A few years ago I wrote regularly for a popular online publication.
The topics I covered ran the gamut from food, to culture, to even local legends and folklore. What all my pieces had in common was that they were from my first-person perspective. In the online space that inhabited, where I had a following of readers who enjoyed hearing about how I navigated my life in America and Asia, my identity could be boiled down to a character: opinionated Chinese-American woman who isn’t afraid to write about what her fears, her embarrassments, and her adventures.
Supporting players in my own little online sit-com were my husband – whose “character” existed with the name “Mr. Louise” – and my cat, Brandy. Mr. Louise was and continues to be a white American man, Brandy was a brown, black, and white American cat.
Writing on the Internet is a fraught place for anyone. Any perceived “flaw” you possess will be highlighted and held up for examination, often in the cruelest ways. Sometimes it’s even frightening.
While in the middle of my time writing for this publication, a new commenter appeared in my pieces’ comment sections. The community was such that I recognized several regular commenters, and new folks tended to fall into a recognizable style and pattern of offering thoughts. But this new person, who identified himself as half-Asian and male, was different.
He was angry, he was aggressive, and he was obsessed with me.
Often writing comments that were themselves short articles (and copied and pasted numerous times in a comment section so as not to be ignored), he berated and threatened me for being an Asian women married to a white man.
Under various screen names (no matter how many times we blocked and banned him, he returned under a new name) he expressed his disgust that I was “white worshipping”, that I was my husband’s “whore”, that the only reason that I could be with my husband was because I was “self hating”.
In ALL CAPS he repeatedly complained that I wasn’t using my platform to tell the world how terrible and racist my relationship with a white man was, and that I should be telling the truth that any children we would have would “wish for death” and “hate their whore mother”. Over and over again he said that it was women like me that ruined his life.
After months of threats to me and my husband, wishing us death and assault, he disappeared. Now and then he pops up on the Internet, his rhetoric and tone unmistakeable, but he’s largely out of my life.
Full disclosure, I’m a little nervous that this post will be like a beacon to him and he’ll rise again, but I chose a long time ago not censor myself because of him or others like him.
While I was in the thick of his harassment, I attempted to disregard everything he said to me. He hated every fiber of who I was, who I am, how could I give such a voice any audience?
But after he was out of my life, something remained that bothered me. He was not the first person to criticize me for marrying a white man. He criticized me in the most vile, misogynistic, and hateful of ways – that was a first – but what he said was not new.
In the 10-plus years I’d been with my husband, I’d been accused of self-hatred or white worship on several occasions, usually by Asian-American men.
And though I have always known that I married my husband not because of the color of his skin but because of who he is as a person and the connection we share, a small part of me wondered if I was unwittingly reinforcing a problem?
Don’t get me wrong, I would never undo my life because of what how some angry voices condemn me – that’s been the mode in which AAPI people have been held down in America for generations. I’m not playing that game. And I have no regrets over who I love.
But something started creeping into my thoughts. How did my relationship look to the Asian-American community?
While I know I shouldn’t care too much what others think, but as a community that is fighting for fair and accurate representation, especially in portraying AAPI men as “masculine”, does my marriage seem…hypocritical?
I suspect these are questions many Asian-American women have asked themselves.
To some extent, I understand that my husband and I are a stereotype. Opinions on “White Male Asian Female” or WMAF are all over message boards, dating sites, and YouTube videos. We are not an uncommon pairing.
There is the belief among many Asian-American men that Asian-American women choose to only date white men because they see Asian men as lesser – less masculine, less attractive, less virile – and because they innately hate their “Asianness”. Asian women who choose to have a relationship with a white man are also assumed to be social climbers, OK with being a white man’s trophy.
A WMAF relationship is often seen as an Asian woman attempting to erase her Asian identity.
It’s been said that white men are “stealing” Asian men’s women, that Asian women are a big part of the reason that white culture deems Asian men unattractive; that Asian women are in fact racist against their own kind.
I admit I do see some truth, though warped, in some of those assessments.
There do exist Asian-American women who refuse to date Asian-American men for the reasons outlined above. I personally find that just as reprehensible as a white man refusing to date a woman who is not white or a white man only wanting to date a woman because she is Asian.
It’s all racism.
And yes, since the first Chinese men came to America in the 1800s they have been portrayed by white culture as anything but human: first dangerous, then emasculated non-men.
(By the way, Chinese women during the Exclusion Era in the US, were almost exclusively portrayed as “whores” and “dragon ladies”. So Asian men are not the only ones carrying the burden of deep-seated institutional racism.)
There is no doubt that Asian-American men struggle with a damaging and crushing stereotype that they are weak, meek, and undesirably feminine. In the hierarchy of social privilege in the AAPI community, many men face a battle that it seems (at least on the surface) that women don’t have to face.
But is that true? Do Asian-American women really hold such privilege and power? Or is it more American race manipulation dressed up in a slinky cheongsam?
After all, as explained by my obsessed commenter and Asian-American men who have confronted me and other women, an Asian woman’s privilege and power is purely physical.
White American culture portrays Asian women as sex-obsessed but demure, petite and ultra-feminine, but also possessing a fiery “dragon” side. Sure an Asian woman may pursue only white men, but her value lies in her looks. After she has snared her white captor, she becomes his whore.
Generally speaking, “getting” an Asian woman is seen as an accomplishment. She is a trophy. White men get her or “steal” her, Asian men are angry because they don’t possess her.
On all sides, the Asian female is seen as a prize.
I know I’m speaking in sweeping terms. But despite how many “woke” Asian men and women there out there, there are still a large number of people in Asian-American communities who believe to some degree that interracial relationships are indicative of white-imposed hatred of one’s race; or a form of assimilation.
I’ll be honest, I suspect that there may be some truth to that. But the blame should not be placed on Asian women or Asian men; turning on each other is an old, surefire way that dominant white culture controls minorities.
Let us not forget the model minority myth.
For as long as AAPI people have lived on American soil, white Americans have been defining the optimal ways for us to exist in their culture. In my mind, the controversy over White Male Asian Female relationships, or any interracial relationships, is no different.
I realize that on the surface I may come across as yet another liberal Asian woman who says one thing but marries a white guy. That to many, my support and advocacy for AAPIs is moot because I fell into the trap of white worship.
And there have been times I’ve questioned the core of my choices: was my choice of husband somehow an unconscious decision based on how white American culture brainwashed me?
I want to say a resounding “No!” but the truth is…perhaps?
I cannot say with 100 percent certainty that white American culture has not influenced me in ways I’m unaware of. All I know is that I can only act with integrity now and in the future.
But shaming me, women like me (not to mention members of the LGBTQIA community who face similar pressure to stay within their race), and cultivating inward-facing anger at our own community only serves to weaken us as a whole.
The battle for AAPI representation and equality is making important strides, and discrediting members of the community over their choice of partner is not only distracting, but such infighting serves to discredit the community.
Which is what they want.
I know minds will not be changed overnight and wounds will not heal. But I hope that with time Asian-American communities can recognize that the root of so much of our anger was born from a white culture that demanded we keep to our own in the first place.