No Eddie Huang, Empowering Asian Men Shouldn’t Involve Misogyny

Eddie Huang
Eddie Huang (Photo by May S. Young)

For some people, it’s hard to believe that I’m a feminist and happen to have a Chinese husband. As if the two could never possibly go together.

But in my life, they fit perfectly. And why not? My husband, who was born and raised in rural Hangzhou, is just as much of a feminist as I am. (Yeah, I know that’s probably something else you’d never imagine – but it’s true.)

I also feel that being a feminist, being someone who cares about social justice and women’s rights, has also made me more sensitive to the challenges Asian men face in the dating world. I’ve never appreciated when women are treated inappropriately or stereotyped as “b****es” simply because we’re standing up for ourselves. And I don’t appreciate the unflattering stereotypes that have short-changed Asian men in the dating world.

When you think about it like this, empowering women and Asian men (and, for that matter, any other oppressed group of people) isn’t mutually exclusive at all. Why can’t we support each other?

That’s the question that flashed through my mind after reading “When Asian Emasculation Meets Misogyny: On Eddie Huang’s Black Feminist Problem” in Racefiles.com a few weeks back:

Cut to: the rise of celebrity chef and memoirist Eddie Huang, whose swagger, wit, and taste for controversy has made him one of Asian America’s most visible figures. The unofficial leader and visionary of the “movement of big dick Asians,” Huang’s persona has resonated with Asian Americans tired of being an “invisible” minority, and especially with Asian American men seeking to reclaim and reassert their own masculinity. But when reclaimed masculinity comes in such normative, ultra-hetero packaging, are we doing more harm than help?

Here’s the incident that started it all (as explained on Storify.com):

While answering a question about why he relates to hip hop and rap music, Huang says: “I feel like Asian men have been emasculated so much in America that we’re basically treated like Black women.” (No joke, direct quote!)

Which lead to a whole Twitter conversation between Eddie Huang and a number of prominent Black feminists (where he ended up calling them “bums”). Yes, “bums”.

I know Asian men have been kicked around in the dating world for a very long time, as the Racefiles.com article acknowledges:

The racial emasculation of Asian men in the American imagination is real, it is pervasive, and it is historically-rooted (dating back at least to the 19th century when Chinese migrant men took on “feminized” labor roles in the laundry industry). From pop culture to playground taunts, I doubt that any Asian American man can fully escape the psychological implications of this socialization in undesirability. For me, it remains a personal trope that requires constant unlearning, lest creeping doubts begin to resurface to cloud the way I see myself and my role in romantic and sexual relationships. I speak from personal experience when I say that it has real material and psychological impacts.

But it should NEVER be an excuse to demean other groups of people for the sake of your own benefit. As the article on Racefiles.com notes:

…Huang’s response is indicative of the fact that his philosophy of manhood is grounded in sexism, and leverages anti-blackness as a tool for subverting anti-Asian stereotypes.

Why should uplifting Asian men come at the expense of others – women, and especially, women of color? That in order to compensate for the relentless mockery and degrading stereotypes about Asian men as being dickless, sexless and the like, women (and particularly, women of color) should be oppressed in turn?

It’s chilling to think that someone actually decided this was a good idea.

In my world, masculinity doesn’t come from swinging your privates around until you hit someone (or a group of someones) or how many women you hook up with this weekend. And for that matter, being a real man is more than just about sex or sexuality. I love this definition that Jenn Fang of Reappropriate.co wrote about in this article:

We must work to redefine our community’s entire concept of masculinity so that it reflects important character traits – self-assurance, honour, integrity, intelligence and respect; traits that I believe many Asian American men already possess in spades; traits that I believe truly define manhood.

Amen to that.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Sound off in the comments!

P.S.: There’s also a thoughtful piece in The Jakarta Post titled “The Alpha-Asian Fallacy” that’s worth a read.

