China

or by opposing?… Living the Stereotype

Whatever “Charisma Man” tells you, the pairing of a Western male and a Chinese female is seen so often, it’s become quite the stereotype. As such things go, how you see it on even the most superficial level is a matter of greatly diverging opinions:

– The positive view (which I have only ever encountered in Ecuador):

”Our women are so great, everyone loves them!”

– The negative view (which appears to be the usual):

”Those foreigners come to take away our women, and those poor girls are stupid enough to fall for ’worship of all things Western’.”

So, as if relationships weren’t difficult enough (at least, if you want them to last), you get the added burden of wondering what other people think, and the pressure it may put on you.

In the commentaries about “Charisma Man,” I asked whether a Western man with a Chinese partner (the stereotypical pairing) or a Western woman with a Chinese partner (breaking the mold) had it more difficult. Jocelyn of Speaking of China and I decided to shed light on the issue from our respective positions. – Read more from me below, and head over to Stereotypes about Chinese Men with Western Women at Speaking of China.CMweb_2.98

For a Western guy with a Chinese girl, there is a whole laundry list of stereotypes to go, and oftentimes get, through:

Yellow Fever

A Western man who is with an Asian woman must most certainy be infected by this most pernicious of sexual preference-transmuting diseases…

When gentlemen prefer blondes, whether you like your women thin or busty, even if you just chase pussy randomly, it seems that you are just being a man, with a certain taste and masculinity.

Say that you do not care about black women, for example, and you are racist (as in the example of the Chinese who said so, mentioned in this Sinica podcast).

You don’t have to say anything for the diagnosis of yellow fever, you just go to Asia. Now, just as there are people who start learning Japanese because they love manga, there are apparently guys (and gals) who are into a certain look and/or culture. And, in the case of Western guys in Asia, there are enough who have it easier in Asia than back home – that’s where the whole idea of Charisma Man comes from, after all – and spout off about all their “conquests.”

Personally, I think it’s pretty stupid. Human difference is greater within than between cultures, and when two people find each other, they just do. What matters is whether they fit together as a couple, and want the same things from life and their relationship. (To make it extra obvious: at least by and large, I’m talking about pair bonding here, not casual sex – that issue fits to yellow fever as well as “the fist on the eye,” as the German expression goes, but is not my theme here.) Of course, societal acceptance has a large role to play – for better or worse.

Orientalism

It may be part and parcel of “yellow fever,” but let me point this aspect out by itself. A large part of the stereotypes against Western males with an Asian partner seems to be that these males try to escape into a (dream) world where the women are cute, submissive, and sexy to boot.

Superficialty breeds the best stereotypes, and the allure of exotic women may easily be the best example for this. Just as tourists tend only to know a little of places they want to visit, garnered from glossy brochures and glowing blog posts (or the opposite, but then you probably wouldn’t go there), so the “knowledge” of others tends to be based on appearances.

The problem is particularly striking in this case, though. On the one hand, I am sure you do get men who are drawn in by looks and surface behavior – and I wonder how many Westerners think that a Japanese girl would be best for them, based on the great insight they gained from AV and hentai…

I wonder even more how many people would be in for more than a surprise: China, like Japan, may not be influenced by Christian morals and qualms about sexuality, but China has its own conservatism and prudery – and tons of that, with a side of tradtional male promiscuity thrown in for good measure.

A person with orientalist notions of how different a place like China must be, and how the obvious lack of feminism must make it even more so, could easily be in for more than a surprise: on the surface, it’s only too easy to conclude that Chinese women are weak and demure creatures – they may actually strive to be cute and feminine and with a damsel in distress-like demeanor towards men! The horror!

Then again, you get some of the world’s richest self-made women in/from China, you see the tradition of the wife taking over the household finances – and maybe the surface appearance hides something that is not some unreachable equality between sexes, but a balance of mutual power. If she lets him have any…

The thing is, though, that you cannot see from the outside how much experience someone has of another culture, what kind of person they may be. Which applies to both sides…

Western Worship (?)

I said I’d talk about my own perspective, but that includes my girlfriend’s concerns – even if I hear (and understand) less of what is being said on that side, it still matters to me, too. After all, some of that saying was her parents’ doubts about me – why doesn’t he have a wife already? Or does he? Could he ever understand us? Enough is being said, more than enough.

From a questioning of loyalty to family and country, to a questioning of character and intentions, lots of questions and doubts are heaped on the female partner. In China, social issues are a matter that can and will be discussed and commented upon very openly, in addition to the gossiping that is popular pretty much anywhere.There will also be positive comments, but you will certainly not escape everyone’s opinions. And yes, it is a burden – when it comes to the women, “worship of all things Western,” if it goes further than wanting an LV bag, is one of the worst diagnoses imaginable, unlike for the men…

Culture Clash…

“I always wanted a foreign man, mixed-blood children are just so great,
but I’m afraid the cultural differences would be just too much.”
(a female student of mine)

China is complicated. Chinese women with a foreign man are much-doubted, but offspring tends to be given special treatment. And yet, before that, when all else fails – it’s not just exoticism, not an angling for a foreign passport – then people just love to assume that there are so many differences plaguing intercultural relationships that they are bound to fail.

There are issues enough, but the main problem is that this stereotype is different: others are directed at the present state of affairs, so you can either ignore them or, possibly, partially, dispell them. The suggestion that cultural differences spell doom, however, is future-oriented. It’s a lot like the old Greek idea that you can only judge a person’s happiness in life after that person is dead. Until then, after all, disaster may still strike.

… or Family (Culture) Harmony

Only time will tell, but I am pretty sure that the relationship I am in will last for life. Not out of a blue-eyed sense of how things are supposed to work out, not because social pressures say that it has to, but because we both actually come from a family background in which a partnership is something that you don’t enter lightly, that you work on to make it last, and that you let become stronger over time – and because we fit together in many ways, and complement each other in further ways.

You definitely do have to grow a thick skin towards stereotypes, and not expect the world around you to conform to your wishes and make it easy for you. Pretty much that, however, is what I think partners are good for: to support each other through whatever may come.

On a positive note, having streotypes leveled at you only makes it all the more apparent that things will not necessarily be easy. “They lived happily ever after” tends to forget that “ever after” is the more important, and simply longer, time…

2 Comments

  1. I clicked on your tag for “intercultural relationships,” read one post, then read them all and thought, “Gee, I wish I had come across Gerald’s blog last year.” Considering my last post, this one really resonated.

    1. Glad you liked ’em… and you know, one of the earliest/recent comments I got on here was a “your blog just reeks of yellow fever.” (Funnily enough, it would have been on the post right next to “Yellow Fever, and Other Ways of Not Seeing the World”). Celery, as my brother likes to say – c’est la vie.

Feel free to contribute