Why did I assume I’d never find a man to date in China? It’s a question that haunted white American Rosalie Zhao (who blogs at Rosie in BJ), surprised to find the love of her life in the Middle Kingdom (she shared her unforgettable love story here in the post “Enter Zhao Ming…China’s Answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger”). She writes, “With rising tensions and deepening talks surrounding issues of race in the US, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my own prejudices.”
It’s been a couple years since my first guest post on Speaking of China. I wrote of how, against my initial expectations, I found love with a local man in China. Since that post, there’s been a rise of AMWF relationships in the media as well as a growing number of Asian men (and the western women who love them) speaking up and speaking out. With rising tensions and deepening talks surrounding issues of race in the US, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my own prejudices. I’ve also given some thought as to why I assumed I’d never find a man to date in China, an assumption that many western women living in Asia seem to make. Then, the reason finally came to me—a man that was such a small part of my past but who I’ve come to realize had a seemingly profound impact on how I viewed Asian men and perhaps even how I saw myself.
It was freshman year of college and I was in a dating slump. The good news was that I got along fabulously with the other girls I lived with in my dormitory suite. There were five of us in total; I was the only one without a boyfriend. The two girls in the room next door, Laura and Erin, each were dating guys who attended a university on the other side of our state, which meant they were away most weekends visiting their beaus. I don’t know whose idea it was, theirs or mine, but somehow we came up with the idea of me having a blind date with one of their boyfriends’ friends. They quickly ran through their mental rolladexes (this was, of course, pre-Facebook). Who among these friends would be a good match? Laura looked up suddenly. “We should set you up with Johnny!” she exclaimed. “Yeah, he’s really cute!” Erin assured me. They shuffled through all the junk in their dorm room, eventually scrounging up a photo. Laura showed me his picture.
For a second, I was taken aback. I assumed he would be white, but he was in fact East Asian. I quickly admonished myself—what did it matter? He looked fairly cute from the photo and they eagerly sang his other praises: he was kind, smart, and 21 (old enough to buy us beer!). I decided to throw caution to the wind and join them on their next road trip across state, in hopes Johnny might be the man of my dreams. Or maybe someone fun to make-out with for the weekend. Whatever. When you’re 19 and in college, it hardly matters.
As fate would have it, Johnny was neither my future husband or make-out partner. The second I laid eyes on him I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I’m short. This guy? He was barely taller than me. He also weighed about 30 pounds less than me. The chemistry wasn’t there. I wanted a man who eclipsed me in size and strength, a man who would wrap me up into his arms and protect me from all danger. If Johnny was a little bigger and I a little smaller, maybe something could be there, I thought. Johnny, however, didn’t share my sentiments. He seemed very much into the idea of us becoming an item. He was smart enough to read my signals and not push me too hard, but he subtly pursued me that weekend and later, online.
I felt bad initially and even worse as time wore on. Johnny and I became closer friends while talking on MSN messenger and it became clear to me that he was suffering from a far worse dating slump than I was. He had been rejected over and over, to the point where he felt his efforts were futile. He was never going to find a girlfriend. I wanted to assure him that the right girl was out there, but I didn’t know how to do that without returning to an awkward conversation in which he asked why I didn’t like him. Eventually, our chats online became less frequent and I guiltily sighed with relief.
After that, I fell for my own perception bias. I viewed all Asian men as being smaller than me and therefore undatable. I assumed I could never again be attracted to them because I’d feel like an ogre in their presence. But then I came to China and discovered that Asian men come in all sizes and shapes. I also realized something else—a man’s true strength isn’t determined by his height in inches or weight in pounds; in the years since coming to China, I have found men attractive who had physiques similar to that of Johnny’s. And I have also realized that my own self-worth cannot be calculated by how small my jean size is. I don’t have to be thin for a man to find me beautiful.
I see now that I never gave Johnny a fair chance. Perhaps a romance could have blossomed and chemistry forged if I had had an open mind. Was I racist? Sizist? Self-loathing? I don’t know. But I don’t want to judge my 19-year-old self too harshly. I’m just glad that in time I was able to open myself up to the possibilities of dating cross-culturally and the idea of dating in China. I’m not sure where in the world I’d be today if I hadn’t.
Rosalie Zhao resides with her family in Hebei, China, where she writes a blog called Rosie in BJ.
