“Oh, you’re Asian, so you must have a small peen”. It is funny how as middle and high schoolers, we (even I am guilty of it) think we’re hot stuff. It doesn’t matter whether you were the bullied or the bully, the nerd or the jock, we put a focus on social circles that played a big role in our identities during that time. I discussed the stereotype of Asians having a small penis with my friend, Kelvin.
I note that I, and anyone else in my elementary school, was very fortunate to go to an elementary school that only had you go to gym once a week. There were many activities during recess and after school, but since we only officially had gym once a week, we went to school that day already in our gym clothes. There was no need for the awkward locker room experiences. This wasn’t the case for Kelvin, who had to deal with the remarks even before he hit puberty. He remarked that he “was scrawny back then”, and that’s saying something considering he is still lanky to this day, just significantly taller. In his experience, the stereotype was prevalent before and during puberty. At middle school, he was a common target due to the fact that there were very few Asians at the school. During high school, it’s “expected” as it’s a time when people “became more aware of their bodies”. Theirs and others.
The biggest impact was on Kelvin’s self-esteem. The topic hit hard his “sexual prowess”. He made a comment explaining, “I became one of those queers who actually sat down in the bathroom”. Due to the social circles in his elementary and high school, it had the biggest effect at that time, but afterward, and this is what I found most interesting, it stopped being the case. Kelvin was lucky to not have the stereotype apply to him. He added more casually, “For people who don’t really have a concern about that, it’s not a particularly huge topic to worry about. Yes, it can have a significant effect on one’s self-esteem, like it did me for a while… but, then again, it’s sex, not something every conversation revolves around”. Obviously, this statement is debatable, as it should be, this is only Kelvin’s experience and his point of view. Regardless, what makes Kelvin’s story interesting, is his resort to… violence, of a sort. We’ve discussed this in class, violence as a means to masculinity. I should note that Kelvin’s goal is to beef up during winter break. Although he makes a point of how this stereotype doesn’t apply to him, he fails to realize himself still falling to other social norms involving masculinity.
“As I got older… I am now the sexual harasser of all people. Had a casual convo with some of the people who used to tease me about my donger. It turns out I’m bigger than him, so that was a fun thing to go through.”
I didn’t point out to Kelvin how this all sounded, but I found myself very amused, for obvious reasons. It’s situations like these that make it seem that there really is no escape. He ran away from one stereotype and conformed in another way. Really, this is only one person out of the many there are. Besides that, it makes me think of how to approach the issue, since there are so many dimensions to it. It seemed it’d take many experts to solve.
In Chou’s Asian American Sexual Politics, she discusses several strategies to combat racism: “Diplomatic”, “Boundaries”, “This Ain’t My Job”, and “Structure Is Bigger than the Individual”. There are more, but I still feel lost about what to do. Obviously, you can’t account for so many variations, and Chou’s solutions focus on racism, but when issues are tangled there remains cluelessness about where to start.
While writing the last, very negative paragraph, I realized that I missed a big point. That it isn’t so much about how to start, but whether or not you start something at all. I felt the same energy in class in that if we continue to discuss what may or may not work, and how something fails to something or something else… well, we’re ultimately being counterproductive, by making it seem an impossible issue. That’s it not the case. It’s just a really difficult issue. And although cheesy, the least we can do is try.
Although sexist, we really just have to have the balls to do it- Yeah; it is going to take a while. Though, maybe being completely PC isn’t the solution either.