The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, September 12, 2005

Rubrics and Colonialism

Ah...we got some interesting replies to my observations about Asians-non-Asian dating in Hawaii, and speculations about similar pairings around the world.  One reader said she'd heard Asian females commenting about how they won't/don't date Asian males.
Thi is such a drastic mismatch with human behavior in general (exogamy notwithstanding) that it is hard not to file this under a perfect example of what I callthe Beauty/Power axis.
1) We can look at white males being presented as the only sexual males in film and consider it a statistical fluke, or evidence that Asian or Black males don't want to sexualize themselves (hah!), or as white males exercising typical male ego and presenting themselves as the most desirable, both through film production and supporting those films with such imagery.
2) We can say that the countless images of white males in advertising, etc. as being the most sexually desirable have had the effect that advertising is said to have--namely, convince the viewers that they are correct.  Or we can say it has no effect.
3) We can say that females are, in general, attracted to whoever has the power.  this would be interesting to test: find a situation where two populations, A and B, have exchanged dominance over the centuries.  Start with a moment in which population A has cominated population B for a generation.  Did B's females begin to drift toward A's males?  Now look at a time when population B dominated A.  Did A's females drift toward B's males?  Inquiring minds want to know, and myu guess is that the answer is "yes."
4) There is noplace in the media where Asian males are regularly shown to exhibit power.  Kung fu movies?  Please.  How many Asian males do you see in actual combat sports?  The UFC?  boxing?  Not much.  Black males were prevented from competition with white males in sports for centuries.  When we finally broke through, those images of power made a HUGE impact on cultural perceptions of us.  In the 19th century, please remember, the mythology was that blacks were both mentally and PHYSICALLY inferior.  No more, eh?  Asian males have yet to find this breakthrough, despite admirable academic and economic performance.
5)  In every single television market in America, I see Asian newswomen on damned near every channel.  Five times more often than I see Asian males, and don't you dare think Asian males don't notice, or that this is their choice.  this is controlled by Arbitron ratings, and station managers. 
6)  Images in films are controlled by audience dollars.  More locally, they are controlled by studio executives (who will lose their jobs if they mispredict audience preferences too often).  All these executives, and 80% of the audience dollars, are white folks.  98% of the executives who greenlight movies are male.  You do the math.
Remember--in NO WAY SHAPE OR FORM am I suggesting that whites, or white males are behaving any differently than any other group would behave given the same power advantages.  I'm not looking for guilt or blame here.  Just notin gthe way advantages leverage to greater advantages historically, and the way it impacts groups.  Sure, I'm certain that Asian females have some legitimate gripes about the way Asian males behave--be every group has gripes about the way every member of every group behaves. When you're fallign out of love, suddenly all of your partner's quirks become irritating.  I'm saying these justifications are SECONDARY to the PRIMARY drive for females to find the most powerful males possible, and males to find the most beautiful females.  Asian females, with lighter skin tones and straight hair, can "cross over" and be "white" rather easily.  Black females with light skin are doing well inthe media--as long as they straighten their hair, thus reducing the subconscious race cues that trigger "other."   Black and Asian males are sexual competition.  My guess is that when Japan was on the rise economically, the percentage of white females who found them attractive rose, too.  If China becmes the economic powerhouse some predict, the same will happen again.  And that this is just hman nature.  If men were women, we'd behave like women.  If women were men, they'd behave like men.  Just the way it is...and until we grasp this, and get out of denial, the more disturbing aspects will continue to disturb us.  You can't get the elephant out of the living room until you admit he's there.


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