Thursday, April 1, 2010

‘SWM, 64, Looking for Asian Woman’

How do I describe the spasm of parental pain, anger and fear induced by Date*Line’s Ad of the Week? Like it’s not enough that I have to worry about prepping my Chinese American high-schooler for student shootings, abductions while jogging, and 16 year old bad boys--now I need to figure out how to talk to her about old white guys looking for fantasy China Doll sex?

Or Geisha sex, or Dragon Lady sex, or Miss Saigon sex? Aaaargh! Yes, I was really happy to add ‘perverts’ to the list of difficult topics I’ve been attempting to address with my Asian daughters:
  • Overt Racism. The ugly, ignorant, sometimes life or death encounters with fearful, power-hungry, bullying individuals, groups or institutions
  • Invisible Racism. Masquerades as ‘Niceness’ and Positive Stereotyping. Also may be used to diminish, or control.
  • Asiaphiles with Yellow Fever. Men looking for de-humanizing Asian stereotype for sexual gratification. No real relationship required.

But to complicate matters, tough topics are rarely all black or white…or yellow. How do I explain to my kids that the ‘nice’ white guy who only dates Asian girls and claims he is without a bigoted bone in his body, is likely objectifying a race and projecting his own sexual fetish?

Yeah, I’ll bring that up right after my girls and I discuss who’s old enough for a cell-phone and why Taylor Swift is more talented than Miley Cyrus…

I don’t want to go there. How do I explain what I can’t wrap my own mind around? Intellectually, I understand how our history and foreign policy have played into the Asian Mystique, and how Hollywood and The Media have continued to fan the ‘exotic’ yellow flames.

Emotionally, it is a different thing to sit across the table from a 14 year old and try to make dating sense out of Asian wars fought and lost, out of dominance, power and control, and out of the alien fetishist effect this world arena has had on some white males (with their accompanying de-personalized dream of Asian females).
The men I have met over the last 14 years as an active member of Families with Children from China are truly the best dads I have ever known. But we don't talk about this--this--niche porn based on race and sick fairy-tales. It is scary and disturbing, especially when applied to the international children we love and protect.

Sheridan Prasso, author of the book, The Asian Mystique, writes:

“There is a patronizing, missionary aspect to America’s foreign policy toward Asia, just as there is an aspect of “saving” the poor Asian girl (prostitute, war victim) from economic circumstances, life of prostitution, or “oppressive” cultural practices which we see in so many of our fictional stories about Asia – and played out in real life…”

Prostitute? War victim? When will ‘Chinese orphan’ become the hot, new, fantasy sexual experience for Asiaphiles?

I don’t want to go
there, either…but I’m the parent and I read somewhere that hiding under the bed is not allowed. I adhere to 'best parenting practices' for supporting my daughters’ Transracial Adoptee identity formation, and I realize how important it is for my daughters to learn from the strength and collective primary experience of other Asian women.

But, still, I’m the Mom. What I’ve discovered as an adoptive parent is that there is NO EASY WAY through a conversation with my children on adoption, racism or sex. The adoption topic was tough when my teen was in preschool; however, believe me, Yellow Fever trumps all...

I may feel socially awkward bringing up painfully personal subjects with my tween and teen, but I’ve learned my occasional gracelessness simply doesn’t matter. What matters deeply and profoundly is…
honesty. Truthfulness is our adoption-parenting formula for success! With it, we can wade through embarrassing conversations, empower our teens, and hex the Date*liners looking for ‘yellow sex’ with our Asian daughters. It is also really good to know that speaking honestly precludes making a complete idiot of yourself (I fall back on this parenting truism a lot).

Movies, particularly older films, offer up marvelous conversation starters on racial stereotyping and discrimination in general. Catch Flower Drum Song, The Good Earth, Auntie Mame, Breakfast at Tiffany's or The World of Suzie Wong on classic movie channels (or Netflix), and talk about the impact of the stereotypical characters, or the situational racism, or what has changed...and what hasn't. Sometimes communication with our kids is a process, accomplished in steps; sometimes we just need to find the words to use; sometimes we need help in recognizing the other’s truth.


SWM, 64, Looking for Asian Woman’: First, you get deal with me, AWP [Angry White Parent]. I have a few things I’d like to honestly discuss…

This post is part of my
Transracial Parenting Savvy! series
with Psychologist Doris Landry


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  2. Thank you Jean for bringing this up.

    When we lived in China (and traveled through Asia) it broke my heart that my husband, a sensitive and attentive father, would feel uncomfortable when our tall 10 year old daughter took his hand. He said he always felt much better when we were out and about as a family. I tried to deny it but he said, "I know what this looks like to other people". And I know what I would think when I saw older white men with young girls on Thai beaches...

    Tricky territory to navigate but what choice do we have?

  3. Great article and something I fear to have to deal with myself.

  4. We were just discussing this topic breifly at ICASP yesterday with adult Korean adoptees.. This world we live in is a big scary place for most of us, but in ways worse for the daughters we are raising...

  5. Oh Boy. I have a newly turned 11 year old that I will soon need to hide under my bed...I mean... address this directly and honestly with. Thanks for the strong but much needed reminder and the wonderful ideas on how to approach this ick topic.

  6. As a Korean adoptee, I see yellow fever all the time. However, I am not sure that it is necessary to go SO in-depth into this topic with your teen daughter. While many boys her age may prefer to date Asians, they will not have had sufficient experince to prove they are afflicted with the fever, rather than a passing interest, or just a pattern of happenstance. As your daughter gets older, graduates, moves out of the house, etc., you may want to talk to her about it more, but it seems that you would want to caution her against dating older men of all sorts, not just the ones with yellow fever.