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Chewing Over Stereotypes

Notes on Asian-American Men

By June Shih

This reporter had lunch and a lively discussion. Thursday with a group of nine guys in Quincy House. Six of them were roommates. Seven were science or economics concentrators or pre-meds. Three planned to attend medical school. Their median GPA: 3.625. their mean GPA: 3.6. All Wore corrective lenses.

Admit it. Your impulse to categorize is kicking in "Science concentrators... pre-meds... studious...and Quincy House, these guys must be Asian." they are but they're secure enough not to mind your inference. Over chicken sandwiches and fries with tampico seasoning, an admittedly non-random sampling of Asian manhood--roommates Dan. Khoi, Andy, Alfred, Larry, and Albert, and lunch buddies Albert, Clarence, and David--good-humoredly talked stereotypes, the media, relationships and women.

What is the stereotype?

Albert Kim `94: We're seen as weak, submissive...Daniel H. choi `94: Effeminate...

Andy Nguyen `94: Glasses, skinny, weak, always in Cabot [Science Library], plays volleyball.

Khoi T. Luu `94: I think it depends on your context of comparison...To the outside world, we're week. Within the family and community we're sexist, and wife beaters.

Is the stereotype true?

Dan: five years ago or more, I think most Asian males fit the stereotype. We're part of the new generation of Asian men. We're well groomed. We take care of our bodies and yet retain our studiousness and ambition.

Clarence S. Kwan `94: It's true and it sucks.

Albert: It's not true and it's harmful anytime you have a monolithic view of a group.

What about the alleged sexism?

Dan: I think a lot of Asian men are sexist, especially Korean men. The idea of male dominance gets passed down [through the generations].

Clarence: I think Asian men are better lovers, Caring, giving.

Dan: Clarence, man, these are random stereotypes.

David: Haven't you seen The Lover? [the film based on a novel by Marguerite Duras about her affair at age 14 with a 27 year old Chinese playboy]

What did you think of The Joy Luck Club?

Dan: All the Asian men were either geeks or assholes.

Clarence: Russell Wong [who played a handsome but adulterous and abusive husband in the film] was an attractive and masculine character. You seldom see that. The guy was strong, masculine, attractive--a better image than being effeminate and a pansy.

Dan: But why can't you be masculine and a good guy?

Why does there seem to be a lower number of Asian man/white woman couples than vice versa?

Khoi: I think a lot of times Asian males are very conscious of whom they want to date. They want To keep the line pure. The white woman is off limits. To say `damn, white men are taking our women [shows] an inferiority complex.'

Dan: We're ignoring a big factor. It's harder for an Asian man to ask a white woman out. [It's] a self-imposed position of inferiority.

Alfred: I don't find asking white women out difficult.

Khoi: Asian women have problematic relationships with their fathers. Asian women tend to think Asian men are sexists.

David Choi '95: When I ask out an Asian or Korean girl, if I get rejected then I know it's because of my personality. if I get rejected by a white girl, I don't know if it's because she doesn't like me as a person or because I'm Asian.

Albert Kim: when an Asian woman goes out with a white man, it preserves a gender and racial hierarchy.

What about Asian women?

Dan: Asian women take more risks in their lives. Albert Lee '94: Because they can afford to [explore alternative, less lucrative careers], they can get married [to men who can support them]. I don't mean it's good, but society accepts. it.

David: I totally agree. [Men] have to be the breadwinner.

Dan: I would be happy if my wife supports me.

Clarence: But if everyone knows about it, it's embarrassing.

Dan: I have a sister. Growing up with her, I see the double standard. My parents say find a good husband for your sister. That's the highest she can aspire to.

Andy and Clarence: make sure you say that that's only in Korean families.

Dan: I think Asian males should be more flexible with career choices.

David: [But] I feel the burden of being the bread winner.

What can be done about the stereotype?

Dan: I don't think we're pre-occupied...[Stereotypes are] not something that get to me. We can laugh at all this stuff. We're fun-loving guys... Look at us. do we look like the stereotype? Do any of us have pocket protectors? (They didn't).

Clarence: They should make an Asian Man calendar.

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