My second or third year of college, a hashtag started trending on Twitter. I don’t remember the specific hashtag (shame on a millennial), but it was about clapping back against the sexualization of Asian women.
Scrolling through the tweets nearly brought me to tears (a Twitter first and probably last). It was just an @ on a sort of silly social media site, but it was the first time in my life that something was openly addressed, an ugly something that I always knew about but was always unspoken.
Twitter showed me I wasn’t crazy, that it wasn’t just me. Every Asian girl past puberty who has ever been outside or who can read and has an Internet connection knows about Those Guys, and if you’re like me you learn to hate Those Guys. (I couldn’t help being just a little bit more aloof toward the white dad with the Asian wife at my daycare, at least until I decided he was cool and not a weirdo. )
When I printed my ticket to China, I thought, “Well, this is it, I’m switching continents so I guess it’s zai jian white boys, see ya wouldn’t wanna be ya.”
Little did I know. I had heard that white people are sometimes treated like royalty here, so in retrospect I should have had more of a clue.
White males are gods here. I go to a company staff party, and the server (a lovely older woman who doesn’t speak a word of English) fawns all over the tall white guy, smiles her face off at him, and sneaks him half empty bottles of wine from other tables. It’s cute, in a way.
My friend walks down the street with her white boyfriend and other white guys give him the ‘I see what’s happening here’ smirk. Less cute.
As I had thought, the pool of white males is 99.9999% smaller in this country, but contrary to my expectation, the few that reside here are, to put it delicately, not the cream of the crop. Not all, but most come here for a very specific purpose. More bluntly, they’re shitheads.
Least cute of all are the male coworkers who flirt with every single member of the local staff, from the god-knows-how-old-they-are-they’re-still-in-college teaching assistants to the married-with-a-child-also-technically-our-boss school principal. These are the guys who blatantly came to Asia to get an Asian girlfriend, who openly talk about how Chinese girls are so much more “docile”, “sweet”, and “gentle” than Western girls (these are the same shitheads that tell me that I look cute but act too Western so if I get deported from China know that it’s most likely because I lost it and stabbed them all with a toothpick.)
Worse still is that these shitheads actually succeed. The local staff flirt back just as hard, These Guys are mobbed by the baby teaching assistants, they are snapped up like candy on the dating app Tantan, even the school principal giggles like a 12 year old. I don’t know what it is, since the vast majority of These Guys are neither attractive, smart, funny, or personable in any way, and they spout all kinds of racially insensitive shit. Maybe since white dudes are such a rarity the women here haven’t had the extensive, implicit How to Spot A White Creepo training that starts at around age 13 for Asian American girls. These Guys would not make it with an Asian girl at home, or with any girl for that matter. But for now, they get to be Prom King, and it goes to their heads.
(There’s a guy at my friend’s school, the local staff literally call him the Most Handsome Man in the World. He has stopped showing up for work on time since “I don’t have to” and everyone does his work for him. I met him, he looks like a 16-year-old Mormon Elder camp counselor, which I don’t mean in an unkind way, who knows, if that’s your thing hop a plane to Shenzhen but he may be busy.)
It’s not just white dudes, as we got a guy from Hawaii of Chinese descent who is possibly the worst of them all, and of course it’s not every expat guy. Three of my male coworkers were cool, and I have four names on my White Guys In China Who I Tolerate and Even Consider to Be Good Friends. (Some of my other friends say that four is a really big number and that their lists hover closer to two, so I won the lottery with some of the people I’ve met.)
The whole shitheads in China experience has jaded me even more toward Those Guys, and sometimes I worry I’m getting too Donald Trump-y with my biases (“Do they contribute anything to this society?’ “No, Let’s kick all these fuckers over the Great Wall!”) So maybe I should be more kind to my fellow expatriates. Maybe I shouldn’t judge. Maybe when I see a sweaty white dude in a ratty old Cartman T-shirt with an unbelievably gorgeous girlfriend, I shouldn’t make assumptions, because what do I know, maybe they are deeply in love and she is super into goatees.
Unfortunately this state of mind doesn’t last long. I go to hot pot or drinks, I see a white guy, and I don’t need to wait for him to speak condescendingly to me or touch me like he owns all Asian girls to know.