Asian power wives smash stereotypes

IT'S an inter-racial pairing that has piqued the public's interest: Dr Priscilla Chan, newly minted medical doctor, and Mr Mark Zuckerberg, tech billionaire, who tied the knot over the weekend.

But, going by the snide remarks posted online following Dr Chan and Mr Zuckerberg's Facebook status updates, it seems that a new update - of wives who, while married to prominent husbands, are also over-achievers in their own right - has yet to go viral.

Fairy-tale, Cinderella-esque couplings - such as that of Prince William and Kate Middleton - and gold-digger gossip that makes for salacious tabloid fodder (see Anna Nicole Smith) are two sides of the same coin, really.

It's a familiar narrative that reduces every couple to the familiar equation of moneyed husband and trophy wife.

It can get even more complicated when race comes into the picture. After all, aren't Asian wives supposed to be docile and submissive?

Judging by those who have been in the news recently, I'd say, no.

In the past year, more than a few prominent Chinese wives who pack a punch have hogged the headlines, including one who, quite literally, threw one.

Mrs Wendi Deng Murdoch caused tongues to wag in 1999 when she married media mogul Rupert Murdoch - who is more than 30 years her senior - just three weeks after he divorced second wife Anna Torv. But last year, she was the only bright spark in the tortuous phone-hacking scandal hearing, after she clobbered an intruder who had attempted to throw a plate of foam at her husband.

Besides defending her media mogul husband, she has been credited with strongly influencing Mr Murdoch's media business in China, and is on the board of advisers at the Yale School of Management, of which she is an alumnus.

On the school's website, she is listed as "Co-founder and Film Producer, Big Feet Productions" - her film company, which produced tearjerker Snow Flower And The Secret Fan last year.

Less well-known is the other co-founder of Big Feet - Mrs Florence Sloan, a Malaysian Chinese married to Hollywood veteran Harry Sloan, former chairman and chief executive of MGM Studios.

Born in Malaysia and educated in Britain, Mrs Sloan has had less media attention showered on her but, in interviews on their film, the law graduate exuded confidence as she deftly fielded questions in precisely enunciated English.

While Tiger Mother Amy Chua is married to a professor, not a mogul, she is still a strong woman who has made the news, triggering a storm of controversy and introducing a new catchphrase into popular culture with her book, The Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother.

So much has been said about the Yale law professor's controversial child-rearing methods, that her successful career has become a footnote.

And many would not know that she wrote another book in 2001, World On Fire, which was also controversial in its own way, bearing the subtitle: "How exporting free market democracy breeds ethnic hatred and global instability".

Two prominent media couples in which both husband and wife pull their weight come to mind as well: New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and wife Sheryl WuDunn, who was the first Asian American to win a Pulitzer; as well as former CBS and CNN presenter Connie Chung and her talk-show host husband Maury Povich.

At a luncheon, Chung once changed the lyrics of a song and sang: "I'm buzzed when my ratings beat Maury's", in a joke about competing with Povich.

chuimin@sph.com.sg

Wendi Deng and Rupert Murdoch (top image)

Before she met and married Mr Murdoch, Ms Wendi Deng attended the Yale School of Management where she is now a board member.

Florence Sloan and Harry E. Sloan

 

A Malaysian-born Chinese who was sent to study in Britain when she was 12, Mrs Sloan is a law graduate and co-founder of Big Feet Productions.

Michelle Yeoh and Jean Todt

 

 

The Ipoh-born international star and former Bond girl is arguably the more-famouse spouse, compared to her racing-luminary husband.

Connie Chung and Maury Povich

 

The veteran broadcaster has been an anchor and TV reporter for numerous news networks, including CBS, ABC and CNN. They were married in 1984.

Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld

 

At Yale Law School, the author of Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother teaches contract law and International Business Transactions - a course she calls "fun". 

Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof

 

Sheryl WuDunn was the first Asian-American to win a Pulitzer Prize and is a best-selling author. She is now a director in a boutique investment-banking firm.


For more my paper stories click here.

Become a fan on Facebook