有點種族歧視的讚美 – “racist” compliments

Momzilla is here for less than two days and I already know I will have bunch of posts to write – can you believe that last time she flew to the US we had a little car crash, and this time our car completely broke down?
It’s going to be fun three months!
But this is now what I wanted to talk about today, Momzilla will get her 15 minutes.

If you read some of my older posts you can figure out I enjoy writing about stereotypes, good or bad. You can check some of them out:

I like to discuss them, share my point of view, and get to know your opinions!
These topics often come up during conversations with Sing as he often lurks on Hong Kong forums. In the past I used a lot of my husband’s help to look through these forums and get people’s view on particular topics.

They can be a great source of information, but they also spread stereotypes.
This time I decided just to focus on the looks, what are the stereotypes of “gwai mui look” and what it all has to do with my husband, and this post’s title? 

We can lie to each other that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but what made you grab the book in the first place? The cover doesn’t need to be beautiful, but it needs to grab your attention.

I’m that kind of average book that you can find only when you look for it, rather than getting your attention the moment you enter the bookstore, but I found that one reader who read the summary at the back of the cover and thought the content of the book is pretty entertaining.

My self confidence is nearly zero, but despite how crappy I feel or look, Sing is very supportive and always compliments me.
Even if I have a pimple on my forehead that makes me look like a rhino (let’s face it – I’m not the unicorn type) he would try to say something nice about my eyes, or simply throw “You look cute today”.

That’s fine, I love it and I think every girl would love a sweet man like that too. However, the difference between sweet man and Sing is the fact that I think my husband emotional intelligence is equally proportional to my self esteem.
He is great at work, he’s a very smart engineer, but the biggest problem I have is he doesn’t think much before saying something.
A sweet guy knows something that would make his significant other upset and he doesn’t say it. Sing makes sure to say it twice, in case you missed it the first time.

Sometimes I know he wants to be nice and cheer me up, but he just doesn’t do it the way he should.
And this is how we get to racist compliments. Why racist? Because if a white guy complimented his Asian girl in the same way he would probably had all the social warriors on him. 

Am I bothered by them? Enough to write a post, not enough to divorce him.
But I wouldn’t want him to compliment someone else like that – it’s a bit like those ‘You don’t look THAT fat today’ types of compliments.

Let me explain – my husband spent most of his adult life in foreign countries (Australia, USA and now Ireland) so it’s not like I’m the first white person he had seen or dated. He would read Hongkongers’ opinions or stereotypes they have about white girls, evaluate his experience and compare them to me.

As every stereotype, there’s some good, some bad and some ugly. I will focus only on the bad ones, as Sing often tries to use them in the context of the compliments he gives.
Here are some of the most common written stereotypes on white girls on Hong Kong forums and how my husband tries to change them into compliments!

  • White girls don’t have good skin, it’s very rough – Sing’s compliments how soft is my skin, completely ignoring the fact that me and whoever has a soft skin puts like 45231423474 layers of cream each day to keep it, only to complain later why I spend so much on creams. It’s either this or sand-paper hands, you choose. 
  • Bye bye meat on arms – if you don’t know what’s “Bye bye meat” stand in front of a mirror and wave goodbye. If your arm is wobbling, that’s a bye bye meat. Every single time Sing says something nice about the arms, I wonder if I look like The Mountain from Game of Thrones or maybe that I’m the only one carrying groceries in this house…
  • Bigger bone structure – literally ‘I’m glad your not big, sometimes when I stand to ******** (our coworker) I feel so small. They are all so tall and look like they could beat me up’. I bet if they hear him ever saying that, he will get beaten.
  • Have strong body odor – that’s called shower and deodorant, but thank you. He once even said ‘Do you ever sweat? White girls should sweat, you’re not used to hot weather’ as it was 30-something degrees Hong Kong summer outside and Sing seemed to sweat for both of us.
  • They always sun bath and get tan – said a man living the most pale country in the world. “You’re so white”. That’s it. Like – I know, I have a mirror. Could that be a compliment? For most people not, some could get even upset as it means they could look sick. But for a lot of Hong Kong people, bright skin without tan is healthy and desired. My mom is always asking me to get some sunshine, don’t cover the freckles I get so easily, but Sing’s whole family will say ‘Your wife’s skin is so pale’. If you ask me – this is the worst ‘compliment’ of them all. 

You wouldn’t want someone say ‘Your partner is good looking… for (put here his/her ethnicity here)’ that’s why I try to kill my husband’s habit of racist compliments, but I know he doesn’t mean harm.
All he wants is for me to gain some confidence, but he does it a way he may offend others.
Some men just need bit more time to realize what really is OK and what is not.

What is your opinion on racist compliments? Did someone ever give you one like that? Would love to hear your opinion and discuss! 

