Examining Agency in Racial Preferences and Endorsements of Negative Stereotypes Across Sexualities (Part 1)

(10 min read)

An article by Tria Chang recently surfaced on the Huffington Post, where she expresses her frustrations and disappointment with the prevalence of white male-Asian female relationships and how they are rooted in fetishization, violence, and colonization¹. In it, she details her experiences with being romantically involved with non-Asian men (though it would come to no surprise if she is alluding solely to white men), albeit being fully cognizant of the hyper-sexualization of Asian women and how racist it is. She then goes on to talk about how she struggled with internalizing racist views of Asian women—she felt she was an anomaly and thereby unattractive, and thought that attraction towards women like her was a kink.

Copywrite Chiarashine Photography, LLC Isabell Lin
Tria Chang and her fiancé [CHIARASHINE PHOTOGRAPHY]
After she dated a string of racist non-Asian men, married and divorced an Asian man, and dated another, she found herself attracted to a white man and is now engaged to him. She detailed how her relationship with him developed from that of acquaintances to partners and reveals that he, like other non-Asian men she has been romantically involved with, has had a history of dating Asian women. When confronted about it, her boyfriend got defensive and, like most men who pursue Asian women, gave a typical excuse: he “never thought about it.” Like a plethora of articles written by women like her, who choose to shoulder the burden of educating white men—much like the Beauty attempting to reform and tame the Beast from his misguided and ignorant ways—she proceeds to reprimand him for his behavior and remains wholly devoted to him. She concludes the article by expressing content with her current situation and alludes to how different her current relationship with her partner is from other white male-Asian female couples.

At one point, she refers to his defensive reaction to her calling him out on his dating history as “one of those hot white guy traits”. What on earth are “hot white guy traits,” and why is it relevant to what she’s been talking about?

Considering how many Instagram accounts², Medium articles³, YouTube videos⁴, Everyday Feminism articles⁵, Buzzfeed articles⁶, and even artists⁷ attempt to address yellow fever and tell white men how they should treat Asian women—typically women dating, seeking, or receptive to white men—Chang’s article reads like another drop in the sea of media uselessly highlighting this issue. Unfortunately, like every other article and video, it recycles the same pervasive ideology: white men should be held accountable for hyper-sexualizing, objectifying, and Orientalizing Asian women, but they are ultimately still worthy of an Asian woman’s affections, love, and time. In some cases, the author herself will insist that she does not care what others wish to believe and dilutes conversations regarding this topic by insisting “love is love”⁸, which ultimately masks the serious racial dynamics at play in these pairings.


Asian Feminism?

For me, one of the most concerning messages is the notion that it is perfectly acceptable to continually seek out that unicorn of a white man, because white men are still deserving of emotional labor and education from the Asian women they harm. It also creates a social climate where, regardless of what white men do, no matter how racist, sexist, and homophobic they are or how little they invest into challenging and overthrowing white supremacy, they will still be viewed as desirable—that is, if they are not perceived as overtly racist and sexist by the Asian women who covet them.

Why is the onus on Asian women to educate white men, who continually benefit from white supremacy? The very idea that other options are possible, ones where the burden of reforming white men’s racist and sexist behaviors and biases can be alleviated or completely eradicated, even if they have been previously explored, do not seem to cross these women’s minds. Why should any white man wish to change, outside of some measly, superficial attempts at placating his partner, when he undoubtedly benefits from his position at the top of a white supremacist racial hierarchy? Despite being hurt by white men’s willful ignorance when it comes to racism and their role in perpetuating and remaining complicit with the racist structures, notions, and cultures that they have imposed on Asians and other people of color, it seems that being intimate with white men is still quite a viable option.

Even Chang admits:

“It took me a little while to figure this out, but once I became more settled in college, I met my first Asian boyfriend, who ended up being my husband. Sadly, he also became my ex-husband. This relationship was followed by one with another Asian male. Suffice it to say, I went a decade without the thought of white men or Asian fetish even crossing my mind. Now it’s something I think about every day, because of said fiancé.”

“I rolled my eyes at the luxury white men have to not think about race in their daily lives. I, on the other hand, started obsessing over it. I couldn’t be the girlfriend of someone who had an Asian fetish because that would make me complicit in a pattern that was rooted in violence and colonization.”

Unfortunately, the lengths that some Asian women will go to defend their choices to date or marry white men come at the expense of Asian men.

An e-mail sent to Celeste Ng, author of the best-selling novel All the Things I’ve Never Told You, sparked controversy on Twitter last year. Presumably sent to her by an Asian man attending university, the message contained abusive and disparaging language, which led to her writing a series of threads in which she denounces Asian men for being misogynistic and initiating harassment of Asian women in online spaces. While the overall controversy will not be discussed here, the background information and links to the original threads can be read at the end of the article (Part 2).

