Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Rugged Individuals?

The Fear Driving Racism Against Asian Men.

I came across yet another interesting blog run by an American female ex-pat in South Korea. She has written a series of posts outlining the evolution of her attitudes and beliefs over a period of a year regarding the romantic involvement of Asian men and western women. In a series of four posts she describes how before she moved to Korea she was exposed to the belief that Asian men were just too comical to be considered serious mate material (by herself, her friends, and people in her social networks) and how by the end of the series she has completely reversed this attitude within herself. Along the way she describes her realization that it is a form of white patriarchal racism (although she never actually uses the term racism, that is what it amounts to) that empowers itself by controlling the choices of white (but also, as we all know but many are reluctant to admit, Asian) women by using negative racial stereotypes to discourage western women from involving themselves with Asian men.

This is from the first post in the series, for ease of reading bear in mind that the blogger writes about herself in the 3rd person, and calls herself "INP" (I'm No Picasso) .........
[She]... has just had the crushing realization that her life actually belongs to her, and she can take it and put it wherever on this globe she has a mind to. At the moment, the most prominent option seems to be Korea. ...one resounding question for her about her new plans, other than, "What the hell are you doing?" That question is...."What are you going to do about the men?"........several people in INP's inner circle surprised her in their reactions. INP was not an idiot -- she was aware of the stereotypes surrounding Asian men in American culture. She was probably, if she was completely honest, a holder of one or two in her own mind at times. But INP at no point believed that the mere thought of her in bed with an Asian man should send anyone she knew and called one of her own into fits of hysterical laughter.
In the next couple of paragraphs she goes on to describe how despite self-evidently hyper-masculine Korean men known to her via their celeb status as well-known actors, even this was not sufficient to disavow her personal and internet friends of the idea that dating Asian men was absolutely not a serious option as their preconceived notions always trumped any reality check. She goes on.....
Then INP started to frequent a little place called Dave's ESL Cafe [a website]. As most people end up doing at one point or another in their time preparing to come to Korea to teach English. Suddenly, INP was bombarded with one overarching message. The message was this: Western women do not find Korean men attractive. Korean men do not find Western women attractive. As Western men in Korea are all completely consumed with Korean women (given how unattractive Western women are in comparison), and all that leaves Western women with are girly pansy-assed Korean men (who none of them find attractive, and who, mutually, don't find Western women attractive), then Western women in Korea can expect to spend their year with their sexual congress 'out of session'.
But it gets much better........
INP may have been a lot of things, but stupid definitely wasn't one. It didn't take her long to realize that, oddly enough, all of these posts were coming from Western men. INP tried to find some input from Western women, but there was none to be found. Anytime a Western woman tried to say anything at all on this site, in fact, it seemed she was immediately shouted down for being, oddly enough, 'fat'. Which seemed to be an applicable comment no matter what information the woman had or hadn't provided about herself, and in nearly every situation, no matter what was being discussed.......INP started to feel very worried about her impending time in the ROK. She had read dozens of warnings (from Western men) about how horribly sexist Korean men were. And yet, INP was getting the sinking feeling that the Western men in Korea may not be much better.
On to part two. Writing about her initial contact with western female ex-pats in Korea INP she laments their reinforcement of the negative attitudes towards Korean men......
I was often forced to sit and listen to a monologue-cum-tirade about how sexist Korean men were, how impossible the cultural differences were, how feminine and unattractive and gay Korean men were. I had only been in Korea for a very short time, and I thought it was possible these women had experienced something that I hadn't yet, but I had suspicions that there was something else at play.......As I looked around me, I found it hard to see what the other foreign women saw, on the surface level. Sure, I'd noticed the flower boys. But I had also noticed the other men. I was in Incheon, after all -- an area renowned the country over for its rough-and-tumble locals. As far as I could tell, Incheon seemed to be the source from which the entire Korean mafia issued forth. And that suited me just fine. I wasn't having any trouble at all spotting Korean men who weren't feminine, unattractive or gay.
This is very interesting because negative perceptions of Asian men's attractiveness were maintained even when blatant evidence to the contrary existed. But then INP starts to see the light. Noting that many of these western women were frustrated by the fact that the western men in Korea were only interested in Korean women....
I also looked around at the groups of Western men that surrounded these Western women. I began to put two and two together........I would hear endless echoes of everything I had seen written on Dave's -- how Western men only wanted to date Korean women, how their time there had been entirely sexless and dateless......But fuck sake. Where were the women? I couldn't be the only one in the entire country who would even consider a Korean man. 
Finally, having endured this negativity from western ex-pats, INP decides (in part because no western man would approach her) that she is going to taste the local flavours for herself regardless of what the other ex-pats thought. In part three of the series she describes her first date with a Korean man.....
