From Natalie Tran’s “White Male, Asian Female” documentary to NYT’s article “The Alt-Right’s Asian Fetish” to the backlash against Chloe Bennet (born Chloe Wang) for dating Logan Paul, the topic of WMAF has been unavoidable as of late.
It’s often said that the issues of internalized racism involved in this topic are best addressed by and for Asian women. But what happens when Asian women run into brick walls when trying to talk to other Asian women about this, resulting in strained friendships or ostracization from activist circles?
To shed more light on this are Jess, Christina, and special guest Sammi Lee, a student and Asian/LGBTQ activist in NYC (with Oxford in a producer role).
The following are edited excerpts from “Difficulties in Asian Women-to-Women Dialogues About WMAF,” the 36th episode of Plan A’s podcast, Escape From Plan A.
I moved to NYC [from Hong Kong] when I was 11… and my consciousness of racism has grown over time. And one of the patterns I noticed early on was high rates of pairing of Asian women and white men and I always wondered why, in a very neutral way and with curiosity…. One time, I encountered this book, “The Asian Mystique” and I found the answers to all the questions I had about this phenomenon…. It completely changed my view and I could no longer view [this pairing] in a neutral way. It became a concern. It wasn’t just through the book because I also had some personal interactions and observations that made me realize how problematic a lot of these relationships are. A lot of it has to do with internalized racism.
I remember one conversation. I wasn’t even considering WMAF as the hill to stand on. But I remember bringing it up [in an Asian student activist group] and being like, “Why don’t we view Asian men as the ideal men for us, the way black women view black men as the ideal men for them [as often expressed in hip-hop, R&B, and neo-soul music]. For social reasons, for historical reasons, for personal reasons.” Then this one [Asian] girl told me that she was dating a white guy but she was turning him into a social justice warrior. That just seemed like such an inadequate response to the vision I had for what a relationship should be.
When it comes to our partners, it’s us reinforcing each other’s abilities to make true uncoerced choices. Yes, you are are free to do as you please. We would just like to make sure you’re doing the right thing and we’ll help you think that through…. The rhetoric of “It’s just your choice, period” is a little unhelpful because it doesn’t imply anything about making the right choice for you. Ultimately, the decision is your own, but a supportive community can help you think it through and to do that, you need to be honest about what you’re going to lose and what you’re going to gain. It seems like that kind of honesty is lacking, at least in the discourse among Asian American women.