People often say that to understand the present, you have to look at the past. That’s why I started my AMWF History series, to examine interracial relationships between Asian men and non-Asian women in earlier times.
So today, I’m revisiting some rather telling quotes from posts I’ve featured for AMWF History, in an effort to raise awareness about how people have talked about Asian men in interracial relationships years ago.
As I compiled this post, I found it disconcerting (but not surprising) that a number of the opinions described below still endure, including in dark corners of the internet. A lot of people still believe interracial love is wrong.
This list of quotes is by no means comprehensive. So please, sound off in the comments with your examples too — let’s continue the conversation together.
The average American cannot understand how any human being, however inured by custom, can live in an average Chinatown. That white women should live there by deliberate choice seems to him monstrous, horrible.
She is but twenty-two years of age, remarkably beautiful and possessed of a voice that…would be a fortune. Yet three years ago, she met and loved a Chinaman.
It is also well known that not one Chinaman in a hundred comes to these shores without leaving behind a wife in China; so by the laws of China, the white wife is not a wife…
They have had six children, of whom five are living – bright, intelligent half breeds. And Mrs. Watson (her husband took that name when baptized) is still handsome and pleasant spoken.
Quong asked Margaret’s father, George Scarlett, for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Even though he was a friend of Quong’s, George refused. Quong Tart and Margaret waited until the day after her twenty-first birthday, on 30 August 1886, and married anyway. Quong was then thirty-six. The appearance of grandchildren eventually reconciled Margaret’s parents to their daughter’s marriage.
Letticie wrote her brothers of her marriage, and received a terse letter back, in which her family disowned her. How could she marry a Chinese? It was disgusting, they wrote, and she was no longer their sister. She knew she would never see or hear from any of them ever again.
Aunt Sanora told me that on one particular occasion when they were going out to dine at a Chinese restaurant, a woman had taken the time to follow them to the entrance of the establishment. As she harassed the two of them for being together, Aunt Sanora took the woman’s hat and tossed it in the gutter. Aunt Sanora remembers this woman chasing the hat down the sewer drain exclaiming, “My $100 hat!” When the miscegenation laws were repealed, it took them three days to find a judge who would marry them. When they finally did, the judge remarked, “She looks old enough. If she wants to marry a chink, that’s her business.”
Lotte fell in love with Anton Maramis, a Manadonese petty officer, and married him with her family’s support, although she battled much antagonism from the broader Australian public she encountered. Many other young Australian women faced strong opposition from families and friends to the decisions they made to marry their Indonesian fiancés and return with them to their homes once Independence had been declared.
Married or not, they earned a reputation in ultra-conservative post-war England as being “loose women” and, in another archive, Charles Foley found that government officials dismissed those married to or cohabiting with a Chinese partner as “the prostitute class”.
What quotes have you come across about how people in the past thought of interracial relationships with Asian men?
Friday, December 28th, 2018. It’s a chilly evening at the Complex Theater, but the pot was stirring across the lands of glamorous Hollywood. Once the trouble bubbled over into the night, the evening would soon be more thrilling than anyone ever expected. This was because the magic of Asian representation would enchant a fashion runway show: all three male models, one female model, two of three expert photographers, and one clothing stylist represented Asian American backgrounds which included Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, and Indian heritage. Eastern European, Western European, African American, Middle Eastern American, and European American heritage also were contributors in the making of a beautiful production.
Fourteen people (seven models, seven crew members) came together that night to put on a beautiful runway show which featured the designs of Vampire Rockstar, which prides itself in being “made for the immortal rockstar in us all”. Vampire Rockstar, an epic clothing brand, whose designers and assistants have worked wonders in the fashion world and with well-known American rock artists such as Michael Jackson and Black Veiled Brides, would be dressing up our models in the amazing glamwear.
This event was held as a feature showcase of the Evolution of Consciousness Event headed by Vince Kelvin and Arash Zepar Dibazar, two globally known experts in seduction and elite lifestyle. Almost every year the duo hold a full weekend of action packed events with dynamic speakers and activities for men and women who are interested in bettering themselves through living life to the fullest and spicing up their dating lifestyle. Their convention this year was supposed to be a full panel of speakers including the leading lesbian dating coach Ana “Flye” Hudson, who suggested doing something more creative than lecturing this year. Instead of being another speaker, why not add in an event of entertainment and ambition? The idea of a fashion show came immediately to mind. Arash and Vince, powerful instructors of the dominant masculine and connoisseurs of the beautiful feminine, both agreed immediately. Flye had immediately set out to work and the glorious fashion show was born.