I will never, as long as I live, forget my first date with a Korean guy. Because of the date? No. Because of the guy? No. Because of the absolute classicness of what ensued when I had the balls to walk into the local foreigner bar with a Korean guy for the first time. And how many realizations I had on that night alone about the nature of what had been confusing the fuck out of me for literally months.
Describing her Korean date thus....
The guy was not run-of-the-mill by anyone's standards. But he was, physically, absolutely stunning by my own. About six feet tall, with a thin build -- covered in tattoos and sporting a bit of facial hair. Dressed in all black with worn jeans and a leather jacket. Big black combat boots. Sharp eyes.....He was a tough looking guy, by anyone's standards, including a Westerner's.
The reaction of the western men in the bar is swift and bitchy......
We had been there for about fifteen minutes when, suddenly, out of fucking nowhere, some Western man I had never even seen before came reeling in my direction. He literally wedged himself directly between me and my date, with his back to my date........"Oh look at this.... like.... cool rocker chick. Sitting back here alone and sipping on a beer and being cool and shit!".......This continued all. night. long. One after another of the foreign men who had never bothered to even look me in the eye before that night suddenly felt the need to make their way over and say something fucking asinine while completely ignoring the fact that there was another human being sitting next to me, with whom I was trying to have a conversation.
The harassment continued.....
A date would go to the bathroom, and a Western man I was completely unacquainted with would sidle over from the other side of the room and inform me that my date's outfit was "gay" (t shirt and jeans?), his hair was "stupid" (combed and washed?), and that I would obviously have a better time that night if I were to go home with him instead....Was it ALL of this EVERY time I was out with a Korean guy? No....Was it at least some of this most of the times I was out with a Korean guy? Yes. Making it home for the evening without encountering at least one patronizing comment was the rare exception.
And here is where it gets even more interesting.....
I realized what was behind it. A community of men who had previously viewed me as a kind of annoying buzzing sound in the room....were now striding up to me in bars to offer me a 'chance' to be with them. Or were finding smaller, more cowardly ways to make passive aggressive comments and generally interrupt my business, which they had previously had literally no interest in whatsoever.....And it wasn't just about me being with a guy....It was that I was with a Korean guy. ......I had had enough of watching women joke and laugh and jeer right along their Western male counterparts, condemning themselves to a 'miserable' experience, all to be sure they weren't outcast from what little community they had.....I had had enough of listening to men tell me what my experience in Korea was and would be, and why. And then, when I turned around and proved them wrong -- not even for the sake of proving them wrong, but just as incidence in the conducting of my own personal pursuit of happiness -- having them jump all over that shit as well. Even the nice guys I knew from around would occasionally manage to be patronizing, with comments like, "Good for you!" and, "Oh, really? You like Korean guys? Well... that's cool." As though them sitting around and endlessly discussing how much they wanted to date Korean girls happened on a completely different planet from me dating Korean guys.
Then INP notices the dramatic goal-post shift.........
Popular opinion among this pack of scumbags, in the face of direct contradiction, had suddenly shifted from "Western women have to be celibate in Korea because no one will touch them har har!" to "Oh, that? Over there? Yeah. Korean men just like to use Western women for sex." Funny, that. I had gone from being completely un-sexable to only useful for my sexuality.
But her refusal to be bullied out of her own autonomy leads to her being labelled.....
 Their attempts to badger me into backing down and being ashamed of myself weren't working -- in fact, they were backfiring.......I just wasn't going to cooperate, the way other women had been, by assuming a martyred role and going along with their myth. And so I started to get a bit of a reputation.....So suddenly, I had become That Girl Who Dates Korean Guys.......It wasn't what I set out to be. I never put a cap on my interest in Western men. I never had "yellow fever". But it couldn't just be what it was, which was that I was dating men who happened to be Korean. It had to be categorizedNo, no -- Western women still don't like Korean men, and Korean men still don't like Western women. INP is just into them, and they're just into her.
By part four of the series INP begins to notice other women like her were beginning to come to Korea who weren't so easily bullied into accepting the "rules" of acceptance into their own communities which required that they adopt these racist stereotypes about Asian men that led to their own personal unhappiness and loneliness. 
Even stranger, I had begun to have very different first encounters with Western women. Standing outside a local university one day, smoking a cigarette, one made her way toward me. After a few minutes discussing all the usual details, she looked up at me out of the corner of her eyes, squinted and said, "So, have you got it?", "Got what?""The fever.""The I'm sorry?"
 LOL! Nice!
These were small, but noticeable changes......That would mean we didn't have to deal with all kinds of side-eye and rude, childish, unacceptable behavior when we were seen out with Korean men.....Women were blogging in Korea. Women were blogging in Korea about dating. Women were blogging in Korea about dating Korean men. And other women around the world were eating it up.......These women weren't sad and lonely. They most certainly were not sexless. And, most importantly, anonymity for the sake of sexual content aside, they were not embarrassed. They had no reason to be. And the men they were with were attractive to them, and the men they were with were not sexually impotent.
And there you have it. A thoroughly enjoyable read, and I advise readers to read all four posts all the way through, it is a very insightful series and talks about attitudes towards Asian men that few - even in the Asian community - are willing to acknowledge. 

