Love and Race II

 

THE ASIAN THING

Read part I here.

Want to date me? Love and Race. Fetishists need not apply —By Ji Hyun Lee

interracial coupleSometimes men try to get my attention —By greeting me in Chinese:

“Ni hao ma.”

If I tell them I’m Korean, they’ll try Japanese:

“Konichiwa.”

Perhaps they think all Koreans speak Japanese? My physical Asian-ness (fair skin, jet-black eyes, China-doll-round cheeks, and petite size) is apparently blinding — it’s all they can see. In college, a boyfriend with a telltale string of Chinese ex-girlfriends asked me to try smoking a cigarette with my vagina — something he’d seen on an Asian porn site. (I dumped him.)

Photo: (MARRIED FOR 5 ½ YEARS Matt and Tram-Anh Poprik)

Even in progressive New York City, I recently fended off a lecherous 40-something bus passenger who leaned in to tell me how “accommodating” he found the Korean girls who worked in the deli near his office. All my life, I’ve had to deal with guys with an “Asian thing” — men attracted to a stereotypical idea of Asian women: We’re docile, hardworking lotus flowers —By day and sexual tigers —By night.

I haven’t had that much experience with Asian men, I should point out. In fact, I’ve never dated one. Part of it may be that Asian guys rarely hit on me, perhaps because many aren’t raised to be assertive with women. But I also haven’t been interested in them, maybe because of how I was socialized: I tend to be attracted to aggressive men and often perceive Asian guys as passive. (I know, I know — I need to work on my own stereotyping!) But I’ve found myself in a dating pool of mostly white men, many of whom have offensive, clichéd views — in a word, fetishists.

It’s a problem faced —By many women I know. Karen Lee, a 28-year-old Korean-American marketing executive in New York City, has unwittingly dated so many fetishists that she’s edited her online dating profile to remove any mention of her race because a friend told her that “guys search for those words and then go through all the associated girls.” But her tactics have been only so successful. After meeting one cute new guy, she checked his Facebook page and found that all of his newest friends were Asian women. “That was a red flag,” says Lee. Now she’s guarded. “Every time someone messages me, I wonder if it’s because I’m Asian.”

Lena Chen, 22, recalls a boyfriend who said he was into her because Asian girls were thinner, less loud, and more promiscuous than white women. “He was saying I only got his attention through an arbitrary twist of genetic fate,” says Chen. That wasn’t Chen’s first experience with stereotypes about Asian women. When she chronicled her dating life as a Harvard undergrad on her blog, one commenter called her a “comfort woman,” and she fielded queries about the mythical smallness of the Asian vagina.

Where do guys get this stuff? Pop culture is rife with female Asian stereotypes. Case in point: The 2010 film The Social Network, which dramatized the creation of Facebook, was bursting with hypersexualized Asian female characters who partied with the Harvard guys. One was depicted as so blinded —By passion that she even lit a fire in her boyfriend’s bedroom. On Jersey Shore, cast member Ronnie once approvingly told his girlfriend Sammi that she looked Asian, causing a jealous blowout because he had an Asian ex. And the explosion of anime porn, featuring cartoon depictions of Asian women, perpetuates the stereotype that we’re super-kinky.

According to Elaine Kim, a professor of Asian-American studies at the University of California, Berkeley, the origin of some of these tropes may go back centuries to Japanese geishas, female entertainers trained in classical music and dance who performed for men at high-class social gatherings. Then came the seedy sex clubs staffed —By poor women that proliferated around U.S. military bases in Asia during the Korean and Vietnam wars. On a research trip to South Korea in 1987, Kim visited a sex club where women performed contortionist sex acts for patrons, including tourists and servicemen. One even put a knife in her vagina and used it to cut a cucumber. Kim also recalls racist myths about Asian women during her childhood in the 1960s: that they could gestate a ba—By in six months or had a slanted vagina to match their eyes. “The idea was that these women had different bodies, and it was exotic,” says Kim.

Those myths might feel antiquated, but from my experience they’re alive and well today in some form or another in the minds of many guys. So where does all of this leave me and my single self? Since I can’t single-handedly re-educate mankind, I’m trying to make changes in my own life — like being more open-minded about dating Asian men. I’m noticing that the Korean boys who were invisible to me in high school have grown up into a handsome lot. I also joined a few Asian meet-up groups in an effort to get dates. My latest crush is a Korean doctor whom I met in the emergency room after I slipped while walking my dog.

My advice to other Asian women: Initially, it may be hard to gauge whether a guy is a fetishist or is genuinely into you, but if he has a bevy of Asian acquaintances (but can’t keep their names straight) and keeps asking you how flexible you are, you’ve got your answer.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
I’m a young black woman. And despite what you’ve read, I will get married —By Helena Andrews

Consider this my formal declaration of war — on numbers. I’m talking statistics, percentages, fractions, averages. If they can measure something like my marriage prospects, then I want nothing to do with them. Because for too long, one number has dominated the love lives of black women — and it’s time to revolt.

