What year is it? 1980?
You’d think so, from the recent articles “analyzing” Asian marriage patterns. And of course, no conversation about the marrying habits of Asians can be complete without the touchstone being the rate of unions between Asian women and white men.
Over the weekend, the New York Times published an article More Asians Marrying Within Their Race that set off a firestorm of angry reactions on the Internets, ranging from comments that this isn’t newsworthy, to criticisms that the reporter forms a flimsy hypothesis that any marriage between two Asians is a union based on shared traditions (even if the partners are from different ethnicities and traditions, such as Indian and Chinese or Korean and Filipino). Then there were the suggestions that Asian men were finally gaining social currency to make them desirable spouses, instead of being systemically spurned by Asian women.
Just a few days earlier, former Los Angeles Times reporter David Haldane writes a first-person essay called “My Imported Bride” for Orange Coast magazine about being an older white man who found a young Filipino wife — through an online international matchmaking site. He writes about how he left his marriage to his white wife of similar age and background, and how “in this post-feminist age, many women had priorities other than finding the man of their dreams.”
At SXSW last month, filmmaker Debbie Lum debuted her documentary Seeking Asian Female, which follows another divorced white man in his sixties as he marries a 30-year old woman from China. The film got lots of buzz and excellent reviews.
If you’re reading HapaMama, there’s a good chance that you are either Asian or married to someone who is. You know, I love to read and think and talk about matters of ethnicity and pontificate from my couch about what makes people interact in the way they do. So I followed these topics with a lot of curiosity. But there’s something that left me feeling icky after reading these articles. First of all, any discussion of about yellow fever or mail-order brides, or docile cherry blossom geisha crap makes me bristle. I’m not here to bash on Asian men or to lament how oppressed I feel because of traditional patriarchy. As I thought about this, it’s not about one kind of marriage being better or worse than another.
What worries me about these discussion is that to the uninitiated eye, Asian American women might be conflated with that Full Metal Jacket kind of stereotype. And I feel angry that the women in these narratives aren’t portrayed too sympathetically, or they are completely voiceless – as in the case of Haldane’s Filipina bride. And it makes me upset that even in 2012, some types of interracial marriages are still seen as easy fodder for judgmental criticism, much of it coming from other Asians. Oh and another thing, why is it that in these conversations, marriages are reduced to… transactions? For better or for worse is not an easy undertaking, and we should all be thankful if we find a person we can spend our lives with.
What do you think? Have you ever been criticized for marrying someone of a different race?