Commentary.

It is nice to see that someone other than an Asian man has noticed, and is writing about, our experiences - Asian men who write about this are labelled "angry Asian losers" and are dismissed (often by their own community). Although INP suggests that the prejudices that she describes were limited to a few loser individuals and that her story should not be used to taint the reputations of the majority of "good" ex-pats in Korea, the experience of INP is a microcosm of the type of attitudes that America purveys about Asian men on a culture wide level. The difference for her, perhaps, is that in the US she may not encounter this type of prejudice very often because the question of dating Asian guys is less likely to come up as frequently (if at all). For Asian men, these demeaning attitudes are a common aspect of our experience and are routinely expressed through America's cultural endeavours. So even though INP may be correct that it was a minority pedaling these ideas, the fact remains that this denigration of Asian men is an established and pervasive practice of American culture which was simply reflected in the microcosm of her Korean ex-pat community.

It should also be said that this idea of a few "bad apples" bullying and cajoling the rest of the group into adopting these attitudes and behaviours mirrors the character of America's general, at best, dismissive attitude towards Asian men. Because America's culture has made it normal to only think negative and dehumanizing  ideas about Asian men - that few are willing or able to challenge - it is possible for a small group of assholes to be empowered to be openly and casually racist without social censure. Whereas, for other minority groups the most fervent racists are on the margins, for Asian men, the most fervent racists are the ones directing social attitudes and behaviours first through stereotyping and misinformation, and when that doesn't work, through scorn, peer pressure, or even ostracism.

The most recent example of this is, of course, the racialized and often outright racist commentaries on Jeremy Lin's time with the Knicks. At first, the coverage of Lin tended to focus on his skills which (just like the perceptual blindness of female ex-pats in Korea) no-one seemed to notice before. After a couple of days the racialization began. I remember watching a couple of games in which the commentators were (for no good reason and contrary to what was actually happening on the court) somehow noticing that Lin seemed "tired" or lacking in stamina - as you would expect (of course!) of an Asian man. Then came the "chink in the armour" commentaries, the "Lin has a small dick" twitters, and the various ways in which Lin's success was sullied by racial insensitivity and outright spite.

