Do Interracial Relationships and Self-Hate Go Hand in Hand?
By lainad on September 20, 2012
BlogHer Original Post
Recently, freelance writer Jenny An caused an online firestorm with her confessional essay I’m an Asian Woman and I Refuse to Ever Date an Asian Man for xoJane. But is it her defense of interracial dating or the way she defends it that's stirring up so much controversy?
An starts her post by declaring, "It's simple: I'm a racist," then goes on to profess her disdain for the patriarchy and racism she perceives in Asian culture. She continues with a declaration of love of white men, whom she views as an American ideal:
I date white men because the term "model minority" grosses me out. I date white men because it feels like I'm not ostracizing myself into an Asian ghetto and antiquated ideas of Asian unity. I still see myself as a minority. And with that, pretty soon comes connotations of "outsider." And I don't like that.
It's not so much that An is saying anything people haven't heard before, but she pushes so many hot buttons about issues that can quickly turn into a war of words between ethno-cultural groups: the high rate of dating between Asian women and white men, the model minority myth, and the hypersexualization of Asian women. She even takes the ultimate below-the-belt shot, hinting at differences in penis size between Asian and white men.
But perhaps her main goal was just a shocking headline, rather than a well-thought post. Commenters certainly accused An of link-baiting to draw attention to the site. This isn't the first time that xoJane has been called out for such behavior; BlogHer Health Editor AV Flox reported on similar accusations about ex-staffer Cat Marnell.
An complains about the pressure to perform within Asian culture, although her example does not show how this has anything to do with patriarchy or cultural sexism, as Asian women are expected to achieve just as much as Asian men. She also hints that white men -- the very ones she prefers to date in order to escape “patriarchy and cultural racism” -- have some sexual stereotypes about Asian women, too:
But as long as men tell me over dinner, "I've always wanted to be with an Asian girl" and then still think they're getting laid, and as long as during beauty countdowns white girls are called "beauties" and Asian girls are called "exotic beauties" -- well, then white will still be the societal standard.
To be fair, An did raise an issue experienced by a lot of people of colour, especially immigrants and children of immigrants: the feeling of “un-Americaness." Despite living in America and adapting to North American culture, they are made to feel like they do not, and never will, belong. But dating white men is not going to help. Especially if they are sexually fetishing you.
Responding to the comments (1,291 as of the writing of this piece), most of which were overwhelmingly negative, An wrote a mea culpa that essentially backfired. Distancing herself form the first-person voice of the first essay, she says this:
Writers create characters. Call it first-person character, a writerly persona, performance art, whatever. Stir in some strong statements to make it more bloggable, call it a troll if you will. Or call it saying: I'd never, ever, ever do this, but it's just, yeah, I don't do it all that often. The character embodies thoughts of self-race annihilation I've considered, especially when I was younger, because it would take a lot stronger of a person than I am to never wonder, "Would my life have been easier if I were white?"
A commenter on An's response posted this:
“I understand the need to frame an article so that it gets hits and grabs attention and all that, but by saying you were creating a character and not speaking fully as yourself.....well, I feel disappointed and slightly betrayed, frankly. And how on earth can you be credible to me in this second article when you've admitted you weren't being your full self in the first? Maybe this is just your conciliatory persona, framed to moderate the negative feedback your first article received? If you felt that while writing your first piece your views were not being thoroughly expressed, why not say so?”
One interesting response was by JT Tran from Asian Men White Women. Tran, nicknamed the "Asian Playboy," is no stranger to controversy in the Asian American community; his website is dedicated to helping Asian men date white women. While Tran dates interracially, he questions not only xoJane’s decision to publish a trollish title, but also An’s belief that she is perceived as an outsider in American culture:
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