Photo: Getty Images. Posed by model.
"Every Asian girl who has ever tried online dating, whether on POF, OKCupid, or Match has experienced it: messages from Creepy White Guys with Asian fetishes."
So claims the new tumblr Creepy White Guys that archives the ridiculous messages one Asian woman receives during her forays into online dating. The senders of these messages belong to a kind of subset of the "Nice Guys of OkCupid" - men who fail to notice that their flattery and pick-up lines also reveal some ugly stereotyping, in this case about Asia.
Take this message from a self-described "distinguished and wealthy white man", who comes packing with backhanded compliments:
"Many women find themselves attracted to me, but I am only interested in the best: Asian women. Why is that? Could it be their fine skin and long silky hair? Could it be the fact that unlike white women, they remember what it's like to be a woman: to be docile and submissive and respectful to a man? Could it be their delicate, playful personalities?"
Or this man that makes the mistake of assuming the author is Japanese and opens with "Konichiwa!" He then calls her "beautiful, like a lotus flower" and points out "I have studied many martial arts and know how to protect a woman, and how to treat her right," before signing off with, "Arrigatou!"
The assumption that all Asian men commit domestic violence and dominate over their partners is an ongoing theme in many of these posts. They are the villains in a fantasy that portrays Asian women as exotic and defenseless creatures (as one man puts it "beautiful and should be cherished on a pedestal"), with an old-fashioned appreciation for the size of a man's wallet, and best of all have just as much of a boner for white guys as these guys do for Asian women.
It's as if these men have swallowed the book on racial stereotypes and pooped out a one-size-fits-asian message. Unfortunately, for them, the target at hand strays too far from the trope of a "typical" Asian woman. Nor seemingly do the thousands of tumblr users that have commented and reblogged these posts. Which begs the question, on who would such messages work?
Allow me to firstly say that as someone who has lived in Asia for over three years, and chronicled the many differences between Asian and Western values, there are kernels of truth behind these stereotypes. 25 percent of women in China have been victims of some form of domestic violence. Japan and Korea scored dismally on last year's Global Gender Gap report. And in Asian culture finding a partner with job security may very well be the deal breaker that soaring romantic feeling is not.
And yet, again, as someone who has lived in Asia for over three years, these facts and figures fail somehow, in the same way the stick-figure caricatures drawn by Creepy White Guys too fail. They fail to take into account the profound generational changes happening across Asia. They fail to include China's heated public discourse on sex relations and the place of men and women in it. They fail to realise what often attracts Asian people to Western culture is the very thing these men have failed to offer: the opportunity to be treated like an individual, with unique qualities that go beyond the sum of their Asian parts.
This is particularly the case for Asian women, such as myself, who have grown up in a Western culture. As a kid I didn't have much interest or respect for Asian culture. And when it eventually came to dating I appropriated a quote from Groucho Marx as my motto: "I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members." Which is to say, dating a guy with "yellow fever" was a complete anathema to me because my skin colour represented so many qualities that I detested: submission, conformity and humility.
I was a self-hater that failed to realise that behind the stereotypes there is flesh-and-blood beauty to Asian culture. And I would have laughed in your face if you'd told me that one day I would move to one of the meccas for men with yellow fever. But by living in China and deepening my understanding of this culture (it should be said, a journey with no end) you could say I've not only come to accept how some guys have yellow fever, I seem to have a serious case of it myself.
Yes, there are hundreds, probably thousands of white, male, douchebags in this country - whose exploits are all nicely chronicled in this blog. But together they constitute a minority of foreign men. The rest are in the midst of very real relationships, full of ups and downs, with their adopted country and it's women. And to paint them all with the same brush, to make a snap judgment based on their ethnicity alone would be pretty unfair. Not to mention damn ironic.