Effeminate, passive, and uncool – this is the stereotype of Asian American men, and it is not a new one. In Asian American Women and Men, Espiritu explains how this stereotype begins through the 1875 Page Act exclusion of Asian women from the US, and reproduced through feminized jobs (126), media portrayal (103) and the increasing wages of Asian American women (92). Particularly interesting to me was the ways in which Asian American men historically reacted to the new economic power Asian American women held, by denigrating Asian American women in order to reassert their masculinity. Consequences have involved marital conflict, resentment, spousal abuse and returning to Asia to find more ‘respectful’ wives (92). According to Espiritu, being both the oppressed and the oppressor is a view rejected by Asian American men (130). In today’s age, attempts of Asian American men to cope and break out of their negative stereotype can be traced through discussions online, and textual analysis of these narratives and discussions elucidate the ways in which Asian American men reproduce the oppressive structures they face onto Asian American women.
The negative stereotypes of Asian American men affect their experience in the heterosexual dating, rendering them less eligible in a market where masculinity is valued. This disadvantage can be perceived as particularly galling in comparison to the greater eligibility of Asian American women created through Asian fetishization. While many blogs advocate ‘breaking out of the stereotype’ through self-improvement (and avoiding the root of the problem) or celebrating Asian men, other blogs and forums promote masculinity through denigrating Asian American women. The latter reflects an anger for the disparity in dating eligibility between men and women. Widespread attempts to reassert masculinity by Asian American men through anti-feminist rhetoric and propagation of binary gender roles can be documented through blogs and forums written by Asian American men seeking to play the heterosexual dating market. And, while this rhetoric attempts to be radical, it often furthers gender domination and blames Asian American women.
Dating guides written by Asian American men proliferate online, and many seek to offer an out to the negative Asian stereotype. Reasserting masculinity requires buying into the oppressive gender binary, simultaneously furthering gender domination and often operating within the race hegemony. Similarly to Espirutu’s example of Vietnamese men going back to Vietnam to find more respectful wives, many blogs online advocated that Asian American males escape the American dating scene by seeking women abroad. HappierAbroad.com, by Asian American writer Winston Wu, offers an international solution to the “Asian American man’s dating dilemma”, stating “International dating also allows a Asian man to finally meet numerous Caucasian women who look like Hollywood actresses, and who will be happy to be involved with the man romantically and look up to him.” The website’s homepage demonizes American women in general as “too spoiled and given too much power”, constructing a false binary where foreign women are submissive and feminine, “like real women are meant to be”. While simultaneously acknowledging the oppressive stereotyping within the US on Asian American men as effeminate, the site ignores the confronting this as a construction of male femininity = less valuable, and even goes on to rigidly define the gender binary.
Propagating gender oppression is prominent among these Asian American male narratives. The r/AsianMasculinity forum on Reddit offers an intriguing look at the collective ideas about masculinity and the ways Asian American men try to navigate within the heterosexual dating market. While many users attempt to theorize radically on the disparity in eligibility between Asian American men and women, these theories propagate the very same toxic masculinity and gender stereotypes that created the negative Asian American male stereotype. In one thread, a user states, “…the whole idea of Asian American women complaining about constantly getting hit on by creepy white men or men in general is caused by Asian women alone. You’ve given non-Asian men an idea that you are more than willing to talk, date, or marry them. It’s not really their fault.” The fetishization of Asian women, paradoxically, is blamed on Asian women, for being too available to non-Asian men. Even though interracial relationships with a white man and Asian women have two people participating, only Asian women are blamed for the trend. This demonization of Asian American women often perpetuates Dragon Lady Asian women stereotypes, such as when this thread cautions “ALWAYS background check Asian women especially, they are masters of deception and are on at least equal whore levels as their white counterparts.” Even as Asian American males elucidate the oppressive nature of the stereotype imposed upon them, they uphold stereotypes of Asian American women and then blame them for it.
The disparity between the disadvantages Asian American men have and the perceived advantage of Asian American women have within the American heterosexual dating market has lead to anger from Asian American men. Instead of examining the oppressive structures creating this, Asian American men describe its effects and further participate in the system with misogyny and racism. Asian American women have certainly also complied with the ideologies of racial patriarchy, but blaming them for the exotification and fetishization of their own bodies is only reproducing gender domination and misogyny. At the same time, through these narratives Asian American men uphold racial oppression, and give white males a pass while blaming Asian American women. To truly fight the oppressive structures surrounding us all, we must reject the temptation to perpetuate the same oppression on those more marginalized.