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.