I’m an Asian American man. I started writing my thoughts to contribute my point of view to the social environment that injures me through stereotypes and racism. It hurts Asian men, our friends and families, and it hurts our partners. The predominant public commentary is critical of me and everyone who looks like me; they belittle me (why, even?). So why wasn’t I hearing from more Asian men?
I think I felt tempted too… it’s social withdrawal. Put it this way, how rational would it be to participate in a social system that starts you at the bottom, keeps you at the bottom, and laughs the whole time doing it? I think Asian men have seen enough to know that they’d be painted into another angry minority caricature (“angry black man,” “bitch feminist,” &c.) I suspect this is a major reason for the lack of Asian male voices. In the end, the racism in the echo chamber of the Internet proliferated, possibly exceeding overt anti-Asian sentiment displayed publicly. It’s too much already.
In the context of the Asian Male White Female (AMWF) relationship, something unique has emerged. As AMWF couples encountered unique difficulties, ones stemming from prejudice, the women started speaking out in large numbers. They told their stories, shared them, and built a community of support and celebration around one thing, and it wasn’t Asian men, it was love. It was being allowed to love in the way they wanted, to love whomever they wanted… however hot and sexy this Asian man might be!
This experience is one of the events that led to my unease when I’m invited to a family event with a… well, more conservative family. They’re tricky places to encounter hostility because around folks I know, family, I’m usually relaxed, not on guard, and trying to have a good time.
It couldn’t have been a more poetic holiday for this memory. It was Independence Day in Ohio, the Fourth of July, and my girlfriend, who was white (Czech, Polish, and German heritage) brought me to her family’s barbeque and picnic in their newly completed solarium. There was potato salad, macaroni salad, and a number of other misleadingly named things that cause heart disease by the mountainous bowlful. The Stars and Stripes were gratuitously displayed. Kids risked fingers with low-grade explosives. It was a good time. The centerpiece to the whole affair was the barbeque which they managed to overload with some forbidden pyramid of smoking meats. I used to work at a grill, and even I thought that was an obscene amount of meat.
Well, I’m a vegetarian (yes, vegetarian grill cook, I know) so when I was offered some, I politely turned down my sector of the pyramid. Whoops. People looked over at us.
I learned that, at least in the 90s, this was an American social faux pas on par with sneezing in someone’s face. There was murmuring. I heard an aunt exclaim, “How?…What?…”
I tried to redirect and talk about how good all the salads were, but this was like trying to wipe the sneeze off of their collective faces with my bare hands. I could feel people’s eyes still on me. It was too late. I had declined the centerpiece of the American Independence celebration.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” I said. I put my red, white, and blue plate down on a small table and strode over to the bathroom, shut the door, and breathed again. I’m a teenage boy so it’s not like I have a whole lot of composure to begin with, but I muster together what I can, and go back outside. People had resumed doing whatever they were doing and I wasn’t noticed. I picked up my plate, ate a few bites of the potato salad, and went back to the tarp covered table for more.
“Are you happy about those secrets?” said a voice from beside me.
“What? I’m sorry?” I said. It was my girlfriend’s grandpa.
“The nuclear secrets. I know you came here to steal from us,” said her grandpa,
“I go to school…” I say, protesting.
“You’re Chinese, I know you are,” he says quietly, triumphantly, like he’s got me checkmated.
“Yes,” I say, now seriously confused, not quite believing what I’m hearing.
And here’s where having a lady with a sharp social sense comes in handy. Because where I might turn to look at a guy friend and receive some eyeshot that says, yeah, pound that racist, I got an arm around mine, a brisk walk out to the street, and a fresh piece of cake for me to eat as she drove us home. What a sweetheart.
We didn’t talk about Grandpa Bigotnasty much after that. She apologized for him; I told her not to, and we just went home. I never saw Grandpa B. again either. My girlfriend was mortified by her family and understood I wouldn’t go anyplace her grandpa would be. I guess you could call this an incident of social rejection. I think I like the term social withdrawal betterbecause it implies that it was more of my choice. It doesn’t really matter in in the end. I’m not there at her family events anymore because we broke up.
If I’m in an interracial relationship now, I sometimes try to talk to my partner about this anxiety over family gatherings. Sometimes I keep it to myself though…and hope that next time around, there won’t be a Grandpa Bigotnasty at the table.
I’m an Asian American man in my 30s living in the U.S., Northern California. I was born and raised in the Midwest and in a predominantly white community that seemed to embrace every stereotype ever heard about Asian folks. I write about my sexual experiences and the politics of sex for straight Asian men. Don’t get a little bit of the truth, get the full package – http://bigasianpackage.wordpress.com.