Models were greeted a few hours before the show to a private room where they would enjoy light refreshments; style their hair; be painted with makeup, kohl and glitter; and be fitted for clothes and shoes. Photographers snapped pictures and videos from behind the scenes, set up equipment, and prepared to be escorted into the red theater where they would capture the magical moments of fashion gracing the stage. The show started, the eyes in the audience danced across the stage as stunners and rockstars of all types walked smoothly to ’97 Jon B and Tupac Shakur. Yes, many would say the music was out of place. But it didn’t matter for everyone was lost in the beauty of it all. It was a night to remember, with moments captured that we are happy to share with the world. Check out images from our Fashion Show, including behind the scenes footage with the models!
CREDITS: Runway Show Creator and Director: Ana “Flye” Hudson (IG: 6888.models) Clothing Designer: Pam, “Vampire Rockstar Clothing” (IG: vampire_rockstar) Assistant Designer: Al Bane (IG: al_bane) Clothing Stylist and Coordinator:
Brian Horowitz Chang (IG: thefashionmafiatoo) Makeup Artist: Pam, “Vampire Rockstar Clothing” Photographers:
DW Kim (IG: dwkim_ca)
Narenda Choudary (website: www.snapstoris.com)
Anthony “Tony” Assi (IG: weird.media.fashion) Models:
Justin Zhang (IG: noobstrength)
Mike James Wong (IG: mikejameswong)
Sidrich Chhour (IG: _sid_3rik)
Jasmine Winfrey (IG: jamine_winds)
Elizanda Dingle (IG: elizanda_dingle)
Christina Skaya (IG: christina.skaya)
Brittany Priestess Paige (IG:priestesspaige)
Ana “Flye” Hudson is the white-passing biracial author of the book “Pet: A Memoir” which details her passionate and thrilling life story dating Asian Dating Coach Jeff Khan. She currently works as a dating coach, dancer, model, and community manager. For fun Flye likes to vlog on Youtube, travel to fun places, and cook beef noodle soup and pasta e fagioli. She is currently working on her second novel and portfolio.
Zhu Zhengting, the hot new heartthrob from boy bands Nine Percent and NEX7, stared at me from an ad, with his finger lingering seductively on the lips. It almost resembled those typical images of male models or stars, using their gorgeous faces and physiques to sell everything from jeans to jackets. But there was one striking difference.
He was wearing lipstick, a soft carnation pink, to help sell it, along with other cosmetics from a brand I discovered on Alibaba’s Tmall, an online shopping center.
A man as the brand ambassador for lip gloss, even wearing it? It’s unimaginable in the US, my home country, for a guy to model makeup, let alone vouch for it. Unless of course you’re a celebrity drag queen like RuPaul.
But Zhengting doesn’t do drag, and he isn’t playing up his feminine side, despite the makeup and softness of the photograph. Instead, his intense brown eyes seem to reach out to you, as he points to his lips, as if to say, Go ahead and kiss me.
Actually, that’s the part of the idea behind having young men help sell lipstick and lip gloss, which didn’t start with Zhengting, as China Daily reported in the article Love me, love my lipstick:
When Japanese superstar Takuya Kimura attentively stares at you, applying rouge on his tempting lips in a 1996 TV commercial, does your heart skip a beat?
Of course you can’t have him, yet having a lipstick he used might just bring him a little closer to you.
It seems Kimura’s fans had the same idea. That year, thanks to him, more than 3 million Kanebo lipsticks sold out within just two months, an unprecedented sales record stunning Japan.
The article goes on to detail other Asian celebrities who became the face of other cosmetics brands and more. But it underscores the growing importance of men in marketing cosmetics.
Dubbed “Taobao’s king of lipstick”, Li needs to test more than 300 types of lipstick on his lips every day during a seven-hour live broadcast, taking no breaks except to drink water or go to the bathroom.
“Many people question me, believing men do not have enough expertise to recommend female beauty products,” Li said.
But he believes he has advantages in this field. While many women may find their lips hurt after testing three lipsticks in a row, he can test as many as 380 lipsticks a day.
“Testing lipstick can damage the lips, but I do not treat my lips as lips,” Li said. Therefore, his fans have given him the nickname “iron-lipped brother”.
What a moniker!
Of course, all of this talk of men fronting lipstick brands, even wearing or testing different colors, would likely shock a lot of folks, including my fellow Americans. In the US, any man who dares to model cosmetics would surely find someone questioning his masculinity or even sexual orientation.
Admittedly, it’s a bit surprising for some Chinese audiences, as China Daily notes in its article Love me, love my lipstick: “If some people still feel confused about men advertising lipsticks, they may feel nervous when male stars also make commercials for other more intimate women’s products.”
Nevertheless, the trend of male celebrities advertising lipstick has gained traction in East Asian countries, including China.
