Masculinity vs. “Misogylinity”: what Asian Americans can learn from #UCSB shooting | #YesAllWomen

May 28, 2014
The wreckage of Elliot Rodger's black BMW sedan after his deadly shooting rampage Friday evening. (Photo credit: Jae C. Hong / AP)
The wreckage of Elliot Rodger’s black BMW coupe after his deadly shooting rampage Friday evening. (Photo credit: Jae C. Hong / AP)

On Friday evening in the residential neighbourhood of Isla Vista in Santa Barbara, California, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger stabbed his three young Asian American housemates – George Chen, 19 , Weihan “David” Wang, 20, and Chen Yuan “James” Hong, 20 – to death while they slept. Rodger then drove his luxury BMW coupe to the Alpha Phi sorority where he opened fire with two legally purchased handguns on three female passersby; two – Katherine Cooper, 22 and Veronica Weiss, 19 – were killed, while a third is recovering in hospital. Rodger proceeded to the nearby I.V. Deli Mart and fired randomly into the store, killing Christopher Michael-Martinez, 20. He then drove through the streets of Isla Vista, shooting randomly at pedestrians and striking two cyclists with his car; by the end of the night, he had wounded 13. A brief firefight ensued between him and sheriff deputies, which ended when Rodger crashed his car into another vehicle. Rodger was found dead in the drivers’ seat of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

By Saturday, several YouTube videos created by Rodger – including one uploaded just hours before the attack that appeared to offer a motive for the deadly shooting – were discovered, along with a 140-page autobiography-turned-hate-fueled-manifesto. These items, along with Rodger’s frequent posts on BodyBuilding.com and PUAHate.com forum boards paint a disturbing – and disturbingly detailed – portrait of a narcissistic, mentally disturbed, lonely, woman-hating man-child so deeply twisted by American racism, classism, and sexism that he found a way to rationalize mass murder. Sparked by an abundance of macabre primary source material, over two hundred thousand news articles and think-pieces have now been written about Rodger (according to Google’s latest count) and the feminist hashtag #YesAllWomen – initiated in response to Rodger’s documented misogynistic motives – remains one of the top 5 trending topics on Twitter.

I have over the last four days stayed silent on the UCSB shooting as I tried to parse my own thoughts on Friday’s violent attack. I watched some of the YouTube videos and read Rodger’s manifesto.

In the end, I couldn’t shake the same chilling reaction I felt when I first read about Friday night’s violence: I had seen Elliot Rodger’s brand of radical hatred before. I had seen it within the comments section of my own site for a decade. I had seen it from members of my own community.

George  Chen was a Canadian from Ottawa -- a "gentle soul" who graduated from Leland High in San Jose, California. He was at UCSB studying computer science. He was 19. (Photo credit: NY Daily News)
George Chen was a Canadian from Ottawa — a “gentle soul” who graduated from Leland High in San Jose, California. He was at UCSB studying computer science. He was 19. (Photo credit: NY Daily News)

A Toxic Concoction of Racism, Classism and Sexism

Elliot Rodger had internalized a toxic concoction of America’s white supremacy, its rape culture, and its entitlement complex. To read his manifesto is to discover that Rodger’s underlying disease was a pathological yearning for social acceptance; branching out of this central obsession, however, were ideas warped by racism, classism and sexism. Rodger wanted nothing more than to be “cool”, a word he defined as synonymous with wealth, Whiteness, and straight masculinity. Rodger’s manifesto documents a life in pursuit of this twisted ideal, and a radicalized hatred for every internal and external deviation from it.

Shooter Elliot Rodger in an undated photo.
Shooter Elliot Rodger in an undated photo.

Elliot Rodger enjoyed the economic privilege that came with being born into an upper-class family. He despised all indicators of poverty, routinely calling people he disliked “low-class scum” (a descriptor he also used for other people of colour). This only fueled his rage that he was denied the social acceptance he believed others with less wealth enjoyed. Yet, Rodger’s family routinely encountered financial trouble which periodically limited access to the luxuries Rodger felt he was entitled to; consequently he reveled in these moments – flying first class, attending movie premieres, eating at posh buffets – when they were sparingly available, and coveted them when they were not. In the final years of his life, Rodger spent thousands of dollars on Powerball tickets, thinking the multi-million dollar jackpot would help him purchase social acceptance and superiority. Ironically, in death, Rodger has been re-cast by mainstream news as the wealthy elitist he so yearned to be.

Elliot Rodger was also a biracial Asian American – a fact almost completely lost in mainstream coverage of this incident. He self-identified as a “beautiful Eurasian”, an identity that he believed elevated him above “full-blooded Asians”, but that he believed also hindered social and sexual acceptance by his White peers. Rodger’s fetishization of Whiteness manifests throughout his life: he bleaches his hair blonde and pursues only blonde White women. Rodger’s biracial identity clearly contributed to his feeling of social ostracism. Ironically, in death, his race has been completely White-washed.

But above all, Elliot Rodger believed himself to be a “magnificent gentleman”. He believed that society’s greatest “injustice” was its failure to accept him as the masculine ideal. Elliot Rodger believed he needed, and was entitled to, a “beautiful blonde girlfriend” to have sex with, and that his possession (for indeed, that is how he saw it) of such a woman would confer true manhood. He was enraged and embittered by his perception that the world willfully and repeatedly conspired to deny him – and him alone – access to sex. He believed the world had emasculated him, because at 22 years old, he was still a virgin.

That is, and pardon my French, utter bullshit.

Weihan "David" Wang immigrated with his parents from Tianjing, China when David was 10. His mother described him as "the joy of the family", who was looking forward to celebrating his 21st birthday with his family by visiting Yellowstone National Park next month. David was at UCSB studying Computer Science. He was 20. (Photo credit: NY Daily News)
Weihan “David” Wang immigrated with his parents from Tianjing, China when David was 10. His mother described him as “the joy of the family”, who was looking forward to celebrating his 21st birthday with his family by visiting Yellowstone National Park next month. David was at UCSB studying Computer Science. He was 20. (Photo credit: NY Daily News)

Masculinity and the Asian American Community

Questions of masculinity resonate in the Asian American community. For Asian American men, their stereotypical emasculation deeply impacts self-conception. For some, the uplift of Asian American male gender and sexual identity is among the most critical political priorities for Asian Americans. Most Asian American activists – myself included – embrace efforts to redefine Asian American masculinity as part of a holistic approach to challenging anti-Asian stereotypes. Yet, rarely does our community dissect what we mean when we talk about masculinity, and the tactics that we take to empower Asian American men in reclamation of it.

For Elliot Rodger, masculinity was defined primarily through sexual conquest: the degree to which a man successfully woos a woman, and the quality (i.e. beauty) of the woman wooed. Disturbingly, Rodger’s sex-based definition of masculinity was not unique: it is a definition prevalent throughout American popular culture, and one embraced by the Asian American community, too. It is reflected in countless popular culture films (for example, Don Jon), and it is a central tenet of the “seduction community” where it is called the “game”. Pick-up artistry refers to self-help workshops (costing thousands of dollars a session) that purport to teach men the seduction skills to “score” a woman (called “targets”) rating 7 or higher on the program’s standardized beauty scale.

