Asian American Masculinity and Jeremy Lin

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In the very beginning of Espiritu’s “Asian American Women and Men,” she discusses the clear asexualization of Asian American men dating back to the late 1800s. Today, the stereotypes, that emerged from bachelors being forced in to “feminine” jobs like cooks and clothes washers due to lack of women, still follow Asian American men in 2016. The hypomasculinity of Asian Americans has become a normalized ideology in America. Even some of the most popular athletes, who Americans deem as some of the manliest men around, fall victim to these stereotypes. Jeremy Lin, the Asian American basketball star that took the NBA by storm in 2011 with the New York Knicks, has his own story to tell about how Asian American stereotypes played in to his basketball career. He had to carry this stereotype that doubted both his manhood and ability to play in the greatest basketball conference in the world.

Jeremy Lin recorded his journey to the NBA in his documentary, Linsanity. To the average, close-minded American, Lin is a typical Asian American: both parents immigrated to the United States, high academic standards, and lived in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Palo Alto. When Lin started playing basketball, his mother, Shirley, talked to the coaches to ensure his higher athletic commitment would not affect his grades. Shirley’s friends criticized her for even letting Lin play the sport he loved instead of making him practice piano or violin. The Asian American stereotype started to affect him the most when he was looking at college basketball programs. Although he was the player of the year, the only Division I school that offered him a real opportunity was Harvard, where he would be one of 23 other Asian Americans with the last name Lin. One comment in the documentary was, “When these teams see him and don’t think he’s good, they’re saying that he doesn’t look like he’s good.” In other words, because he was Asian American, no one believed that he had what it took to be a Division I player. His mother also comments that, when he would beat someone “good” in a game, others would comment on how the other player was a bad player, rather than recognizing that Lin is a good player. Lin embraces this, saying, “If I was black I probably would have gotten a DI scholarship.” This comment opens up an entire other conversation, one that compares the stereotype of hypomasculinity for Asian Americans to the hypermasculinity for African Americans. Nevertheless, despite the stereotype, Lin made it to Ivy League basketball and had a standout career that prompted his coaches to ask about the NBA.

When the 2010 NBA Draft came around, Lin wasn’t expecting much. There were so many things going against him, like the fact that “Asian Americans don’t usually play basketball” and he didn’t fit the “mold” of a basketball player. Telling enough, Lin was not drafted, but instead picked up by the Dallas Mavericks summer league. All along the way, he had to constantly prove that he was good enough, show up to every practice and game ready to show how skilled he really was. Finally, his hometown team the Golden State Warriors signed him. Although it seemed like his childhood dream finally came true, many Asian American stereotypes still followed him. For example, when commentators announced his arrival to the team, they said, “the IQ and basketball IQ of Golden State has gone up with the addition of Jeremy Lin.” As well, due to his appearance, he was denied access to the players’ entrance on the second home game and the security guard’s next question was if he was a trainer. He was not allowed in until an assistant coach came over.

There was also the marketing element. After signing Jeremy Lin, Golden State’s Asian American fan base skyrocketed, and his jerseys were selling out of the stores. At a point, Lin thought that was the only thing he was good for. He started giving in to these beliefs that, just because he was Asian American, he wasn’t good enough or manly enough to play in the league. After a trade to the Houston Rockets and then to the New York Knicks, he finally made his statement. After a six-game losing streak, it was Lin to bring the Knicks to victory days before his contract was to expire. He finally proved that he, an Asian American, could play basketball just like all the other masculine athletes in the league.

The Asian American stereotype of asexuality, or hypomasculinity, started because, when Asian Americans first started immigrating to America, they were exploited for labor. Therefore, the most logical sense to the government was to allow more men than women in to the country. These men had to take on different gender dynamics and learn to live without women. America, being what it is, took this changing of gender dynamics and feminine work as being asexual. From those beginnings, Asian Americans like Lin have faced these stereotypes throughout their entire lives and prove themselves every step of the way. Lin offers a refreshing take, “I love being the underdog because it’s what I’m used to.”

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