Women’s Day? Not when racist stereotyping of Asians never ends
Yonden Lhatoo bemoans the lack of progress in shedding racist perceptions about Asian women, demonstrated by recent examples of blatant stereotyping
So, International Women’s Day has come and gone, but it’s good to know that some things never change. Like the stereotyping of Asian women, for all the annual lip service about equality and empowerment.
It seems we can never climb out of this bottomless pit.
Now that we’ve all had our giggles over that viral video of the American academic based in South Korea whose live TV interview with the BBC last week was gatecrashed by his two little children, let’s talk about the part that wasn’t so funny.
Watch: Children interrupt BBC interview
Everyone assumed that the Asian woman who crawled into the room on her hands and knees to retrieve the adorable intruders, staying low to avoid being captured on camera but failing hilariously, was the nanny. Why not, right? White man in his home office doing important work, naughty kids straying into the restricted zone, non-Caucasian woman darting in and out like some petrified hermit crab. What else could she be but the hired help. You must have seen all the comments online along the lines of “that nanny must be in so much trouble”.
It turns out the Korean woman is a yoga teacher and the mother of those kids. “Pretty uncomfortable” was all they would say when asked how they felt about the wife being mistaken for a domestic helper.
Sorry to be the party pooper and let the nitrous oxide out of everyone’s hippity-hoppity happy balloons, but Asian women around the world married to Caucasian men will know what I’m talking about, even if they’re too embarrassed to admit it publicly.
Then, this week, we had another demonstration of racist, deeply offensive stereotyping of Asian women, this time more cringeworthy and closer to home.
Watch: “English teacher” talks about how easy it is to pick up Chinese women
It was a video originally posted online last month which has gone viral, depicting a Caucasian man bragging about how easy it is for white men to pick up Chinese women. “It’s pretty easy to get a girl here in China, especially for night-one stands [sic],” the purported “English teacher” from the US says in a thick East European accent. “You don’t have to do anything. You just have to sit there.”
This scruffy, semi-literate reject from the West has apparently “conquered” more than 200 Chinese women in four years. To which a reader in the comments section of the Post replies: “Only 200? My ex-colleague who worked in Shanghai for three years boasted he bedded over 300 women, that’s an average of two per week, including getting quite a few pregnant. He referred to Chinese women as buses, he gets on and off whenever he wants.”
As outrageous as all this sounds – some have pointed out that the video is a fake and a marketing gimmick by a company that sells sex toys – there’s no smoke without fire when it comes to such talk.
White worship is widely prevalent in this part of the world, although it’s a touchy subject that instantly triggers a barrage of angry denials and counter-accusations of racism when you bring it up.
A friend and former colleague, on a visit to Seoul this week, was just telling me how struck she was by the reverence for the West, among South Korean women in particular. Maybe our lothario from that video in China should go there next to chalk up more of his questionable Asian “conquests”.
Interestingly, I was in the Philippines last week for an interracial wedding. My friend from England renewed his marriage vows with his Filipino wife in a touching ceremony attended by a motley crew of Asians and Caucasians.
I saw no evidence of white worship, inferiority/superiority complexes or racial hang-ups. It was a celebration of diversity and cross-cultural connections.
It gave me hope.
Yonden Lhatoo is a senior editor at the Post