Dear Ms. Wai,
I live in China and been dating a guy for the past year. I don’t live in a major city so foreigners get a lot of stares anyway but when I’m with my boyfriend they intensify. It’s like locals can’t believe that a foreign woman and a Chinese guy could be together.
As if that wasn’t annoying enough, I have a similar problem with my western friends. Not my close friends, they all know and accept my boyfriend, but more like casual friends. When guys hear my boyfriend is Chinese they immediately make a small “package” joke. When girls hear about him they look at me incredulously like I’m insane. When I tell them he’s a great boyfriend or I’m really happy they usually respond with something condescending like, “Well, I’m not into asian guys but good for you if are.”
I’m getting sick of this. What can I do?
-A Proud WWAM’er
I feel ya. Every single time I hold the hand of a Chinese guy the same exact thing happens. People look at me, then I see their eyes going down to my hand, see us holding hands, then follow the hand up and see a Chinese guy. Then they look back at my face to make sure they really saw a westerner then back to the guy to make sure they really saw a Chinese guy. It’s like something just does not compute in their brain.
Aside from moving to a major city where foreigners are more common there is really nothing you can do to change this. You can’t stop and educate every single person and you will regularly run into strangers who will stare. It’s just something we have to deal with living in China (along with the stares even when we are alone.)
Your western friends are a little harder to deal with because while the locals reaction is more curiosity, your friends reaction is a bit more cruel (yet also very common).
If your friends are so crude to make a joke about what’s in your boyfriends pants, I say zing them right back with a, “It’s bigger than your small racist brain.” Delivered with a cheeky smile it will definitely get their attention (after all, they started it). If that makes you uncomfortable you can just roll your eyes, or say something like “insecure much?” In this we also need to help open people’s minds and break stereotypes and if you just blush or look away then they just assume they are right (and guys are nothing if not obsessed with their own “manhood.”)
As for your female friends you can call out their racism and start a dialogue. I think every western woman hears, “I’m just not into Chinese guys. I’m not racist, it’s just a preference.” But you can tell them judging an entire race of people because of their race is the literal definition of racism. That usually starts people sputtering about how they aren’t racist so you can ask them further, “what specifically don’t you like?” and whatever they say counter.
Maybe they will say they don’t like skinny guys, so counter by pointing out some beefcake on the street. If they say they don’t like how Chinese guys are momma’s boys, point out how that shows they value and are dedicated to family which is a good thing in a possible husband. Basically, whatever they say, have a good response prepared. I’ve found many western women, especially ones living in an expat bubble, just kinda have vague stereotypes in their head and start to think differently when challenged with concrete examples. Like they never really stopped to think about it, but do when “one of their own” is open about their own experience.
So yeah, there’s no way to stop this entirely because you will always meet new people, both Chinese and foreign, that will think your relationship is “weird” or bad or whatever. But don’t let it stop you. Proudly put pics of you and your guy on WeChat and Facebook. Hold hands in public. Go out and be seen. It’s tiring dealing with the comments and stares but don’t stop being affectionate in public or being proud of your guy.
You can’t stop other people from doing it, but you can change the way you see it. See it as a little community service. You’re educating people and maybe they’ll go home and tell their friends what they saw and then it will become more acceptable. Even if people just see you holding hands, that’s enough to be memorable and talked about. We WWAM’ers need to pay it forward a little and hopefully through our openness about it, it will help everyone become more used to western women with Asian men.
Do you have a question for Ms. Wai about dating asian men? Leave a comment or email her at [email protected].