A DREAM-LIKE PAUSE // The Glass Throat of Asian Masculinity
// by Noah Jung and Felix Wang
// speaking mostly for East Asian populations, as Felix and I are both respectively Chinese and Korean //
Sessue Hayakawa’s eyes still darken whenever I pass by him when wandering in the recesses of my thoughts. I think his hair is ugly, then I wonder with guilt if I think this because I really do dislike his cut or because I am raised to worship the haircuts of white men instead.
When Asians first started immigrating to the U.S. in the late 1800s, the fear of miscegenation drove White American men to create extremely anti-Asian propaganda*, which led to the creation of anti-Asian laws in America. Not only were Asian men legally barred from dating or marrying white women, but they also could not send for their wives and families as promised from their home countries because of the Page Act. They were further discriminated against in a legal context when they weren’t allowed to own property, which destroyed their ability to pursue masculinity as a construct of labor and skill**. Thus came into birth the idea of Asian males as the asexual, the human made inhumane, enforced by the false logic of placing heterosexuality as a standard of humanity
I once posted a status on Facebook about my experiences being raised as an Asian woman. I am not an Asian woman, but I was raised to believe that I was one, and the conditioning still remains.
The boy posted a picture of a pretty white girl and her prettier white boyfriend in the comment section of the status. Both blonde, with gilds of sun in their hair, their skins healthy and their smiles gentle and in love. They’re looking at each other, and slightly touching, their hands becoming butterflies on each other’s shoulders and waists.
Behind them is an Asian guy. He’s shirtless, and in swimming trunks. He’s wearing goggles. In the picture, he is in the air, about to plunge into the pool behind the pretty white people. If pictures has voices, and I could hear the people in them talking, the guy would be yelling CANNONBALL or TSUUUUUUNAMI. His smile is of the unrestrained, goofy sort, the sort of smile that advice columns on flirting would advise against. Don’t ever show your teeth and squint your eyes, my mother once said while explaining what kills a man’s smile.
The Asian guy is showing his teeth and squinting his eyes.
Along with that picture, he added a comment about how I shouldn’t forget that Asian men are also oppressed because pictures like these are the overwhelming representations of his racial group in Western media. My boyfriend, a white man, liked the boy’s comment. He was the only one. In response to the boy’s comment, my friend, the same angel who posted about how to think is to be problematic, called out his derailing of my FB status by replying, anywayssss….
Anywayssss, the boy tells me of how he wants to hurt women and queer trans people of color for being race traitors, and dating white men despite all of their POC activist bullshit. He tells me once of how another man of color told him that he should date homely Asian women, and how unfair it was for Asian men to be guilt-tripped into having to date WOC. Again and again, he tells me of the times when he was bullied for being an introspective Asian nerd, and this is why I do this… in regards to why he talks about raping women. Now you know why, as if he’s the tragic villain offering his Freudian excuse.
God, I am not smart when I am lonely.
He tells me that I should get off of my high horse on calling him out for being a racist misogynist because I am also a race traitor. He tells me that I don’t have the right to tell him, an Asian man, that he is oppressing the marginalized when I myself am blowing kisses every night through Skype to the very oppressor who created said standards of marginalization.
You Asian feminists talk shit about white men before sucking their hairy balls it’s all your fault I’m like this you betray me all the time, or something like that. It took him over thirty text messages to say this. It took him over two months to finally admit one day that he wanted to hurt Asian women and QT for being slaves to white men.
God, I am not smart when I am lonely.
My mother and I were sitting in the car, parked onto the side of a street. The sky was light purple, and the sun hung low and swollen. She had to park the car onto the side of the street, because she was closing and opening and closing and opening and closing her eyes. Tears. A dream-like pause.
Her: I am bad, I am a bad daughter, I deserve to die, I am a bad daughter.
She finally found her mother after nine years.
When I was nine years old, my grandfather tried to kill my grandmother. He chased her around the house, my aunt told my mother over the phone when they finally reached each other after almost a decade. His hands were clutched around her throat, and vases were broken. The television no longer worked. My grandmother was too scared to make noises, maybe even breathe. The next day, she had to go to the hospital.
Afterwards, the entire family on my mother’s side stealthily began to plan escaping from my grandfather. Because my mother was my grandfather’s favorite, she couldn’t know. One answer from my mother could break every bone in my grandmother’s body and smash her teeth in, all the while yelling at her to apologize for being a traitor.
Her: I am bad, I am a bad daughter, I deserve to die, I am a bad daughter.
Just as how the beginning of the Constitution holds these lies to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, never let it be said that all Women and Trans/Nonbinary People are hurt equal. I once read a post that talked of how any feminist movement is irrelevant if it didn’t prioritize Black women. These words carved itself into my heart.
I cannot, and will never speak for the struggles faced by Black women. There are already extremely intelligent and supremely talented Black activists who speak and act for themselves. But I can, and will speak for myself, and of my experiences as a first-generation child. Reducing me to my relationship with a white man can only undermine but can never erase my identity; my love life does not change the fact that I have been guilted for being an Asian trans person, alongside being misgendered and getting violated as an Asian woman would.
