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The post was written by a white American woman based in Shanghai and titled, "So, how's the dating scene? In the still, he's locked in an awkward slow-dance embrace with a girl an entire head taller than him, but that's not even the worst of it. While she leans her head on his in perfect contentment, he has his cheek buried in her bosom while staring at it with a prurient curiosity that surely would have snapped the girl out of her reverie.
At the time I was only beginning to learn about negative stereotypes of Asian men that American TV, movies and the media had perpetuated over the years: The woman who wrote that post never specifically said any of these things about local men in China, but she didn't have to.
Long Duk Dong took care of that. Then again, her post appears downright classy in comparison to what I've read in the free-for-all world of anonymous expat forums across China. There was a brief time when I tried combing these forums in search of discussions about dating Chinese men, hoping to gain some insights, but I soon gave that up.
Whenever anyone dared to broach the subject, usually someone would quickly pounce on the thread and sully it with some juvenile comment about Chinese men that wasn't all that different from that Long Duk Dong movie still.
The worst of these threads generally devolved into a low-brow, expletive-laden conversation more appropriate for a bathroom stall.
Whether in forums or blogs, the negative online discourse about Chinese men is consistent with Psychologist Zhang Jiehai's findings from surveys on "Chinese Men in the Eyes of Western Women" as reported by China's Xinhua News Agency in I provided an English translation on my blog. This Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences professor surveyed over Western women from diverse countries including France, Germany and the USA via questionnaires, and then interviewed over 20 of them in a focus group in Shanghai.
While respondents praised Chinese men for certain qualities -- "looking after one's family," "willing to spend money on women," and "relatively serious about relationships between men and women" -- the admiration ended there.
Negative impressions ultimately dominated as the women criticized Chinese men as "not so gentlemanly," "poor physique, not enough exercise," "no personality, lacking unique opinions," even condemning them on perceived personal hygiene problems.
One American participant in the study actually blamed Hollywood for projecting a poor image of Chinese men around the world, and I couldn't help but wonder if she was thinking of Sixteen Candles at the time. Zhang's findings -- that Western women from around the world have consistently pejorative ideas about Chinese men -- remind me this isn't a problem confined to some insular expat circles in China.
It's a troubling problem, one that even gets me and my husband down. Look across East Asia or, for that matter, any country in the Western world, and you'll notice a very revealing gap in the Asian interracial dating world: A Field Report from Hong Kong.
A total of couples of Western men and Asian women versus only six couples of Asian men and Western women including him and his Brazilian wife.
Why foreign women dont date chinese men? (Hong Kong) | InterNations
You could substitute Hong Kong with the name of any country or region in the world and end up with comparable results. Even Chinese-American men don't feel the love from their fellow Americans, lamenting this in essays such as " Are Asian Men Undateable?
I agree that culture plays a role when you're a foreigner in China dating the locals. I've experienced my share of cultural misunderstandings in my relationships in China, including my own marriage, and have even blogged about why it's actually harmful to ignore cultural differences in a cross-cultural relationship. Yet when I think about the global reach of this problem, and the fact that it's even tough for Western-born Chinese to score a date outside of their own race, I know deep down that cultural differences -- as much as they matter in relationships -- cannot alone account for why few Western women date Chinese men.
When I think about how a racist caricature from Hollywood gets tossed around among expats as a symbol of Chinese men -- and Westerners from around the world harbor consistently negative views of Chinese men -- I realize there's a dark side to this whole discussion. So here's where the conversation gets a little uncomfortable. Whenever expats discuss racism in China, we usually focus on Chinese people and their racist attitudes such as the experience of being black in China.
These are very critical discussions that we need and should continue to have.
But what about the conversations about expats themselves and their own homegrown stereotypes and prejudices about Asians and Chinese people? When will we as expats begin to confront these, our very own baggage that we inadvertently pack along with us in our overseas journeys to the Middle Kingdom? More importantly, when we will learn that in any given country and culture, there exists a diversity of individuals and personalities?
That's true anywhere in the world, including China. Whenever someone dismisses China's entire male population as undateable, they're essentially denying that diversity. And believe me, there is incredible diversity when you actually open your eyes and your heart to the possibility. I opened my eyes and my heart to the possibility of love in China, and found it with my husband, John. Text home and upper class online dating.
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