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27 thoughts on “No Eddie Huang, Empowering Asian Men Shouldn’t Involve Misogyny

  • June 15, 2015 at 6:40 am
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    Well said! Time spent denigrating others would be better spent in psychotherapy, getting at the root of one’s own insecurities.

    And how hard is it to say, “Hey, I’m sorry, I spoke without thinking and that was stupid and I apologize, as I cannot possibly speak for black women.”

    I found Mr. Huang’s offer to buy one feminist dinner especially cringe-worthy. Because men just need to wine us and dine us. That’s all us simple little women ever want. #headdesk

    Reply
  • June 15, 2015 at 8:16 am
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    Really? What’s the need to demean Afro-American women in order to feel better about yourself?

    You would think that as an Asian American who experienced discrimination and racial prejudice himself, Eddie Wang would know better than this.

    I am always baffled why people who can’t develop some empathy for other going through similar bad experience. Instead of supporting other discriminated minorities so that one day no one will have to face such a treatment, he perpetrates this offensive attitude and promotes a racist mindset.

    Well done Eddie.

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  • June 15, 2015 at 9:09 am
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    I believe it!

    I think it is quite possible to know, and meet, feminists from any number of cultures (including American culture) and yet still understand that there are problems of sexism in that culture. Again, any given culture – I can’t think of even one where sexism has been eliminated – though it’s a bigger issue in some than others.

    It’s not a zero-sum game, where everyone in a culture is either feminist or sexist. I have an old friend in India, a guy, who is strongly feminist. That doesn’t mean there aren’t issues of sexism in Indian culture. My husband is a feminist. That doesn’t mean there’s a strain of violent misogyny in American culture. A good male Taiwanese friend of mine is a feminist (a prominent Taiwanese feminist who has since passed away even spoke at his wedding) – it doesn’t mean there aren’t issues with men being expected to provide and women being expected to nurture in Taiwanese culture. Your husband is a feminist, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t also meet, in China, two women who after divorcing found themselves ostracized by their communities because “a man never beats a good wife, and divorce is always the woman’s fault”.

    Basically, one can be a feminist from a decidedly un-feminist culture. There being a broader problem doesn’t mean good people don’t exist, and there being good people doesn’t mean a problem doesn’t exist.

    And again, that could be any given culture.

    Reply
    • June 15, 2015 at 9:10 am
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      *that doesn’t mean there ISN’T a strain of violent misogyny in American culture (typo)

      Reply
  • June 15, 2015 at 9:38 am
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    Instead of degrading others, he would use his voice to empower Asian men. And from what I have read, he should know better than to put down others because he knows how it feels.

    I am not defending Eddie Huang because what he said was completely wrong, but it seems that in order to remain ‘popular’ these days, you need to do say something rude or do something completely crazy, usually at the expense of others.

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    • June 15, 2015 at 11:49 am
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      That’s a good point, Constance. Maybe it was deliberate, because no publicity is bad publicity. 🙁

      Reply
  • June 15, 2015 at 11:00 am
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    Recently I feel that I”ve been faced a lot more with racism, not directly, but hearing a lot more about it one way or the other. If I should be with someone, I’m really beginning to wonder how I can have a son and help him be self confident in the culture where the origins get put down and where white men play the hero role and surpass the natives…

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  • June 15, 2015 at 11:31 am
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    I think I see what he initially was trying to do. . . as he explains in some of his tweets, he was drawing a parallel between the plight of Asian men and black women in America. Unfortunately, it was poorly done. Rather than apologize or explain himself in an intelligent matter, the conversation just gets more and more offensive and ridiculous as he doubles down on his initial comments.

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  • June 15, 2015 at 12:46 pm
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    Could it be that his detractors have misunderstood what he meant? If it’s just from that one quote, there’s not much to go on. Sorry, I just don’t see anything that offensive there. Sure he also called the people who responded to him “bums” but we don’t have the context for that either.

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    • June 15, 2015 at 1:46 pm
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      Could it be that his detractors have misunderstood what he meant?