I don’t exactly know why this works in East Asia, but it does. And there’s a part of me that wonders, is it evidence that East Asian countries like China are redefining masculinity in a new way? Is it driven by K-POP, where members of boy bands embrace makeup as part of their look? (See: K-pop boy bands defy traditional idea of masculinity)
Personally, I find it fascinating and even refreshing that there’s a corner of the world where a man can model lipstick and still be a man. I’m not sure the same would hold true in the US.
In the end, I decided to buy the lip gloss. While it had nothing to do with the arresting eyes of Zhu Zhengting, his face, and lips, certainly left an impression — in a soft carnation pink.
But if you actually watch the entire Youtube series (it’s only five episodes, 20 min or less each, and totally free), what you’ll find is a thoughtful exploration of life and love through the eyes of an Asian-American guy named Andrew – played by Wong Fu’s Philip Wang — and his mainly Asian friends.
Wang cited inspiration from series such as “Insecure”, “Atlanta” and “Master of None”. And the basic storyline — which centers on Andrew’s journey of self-discovery and soul-searching through his relationships, including with friends, lovers and family — isn’t necessarily groundbreaking on the surface. Yet Wong Fu’s “Yappie” feels like nothing I’ve ever seen before on TV.
“Yappie” takes the familiar, such as ideas about yellow fever (as it relates to white guys and Asian girls), and then cleverly subverts it to great comedic effect. One exchange between an Asian woman and a white man at a bar takes a surprising turn when it ends up reflecting dynamics more typical among Asian men and white women in the interracial dating world. This is just one of many examples of how the series excels at setting viewers up to assume one thing, and delivering something else entirely.
Wong Fu’s “Yappie” has also cast a Blasian woman, Janine Oda, as Andrew’s love interest. It’s refreshing, and not just because you hardly see Asian men and Black women paired up on TV or in the movies. Her presence opens up a lot of conversations rarely heard in the media – from race relations between the Asian and Black communities to Asian identity itself (at one point, she reminds Andrew that she still has her “Asian card”). And all of the interracial dating issues going on in the series will especially resonate with anyone who has ever, to borrow the title of the Diane Farr book, kissed outside the racial lines.
While Wong Fu’s “Yappie” sees the world through an Asian lens, you don’t have to be Asian to appreciate it. After all, the main character of Andrew is a bit awkward and uncertain about life in a way that transcends racial boundaries, making him incredibly endearing and relatable to audiences. And it’s a pleasure to watch Andrew in these moments where he pushes himself, even a tiny bit, outside boundaries drawn by his family or society.
The first season of “Yappie” proves that Wong Fu still has many compelling stories to tell. Let’s hope this is the start of more series to come.
“Of course, the most tantalizing topic between men and women is sex. So she once asked me, ‘Do you want to try it with a foreign girl?’ Then somehow we went back to my dorm. It was her first time to sleep with a Chinese man.”
This is the third installment of my English translation of a Chinese-language article on Vice.cn featuring interviews with four Chinese men who dated foreign women. Today’s interview is with an ad professional in Shanghai who gets personal about his relationship with his white American girlfriend, including a few blushworthy details.
26 years old, advertising professional, living in Shanghai
VICE: How many foreign women have you dated?
Only one, who is my current girlfriend. She’s an American.
How did you two meet?
To talk about this makes me blush a little. We were at the same university in the US – she was studying ancient Chinese, and I was studying old English. We got together and became language partners. At first we would always study together. Once we became more familiar with one another we would talk about almost anything. Of course, the most tantalizing topic between men and women is sex. So she once asked me, “Do you want to try it with a foreign girl?” Then somehow we went back to my dorm. It was her first time to sleep with a Chinese man.
And afterwards you both decided to have a relationship?
Well, not exactly. Because of cultural differences, we were not accustomed to each other’s ways of living at first, and we went back and forth for a period of time before we settled things.
How does she understand your Chinese style of dating?
My girlfriend thinks that in Chinese or Asian culture, relations between men and women are either guided by patriarchy or strict management by wives, different from the gender equality and mutual respect that her culture values.
She often says that I am a typical Chinese guy. The more she says this, the more I want to shatter her stereotypes about Chinese men. Even though we have a good relationship and I’ve already changed some of her attitudes toward Chinese men, she will still inadvertently reveal that she doesn’t like Chinese men very much.
Does this make you feel that there’s additional pressure in your relationship?
Yes, especially in relationships, as you will run into many more practical problems. If I was with a Chinese girl, if there were some living habits that I couldn’t accept I would just directly say so. For example, I really don’t like it when girlfriends are too close to their ex-boyfriends. But now I haven’t said it, because I have this pressure, which makes me consider whether or not to speak out. But in order to not let her think that Chinese men are petty, for now I won’t tell her.
Another burden brought about by ethnic pride?