What was actually happening was that the goalposts were being moved - when Lin proved that the certainty of Asian athletic inferiority to be premature, the goalposts were realigned so that it didn't matter that the stereotypes were wrong because let's remember that Lin is still merely a chink with a small dick. Thus, society's assumptions can remain in place, and America could feel safe in the certainty of its superiority. This is what INP relates in her third post when she talks about the goalpost shift that allowed the prejudice to remain but be expressed through a reversal of stereotype - instead of Korean men being sexless and impotent, the warning now became that Korean men were only interested in western women for the sex.

The phenomenon of the high Asian representation in America's universities offers us another example of this continual shifting of goalposts. When the first Asian migrants came to America, they were considered intellectually inferior. Subsequent events have made a mockery of this belief, and as Asians have come to increase their presence in education, the criticism has shifted and has now become "yes, they are intelligent but they are not creative". Or, Asians are intelligent but they are merely good test-takers who fail in the real world. Or, Asians are intelligent but are poor leaders. Or, Asians are smart but are not independent thinkers. American culture is so conditioned to conceive of Asians in negative ways that "it just doesn't feel right" to not include negative caveats about Asians. Thus, it goes unnoticed when the prevailing racism contradicts previous assumptions and shows it to be irrational. This why it is possible for America's attitudes towards Asians to be directed by so few and accepted by so many.

INP's description of the western men in her ex-pat group reinforced my sense that much of the prejudice directed at Asian men is fear-based. There is an air of tragedy in this idea of western men (most of whom I would presume are white) who have the opportunity to experience a foreign culture and somewhat escape the conditioning of their own society, but who instead huddle together for safety in their group - fearing to venture out to glimpse the world from a different perspective. What a waste. Even worse is the pathos of this gaggle of western guys, maintaining the illusion of their own primacy, whilst simultaneously hiding their timidity, through gossip, manipulation, and by controlling women with scary stories. And when that doesn't work, sullying the reputations of those who refuse to be manipulated by gossiping about them like hags. So much for this non-conformist "rugged individualism" we hear so much about.

It has to be noted that these timid ex-pats are gender specific about their prejudices - as INP noted, these men would spread racist gossip about Korean men, but in the same breath speak about how they only date Korean women. What for many might seem like a paradox is actually a common notion in the Asian-American dialogue which, unfortunately, Asians themselves generally refuse to acknowledge. Gender specific racism is what has defined the Asian-American experience. Although racism is experienced by both Asian men and women, racism against Asian men is exclusionary, whereas for Asian women the racism is implicitly inclusive - which may be why some Asian women appear confused about it. And that is why some white dudes who express racist attitudes about Asians are married to Asian women. This is a point that needs to be emphasized in any discussion on the Asian-American experience of racism; the anti-Asian racism that persists in America is built on a foundation of dehumanization of Asian men. This is why it may be the out-marriage rates of Asian-American men, the degree of their visibility in popular culture, and their prominence in leadership roles, that serves as the gauge of improved attitudes towards Asians.

The implications of this are disturbing to say the least. As INP noted, her initial unbiased impression of Korean men was that they were not all wimpy girly-boys, but included amongst them were guys whom she found to be extremely attractive. Yet, the social control of gossipy ex-pat men had so clouded the perceptions of ex-pat women that they weren't able to see beyond what their conditioning dictated they should see. A combination of persistent manipulative racist gossip, the threat of being kicked out of the group and theirself becoming the target of gossip, culturally conditioned assumptions about Asian men, as well as an inability to notice the sexism implicit in these ex-pat men's efforts to control them, all contributed to this phenomenon of not being able to make an autonomous decision based on the evidence of their own eyes.

Some Asian men might read this and despair, but that would be silly. What INP's posts (which reinforced my own dating experiences) show is that the type of woman that chooses to partner an Asian man in the west, has to be independent, an autonomous thinker, not afraid to swim against the current of social fads, be willing to question racist assumptions, and not be swayed by gossip or social and peer pressure. This I think is a positive thing because there are plenty of women like this in America. Asian dudes just need to do more to notice them instead of seeing just the automatons who follow the attitudes of the herd.