      Don’t go there. Seriously. His detractors are black women–the group that he used to try to further his own goals–and they (and only they) get to define when and how they can be used for people’s political agendas. Saying that they “misunderstood” what he is saying is tantamount to saying that the words of an Asian American man regarding black women means more than the words of the black women themselves.

      Like, I get that you don’t understand this stuff. And it’s understandable that you don’t get what the problem is, because not everyone can have all the context all of the time. But until you have a basic understanding of how identity politics and social justice work, especially with regard to modern day activism, maybe don’t speak up to defend a guy who perpetuated a misogynoir microagression.

      Reply
  • June 15, 2015 at 12:49 pm
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    Going by the info available here, I think I can understand what he was trying to do. His comments about black women fit the overall ostentatious, cocky, and even controversial image that he presents to the public, which is deliberately un-Asian (according to the popular stereotypes). Sure, Huang could’ve chosen the path advocated by Jenn Fang and sought to promote Asian masculinity so that “it reflects important character traits – self-assurance, honour, integrity, intelligence and respect”; but that in itself, in Huang’s mind at least, would’ve been exactly what people expected of Asian men, i.e. the sensible, agreeable, and DOCILE model minority Asian.

    I just think it’s a shame that he chose to pick on another oppressed minority.

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  • June 15, 2015 at 10:25 pm
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    “Saying that they “misunderstood” what he is saying is tantamount to saying that the words of an Asian American man regarding black women means more than the words of the black women themselves.”

    These are the words of someone that refuse to understand people and simply cannot bear to put themselves in another person’s perspective. They assume that they have all the information (based on a single sentence) which isn’t near as offensive at face value as many of the things that Asian men must deal with on a day to day basis.

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  • June 16, 2015 at 1:08 am
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    First let me say, I’m a big fan of Fresh off the Boat. It’s a great comedy. In the half-hour sitcom, Hudson Yang’s portrayal of a young Huang is definitely funny. (I like the parents and the grandma better, though.) In the comedy, the kid, Eddie, likes rap music. His reasoning is obvious to the viewer. He’s short and he’s a minority, and you can see that he not only would like to fit in. He’s the type who want to stand out (a form of power). And he thinks black rap stars are a powerful figure of masculinity.

    In American society, painting with a broad brush, you could say that white men are the most powerful. Women and minorities, particularly African Americans, are less powerful. In reality, African American women are quite powerful. But for an Asian man worried about his masculinity, power, insecurity, whatever, he doesn’t want to be seen as weak (the way women are often portrayed) or different (a minority).

    It works in a sitcom about a ten year old. But it’s time to get over it and act like an adult. Be who you are. Stop comparing yourself to others. Watch your words.

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  • June 16, 2015 at 2:34 am
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    Looking again at his exact quote,

    “I feel like Asian men have been emasculated so much in America that we’re basically treated like Black women.”

    it seems to me that it isn’t offensive AT ALL. In fact, it is commiserating with the way the media has treated Black women. What Huang seems to be saying is that black women have been given a terrible treatment in how they have been portrayed in the media. So has Asian men. There is nothing offensive about that but are actually words expressing shared experience. He might have phrased it a little better (he’s perhaps not the best writer in the world) but the anger expressed at that one statement is really irrational and not founded on substance.

    I really think those who judged him based on that one sentence alone are despicable. What happened to a charitable reading before judging someone? How can you judge someone so quickly based on that one sentence which is by no means clear that he was saying something offensive and in fact might have been saying something completely the opposite. For those so quick to judge, if a black woman had said that the media treats black women the way it treats Asian men, how many of you would publicly call-out the writer and allege that he or she was racist?

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  • June 16, 2015 at 5:11 am
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    OK, I just read the twitter exchange. Now I am even more convinced that Huang is the victim of a feminazi lynch mob. His original statements were spoken off the cuff on Bill Maher (as conversations often tend to go).

