So this was recently brought to my attention. Go ahead, click on the picture to watch the documentary preview:
At first I just sort of dismissed it and said, "Really? Another documentary about this?" But I couldn't get it out of my head.
As an Asian woman with a penchant for getting outraged, I've come across my fair share of racist and derogatory encounters.
When I was 10, and on vacation with my parents in Arizona, I was tailed by a group of kids who kept bowing to me, hands pressed in prayer position, saying "Ah-soh."
I can't tell you how many times that happened to me in bars in St. Louis with men who were "hitting on me."
When I was chatting with one of my dad's co-workers when I visited his office in high school, he asked me about where I was going to college, and before I could answer he said, "Wait, wait. Don't tell me. You're studying to be a doctor."
I briefly dated a guy in college who couldn't understand why I liked sushi so much because, "Don't you and your family eat it at every meal?" Then he used the N-word. Then I dumped him.
"Are you Korean or Japanese? I just can't tell any of you people apart," was a question one of my friend's mothers asked me while we were seeing her son's band play in Korea Town in LA. (I'm Chinese.)
"Go back from where you came from!" has been hollered at me on more than one occasion when I was in Texas.
These are the milder idiotic things that have happened to me while living as an Asian person of the female gender. The nastier stuff I don't care to give more value by stating it here.
Point being, even with all these gross things that have been done and said to me regarding my race, I thought, perhaps naively, we were moving past this. Maybe it's because I've lived for the past 10 years in the melting pots of Los Angeles and Honolulu, but I haven't really encountered anything horribly racist in some time. Am I giving people too much credit?
Or, and this is what makes my stomach churn a little, am I becoming complacent, even accepting, of the racism that still flows so freely through American culture?
There will always be people who reduce minorities to "things" or "novelties." My way of dealing with these people has evolved into something more akin to pity than rage, as I've found expending my precious energy on their ignorance or hate only serves to validate their words and actions instead of aggressively combating them.
However, the fact that this obsession with Asian women being good wives -- simply by virtue of the fact that they are Asian -- keeps rearing its ugly head baffles me.
In this culture where most Americans have access to the Internet, television, books, magazines, newspapers, education, the world at large, why are racial minorities still being torn down to their lowest stereotypical denominator? Or maybe it's BECAUSE of all the information we have access to -- there enough people out there with closed and ugly minds that have access to the media that they are able to disseminate racist information.
I swear I'm not a wide-eyed innocent, I just can't BELIEVE the shit that floats to the surface out there.
I'm probably the wrong person to write about this topic, as I'm hardly a crusader for racial equality. No, I'm not for INEQUALITY in any form, but I live my life as an Asian woman simply by my own rules: Be nice to people and don't judge them, unless they give you a good, solid reason. My race does not dictate how I live my life.
I guess that's why it shocks me when my race dictates how people treat me.
That's not to say that my heritage and culture aren't a part of me. But the idea that somehow thousands of years of breeding makes me genetically predisposed to being more sweet, gentle, feminine and dismissive is so absurd I'm going to stop even going there, RIGHT NOW.
Maybe I need to be more sensitive to racial indiscretions. Maybe I'm just putting my head in the sand. Maybe that's why this "Asian women as ideal wives" thing irritates me so much. I just thought it was old, albeit ignorant and disturbing, news.
I'm fumbling my way through this post a bit. Racially motivated topics are not my strong suit, I tend to have too many thoughts and ideas and emotions to really be succinct. I'm really just trying to pinpoint what I'm feeling. I guess it's just tired frustration. Every now and then, just when I'm starting to think the best of people, stuff like this pops up.
And don't get me wrong, it goes both ways.
I'm speaking specifically of Asian culture, but I've heard many similar stories as the one I'm going to relay from friends of various other "non-white" cultures.
I was directing a play by a young Asian playwright in LA. His play was a short love story about two Asian people, a man and a woman, who in the course of a night wage a war on their relationship, only to realize that they truly are each other's one and onlys.
I didn't say it was groundbreaking.
Anyway, at one point, it came up that my boyfriend (now husband), was white. Actually, to be accurate, he's Jewish. The playwright's demeanor bristled and he asked me, "Do you hate yourself?"
Taken aback, I just stammered, "NO! Why would you ask me that?!"
"Because you're dating a white guy. Why would you do that? Do you have a problem with your Asianness? Why don't you want to be with someone who understands you?"
I was floored. I'd heard of people saying this stuff before, but never had someone so blatantly come out and asked ME such a question. ME!? HAVE YOU MET ME?!
Blerg. I don't know if I'm eloquent or knowledgeable enough to really comment on this topic the way it deserves, but I guess the point I'm bumbling around is an overwhelming sense of "How can already know what I'm like, what kind of woman I am, when you haven't even met me? How dare you drop me into a category?"
Isn't that what it comes down to? Someone who believes they know who you really are because of some racial or cultural stereotype? Like when a guy wants to date me because of my Asian feminine wiles or when other Asian people call me a "banana" (yellow on the outside, white on the inside)? Everything is a bid for control.
Doesn't so much violence result from a woman, or really any person for that matter, not behaving in the way in which their aggressor believes they SHOULD behave?
I guess in some way, the man in the documentary learns his lesson. His "obedient" and "docile" Asian wife turns out to be a spitfire who doesn't really take his shit. His fairytale doesn't quite get the happy ending he expected.
It just saddens me that this is still a lesson that people are learning.