Ma da dao is Shanghainese slang meaning, “shop, wash, cook.”…
The exception is when the term is used to describe men in Shanghai — guys who don’t just shop, wash and cook, but famously do so without complaint….
2. The professional ‘bag carrier’…
When shopping with her Shanghainese boyfriend or husband (yes, Shanghai men shop, remember “ma” from point number one?) the Shanghai female doesn’t need to carry any bags, including her own petite purse….
3. Family pride
Chatting with a married Western man, you may need to wait hours before he mentions his wife. Chatting with a married Shanghainese man, you may need to wait hours before he stops talking about his wife….
The relationship between mother and daughter-in-law is like an active volcano in the Middle Marriage Kingdom. But the Shanghai husband’s legendary tolerance can single-handedly turn a lava flow into a pile of dead ashes, or a volcano to be enjoyed and admired like Mt. Fuji….
5. Masculinity in disguise…
Shanghainese men simply see it as their responsibility to provide their families with a wealthy life. Their outlook is, “I’ll make all the money and deal with all the ‘bei ju,'” a trendy Internet phrase in China meaning “everything tragic.”…
As much as I’m fascinated by this idea (when was the last time you heard anything positive about Asian men in the world of dating and marriage?) I find myself torn about how to feel about it. After all, the superiority of Shanghai husbands rests on some reasons that come across as potentially emasculating – the last thing any group of Asian men needs in this world.
Being renowned for, say, your prowess in the kitchen and doing housework doesn’t exactly scream “macho man”. While my feminist side loves a man who shares in the chores and kitchen duty – like John – I know it’s not going to boost the image of Asian men around the world. Asian men have been shackled with some of the most degrading racial stereotypes (particularly that one about a man’s, well, you know), casting them as the sexless pariahs of the dating world. As Alex Tizon wrote in his powerful memoir Big Little Man, “In the America that I grew up in, men of Asia placed last in the hierarchy of manhood.” Doesn’t the supposed supremacy of Shanghai men – based on their talents in the home, kitchen, and carrying women’s bags – just make things worse?
Then again, should we measure Shanghai husbands against Western ideals of what makes a man a man? After all, it’s the Chinese who first noted – and praised — the greatness of Shanghainese husbands. I’m reminded of how Alex Tizon wrote about the Chinese ideal of Wen Wu (文武) regarding masculinity in Big Little Man:
For the past two thousand years in China, you could not be merely a tough guy to be considered an ideal man. You also had to be scholarly, poetic, and wise. The manliest of men were philosopher-warriors, and more philosopher than warrior. A cultivated mind was more highly esteemed than big biceps or deft swordsmanship.
Or, in the case of the Shanghai husband, a cultivated man who cares for his wife, family and home in very practical and tangible ways.
I oscillate between both of these sides, never quite satisfied with either – and ultimately, never 100 percent a cheerleader for the superior Shanghai husband.
However, there is one husband whose side I’ll always be on – mine. John is from Hangzhou, not Shanghai. Sure, he does his share of the housework, helps in the kitchen, and always carries my bags when we shop. But he also lifts weights, is really sexy, and has an awesome sense of humor (he tells better jokes than I do, even in English). He defies categorization. And to me, he’ll always be the greatest husband in the world.
When you see an Asian woman and a white man together, what runs through your mind? Do you see just another happy interracial couple? Or do you wonder, is he another white guy with yellow fever? (Or worse, do you think he’s another Julien Blanc or Chinabounder, a man who comes to Asia with the sole intent of preying upon the women for sexual or personal gain?)
That’s the idea behind Gerald Zhang-Schmidt’s guest post. He’s a guy who happened to come to China because he loved the culture. But since he has a Chinese wife, some people wonder if “Chinese culture” is really just a coded way of saying “Chinese women.”
I have written before about how privilege can be a double-edged sword. When you are part of the majority that usually goes unquestioned, you have it much easier than those who always have to somehow justify themselves. At the same time, you will be put on the spot much less because everyone assumes they know what you’re about.
Usually, you read about Asian Male – Western Female relationships here on Jocelyn’s “Speaking of China,” and it is a topic of interest by the same token. It is the unusual coupling/pairing that draws attention while the opposite WMAF relationship is a dime a dozen.