    Someone asked him on twitter to clarify what he meant. Perfectly fine up to that point. Huang did just that and he says exactly what I thought he meant by his words: that he was drawing parallels between how the media treats Asian men and black women.

    But that wasn’t enough to appease the “black feminists” who then proceeds to hound him and calls him a racist, misogynist and “trash”. They keep hounding him even after he keeps explaining himself in a very clear manner, giving context and external links and so forth to clarify what he meant. Some of his detractors don’t believe that’s what he meant (though they offer no evidence that he meant something more malicious) and some said it didn’t matter what he meant, just that it was offensive to them. It’s only after many petty shots at him that he calls *one* of his detractors a “BUM”.

    Even if he had meant something malicious (and he doesn’t seem to have done so) it’s still not anything near the virulent and explicit and implicit racism that Asian men must deal with everyday from all groups including by black women. These so called feminists are really just racist opportunists looking to lynch a man who is from the group that is even more denigrated by the popular culture than they are. They are just jackals/vultures foaming at the mouth waiting to attack him.

    It kind of reminds me of something that happened to me recently. I was discussing academic tenure and freedom of speech. I mentioned a Canadian professor who said some really racist things and yet wasn’t fired or reprimanded. A black woman thought those racist opinions were mine. She failed to even read that I was quoting another person. Then she went off on a rant about how the Asians on that site were all racist.

    This is the reason why so many people now and even some women are starting to distrust pop feminism.

    You should be ashamed. You all should be ashamed.

    Reply
    • June 16, 2015 at 8:56 am
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      Thanks for that. I probably should’ve spent more time delving into the issue and gone straight to the sources. Now I feel like I owe Huang an apology for what I wrote in my previous comment.

      Reply
  • June 16, 2015 at 5:56 am
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    Hmm..hmm. I don’t know Eddy Hung’s entire personal story. From what I can piece together, he grew up assimilating into the black culture, which tends to happen to some Asian groups. Does that mean he has some good level of understand of the black struggle?

    Hmm…hmm… do black women stand up to black men the same way they stand up to Eddy Hung?

    The other day, I was trying to tell two white female coworkers about a traditional Chinese idea to make a point. I felt quite close to them. It starts with, “Raise a son like… raise a daughter like….” Even before I finish, I was slammed for making the statement of separating the two groups.

    I don’t know if I am a sexist in closet or an Asian without social skills. Maybe the combination of the two.

    Sorry Joselyn, I sometimes do not like feminist.

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  • June 17, 2015 at 11:18 pm
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    Hmmm, I have to agree with a few people here. When I first read that statement I thought he was drawing a parallel between asian men and black women, not saying that black women SHOULD be treated badly. And its a fair comparision. Black women are also stereyotyped in a horrible way, for no reason whatsoever.

    I dont think it is fair to take his statement out of context like this. Its like, what if I were to take the first few statements of your essay out of context Jocelyn, and say : wow, saying that unbelievably your husband from rural china is feminist, are you trying to imply that all chinese men especially those not dwelling in beijing and shanghai are misogynist pigs? That is a pretty unfair stereyotype too, as thats about hld a billion human beings. However I doubt you write those sentences thinking: Chinese men are misogynists. Thankfully my husband is an exception.

    So there is no reason for us to take his statements out of context either.

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  • June 18, 2015 at 8:34 am
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    I think I know why some of Huang’s detractors responded the way they did. It speaks of the way many modern feminists are: narrow-minded/ego-centric. Everything is about them. Every injustice in the world is a slight on womanhood or blackness in this case. No other groups suffer discrimination. So if you write a post expressing shared experience with racism/sexism (even if in actuality, Asian men experience far more media discrimination than Black women do today), they simply cannot imagine it. It doesn’t hold to their preconceived notions of the whole world being only sexist to women or racist towards blacks. They had always thought that they and only they experience racism/sexism. Instead of viewing your views as drawing parallels, they automatically think it’s an attack on either blackness or womanhood.