We are left to die. Our faces are stepped on by the loafers of white men who don’t even see us as their shoes sink into our skin. Our shoulders are sore from holding up the bodies of white women who attack us but also lie to us about their support and tell us it’s not like you to pit women against each other when we criticize the movements that they stand for. White queers are slightly nicer about this. At least they apologize while gripping the back of our heads for balance as they reach for a height of safety unthinkable to us but visible for them.
Next to us are also cis men of color, similarly being stepped on by white supremacy. Occasionally, we turn our heads to look at each other knowingly; the women, the trans and nonbinary community, and the cis men sometimes hold hands, and we are together.
But there’s also this: cis men break free of our hands, and step onto us too. This time, however, we know that we are seen.
They call us whores, cunts, bitches, and spit at us. They ask why we women & trans people hoist the weight of white people onto our backs, but when they try to use us as stepping stones and ignore our cries, it’s blasphemy. They ask us why they are always subject to an even harsher standard of decency than white people, and why when we’re already discriminated against, we’re allowing the whites to find even more reasons to further discriminate against our race.
And because no POC ever wants to be known as a race traitor or ever be called one, we remain silent. We do not speak up about this abuse by cis men of color, in fear of our internalized racism and conditioning to prioritize white people. We do not speak up when cis men of color jack off to white women, then come home later to yell at us and push our faces into the walls for dating white men. There is an argument of how we’re already discriminated against. Criticizing and calling out each other for being problematic would only add fuel to the fire, wouldn’t it?
I guess what I want to know is why cis men of color are more focused on the idea that white people are allowed to hurt us while they can’t, more so than the fact that we’re being hurt in the first place. I guess what I really, really want to know is why cis men of color think that we deserve our pain.
Risky immigration by POC leaves women and children more vulnerable to systemic and domestic violence. Leaving your home-turned warzone leaves scars. War and economic exploitation under neoliberal capitalism cause cultural trauma, alongside the burdens placed onto WOC by the oppressions already existent within the United States of America, sharpened and even more frenetically violent because of how these immigrant women and children speak, eat, dress, look, exist.
White people are not the only ones being raped. Rape culture normalizes violence against women, and oftentimes WOC are not seen as women but are still violated as such. Oftentimes, we will not even get the love and validation that are offered to white women, and when we criticize this, we are asked oh so you want white women to be raped? And then, again that manipulative accusation: it’s not like you to pit women against each other.
And we forget money as a concept of violence. Men are generally not financially affected by rape culture. They earn more money, are given promotions faster, are seen as more competent - a vicious example of patriarchy, the Founding Forefather of our culture.
However, the greatest misconception is that of the Founding Forefather solely being white. It’s forgotten, or even dismissed that he can also be a POC, and he justifies his abusive behaviors with POC solidarity and gaslights his victims with accusations of betrayal. He takes away the educational rights of women, and takes away their free time so they are not able to secretly seek out such resources for the education that they are deprived of. When women of color are not fluent in English, the power difference between them and their husbands, brothers, fathers is amplified, and they know that to be alone is suicide. There has been a recent cropping of stigma against calling a women powerless, and there is a strange fetishistic energy around the idea of suggesting that women are inherently powerful. However, that superficially empowering idea really only hurts women and puts them at blame for the deprivation and restrictions that they face. Yes, women are powerful. They are light glancing off of the window, then returning to slip in through the glass to continue to survive. But their existence as light doesn’t negate the existence of the window that is obstructing their arc. The power of women can also coexist with the efforts of men to hack at this power until women are left to be husks apologizing for being husks.
The emotional, physical, and financial abuse, the inability to be issued gainful employment and legal services, the lack of government assistance, and then the possible lack of community to support them depending on where they immigrate - why are there so many reasons by cis men of color to hate us for our actions of self-care and survival in the very system that they helped create?
Why are cis men of color blaming us for engaging in “respectability politics” when it’s the only option they ever left us? And sometimes, these actions of “respectability politics” aren’t even actually respectability politics - this is just them lashing out at the wrong group of people, their own community, because they’re sad that the white men made it so that they couldn’t also conform to white standards of suicidal toxic masculinity. You are sad because you can’t also destroy yourself the way a white man can.
Being similarly held in a state of oppression does not exempt one from being called out on oppressive behaviors. The abuser can become the abused. The abused can become the abuser. If anything, the oppressed oppressor is worse, because they know first-hand how dehumanizing this sort of pain is - and yet they decide to knife the women and QT*** in their very community like this regardless.
In all honesty, cis men of color sound a hell lot like race traitors.
*Unsuitable Suitors: Anti-Miscegenation Laws, Naturalization Laws, and the Construction of Asian Identities by Deenesh Sohoni
**American Masculinities: A Historical Encyclopedia by Brett. E. Carroll