Ah, yes, another white guy in China. Who cares?
Speak Chinese in public, even just a few words, and you will be praised. And then you will find yourself compared to Dashan. (Or right now, internationally, perhaps to Mark Zuckerberg.)
Get into a relationship with a Chinese woman, get ready for everyone knowing just perfectly well why and how that would have happened. Oftentimes, it seems everyone will think they know better than you, without ever having so much as done anything more than caught a glance of you.
At risk of sounding like bad Chinese “news” pieces, “everyone knows” of some “rotten apples,” and it’s been killing the atmosphere. I wrote about my relationship to my wife, who is Chinese, and the thoughts it raised before on my blog. One comment that immediately popped up accused me of “yellow fever.” Fittingly, right next to the link to a more recent post talking about how “yellow fever” is a demeaning concept.
So, I spoke to a fellow passenger on a train in China. She asked me what had led me to China and I replied that I’d had an interest in Chinese culture for as long as I could remember. She then asked me if by interest in Chinese culture, I actually meant the girls.
My then-girlfriend and I went down the road, heads turned and stared. Not just in her small-town hometown, where the police hadn’t had any idea about how to handle my residence registration until they checked in with their higher-ups. But even more so in the somewhat bigger cities where people obviously, in disapproving looks and mumbled comments, expressed their dubious opinion of our relationship.
I can’t blame the Chinese, though.
Pretty much every culture around the world tends to “lose” the daughters to husbands, and pretty much everywhere, seeing foreigners “take away” women is seen as an indication of one’s own weakness vis-á-vis the “others.”
Add an awareness, even if just at the level of urban legends and social media hearsay, of (supposedly) rich foreign guys basically buying themselves brides (of course, such stories would turn into morality tales with bad endings), foreigners actually bragging about the ease and number of their Asian conquests, and stories of destroyed virginities (and thus, marriage prospects, as per traditional Chinese notions) and broken hearts. It’s no wonder there is suspicion.
It is just natural.
I find it less natural for foreigners to bring along their cavalier attitudes about dating and sex to China. Okay, one could argue that it’s not a big deal here, given the traditional attitudes towards the wife versus mistresses. But no matter what over-entitled and under-culturally aware people claim, a stranger in a strange land should act with more concern for his host country.
Nowadays, of course, the effects on foreigners aren’t just isolated to places like China. Everywhere, one lives in the shadow of aspersion cast by those who act… well, in this case, under the influence of their penises rather than their brains, it seems.
Argue that you are different, and in a case of “methinks [he] doth protest too much”, you appear defensive, and by association, guilty. But shutting up only gives more room for the worst voices out there. So, at least sometimes – thank you for the invite and the reminder to do so again, Jocelyn – I go on writing about this issue. Most importantly, however, I keep on living it differently, remaining true to the woman I fell in love with and continue to love, whose name I added to my own, and who I want to make happy.
I’d love to add that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, but we humans are social animals to whom other’s opinions do matter a lot. However, it would help a lot, for a start, if you could at least not think the worst of us without knowing anything but our genders and ethnicities.
Logan Lo enlightened me with this guest post, which speaks to an oft-forgotten side of Hollywood history and how it has impacted Asian men in the media today. He writes: “…there are some that feel that the modern effeminization of Asian men in Hollywood and television was due – at least in some part – to the backlash over the first Hollywood sex symbol, a Japanese man named: Sessue Hayakawa.”
But for the purposes of this blog entry, let’s talk about just Asian men in Hollywood and television.
There’s always been a peculiar mindset about us in Western cinema. For years, there were two contradictory caricatures: the diabolical and animalistic Fu Manchu trope on end, and the intelligent and effeminate Charlie Chan trope on the other.
Both played, for years, by white actors.
The former can be traced back to the Mongol hordes and the Huns that were the boogymen of Europe for centuries but there are some that feel that the modern effeminization of Asian men in Hollywood and television was due – at least in some part – to the backlash over the first Hollywood sex symbol, a Japanese man named: Sessue Hayakawa.
How popular was he? He was as well known as Charlie Chaplin, got paid $200,000 a film, and made enough to drive around in a gold-plated car.
Unfortunately, in his breakout role on The Cheat – where he even appeared prominently in promotional posters – he was still in the mold of the sinister Asian male, albeit in a hyper-sexualized sorta way. That was the first time an Asian man was portrayed as, well, a leading man.
A sexual deviant man, but a man nonetheless.
