Have you ever had a million questions pop into your head all at once, as you are eager to find out the answer to every single one? Yeah? Me too. It is now that I approach an issue that is very complex; however, something that is crucial to discuss amongst our society. And it is here that I blatantly ask…
Why is it that my one of my male friends from home (who is caucasian) is only attracted towards Asian American women? And it is this question that makes me wonder…
What drives different racial groups together on a level of affection? Are individuals from different racial groups attracted towards one another for the sole purpose of intimacy? Or, does society play a role on how we perceive individuals, in which, motivate us towards investing our time into a relationship that is “out of the norm?” Relationships are formed for many different reasons; thus, every factor contributes to overall decision of a relationship. However, stereotypes and misconceptions of racial groups among our society impact the decisions of investing time into relations of both friendship and intimacy. It is without further ado, that I aim to analyze the representations that are commonly portrayed by white masculinity and racialized Asian American women femininity throughout this portion of the article. It is my mission to unpack both representations of white male masculinity and the racialized Asian American female’s femininity individually through a prism that reflects cultural, social, and political ideologies. It is then that I will combine these two individuals to further analyze how these stereotypes influence each other and the obstacles that may arise. I encourage you to follow my journey, as I am compelled to dig deeper into the commonly viewed misconceptions that persist among interracial relationships.
But, wait…first, where did this all start? (Here we go with the questions again)
LETS BRING IT BACK (origin,transformation over time, and place):
As mentioned in great depth in the section above (discussed in the history section of white American Women and Asian-American men), history has shaped the ways in which we depict interracial couples within the U.S. The United States and Asia have had a persistent history of tension. Trade has served as a major foundation in which the relationship of Asia and the U.S. is based upon. When the first Opium war broke out between China and Britain, the California gold rush was also occurring within the same time frame. In a desperate attempt to get wealthy, many Asians, especially the Chinese came to America and were drafted to work as laborers on the Transcontinental Railroad, or originally known as the “Pacific Railroad” (Bello). As these the immigrant Chinese laborers were willing to work for a fractions worth of pay, individuals within the American labor unions grew infuriated, as they felt immigrants were in the process of driving the wages down for everyone. The sense of resentment that the white males held against the Chinese immigrants symbolized the fear of being challenged. It’s as if the sense of pride that came with leading the labor force was ripped out of the white American males hands and instead, placed within the hands of the perceived “foreigner.” Since this occurrence, many acts from there on out were intentionally discriminative, so that the lives of Asian individuals would become chaotic and difficult. These acts, such as the Page Act of 1875 for an example, heavily affected Asian women from entering the U.S. Within the 80’s, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. This made it almost futile for Chinese immigrants to come to the United States. Since Chinese immigrants were not able to obtain employment positions outside of places, such as laundromats, restaurants, etc., white American males grew extremely superior, in which they were entitled to high paying occupations and choice of what occupation they would like to participate in. This white authority point of view is degrading towards the social hierarchy of Chinese immigrants, which will eventually spread to the overgeneralization of Asian Americans.
(And this is where I use my teleporter to flash forward in time to World War II) Thus, during World War II, Japan, surprisingly and unexpectedly, attacked Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor is a U.S. naval base in Hawaii. This attack only progressed further tensions between the United States and Japan, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt convinced Congress to declare war on Japan, the very next day. (See informative video about the history of Pearl Harbor for more information: http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/pearl-harbor). The attack of Pearl Harbor led to the imprisonment of over 127,000 United States citizens during World War II (U.S. History). Why, you may ask? Out of pure paranoia that stemmed from fear. Being that of Japanese ancestry was their alleged crime.
“First Came War; Then Came Marriage; Then Came a Relationship in a Strange, New Land:”
(Do you like my song? Oh, thank you, you’re way too kind)
With the ongoing chaos and atrocious depiction of the WWII, stems the portrayal of the American soldier- who is heroic, brave, and loyal to his country. The US military repeatedly discouraged servicemen from marrying, strongly believing that any intimate thoughts of a commitment (family or a relationship) would distract the soldiers and could potentially jeopardize their devotion to their job. There were those individuals who believed it was the soldier’s right to marry whomever they pleased; however, many individuals were displeased with this idea. Being away from home and in a foreign country, American G.I.’s sought out the companionship of Asian women. Picture this: young men experiencing lengthy deployments overseas turn to females whom are conveniently available. However, in the eyes of the American G.I., they believed that marrying or getting intimately involved with an Asian women was their way of saving the woman of social and economic hardships. This intriguing claim reflects the ego of that of the white male superior. But what encouraged many foreign women to have affairs with American soldiers, especially when they had families and communities who did not approve of miscegenation? I believe that it was proximity and opportunity that led individuals to to this decision. Therefore, the term“war bride” emerged to denote the influx of Asian women coupled with American soldiers. Mostly distressed of this news was the single American women who did not approve of U.S. troops bringing home foreign brides. According to Asian Nation Demographics, between the years 1942 and 1952, about one million American soldiers married foreign women from fifty different countries. In addition, the Military estimates that 50,000 to 100,000 G.I.’s wed women from countries of the Far East, including Japan (2010).
The history of this tension displays the representation of white male authority and superiority mindset over Asian minorities and Asians of descent. In addition, the historical background also helps us to analyze how Asian women were treated similar to that of objects, in which this discriminatory practice has been reflected onto the identity of Asian American women, which is commonly still seen today (unfortunately). These political implications have contributed to and may be responsible for the stereotypes and the discriminatory practices that are widely seen today.