In summary, the events and experiences that INP describes, although in the context of a small ex-pat community do, in fact, reflect and mirror the culture-wide nature of America's negative attitudes towards Asian men. INP describes the way that attitudes and behaviours of her ex-pat colleagues were directed and controlled by timid and frightened white men, whose racism was propagated through vicious gossip, social pressure, name-calling, racial stereotyping, and the exploitation of people's fears and ignorance. Yet, this is precisely the way that American culture propagates anti-Asian racism through the media. Gossip, innuendo, regurgitation of stereotypes, name-calling, and xenophobia, are all ways that American culture engages society, and defines the dialogue on Asians.

Here are the links again....

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

13 comments:

  1. you make a big deal out of date a white woman. are you pro-hapa?

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    1. Don't understand the question. Please elaborate.

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  2. why do you care about what white women think about asian men?

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    1. Another odd question. Where do you get that idea?

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  3. I thought it's interesting that the male commenters on her blog is either aggressive towards her or spin the topic to how poorly they are treated, god, you just love those ricechasers!

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  4. There is nothing bigger than a white man's insecurities.

    Just look at this article posted just recently on msn.com:

    http://health.msn.co.nz/sex/sexualhealth/8542152/average-penis-sizes-from-around-the-world-revealed

    Although the article has been acknowledged to be flawed and fabricated, notice how that particular piece of crucial information has been downplayed?

    http://www.modelminority.com/joomla/index.php?option=com_ccboard&view=postlist&forum=7&topic=4985&Itemid=53#ccbp24491

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    1. Richard Lynn has been discredited in the past - I think this is the same HBD guy who took IQ tests from mentally handicapped Africans and fudged them into his stats in order to lower the average IQ, so that he could prove that Africans were genetically less intelligent. Basically he has been shown to have manipulated and falsified information...

      http://racialreality.blogspot.com/2011/08/devastating-criticism-of-richard-lynn.html

      Plus, even if it was true, dicks between 13 and 14 centimetres are still pretty fucking small, so there's nothing to boast about there.

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  5. Great commentary. I found it quite thought-provoking particularly the quote about "moving the goal post" when it comes to recognizing Asian-American men with respect to their accomplishments. The good news is that Asian-Americans, in general, are making progress. Sometimes it is subtle, but incremental changes over a long enough time period can lead to an extraordinary set of changes at any moments notice. Thus, I have decided to reincarnate my blog - DestroyToRebuild.blogspot.com - and focus on the positive strides the AA community has made with hopes to continue this dialogue so that we have a better understanding and acceptance of each other.

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  6. Masir

    Glad you're back! I'll update the link to your blog.

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  7. Are East Asian men only interested in dating white girls? I have heard so much about East Asian men going on and on about how East Asian women are into white guys and won't date them. I know this causes a lot of frustration, hurt and upset. However, it seems reading through the lines that East Asian guys are just miffed because white women are not interested - due to racist stereotypes etc. Secondly what is it with all this white worship anything to do with internalized racism?

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    1. An impossible question for me to answer - I'm not one to make sweeping statements about how a bunch of people whom I don't know personally will or will not act.

      Having said that, the Asian men who date white women are the ones who get most of the attention, but I sense 2nd and 3rd generation Asian men in the US are more likely to to be open to dating across any ethnic line.

      Plus, I believe this stereotype of the Asian man who is miffed about Asian women dating out is overstated - yes there are a few "hardcore" people who express frustration (mostly on the internet) at the so-called IR disparity, but I would say that for the most part most Asian guys are just trying to get along and live their lives and really don't care (or have time to care) that much about the "issue". I'm one of these.

      Also, I'm not convinced that non-Asian (or Asian) women are not interested in Asian men - that is just another stereotype (like I stated in the post) created by white dudes.

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    2. That's certain a valid criticism, one that we Asian guys often are uncomfortable discussing. The fact is that a lot of Asian guys who complain about White girls discriminating against us will also not be that open to dating, say, Black girls.

      I can see how this fact can be used by defenders of the status quo to negate, even justify, the complaints of Asian men. "Ah ha! See, you guys are racist too! So tit for tat!"

      That's just stupidity. Ending racial inequalities isn't a battle to be won on one decisive swoop. Should we work to end emasculation of Asian men? Yes. But should we also work to end Asian men's racism against non-Asian WOC? Yes. We can do both, and it's not an either/or proposition.

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