Within the Asian American community, too, we see this sex-based version of masculinity go unchallenged.  Too often, we narrowly (and sometimes uncritically) promote pop culture images of Asian American men in sexual or romantic roles (where the character’s explicit heterosexuality alone defines the character as empowering and masculine). Too often, we revere characters like JT Tran, who sells an Asian American-specific version of pick-up artistry workshops, and David Choe, who hosted a popular Asian American-focused podcast that intended to subvert Asian American emasculation through real or manufactured tales of sexual conquest (where he also allegedly confessed to rape).

But let’s be clear: this sex-based masculinity is not actual masculinity. It is something else: let’s call it “misogylinity”.

Friends describe Chen Yuan "James" Hong as "shy" but "full of smiles". Another friend remembers his "rich laugh". He was 20.
Friends describe Chen Yuan “James” Hong as “shy” but “full of smiles”. Another friend remembers his “rich laugh”. He was 20.

Masculinity vs. “Misogylinity”

Misogylinity (and yes, I did just make up a word) defines masculinity by the objectified ownership of female sexuality, and in so doing commodifies us as tokens for the purposes of keeping masculine score. Furthermore, misogylinity is distinctly racist: for Elliot Rodger, mainstream America, and even some of Asian America, the sliding scale of female attractiveness posits White women as the pinnacle, and the worth of women of colour progressively decreasing as melanin content increases.

Within the Asian American community, the fight to correct systemic emasculation of our Asian American men is not fringe: it is a mainstream, politicized rationale for our general social justice advocacy. And while this cause is righteous, I can’t help but wonder: have we allowed ourselves to believe that this end justifies any means? Do we sometimes let the fight to reclaim Asian American masculinity rationalize the recreation of systems of oppression against other Asian American identities? Does our unwavering focus on the goal of correcting Asian American emasculation sometimes result in failures to examine how these efforts might also silently reinforce sexism, heterosexism and misogylinity?

Can we be doing better?

Friends say that Katie Cooper's smile "lit up the room" when she walked in. Cooper was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority, and is remembered as a smart, popular girl active in many clubs and the track team. She was 22. (Photo credit: NBC LA)
Friends say that Katie Cooper’s smile “lit up the room” when she walked in. Cooper was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority, and is remembered as a smart, popular girl active in many clubs and the track team. She was 22. (Photo credit: NBC LA)

Asian America’s Radical “Misogylinists”

At the extreme margins of Asian Americana, misogylinity has taken hold as a thriving sub-culture. Here, some Asian American men have expressed for over a decade a hatred frighteningly similar to that of Elliot Rodger. The parallels are not abstract.

Like Elliot Rodger, these men feel profoundly wronged by their perceived emasculation. Like Elliot Rodger, these men embrace the language of the men’s rights movement, and the misogyny of the seduction community. Like Elliot Rodger, these men bitterly lament their fate as “unintentionally celibate” (Rodger used the phrase “kissless virgin”).

Like Elliot Rodger, these Asian American men believe it to be the duty of women to offer sex to men, in order to boost their partner’s masculinity and sexual desirability; specifically, they believe it the responsibility of Asian American women to personally challenge Asian American emasculation by limiting their sexual choices to Asian American men. Like Elliot Rodger, these men characterize women who refuse to commodify their own sexuality as stupid, sluts, or race traitors (or all of the above), and even promote sexual violence against them.

Wherein a commenter implies I would be better off raped.
Wherein a commenter implies I would be better off raped.

Like Elliot Rodger, these men anecdotally catalog every witnessed romantic relationship as representative of society’s larger sexual rejection of them. Like Elliot Rodger, these men rate the worth of a woman based predominantly — or exclusively – on her sexuality and her choice in sexual partner. For these Asian American men, specific vitriol is aimed at Asian American women in interracial relationships, which is seen as sufficient indication of internalized racial self-hate (see comments of this post for examples).

This isn't direct at me, but at Elliot Rodger's mother. She is a sellout because she married interracially.
This isn’t direct at me, but at Elliot Rodger’s mother. Apparently, she hates her Asian-ness because she married interracially.

Like Elliot Rodger, these men routinely use misogynistic language (i.e. sellout, bitch, cunt, whore, etc) to characterize women.

Wherein I am called a cunt. With a period, because that makes it better.
Wherein I am called a cunt. With a period, because that makes it better.

And like Elliot Rodger, some of these men will even take action, confronting women directly with harassment. But, in addition to your usual online sexism, Asian American female writers also face a specific brand of confrontational and misogynistic harassment. We are forced to endure Asian American men who tweet at us with an uninvited and unrelenting barrage of misogynistic language, the digital equivalent to Rodgers’ serial drink-splashing of local Isla Vista couples in the months leading up to the attack.

They engage in drive-by sexism, to “teach us a lesson”, to shame us for our feminism; significantly, it is also all completely unprovoked. Further, it arrives from members of our own racial communities, attacking not just our identities as women, but also our identification as Asian Americans. Questions of our racial authenticity coming from men who might otherwise be our political allies makes the damage all the worse.

Wherein... something.
Wherein… something.

I have blocked no less than five such accounts – all of which tweeted at me daily with a string of misogynistic insults – in the last few months. All of the screen-captures here are from the last month, when I actually started an archive of my own harassment.

Yes, All Women

I do not claim that the behaviour seen here comes from all or even most Asian American men. It’s not all (or even most) Asian American men, and I am thankful for that.

But, I can say with absolute certainty that these men are pervasive enough to have harassed virtually all Asian American women with any degree of prominence over the years, myself included. #YesALLWomen.

I do not claim that all or even most Asian American men – or, all or even most Asian American misogynists – will resort to the kind of heinous violence exemplified by Elliot Rodger. Elliot Rodger wanted to outlaw sex, put women in concentration camps and starve us to death, and to rule the world as a tyrannical despot. What made Elliot Rodger a killer was not his misogyny alone. Elliot Rodger was not all (or even most) men.

But, I can say with absolute certainty that the kind of confrontational, dehumanizing hatred of women for our sexual choices that Elliot Rodger used to justify his heinous acts is more commonplace than within the mind of one lone killer. It is familiar to all women, including Asian American women. #YesALLWomen.

You may have been horrified by the ideas presented in Elliot Rodger’s disturbed manifesto, and the profound misogyny expressed therein.

What frightened me was how familiar it was.

To express oneself as an Asian American woman and self-identified feminist is to expose ourselves to overt misogyny and misogylinity so deeply toxic as to remind of Elliot Rodger’s disturbed manifesto, yet so commonplace as to become routine, and furthermore so invisible as to go either completely unchallenged or otherwise totally dismissed – and therefore implicitly condoned – by far too many of our Asian American male allies.

N’jaila Rhee (@blasianbytch) asks:

“For years “pick up artists” have targeted the Asian community by preying on insecurity by re-enforcing racist stereotypes. Why have they been able to go unchallenged when they visit ivy league schools to spread their homophobic misogyny. There is such vitriol against Asian American feminist voices… We must address how toxic it is for Asian Americans to embrace white supremacist patriarchy.”

I agree. If we are going to use the UCSB shooting as a national “teachable moment” to challenge institutionalized sexism and misogyny, shouldn’t Asian Americans also look inward?

Why is this brand of misogylinity — which so closely resembles the hate of Elliot Rodgers — not repudiated more widely by us? More generally, why are ideas that originate out of the seduction community that objectify and commodify female sexuality still vocally espoused (or silently condoned)?

And, why is Asian American feminism still struggling to find our footing as a mainstream Asian American political ideology?

