Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Introduction to: Interracial Dating and Marriage

Interracial dating and marriage is a prominent part of Asian American culture that raises significant questions about identity, race, and sexuality. Why are U.S.-raised Asian Americans much more likely to outmarry with whites or other pan-Asians than to marry endogamously? Why are Asian females more likely to outmarry with whites than Asian males are with white females?

One common explanation is that Asian Americans outmarry as a form of escape – escape from their status as a minority by official assimilation into white society or an escape from traditional Asian male-female relationships in which the female is usually expected to be somewhat more subservient. However, many find this explanation to be too limiting and shallow to capture the complexities of interracial relationships.

Another explanation may rely on the media’s portrayal of Asian men. In movies, magazines and advertisements, Asian men are portrayed as scrawny, nerdy, weak, and generally undesirable whereas white men in those media are portrayed as powerful, beautiful, and ideal. Asian women who see Asian men as they are portrayed in the media might become wary of dating society’s “rejects”. Such portrayals might also affect Asian males’ self esteems. The muscular, tall, non-Asian males that dominate the covers of women’s magazines and movie posters might make an Asian male feel inadequate: “She’s cute, but would she be interested in an Asian guy?” (http://www.laze.net/papers/asianamident.php). On the other hand, the media tends to paint Asian women in a more sexually appealing light. They are often “fetishized” as subservient, mysterious, and exotic and therefore desirable to many men, especially non-Asian men.

The numbers on interracial marriage also seem to reflect a hierarchy of “desirable non-Asians”. Though there is variation between specific ethnicities, the highest outmarriages are with whites while numbers of blacks and latinos in Asian-American relationships are lower (http://www.asian-nation.org/interracial.shtml). This might be explained by parents of older generations who pressure their U.S.-raised children to marry into the white majority rather than another minority.

These various aspects of Asian American culture are manifest in the nature and pattern of interracial marriages in America. Popular culture, cultural traditions, and mass media interact to shape the complex issues of identity that Asian Americans face.

Other Links: Why Asian Girls Go For White Guys

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