Did HuffPo use a racist metaphor?

July 27, 2017 • 8:00 am

Over the years, HuffPo has consistently used the term “bamboo ceiling” to refer to the barriers that, it says, are faced by Asian-Americans trying to advance in their careers. The first article below actually had the term “bamboo ceiling” in the big headline, but since yesterday it’s been relegated to the subheading. Click on the screenshots to go to the articles:

From 2013:

From 2014:

From 2016:


After all, the term “glass ceiling” as applied to women doesn’t carry any sexist connotations.

Granted, some of these pieces (there are more, but I got tired of looking them up) were written by Asians, but doesn’t the use of “bamboo ceiling” perpetuate a cultural stereotype? Do all Asian-Americans have something to do with bamboo? If HuffPo were writing about barriers to Jewish advancement, would they say “gefilte fish ceiling?”  If it were Mexicans, would they say “cactus ceiling?”

Now I don’t care at all about this, but believe me, the Regressive mindset of the HuffPo would call this out in a second if they thought about it. And Everyday Feminism would write an article about it: “Five ways that we stereotype Asians’ search for the American Dream.”


16 thoughts on “Did HuffPo use a racist metaphor?

  1. What I find more amusing is that regressives have been complicit in the creation of a “bamboo ceiling” when it comes to Asian-Americans advancing their careers, as most, if not all, top schools are now forcing higher standards on Asian students for acceptance than all other minorities because they’re “overrepresented” at those schools. Obviously, going to an Ivy League school has great bearing on your career later in life.

    But regressives are no strangers to creating ridiculous names for “ceilings” — even ones that are ridiculous ideas in themselves. Check out this article (and if you look up the term it uses, you’ll find many others, so this is not an isolated blog saying this): https://queerfeminism.com/2012/03/27/the-cotton-ceiling-is-real-and-its-time-for-all-queer-and-trans-people-to-fight-back/

    They use the term “cotton ceiling” in reference to “cis lesbians’ tendency to support trans causes generally but draw the line at sleeping with trans women or including trans lesbians in their sexual communities,” as if it’s their duty to sleep with people even if they don’t want to, lest they be called bigoted transphobes.

    1. It’s not just that asian americans face higher standards than “other minorities.” They face higher standards than whites. Affirmative Action as practiced in higher education is not a two tier system, it’s a three tier system.

  2. Unless someone or some group takes offense, there is no offense. And then it becomes a shameful offense. An important rule in our culture of offense.

  3. Another consequence of trying to attract clicks by use of a catchy phrase, in the ongoing battle for your attention. Personally, I’d more likely click on the first headline, that mentions the 40% drop, than the second one that says bamboo ceiling.

  4. I think for Mexicans it would be the Adobe Ceiling. Seriously, though, I think it would be a glass ceiling for anyone. This reminds me of a crappy old sci-fi movie, The Bamboo Saucer with Dan Duryea.

  5. The phrase “glass ceiling” doesn’t have any specifically female connection. Why wouldn’t Asian Americans also be limited* by a glass ceiling.

    * the first word that came into my head was “faced” as in “faced with a glass ceiling, but that would mean they are lying on their backs.

  6. Bamboo is not transparent so it just doesn’t work as a metaphor for an “invisible barrier” to ascending in a hierarchy. Using it indirectly calls attention to a specific heritage, for whatever reason the author/headline writer intended. It’s presence is likely to be a sign of sloppy thinking in the work in which it appears.

  7. I remember hearing of the Bamboo Curtain (re: the Iron Curtain) during the Cold War, at least up to ’72 when Nixon went to China.

    I wonder if HuffPo would claim that Asians are over-represented in STEM fields. And how do the various peoples of Asia feel about being lumped together as “Asians”? Aren’t residents of South and Central America no less “American” than residents of Pell City, Alabama, or Pall Mall, Tennessee, or Pumpkin Town, South Carolina? That latter does exist; saw it while driving through SC.)

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