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Pet Sins November 2002

White men try to explain why there are more Asian women with white men than the converse

According to 1990 census figures, 72% of Asian-white couples consist of an Asian wife and a white husband.1 White men who see themselves liberal and unprejudiced are nervous when asked to explain why there are more Asian woman-white man couples than white woman-Asian men couples. Some come up with the typical responses listed below. Others remain silent. Perhaps they know they cannot answer the question honestly without revealing their innermost racial prejudices against Asian men.

Why are there more white men with Asian women than Asian men with white women?

Excuse 1: Asian immigrant women are motivated by First World money

The irony is, the young white boy who made this excuse would never entertain the thought that his Chinese girlfriend is with him for his money. He upsets her by chasing other Asian women in front of her and openly criticising her country in public. She is afraid to ask him for too many favors because he acts as if his civil rights have violated when someone asks for his help, no matter how many times she helped him. She finds herself turning to her Chinese friends when she needs help getting anything done that is unrelated to sex, food or play. It is quite unlikely she is with him for the quality of his character. And since he adamantly believes she is not with him for his money, what does that leave us - his race?

Certainly some Asian women are motivated by money and may select any spouse, black, white or brown, as long as they are rich. But this is not always the case. Read the anecdote Chinese immigrant abandons Chinese businessman husband for white petty drug pusher. A Chinese woman leaves a Chinese man of well-to-do family and stable career for a petty criminal who happens to be white.

Excuse 2: Foreign Asian women are interested in the green cards their white spouses can provide.

Oddly, the white boy who came up with this 'explanation' does not believe his Chinese girlfriend could be with him for this reason. His assumption seems to be that only white Americans can provide green cards for their spouses. What about Americans of other ethnic groups? In a study done on Filipino mail order brides in the US, Filipino women always indicate their preference for Caucasian spouses in the mail-order bride catalogs.2 If it was only the green card that mattered, then the race of the spouse shouldn't matter.

So if foreign Asian women were truly interested in green cards more than in white men, then you would see more unions between Asians and non-white Americans. An exchange student in China said although there were both black Americans and white Americans in China, she has never seen a black man with a Chinese woman. There are plenty of white men with Chinese women, though. So Asian and black men are not being rejected for their inability to provide green cards. They are rejected for their race.

Certainly there are cases of Asian women who would latch onto anyone regardless of race for green cards, but I think they are the minority. The majority are color-struck. I really do not want to believe this, but this has been what I observed. Having said that, I still acknowledge there are many Asians which don't have negative attitudes against other people of color.

Excuse 3: Asian men, being slimmer, are physically less imposing than white men. Asian men are also more modest and come across as having lower self-esteem. This makes them less competitive with white men.

What about black men, who stereotypically have "better" physiques than white men? Black American men also don't have the disadvantage of Oriental modesty. Why are they still under-represented as partners to Asian women? Perhaps whiteness matters, no matter how white men in relationships with Asian women try to deny it.

M, an Asian American woman who has dated white man, noted that many (not all) white men who date Asian women fit the white stereotype of yellow men to a T. Many white men who accompany Asian women are unmasculine in appearance, unatheletic, scrawny, and bookish. Some white men who trail after their well-dressed, poised Asian girlfirends are hunchbacked, have downcast eyes and shuffle as they walk. Short white men are seen walking down the street with taller Asian girlfriends.

These white guys look like a white parody of yellow men, only in whiteface. There is nothing wrong with being short, nerdy and unmasculine. Nor should a woman reject a man as a person simply because he has bad posture or low self-esteem. But white men love to justify the gender inbalance in white/Asian intermarriage by claiming that Asian men are not interesting to Asian women because of these supposedly undesirable qualities. But if Asian women abandoned Asian men because of they are short, weak and nerdy, have bad posture and shuffle, then why do they date white men who have all the same undesirable qualities?

Excuse 4: Asian men are less well-endowed sexually than white men

Actually, none of the white men interviewed dared to raise this stereotype, but it is all the more insidious for not being brought into the light. Another article in this issue addresses this topic.

Excuse 5: Asian men are sexist and white men are not

Many of the white men who seek out Asian women are not exactly the non-sexist type. A con man Christopher Eugene Barnes bilked 400 men, most of whom were white, out of $280,000 by posing as an Asian woman in personal ads. He attracted thousands of white men by describing her upbringing which taught her the quality of submissiveness, her erotic fantasies and her desire to meet a nice American man.3

Raquel Z. Ordenez, wrote in her article on Filipino mail order brides:

The American men imagine the Filipino woman as the epitome of the traditional wife: submissive, subservient, eager to please men and easy to please, erotic, exotic, a good housekeper, contented with a nice home, faithful, loyal, and not inclined to divorce her husband. Promotional literature helps to reinforce and disseminate this stereotypic image. Imagine the expectations raised by the Asian Experience brochure with the following ecstatic testimonies:

Congratulations! You have taken the first step towards discovering an eternal pleasure! This will happen when you find your number one Asian lady whose main objective is to please her husband. The enthusiasm shown and the pleasure they derive in accomplishing this goal is almost embarrassing! The beauty in this unique kind of treasure quest lies in the reality that somewhere on that vast Asian continent, a compatible lady is waiting to hear from you and we intend to do everything within our power to help you find her! As a matter of fact, we won't be at all surprised if you entertained thoughts of polygamy before making your final selection!

Ordenez's article Mail-Order Brides is published as part of Filipino Americans: Transformation and Identity.

However, the issue of Asian male chauvinism cannot be lightly dismissed. Another article in this issue addresses the topic of Asian male attitudes. Yet Z, a black woman, noted that "mainstream", aka white, American media makes people of color look bad by "contrasting their best against our worst". Images of black people on TV are dominated by 'thug' and 'whore' types. Similarly, images of the most insensitive, unkind Asian men are contrasted against images of enlightened, humane white men when just as easily, there are individuals who fit the reverse pattern - sensitive, dignified Asian men vs crude, cruel white men. But these images are not given equal air time.

1. Frank Wu, Yellow: Race in America beyond black and white, 273
2. Raquel Z. Ordenez, "Mail-Order Brides", Filipino Americans: Transformation and Identity, ed. Maria P.P. Root, 123
3. Lise C. Ikemoto, "Male Fraud", Journal of Gender, Race and Justice 3 (Spring 2000), 511-43