Veronica Weiss was a freshman, an avid water polo player, and a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. Her father remembers "she was making straight As. She was making friends. She was studying like a maniac and loving every minute of it." (Photo credit: The Daily Mail)
Veronika Weiss was a freshman, an avid water polo player, and a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. Her father remembers “she was making straight As. She was making friends. She was studying like a maniac and loving every minute of it.” She was 19. (Photo credit: The Daily Mail)

Redefining Masculinity

I have been routinely accused – often by these very same Asian American misogynists – of having a problem with Asian American men. Let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with Asian American men. I firmly believe in the political uplift of Asian American men, and the dismantling of institutionalized Asian American emasculation.

I just think that our definition of masculinity – specifically, our uncritical embrace of mainstream misogylinity – is flawed.

Misogylinity – masculinity defined by sexual conquest, or what the seduction community calls the “game” – is fundamentally misogynist; it is also heterosexist and racist. It fails to critically challenge racist stereotypes, including those that posit Black men as hypersexual and Asian American men as asexual. Individual, straight men of colour might achieve a modicum of masculine success by playing this “game” and repositioning themselves towards the center (defined by normative Whiteness),  but this doesn’t challenge the fundamental stereotypes upon which the entire misogylinist “game” is built. Even if some Asian American win, all Asian American men still lose because the “game” is fundamentally rigged against us.

The solution that brings actual uplift of Asian American men – and all men of colour – is to stop playing. It is to change the rules.

Over the weekend I had a long conversation with one of the most important men in my life on this topic: Snoopy Jenkins (@SnoopyJenkins). As a man of colour whom I respect (although to be fair I’m biased), he defines masculinity by specific character traits: honour, self-respect, self-confidence, assertiveness, drive, protectiveness of those one loves. Masculinity is the creation of a personal moral code and living by those principles. Masculinity is fatherhood, friendship, respect, and love.

(Note: This is not to say that these traits cannot also define femininity; society’s persistent embrace of a bipolar definition of gender – masculine vs feminine – is an interesting topic that deserves its own space.)

Christopher Michael-Martinez was "an engaging, happy guy who had a bright future", according to his former high school principle. The UCSB sophomore was majoring in English and planned to study abroad next year. He was 20. (Photo credit: NY Daily News)
Christopher Michael-Martinez was “an engaging, happy guy who had a bright future”, according to his former high school principal. The UCSB sophomore was majoring in English and planned to study abroad next year. He was 20. (Photo credit: NY Daily News)

More fundamentally, what distinguishes masculinity from misogylinity is that the former is defined by a man’s relationship to himself, whereas the latter is defined by a man’s relationship to others – women and other men.

This is a version of masculinity that I think all of us can get down with; or rather, one that we must get down with. It doesn’t posit the masculine aspiration as the athletic, straight, White man, and challenge men of marginalized identities – gay, men of colour, etc – to pursue an ideal they could never fully achieve (nor should they really want to). It further doesn’t objectify and commodify women, by appropriating our sexuality for the purposes of keeping masculine score.

This positive and empowered masculinity is gaining traction: it is central, for example, to The Good Men Project and Hyphen Magazine’s Mr. Hyphen pageant. I love to quote this interview with Sean Miura, Mr. Hyphen of 2013, where he defines his masculinity thusly:

“I know a lot of people who are like ‘we need more Daniel Dae Kims and sexy built dudes’ and I’m just ‘yeah, that would be great, but I also think we need more nerdy guys who are totally funny and able to hold their own, and I also think that we need more guys who are super athletic, and we need more super fierce queer Asian American men on stage,” he says. “When we branch out of the mainstream idea of ‘this is what a guy should be’ and look more into human beings being as they are, the moment we’re able to be ok with that, that would be awesome.”

Exactly.

For far too long, the Asian American community has sought to uplift Asian American masculinity without truly exploring what we mean by this. Friday evening’s tragic mass shooting at UC Santa Barbara was deplorable, but if we are determined to learn something from it, I hope one of the things we can do is finally examine America’s overtly narrow, and flawed, definition of masculinity, and our own problematic pursuit of it.

We must stop trying to win the zero-sum misogylinity “game”. We must reject it.

We must work to redefine our community’s entire concept of masculinity so that it reflects important character traits – self-assurance, honour, integrity, intelligence and respect; traits that I believe many Asian American men already possess in spades; traits that I believe truly define manhood.

And, as for Elliot  Rodger? I’ve already spent far too much time in his ugly, twisted little world; more time than that man ever deserved. I look forward to soon forgetting his name.

Read More:

Many Thanks: Jeff Yang (@originalspin), N’jaila Rhee (@blasianbytch), Oliver Wang, and SnoopyJenkins (@snoopyjenkins) for engaging in enlightening conversation with me to help organize my thoughts for this piece.

  • Van

    “Errr, that’s not how that works.”

    I was being sarcastic, but I guess that doesn’t come across when typed out.

    “Keep on keepin’ on doing that thing that makes your voice irrelevant, then. Be my guest.”

    Irrelevant to you. But again, I’m not looking for your support. There are plenty of people who already recognize this as a problem worth dealing with.

  • http://www.reappropriate.co Jenn

    “PhilYu”,

    Your comment was not approved because I strongly suspect you are attempting to troll, and using a false identity to do so. If you are interested in participating in this conversation, I suggest you contribute something a little more meaningful than your last, rather salacious, comment.

  • Rebelwerewolf

    I know I’m resurrecting an old thread here, but the news about the cop in Oklahoma who was using his status to rape vulnerable women could fall under “misogylinity”.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/jtes/daniel-holtzclaw-alleged-sexual-assault-oklahoma-city

    It also has parallels to Trayvon Martin’s murder in that both perpetrators were mixed race, seen as white, and committed violent acts against black people.

  • http://www.reappropriate.co Jenn

    @RWW,

    This story just completely freaks me out. I’ve wanted to write about it, but am not sure yet of my angle. We don’t yet have an idea about motive, but if Holtzclaw were trying to reinforce his masculinity and prowess through sexual predation (a likely scenario), than it would certainly fit into misogylinity.

  • Junwei

    I am reading about the Elliot Roger case. I am glad, I found your article – very interesting. I am a Sino-German and I am interested in Elliot Roger, because I am researching cases of damaged masculinity.

    In my opinion your conclusion is wrong, that we should change the Asian American masculinity. It is impossible, because there are too many different ethnicities, family types and migration histories and the influences are beyond our control.

    The rape culture and the glorification of femicide requires a white male centered cultural industry. The serial killer fictions are attempts of white men to connect sexually with women who they cannot get – so they kill them to get a godlike feeling. The metrosexual vampire narrative equates sex with the vampire bite. The death of women are eroticized. There numerous oil painting of beautiful female corpse by white artists. And we know plenty of murder ballads by white male singer. The porn industry is catering to white men and feed them with violent sexual ideas. The fairy tales warns young women of white male violence with their treatment of captive women.

    The only pervasive analogy I found in the Pacific Asian rim is the misogynistic Japanese porn and B-Movie culture. But even the Japanese never develop such a pervasive discourse which perpetuate the idea of dead women as the most poetic theme. Japanese misogynistic art was never considered high culture. And Japanese culture is not mainstream in Asian America.

    In “Soul on Ice” by Elridge Cleaver – a black man – we got an example of a hypermasculine sexual male identity, why he became a rapist. Elridge Cleaver trained himself with raping of black women then he did it to white women.