Yeah, perhaps a little. There are times when I wonder, do I care too much about my Chinese identity and do I want to prove anything? And as a result I will not want to express my feelings. Perhaps it’s not really that necessary to abandon your feelings because of an ethnic burden.
Where do you think your sense of having an ethnic burden comes from?
I think this has something to do with the environment. The other Chinese men around me who have dated white women all seem to have a very similar situation. Perhaps from a young age we’ve all accepted this concept of the Chinese ethnicity, and how we have to bring honor to the country. We were always shouting slogans about how we shouldn’t make Chinese people lose face. Men in particular are especially this way, and in the end it becomes a habitual way of thinking.
Do you have a lot of friends around you who have dated foreigners?
Very few men have sought out foreign girls. But when I was at university in the US, there were quite a few Chinese women dating foreign men. Overseas, there are very few Asian men who pursue white women, and even Asian-Americans basically hang out with other Asians. Plus, Asian men are not as popular as white men in the eyes of foreigners. But women are different – there are always some women who can adapt well into Western life.
What is the biggest difference between dating foreign girls and dating Chinese girls?
The respect for personal space. Foreign girls are very independent and have this awareness of personal space. Even though she really loves you, that doesn’t mean she will do anything for you. This is something Chinese men are not aware of. Additionally, it’s a matter of destiny. Romantic relationships can’t be too deliberate.
“Her name was Olivia, and she was extremely passionate. … I still remember when I handed the drink to her, the way I felt when she raised her head to look at me. The moment our eyes met, I froze, because her laughter was too enchanting.”
This is the second installment of my English translation of a Chinese-language article on Vice.cn featuring interviews with four Chinese men who dated foreign women. Today’s interview is with a Chinese man who is an architect living in England, and he has dated women from many different countries there.
VICE: From what countries are the women you’ve dated?
Actually quite a few. America, England, Brazil, South Korea, Poland, Vietnam, Switzerland. I came in contact with all of these women after arriving in England to study abroad.
Which girl left the deepest impression with you?
Currently it’s this girl from Brazil. Her name was Olivia, and she was extremely passionate. I was particularly impressed by her when we first met. I worked at a pub at the time, and she came by herself to have a drink. I still remember when I handed the drink to her, the way I felt when she raised her head to look at me. The moment our eyes met, I froze, because her laughter was too enchanting. I think I must have stood there for a while, and now that I think about it, I imagine I must have looked especially ridiculous. I also remember when she noticed I didn’t say anything, she asked one thing: “What do you find in my eyes?” She was laughing as she asked me. I will never forget this.
Having dated so many foreign girls, do you have any vanity or sense of pride?
Yes, in China. Many people will look at me, so there times when I feel a little vanity. And overseas as well. Even though people won’t say so, but I’ve felt that they think it’s strange to see white women and Asian men together, so I can feel I am relatively special.
Why do you think Westerners feel it’s strange? Is it because of stereotypes about Asian men?
Exactly. Most people believe Asian men, particularly Chinese men, are very nerdy. Dating Asian men, it’s just like what we call “science and engineering dudes,” and these men are not the most popular no matter where you are. Western women prefer athletic, humorous and sociable guys, as they were taught by their culture. It’s the complete opposite of our educational environment. Of course, there are times when I feel that this stereotype has some basis.
Does this influence your relationships with foreign girls?
Yes. Honestly speaking, especially in England, the locals are very traditional. My former English girlfriend didn’t have a high estimation of Eastern culture, and thought that the Eastern way of being more restrained was not a good characteristic. Her only goal to date me was to learn about Eastern culture, so she could add some content to her report…she always said, “All of my friends don’t like Chinese men because they think you’re too awkward.” But I felt her xenophobia was also rather awkward.
Are there many Chinese men around you who have dated foreign girls?
Very few. I only know of one friend who has.
Is it easier for Chinese women to find foreign boyfriends?
Yes. There’s a big difference in how foreigners treat Chinese men and Chinese women. For example, when there’s a party, the best place for people to hook up, they will invite the Chinese women who are studying with us to go, but won’t invite Chinese men. It clearly shows that, overseas, Chinese men are not as welcome as a group.
As a Chinese man, how do you break through this kind of “dating barrier”?
To connect with foreign women, you need a lot of confidence. This is the core problem, which affects your language, communication and personal charisma. So, if you want to date foreign women, perhaps you need to have confidence in yourself first. I know many guys who were these huge ladies’ men in China that, after coming to England, never mind that they had no luck with the women, they found it was strenuous to get accustomed to life overseas.
When I first went there I was like that, I had no confidence to speak up among foreigners. But in China, a foreign man who can’t even speak Chinese clearly can get a Chinese girlfriend. It’s not just that they are more “coddled” because Chinese women like foreign men. It’s also that foreign men will confidently express themselves no matter what, and let others get to know them.
