Adoption Stories from Adopted the Movie - A Feature Film by Barb Lee

January 2, 2007

On Feeling Lucky to Be Adopted

Amanda Baden, a transracial adoptee and a counseling psychologist, discusses the view that children adopted from China are often viewed as "lucky" to have been adopted by American parents.

One of the real struggles in adoption has been that people who are adopted, particularly from China at this stage in the game is that, these girls are always talked about as lucky. They are so lucky to have been adopted. What a great thing your doing for them. Which implies then that they need to be grateful and that they should be thankful for what’s happened in their lives. Which, as we know, isn’t always the case. They didn’t ask to be abandoned. They didn’t ask to be adopted. That doesn’t mean that they’re lives aren’t better, that they don’t’ have positive relationships and real loving relationships with family. But what it does mean is when gratitude is expected for being a child of a parent it somehow says that they aren’t allowed to be angry. They aren’t allowed to have frustration and they might not– if they have any sort of dissatisfaction, its something that they have to keep to themselves and internalize. That it’s not a family issue. It’s an individual issue. And I think as a clinician it’s really a family issue a lot of times. If everyone can tolerate being able to look at themselves a little more objectively and with a little bit more of an eye towards improving rather than criticism, then it can be very effective for everyone involved.

Asian Stereotypes

Richard Lee, a psychology professor at the University of Minnesota who specializes in the cultural socialization of Korean adoptees, discusses common Asian American stereotypes.

There are definitely stereotypes that men and women experience that are very different. For Asian American men, whether they are adopted or not, the stereotypes are that you are less masculine, nerdy, into technology and computers, you’re not athletic and you’re not attractive. You’re short and effeminate. The stereotype for Asian American women is not necessarily any better but it’s different. Women are perceived as exotic, as submissive, as care giving, also as sometimes conniving or too clever, tricky. So there are these different stereotypes that men and women have to manage. For Asian American men it’s a challenge because the prevailing Americans sort of pressure is for a man to keep their emotions inside, to not share or reveal the insecurities or struggles.

Asian Women as Exotic

Amanda Baden, a transracial adoptee and adoption psychologist, on the exotification of Asian culture.


One of the interesting facets of being Asian in American, an Asian woman in America, I think, is recognizing in our culture that there is a tendency to exoticize Asian women in this society. And so for parents who are raising children who are Chinese and adopted, their recognition of that may take on a different tone. They may not be aware of it in the same way that I, as an adult woman, am aware of it. And so, by emphasizing the child’s tie to Chinese heritage and cultures is wonderful. But there is also this tendency to sort of-there can be a fine line I guess I should say, between objectifying being Chinese and celebrating being Chinese and so when we objectify and exoticize this Far East kind of place, then it doesn’t become real to us here in America. And it’s hard to incorporate that sense of what China is in our everyday experience. So for a child who only sees that being Chinese means wearing those silk jackets and doing line dances, may be an inaccurate way for them to think about it. And may not help them at all understand how they interact as a Chinese person in school or at work with their friends on the playground. So we have to sort of balance it much more carefully.

« Older Posts