In a post from a long time ago, unrelated to the actual topic of the post, a very interesting discussion of sexual ownership developed. (This is why I cherish thread drift, by the way.) The issue was the way white women treat—judging, sneering, accusing—white men who are in romantic relationships with non-white women, especially Asian* women. Fairly late in the thread, Mike explains:
Mike on said:
… It’s funny, because when my friend offered to introduce me to a “nice Cambodian lady”, I told him that she should be “at least” 35, so we’d have some kind of continuity in terms of age. I initially met Jen online and she told me she was 35. Over a webcam it’s often hard to tell, but I had no reason to doubt her.
As for the looks my wife and I get in public, it’s been an eye-opener. Yes, I always knew that there were people who found time to care about this stuff but being the recipient of their attention wasn’t something I’d had a lot of direct exposure to.
The sneers we get (well, that *I* get) are almost palpable, lol. Eventually after several months I mentioned this to my wife; she was mostly unaware of it, but after I mentioned it she started seeing it too. The “up-and-down” look done at the same time as the lip curls into an expression of mild-to-blatant disapproval.
Some of it is a built-in prejudice based on a combination of age difference and apparent attractiveness. Let me be honest: I’m no damn movie star, and GQ is *not* going to be breaking down my door for a photo shoot anytime soon. I mean, I don’t have to sneak up on a mirror, but I’m no hunk. My wife, on the other hand, is way more beautiful than I deserve. And somehow, this seems unfair to them- because the fact is that there is no white, American woman anywhere near as cute as my wife who would ever date, let alone marry, a guy like me. (I’d be lucky if I could get them to spit on me.) So they look at us and they’re like “WTF??”
This condemnation of white men and Asian women in romantic relationships is nothing new. I remember this attitude from my childhood, the sense that these men were preying on these women, exploiting them in some way. Nowadays this is often expressed in accusations that these men are looking for a “subservient Asian woman” as a form of sexist dominance. That accusation is simultaneously sexist and racist.
It is sexist because it presumes that the white men are making all the moves and making all the choices—and then it condemns them for it. It trades in hyperagency and hypoagency.
It is racist because it is a plain expression of white supremacy in two ways. First, it casts the white men as some kind of all-powerful predators, and second, it casts white women as the default object of white men’s attractions, so that if a white man is attracted to an Asian woman, there must be something nefarious or deviant about it.
Mike was following up on an earlier comment:
Mike on said:
The whole “mail order bride” syndrome you mention, is still open for criticism and comment.
Oh, tell me about it. 🙁
As if I selected her from a catalog and paid for overnight shipping (so she’d still be fresh when she got here!). It’s astoundingly offensive, and honestly, I think a lot of the “mail order bride” comments stem from jealousy (although some probably come from simple ignorance).
As far as I am concerned the ignorance comes out of jealousy, because it is obviously self-serving.
Some other comments in the discussion:
Paul on said:
You know, I look at all these women who are yelling about “yellow fever” and I honestly wonder how many of them have (or have had) black boyfriends.
I used to have this friend when I was a young’un (as in middle/high school) who was… well, proud, frankly, about the fact that she refused to date white men. (She herself was blonde’n’blueyed) Her ahem “preference” was for latino men (and she did eventually marry a man who is latino, never met him though) although I seem to recall her saying she’d be willing to date black men as well.
It just goes back to the whole “men have nasty ‘fetishes’ women have ‘preferences’” thing.
Paul on said:
Actually, now that I think of it, this applies to a lot more things than just race.
Society apparently tells women that the “pinnacle” of beauty is a white woman, preferably blonde and blue-eyed, who’s skinny with big breasts and somewhere between say 5’3 and 5’6 give or take an inch.
Women say that this being seen as the end all and be all of beauty is wrong (and you’ll get no argument from me on that point)
And yet… apparently if any man expresses any desires that *do* fall outside these qualities… he’s told he’s “fetishizing” and “objectifying” How exactly do they expect to widen the scope of “attractive” when every time men tell them that we don’t believe in that ideal any more than they do, we’re told to “stop fetishizing”?
The stink of sexual ownership and sexual entitlement and sexist double standards hovers over this entire issue. Of course, white women’s sense of sexual ownership of white men is covered up and presented as white women protecting their non-white sisters. They still expect people to fall for that, even though POC feminists and womanists can tell you all about white women’s solicitude for non-white women.
And the final comment on the matter sums up everything with the voice of humanity and clear, sweet reason. And it also happens to employ “flip the genders” and “flip the races” to show how offensive this sense of sexual ownership is:
Jo on said:
as a mixed race woman (black/white) I prefer white men with brown hair. Always have since I was a little girl. I don’t know why I just do. Men are free to prefer whoever they like, its neither racist nor sexist, its a preference. I am open to other experiences and have fallen in love with different types but it just so happened that I married my preference. Black people have said that I was racist. Black men in particular have been offended by me and my preference, they said that I thought I was ‘too good for them’ etc. I don’t object to personal preference. I object to the only value of women being placed on their youth, skinniness and blondness as a cultural NORM/IDEAL. It is not. I hate that men and women are ridiculed for finding=== other types attractive. And funnily enough the men I am attracted to are the cultural NORM/IDEAL (tall, dark). If I was a man and preferred skinny blonde women I’m sure the venom would be profound. It doesn’t make it wrong, it makes it wrong that there is a cultural NORM that is forced upon us by the media. There should be a better representation of everyone, it would take the heat off us all and allow us to like who we damn please.
I am very familiar with being told whom I could be attracted to and, much worse, being told whom I could not be attracted to, and I have so little patience for that bigoted, self-serving idiocy to even bother to answer it. It doesn’t deserve an answer.
Martha Nussbaum identified ownership explicitly as a form of objectification. That’s what this herd-tending and moral judgy-ness is on the par with these white women. It is objectification.
* I have learned to clarify for our non-U.S. readers that in the United States “Asian” means “East Asian.” Desi don’t register as “Asian” for most Americans.
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