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“Asian Trophy Wives”: A Label We Could Do Without

Jessica Wakeman's avatar Posted by: Jessica Wakeman | Filed in: Relationships
1:30PM, Friday August 07th 2009
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Wendi Deng and Rupert MurdochAP

See that older white man over there with the younger Asian woman on his arm? That might not be love—that might be an Asian lady fetish. Author Ying Chu suspects as much, a subject she explores via an uncomfortable trend piece in Marie Claire about rich men like Rupert Murdoch and Woody Allen and the ladies she suspects are their “Asian trophy wives.”

“...[A]fter two or three failed attempts at domestic bliss with women of like background and age, these heavy hitters sought out something different. Something they had likely fetishized.”

Later on in the piece, Chu writes that, thanks to globalization:

“... Asians (in addition to African orphans) are hot commodities right about now—status symbols as prized as a private Gulfstream jet or a museum wing bearing your name (neither of which goes so well with a frumpy, aging first wife).

Asian woman as commodity? Asian woman as status symbol? Offensive much? Chu just diagnosed these men with a fetish for Asian women and coined a term for it—a term which is liable to needlessly cast doubt on other interracial relationships. Relationships which are not anyone’s business to speculate about.

To be sure, some dudes are only interested in dating Asian women. The mail-order bride business, the exploitative behavior of some American servicemen in Asia during times of war, as well as the popularity of animé porn (and its offshoots) contribute to a stereotype of Asian women as submissive, acquiescent, and doting. Yes, some interracial relationships do have a race-skewed or racist power dynamic to them. (I’d recommend reading Colonize This! Young Women Of Color On Today’s Feminism, edited by Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman for more on this topic.) Chu amply supports that unfortunate race/gender dynamic with quotes by people who work in Asian-American Studies fields.

But not all interracial relationships between whites and Asians deserve to have doubt cast upon them. Lots of men simply think Asian women are beautiful—just like lots of men simply think blondes are beautiful—which doesn’t necessarily qualify as a fetish. “Asian trophy wife” is an especially dangerous and needless label, considering Chu’s examples don’t fit the definition of “trophy wife” as much as just “wife.” Actor Woody Allen married his stepdaughter, Soon-Yi Previn, who is 35 years younger and by virtue of being his ex-wife’s kid isn’t anyone’s definition of a “trophy”; Wendi Deng married the CEO of News Corps., Rupert Murdoch, who is 17 years older than her, but was a TV executive in Hong Kong before marrying her hubby; the head of CBS, Les Moonves, married Julie Chen, a TV news anchor. Not much “trophy wife” street cred here! But perhaps I’m being too literal.

But can you blame me for being annoyed? Why does a white man having an Asian wife or girlfriend have to mean anything other than a white man has an Asian wife or girlfriend? Are there Black trophy wives, too? Latina trophy wives? Am I guilty of having an “Asian trophy husband” fetish because I’ve long-term dated two Asian men and gone out with several more? It’s so offensive to assume a white man would only be attracted to an Asian woman—especially, a younger Asian woman—because of some exploitative geisha fetish, as if that is all she is reduced to in his life. Chu asked of Asian women in her piece, “Why be a target for headline comparisons to concubines?” But she is the one making the concubine comparison with her “Asian trophy wife” label.

I understand the point Chu is trying to make about how cultural stereotypes can be behind certain relationships and influencing relationships that other people have. But can we stop labeling women based on stereotypical characteristics, please? Labels like “trophy wife,” “JAP,” (Jewish American Princess) and “BAP” (Black American Princess) are usually obnoxious and, more often than not, offensive towards the women being labeled. “Asian trophy wife” is just another to label to throw on the pile. [Marie Claire]
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