Firstly, I want to add a disclaimer that I am not here to play “oppression olympics”. There is never a clear winner or a clear loser in these type of debates. The whole AF/WM discourse for some reason has become a major talking and sticking point in many Asian diaspora groups and Reddit threads. I get it, it contributes to a lot of the emotions and feelings of both Asian men and women. It pushes Asian men to question their masculinity and discern why they feel “undesirable” and why mainstream media/society has made billions emasculating the image of Asian men. At the same time it makes Asian women think about why they are the constant targets of hate, abuse, harassment and attacks as soon as they talk about misogyny and patriarchy as well as why our dating/relationship choices are questioned and controlled. This is why I state that it is not an issue which will be won by any party nor be resolved. But what we can do is acknowledge that both genders have genuine hurt and anger and that this is a direct product of oppression, racism, internalised self hate and misogyny. Can we at least get to this point?
Now, I have read a number of articles which have reacted to both the NATALIE TRAN documentary on AF/WM as well as to BBC3’s pilot CHINESE BURN over the last few days. On both of these I have written think pieces to try and bridge this gap of understanding between the 2 genders. As usual, my words get twisted and misinterpreted to mean something else which was not my intention. But I can live with that. I think a missing element in all of these debates is what is a critique and what is hate and abuse. Many people can’t discern the differences and this is where we hit many of the problems we face in the Asian women and men discourse. I must admit when I started blogging I also was guilty of this, and I know I have in the past come out as abrasive and in some ways toxic in how I expressed myself. However, my opinions have never changed or swayed in terms of how I see myself being an Asian woman and I hope what I say can at least inspire a few Asian women and even Asian men.
In saying that, I will now go through a summary of observations in terms of the reactions to both Tran’s documentary and to Chinese Burn – FYI I have no regrets on what I wrote and how I wrote it.
I have no clue where this myth even derived from. I have seen this argument more often than none online, but more recently I read this in JT TRAN’S piece titled: How Asian Feminists And WMAF Couples Can Be Allies To Asian Men #AsianMaleAllyAsian . Remember Asian women have no special access or privileges – like Asian men we face the same discrimination and racism. At the end of the day we are all Asian first and this is how the mainstream sees us. We are still seen as Asian even if we are in a relationship with a white guy. As I have stated, my ex boyfriend for almost 2 years was a white guy. He was extremely intersectional and understood the issues around our interracial relationship. He saw first hand how I was still pinned down by racism ( at a job interview my English writing skills were questioned for some reason) and I was still asked by ignorant people, where I came from and whether my ex met me in Asia somewhere. Having spoken to many Asian women about my experiences this is not isolated and it happens to many of us – so please enlighten me where is this “so called” special access?
In addition, this may surprise many Asian guys, but many Asian women when they get married ( no matter what race the guy is) DO NOT change their last name. My last name Chew is the name I was born with and I did not change it even when I got married. For me keeping my last name is me reclaiming my independence from this practice. It was a personal choice I made which my husband supports. I just wanted to make this point clear – whether an Asian woman changes her last name or not when she gets married is no one’s business really, and it doesn’t give her any automatic special access or privileges, nor do most Asian women change their last name for this reason.
Secondly, Asian women have no special privileges. To be desired is not a privilege. To be objectified is not a privilege. It is actually a product of patriarchy and misogyny that Asian women can’t control. To have privilege means that you have control and are dominant – I do not see this in this argument. Please enlighten me if you see this. How can Asian women have any special access or privilege when domestic abuse, violence, sexual assault, harassment and rape plays part of our daily lives and past experiences???
THE EMASCULATION OF ASIAN MEN IS A REAL ISSUE
Asian women acknowledge that this is a major issue. We know that the mainstream has made billions off portraying Asian men as sexually inept and awkward. We know that this impacts on how many Asian men see themselves as well as its effects on their sense of confidence and empowerment. I have a 25 year old brother, and I am always concerned for him in terms of how he sees himself as an Asian Australian man. Everything I say or do in public I have him in my thoughts. And this is why I do talk about this issue and will write a more nuanced think piece later this week. As I noted in my piece on NATALIE TRAN’S documentary:
Like many Asian women who have a public profile, Tran has received a lot of hate, abuse and bullying all because she is dating a white guy. I get how she feels, as I had the exact feeling when I dated a white guy ( my ex before I got married). There is a guilt there which I felt dating a white Australian guy and I too questioned whether my choice was a product of internalised racism and self hate or whether it was because he was the guy I fell for at the time. I did think about other Asian men, such as my own brother and whether my choice would impact on his sense of empowerment and his sense of masculinity.