Well, readers took to this blog and social media to share their own experiences of mistaken identity as part of interracial couples of Asian men and non-Asian women (AMXF). The comments were fascinating, highlighting a number of “mistaken identity” situations that I’ve either heard of or experienced myself.
Here are a few common themes, inspired by your comments. (Note: A big thank you to Ana Hudson (IG: whitechocolateplayer) for permission to run the her photo with this post, featuring models Justin Zhang (IG: NoobStrength) and Marina Bruzadin (IG: marinabruzadin). You can see more of these photos in the post 13 Sexy, Fun ‘AMXF Deadpool’ Photos to Make You Smile.)
Is he your translator?
One fellow on Facebook chimed in with what must surely be the No 1 thing that comes to mind when people in China happen to see Chinese men walking around with a woman of a different race: “I have been considered as her interpreter more than husband ????”
This actually happens all the time to me and my husband as well — so much so that I’ve come to expect it from people in China, particularly when we’re in places like banks or stores!
Is he your tour guide?
Similar to “Is he your translator?”, a “tour guide” is another form of mistaken identity frequently experienced by AMXF couples together here in China. Especially if you happen to be together at any tourist attractions in China. As a woman commented on Facebook, “When we were young people thought my husband was a tour guide ????”
Is she your teacher?
As everyone knows, English teacher is the most common profession for foreigners in China. Well, when some folks in China see a Western woman walking with a Chinese man — two people who are actually in a couple — they might assume she’s his English teacher.
That’s what happened with one woman who commented on Facebook, noting, “My husband is always asked if I’m his English teacher but actually he used to be my Mandarin teacher!”
A Chinese man and a white woman, who were husband and wife, walked into a restaurant…but – no joke here — the staff didn’t take them for a couple, as one woman took to Facebook to share: “I get this constantly when we eat out together. ‘Is this one check or two?’ – to which my response is always, ‘Since he is my husband, yes I will be paying the check for us together.’”
Then again, speaking of jokes, sometimes the best response to all of this is a smile and good sense of humor.
Have you ever been mistaken as something other than a couple?
Below is my translation of the original piece in Chinese. In a few areas, I’ve added my own comments as well as relevant links to cited materials and topics. The piece also includes some links to Amazon, where your purchases help support this blog.
Also please note the following credit for the featured photo up top, first seen in the post 9 Powerful ‘AMWF Superman’ Photos to ‘Save’ Your Day: (Photo by Ana Hudson (WhiteChocolatePlayer), featuring Justin Zhang (IG: NoobStrength) and Angelina (IG: musicloveandlies))
Whenever walking through Beijing’s most international Sanlitun area, from time to time you will see “yellow and white pairs” – foreign men and Chinese women together as couples. But there’s another kind of “yellow and white pair” – couples of white women and Chinese men, which are extremely rare to see.
Those who are good at analyzing the inherent ethnic flaws of Chinese people will more or less have seen or heard something like this. There are people who believe Chinese women have a “white” allegiance and throw themselves at these foreign men, characterizing them as the very “easy girls” foreigners say they are.
The truth is what people see – that there are many more pairs of white foreign men and Chinese women, and very rarely do Chinese men get together with white European or American women. But you cannot merely blame this on Chinese men. In all of Asia, especially East Asia, it’s rare to see the men paired with white European or American women.
Asian men – at the bottom of the food chain
Overall, the ratio of Asian women and white men together is much higher than Asian men and white women.
But this was the opposite for African American men – 24 percent of the men were married to spouses of another race, compared to only 9 percent of the women. For white and Hispanic people, the situation was not that different.
In the dating market, for Asian men it’s even crueler. The online dating site OKCupid found that Asian women were the only group that all men (Asian, white, black, Hispanic) considered attractive at a rate that was higher than average – not even white women reached that level of popularity. Meanwhile, Asian men were rated far lower than the average by all other races, except for Asian women.
The OKCupid data also gave this kind of result – that men who weren’t black didn’t like black women. The racial preferences of black men weren’t obvious, and all women liked men of their own race. Relatively speaking, women were less attracted to Asian men and black men. Black men and Asian men were at the bottom of the marriage food chain.
So, when it comes to interracial marriage, white men and Asian women are the most common pairing. Both stand at the top of the marriage and love food chain. In the interracial dating marriage market, Asian men are most thoroughly a case where “women are superior to men”.
This phenomenon of the women marrying other races more than the men is almost peculiar to Asians. Even men from Korea and Japan, developed countries with living standards and educated populations, cannot overcome whites. What is it that caused such a great divide between Asian men and women?