Unfortunately, only a few years later, the idea of an Asian man as a masculine movie lead disappeared, leaving the simple extremes of Fu Manchu/Charlie Chan as the only dramatis personae for Asian dudes.
By the time WWII rolled around, it was exclusively one or the other, with the effeminate version culminating in “Long Duk Dong” of Pretty in Pink, which NPR examines far better than I could.
In that NPR article, however, the author uses a then up-and-coming John Cho as an interesting juxtaposition for the Long Duk Dong character. And currently, Cho is the Asian lead of the US television show, Selfie and the first Asian-American lead opposite a white female ever on television.
So here we are: 99 years after The Cheat, we have Selfie.
The hope is that it’s good. That John Cho doesn’t play some version of Fu Manchu or Charlie Chan but just your everyday all-American dude that just happens to be Asian.
Let’s see how it goes.
Logan Lo is a native New Yorker who’s been blogging since 2006. In between practicing law by day and teaching Filipino fencing by night, he’s managed to get married and write a popular article on online dating titled “eHarmony vs. Match,” as well as the books A Great Online Dating Profile and A Great First Date. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife and his plant, Harold.
Titled “Why Won’t Western Women Date Chinese Men?”, it’s my personal exploration of a topic close to my own heart. After reading a few too many misleading articles on the subject this year, I felt it was time for me to speak out.
…when I think about the global reach of this problem, and the fact that it’s even tough for Western-born Chinese to score a date outside of their own race, I know deep down that cultural differences — as much as they matter in relationships — cannot alone account for why few Western women date Chinese men. When I think about how a racist caricature from Hollywood gets tossed around among expats as a symbol of Chinese men — and Westerners from around the world harbor consistently negative views of Chinese men — I realize there’s a dark side to this whole discussion.
After years of living in China, there’s one thing I’ve learned – many of the locals, including the local men, have some rather fascinating ideas about Western women. What stereotypes come into their minds when they look upon a face like mine? Here are 5 stereotypes about Western women that I’ve personally encountered during my time in China.
Stereotype #1: Western women are sluts and like to sleep around.
Many moons ago when I first set foot in China, I went with an American female colleague I’ll call Sheila to a nightclub just around the corner from the school where we taught. The plan was to relax over a few beers, maybe dance, and just try to unwind after the end of an exhausting semester.
What I didn’t count on, however, was all of the leering we were subjected to in that club – especially when we decided to dance. There was even a guy who kept purposely trying to touch me in ways that, well, were completely out of bounds for a stranger. I remember storming into the bathroom, where I took refuge for part of the night (before deciding to ditch the place…something I should have done earlier). All the while I kept wondering, just who do they think I am?
It took me years to learn that some Chinese men automatically assume Western women love to sleep around or are simply easy sex for the taking.
I blame it in part on the ubiquitous Hollywood movies and TV you’ll find in China at the local DVD vendor or online, where Western women’s sex lives often turn into a revolving door of one-night stands and disposable boyfriends.
…the majority of Western women are just looking for that ONE guy we can settle down with. A soulmate. That best friend we can fall in love with. Or, to borrow from Jerry Maguire, someone to whom we can say “you complete me.” And that takes time — as in, getting to know someone as a friend first, and then upgrading to “dating” that person. But sorry, that usually doesn’t happen in one date, or even one week.
But it’ll take some time before everyone in China gets that message.
Unfortunately, I personally knew a Western woman who was almost raped by a taxi driver in Shenyang. I was also once sexually assaulted in China.
So, to all the foreign ladies out there in China, please be careful whenever you’re out and about.
Stereotype #2: Western women don’t care about family as much as Chinese women do.
There could be a lot of reasons why the family would be against us. Certainly if they buy into the above-mentioned slut stereotype, that wouldn’t exactly make us your number one choice for a new daughter-in-law. Sometimes it’s just a matter of worrying about those cultural differences (i.e.: how will we raise the future children?). But I believe sometimes Chinese families don’t want Western women coming into their lives because of another stereotype – that, supposedly, we don’t care enough about family. Not like the Chinese do.
Well, it’s not hard to imagine where people would get this idea. The same aforementioned Hollywood movies and TV – promoting “the Western woman as slut” stereotype – do us no favors in this department. Add to that the popular belief that Westerners toss their elderly into cold, impersonal nursing homes instead of caring for them in the family. Plus, the Chinese people often see Westerners — including women like me — as more independent. Surely, the independent young woman who left her family back in America to come to China couldn’t care that much about them?