Hollywood and Western mainstream media have made billions presenting East Asian/Chinese men as being awkward, sexually inept and having small penises over many decades. There has been a lot of debate and talk to overcome this and push for better representations and visibility of East Asian/Chinese men. It is a major discourse which still needs more work, but by perpetuating all these negative stereotypes without context just comes across as cheap, offensive, discriminatory and opportunistic, as the pilot unfortunately does.
But in knowing about this there needs to be an acknowledgement that Asian men still have male privilege. To compare gender privilege to race privilege is wrong and incongruous – they are 2 different things. Men will always get away with more than women will. I have seen online Asian men express the same issues I have, but at the end I am the one who copped all the abuse. If this can be acknowledged then we can all have a more rational discussion on how we can push to change the negative stereotype of Asian men.
Lastly, the emasculation of Asian men is a real issue – we all know this. But it needs to not be meshed with the discussions on AF/WM pairings as it tends to blind people to certain truths, such as the fact that Asian women who are with white partners can have agency and can have a voice on Asian issues. Asian women do not go to these lengths to attack Asian men with white women ( and no I am not going to delve into the dynamics of this in this piece). We really do not care – as long as people are happy with who they are with that is all that should matter. PERIOD.
I am going to keep this sweet and short. PLEASE STOP. Also please learn the differences between a critique and being abusive. To declare when I wrote my recent piece on CHINESE BURN the fact that my review was a poor review and the fact that I highlighted all the problems and issues is a key indicator that this is a critique on the Chinese female writers. I however condemn the hate and abuse which was hurled at them and I question how will this change anything? It was the BBC which commissioned this, which gave it air time and an audience – why are not more angry people writing to the BBC? Yes the women created the content, but there would be no major audience if a major network didn’t commission it. In addition, no one – Asian men or women deserve to be bullied this way. If we are to look at being a more cohesive and unified diaspora we need to look at how we critique our own. There is a way to do it and it is not making personal cheap pot shots and jabs.
Now to the Tran’s documentary. There has been critique that she didn’t talk about AM/WF and still remained in her relationship with a white guy. Well her documentary was not there to change her boyfriend, nor was it to talk about AM/WF. It was a personal journey for her to understand how her dating choice impacts on the diaspora. She is an Asian woman and so her perspective would be focused on that. Her documentary was well done and was very reflective. Being a public figure no one has a right to judge who she dates and who she hangs with – that choice alone is hers and hers to make only. But I have seen people still attack her for her documentary and it is the same old adage of her dating choices etc etc. Please stop, I implore people to just stop and listen to themselves.
WHY ARE WE SO CIS MINDED? HAVE WE FORGOTTEN OUR QUEER SIBLINGS?
In all this AF/WM and AM/WF talk we ignore and forget that this has centred on Cis/heterosexual relationships and unions. We need to remember that our diaspora is more than just straight couplings – our LGBTIQ/queer siblings face the same issues in many ways. They are even more marginalised than us straight folk and we need to be more inclusive when we have these discussions and debates. As a cis female, I am also guilty of this, but I am learning to be more aware of the plight of our queer siblings. For example, gay Asian men face a lot of sexual racism and fetishisation which impacts a lot on their sense of masculinity. In addition, cis Asian men generally see gay Asian men as not being “masculine” – whatever that means. I have seen comments pertaining to this in many groups and threads and it sickens me that no thought goes out to their fellow gay Asian brothers.
In addition lesbian and bisexual Asian women do not only face toxic masculinity like cis Asian women, but they also face toxic white femininity and how they navigate their sexuality and relationships within our Asian diaspora which is very cis normative and cis focused is a very difficult thing. Our trans siblings again are a group which is even more marginalised and both genders male and female face not only discrimination for their sexuality, but are also sexually assaulted and raped and face huge amounts of sexual racism. Let’s be more inclusive and not just focus on the cis normative.
THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CRITIQUE AND HATE WHEN WE DISAGREE WITH THINGS WHICH INVOLVE OUR ASIAN DIASPORA
As I stated earlier and in my recent CHINESE BURN piece, we need to reflect on how we tackle critique when our own diaspora are creating content/projects that perpetuate negative stereotypes. I feel different it its white folks doing it in terms of calling out, but in a bid to work on unity and cohesiveness can we be more mindful in how we critique our own? The negative stereotypes in CHINESE BURN impacted on Asian men and women terribly. I get that, and I get the anger as I too was outraged at how the pilot came out. To me it was a wasted opportunity in terms of creating something awesome and it is a blow to future British East Asian content creation in terms of opportunities.
So my message here is, as I have spoken about this constantly over the last few days is that critique the work in terms of highlighting its problems, but stop the personal attacks and hurling of pot shots and abuse. This is not on. Learn the differences. A critique is an indication that the content is shit and I can assure you writers and creators feel this heat. Let’s not add on to this with hate, abuse and bully boy behaviours.
