Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Meet Tao Liu

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Tao is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Tao and her fellow scholars here.

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Hello everyone! I am Tao Liu, a fourth year doctoral student in counseling psychology at Indiana University Bloomington. I was born and raised in a village in Hebei Province, China.

Growing up in a poor family in rural China, I was continuously exposed to inequalities related to poverty, mental disability, rural residency, and female status.  I questioned why women still had to do more house chores after a day of hard work than men, wondered why a homeless man with schizophrenia was only ridiculed but not cared for, and doubted the negative attitudes directed toward my parents when they went to the city in farm clothing.

I even doubted the right of teachers to spank students as a form of discipline.  Listening to my grandparents’ stories of being victimized in World War II, I often wondered how the wounds of collective and personal trauma can be healed.

All these experiences led me to counseling psychology. After I came to the United States, I encountered racial dynamics in a way that shook my identity of being Chinese.  I was afraid that my accumulated cultural heritage from China was worthless, and that I needed to redefine who I am.  Seeking support from my Asian and Asian American friends, I found that men and women experience stereotypes and discrimination differently.

One thing that struck me was related to Asian men and women’s attractiveness. While Asian and Asian American women are popular in the dating market, Asian and Asian American men face particular difficulties to be perceived attractive and find partners.

Reading the discrimination literature, I found that the current Asian American discrimination measures do not differentiate the distinct stereotypes experienced by men and women. From my personal interaction with my Asian male friends, I also learned that often times discrimination transforms into a threat to their masculinity: being perceived not attractive or masculine enough affects how they perceive themselves as men.

This is how my dissertation, as well as my Emerging Scholars project, came about.

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In my study, I am looking at how Asian American men experience discrimination in a distinct way that is different from Asian American women and other men of color.

In the pilot stage of my study, I have interviewed some Asian American men inquiring their personal experiences of discrimination. Based on these interviews and current literature, I and my research team developed a draft measure for Asian American men’s experience of gendered discrimination.

I also consulted scholars in the fields of Asian American psychology and revised the measure based on their suggestions. In my current project, I will examine the validity and reliability of the measure, and explore its relationships with psychological distress, somatic symptoms, individualism/collectivism orientation, and general discrimination. Currently I am in the stage of data collection. At the end of March, I will start analyze the data.