With all the buzz surrounding K-Town on the blogosphere, Jen over at Disagrasian warns us to tone down the joking. And she’s right — this is serious, folks. Jen warns that K-Town could invoke a new, very harmful, stereotype against Asian Men…
I applaud Jen for being vigilant in this matter. As she describes in her post, the consequences of this stereotype to hard-working, honest Asian American men is profound. We could be talking about scores of Asian men turned away by employers who require shirts be worn every day of the week — even Casual Friday! Thousands of Asian men might find themselves applying for jobs in fields where they won’t be unfairly penalized due to the anti-shirt stereotype. Do we really want our Asian brothers forced to work as strippers, cabana boys, and life guards?
Think about the self-hate and shame that will be invoked amongst decent, well-meaning Asian men when they hear phrases like, “Hey, dude, chill out! Keep your shirt on!” or “What are you, a nudist who lacks commitment?” Think of the pain Asian men will have to endure when they become targeted by new racial slurs, like “shirt-hater”, “Chippendale”, or “nipple-flasher”. And will Asian men who take their shirts off — even while performing reasonably no-shirt activities like swimming or taking a shower — be accused of being sellouts for perpetuating the shirt-hating stereotype?
But, I do disagree with Jen on one thing: let’s put the blame where it belongs. The “shirt allergy” stereotype against Asian men did not begin with Peter Le, Young Lee or Joe Cha. No, these boys are mere symptoms of an institutional stereotype that just hasn’t received sufficient media attention until now, when K-Town finally exposed the stereotype’s full impact on our Asian brothers. These poor souls are only acting as they think they’re supposed to, because the “Asian men hate shirts” stereotype has been so deeply internalized into their self-identity. In a way, these men are heroes, for bravely shedding light on a silent oppression.
Consider how many other innocent Asian men have fallen victim to this syndrome:
So, you ask — whom should we really be blaming?
Well, I think the answer is clear — the blame lies squarely on the man who first brought this dastardly stereotype to American audiences.
That’s right: Bruce. Effin’. Lee. That frickin’ nipple-flasher.
Act Now! I’m declaring August 1st to be National Asian Male Shirt Solidarity Day. Wear a shirt and show your support. Spread the word.