TOXIC MASCULINITY IS A REAL ISSUE AND UNLESS IT IS ACKNOWLEDGED NOTHING WILL CHANGE
Again I do not want to harp on this too much as I have made this point many times already. Toxic masculinity is a real problem within our diaspora. Let’s acknowledge this instead of denying. To be honest most Asian men know that this is an issue. I was appreciative to be invited to speak on the TALES FROM MAGRILA podcast and I made this point with the host and all the Asian men on the podcast acknowledging that this is a real issue. Honorable and rational Asian guys will see this for what it is. And I am appreciative that I was offered the opportunity.
Before we can move on and heal from the hurt and anger, we need to talk about how toxic masculinity impacts on not just Asian women but also Asian men and on our queer siblings. If we don’t then these squabbles will just continue and Asian men who refuse to acknowledge this will just further sideline and isolate themselves, wallowing in this anger and hurt. They will also then behave exactly like how racist white supremacists behave and this is not a look which we want for our diaspora.
WE NEED TO BE MORE INTERSECTIONAL
One thing which I am continually learning which I lack is the understanding of being intersectional. Our struggles are not just cis focused, nor do we only face one type of discrimination. I enhance my understanding by reading more theory behind intersectionality and where I personally have a long way to go on this journey, I do feel that our diaspora lacks this understanding as well. To understand intersectionality will bring more nuanced observations and constructive debates in this discourse. This is why I stated let’s be more inclusive when we talk about interracial relationships, as well as how toxicity and discrimination is faced on many and different levels.
In a broader sense, intersectionality refers to the hierarchal nature of power and how a person who belongs to many marginalized groups may have some of their issues from other identities ignored- especially in past feminist movements. Legal and political mechanisms generally think of all problems separately, which may leave out other identities.
Please reflect on this and read up on being intersectional. Remember being intersectional is not just a woman or feminist thing, it can be applied to all genders and groups which are considered as a minority.
WHY ARE WE SO FOCUSED ON AF/WM. THERE ARE MANY TYPES OF INTERRACIAL RELATIONSHIPS
FYI there are different types of interracial relationships. It is not a homogenous type of just the AF/WM or AM/WF. Asian men and women have relationships with black men and women, Latino men and women, Middle Eastern men and women, Jewish men and women and so forth. It is not just a focus on Asians with white anglo saxon or Europeans, and I think we forget this as we are so focused on the relationships with white people.
Again, this goes back to my last point of being more intersectional to understand that any interracial relationship has its pros, cons, challenges and understandings. We as an Asian diaspora seem to accept and revere relationships with white anglo/Europeans than relationships with other communities. This then puts the question of our diaspora’s anti blackness issue and anti Muslim issues into play. This I think needs a think piece on itself, but I will leave it here for your reflections.
STOP JUDGING AND CONTROLLING ASIAN WOMEN BASED ON THEIR RELATIONSHIP CHOICES
This is my last point. I keep seeing our diaspora place judgements on Asian female activists, celebrities and personalities all because their partner happens to be white. Look at the furore over Constance Wu – a prime example of an Asian celebrity who has used her career and platform to speak on Asian American issues – but for many her credibility is shot all because her partner is white. Really how does this change her resolve? I have also seen this with Asian women like Eliza Romero who has spoken out on a number of issues impacting on our Asian diaspora. And where I have disagreed with how she has gone about this in the past, I am abhorred at the abuse and hate she got when some Asian Reddit and Facebook groups found out her husband was a white person. I have spoken to her about this, and I would love to see her grow as an Asian woman, a Southeast Asian woman ( whose voices are erased by East Asian men and women) and someone who will continue to learn about our diaspora and our spaces.
We need to empower our communities, and those who are willing to speak out, not shut them up because we disagree with their relationship choices. Who a person chooses to be with is not anyone’s business really and it does not impact on what a person says if it’s genuine and it benefits the community. I will also add that we need to stop isolating our biracial Asian communities and determine that their voices/visibility are not important. Tran’s documentary highlighted this extremely well and this again goes back to understanding what intersectionality means. As a full blooded Asian (both East and Southeast Asian) I would like to implore others to think about this and know that biracial Asians get discrimination from both whites and from Asians themselves.
I think I have said everything I want to for now. I know there is a lot I have missed out on still and I sincerely apologise for this. Personally it has been an emotional roller coaster for me in terms of handling the online abuse and hate I have read and received over the last 48 hours on my pieces on CHINESE BURN and NATALIE TRAN’S documentary, so bear with me if certain things are missed out on this. I want to see our diaspora more cohesive and unified and the first step is to acknowledge all the hurt and anger we have as well as understand intersectionality. I will leave it here, but feel free to let me know what you think of all this.