Like many of you, I’ve been following the lengthy, intense, simultaneously disheartening and encouraging thread at Ji-in’s blog regarding a topic that’s been a bit taboo on my blog: white men and Asian women. Together.
**Let me put a disclaimer here in the beginning: like Ji-in, I’m commenting here on the social phenomenon of white men and Asian/APA (Asian/Pacific-American) women dating. I’m not trying to attack individuals or say that every white-man/Asian-woman relationship is a certain way. I don’t want my many APA female friends who love/date/are married to white men feel like they have to defend their relationships to me . . . I’m not trying to question legitimate love and happiness.
I’m not going to get into actual statistics here, but let’s face it: the white-man/Asian-woman thing is a common social phenomenon. Globally!! I grew up assuming I would marry a white man. My first “real” boyfriend in college was white . . . and I discovered shortly into our relationship that I was the fifth Asian girl he’d dated. And we were living in Nebraska. Now, considering that APAs only make up about 4% of the American population, how is it that there are so many white guys out there with similar track records?
When I asked my college-boyfriend why he’d dated so many Asian women, he couldn’t come up with a good answer. I find that guys like that get immediately defensive, like I’m about to call them what they don’t want to be labeled . . . a fetishist. “Yellow fever,” what have you. I’m not here to slap labels on anybody. But I think it’s constructive for people to ask themselves–what is it about the “idea” of an Asian woman that is so appealing, beyond just the physical?
I’m not going to get into a laundry list of the ways Asian women have been fetishized, exoticized, infantilized, etc. etc. in the media, literature, and so on. But it’s the reason why I got messages on Match.com that said things like, “I looooooove Asian women!” It’s why I get “friend requests” on My Space from guys who have 500 “friends” already–all Asian women. (It’s almost like I’m a trading card or something, and these guys are collectors.) It’s why while in Vietnam, the following took place: we were at a beach resort, and there was a couple staying next door to us–a fat, sunburned, Speedo-ed, middle-aged, white Australian man with his very young, very beautiful Vietnamese wife (a rare couple combo in SE Asia–NOT). I mentioned that I always saw her in the dining area, sitting alone, looking sad. My white male friend/traveling companion said, “Oh, I just thought she was cute.”
Please believe me when I say that I don’t think any of these guys are evil or bad people. I’m not attacking people here . . . I’m attacking the -ism–Fetishism. There are so many subliminal messages in society that can affect us in ways that we don’t know, to varying degrees.
Fetishism. Fuck fetishism. As Anida and Emily from 2Tongues said, “Stop masturbating in your own glory. Stop masturbating in my culture.”
Asian guys aren’t attractive. They’re also mostly quiet, boring, and short. So, its not so much that asian women are the trendy arm-candy (tho its true!) as much as it is simple Darwinian laws applied to the social scene. . . . Not to hide behind my wife, but my words were actually hers, and she (Korean) dated asian through college, but then stopped. Nothing against them personally, but she said it felt like she was dating her brother. She told me a lot of asian women actually feel the same way, and this is leading to what she describes as the social evolution of the dating and marriage scene in America, and thus the interracial imbalance.
–“Rolf,” commenting on Twice the Rice
A lot has been said about the ignorance and idiocy of Rolf, so I’m not going to address that here. What I am going to address is what saddens me even more–the fact that the views expressed by his wife have been voiced to me by other APA women and men. How have we become invisible to each other? To paraphrase Ralph Ellison, we “not-see ourselves, as others see-us-not.”
I’m not saying that everything needs to match; I’m not saying that Asians must date other Asians, white with white, etc. And I’m not saying that every Asian woman with a white man feels the aforementioned revulsion for Asian men. But what strikes me is that there are people who feel this way.
Last year, I met a fellow Korean adoptee, who proudly told me that he wanted to eventually become a professor of African-American studies. I had no problem with this proclamation–props to him for that. What bothered me was his reasoning: “‘Cause you know, Asian-American studies is just boring. It’s like, Chinese workers on the railroad–‘Who cares?'” To him, the history of the APA community simply was not as “sexy.” Well, there you go–mainstream America’s perspective on APA history in a nutshell.
So what did I find encouraging from the thread at Twice the Rice? The fact that there are witty, articulate, smart APAs to put ignorance in its place. It gives me hope that there will be less self-hate voiced within the Asian-American community. That we can see each other. Instead of not-seeing ourselves, as others see-us-not.