Hi, I'm Titilua! I'm a 26-year-old Samoan woman living in Australia.
As a Pacific Islander, I've experienced a lot of stereotyping based on what people think we should act or look like. Here are 13 of the most annoying ones I've been subjected to:
1. "We can all fight."
2. "Pacific Islander women are built like linebackers."
3. "Islander women are not for the weak."
I think this is one of the top three stereotypes I hate. It assigns a certain view of "toughness" or masculinity to all of us. Many Pacific Islander women are able to be soft and nurturing, and this stereotype perpetuates the idea that we are difficult to love and please. This is simply not true and makes it hard for us to feel comfortable showing more vulnerable sides of ourselves. We’re lover girls, too!
4. "We're not the sharpest tools in the shed."
It was never said directly to me, but it was definitely obvious in the way people treated me: as if it were surprising — almost amazing — that I enjoyed school. I was a very book-smart child and excelled academically, but it felt strange to be made to feel like the "other" or the exception by non–Pacific Islanders. Even though they complimented me, it felt as though they were putting me on a pedestal because they thought I was a rarity in my community.
P.S.: Did you know Tonga holds the highest number of PhDs per capita?!
5. "All our islands are the same."
6. "We are humble."
Humility is a big part of many Pacific Islander cultures, and it can be beautiful, especially when it comes to the ways we regard one another. However, I hate when this stereotype is reinforced as a way to keep us beneath others — in a way that doesn’t let us celebrate ourselves.
We deserve to speak highly of ourselves and be loud about our achievements and the things we excel at. Doing so inspires our younger generations and builds confidence in them and ourselves.
7. "Oh, you’re Samoan? Do you know (insert the one Samoan person they know who has zero relation to you)?"
8. "We are better suited to labor-intensive jobs because of our size and strength."
Again, this comes back to the point that we are so multifaceted. We do not amount to only our size and our strength; we have so many great people doing big things in different industries from all our islands. From academics to humanitarians and everything in between. Our skills span so widely, we’re suited for whatever job we want to do!
9. "We all know how to sing."
Maybe I’m just tired of it because I’m one of the ones who can’t sing, but we aren’t all musically gifted. I’ve even found myself in situations where I let people know that I can’t sing, and they’ve insisted that I can to the point where I was uncomfortable. Please believe us if we say we can’t! We do not want to sing a song just to prove it.
10. "I could never date a Pacific Islander. Their brothers/sisters will beat me up."
11. "We are all good at sports."
This is probably another one that I’m tired of because I am not one of the many blessed Pacific Islanders who got the athletic gene. I am well aware that our small islands produce a large number of great athletes — but it’s not all of us! I wish I were one of the chosen ones, but alas, not this time around.
I think what irks me the most is when I mention I’m Samoan, people will assume I play rugby or that I'm interested in sports. Honestly, I don't care about sports at all unless our islands are playing on a world stage or there are Pacific Islanders on the team.