On Interracial Dating, Toxic Asian Masculinity, and Feminist Agency

For the past couple of days, #AsianTwitter & #AsianFacebook have been getting into heated debates about an article written by Baltimore-based, Filipino-American Eliza Romero called “Asian Women, I Am Calling You Out On This One.”

*Before I begin, I would just like to say that I am glad our community is finally having these important conversations with one another. As I always say, if white supremacy were to be completely eliminated from this Earth, we’d have a lot less problems but we’d still have problems. I view any conversation within the community as progress, AS LONG as it continues to center the most marginalized.*

In the article, Romero presented three theories:

a. That “Asian women experience a much greater amount of privilege in a white-dominated society than Asian men, specifically lighter-skinned East Asian women.”

b. That “Asian women have been socially influenced to think that white men are more attractive than Asian men because Western media has emasculated Asian men.”

c. That “Asian women just don’t want to admit that they have a white guy fetish so they put the blame on the dudes.”

First off, if what lands in the ear from reading those statements is “Asian women are to blame for the problems that plague Asian men” then please know you are not alone. After reading the article, I decided to look for responses and — to no surprise — I found out that Love Life of an Asian Guy, (a social media activist who has had a history with misogyny) decided to cosign the article. Even more alarming, Asian-Ams on Reddit saw this story as a chance to spew misogynist rhetoric. A person who goes by “linsanitytothemax” wrote that Asian Women “sold their soul to get ahead in white society. They have kneeled to the white men, doing everything for them on a whim.” Many others wrote similar sentiments on the site. Regardless of Romero’s intentions, I think it is important to unpack as to why these are the types of people that were empowered by her article. At the root of it, what Romero said was misogynist because it puts the blame on something white supremacy created on Asian women. And that is exactly why what manifested on the blogs, on comment sections, and on online platforms is that way of thinking.

NOW FINALLY — to the meat of the article.

To say that Asian women exert a greater amount of privilege relative to Asian men, is just simply untrue.

To be fetishized and objectified is NOT privilege. It puts Asian women in more harm than good.

And even beyond desirability, Asian women are placed in danger through various other ways. Clara Mae, @ubeempress, noted in a series of tweets the various issues Asian American women face regarding domestic abuse, suicide rates & mental health, the gendered pay gap, and body image. These types of experiences are erased when people like Eliza Romero make statements that equate hyper-visibility and fetishism with privilege. And we, as a community, know all too well the challenges that come when our struggles are erased.

Second, to say that cishet Asian women are conditioned to find white men desirable is not untrue, but to leave out the fact that cishet Asian men seek out white women with the same vigor is problematic.

Asian men, women, and non-binary folk who live under white supremacy are conditioned to view white people as desirable; it is something our community has had to work to unlearn. To single out Asian women for this broad phenomenon again points the fingers at Asian women.

If we are in the business of being free, we have to look at the problem that created it. That means being able to see the various ways whiteness operates on ALL of our people, and working to find a liberation that works for us all. It means challenging Western notions of masculinity, gender, romance, and love altogether instead of merely giving Asian men the status of white men. And if Asian men finally get the status that we want them to have, it means reminding them that that still does not mean that they are entitled to Asian women.

And lastly, this idea that “Asian women just don’t want to admit that they have a white guy fetish” grossly takes away any form of agency from the Asian woman. There are a lot of Asian women and white men couples that are not rooted in problematic power structures, that just simply happened to be. And for those that do have problematic tendencies, the appropriate response is not to center Asian men but to center how the intersection of sexism and racism has helped formed those attitudes in Asian women. I think it’s real interesting that women of color are always subjected to a high level of scrutiny by men of color regarding who they date (which, I believe, is another form of control). Who Asian women date is of no concern to you, especially when you only care about getting to be with an Asian woman yourself, as opposed to the emotional, physical, and mental well-being of Asian women.

Never mind the fact that Romero has conveniently left out other relationships that don’t fit the heteropatriarchy. There are whole relationships in our community that don’t include a man and a woman. There are Asian women that see themselves with other women, and men with men. There are trans experiences, the experiences of non-binary folk. We can do a lot more good when we do away with this idea that Asian men and women won’t be complete without each other.

Asian men should absolutely have the space to talk about their masculinity with one another. Asian women should absolutely have the space to unpack their “preferences” with one another. But if we are having these conversations to stroke the egos of Asian men, then I want no part of it. The egos of Asian men will not grant me my freedom.