Is it that from the perspective of other races, Asian men are not attractive enough? Research by Cardiff University in the UK found that, among whites, blacks and Asians, Asian men were considered the least attractive, with a rating of 3.781 (a perfect score was 10). But the study also found that Asian women were considered the best looking group, with a rating of 5.511, higher than the 5.065 for white women and the 4.720 for black women.
The sex appeal of Asian women has been called “yellow fever” (a term that originally referred to a disease). The Chinese American playwright David Henry Hwang’s “M. Butterfly” proposed this for the first time. And Asian women also flock to Western men. William Somerset Maugham wrote in “The Moon and Sixpence” that “You know what these girls are; they’re always pleased to go with a white man.” This phenomenon has been named the “Pinkerton Syndrome”, and is also called Madame Butterfly Syndrome, borrowing its name from the opera “Madame Butterfly”. [Jocelyn’s note: it’s important to recognize that the Asian fetish has a negative effect on Asian women in particular, and that Asian women can face harsh and unfair judgment in interracial dating.]
While both are Asian, why is it that Asian men are at the bottom of the dating food chain, while Asian women are at the top? Perhaps through the typical images of Asian men in Western movies and TV, we can see some underlying reasons.
What’s the use of studying well?
Before the 1960s, evil like Fu Manchu and emasculated like Charlie Chan were the typical images of Asian men that thrived on screens big and small. But since the 1960s, against the backdrop of counterculture and civil rights movements in Europe and America, the images of Asian men became more diverse. On one side of the equation you had evil, crafty, emasculated and low-status Asian men; on the other were smart, studious, high-achieving and increasingly “model minority” examples.
But this high-achieving attribute did not make Asian men more attractive. At best, they’re high achievers; at worst, nerds without social skills who have strange behavior and never talk. Even in countries that value education like China, it’s hard for nerds to find a partner, let alone in the United States of America.
Today, the images of Asian men in mainstream Western culture have become more abundant, but they tend to stick to only a few types. They can do kungfu (like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or Jet Li), they’re pedantic (like Charlie Chan), they’re high achievers (as seen on almost any American university), their role is the punchline of the series (like the Korean boss in “Two Broke Girls”). These roles might on some level inspire admiration, but they are entirely without sex appeal.
In fact, the dominant images of Asian men in American media are not sexual roles. Research has found that Asian American men on the screen are only 25 percent as likely to have a romantic or family relationship as other races, overall portraying Asian American men as “asexual”. Even the most masculine martial arts stars are usually only responsible for those hand-to-hand fights among men, and sex scenes are rare for them.
For example, in the American movie “Romeo Must Die,” the film originally had the American female lead Aaliyah kiss the male lead played by Jet Li. But during a screen test, audiences were really not used to it. So the film company changed the ending, having Aaliyah and Jet Li hug. In discussing “The Slanted Screen,” the documentary about the portrayals of Asian Americans on the screen, its director said, “Mainstream America, for the most part, gets uncomfortable with seeing an Asian man portrayed in a sexual light.”
This may have something to do with the perceived lack of masculinity among Asian American men. The earliest Asians in America, particularly Chinese immigrants, were more engaged in washing clothes, caring for children and cooking, business pursuits considered more feminine. Add to that short stature and wearing a long braid, which was very unpopular in mainstream society. This perceived effeminate character has continued to the present without much change. Even Asian actors with outstanding capabilities such as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are only permitted to be “hired fighters”, where there’s no opportunity for romance.
At the moment, Asian men are mainly portrayed in mainstream America as idiotic nerds or as someone with eccentric behavior meant for comic relief. Although this is a significant improvement over the 1st half of the 20th century with its “evil Fu Manchu”, it’s nevertheless still not that likeable. For example, Asian men play characters that are meant to be laughed at. Consider Han Lee, the short boss who owns the diner in “Two Broke Girls”, the gay Asian boss in “The Dictator” who screwed Edward Norton, Leslie Chow in “The Hangover”, or the Asian man in the US version of “The Office”.
Asian men like that could hardly meet the European or American women’s standard for guys – a fully masculine “Marlboro Man”. Think of how odd it would be for an Asian man to dress up as a Western cowboy, while a black man or a latino could surely pass. [Jocelyn’s note: Actually, an Asian man, Lee Byung-hun, did star as a Western cowboy in the movie “The Magnificent Seven“.]
Demand determines supply, and there’s such a small number of Asian American actors playing a narrow range of characters because audiences don’t accept them. Popular entertainers in Europe and America are also popular in Asia, while Asian entertainers rarely make it big in Europe or America. If you were asked within five seconds to name an Asian male star in the American and European entertainment industry, most people would be tongue-tied.
