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

December 13, 2012 at 8:07 pm 1 comment

“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

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Fever Dream: An Asian American Girlfriend’s Take on Yellow Fever Black Sheep (2012) by Naomi Moser – Final Media Project for Asian Americans in Media, MS100PZ, Fall 2012

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. asianamericansinmedia  |  December 21, 2012 at 1:49 am

    This post addresses my question from your last post in interesting ways: Jenny An’s confessional/opinion page articulates an awareness of the forces of white supremacy at work behind her exclusive (rhetorical?) preference for white men. But is an awareness of these forces necessarily a challenge to them? And does any challenge of Asian articulations of patriarchy necessarily include an embrace of white supremacist values in relation to one’s sexuality and sexual/romantic choices? What about other men of color – African American, Latino, Middle Eastern, Native American, mixed heritage? It seems that the discourse here is framed in dichotomous terms, and one’s choices are reduced to exclusively Asian or White. Interestingly, she quotes Junot Diaz in her post, and his work is centered in mixed race, hybridized communities.

    In this series of posts, I appreciate your examination of the phenomenon of “yellow fever” across a number of media forms (documentary, YouTube video, blog) and through a series of lenses, from gender and racial politics to discussions of cultural hegemony and the power of ideology. Although I understand your focus on the heterosexual, white male/Asian female mode of this phenomenon—probably the most predominant articulation, and one that is closest to your personal experience—I cannot help but think that alternative viewpoints, object choices, and sexualities could potentially open up this discussion in unexpected and liberating ways. As your posts imply, hegemonic paradigms such as patriarchy and white supremacy do not offer much in terms of a way out, so perhaps it is in the perverse, subaltern, and other “marginalized” positions that we can find more effective strategies in challenging and de-stabilizing these oppressive structures of power, and possibilities in finding liberation?

    Prof Ma

    Reply

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