Hybrid vigor? Check. Rebellious little Asian girls trying to piss off Daddy? Check. To be fetishized or true love rehashing? Check. Ying Chu's Marie Claire piece "The New Trophy Wives: Asian Women" is an article steeped in self-aware confusion.
Rupert Murdoch has one. So do financiers Vivi Nevo and Bruce Wasserstein. Why are the West's most powerful men coupling up with younger Asian women?
I'll cosign with the Frisky here:
Asian woman as commodity? Asian woman as status symbol? Offensive much?
But I'll need to fully disclose something: I hold a deep personal hatred for racial trend pieces. While I think that discussing shifts in demographics can be quite useful information, the this-minority-is-the-new-hottness pieces only serve to reinforce stereotypes and dominant paradigms. Kind of like that term "blipster", the idea of an Asian trophy wife is only remarkable if one concludes minorities don't have the same types of motivations, thoughts, likes, dislikes, and feelings as everyone else.
There's nothing really new about this "trend." So what's makes this so special? That it's now socially acceptable to be seen marrying or dating someone nonwhite, instead of just having sexual relations? After all, the Marie Claire piece quotes from the author of The East, The West, and Sex who notes that this fascination with exotic others has been going on as long as humans have had the capacity to travel to other lands:
In researching his new book, The East, the West, and Sex, author Richard Bernstein found that the Orientalist illusion continues to influence. "Historically, Asia provided certain sexual opportunities that would be much more difficult for Western men to have at home. But it remains a happy hunting ground for them today," he says, citing one phenomenon in the northeastern region of Thailand called Issan, where 15 percent of marriages are between young Thai women and Western men well into their 60s.
Reading the piece, I was also struck by how the focus returns to the people-as-status-symbol theme again and again:
It's as though these Western men are hungry for a piece of that mystical Eastern formula. As such, Asians (in addition to African orphans) are hot commodities right about now-status symbols as prized as a private Gulfstream jet or a museum wing bearing your name (neither of which goes so well with a frumpy, aging first wife).
Though, I wonder how much I can fault Chu for perpetuating this kind of treatment. After all, while researching this piece, I read article after article looking for information on Rupert Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng. Ultimately, the only information I could find was on her marriage history. I never got the answers to my two main questions: essentially, who is Wendi Deng outside of Murdoch and why people seem to think that her pussy comes with a side of the Chinese market?
But Chu plays into this, writing:
Skepticism aside, the new trophy trend does have its benefits. We're already seeing a positive impact on global politics, economics, and the arts: The Chinese became privy to online social networking in 2007 with the launch of MySpace China under the News Corp. umbrella; contemporary Chinese painters-including Xiaogang Zhang and Minjun Yue-have rung up nearly $400 million in sales on international art circuits since 2006, thanks to well-connected supporters like Ziyi Zhang; and almost 43 percent of international adoptions, which have more than tripled since 1990, now come out of Asian countries (more playdates for Pax and Maddox).
In addition, while the article appears to try to have a reasonable discussion about fetish and relationships, it seems to embrace other stereotypes whole-heartedly:
What's more, perhaps a proliferation of gorgeous, mixed-race, multilingual offspring (assuming a classical Mandarin tutor is on the Chen-Moonves registry) is just good for our landscape.
And there are all kinds of essentializing stereotypes put forward in the piece (emphasis mine):
While I'm sure that real love and affection is sometimes the bond in these culture-crossing May-December romances, could it be that power divorcés of a certain ilk make the perfect renegade suitors for these overachieving Asian good girls-an ultimate (yet lame) attempt at rebellion? Maybe these outsized, world-class moguls are stand-ins for emotionally repressed Asian dads (one cliché that is predominantly true). Or... are these women just glorified opportunists? What's so perverse is that while Asians have always revered their elders, sleeping with a guy old enough to be your grandfather is just creepy-in any culture.
Yet, earlier in the piece, Chu talks about "excruciating colonial stereotypes-Asian women as submissive, domestic, hypersexual." So I guess those ones are bad, but the others are okay?
Ultimately, I can't help but feel that the article is a scattershot bunch of ideas, culminating in nothing.
It doesn't really put forth any information about the women who seem to be the subjects of the article. It speculates about their motivations and agency, but doesn't provide any evidence. It broaches a discussions fetishization but does not seem to take into account that people enter into relationships for all kinds of reasons. And while I do not agree that these types of relationships are above questioning, I believe that any questioning about racial motivation should be done with a healthy understanding that relationships are ultimately individual choices, and individual motivations are complex things.
This is better articulated by Vickie Chang, writing in 2006 on "Yellow Fever" in the Village Voice In the article, Chang talks about Asiaphilia (focusing mainly on male practitioners and women recipients) but makes one very interesting observation:
I was the 10-year-old girl swooning and singing along with Rivers Cuomo over the three-chord riffs of Weezer's "El Scorcho," that song about half-Japanese girls that do it to him every time. Oblivious to its implications, I was pleased that the man in the Buddy Holly glasses had a penchant for Asian girls because, you know, that way I actually had a chance. It was better than being invisible. After all, how many times did I come across references to Asians on television or radio? Let's see, there was professional tennis player Michael Chang, who provoked squeals of delighted pride from my parents, the unsportiest people you'll ever meet, whenever his matches were on television. And there was Margaret Cho and her hopelessly unfunny, short-lived ABC comedy series, American Girl. And that just about wraps it up.
I was a year into college, still listening to Cuomo as he referenced Madama Butterfly, when a friend pointed out that Cuomo was merely exoticizing and objectifying Asian women, the social phenomenon that is Asiaphilia.
And just like that, my favorite Weezer album, Pinkerton, suggested a disturbing question: Was Cuomo, the god of cutesy, simple-but-not rock-the guy I'd been so thrilled at merely standing near at the Roxy a few years before-was he actually a quasi-racist, ignorant Asiaphile?
And even if he was, would he ever call?
Is a white man dating Asian woman acting out a fetish?
Is an Asian woman dating a white man acting out a fetish?
If two people mutually fetishize each other, does that make it okay?
I've been trying to untangle how to have a productive conversation on racial fetishes and racial preferences for the greater part of two years now. The only think I can do - which doesn't always work - is to tread very lightly. After all, people internalize the political as it reflects their personal, and what begins as an intellectual exercise can quickly become a witchhunt, looking for people who don't have the proper justification for one of their personal relationships.
However, articles like this one published in Marie Claire continue to baffle me. Even after giving it a third read through, I still can't discern a purpose for why this was published. What was this supposed to prove or accomplish?
Chu ends the piece by saying "Asian women dating white men may never really know if it's a fetish thing." I'd add that racial trend pieces, seeking to profit from some idea of new minority cool, can never do anything but scratch the surface of our ultimate humanity.
The New Trophy Wives: Asian Women [Maire Claire]
Asian Trophy Wives: A Label We Can Do Without [The Frisky]
Buppies, Blipsters and other black unicorns [What Tami Said]
Hybrid Vigor Alert: Halle's Pregnant [Racialicious]
Official Site [Swirl, Inc.]
Yellow Fever [The Village Voice]