There are some TV shows and movies that include love affairs between Asian men and white women. Chinese people are most familiar with Tony Leung Ka-fai and Jane March in “The Lover,” and Chow Yun Fat and Jody Foster in “Anna and the King”. But when Annaud, the director of “The Lover”, was selecting the male lead, he experienced some difficulties. As there was no one who could meet the requirements among Hollywood’s Asian actors, who mainly played bit parts and had difficulty conveying the emotional drama of the character, after much struggle the actor settled on Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Ka-fai.
Asian women are the most likeable
Research has found that the image of Asian Americans is overall perceived as more feminine. This has impacted Asian men, where “at best they’re an effeminate queen of the deep, like Charlie Chan; at worst, they’re a homosexual threat like Fu Manchu.” But at the same time this has benefited Asian women. As America’s “model minority”, this perceived subservience, kindness and loyalty are considered good qualities for women. [Jocelyn’s note: However, these stereotypes have negatively impacted Asian women, so this isn’t really a benefit.]
In addition, Asian women are thought to be mysterious and exotic. The famous opera “Madame Butterfly” fully satisfied the fantasies of white people about Asian women. Butterfly is a Japanese geisha who meets the American military officer named Pinkerton stationed in Japan and falls in love with him. Even after Pinkerton returns to his country, Butterfly still deeply loves him and believes that he will return. Finally Pinkerton returns to Japan but brings with him his American wife. Upon learning the truth Butterfly committed suicide — thus Asian women are subservient, kind, loyal and full of Eastern character. “Madame Butterfly” was later adapted to “Miss Saigon” — the story and background was moved from Japan to Vietnam, but the essence of the story remained the same.
In addition to being perceived as submissive, Asian women have a fortitude and sex appeal that is considered rare among Asian men. For example, there’s Lucy Liu’s role in the 1997 to 2002 American TV series “Ally McBeal”, Maggie Q’s lead role in the 2010 to 2013 TV series “Nikita”, or even Lucy Liu’s main role as a female Watson in the TV series “Elementary”. These characters have not only the excellent qualities attributed to Asian people, but also a sex appeal that Westerners prefer.
Then again, if you really want to win the hearts of foreign women, take a look at movies like “The Lover” and “Anna and the King” with Asian men paired with white women, and you will realize a truth: as long as you have money, the color of your skin isn’t a problem anymore.
But I have to say, nothing could have prepared me for the remark I heard the other day, when Jun and I were assisting a man in the community.
We offered to help carry his bags, and in the process also introduced himselves. After I told him our names and shook hands with him, he said:
“So, are you mother and son?”
Yes, this man actually believed my loving husband was my “love child”. Granted I am older than Jun by over a year — but whenever people joked about me “robbing the cradle”, I don’t think they meant it in the “your husband could be your son” sense.
I glimpsed a look of guilt in his eyes over the remark, but of course it was too late. This man thought I was easily 10 or 15 years older than the man I’d married. Or worse, he thought I appeared “old” for my age.
In a world where women are told not to “look their age”, this is the sort of thing that should have triggered a flurry of insecure thoughts about appearances. I know those thoughts all too well. I’ve written before about coming to grips with being a curvier woman, unlike the images of ultrathin models that we’re bombarded with in the media. And while I’d love to tell you that I’m some “wonder woman” who has conquered every single insecurity about her body or appearance, that’s just not true. I still have those moments when I struggle with aspects of how I look.
So you can imagine my surprise to find that I didn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed by what he had said about me. Was it wisdom from deep within, or just plain shock?
Whatever it was, for once in my life, my internal reaction was — f*** it. And boy, did it feel empowering.
…the older I get, the more I realize the importance of accepting myself, warts and all. After all, aging is a reality for everyone. Maybe some of us are lucky enough to look younger (ahem, John), while others are not so lucky (ahem, me!). But in the end, we’re all headed in the same direction.
And honestly, who hasn’t seen the person with the dyed hair that’s obviously there to hide the gray and isn’t fooling anyone? Or someone like the late Joan Rivers, with so much plastic surgery and botox she doesn’t even look real anymore?
I cringe over the extremes we turn to just to hide our real age, when the treatment we really need is simple — accepting ourselves exactly as we are.
Chances are, this won’t be the last time I’ll run into someone who thinks my husband is just a child under my care (whether someone else’s or my own). But if my reaction this time is any measure, I feel like I’ve taken a great step forward in acceptance of myself and how my relationship looks to the world. And for now, that’s enough.
Has anyone ever mistaken you or your partner for being older or younger than you actually are?
The other night, I had the chance to stream The Chinese Exclusion Act, a nearly two-hour film documenting the events that led to America’s one and only piece of legislation targeting a specific nationality and race, as well as the aftermath and eventual repeal. The Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law in May 1882 and didn’t end until December 1943.
