A reader had this suggestion after reading my white male/Asian female post:
…[S]ince your relationship is a symbol for racist white male privilege, you could help fight against it by focusing more on creating positive image for Asian male in your future blog posts.
I was initially annoyed at the mere thought of turning my blog into a pro-Asian male platform. After all, most of the abusive comments/emails I’ve gotten are from people who’ve identified themselves as Asian men; Why should I write positive things about people who’d send such messages? I thought. They haven’t helped themselves.
Then came Wesley Yang’s illuminating Paper Tigers, which should have been subtitled, “Why Asian Men in America are Angry.” Reading it was a window into understanding just why many Asian (American) men feel slighted, why some feel such intense anger against all the white men who apparently dominate the boardrooms and bedrooms of America.
Honestly, before all this, it had never struck me that Asian men needed any help reinventing themselves, never crossed my mind that there was any need to create positive images of the Asian male. Why? One, I’m from a corner of Malaysia where every man was an Asian male — there was hardly a white presence in my community. Two, I grew up knowing that Asian men are tough, capable, and loving, and I have my strong Asian father to thank for that.
When the most important Asian man in your life is a guy like my father, you wouldn’t think that Asian men are weak, emasculated people. Although Papa is older now, 65 years old, happily retired, and living a quiet, comfortable life, a couple of decades ago, he was a real force to be reckoned with.
He’s always been an imposing man, throwing the “short/small/feeble Asian male” stereotype out the window. In his mid-twenties he was 183 centimeters tall with a tan, muscular body developed from a youth spent doing track and field, playing badminton, and acquiring a black belt in karate. Aside from his physique, my father also has presence, and is charming and confident like any man with a manageable superiority complex, as we like to joke.
He was never one to sit still. After leaving his small town in southern Malaysia and putting himself through university in Kuala Lumpur, my father worked and saved for the big adventure of his late twenties — postgraduate studies in the UK. He pursued a Master’s in Psychology in Lancaster, and in his two years there, got quite the reputation as a great karate instructor nicknamed “Big John” — something I discovered after finding an old newspaper clipping about him. I also found old photos of a handsome, smiling Big John lolling on the grass and going about town with pretty white girls, all of them looking at him with besotted eyes. I’ve never asked my father about his love life before my mother, and out of fierce loyalty to her have sometimes pretended it never existed, but after reading this section of Yang’s article about the trouble Asian men (in the West) have dating, I’m suddenly proud that my Papa never had trouble attracting women, blonde or otherwise.
When he became a parent, my father embraced his new role. I’ve never had a stoic and unaffectionate Asian dad who works all day and only comes home at night to grunt “do your homework, be a doctor” to his children. Instead, he smothered me with hugs and I-love-yous (even now), and was always present, teaching me reading and math as well as how to do laundry, cook light meals, and sew. My father left the corporate world and freelanced when we came along while my mother had her own business to run, so for the most part it was he who ferried me to school, prepared my lunchbox, and went to parent-teacher meetings and waited with the moms for his turn. He was never ashamed of doing these things, and instead had a crazy pride in being a dad. We were his world. “I never had a father,” he’d sometimes say out of the blue, “so I want you and your brother to have the dad I never had.”
Yes, my father was and is a strong Asian man who was in no way inferior to white men or a victim of whatever social forces affected people like those interviewed by Wesley Yang. This is not to say that I disagree with Yang or anyone who argues that Asian men have a lot to overcome (especially in America). I know my father was lucky to have been born with the height and build that he had, to have had the confidence that came with that, to have been so self-assured that he was able to be a full-time father and not feel less of a man. What I am saying is that perhaps I am not the best person to fight for Asian men, to purposely strive to create positive images of them in my writing. All my life, I never had to think about it — Asian men as strong, capable males was always a given.
And on that note, Happy Father’s Day to my dear Papa, “Big John.”
[My dad doesn't want his photo on my blog. But Papa, don't you want my readers to see how good-looking you were, especially in the 70s?]