A FLASH INTO THE FUTURE:
Only twenty years prior to 2011, did Congress established the month of May as “Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month to recognize two events: the arrival of first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843, and the contributions of Chinese immigrant laborers in the building of the transcontinental railroad, which was completed on May 10, 1869” (Migration Policy Institute). Did you know that the Asian population in the United States has increased twenty-two times over the past fifty years (The Migration Policy Institute)? According to the Migration Policy Institute, the number of Asian immigrants grew from 491,000 in 1960 to more than 10.6 million in 2009, representing a 22-fold increase. (For more information, an informative table can be viewed: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/asian-immigrants-united-states).
Now that we have a better understanding of the history, both past and present, we can, more accurately, conceptualize where the ideology of the masculine white male, and the racialized femininity of Asian American women originated from. Now, follow me as we take a dive into the stereotypes that are associated with Asian American women and the racialized femininity that is placed among them.
“The Asian Women as a Subservient Wife:”
The stereotype of the Asian American women to be subservient in natural is very commonly placed by white American males. However, did you know that many Asian American women who date white men, do so to rebell against the Asian way of life? Some Asian American women would argue that Asian culture expects them to obey the males wishes (Tan 2010). The obedience and submissiveness stereotype of Asian American women feed a dehumanizing fantasy. In a world catered to men, the Asian American women is ready to have sexual intercourse with her partner whenever he needs to relieve some stress, as well as cooking his favorite meal. Along with this notion comes the idea of the “China doll.” The China doll is submissive and innocent and ultimately, depicted like a child. This child like notion is described as being bubbly, easy to please, but in need of assistance. Moreover, dependent of the male for their survival. Wait, pause for a moment..
Have you ever seen the Grammy Award Winning show, “Grey’s Anatomy?” (I’m assuming you have, and if you haven’t, I suggest that you put that show on the summer bucket list) One of the main characters is an Asian American woman, by the name of Christina Yang (played by Sandra Oh). She is an extraordinary surgeon; thus, she does not let anything get in the way of her aspirations and accomplishments. Furthermore, throughout many seasons of this show, she rejects white male superiority through her husband, Owen. He so desperately tries to convince Christina that they should make a family together. In an effort to lure Christina into his trap, he uses guilt and resentment. He says that she is cold hearted if she, who is a female, does not have a future plan of becoming a mother. Even though Owen uses this manipulation and persuasiveness, Yang does not back down, for nothing will stop her from being a widely known and respected cardiothoracic surgeon.
In this depiction, Yang is the complete opposite of subservient, in which the only orders that she obeys is the orders that she calls upon herself. This sexualization of Asian American women in the white-male mindset is a major element of contemporary racism that deserves much more analysis than it is explored within social sciences.
“The Exotic Orient:”
The fantasy of the exotic Oriental is someone who naturally sexy and mysterious and who will entertain, pamper and delight you with the decadence unlike no women in your own culture could ever do. Many Asian American women begin to mediate whether a Western suitor is interested in her individual persona, or in the expectations surrounding the Asian Mystique.
I am fairly informed that in order to be emotionally invested and committed in a relationship, sexual attraction is a very important component; however, Asian American women do not want to be viewed as and treated like exotic, sexual objects. This situation raises havoc among the self-confidence of Asian American women, who just like everyone else in the world, want to be widely respected and accepted.
“The Dragon Lady:”
The reflection of the “dragon lady” is that of the “wicked witch of the East”, is a reference to an Asian woman who is perceived as undesirable and sexy; however, she cannot be trusted because she is extremely dangerous. The shadow of the Dragon Lady is cruel with her perverse and inhuman ways. The Dragon Lady emerged when encounters between Asian women and the Western men flocked for refuge. Interestingly enough, the first Asian women to come to the U.S. (in the mid-1800s) were disadvantaged Chinese women. They were tricked, kidnapped, or smuggled into the country that became prostitutes specifically to Chinese men (Tan 2010). The stereotype that all Asian women were prostitutes, born at that time colors the perception of the public and their attitude toward, and action against all Chinese women for nearly a century. Within the context of the “dragon lady” the sense of femininity is far more complex. This depiction of the dragon lady contradicts itself. Thus, how can one be perceived
An example of a film that portrays this stereotypical version of the Asian woman is called, “Daughter of Fu Manchu.” In this film, Fu Manchu is a dragon lady. Possessing treacherous and dangerous attributes, the Dragon Lady is the female version of a bad guy. Her approach to defeating her enemies relies in the power to hypnotize her male rivals by gaining their trust through seducing them.
Again, if you haven’t seen this movie, you can always add it to your summer bucket list because I would definitely suggest it.
Overall, no matter what the circumstance is, Asian women desperately try to escape these negative connotations that are widely perceived. Although there are many forms of stereotypes that Asian Americans face, they are all demeaning representations. Since many stereotypes about Asian American women are commonly viewed among their partner/spouse of a different racial group, this can cause hardships for the couple as a whole.
Problems That May Arise in Interracial Relationships:
A major problem that interracial marriages face is a higher divorce rate. According to the Pew Research Center, 13% of interracial, Asian American-white couples more likely to get divorced than the same-racial group marriages. What, do you ask, is the cause of this overwhelming statistic? I’m sure many factors affect statistics like these; however, could placing negative perceptions and stereotypes among each other within the relationship serve to be a potential reason? (Oh, here I go with my questions, again). After all, individuals in a relationship must respect each other. How does one engage in a relationship when they simply do not treat each other in a fair manner?
The Sources that I used:
Written by: Kristen Monti and Katie Garrison