Chances are, you’ve heard the offending statistic: 70 percent of black women are single. A hot topic in the media, this fact has been the basis of an ABC News Nightline segment about “the black girl’s curse”; crowed about in a recent Atlantic cover story; and debated in the opinion pages of The New York Times. Even Oprah devoted a show to the “crisis” of single black women.

And now my dire love life has become fodder for national best sellers, like Stanford law professor Ralph Richard Banks’ Is Marriage for White People? and Steve Harvey’s book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, which was spun into a film that hit theaters in March.

interraical coupleSo, according to the data — and the media that are obsessed with it — I’m screwed. As a 31-year-old college-educated black woman who’s never been married, everywhere I turn, the odds of finding a good man are against me. That is, of course, until I turn over every morning to the man sleeping next to me. He is (gasp) black. He is (quelle surprise!) college-educated. He isn’t a felon, a deadbeat, a father of illegitimate children, or a cheat — all the categories women like me are forced to choose from, according to the seemingly never-ending stories about the “crisis” of black marriage. Attention, media! There is no crisis in my bedroom.

Photo: (DATING FOR 10 MONTHS Arizona Newsum and Becca McCharen)

Many black women I know say the exact same thing: Where is this epidemic of singledom, anyway? “In my social network the number of women my age who are unmarried is low,” says New York City — based TV producer Nyree Emory, 38, who is single. “I can count how many I know personally — um, two. I’m a minority among my peers. I keep wondering if this cluster of single women are all hanging out without me. Because I don’t see them.”

Nyree is single — not sad, desperate, and lonely. But the numbers continue to be rolled out at her feet like a red carpet to retiring alone. “Scholars and the media have pathologized the black family as different from the mainstream,” says entrepreneur Jamyla Bennu, 36, from Baltimore, Maryland, who has been happily married for 12 years. “That’s not how most black women see it.”

How could my experience and that of so many other black women be so different from the official statistics? I wanted to find out — so I started digging. Because so many news reports repeat the 70 percent figure without citing a source, I went straight to the mother lode of demographic data: the U.S. Census.

And what I found was shocking: While, according to 2009 data, it’s true that 70.5 percent of black women were never married compared with 45 percent of white women, look closer and you’ll see that the figure pertains only to women between the ages of 25 and 29. Not that surprising, right?

Researching further, I found another U.S. Census statistic that may have sparked the frenzy. According to the 2009 data, only 30 percent of black women were married — but the data includes every female from 15 years old up to 90-somethings. So … my ba—By cousin and grandmother are single. Is that really a crisis?

Finding those reports only made me more curious about the truth — what are the real numbers, since we’ve been so focused on bogus ones? I called Ivory Toldson, a psychology professor at Howard University who analyzed census data between the years 2000 and 2009. “Our research shows that most black women eventually do marry,” he says. “And 75 percent of black women older than age 35 have wed at least once.”

That should clear things up, right?

Tina Wells, 32, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, doesn’t need convincing. Wells is the CEO of the company Buzz Marketing Group, and she deals with numbers all day — compiling, analyzing, and then reporting them to big-name clients. But in her dating life, “the numbers” don’t add up to much. “The statistic that the media love to hype means nothing to me,” she says. “I’m focused on living my best life, and —By doing that, I’ll attract the right guy.”

While it’s great to know that most black women’s lives don’t match the exaggerated numbers, the media are not only to blame. Black people themselves perpetuate the hype.

Recently I took my boyfriend on a “meet the family” tour from Washington, D.C. to North Carolina to Southern California. At every stop, my relatives devoured him from the screen door. And why wouldn’t they? He’s not just tall, dark, and handsome, but adventurous, talented, and hardworking.

I know my family wished him for me, the daughter who made it to the Ivy League and New York, but some relatives didn’t expect me to find him. When I did, they couldn’t believe it. I’d forgotten that my aunts watch the news, too. They read The New York Times, listen to Steve Harvey’s advice, and watch all of Tyler Perry’s movies, which suggest that a woman like me would never find a guy like the one sitting on the couch in my grandmother’s house. They too succumbed to the statistics, believing that there is a shortage of men who not only looked like me but also were for me.

On New Year’s Day we all sat in the dining room. As my aunts piled slices of pie onto my boyfriend’s plate, I watched my cousin play I Declare War with his wife. I Declare War is probably the most boring card game ever. Nobody wins, it’s just a never-ending stack of number upon number upon number. But they were smiling, happy to be together. An aunt nudged me and said, “That’s how it should be. Just enjoy each other.” Then she winked at my boyfriend, who was none the wiser.

 

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Source: Marie Claire: interracial

 

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