    The sexual antisemitism is similar to anti-asian male racism in the USA in the German world. Otto Weininger – an Austrian Jew – is a prototypical example with his book “Geschlecht und Charakter”. He equates Jewish masculinity with feminity and he ascribe Jewish men with sexual lust like a whore, but they are unable to fuck a woman right because of their circumcised penis. The circumsized Jewish penis is the analogy to the dysfunctional small Asian penis stereotype. Otto Weininger commited suicide after the publication of “Geschlecht und Charakter” at the age of 23. My expectation is that an angry Asian male virgin who live in a shame culture which belittle male virginity are more likely to commit suicide.

    Imperial Germany and Austria were very similar to the USA in the past with their fascination of sport and military. The body culture generated pictorial narratives about the clumsy and dorky Jewish body image in all media formats: postcard, poster, photography, cinema, literature etc.

    But if such people are exposed to white male media narratives about serial killers, vampire fiction, murder ballads, porn narratives and media coverage of amok, they get the emotional structure for commiting femicides – and they know that there are an interested white public who want to be shocked.

    Additionaly, I want to hint that there are no similar problems for the Asian masculinity in Francophone or German-speaking world although Hollywood is pervasive in Western Europe. So I think that there are a very specific combination of daily microaggression which is performed in body culture, fashion, military, education. work place and sexual culture in the USA against Asian American men.

    Mixed-raced men are very special and you cannot ignore their uniqueness. I doubt that there is a similarity in attitude between him and Asian American male virgin. His racial ideas and his hate for women reminds me of Andreas Breivik instead.

    So I think the strategy of Asian American feminism is to reach out for allies in the white feminism camp to get strength in numbers.

  • Liz Evers

    Clearly Elliot was a very disturbed person and a misogynist. I find it interesting how the asian female author of this piece then managed to fit in her own (self-serving?) commentary about certain asian men who feel they ‘own’ asian women, and who lambaste these women (such as the author herself) for dating non-asian men. It’s convenient that someone like Elliot was so unquestionably unbalanced, that any of his negative feelings towards women should automatically be dismissed. But what about all the other more rationale people out there, who also find something a bit ‘off’ about the sheer percentage of asian women who ‘so happen’ to find love with a non-asian male? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is ‘yellow fever’ as rampant as asian women purport it to be…you know, the same asian women who then write entire columns complaining about yellow fever, when all the while they themselves are dating a non-asian male? Or rather, could it be that many non-asian men don’t have ‘the fever’ per se, but are simply taking the asian women up on what they are freely giving them? As they say it takes two to tango and asian women are not just the innocent victims of ‘white wolves’. Either way Elliot may have internalized some of the self-hate he felt his own mother had for her own race, and that she preferred more ‘pure’ men like his dad, than the ‘mixed Elliot’ who, while fortunate enough to be half ‘european’, was sadly (in the eyes of many asian women) still half asian. This is what probably contributed to his feeling ‘less than’, and then trying to compensate by having all the accoutrements of ‘success’, which for many non-whites or mixed race people, includes a white mate, or in his case the ultimate ideal…a blue-eyed blonde.

  • http://www.reappropriate.co Jenn

    Hi Liz,

    I found your comment remarkably tone deaf when it comes to Asian American, and Asian American feminist, politics. This comment:

    Or rather, could it be that many non-asian men don’t have ‘the fever’ per se, but are simply taking the asian women up on what they are freely giving them?

    … seems to be blaming Asian American women for fetishization, or in essence slut-shaming Asian American women for the presumption of looseness when it comes to mate choice. We can both agree that Rodgers was a disturbed individual, and that there is/was plenty to unpack and parse when it came to his specific pathology, but frankly, I fail to see the relevance of your comment with regard to Asian American women and interracial dating.

    There is only something disturbing about the “sheer percentage of Asian women who ‘so happen’ to find love with a non-asian male” if you assume that the default mate choice for an Asian American woman should be of a specific race. Incidentally, the “sheer percentage” is 20-30% of Asian American women for most Asian American ethnicities, and is also only about 10% lower than their male counterparts. To see this as some sort of social ill is to assert there’s something untoward about miscegenation.

  • Clarification

    I think Liz makes a fair point that is being distorted.

    I think what Liz is saying is that “yellow fever” would not exist were it not for the fact that Asian women had the “fever” for white men first. “Yellow fever” only comes after and in response to Asian women’s preference for whites. I don’t see anything that is “slut shaming.” I think all she is saying is that Asians do hold some responsibility for “yellow fever” because it is their “white fever” that started it in the first place.

  • http://www.reappropriate.co Jenn

    Asian women had the “fever” for white men first. “Yellow fever” only comes after and in response to Asian women’s preference for whites.

    Except that history clearly demonstrates this to be false. It was, in fact, “yellow fever” — or more specifically — the sexualization of the Orient and its women, that far pre-dated “white fever”. In today’s age, to argue that “yellow fever” is justified by institutionalized white supremacy is — as I said — remarkably tone deaf, and asserts that Asian American women are asking for their own objectification. Aside from the unfounded presumption that all Asian American women — or all Asian American women in interracial relationships — have internalized a white supremacist beauty ideal (which is the basis of Liz’s comment), it further asserts that it is people of colour who wield the power in structural racism and sexism, and whose responsibility it is to break that institution. Absent that power, Liz argues that Asian American women are, in essence, asking for their own sexualization and dehumanization.

    As I said, remarkably tone deaf.

    ***

    In short, this assertion by Liz and yourself:

    it is their “white fever” that started it in the first place.

    …needs some sort of evidence to back it up. Considering the history of AAPI women and the circumstances of our entry into the Western consciousness, there’s scant evidence for this sentence.

    ***

    Re: slut-shaming

    Liz and yourself argue that individual Asian American women with white fetishes have a sexual proclivity that invites their objectification and dehumanization by contemporary Orientalism (which manifests as yellow fever). You argue that Asian American women are being loose with their sexuality, and therefore encourage objectification. That’s racialized slut-shaming, because you argue by extension the alternative: if Asian American women could only limit their own sexuality, they would disinvite racist and sexist treatment. You refuse to acknowledge that racist and sexist treatment — yellow fever — is innately wrong.

  • Clarification

    Nobody except you has even mentioned anything related to promiscuity or has “slut-shamed” anyone. I am not going to indulge your strawman. There is nothing to speak about.

    There is no hard data on “Orientalism” or whether it has any influence on the vast majority of people (i.e. those outside of literary criticism circles). Said bases his most of his arguments on literary criticism, which can be used to support almost any interpretation of anything. There are no facts, no statistics, no data. Only interpretations of (mostly) fiction.

    Furthermore, Said focuses more on the Middle East rather than the Far East. If “orientalism” is behind “yellow fever” why is there not an equally strong “fetishization” of Middle Eastern or Indian women. Why is there not an equally strong “brown fever?”

    For someone who has elsewhere attacked arguments that supposedly lacked “data” or were “unscientific,” I think it’s quite hypocritical to base your argument on the completely unfalsifiable, and unscientific, existence of “orientalism” which is supported by no data, and is based on the not so rigorous field of literary criticism.

    What there are data on are studies on dating preferences, surveys and so on. These studies have consistently shown that Asian women prefer whites to any other race, while white men prefer white women. I recall one study which showed that while white women preferred white men, Asian women preferred white men even more than white women preferred them. (I’ll post it if I can find it).

    What the data seems to show, and support, is that “yellow fever” is less the case that white men are fetishizing Asian women but Asian women are fetishizing white men. I agree with you that we should be scientific about our assertions, so why not follow what there is data on, instead of supporting the feel-good but ultimately groundless story about “orientalism” and predatory white men?