The fact is, most of us are just like the Chinese – we care about our families too…sometimes, even, in ways that seem very Chinese. For example, my paternal grandfather lived with my father and stepmother for the last years of his life, and my maternal grandmother still enjoys care at home from her children. My dad and stepmom also provide day care for their granddaughter during the weekdays, echoing the way Yeye and Nainai often take care of the grandchildren here in China. And there have been times in my life when family members helped me in times of need with a little money.
Nowadays, though I live far away from my family, they still remain close to my heart. I regularly Skype with my dad and stepmom. I send gifts and greetings back home to my relatives, and e-mail with them from time to time. Though I wouldn’t easily admit it, I do look forward to the day when I can return to Cleveland, Ohio once again and see them all.
I’d like to think there’s a deeply filial side to my personality. Maybe it’s no surprise, then, that during our wedding ceremony, John’s father actually called me “filial” in a speech welcoming me into the family.
Stereotype #3: Western women don’t care that much about material things (like having a home, car and lots of money upon marriage), so you don’t have to work as hard.
We faced “Money” all the time — hadn’t we survived summer 2006, when some months I never knew when the checks from my new business would come in, and wondered what bills to pay and what to leave aside? Hadn’t we just managed to scrounge the cash together for plane tickets? When it came to “Car,” we were just grateful that our secondhand 1991 Toyota station wagon — teeter-tottering with every bump on its barely-there shocks — still ran after some 170,000-plus miles. And as for “Home,” we felt lucky to manage the rent on our place — owning just wasn’t in the cards for us yet.
Even today, we still don’t own our own apartment. We’re far from wealthy. We sold our car before moving to China and still haven’t the means to purchase one yet.
People who know of all this often say my husband is so lucky to have me as his wife. After all, they believe my story proves what they’ve thought about Western women — that we don’t care about all those material things.
That if you’re a guy like John, you don’t have to work nearly as hard as you would for a Chinese woman.
(It’s totally nuts!)
Maybe I am different from many Chinese women, who expect their men to have a home, car and enough money before marriage. But that doesn’t mean I never want a home, car or money. I’m just willing work with my husband to get there — because he has always wanted to work hard for our future together.
In other words, I wouldn’t be pleased to be with a guy who just wanted to freeload on me.
When I first met Guo Jian, he was one of the few Chinese people I’d come across who had a car—young people, that is. Especially in the world of musicians who make so little per gig, cars are rare here. He was working with a famous Chinese rock star at the time, though, and he had become pretty famous himself as a result of that initial association, so I figured he just made a fair bit of money and that he was able to afford it. It wasn’t a new car, but it was his.
I also discovered early on that the apartment he lived in was also his. He owned it, he told me, when he first invited me for tea and I had a glimpse at his spotless abode. (Oh, how he tricked me into thinking he was a neat freak!) And, about his possessing property, I am a bit ashamed to say that I was impressed. I knew even then that housing is very expensive in Beijing, particularly compared to the average wage. I immediately viewed him as stable, mature, and financially secure.
There you go.
So to all the would-be bums out there, sorry – we’re not interested!
Stereotype #4: Chinese men will never be able to sexually satisfy Western women.
A driver in Beijing once told me about how he broke it off years ago with his Russian girlfriend. When I asked why, he provided a shocking reason – her supposedly insatiable libido. He even told me that Chinese men could never possibly satisfy Western women in THAT department, so why even try?
Ridiculous, I know.
It’s bad enough that Westerners promote that incredibly offensive sexless/dickless stereotype of Asian men. Men in Asia don’t need to pile it on by essentially shooting themselves in the genitals.
Trust me guys, judging by my experiences and those I’ve heard about through the hundreds of Western women with Chinese men I’ve connected with, your member can rock our world just fine.
Stereotype #5: Western women are stronger than Chinese women.
A Chinese female friend once said to me, “Western women don’t need to do zuo yuezi because you’re much stronger than us.”
Zuo yuezi, for those of you who don’t know about this, is the month-long confinement that new mothers generally observe in China after birthing their child. During that time, they rest, eat nourishing foods, and usually have assistance with the new baby (often from their mother or mother-in-law). It’s an extremely important recuperation custom for new mothers in China.
