Thursday, February 4, 2010

A discussion (prologue)

This is a discussion that begins with a controversial question:

Why are Asian men emasculated and Asian women fetishized?

[dead. awkward. silence.]

Please, please, please. Try to trust me: I want to listen to you. To be humble. I promise that I will be as loving and open as I know how.

But I also want - need - to have this conversation. So, for my sake, if not for your own, please humor me.

This is a discussion that I know is incredibly rude, on several levels. I don't know all of them, but I think I am aware of some of them:

1) It's uncomfortable to talk about sex. Even more when it's about other people having sex. And especially when it's someone else [me] talking to you [you?] about the sex you're having [or aren't. Or will, maybe?].

2) It's uncomfortable to talk about physical bodies, or our perceptions and stereotypes, and how they affect our attraction to (potentially) significant others. It's hard to talk about attractiveness when we prefer to think that attraction is a mystical, innate, function of personal character and divine providence. I do think it is all of that; but I also believe that nurture and social pressures play a role in viewing certain qualities - or, even worse, certain people irrespective of their qualities - as "attractive" or "unattractive".

3) It's impolite (read: uncomfortable) to talk about race. More generally, it is always easier to leave well enough alone. Bringing up awkward questions about how structures of racial and social power function is a high risk proposition: I could easily offend or hurt someone whose opinion or well-being actually matter to me. Sometimes this is because people are benefiting from systems of marginalization that they - directly or indirectly - maintain. Sometimes this is because people are turning a blind eye, whether consciously or unconsciously, to systems that are hurting them.

To bring up race risks offending both sides of the coin: it reminds certain people that they are being hurt, and it challenges others, saying that they might be hurting others. No one wants to be thought of as cruel; and few people want to uncover abuse that lies in their past, or even hidden in their present. Ignorance, after all, is bliss.

4) This is not a traditionally "Christian" subject. For some of my audience, who don't give a hoot [or any more interesting -noun-] about religion, this point is moot [rhyme. ha.]. But for some of you, this is a very, very big objection. After all, isn't the duty of a faithful Christian to turn our eyes away from the world, and its petty concerns, and to fix them on Jesus Christ and His Gospel - His Good News?

Talking about this subject is a high-risk proposition: I fear that, even in the best case, I become typecast as "sensitive about gender and race issues". Already, I know, I have been treading that line care...- who am I kidding? I have been willfully hurtling towards the characterization that "JASON MAKES EVERYTHING ABOUT RACE" for the past year. Still, I fear that this discussion will just be another reason for me to be cast as a fringe, extremist, or - at best - highly biased voice.

At worst? I burn bridges, collapsing relationships with friends and family members. Friends of mixed race think that I condemn their parents for falling in love with one another; friends in interracial relationships think that I don't respect, admire, or appreciate their love. I lose jobs, respect, or even a future career in ministry because what I am bringing up is thought to be hateful, bigoted, or just too much trouble to deal with.

I know I can be hateful. It's one of many, very many, weaknesses. But I am hoping - praying - that this discussion is not one that comes from hate. I am hoping - praying - that this discussion comes from love. From wanting to understand why we are where we are, and wanting to talk with you about how we can go where we should.

In this discussion, I want to tread carefully. I don't want to fall into the traps of dehumanizing anyone: and it is very, very easy to dehumanize everyone. Please bear with me.

This discussion - a virtual who's who of embarrassing dinner table talk, from Race to Gender to Sex - is a high-risk one. But it is also, I think, a potentially high-reward one. If I - you - we - are able to keep our wits about us, be honest, and be humble enough to listen to one another, I think that this discussion can be one where we grow in love, understanding, and compassion and even, perhaps, start to change the world just a tiny bit for the Good.

This will be a discussion in four parts:

0) Prologue. This piece, introducing the theme and begging your continued attention and good humor.

1) "Race, Sex, and Gender Don't Matter"? - why should this conversation take place? I present social, moral, and religious reasons why open, even provocative, discussions of race and gender politics (politics being broadly defined) need to exist.

2) What If Asian Men Were Men? - inspired in part by Alienated Conclusions' What If Black Women Were White Women?, I begin with the question: why am I an "Asian Man," and not just a "Man"? And what does that mean?

This last piece will be the trickiest part. As a man, I am immensely unqualified to write about any female issue. I don't know how I'm going to do this. I might need someone's help. Does anyone want to volunteer? But for this discussion to be true to itself, it needs to be addressed.

3) Beautiful Asian Wives - All the Single Asians slapped us in the face with it, a comedienne is making a career trumpeting it, and even Marie Claire noticed. From "yellow fever" to "rice queens", what's going on with the fetish for feminized Asians?

I want this discussion to truly be a discussion. Please offer feedback via the comment section or a personal email, particularly if you feel like you are a subject in this discussion (i.e.: asian man, asian woman, or someone in a relationship with an asian man or woman). I will try to shape my discourse in such a manner that it addresses your concerns.


  1. i think this is an interesting discussion. i am brewing some thoughts that i will post somewhere else (as it would be too long for a comment) but i will get to that after class. but first a thought to chew on:

    you mention that bringing this up will remind some that they are being hurt and others that they are doing the hurting. it seems to me there are underlying rules (not without good historical reasons) for who can be in either of those categories.

    and another thing, have you read exclusion and embrace yet? Volf? read it and tell me what you think.

  2. another (more sociological) thought: it is also important to think first of when and where Asian men are emasculated and Asian women fetishized. going straight to the why makes the discussion a little to a priori for my empirical tastes.

  3. Yeah. I originally had the first question posed as "Why, in America, are Asian men...". But that sounded awkward and less attention-catching than I wanted for a prolegomenon.

    yea whenever you get something written up, please let me know. I'm praying for strength, wisdom, and gentleness in this discussion - and having a community to dialogue with will be a helpful part, especially some people that are gathered around me like yourself, my sister, maybe Lucas, etc.

    I have Exclusion & Embrace on my shelf at home - it's up next after this Dominican text I'm reading.