by Sally Park
When I was a sophomore, during a discussion about feminism someone told me more or less along the lines of: “Asian men are the most forgotten. We’re left out of racial minority programs because we’re Asian, we’re left out of the programs for women because we’re male.” (he was in STEM/business where there are active programs recruiting only women).
At the time, my initial reaction was indignation. I thought he was pulling the classic response: “Men have it worse than women!” I thought that this was a case of where the privileged feel so used to their privileges that equality can feel like oppression. Alas, this was not like that. I didn’t know at the time that he was speaking of the racialized version of masculinity Asian men were subject to. Sadly, I was completely unaware of this topic at the time. However, after some research, I came to see that there is a lack of attention, resources, representation and platforms for Asian-American men. Stereotypes such as being a nerd, being passive/not sexy, or not being manly enough play into social relations such as in relationship patterns (studies show that Asian men generally receive lower ratings of attractiveness than men of other races ). I could see how they could feel like invisible and undesirable.
As I write this, I realize that I am largely inept to write anything on this topic except maybe a plea for these voices to be heard. I’m female; I have no idea of the socialization Asian-American men go through. I just think that it’s imperative to talk about Asian American men and their relationship to white racism and hegemonic masculinity as well as being the targets of physical violence and symbolic castration . I want people to talk about this and enlighten me if I am not understanding the gravity of this issue or even might be exaggerating it. I don’t know.
Looking back at this incident, I’m embarrassed of my reaction out of ignorance/misunderstanding and I reached out to this person apologizing about this, long after it happened. I never got a response and I doubt he cares if I learned anything or not. But I did, and I care very much about this issue and hope others will as well.