When I first began writing about zuo yuezi, some readers were aghast at the cost. One friend, with whom I shared my post about the cost of postpartum confinement centers, thought that the hotel-like accommodation was only for the extremely wealthy. Actually, while the per night tariff is not cheap, many people I know have stayed at them for a month or longer after having a baby. Others have spent between US$1,000 and US$2,000 a month on special home delivered postpartum meals.
Why is there instead a perception in Western cultures that it is wrong to spend money (and time) on a woman’s recovery? If a husband loves his wife, why wouldn’t he want her to have the best care? And if she loves herself, why doesn’t she demand it?
….getting someone to come in and help the mother with cooking, cleaning and looking after baby so that she can get some sleep? What extravagance! Why, people would think she was lazy, or that she was a negligent mother who could not perform her duties. Real mothers prove themselves by feeding through the night, changing dirty nappies, cleaning up vomit and doing several loads of washing. Then they put on some lipstick and try to look glamorous as they entertain guests.
Unfortunately, most supermums fizzle out eventually. In my case, it took less than a month with first baby before I began to get worn out and very cranky.
Taiwanxifu, who is Australian, clearly wasn’t some “supermum” who could just power through things after giving birth (which is why she did a modified zuo yuezi for her second baby). Canadian Ember Swift also did modified zuo yuezi after giving birth both times.
It’s kind of crazy that the absence of zuo yuezi in Western countries could lead people to conclude Western women must be stronger – though it’s not the first time I’ve heard this sort of thing.
People in China also claim Westerners are tough because we’re taller and larger than a part of the population here in China — with some even attributing this physical difference to diet (that Westerners supposedly consume loads of dairy and red meat). Naturally, this leads to bizarre conversations among friends. For example, one of our friends here in China proudly announced she planned to feed her toddler lots of cheese, because it’s supposedly the “food of champions” for foreigners. All the while I kept thinking to myself, where did she learn this nonsense?
Trust me guys, we’re not superwomen…though we can be “super women” to date and marry! 😉
What do you think? What stereotypes have you heard about Western women when you’ve been in China?
The accomplished Kaitlin Solimine (she’s also a contributor to the new anthology How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit) asked me a few months back about doing a piece for HIPPO Reads, a website known for “Real World Issues, Academic Insights.” Originally, it all started when I shared an article about the bias against Asian students in academia (one of the most shocking findings from a recent Wharton School study) and she brought up doing a guest post for HIPPO Reads. So I said, “Sure, I’ll do it.”
Well, the article soon morphed into something far beyond the problems that Asians face in higher education in America, and now offers a more comprehensive snapshot of the many ways Asians just aren’t getting ahead in America (despite the “model minority” label Americans love to attribute to Asians).
In April 2014, the public was collectively shocked when University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School unveiled the results of a study examining racial gender biases in faculty mentoring. This finding particularly struck a chord: “We see tremendous bias against Asian students and that’s not something we expected. So a lot of people think of Asians as a model minority group. We expect them to be treated quite well in academia, and at least in the study and in this context we see more discrimination against Indian and Chinese students than against other groups.”
For most of the American public, such a finding was confounding. After all, for many Americans, it seems Asians reign at elite colleges and universities and go on to live the American dream. Eugene Volokh, for example, in this Washington Post piece, points to the overrepresentation of Asians at the Silicon Valley behemoth of Google as an example of “how the Asians became white.”
Statistics can be deceptive, just like our own stereotypes about Asians in America. If Americans think Asians have truly made it—or even have an unfair advantage—perhaps it’s time to think again:
A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a reader in Singapore I’ll call “Tom”, who wrote:
First of, thank you for spending the time and effort to share your unique marriage experience. I have been reading and digesting what you have posted thus far.
However, as a Chinese Singaporean, I find myself caught in between the Chinese and the Chinese born and raised in a Western country. There is a lot of talk about these two groups but I feel left out of the conversation. A lot of hurdles that a White female may face with a Chinese seem to be almost non-existent when it comes to the sizable number of Chinese Singaporean men who come from english speaking families, and are highly educated with good and stable jobs. Such families tend to not be overly traditional and live out western values in their daily lives.
I am adamant that I would so much happier if I could have a life partner that has the qualities of a western female. Softness and meekness, and even home cooking, believe it or not, isn’t all that endearing to me. I want a girl that behaves as if she has life in her! I want a life partner, not a little girl. If I don’t give this a shot now I may settle for someone “lesser” in my mind’s eye. If I wanted to settle I would have years ago.