    You say that “yellow fever” is innately wrong, but shouldn’t that go as well for “white fever?”

  • http://www.reappropriate.co Jenn

    Nobody except you has even mentioned anything related to promiscuity or has “slut-shamed” anyone. I am not going to indulge your strawman. There is nothing to speak about.

    You mean like this (emphasis added) from Liz:

    could it be that many non-asian men don’t have ‘the fever’ per se, but are simply taking the asian women up on what they are freely giving them?

    That is a clear reference to promiscuity.

    Furthermore, Said focuses more on the Middle East rather than the Far East. If “orientalism” is behind “yellow fever” why is there not an equally strong “fetishization” of Middle Eastern or Indian women. Why is there not an equally strong “brown fever?”

    True, Said does refer to the Middle East rather than the Far East in his writing. But if you read the article (rather than simply skim the title and look at the pictures), you will note that it cites heavily from Gary Okihiro’s landmark “When and Where I Enter” which provides ample 13th and 14th century evidence of writing regarding the Far East and its women. Orientalism, as described by Said, discusses how the East — Middle or Far East — is positioned as orbiting the Occident in terms of race, identity and sexuality; to argue that because Said by virtue of his own scholarship focused on the Middle East means that Orientalism doesn’t refer to the Far East is as ahistorical as it is non-academic. As further discussed in the linked post, many Asian American scholars (as well as critical race theory scholars in gneeral) have since Said’s writing extended the notion of Orientalism to encompass the whole of what is considered “the Orient”, which I hope you and I can both agree is popularly considered to include the Far East.

    Your argument that Orientalism is only limited to the Middle East because of Said’s specific writing simply fails to acknowledge advances in critical race theory since his writing, and instead treats Orientalism as if it exists only within the vacuum of a single book.

    For someone who has elsewhere attacked arguments that supposedly lacked “data” or were “unscientific,” I think it’s quite hypocritical to base your argument on the completely unfalsifiable, and unscientific, existence of “orientalism” which is supported by no data, and is based on the not so rigorous field of literary criticism.

    Absolutely, which is why, if you read the post, you’ll see primary source material. I’ve always argued in favour of data; I have never argued that social sciences are incapable of generating meaningful data. Where I have talked about unscientific arguments, I have been talking specifically about assertions made that can be tested or backed up with some sort of scientific evidence, and that simply aren’t — such as your discussion regarding OKCupid-type dating preference surveysi- or your assertion that “white fever” predates yellow fever. That’s a far cry from needing to negate the entire field of social sciences, a position I have never taken. You clearly misinterpret what I have to say if you think my stance is anti-social sciences; my stance isn’t anti-social sciences, it’s pro-intellectualism over pedantics.

    What there are data on are studies on dating preferences, surveys and so on. These studies have consistently shown that Asian women prefer whites to any other race, while white men prefer white women. I recall one study which showed that while white women preferred white men, Asian women preferred white men even more than white women preferred them. (I’ll post it if I can find it).

    Virtually all such surveys are done in the context of online dating sites which, for a myriad of reasons, are difficult to extrapolate to the real world. In the world of online dating, respondents are first self-selected to include the subset of those who use online dating as a tool, and then all profiles are contextualized by the site itself to encourage prospective daters to form superficial opinions based on race, income, etc — they don’t have access to other information. If you create a world where people are encouraged to make superficial choices, you will get superficial behaviour. Also, in the OKCupid surveys (which is certainly the one you are referencing), you will also find that virtually all people of colour display preference for whites, and that asian women displayed significant preference for asian men over men of other non-White races. A lot of hay is made over a 6% difference in the strong preference this study showed Asian women might have for White men, yet there is no commentary that the same study shows that Asian women have a 10% preference for Asian men over the average, or that Asian men show a 4% difference in Asian women for White women, and strongly prefer either over Black or Latina women. The only way to cite this study as meaningful is if you start from the presumption that men and women of particular races should exhibit preference for one another, which is — by definition — an anti-miscegenist stance. So yes, if you want to call a 6% preference for White men over Asian men racist and “white fever” while saying nothing about the increased preference BOTH Asian American men and women (as well as all men and women) exhibit in the same study for Whites as indicative of the same, than you are selectively interpreting an already problematic dataset (we don’t talk about the issues of using online dating as an incubator, and we definitely aren’t talking about margins of error). This isn’t about individual “white fever” selectively exhibited by Asian American women as part of a larger dogwhistle politic to lambast Asian American feminist thought; this is about a system of white supremacy that impacts all POC.

    What the data seems to show, and support, is that “yellow fever” is less the case that white men are fetishizing Asian women but Asian women are fetishizing white men.

    Simply repeating your sentence doesn’t make it true. Where’s YOUR data? The same data that purport to suggest that Asian American exhibit preference for White men further show that all races — including Asian American men — exhibit racial preference for Asian American women (aka “yellow fever”), as well as above-average preference for White men and women. Meanwhile, OKCupid gives no evidence for your assertion that “white fever came first”, whereas there is ample primary source writing that demonstrates how Asian American have been historically sexualized over the centuries. Of course, these conversations should have more data; so where’s your data?

    You say that “yellow fever” is innately wrong, but shouldn’t that go as well for “white fever?”

    Of course it does. Read this.

    But you’re the one who thinks I believe “white fever” is defensible. Meanwhile, I never said that. I argued that what Liz describes as “white fever” is a manifestation of white supremacy, and not a quid pro quo reaction to yellow fever — which is a tone deaf, ahistorical argument unsupported by zero evidence. Further, arguing that yellow fever is okay because white supremacy is an indefensible position.

  • http://www.reappropriate.co Jenn

    Also, to be clear, “Clarification”: you are negating the scholarship of Edward Said and denying the existence of Orientalism as a thing?

  • Clarification

    Your interpretation of Liz’s comment is uncharitable. As I read it, when she says “freely giving” she is merely saying that non-Asian men (mostly white men) are only taking advantage, so to speak, of the fact that Asian women already have “white fever.” This by itself does not refer to either greater or less promiscuity, simply a racial preference. White men are essentially taking advantage of a preexisting racial preference. One can have a racial preference without being promiscuous. The “freely giving” part causes confusion, but it merely means “white fever” is already there and white men do not have to coax Asian women to have a racial preference. It does not refer to promiscuity nor is it a condemnation of promiscuity, i.e. “slut-shaming.”

    You missed my point regarding Said. If “orientalism” is a phenomenon that is applicable to the entire Orient, Middle East and Asia, why is there not an equally strong phenomenon of “brown fever” as well as “yellow fever?” The fact that there is not suggests that this is not due to “orientalism” which would also affects those groups.

    This is, assuming of course, that “orientalism” is an actual phenomenon and not simply something conjured up by a few academics. I do not regard ethnic studies or literary criticism in any form as rigorous fields and I take any of their interpretations with a truckload of salt. The fact that some academics can find some novels or documents that purportedly view the “orient” in an “orientalist” fashion does not prove that such a phenomenon exist. It is all interpretation. People also manage to interpret documents to “prove” that there is a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. This does not mean that such a phenomenon exists, any more than documents meant to “prove” orientalism shows that it exists.

    Orientalism is essentially unfalsifiable and thus unscientific. I see no reason to refer to it.

