“One evening, I drank heavily and the next morning I awoke to find a girl lying by my side. At the time I was incredibly embarrassed, and she was very shocked, because the night before she had also drank a lot. We couldn’t even remember who checked us into the room.”
This is the final 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 journalist and writer in Beijing who had many foreign girlfriends when he lived in southern Europe, including one he met the morning after a night of revelry under surprising circumstances.
28 years old, journalist/writer, living in Beijing
VICE: I heard you’ve had many foreign girlfriends.
I’ve had some. That’s because in my former media work, I would often get sent out of the country. So I would contact with many people, mainly in southern Europe. Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece — I’ve lived for at least half a year or longer in all of them, and got to know many women.
Could you share some impressive stories?
Ha ha, there are quite many. The countries I went to are relatively laid-back. The economies are not that developed, but the flavor of life is very strong and the people are very warm. I remember the first time I went out with a foreigner was with a Portuguese girl. At that time I was really young, just 24 and it was my first time to live independently overseas. One evening, I drank heavily and the next morning I awoke to find a girl lying by my side. At the time I was incredibly embarrassed, and she was very shocked, because the night before she had also drank a lot. We couldn’t even remember who checked us into the room. Later we went downstairs to the reception desk to find someone to ask about this, and then went to a bar looking for friends to inquire about what happened the previous night. The whole process was really quite ridiculous, but also very romantic. That evening we were once again having dinner together, and then continued to reserve a hotel room. Everything just happened naturally.
Have you had a long-term relationship with any of them?
Yes, she was French. But I don’t really want to share this story, it’s a little painful and I haven’t yet gotten over it.
With so many foreign girlfriends, do you feel like you’ve brought honor to your country?
No. Because my work was often overseas, my circle of friends included people of all different nationalities. To me, the individual means more than the nation.
As a Chinese guy, it’s rare to date so many foreign girls, right?
Before, I had never really thought about it, because this kind of situation is really uncommon. But after the first time I did, I realized that even thinking about this was a way of underestimating myself. Even though Chinese men in the eyes of foreigners are mostly thought of as martial arts experts or bespectacled geeks, Westerners have a really narrow understanding of us. But when it comes to actual relationships, Western women are willing to get to know me well.
So Western stereotypes about Chinese men haven’t affected your relations with foreign women?
After I got to know that first Portuguese girl, they affected me less and less. The individual differences between women are really not that big. Every person’s needs are very similar, especially emotional ones. Everyone needs to be loved, cared for, acknowledged. But because of culture, these might manifest themselves in different ways. Individual differences are much greater than differences because of country, culture or race. Once I no longer paid attention to the sense of inferiority brought by these stereotypes, I was more confident and smooth in my encounters with foreign girls. It’s like a guy from Henan chasing a girl from Jiangsu – what stereotypes would he consider?
Are there a lot of Chinese men around you together with foreign women?
Very many, and it has always been their Chinese character that attracts the girls. One friend went to university in Argentina and he said, “Actually, foreigners have a much stronger curiosity about Easterners because we’re more mysterious, and who wouldn’t want to try something new?”So the point is that, for this person, at the appropriate time their particular traits are a plus.
Did these women gain any new impressions of Chinese men because of you?
Of course. When I was dating them, I would share some Chinese culture with them and prepare some Chinese dishes for them. Although some things are cultural differences brought about by history, having a new interpretation is always better than unilaterally listening to Western media.
But does it seem easier for Chinese girls to be together with foreigners?
Because in the eyes of foreigners, Asian men have a lower status than Asian women. The typical stereotype of Chinese, or say Asian men, among other countries is: high achievers at school, introverted. These are the qualities that we carry with us. Capitalist culture distorts this notion in books, movies and the media. So who would be willing go on a date with some guy who is not even a little cool?
But for women, although some were rather quietly intelligent when they were young, when they leave the country they can easily fit right in. On one hand it’s related to how women have a strong tolerance. On the other, it’s that Western culture is more accepting of Chinese women. And when you look closely at foreign men with Asian women, for the most part they are very close to each other’s cultural traits, and it’s hard to see Western men following the living habits of Eastern women. That’s because Western men, in today’s mainstream cognition, have an advantaged position in terms of skin color and gender, the symbolic meaning of the more “advanced” human existence. So naturally it will be easier for them to find people no matter where they are.
Do you have any advice for Chinese men who want to pursue foreign women?
You only need to remember this: you and her are both people.
“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.
An article on the Chinese version of Vice caught my attention, with very personal interviews with Chinese men on their experiences and perspectives on dating foreign women. Intimate and illuminating, the stories provide a much-needed Chinese perspective on relationships between Chinese men and Western women and also touch upon stereotypes and prejudice. I’ve translated the piece in full from Chinese to English — and because it’s a long piece, I am sharing it in four installments.
Today’s first installment includes the introduction to the article as well as an interview with an IT specialist in Harbin, China, that might just make you blush a little. Stay tuned for the second, third and final installments!
“Tell me, why do your Chinese women all like our foreign men?”
