Editor’s note: A story we published last week on how Chinese internet users interpret the ugly stereotype of the Asian “easy girl” provoked a far-ranging and spirited discussion across our channels. Yajun Zhang, who previously wrote for us about Chinese journalism, offers the following response.
Fifteen years ago, when I started dating my American boyfriend (now husband), I realized that I was put into a category: a Chinese girl selling out, for either money or a passport. One of my aunts who thinks the same way tried to convince me I didn’t need to do it. According to her, as a graduate of a top Chinese university, I should be able to make a good living by myself. It was hard to explain to her that nobody marries a history teacher, even a foreign history teacher, for money.
Today, I enjoy a very happy marriage, plus I still hold a Chinese passport and earn a higher salary than my husband. Unfortunately, the stereotype hasn’t changed. On Zhihu, China’s equivalent of Quora, the question of the Chinese “easy girl” persists. For example, the question “Do a lot of white people consider Chinese girls ‘easy girl’?” (“easy girl” is written in English) has received more than 8 million views, 10,000 followers, and 1,600 responses, and is still going. Many of the replies were posted to prove that Chinese girls chase foreign guys purely due to skin color or money. But there are also female voices who argue, equally unfairly, that Chinese men are simply making excuses for their own inadequacies. You can see why this topic is incendiary.
Straight up: Why are we even talking about this? The very premise of the question is racist, sexist, and misogynist. We need to have a new conversation without insulting questions and crude stereotypes, and we need to have it with the subject of this question — Chinese women.
To my Chinese bros, I understand your frustration, and why you bring that frustration into the “easy girl” question. Global media constantly denies your masculinity and physicality while hyping Asian females as some sort of hyper-feminine ideal. That’s unfair and it profoundly sucks — and it’s something women hate, too. But don’t redirect your anger at us.
For my expatriate friends, every time some frat boys high-five one another over craft beers bragging about the so-called Chinese “easy girls” they “scored,” please know that they’re embarrassing themselves and perpetuating a stereotype. Don’t be that guy.
No doubt, there are girls who date foreign guys for their skin color or money, just like many girls marry Chinese husbands for houses and cars. But a few cases don’t represent all of us.
Digging a bit into this issue, overseas media and entertainment in the last several decades has complicated our understanding of masculinity and femininity in China, and with the rise of women’s social status, the balance of power between men and women has also shifted. The same sort of shift is happening in the U.S. and other countries as we speak — but you have to understand how much more radical this is in China.
Historically, Chinese men have had the final say in their women’s fates. Husbands were supposed to decide everything in the family (以夫为天 yǐfūwéitiān), and while men could take multiple wives, women were expected to be loyal to one man even after his death (从一而终 cóngyīérzhōng). A woman’s purity and reputation was considered more important than her own life. Because one’s family name could only be passed on by men, boys were much favored over girls (重男轻女 zhòngnánqīngnǚ). This is the historical baggage that Chinese women have always dealt with, and now on top of that, just as we’re embracing our relative freedom to choose whom to love, we have to deal with this “Are Chinese girls easy?” bullshit?
In modern China, the attitude shift actually began with the May Fourth Era. In contemporary society, the gender imbalance (there are about 115 males to 100 females) has given women more choice when it comes to dating. Guys have to work hard to woo the girls (and their families). In some urban areas, parents and grandparents celebrate when a new girl is born because that means they won’t need to spend their life savings to buy a house for their future daughter-in-law in 30 years. (Alas, gendered traditions die hard.)
Today’s China is much richer than 15 years ago when I first started dating. In first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai, many Chinese hold a significant amount of wealth and are better off than foreigners. Yet the majority of interracial relationships involve a foreign man and a Chinese woman, rather than the reverse. When this reality seeps into the greater society’s collective unconscious, it’s no surprise that men will misdirect their frustration and it will be apparent on message boards, etc. Women have always been easy targets, especially for those who feel threatened by the idea of strong female voices.
I understand the backdrop with which “Are Chinese girls easy?” is being asked, but I still hate the question. Remember: We are not trophies to be won. Like everyone, we demand respect. Stop insulting us — and degrading yourselves, frankly — by asking such an irrelevant question.