While engaging in discourse with other users online, a number of notable Tweets stood out:

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This phenomenon is not new. A plethora of Asian American women, faux feminists, and pseudo-intellectuals have regurgitated similar talking points against Asian American men and, more specifically, expressed their disdain for any and all criticism of white men-Asian women relationships:

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Even Ng expresses this problematic view in a Tweet back in 2015:

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Upon viewing these Tweets, one might wonder what is wrong with these claims, since sexist and racist Asian men do exist. But while the users vehemently speak out against the misogynistic and patriarchal behaviors of Asian men, they seem completely supportive of works like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, a film featuring an Asian American girl whose love interests who are white-passing. Save for the token Black boy, who is conveniently homosexual, they all adhere to the Eurocentric masculine ideals. Much like the token men of color on mainstream television shows like The Bachelorette, the single man of color in the film is not a viable partner. Despite the rise of movements like #MeToo, created by Tarana Burke to address sexual harassment and assault against women—one where the behaviors of prominent white men were called into question—there appears to be little to no criticism of white men’s abuse of privilege and power. Considering that a vast majority of these women are born or living in Western countries, specifically the United States, institutionalized white male patriarchy is far more prevalent and influential than Asian male patriarchy.

Look at these following Tweets, one made from Celeste and one made from Jenny Han, author of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before:

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Notice how different the tone is, despite the fact that both of these men have clearly externalized their racist views towards Asians. McCain has unabashedly justified his usage of the term “gook,” a racial slur that is often thrown at Koreans and Vietnamese. He fought in a war where soldiers were instructed to murder as many Vietnamese civilians as possible⁹ and were free to rape Vietnamese women and girls¹⁰. Jenny Han, a Korean American herself, appears content with overlooking that aspect of his history and hails him as a hero. Likewise, in Ng’s experience, a Vietnam war veteran verbally abuses her and her family with racial slurs, yet she urges others to respond with the kind of sympathy and understanding that she refuses to give Asian men who also suffer under white patriarchy.

The language used in the e-mail Ng received was unacceptable and the individual in question, if Asian, should be shunned by the community. But for her to take the action of a single individual or vocal minority and generalize this behavior to apply to a collective of Asian men, weaponizing her followers with false narratives that harm and defame Asian men is not acceptable either.

While engaging in related discourse with people online, she also received a comment from a white man spewing racists against Asian men, and surprisingly enough, she fails to unabashedly condemn his behavior and centers herself instead.

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Her overall lack of empathy for the hurdles that Asian men face, to which she has directly contributed with earlier statements emphasizing that she does not find them attractive, can be seen again in the following Tweet:

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She even wrote an article for The Cut to address the events that transpired¹¹. In it, she acknowledges the hurdles that Asian men face while navigating through the world and how she has only exacerbated the negative stereotypes afflicting them—a tactic similar to “lampshading”¹², where a writer expresses self-awareness about racism, homophobia, etcetera, through humor while failing to critique or challenge bigotry—but ultimately continue to paint diasporic Asian men as race purists, misogynistic overlords, and abusive.

“Acknowledging bigotry is not the same thing as critiquing bigotry.”

— from Pop Culture Detective’s “The Adorkable Misogyny of The Big Bang Theory”

(Part 2)


Written by Jia


Endnotes:

  1. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/unlearning-asian-fetish_us_5c547bb1e4b09293b203b7ed
  2. https://nextshark.com/woman-exposes-creeps-asian-fetishes-tinder-turns-memes/
  3. https://medium.com/call-me-a-theorist/im-not-your-little-china-girl-an-open-letter-to-men-who-have-hit-on-me-33a162ae1646
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3fxquPe1-Y
  5. https://everydayfeminism.com/2014/10/talk-race-white-boyfriend/
  6. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/xtinehlee/how-to-watch-fresh-off-the-boat-with-your-white-boyfriend
  7. https://nextshark.com/ada-chen-asian-fetish-jewelry/
  8. https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/life/relationships/article/2018/02/13/im-not-your-asian-dating-stereotype
  9. https://www.npr.org/2013/01/28/169076259/anything-that-moves-civilians-and-the-vietnam-war
  10. https://scholarship.rice.edu/handle/1911/20667
  11. https://www.thecut.com/2018/10/when-asian-women-are-harassed-for-marrying-non-asian-men.html
  12. https://youtu.be/X3-hOigoxHs?t=792

 

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