“All of my foreign friends in China, even those who are considered the most unpopular men, all of them can find girlfriends here, and the girls are all quite pretty. Sometimes I think it is your cultural problem.”
“Don’t say anymore, OK? I already told you, this topic is meaningless.”
“But I really think it’s a problem of your culture.”
“Yes, our culture has problems, so let’s break up.”
For the last time, this was the last time I talked about this topic with my presumptuous white boyfriend. Of course, it was hard to say whether he really was my boyfriend. We only just used to hang out often, and we never clarified our relationship. When we were together for that half year, we had countless discussions on these issues – first these were discussions, then they evolved into disputes and arguments. Until the day before yesterday, I was finally tired and chose to break up.
I’m not a blind regionalist who can’t stop defending China’s exceptional culture with 5,000 years of history. But every time I hear this kind of talk, I can’t help thinking that the man who made that point is very low. On the contrary, what I’m more interested in, is that for many outstanding Chinese men around me while living abroad, their living environment has still not escaped the Chinese community, and that emotionally speaking, they have almost never landed in the Western world.
I don’t know if this counts as another manifestation of some gender inequality, or if it is the existing reality of cultural colonization. Why it is that so few Asian men are together with white women? What is it that created this cultural stereotype? White men in China are in high demand, while Asian men abroad are not. So what are Asian men like in the eyes of Western women? Why is it that when Chinese girls are with white men, they are often accused of “attaching to foreigners” and “worshipping foreigners,” while when Chinese guys have a Western girlfriend, they are “bringing glory to the country”?
So I talked to four Chinese guys who have been in love with Western women to see how they felt about this topic. [Jocelyn’s note: today I’m sharing the first interview in the article — and I will publish the other three subsequent interviews as separate posts]
31 years old, IT specialist, currently living in Harbin, China
VICE: What kind of experience have you had dating Western women?
I had a brief relationship with a German girl; also a longer one with a Russian girl.
Did you meet the Russian girl in Harbin?
No, I met her when I went out for travel to Mohe, Heilongjiang, China. Just across the border is her country.
How did the relationship feel to you?
That was it. My English wasn’t very good, and she could only manage the most basic conversation, but English was the only language we could use for communication. When we couldn’t express ourselves clearly, we had to use body language and consult the dictionary. People say, there are three things that don’t require language: soccer, music and sex. We tried all of them. In soccer, I couldn’t play as well as her. She used to be captain of the Voronezh amateur soccer team. Russians are too fierce. Her shots for goals were even more powerful than the strongest player in the dorm next to mine in college. In music, we didn’t really have a common language either. She liked local Russian folk music, which included some rather shrill instruments, while I only listened to Jay Chou. …
What about the sex?
Overall, it was actually not bad. But she had some peculiar idiosyncrasies – she liked having threesomes. At first it was really hard to accept. But later we tried it. Sometimes when we found another girl it was OK, but she specifically liked watching me and another girl do it. Sometimes she hoped to find another man, and that I really could not accept. Additionally, she was so strong, it was like she emptied out my manhood.
In terms of sex, do you think “made in China” has a disadvantage?
There are no disadvantages. I think this is guided by culture, where it’s purely Westerners creating a malicious portrayal of Easterners. I looked up information on the internet, and in terms of size Asian men don’t have an advantage. But research has found that women aren’t as demanding about size as the rumors suggest – it’s only men who aren’t confident about themselves that care.
So sex was never a problem in your relationship?
No. When we first got together, I was not confident, and I even thought, how could Asian men possibly match up with white girls. I was especially embarrassed. But in the end, she gave me a lot of confidence in this respect.
Apart from sex, what was her impression of Chinese men?
She really liked Chinese men. A lot of her friends had also dated Asian men. Some people say that in Northeast China there’s more male chauvinism, but I never heard her complain about it. She actually thought Chinese men were more responsible than foreign men, and the way they treated her made her feel more comfortable.
Have your friends ever dated Western women?
Around here, there aren’t that many foreigners to begin with, so it’s even rarer to see a Chinese man with a Western woman together. There aren’t any friends around me who have. Whenever she and I would go out, we would turn a lot of heads.
Did you feel a little proud?
No. Some people believe that going out with Western women gives you more face, but I didn’t feel that way. At first it felt like a fresh experience, but later on I got used to it and felt annoyed. Whether people praise you or not, who wouldn’t feel a little uncomfortable to always have people pointing at you.
What do you think of the prejudice Westerners have against Asian men?
I haven’t felt much prejudice myself, but I feel that most of the prejudiced people have never really had much contact with Asians – they just have a very superficial understanding. For example this topic of sex you’ve mentioned, you can see this kind of idea in the movies or advertisements, that men need to be solid, have these six-pack abs, Asian men are perceived as not having this kind of physique, so then they cannot be become a popular standard of attractiveness. Besides, many movies and TV shows deliberately make fun of Asian men, giving people this feeling that Asian men are very nerdy or stupid, which is completely different from the reality.
So how would you get rid of this stereotype?
