Book Review for Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, and the Myth of the Exotic Oriental
East is east and West is west and never the twain shall meet. Even in the cyberspace age of Skype and the Internet the cross cultural relations between east and west has a long way to go still. In this provocative book, the reductionist perspective towards Asians by Westerners can't be underestimated. Between limited images in the media and categorizing Asian men and women into narrow stereotypes, it's no wonder this book caused reactions.
Being Asian is not a uniform experience. Just like being human is as unique and original as DNA. Besides, who wants to interact with a caricature? Apparently some people do. Reading this book was refreshing because it confirmed my own observations about life in the West for a person from the East.
My pet peeve was examined in this book and shed light on why Asians should demand more respect. Sometimes behaving in accordance to the model minority job description isn't a good thing. For example, Asian men are not asexual, take a look at Daniel Dae Kim. For that matter, all Asian women aren't submissive anymore than white Southern females are uniformly duplicates of Scarlet O'Hara. One look at Grace Park ought to verify that.
What gives with the sexual fetishes or lack thereof around Asians anyway? In the Orient this is not the case. Neither should it be in the mass media of the West. Yet it is. Hollywood casting aside, I am sick of the creepy white men of all ages and incomes who seek out Asian women. These men are incapable of realizing that being of a different race still makes you human. Furthermore, the attraction is not real, because most of these men I suspect suffer from a phallic Napoleon complex and are projecting it onto the object of their desires.
Yeah, I said it. White men who covet Asian women for reasons other than just pure physical preference are grappling with their own masculinity. While the author of the book doesn't make that statement in the course of their research, I certainly find accounts of yellow fever in Asian Mystique to support my personal theory on the matter.
It is one thing to prefer a particular phenotype's physical appearance because it happens to appeal to your personal aesthetic. It is quite another to have a fetish for an ethnicity based on stereotype mixed with a need to sooth one's sexual inadequacies.
Being a stereotype or going against it is a Catch-22. A few years ago it was suggested that Asian wives were the new status symbol for creepy old rich white men. The catch was that it was the submissive female who happened to be Asian that was in demand. Others who were more assertive weren't likely to be chosen. For those who are not typical, they either freak out the nearly impotent white men or have to seek out multicultural people and places where non-Asians tell them to act more Asian.
The Asian mystique is a form of bondage. Back in the turn of the last century little Chinese girls had their feet bound because it was considered attractive. Feet binding may no longer be in practice in mainstream Asian or Western societies, but it's been replaced by a cultural bondage imposed on the East by the West. Just like having small feet, mobility is limited, and carving a place for oneself in general society as an Asian in the West is still fraught with barriers to entry. Most Asian immigrants want to fully participate in their communities. Unfortunately, fetishes and stereotypes aren't making that goal easy to attain.