    Notice that so many people are quick to judge Eddie Huang in how he responded. Did they even mention that he was called a racist, a misogynist, an asshole (twice) and “trash”? And the fact that he offered to talk to one of these so called black feminist over a more appropriate forum since twitter only allows a limited amount of words per post so that he may expressed his views better but only to have her rebuff his gesture for further dialogue? And did they mention that his worst offense in the exchange was to call one of his detractors a “BUM” and sarcastically ask another out on a date? If this represents what feminists today call misogyny, sexism or racism then how can anyone take them seriously? No Asian man should ever call himself a feminist considering this is the environment in which modern day feminists treat Asian men. That’s what real racism and sexism looks.

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  • June 19, 2015 at 3:16 am
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    @hopelessmisanthrope stereotyping an ideology is the same as stereotyping a race. Finally humans are learning to not say ignorant crap like: Asians are this and blacks are that. But it seems they are just directing this stupidity elsewhere. Feminists are this and conservatives are that. Feminism is an ideological movement championing gender equality. Must you selectively associate a few overly sensitive immature folks who get butt hurt over nothing to exemplify a movement that probably predates you, and Stands on the constant struggle of women who for decades fought for the right to be treated as human beings?! I agree that this backlash on Huang is shallow and unfair, result of people too quick to jump to conclusions. Stereotyping feminists as narrow minded is much the same.

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  • June 19, 2015 at 10:58 am
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    I think some criticism of pop feminism (as Hopelessmisanthrope called it) is warranted. This brand of feminism is practised by casual feminists who do little more than spout feel-good platitudes to burnish their own virtuous credentials without any real understanding of or interest in the feminist struggle.

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  • June 19, 2015 at 1:57 pm
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    Marghini, channamasala, Constance, Sveta, R Zhao, Autumn, hopelessmisanthrope, D-Maybe, Anonymouse, Nicki Chen, Dan, SBC, thank you all for the comments and the discussion. It’s been fascinating and enlightening to read your thoughts on this issue. I’m glad people brought up the points in support of Eddie Huang’s position — you’ve helped me see the issue in ways I didn’t consider. I appreciate everyone sounding off on this.

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  • June 19, 2015 at 11:01 pm
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    SBC and D-Maybe, I think your views on modern feminism are quite naive. First of all, as SBC said that feminism is about equality. Actually, the definition of feminism is quite contentious among feminists. There are equality feminists but also many partisan or gender feminists (who do not believe that the principle aim of feminism is about equality but about advocating on behalf of women’s and girl’s even if it is contrary to equality between the sexes).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equity_and_gender_feminism#cite_note-6

    Also many commentators have talked about the prevalence of racism and sexism in mainstream feminism including many feminists. Non white feminists have talked about this for over 40 years.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-milstein/5-ways-white-feminists-can-address-our-own-racism_b_3955065.html

    Also see this now classic article about the racism one Latina feminist faced in mainstream feminists.

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/3810013?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    That doesn’t mean every feminist is racist/sexist. It just means that it’s a prevalent problem.

    But now it would seem that even those on the outer edges of the mainstream such black feminists can display very blatant racism/sexism towards Asian men.

    I just want you to reflect on this. Before Eddie Huang made his comments, Issa Rae made the same point (that black women and Asian men face the same kinds of discrimination by the media) on the Larry Wilmore show.

    http://cocoafab.com/eddie-huang-says-no-one-wants-to-date-black-women-and-asian-men-and-issa-rae-agrees/

    Where were the feminists who hounded her, called her trash, asshole, sexist and racist? Oh, did I mention that Issa Rae is a black woman?

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  • June 21, 2015 at 10:00 am
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    @hopelessmisanthrope

    Thanks for explaining it so well. Veil of ignorance comes to my mind.