    The dating study I was referring to was actually http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/your-race-affects-whether-people-write-you-back/

    It is more detailed than the one you cited. It is not based on any “anti-miscegenation” assumption (by the way, the only people I know who use the term “miscegenation” seriously are Neo-Nazis. The preferred nomenclature is “race-mixing.”). Rather, it assumes matching based on personality and other factors, INDEPENDENT of race (including SAME race), and then compares them to actual reply rates. Turns out that racial preferences exist, and that Asian women have a strong preference for white men.

    Also, you misread the study you cited. You said that both Asian women and men prefer whites. Actually, that is only true for Asian women. Furthermore, the study you cited showed that the only race of women who strongly preferred white men to any other race was Asian women. If it is true that it is simply “white supremacy” acting on “all poc” then other races should show a similar result, but this seems to be specific to Asian women only.

    The results for men do not prove that there is “yellow fever.” White men preferred white women by 4%, which suggests, again that white men prefer white women and that it is Asian women who prefer white men. According to the study I cited, white men also replied to Asian women at about the same rate as all other races, again showing no strong preference for Asian women.

    You might claim yellow fever if there was ANY race that preferred Asian women before any other race. But the only race that fits that would be Asian men. So if anything, it’s ONLY Asian men who have “yellow fever” NOT white men.

    In terms of rankings, and most of the studies are consistent. Asian women prefer white men first and rank them before any other race. White men prefer white women and rank them before any other race. This points to “white fever” existing but NOT “yellow fever.”

    White men are only taking advantage of preexisting “white fever” among Asian women. The data suggests that “yellow fever” is completely overblown while “white fever” is well-supported.

  • Clarification

    I am saying “orientalism” is a completely unscientific theory. Tell me how one is supposed to falsify it.

  • http://www.reappropriate.co Jenn

    Meanwhile, I think your interpretation of Liz’s comment is confused and overly charitable. On the one hand, you agree that her use of “freely giving” is confusing and unclear, and then on the other hand assert that she was not referencing promiscuity. Considering she was writing in the context of women “giving” their sexuality to men vis-a-vis white fever, how this could be interpreted as anything other than a reference to promiscuous behaviour speaks to a clearly selective reading.

    If “orientalism” is a phenomenon that is applicable to the entire Orient, Middle East and Asia, why is there not an equally strong phenomenon of “brown fever” as well as “yellow fever?” The fact that there is not suggests that this is not due to “orientalism” which would also affects those groups.

    What makes you think that South Asian American women are not similarly exoticized and fetishized by sexualized Orientalism? Sepia Mutiny writes about this. I think the fact that you are unaware of the equally potent narrative regarding fetishization of South Asian American women speaks to your own lack of communication with that community.

    This is, assuming of course, that “orientalism” is an actual phenomenon and not simply something conjured up by a few academics. I do not regard ethnic studies or literary criticism in any form as rigorous fields and I take any of their interpretations with a truckload of salt. The fact that some academics can find some novels or documents that purportedly view the “orient” in an “orientalist” fashion does not prove that such a phenomenon exist. It is all interpretation. People also manage to interpret documents to “prove” that there is a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. This does not mean that such a phenomenon exists, any more than documents meant to “prove” orientalism shows that it exists.

    Okihiro cites primary source material. This isn’t literary criticism.

    Have you actually read any of this stuff?

    (by the way, the only people I know who use the term “miscegenation” seriously are Neo-Nazis. The preferred nomenclature is “race-mixing.”).

    The definition of miscegenation is “mixing of races”. You are taking issue with words that are synonymous with one another. However, you are correct — the preferred nomenclature of anti-miscegenists is those who oppose “race-mixing”. I see both terms as equally as damning to the core value of opposing the free association of two individuals.

    Also, you misread the study you cited. You said that both Asian women and men prefer whites. Actually, that is only true for Asian women. Furthermore, the study you cited showed that the only race of women who strongly preferred white men to any other race was Asian women.

    Actually, no. The link I provided, which is by OKCupid, reports a different thing than the one you sent. It reports absolute numbers of those who demonstrate favour towards a person’s profile, and demonstrate that Asian men and women both prefer White respondents at higher than average rates. It is actually true for both genders.

    The link you provided offers a regression model for response rates. Since the details of the regression model are not available, we have to trust that the regression is done right — a big assumption considering that a lot of assumptions are made when one performs a regression. But, even if we believe the regression, the link you provide suggest that Asian American women’s “preference” for White males is actually not that substantial: they respond to White men 29% of the time, 4% higher than their average response rate (25%) while responding to Asian men 21% of the time (4% lower than the average). But, if we consider that the weighted averages represent a weighting of each individual response rate by race, we can also tell from these numbers, that they are heavily skewed by the percentage of responses they are getting. In other words, the only way to get a weighted average of 25% overall when every individual average is lower than 25% except for regarding Whites, is if the absolute number of responses they are receiving from White men far outnumber those from all other races. Given that, one cannot conclude that Asian American women respond more frequently to White men than to other races because they prefer White men or disprefer other races, or if this reflects the disproportionate high number of inquiries they receive from White men in general, and race has little to do with it. In fact, given the clear majority-White responses that these data show Asian American women are receiving, the fact that the response rate to Asian men is not that much lower than the average actually suggests there isn’t nearly as much dispreference for Asian American men as you are arguing.

    I seriously suggest to you that when you cite these studies, that you consider the actual numbers, and not just the one bolded, red sentence. Don’t buy the investigators’ conclusions; think about the data yourself. That’s the problem with these OKCupid studies: people cite them with confirmation bias, and don’t bother to think about them. A quick glance at these numbers present an obvious flaw in the data’s interpretation basically related to unequal sample size between the races related to both the relative prevalence of each identity in the sample pool. When these unequal sample sizes are not considered, you end up with a totally weird result that simply don’t pass the gut test (unless, of course, you’re already prejudiced against women of colour to believe that they have “racist” dating habits). You can actually SEE the differences in sample sizes a few tables down, when they show absolute numbers of survey respondents relative to a question on interracial marriage: comparing a sample size of hundreds of thousands to only tens of thousands, or for some, mere couple of thousands, is seriously problematic. Absent of any consideration of how these widely different sample sizes impact the numbers — which we can tell since no errors are published — this is basically junk science.

    The results for men do not prove that there is “yellow fever.” White men preferred white women by 4%, which suggests, again that white men prefer white women and that it is Asian women who prefer white men. According to the study I cited, white men also replied to Asian women at about the same rate as all other races, again showing no strong preference for Asian women.

    No men showed any racial preference in response rates. But, is this indicative of racial preference, or simply a manifestation of different interpretations of what the “reply” function even means? Do men, for example, simply send the same generic message to all algorithm matches, in hope of getting a nibble and sorting through the leads later; meanwhile, their response rates have little to do with whom they find actually attractive? I’m questioning the basic assumption that match-response rates are a good output for dating preference; it has not been demonstrated that they are.

    This study simply disregards potential gender differences that might impact how men and women view match responses in favour of a model that asserts that men and women place equal weight on the act of responding to a potential match to draw the overall conclusion that women are more racist” than men. Are women more racist, or simply more choosy with their time and only responsive to leads where non quantifiable factors within the profile indicate a potential compatibility such as favourite movies, interests, etc (as the article also notes, the algorithm OKCupid uses isn’t exactly stringent on much beyond a few basic factors)? If the latter is the case, how can we distinguish generic choosiness from a race-conscious choosiness given the much larger pool of White respondents from which a potentially stringent match could be drawn from vs. MOC? The bottom line is we can’t make those conclusions, and which is why response rate data are far more fraught when it comes to interpretation given the obvious probability that other factors are playing a role.