Dating a Chinese guy has never been a hot topic to discuss with my friends. Some of these, I have found, have been harsh and unfairly judgmental. One even tried to warn me: “Don’t even think about it.” Their reason: they simply found the cultural differences too large.
When the author describes her judgmental friends, I’ll be willing to bet they have a very fixed and limited idea of “Chinese men” and subsequently what it means to date them. Chances are, not a single one of these women could imagine a guy like Tom.
There is incredible diversity when it comes to Chinese men — and more often than not, it looks completely different from the stereotypical images you hold in your mind. As an example, just look at these posts by China Elevator Stories, Sara Jaaksola, The Mandarin Duck, and Ember Swift about their own husbands, who are all so unique in their own right!
It’s almost crazy that things like this even need to be said. But then again, it is crazy that a lot of women come to China and then automatically cross Chinese men off the “dateworthy” column in their minds, as that World of Chinese article mentioned (a phenomenon I’ve sadly observed as well).
So ladies, don’t always assume he’s too conservative or traditional for you to date just because he’s Chinese and you’re an independently minded Western woman. For all you know, he could be like Tom.
It’s my own fault, after all. I’ve known Jocelyn, at least via Speaking of China, for years and read of her thoughts and travails with great interest. The way that Chinese society puts everyone into place, in their gender roles and in gendered expectations about behavior and the course of a life has fascinated me.
How could you not be fascinated? While public displays of affection are still viewed askance in many places, the requirements for an ideal partner are proudly and straightforwardly proclaimed in ‘marriage markets’? (“Westerners” may also see these advertisements as superficial and appalling, but one could just as well call them honest.)
How about a place where the women are portrayed as if they would prefer (and be preferred by) foreigners over their own men, whereas the men hardly even seem to stand a chance with anyone anymore? That’s where I’m caught squat in the middle. Speaking of China is all about the rarity of foreign woman – Asian man couples, draws readers because of that same rarity, and has lots of issues to talk about. Meanwhile I’m living all of those other, wicked, dominant, problematic positions.
I mean, according to all the talk about white male privilege – and its experience – I must clearly be privileged. I’m not supposed to talk, for it just reflects my attempts at staying on top and maintaining my privileged position. As the WM part of a WM-AF (white male – Asian female) relationship, I’m living the stereotype. “Oh my, clearly one of those guys with an Asian fetish and one of those stupid and/or calculating women dumb enough to fall for him.”
The privilege of being in a majority is that you’re questioned less. As a friend recently put it, “you are given more second chances.” For the same reason, though, you are also less visible — for better and worse. You don’t have to explain yourself nearly as much as the unusual Western (or other) woman who marries an Asian man or the lucky Asian man who was able to attract a Western woman. Because they are considered unusual, they attract attention. They get questioned. They have to explain themselves and live with the puzzled looks. But, they also get much-visited blogs and book deals for their memoirs. And so, they have a need, but also get a chance, of explaining themselves. In breaking the mold, they are viewed askance, but also as avant-garde.
Such observations of upsides and downsides all too quickly devolve into nothing but discussions of who’s got it worse or better, “the culture of shut-up,” as it was recently called. So who does have it better? The one in an extraordinary situation beyond usual stereotypes, yet facing more scrutiny because of it? Or the one barely noticed because the situation is so stereotypical, no one even bothers wondering?
It’s similar to how feminism and stereotypes are discussed in general terms rather easily, but then suddenly turn personal and get vicious, until the discussion turns into something that has nothing to do with them. The likes of a “sure, there is a privilege to being a white male, but *I* am hardly privileged (or do you see me becoming rich just so?)” even as the systemic difficulties of the not-privileged (and advantages of the privileged) certainly are there, or the “yeah, I’m all for feminism, I like strong women” from men, as if feminism were all about strength, let alone one person’s likes.
But that’s not what I want to discuss. I don’t want to discuss anything, really. I just want to provide my observations and make a humble suggestion. Relationships, be they romantic or otherwise, will always be influenced by ethnic, cultural, and other backgrounds and the views they give rise to. But relationships are, at heart, not between ethnic groups, not between social groupings, nor even between men and women. They are between individual people.
The trouble starts when we don’t want to see individual people and individual situations, and don’t suspend judgment. When we see someone who fits into a stereotypical opinion and immediately think we have a handle on who they are.
We should remember that we tend to not even understand ourselves half as well as we may think we do.
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