I have a confession to make — there have been many moments throughout my time in China where I’ve thought, really thought, about how nice it would be if my boyfriend and I could switch ethnicities.
Yup. You got that right. Switch ethnicities. Is that too shocking a confession?
He would be the Southeast Asian of Chinese descent, and I would be Jewish-American from the Midwest. We would be that celebrated sort of interracial couple, the Asian man with the white woman. Sure, people would stare at us, and make comments at times, and there would be social and cultural barriers to overcome together, but most of the time, we would be lauded and respected as a couple who dared to love beyond race! It would be awesome! I thought.
And then I could join the community. The community of visibly foreign women with Asian men. You know, my favorite China blogs are blogs written by foreign women with Chinese partners. Speaking of China. Life Behind the Wall. Tales from Hebei. They are so funny, so candid, so insightful. I love the warmth and camaraderie and support these women have for each other, and sometimes, I wish I were a bona-fide part of the group.
Instead, I am part of a different foreign/Asian community in China: the predominant one of Asian women with white men. For some reason I don’t have many friends in this community. I’m a little lonely sometimes. And those I do know, well, the racial dynamics of our relationships are not really something we talk about. Sometimes, it’s like a hush-hush topic, even though we are the most common white/Asian pairing. And, on those occasions when the issue does come up, it’s usually with a lot of defensiveness.
“No big deal.”
“We’re just like every other couple.”
“She doesn’t only date white guys.”
“He does NOT have Yellow Fever!”
I understand this defensiveness. I feel this defensiveness almost every day. This entire post stems from that defensiveness. I’ve written about these feelings before, in my post about The Asian Girlfriend Complex. A reader told me to get over it and grow up. Someone else said it was in my head. But a lot of people… they felt the same way. They were tired of being viewed as “lesser,” “less serious,” “kinky” couples because the man was white and the woman Asian.
I know that the white male/Asian female pairing has endured numerous negative associations. Words that immediately come to mind: Opportunistic. Gold-digger. Fetish. Sexualization. Stereotypes. White-worship. Money. Exploitation. Lust. Pinkerton Syndrome. ‘Sarong Party Girl’ behavior was something I was warned against growing up.
I know why these associations exist today.
There are poorer women in China and the rest of Asia who view a foreign man as a meal ticket.
There are Asian women who only date white men because most of the men they meet are white, and/or they find them more culturally/sexually appealing.
There are white men who only date Asian women because of the society they live in — where the women are mostly Asian — or yes, they do find Asian women more culturally/sexually appealing.
There are white men who come to Asia to hook up with local women in all the ‘seedy’ places you can think of.
There are local women who go to these places to hook up with the white men who come to Asia.
And then there are cases like mine — a mutual friend introduces a man and a woman and they decide, hey, we get along, we like each other, we both like eating, and books, and the Barbie store, why not? And oh, by the way, they happen to be white and Asian, respectively.
Unsurprisingly, it seems like the latter group are the people most bothered by the negative associations. My friend Xiaoli, who is Chinese-American, has, in her past, dated Chinese, Korean, white, Kenyan, Ghanian, and Syrian men; “I’m like an equal opportunity employer,” she jokes. She has only two preferences in men: one, that they are men; two, that they turn her on. And yet, she got the worse flak when she was with her white boyfriend. “People made offhand comments about Yellow Fever and me dating only white men — what they heck, I’ve only dated one! — and I felt like I had to defend myself all the time,” she says. “I actually felt freer when I was with my Kenyan boyfriend — believe it or not, people laid off the racial comments. Most of the time we just got a thumbs up.”
Women with a preference for black men get a thumbs up. Women with a preference for Asian men get a thumbs up. Women with a preference for Middle Eastern men get a thumbs up. Women with a preference for white men get a thumbs down. Generally true?
I’ve mentioned my boyfriend a number of times on this blog, mostly in the context of intercultural dating. I’ve shared that he’s white. I’ve shared that I’m dating one white guy. The only white guy I’ve ever been with. In response, I’ve gotten the following bull comments from certain readers.
Comment on a post about romantic Chinese phrases, for goodness sake:
You Chinese girls with a white preference are hilarious!! It would be easier for you to accept that your racist than to simply say you have an aesthetic or cultural preference for white men. Look up the UN definition of racism rather than coming up with a definition on your own.
Also on the romantic Chinese phrases post, from a repeated harasser who is now blocked:
obviously she’s not doing as well as you because her new bf isn’t a white guy, eh?
haha typical americanized asian girl
On Revenge of the Tiger Wife, left by a very angry Korean reader:
Seriously, if you and your bf broke up, WHO could find another interracial relationship quicker?
Western guys in asia don’t care…they know they don’t have to put up with shit cause they can find another self-hating, white-wannabe asian girl any night of the week
On my personal post about Loving a Shorter Man:
yet another weird pasty white guy with another self-culture-hating asian girl who desperately wants to be white herself…
I’ve received other racial remarks and emails that have little to do with my posts. And it makes me wonder about the China blogosphere — are there other Asian women out there writing about their relationships with white/foreign men, blogs that are a reverse Speaking of China and the others I mentioned previously? I can only think of LoveLoveChina, a great blog written by a Chinese girl with an Israeli boyfriend, but — maybe I’m wrong — her blog is less on personal struggles and more a compendium (by Crystal and guest bloggers) of wonderful articles on Chinese women. Have I set myself up as the go-to blog for angry people wanting to tear apart Asian women who are with white men?
I guess I should take heart in the fact that despite the negative associations and pairings that give us a bad name, genuine, loving relationships between white men and Asian women still flourish and will continue to flourish. White guys will still come to Asia and fall in love with local girls (whom they meet at school, in the workplace, on the bus… not just in bars or massage parlors or KTV, really) and Asian women in China and abroad may meet nice goofballs who are interested in Asian cultures, understand what it’s like being caught between East and West, and just happen to be white.
(A part of me thinks it’s a fun idea to march around with signs like “DATING WHITE! NOT A GOLD-DIGGER!” or “MY RIGHT TO DATE WHITE” or “WE’RE NOT ALL SPGs,” until I remember that there are people who are legally discriminated against for loving who they love, and then it puts things in perspective.)
Update 18/5/12: Many months ago, a life-changing event both devastated me and gave me clarity. I have since gotten married, and have stopped writing about this topic. Please see my final post on Asian/white interracial relationships. I wish you the best of luck in your relationships, interracial or otherwise.