware] about the struggles of being mixed race definitely comment!”
Like kage-bunshino jutsu or shadow clone jutsu in “Naruto,” the group has inspired many other groups such as Subtle Christian Traits, Subtle White People Traits and more!
While most follow the same hilarious and unifying formula of memes, a few “break the mold.”
I saw a debut post in Subtle Asian Traits inviting members to Asian Creative Network, I was deeply moved to join and support this group.
Asian Creative Network was created on Nov. 29, 2018. The creator, Korean Han Ju Seo, is a friendly social butterfly and university student at Washington University, and ACN’s goal is to empower Asians to pursue their creative dreams and hone their talents. It offers a large network of creative – not just for self-promotion but also for mutual support of each other.
What I saw was phenomenal: incredible photography and post-processing skills, great videos, books, animation samples, video reels, adorable digital art, and friendly people who all wanted to share their talent with others.
Amazed by the talent I saw, I got in on the sharing too and posted my newest video (my channel name is Tofu Twins!) in the group. Within minutes, it jumped from zero to over two hundred views!
The support was incredible – from comments asking for more, to relevant questions, and compliments. I strove to appreciate other people’s work in the group as well.
The charismatic Elle Woods posted on her profile: “It’s always been a dream of mine to make a space where Asian Creatives are able to connect, collaborate, and support one another. I always doubted myself, thinking that I didn’t have the right qualifications, that it wasn’t the right time, that it’s going to fail and others. But two days ago, I decided to take the leap. The growth and passion of this group has astounded me over the past few days, and I am honored to have so many people who love the space. It’s no secret that Asians who pursue the creative arts are often looked down upon by their parents, peers, loved ones, and society as a whole, so it is my joy to offer this space to whoever is looking for such a community. I am cautiously hopeful for the potential of this group, and my only wish is that the group continues be an encouraging force for these amazingly talented and unconventional people who dared to break the mold.”
Eugene Tsai, a music producer in Vancouver, makes regular posts in the group to encourage the members, stimulate collaborations, drop music and advocate mental health.
As of this writing, the group has 13,247 members, and you can join too by searching for “Asian Creative Network.” The environment is very friendly, supportive, non-judgmental and relatively free of toxicity (you won’t find weaboo or koreaboo or any shaming of interests here).
As a group where everyone is encouraged to share regardless of skill level, it empowers Asian creatives of all ages, interests and hobbies to just be themselves and show their work to people who will appreciate and support their work.
For a Facebook group, it is very professional; with linked subgroups for deeper discussion by specialty and location, Instagram features, google forms, a LinkedIn profile and just about every means to promote this crazy Asian Creative Network.
This is a big slap in the face against the stereotype that Asians can only be lawyers, doctors, engineers, and businessmen. I am very thankful that my sister and I have progressive parents who have been nothing but supportive when it comes to our creative hobbies instead of nagging us, “What are you doing with your life? Useless!”
But for other Asians who are not so lucky and had to face discrimination, judgment, doubts, disapproval, and more , as the Asian Creative Network says, “This community is here to support you.”