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  • October 30, 2015 at 1:03 am
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    I’m a feminist and none of the men I know are intimidated by that. but then I don’t associate with p*****s . What I find scary are the people in the comments who are trying to defend this guy. He is a sexist of the worst kind and he meant what he said the way it was taken and replied to. How do I know this ? Well back in the day Good ole sweet innocent Eddie had this menu http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_mXnTYIiB8bQ/TNBM4lRPNII/AAAAAAAABq8/_plS0ono1Do/s1600/dinnermenu.jpg now if that link doesn’t work let me clarify
    “Poke-Her Face Prawns”
    “Concubine Cucumbers”
    “Poontang Potstickers”
    “Taiwanese Flat Booty Cake”

    Yea SUUUURE he didn’t mean what he said. Sorry gang .. He meant it. He is a creepy little man who obviously has penis envy issues. Thing is Asian men are very sexy, I’ve dated some in my time. No not all of them are misogynists, hell NONE of the ones I dated were. Honestly they acted mostly like every other guy out there. Their reactions honestly depended on their parents, also circumstances aaand where and how they were raised. They are not going to hit you, well mine didn’t. (Don’t get them jealous just some advise.) yea… don’t do that just sayin… I dated real men. Why did we break up. I’ll give you two situations First one, This guy was beautiful OMG you have no idea. Anyway My boyfriends cousin tried to attack me sexually and my boyfriend came to the rescue. His parents reaction, I must have tempted his cousin because that how we Black girls were you know and they sent for my boyfriend to have a bride from China. He was so young and I felt I ruined his dreams for the future. He was man enough to tell me this to my face. Head bowed… he didn’t have to do that I felt sick, it was horrible to see him so demeaned for trying to do the right thing. I asked him did he want to break up with me ? He shook his head I asked him was because I was black he nodded … I was crushed , they hadn’t even met me. They just believed a stereotype. The second guy was Brilliant, I mean wicked smart, funny, handsome we were taking things real slow. (BTW both guys total gentlemen) He took me dancing and to my surprises he could dance his ass off.. I literally jaw dropped and he looked me in the eye and said ‘Didn’t know Asian guys could dance huh? I shook my head .. then he said you should believe stereotypes and I replied Your right I hate it when people do it about to me.”why did I break up with the second guy? My mother fell ill with MS. no one knew what it was (she was hallucinating) and I didn’t think it was fair to bring such a burden into a relationship with a man who was so young (we were sophomores in college) and he had such promise for the future. I know he would have stood by my side he was just that kind of guy but would it have been right? So I took my mother and disappeared. Both of these men were very good men. Strong sexy smart… So getting back. Did Eddie mean what he said? I’m sure he did, I can only go by his past actions of marginalizing women in general and what he did was wrong to my eyes as a Black woman . You can’t clean it up. If he was misunderstood he would have clarified instead of attacking like most men with self confidence and all of the men I choose to associate with would have done . Once that girl said leave me alone he should have stopped. So no matter how he may have meant what he said all of his other actions point to being a died in the wool misogynist he used another minority to make his point rather than focusing on making his point about his situation. Only cowards try to move forward by throwing others under the bus.

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  • October 31, 2015 at 8:34 am
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    Few years ago, I was very lucky in winning and reading Eddie Huang’s book, Fresh off the boat. Fresh off the Boat is NOT the TV show that’s designed to make you feel good and warm about yourselves. Instead its a very raw account of Eddie’s struggles in America. From knowing Eddie’s personality, I find the names of the dishes actually funny. He plays into stereotypes or uses well-known Asian tropes in his menu to push people’s buttons. Along with these there is also something like “Dericious vegetables” or “Dericious eggs”

    Just to let you know, from the book, he is very into rap and 90s African-American pop culture, and he is respectful of an African-American woman teacher that taught him about feminism. Yes, in college he took a feminist course. I agree that he may have gone stating things in a wrong way, or using wrong language, but still, Eddie is someone who enjoys having power, good or bad, and he enjoys making people think about things and try to change their views.

    Reply

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