    In terms of rankings, and most of the studies are consistent. Asian women prefer white men first and rank them before any other race. White men prefer white women and rank them before any other race. This points to “white fever” existing but NOT “yellow fever.”

    So you simply choose to ignore the history of colonialization of Asia as discussed by Okihiro, as well as the entire body of literature documenting the hypersexualization of the Asian American female body (and its impact on our psyche and our politic)? OK then. And, rather than kneejerk responding, actually read that link and some of the cited studies, it’s a lit review. Of science.

    The impact of sexualized racism relative to Asian American women is the subject of intense scientific study and report. I’m not even sure where to begin that you would simply deny its very existence, other than to urge you to inform yourself before proceeding further with this discussion.

    And, seriously, the bloggers of OKCupid are not a substitute for science. This is not peer reviewed, and there are not error bars or statistical tests. This is, on its face, questionable work.

  • http://www.reappropriate.co Jenn

    I am saying “orientalism” is a completely unscientific theory. Tell me how one is supposed to falsify it.

    The same way you would falsify any scientific theory: draw from primary source material suggesting that the Orient-Occident relationship proposed by Said fails to match or predict the documented prevailing viewpoints of the time.

    Social science is still science.

    ***

    Out of curiousity, are you clear on what Orientalism as a theory actually asserts?

  • http://www.reappropriate.co/ Jenn

    Testing

  • Clarification

    “Freely giving” was just confusing to you. I think a detached third party would not see anything suggesting promiscuity. When she says “giving,” I see it as using it in the same sense as “given x, then y,” as in, “presupposing,” as in, “presupposing Asian women have ‘white fever’, white men are simply taking advantage of it,” as in, “white fever” is not coerced.

    I think you’re just biased against her. We shall see who’s interpretation is correct if she ever replies.

    I said why there was not an equally strong “fever” for Indian and Middle Eastern women. The keyword is “equally strong” since both areas of the world are supposedly affected by “orientalism.” India was even fully colonized. If you look hard enough, I’m sure you’ll find material “fetishizing” ANY race. One music video does not prove any sort of trend. If you have any concrete evidence that shows that Middle Eastern and Indian women are “fetishized” to the same degree as East Asian women, I would like to see it. This would require quantitative measures, not mere anecdotes.

    I noticed that you ignored Middle Eastern women completely. Even with the US involvement in the Middle East which you claim had a similar influence on “yellow fever,” I have not seen an equal level of fetishization for Middle Eastern women as for East Asian women. They are not even in the same league in terms of “fetishization,” but they are both supposedly affected by “orientalism.” Explain that.

    Citing documents, primary source or not, does not prove that a phenomena like “orientalism” actually exists. So some academics point to some documents and say they’re “orientalist.” INTERPRETING a document as “orientalist” does not prove “orientalism” exists outside of the mind of certain academics anymore than INTERPRETING a document to contain a Jewish conspiracy prove a Jewish conspiracy exists. The burden of proof is on you to show that “orientalism” affects the phenomena in question, in this case, dating patterns.

    And frankly, I don’t take anything churned out by “ethnic studies,” “post-colonial studies,” or other pseudosciences seriously unless they contain something objective or quantifiable. I’ve actually read enough of it to know it’s 99% nonsense. There is 0 rigor in these “disciplines.”

    “Actually, no. The link I provided, which is by OKCupid, reports a different thing than the one you sent. It reports absolute numbers of those who demonstrate favour towards a person’s profile, and demonstrate that Asian men and women both prefer White respondents at higher than average rates. It is actually true for both genders.”

    I can’t use block quotes because your site gives me a 403.

    First of all, both of the studies linked to are by OKCupid, so you distinguish nothing by mentioning it. Second of all, I am referring to ordinal rankings, since that would be comparable across studies, and the one you cited is consistent with other studies that show that Asian women prefer white men over any other race. You said the following:

    “there is no commentary that the same study shows that Asian women have a 10% preference for Asian men over the average, or that Asian men show a 4% difference in Asian women for White women”

    This is wrong. Asian men actually have a 4% bias in favor of Asian women, not white, at least in that study. Furthermore, what men think is not pertinent to whether Asian women have “white fever.” You also said:

    “saying nothing about the increased preference BOTH Asian American men and women (as well as all men and women) exhibit in the same study for Whites as indicative of the same, than you are selectively interpreting an already problematic dataset ”

    I find it quite shocking that you are completely ignoring black people when you say “all men and women” show a preference for whites, since the study you cited shows that both black men and women did not rate whites higher than average. In fact, according to the study you cited, black men rated white women lower than average by 3%. So, no, not all men and women showed any preference for whites. Furthermore, this throws a wrench into your theory that “white supremacy” is responsible for “POC” behaving in these ways.

    “comparing a sample size of hundreds of thousands to only tens of thousands, or for some, mere couple of thousands, is seriously problematic”
    Most studies would be lucky to get a sample of a “mere” couple of thousands.

    “No men showed any racial preference in response rates.”

    Again, you are ignoring black people. Men consistently prefered black women less, i.e. they preferred non-black women more. This is a major racial preference and is consistent across studies.

    Whether or not you find the OKCupid study “problematic,” its results do corroborate other studies which have shown similar results. So far, you have not provided any counterevidence to show that Asian women do NOT have “white fever” while the data provided does suggest that interpretation.

    I don’t like how messy this is, so I’ll summarize my position:

    1. In terms of ordinal rankings, which are comparable across studies, Asian women rank white men above all other races. Their views towards non-whites are not consistent across studies, but they consistently prefer White men. This points to the existence of a strong preference for white men (“white fever”).

    2. There is no consistent preference for Asian women among white men in studies. This is evidence against the existence of widespread preference for Asian women by white men.

    3. This is not a result of “white supremacy” because certain “POC” do not have “white fever.” Studies show black women consistently prefering black men. This points to “white fever” not being a “POC” phenomenon, but one specific to certain races.

    4. The main cause of “yellow fever” is greater receptivity of Asian women to white men.

    “Orientalism” is not responsible for “yellow fever.”

    1. Orientalism supposedly affects the entire Orient, including the Middle East, East Asia and India. If Orientalism is behind fetishization, or is even the main factor, then we should see similar levels of fetishization between Middle Eastern, Indian, and East Asian women.

    2. Indian and Middle Eastern women are not fetishized to the same degree as East Asian women.

    3. Therefore we must conclude that either the Orientalism theory is wrong, or that there is something about East Asian women that makes them fetishized to an even greater degree than other “women of the orient.”

    4. This something may very well be their preference for white men that makes them fetishized.

    And yes, I’ve read Orientalism. I’ve probably read more of this sort of academic garbage than you. And no, orientalism is not a scientific theory. The decisive step into science was quantification, which allowed for consistent falsification, of which orientalism provides none. Provide some quantitative relationship between orientalism and anything you say it has a relation to, otherwise it’s all a bunch of handwaving garbage.

  • Clarification

    By the way, throughout all this I have not made any moral judgment about whether “white fever” or “yellow fever” (supposing it exists) is good or bad. If those terms have certain connotations, I’ve only used those terms because they seem to be the popular ones and are less unwieldy than constantly referring to “strong racial preferences.”

    I have noticed you implied that I believed women were “racist” if they had dating preferences, but I have never called anyone “racist” for having racial preferences. That is a strawman.

