A Parting Lament (For Now): Lorde, Asian Male Ugliness, and Feminism


How the ‘effeminization’ of a people crosses over to fatal misogyny

If you’d asked me one year ago to listen to the song, “Royals,” I’d say, “That was different I guess, but not really my thing,” and then told me 16-year old Lorde would impact my life more than almost anyone…?

I’d be incredulous, dear time-traveler, but here I am, knowing by now perhaps 94% of every lyric from Pure Heroine, and lost in a maddening spiral of self-concern and pity. Not because, as a male, I’m above the music of a now-17 year old girl — but because the mere act of her hooking up with a fellow named James Lowe would make something in American culture very real to me.

A headline on Google News or some portal like that said Lorde was getting racist comments for dating an Asian guy — of pertinent interest to me. I’d like to thank the writer of whatever article it was I’d first read, because she did that thing I hate so much about journalistic writing, the connecting the story to some greater point, in this case — Asian male ugliness.

I was aware that Asian men were always different, but I’d never realized how legitimized it was in our culture, beyond stereotypes of small penises. At that point, it was almost that the self-esteem I had my whole life could become more rational, but in reality, I discovered I had an out — an excuse for the life of asexuality I’d decided for myself long ago. It’s very simple: I’m not very fun (see: The Battle Beyond Planet X), and I don’t talk to people very well. Any illusions I had about ‘making it in America,’ so to speak, was over by the time I read that article. Even if I was on the fence, I’d been knocked right off, the wind taken out of me.

Dating sites cull data in polls, Asian women are oversexualized and Asian men are castrated (while African American men are sexual demons). Take a look at this Buzzfeed article, written by a user and not necessarily endorsed by Buzzfeed (but published), which reacts with great enthusiasm to our asexualization of Asian men, but does so in the same stereotyping methods. My family is mostly white, and I don’t even speak Spanish, never mind Korean. Better yet, just google “Asian male ugliness,” and look at some of the discussion. It seems that for every Bruce Lee, there’s a Ken Jeong, PSY, and Mike Yamigata, ready and waiting for the backhanded approval of American audiences. And there was only one fucking Bruce Lee.

This is definitely a problem, and one that young Asian American males have to deal with if they want to lead normal lives (I use Asian American male as shorthand for Southeast Asian, because that’s from whence I hail, but Indian American men and Pacific Islanders are also discussed in these scenarios).

But the year following Lorde and good people defending James Lowe for being Asian (and mostly overlooking the fact that he’s a pedophile), going so far as to call her brave — it was nice but of course, she lives in New Zealand… lotta Asians there… The year after that, half-Asian American Elliot Rodger shot six people to death in a misogynistic rampage.

I still haven’t seen his ‘manifesto’ on YouTube, because I already know its content and can’t bear to listen to it. In essence, he wanted to get back at women for rejecting him, as well as the men who were able to live happy, sexually-active lives.

As put critically in this Huffington Post article by Julia Meszaros, “It would be hard to imagine that the history of feminization that most Asian men have endured did not influence Rodger’s own feelings of undesirability.” She goes on to note that the roommates Rodger murdered were Asian, which speaks to an externalization of self-loathing.

Now we have a collision of two social issues: Asian American male ugliness, and sexism — that these Asian American males would even be entitled to women, specifically white women, and are taught that if denied, they can’t go lying down. Not everyone will react with gunfire — in principle, I’m essentially ‘reacting,’ just like Rodger, but on a blog. But indeed, we all react. Rodger’s was merely the worst manifestation of our sexual anxiety — if you’re Asian American and male, I’m indicting you in this. The Twitter hashtag: #YesAllWomen comes from men trying to duck out of moral responsibility (my favorite is when men say that women are the real problem with sexism). If only they’d see it differently, those girlies.

In the same way, the Yes All Women trend was not conflating ‘everyday sexism’ with mass murder. Such a thing not only inherently trivializes… what, cat-calls and other harassment (ocular pat-downs, maybe), but shifts focus away from the idea that it’s about entitlement, and Rodger’s massacre was an expression of such an inbred belief.

I’ve never been one to weigh social issues, like so many of my friends have. One time someone asked how I could worry about a transgender woman who was brutally beaten by men in Russia when the conflict in Syria was heating up. People think there’s some psychological defect in our brains that allows only so much empathy in a caring budget — and we must be economical, and in fact only focus on the Worst Thing Ever. While we search for that, a gay couple grows old and dies, never having married, because we weren’t fast enough.

However, sexism is a far greater issue than Asian American male ugliness. I do lament that my thing doesn’t get the play in public discourse that it needs, and that shows like All-American Girl might’ve been seen as progressive, and we still don’t have a new Bruce Lee (although I will throw props to John Cho, Jeremy Lin, and international stars like Byung-hun Lee and Tony Leung). But if sexualizing the Asian American male means entitlement, it means augmenting the opposition to female progress.

This kind of talk sounds dangerous, but I’ve felt this divide and conflict myself. Of course I resent women for walking by me when I walk by them, rather than passing me their phone numbers, but my rational mind tells me that it’s always been my fault, and America’s Breakfast at Tiffanying of ‘my people’ is only another layer. Even if I was white, I know I’d be in a similar spot. If I want to fight for gender equality, I have to put myself aside — it was easy to do so as a man, because male culture is distasteful, but as an Asian American, it’s a new struggle.

There’s already the issue of masculinity and homosexuality that Asian American male sexuality brings up — evaluating certain traits as negative, despite being typically associated with other groups, or even embodied as identification. In other words, an Asian American man asserting he’s not some fag is… not helping anyone. And then there’s the racial thing. The coveted prize for Asian American men is and has always been white women. It’s not fair that interracial couples of all kind get shit (black man, white woman / white woman, Asian man), but it’s also downright creepy that Asian men have a singular lust.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead2

It’s just pure fucking guilt

It’s programming; we internalize hatred of Asian men as self-loathing, and look in the mirror and see something inferior and odd-looking. But we also take in the worshiping of the image of white women, adhering our own tastes to the model of European beauty standards, which also did so much to damn dark-skinned women of primarily African descent to the same dating site statistics as Asian men.

But this programming is also highly touchy, especially when discussing feminism. What does it mean to be an actualized woman? They can only exist in the context of their environment, so can a woman who wants to be a housewife truly be actualized or is she just brainwashed, and so on — it’s complicated. But programming fucked Asian men, this I do believe, despite not yet undertaking research on Asian male physiology and evolutionary theory. I don’t know if we’re actually inferior, I won’t say ‘no’ simply because it’s politically correct.

This isn’t about the cost of feminism — there is none. It’s about checking one’s privilege, and understanding that no matter how much you struggle right now, specifically with your victimized sexuality, you are owed nothing. Keep on fighting, but be aware of when you’re at risk of hurting someone else. And that’s something to take away if even if you’re not one of these:


My tongue was blue from ice cream

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