Much of the film centers on the mid- to late-1800s, and yet it feels timely because many of the stereotypes originating from that era still persist to this day, continuing to shape US media portrayals of Asians as well as how many Americans still view the rise of Asian countries such as China.
Here are 4 stereotypes from the 1800s that have still survived – sometimes in slightly different forms – to this day, as mentioned in The Chinese Exclusion Act.
Justin Chan spoke for generations of Asian men when he wrote, “Are Asian Men Undateable?” in Policy Mic. Years of pernicious stereotypes have branded Asian men as emasculated, weak, asexual, and even too small in a certain department—essentially, editing them out of the most eligible bachelor pool. Not surprisingly, Freakonomics calculated that an Asian man would need to earn $247,000 more than a white man to be equally appealing to a white woman. That’s like requiring every Asian guy to own a Bentley before asking out the white girl next door.
John Kuo Wei Tchen, Historian: So what happens is that class and racialization converge – get confused. And the “Coolie question,” and the Chinese question, really become the big question nationally of labor and class. Can the American man compete with this degraded Asian male form of labor? They don’t eat as much; their nerves are farther away from the surface of the skin, so they don’t feel as much; they eat rats. You know, all this gets played out even more and more around not just class lines and racialization, but also around gender. The Chinese male is inferior – is not the same as white manhood, right. So you have that famous cover – “Meat versus Rice.” American manhood vs. Asiatic coolie-ism,? And, of course, the Asian male is inferior – but tenacious, because there are a lot of them. So they’re dangerous because they’re so many of them, right. Not because they really rival the actually superior white male.
And again, we see echoes of that stereotype in the late 1800s in America, prompting the 1875 passage of the Page Act, which forbade the immigration to America of those coming to work under contracts and as prostitutes. The latter prohibition was aimed squarely at Chinese women, as The Chinese Exclusion Act explains (emphasis added):
Scott Wong, Historian: There developed this sexist, racist, misogynist attitude among Americans, that Chinese women were naturally prone to become prostitutes. And, therefore, Chinese women, who wanted to come to the U.S., had to prove that they were never prostitutes; that they weren’t prostitutes then; nor would they ever become prostitutes. Now, of course, one can’t prove what will not happen or happen in the future. So many women chose not to even go through that humiliation. So we had that first act that’s passed, that is very racial and gender-specific.
#3: The stereotype of Chinese “stealing jobs/opportunities from Americans”
When major elections roll around in America these days, there’s one thing you can count on – those politicians claiming China is “stealing” jobs and opportunities. And as Chinese students still comprise the largest group of foreigners studying abroad at US institutions of higher education, you’re sure to hear complaints from Americans, alleging Chinese are also “taking away” slots at colleges and universities that belong to American students.
Narrator: As surface gold in the river beds became scarcer – hydraulic mining run by companies increasingly displaced the lone prospector panning for gold.
Ling-chi Wang, Scholar: A lot of white independent prospectors went bankrupt and became unemployed. But instead of turning their anger against the gold-mining company and the water company for exploiting them, they turned against the Chinese. They say: “Ah, the Chinese were here. They take away our jobs.” And so that is really the beginning of white working-class agitation for Chinese Exclusion.
#4: The stereotype of Asians — including Chinese — as “perpetual foreigners”
The larger problem is the segment clearly challenges the American identity of Asian American citizens in Manhattan’s China Town. Frank H. Wu’s Race in America Beyond Black and White defines this idea of Asian Americans as the “perpetual foreigner.” By assuming Chinese Americans have a better relationship with the country of their ancestral heritage, Watters is placing Chinese Americans in a second-class citizen role, unable to fully adopt all the characteristics to become a full citizen of the United States of America. This idea of the “perpetual foreigner” is not limited to Chinese Americans, but a xenophobic image many Asian Americans from a variety of Asian backgrounds must face.
This xenophobia can be traced back to the late 1800s and the Chinese Exclusion Act itself, where people believed it was impossible for Chinese to ever be fully American, as The Chinese Exclusion Act explains:
Martin B. Gold, Attorney: It really did two things. One is an exclusion from immigration, and the other thing was an exclusion from citizenship. at the time there were approximately 105,000 Chinese in America. Now, they were just two-tenths of one percent of the overall American population. So what happens to the people who are already here – people legally in the United States? And what that law said was, “These people cannot assimilate. They are too different in terms of their culture – in terms of their appearance – in terms of their language – the clothes that they wear – and the food that they eat – and the gods that they worship. They cannot assimilate into the American population. And in that sense, they are different from European immigrants. So we’re going to make, as a Congress, a judgment. We’re going to say that because they are an unassimilable population, they cannot come to the United States, and those that are here cannot become American citizens.”
If you haven’t yet viewed The Chinese Exclusion Act, I highly recommend streaming it — and noting how the legacy of oppression still lingers to this day.
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