Improve your language ability and express yourself. My English is no good, so there are times when I don’t dare to express myself. I’m afraid that this is an impression that foreign girls often have of Asian men, that we shrink away from daring to start a conversation. I think this is mainly because of language. But foreigners like these active and enthusiastic people. If you’re not willing to talk, how can someone be with you? Smooth communication can promote a relationship between two people.
What do you think of this interview?
P.S.: Stay tuned for the second, third and final installments of this article.
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.
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.
People close to me know this has been an extraordinary busy month — which is why I’m late in sharing some good news.
Earlier this month, the Global Times featured me (along with two other women, including fellow blogger Jo Bai of Life Behind the Wall) in an article titled Marrying Chinese Men Means Less Talk, but More Respect and More Help in the Household.
Jocelyn Eikenburg, who lives in Beijing and founded the popular expat blog Speaking of China, describes being married to her Chinese husband as “intercultural, interracial, international and bilingual.”
Like De Leye, Eikenburg also found that there are major differences in the way she and her husband express their feelings. Growing up in the US, she watched her parents express love through words, kisses and hugs.
“Here in China, love is something that is shown through actions, such as making you your favorite dinner or buying you something special, and married Chinese men are less likely to kiss or hug their spouses in front of others.” …
Eikenburg says her husband is wonderful at home. He does a lot of housework and always helps prepare dinner. His ideas about couples sharing the work might have been influenced by his parents. When he was growing up in rural Zhejiang Province, both of his parents had to work and also helped around the house, she said.
“There’s no doubt that in a country as large as China, there are regional differences in terms of culture and that may influence what families tend to consider the norm in marriages and households. And I have heard some of these ideas, such as how Shanghai men supposedly make great husbands,” she said.
“My husband’s family is also an example of a household that might not have followed the typical pattern for the village, which reminds me that it’s always important to keep an open mind and never assume that a person will fall in line with the general beliefs or stereotypes.”
Eikenburg also noted that there is a drastic difference on this point between the urban areas and the countryside.
“I’m pleased that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, who have a daughter, always tell her that they want her to go to college and do well in school; that’s encouraging to see.”
Elfy Jo (Formerly Joke Tummers). She’s a Dutch woman living in Guangzhou with her husband and family, and her China adventure is filled with music. A former member of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, she now teaches musical instruments to young children at her own school and others in the region. She posts about her teaching and family on her blog; you can also learn more about her through this interview posted on my blog last year.
Olivia’s Choice. If the community had a magazine, chances are Olivia Lau could easily be the covergirl. This beautiful and stylish woman from Spain was living in Hong Kong, where she met and married a local man and also ran her own online fashion store. They’ve moved back to Barcelona to work in Olivia’s family store, but still make regular trips back to Asia (such as these dispatches from Tokyo and Hong Kong). Her maternity pictures (she gave birth to their second child in February last year) are stunning.
Wo Ai Ni. Rhiannon, an American woman who met and married her Chinese husband in the US, creates a whimsical collage of an intercultural family on her site. It’s a snapshot of daily family life — including two blonde-haired children from a previous marriage, and six half-Chinese kids.
*NEW*白小颱 Biały Mały Tajfun (Polish). This Kunming-based blogger from Poland has a Chinese husband and a passion for writing about a variety of topics on China, such as the food, Yunnan and Kunming, as well as writing about her own adventures.
Chocolate Chick in China. This African-American blogger is an English teacher based in China, and you’ve got to love a woman who writes this in her About page: “I have always been fascinated by the 5000 year old culture and also all the handsome single Chinese men that may never find love due to the fact that they overpopulate the women. so off I go to China to find a different way of life and maybe a husband too.” Wishing her the best in Fuzhou!
Sincerely, Shalom (Formerly Jew Knew).Eileen’s blog is so lovely and touching, like her pictures of smiling, long-haired women in dazzling rainbow colors. She is married to a man from Taiwan and after living with him in Shanghai and Taiwan, they’re back in the US. Her posts are often quirky and fun, such as this A to Z list of things she loves (A is for “amazing tofu”!).
American Jocelyn Eikenburg, founder of the popular Speaking of China blog has played a key role in the integration of the global WWAM community.
“Why don’t Western women date Asian men?” one of Eikenburg’s articles featured in the Huffington Post, wisely invited women to look at the vast ethnic and cultural diversity of Chinese men instead of writing them all off per se as a single, homogenized race.
A huge thanks to Katrin Büchenbacher for inviting me to be a part of the article, which begins like this:
The brunette with sparkling blue eyes beneath long eyelashes could pass for any American exchange student. Dressed in a simple khaki shirt, blue jeans and a spiky bronze necklace, she is stuck in the Shanghai traffic, running late for her video shoot with the Global Times Metro Shanghai. What sets this young lady, Vicky, apart from other expats in this city, however, is the person sitting next to her – a tall, handsome man in a crisp white shirt, speaking with a deep, confident voice. It’s her long-term boyfriend, a Chinese national.
Chinese men dating or married to foreign women are still a rather rare form of interracial love. When they walk down the streets holding hands, they can literally feel people staring at them and whispering to each other, or even pointing fingers.
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