Archive for December 13, 2012

Fever Dream: An Asian American Girlfriend’s Take on Yellow Fever

“I’m An Asian Woman and I Refuse to Ever Date an Asian Man”: Infiltration and Internalization

I was quite taken aback when I saw the title of this blog post. Then I read it in its entirety and had to leave my laptop for a little while as I collected my thoughts. In fact, I purposely left this article as the topic for my last blog post because I needed the most time to process it. If, after reading her post, you need to decompress, I highly recommend these posts

So, I think it’s pretty clear that An isn’t going to date an Asian man any time soon, and she isn’t alone, which she recognizes. I find it kind of funny, however, that though she refers to herself as a racist, she insists that her aversion to Asian men “has nothing to do with skin color.”

She defends her statement by asserting that the problem she has with Asian men is cultural rather than racial. While I don’t consider the two mutually exclusive, I do question the passage from the Wesley Yang article she cites, which states “Let me summarize my feelings toward Asian values: Fuck filial piety. Fuck grade grubbing. Fuck Ivy League mania. Fuck deference to authority. Fuck humility and hard work. Fuck harmonious relations. Fuck sacrificing for the future. Fuck earnest, striving middle-class servility.”

The feelings mentioned in the previous paragraph, oddly enough, are directly toward a distinctly stereotypical view of Asian Americans. An has allowed those harmful images to permeate her own thinking, to the point where she openly admits that, even if she met an Asian man who was by all other accounts perfect, she would reject him in favor of his white counterpart.

Why? In An’s words, “[d]ating white men means acceptance into American culture. White culture.” Also, because she can (she said it, not me).

Once again, we encounter the notion that white culture is superior to Asian culture. No one is immune to this school of thought, and I think it’s important to understand why. We should remember that we don’t exist within a cultural vacuum, and there are external influences all around us that imbue us with certain values.

One theory that I continue to grapple with across multiple disciplines is that of Ideological State Apparatuses, as coined by Louis Althusser. In this seminal essay, Althusser asserts that cultural values are instilled into the consciousness of a society via institutions like school, church, family, or, as is most pertinent to this post, the media. As opposed to Repressive State Apparatuses that are overt (and often violent) in their persuasion, Ideological State Apparatuses are subtle in their attempt to teach younger generations how to conduct themselves, effectively reproducing the system that creates these ideologies.

In this case, the dominant ideology is that white culture is superior, and that thought has permeated our culture through a plethora of cultural institutions.

 If we were to take that theory even further and include another one of my favorite writers, we can examine An’s thoughts through the lens of Antonio Gramsci’s “common sense.” The ideas transmitted through ISAs are hegemonic in nature—they are the most prevalent and eventually become accepted as absolute truth, or “common sense.”

If we are bombarded with the idea that whites are unequivocally superior to other races, should it really come as a surprise that that notion manifests itself as internalized racism? I’m not denying that An’s statements are offensive. I’m not defending her closed-mindedness. I’m not saying that it’s okay to be racist. But I think that, when this article is placed in context, her sentiments demonstrate the effectiveness of cultural hegemony.

Did I lose you in the quick and dirty version of years of scholarship in critical theory? Sorry. If you take anything away from my series, let it be this: there are reasons why we think the way we do, and it is up to us to be aware of these sources so that we can question their legitimacy. Some white men are only attracted to Asian women. Some Asian men resent white men from taking “their” women. Some Asian women avoid Asian men like the plague. People are entitled to their own opinion, but I will never cease to be fascinated by the ideological justifications behind these feelings.

Bibliography

Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation).” Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. Trans. Ben Brewster. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971. 127-186.

An, Jenny. “I’m an Asian Woman and I Refuse to Ever Date an Asian Man.” xojane. SAY Media, Inc. 31 August 2012.

Gramsci, Antonio. Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci. Ed. and Trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith. New York: International Publishers, 1971.

Yang, Wesley. “Paper Tigers: What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?” New York Magazine. New York Media LLC. 8 May 2011.

By Kayla Dalsfoist

December 13, 2012 at 8:07 pm 1 comment


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