    I have simply tried to get to the truth of the matter and the truth seems to be that the whole phenomenon of what is called “yellow fever” would be more accurately called “white fever.” But having “white fever” has no moral implications, FYI.

  • http://www.reappropriate.co Jenn

    It’s not clear to me that you’ve read Said or Okihiro given the vague way you describe both works. Until it’s clear that we’re even on the same plane of discussion — i.e. that you actually understand Orientalism as a theory — this is a waste of my time. I ask again, can you please offer some summary of what your interpretation of Orientalism actually is as proposed by Said and as expanded upon by Asian American scholars? If you cannot do this, than we are not going to get anywhere.

    ***

    I noticed that you ignored Middle Eastern women completely. Even with the US involvement in the Middle East which you claim had a similar influence on “yellow fever,” I have not seen an equal level of fetishization for Middle Eastern women as for East Asian women. They are not even in the same league in terms of “fetishization,” but they are both supposedly affected by “orientalism.” Explain that.

    That your individual anecdote is not quantifiable data, and that perhaps you should lend some weight to South Asian American women describing their own experiences. I have no interest in yellowsplaining the narrative of brown women; when the ladies of Sepia Mutiny discuss the overwhelming impact of brown fever, perhaps you should give that some credence. I linked you a post about a music video, but the important part of that post was the final few sentences where phllygrrl speaks about the broad impact of the stereotypes she and her sisters face in general. Again, it seems you are not reading, just looking at the pictures.

    Also, if you are so dedicated to science, you should understand that to demonstrate a fallacy in your assertion — “brown women do not face brown fever of weight similar to yellow women” — requires only that I provide an example of brown women and brown fever that counterargues your hypothesis — a brown woman discussing brown fever of a weight similar to how yellow women experience it — not that I provide all possible permutations of evidence that counterargue your hypothesis.

    We can debate how to quantify equally strong, but Orientalism as a theory does not actually require that all women from Asia face the same manifestation of stereotype and objectification, given that the theory further asserts the influence of subsequent colonialism, economics and geography in modulating the way that the Orient-Occident relationship translates into stereotype in the West. India’s history as a colonized territory differs from China’s history; both peoples experienced different chronologies of immigration history when it came to the West. Some South Asians were, briefly, defined as Caucasian in North America, and the racial position of Middle Eastern people remains an issue of discussion in the popular imagination. All of these factors will modulate how women from these respective communities are Orientalized. Orientalism only asserts that women from the Orient embody an abnormal and orbiting sexual position relative to the normalized Occident that simultaneously appropriate and marginalizes these women as objects of desire and conquest; Orientalism argues nothing regarding degree, only that such perceptions exist. And, as Sepia Mutiny points out, they do.

    Your issue with social sciences are, in my mind, narrow-minded and myopic in its definition of science. But, I also have to question: if you discount any and all advances from the social sciences (and specifically ethnic studies), what the heck are you doing on an Asian American feminist blog? By definition, you shouldn’t accept that either identity is even relevant or in existence. And, if that’s the case, than it’s not worth my time arguing with you, because you don’t accept the fundamental premise that intersectional critical race theory or feminist theory are valid starting positions from which to build a field of study. It’s like trying to argue that the sky is blue with someone who fundamentally disbelieves there is a sky. What would be the point of me spending time talking with you?

    ***

    So far, you have not provided any counterevidence to show that Asian women do NOT have “white fever” while the data provided does suggest that interpretation.

    That’s because that’s not my argument. My argument is against Liz’s assertion that “yellow fever” is a quid pro quo reaction to “white fever”. I reject 1) the causative relationship assertion by Liz, and 2) any generalized interpretation of OKCupid data, which is a faulty dataset which lacks rigorous methodology or post-hoc analysis and interpretation.

    1. In terms of ordinal rankings, which are comparable across studies, Asian women rank white men above all other races. Their views towards non-whites are not consistent across studies, but they consistently prefer White men. This points to the existence of a strong preference for white men (“white fever”).

    Citation. When you cite your favourite study, we can talk about the problematic methodology of such work with a concrete example. Sufficed to say, virtually all such ranking studies suffer the same set of methodological problems.

    2. There is no consistent preference for Asian women among white men in studies. This is evidence against the existence of widespread preference for Asian women by white men.

    Citation.

    3. This is not a result of “white supremacy” because certain “POC” do not have “white fever.” Studies show black women consistently prefering black men. This points to “white fever” not being a “POC” phenomenon, but one specific to certain races.

    4. The main cause of “yellow fever” is greater receptivity of Asian women to white men.

    These statements are neither supported by the data (OKCupid actually demonstrates this as well — your problem is you are ranking the strongest deviation as “preference” while ignoring secondary deviations, which is a fundamental problem with your interpretation of the data) and further run into correlation-causation fallacies. You can take your pick about which fallacy you’re committing in parallel that you’d like me to discuss.

    ***

    But, to boil the answer, let’s start here: please provide a quick summary of your understanding of Orientalism — as well as subsequent AAS theory extrapolating upon it relative to the Far East — in the next post and nothing else. I’m serious. I don’t even need you to opine about it, but I do need to know what you think you’re talking about when you talk about Orientalism.

    I can’t convince someone about the validity of a theory that they either have not read or that they fundamentally misunderstand. If you can give some indication that we’re talking about the same thing when we talk about Orientalism, then we can go from there.

  • http://www.reappropriate.co Jenn

    I can’t use block quotes because your site gives me a 403.

    That makes no sense. Blockquote tags are html formatting and can’t throw a 403 error. Even the most HTML-unsavvy reader doesn’t screw up their blockquoting so bad as to throw a 403. I don’t know what you’re doing, but it doesn’t have to do with blockquoting.

    Most studies would be lucky to get a sample of a “mere” couple of thousands.

    Sure, but you can’t compare a sample of a couple of thousands against a sample that is a hundred times larger in the same study without some serious statistical legwork, and in which case you would then report your error and your confidence values when you were done. You can’t just give colour coded tables with means (and nothing else) and expect them to be meaningful. Do you even science?

    I find it quite shocking that you are completely ignoring black people when you say “all men and women” show a preference for whites, since the study you cited shows that both black men and women did not rate whites higher than average. In fact, according to the study you cited, black men rated white women lower than average by 3%. So, no, not all men and women showed any preference for whites. Furthermore, this throws a wrench into your theory that “white supremacy” is responsible for “POC” behaving in these ways.

    Agreed. But, if you check the slider, you’ll also see that Black women from year-to-year swing from a 0% rating to a +4% rating to a -6% rating within the span of 5 years. There are two interpretations of this swing 1) there was a sudden influx of racially-conscious Black women within a single 12-month span, and then they all vanished, or 2) the error of these calculations is so high that at least a 10%-swing (possibly more) is statistically meaningless, which describes the magnitude of most of the “preferences” you see in this whole dataset. I’m going to go with the latter conclusion since it is more parsimonious and there is a good reason for why the margin of error would be so high — unequal sample size — which means that virtually nothing published by OKCupid is meaningful. You’ll see is my position throughout all of my comments to you. Citing OKCupid is basically citing pseudo-science.

    So to clarify what I said earlier — if you go with the way OKCupid is interpreting their data — all men and women exhibit some form of preference for Whites (except, you’re right, Black men; they exhibit what I would consider to be a statistically insignificant dispreference). But I’ve also listed the many reasons why this is a bad dataset and therefore you can actually draw no conclusions from the OKCupid numbers towards larger racial patterns.

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