By Gabriela Kim ’23
As a Korean American woman growing up in Latin America, specifically Chile, I never really had much of an Asian community that I could share my culture with, that is until my older sister, who was living in Boston at the time, added me to a private Facebook group called “Subtle Asian Traits” or SAT for short. This group, which now has over 1.5 million members around the globe, is a common space where people post memes specific to sociocultural aspects many Asian Americans share, videos of Asian food (with the major trend being videos of popular dishes, such as hot pot and boba), anime or k-drama clips, and more. While scrolling through the countless posts, I came across the term ABG.
ABG, according to Urban Dictionary, is short for Asian Baby Girl, and is defined as “a special type of asian [sic] girl who enjoys going to clubs partying and drinking with friends. Loves to get boba and shop. Usually an instagram model, influencer, or bartender.” In other words, ABG is the contemporary stereotype for a certain group of Asian American women. The other half of Asian American women stereotypes would be the more traditional one: one where the woman is skinny, weak, flat-chested, and submissive or even mysterious and seductive. It is interesting to see how the stereotype of Asian American women has shifted over time and how the number of Asian American women who conform to the ABG stereotype has increased; it is almost counter-intuitive: why self-identify as an ABG and perpetuate the stereotype instead of expressing your own individuality?
It turns out that this stereotype is what is desirable now. ABGs, within SAT are quite a hot topic, garnering a lot of attention. Subtle Asian Dating (SAD), an extension of the page Subtle Asian Traits that was created by a student from the University of Washington, has further glamorized this stereotype. This page quickly gained popularity through memes and the new demand for pages that begin with “Subtle Asian.” Asians living in Western countries, such as the United States, Canada, and Australia, quickly joined the page, and now the page holds more than 503,000 members. Within it, people can “auction” off single people that they know by posting dating profiles consisting of pros and cons to dating that person. Most of these humorously appeal to what characteristics Asian parents would stereotypically want in their daughter’s or son’s significant other, some examples being the ability to play instruments, speak their native language fluently, and being frugal. Often times, when people upload their own profiles, they write down the type of girl that they are looking for, and many of them list traits characteristic of ABGs. ABGs are increasingly seen as more desirable, and so more and more Asian American women seek to look and act like this stereotype.
This trend, although propelled by people’s own choices, is problematic. The ABG does not really exist outside of its construct, but social media makes it seem like ABGs are abundant. Stereotypes such as this one mask the Asian American community’s diversity and hinder movement towards a less discriminatory society. Overall, while SAT does cultivate a wonderful sense of community and humor, it also reinforces stereotypes (even in its acronym), and creates an unhealthy environment for those who do not necessarily conform to them.