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19 thoughts on “有點種族歧視的讚美 – “racist” compliments

  1. I’m 5′ 10″ / 178 cm with broad shoulders, “big bone structure ” and muscular arms and always get “you’re well built for an Asian”

    And what about those compliments to one race that are actually insults to the other,
    like

    White men are so tall and good looking = Asian men are so short and ugly.
    Or
    Asian women age so well = white moment age so badly?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Bye bye meat! We call that “teacher arm”. I live in Japan and I get “white” compliments a lot. In addition to “big nose” and “big eyes” both of which are desired by Western loving Asians I guess. Imagine if a white person commented on Asian eyes!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a fairly complicated situation because he is saying nice things to you and he has good intentions. But the racist stereotypes are probably so ingrained in his brain that it takes a lot of effort and self-awareness to not let them affect the things that he says. I think the best way to approach it is to tell him that you appreciate the compliments that he is giving you but also to be honest and let him know the insinuations that they carry. Hopefully, he will try to be more mindful of the things he says in the future. Don’t berate him for slip ups but try to be patient and recognize the effort that he puts into being more aware and considerate.

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  4. My husband does this all the time too. He would literally call me fatty like “hey fatty wife!” or “white piggy” which makes me not too happy even though he thinks they are complements. I am the only non Chinese girl he has been with. He hasn’t been around too many white girls or girls of different ethnicities. It is very eye opening for him living in USA now.

    His family and friends are all convinced that I do something to my skin to make it pale, something to my hair to make it not black, and I have colored contacts. He is always asked about the products I use because people are convinced it is not natural. He got annoyed with telling them I am a white girl so he just posted all my creams and soaps I used to keep them quite for a while. When I was in China family would pet my arm thinking the white will come off. They were surprised about my skin texture too, soft.

    One thing I heard a lot when I was in China was that I have a pretty face for a fat girl. It was made to my attention that my face and only my face made be pretty. It is one of those things that makes me a little upset. Just say I am pretty, no modifiers or clauses are needed.

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  5. I’ve been married for nearly 47 years. Men simply don’t understand the compliment thing no matter their ethnic issues or not. He honestly means to compliment, but his words come out all wrong. As your husband is an engineer, he is using logic, not feelings, to compliment you. Just like my tech husband does me. I sometimes feel if I could break down my body into bits and bites, he would understand me better. Still and all, I love him deeply, and his compliments are taken exactly as he means them, awkward wording or not. Having lived in 11 countries and traveled to even more, I understand your issues with how the locals see you within the confines of their ethnic culture. I was a well rounded white woman of a certain age in Hong Kong. A lot of peeking at me from the corner of their eyes and comments I knew were unacceptable, but I refused to allow it to get to me. It was their culture after all. One man told my husband he must make good money to have a fat wife. I laughed. What else could I do? Just remember, he is doing his best to let you know he loves and appreciates you. Accept it for what it means and move on.

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  6. I can appreciate you have some sensitivity about, say, your complexion; but is it truly a “Racist” compliment if it isn’t meant as a negative?

    I don’t believe a conscious observation of differences between cultures is harmful per se; it is only harmful when we start attaching judgement and insecurity to those observations.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I call the bye bye meat “bingo wings”, hehe. That’s a weird thing to say about white women in general, as I’d say it happens to old people of all colours. Well maybe very fat young people have them too. I have never been skinny but I don’t have bingo wings yet.

    It’s true our bone structure tends to be bigger so we are normally taller and bigger than many Asians, even when we are not fat. What can we do. We also have thinner hair and longer eyelashes… My husband often tells me jokingly “Take off your fake eyelashes before you sleep” xD

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  8. I think of racial observations as observations. A person’s race is not something for people to focus on, but there’s no harm. I lived for twenty years among international expats. Racial observations were inevitable. On the other hand, after a while, living with people from various backgrounds begins to see normal, and we see our friends of all races and national origins first as individual people.

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  9. I’m a Southeast Asian from Malaysia. My skin colored is almost similar to sun-kissed tan or brown to put it simply. I married a Swedish guy (who is also Slavic) and his entire family is literally the walking stereotype of being white (pyhsically) and when his family met me, oh my god the questions are never-ending:

    “You don’t look like an Indian or Chinese.. Or Arab..” (I’m a Chindian with a wee bit of Malay)
    “I thought you were Latino!”
    “Which part of Asia are you from?”
    “I thought Asians were.. Petite?” (I’m 161cm)
    “I thought Asians speak English with an accent?” (well my country ranked 2 best in Asia and 13th best in the world omg why)
    “I thought Southeast Asians hates white people?” instant facepalm

    My parents are used to deal with foreigners from all walks of life so they weren’t as surprised as my in-laws lol. But sometime my husband would be using the most ridiculous yet amusing stereotypes agaisnt me.

    “I never knew you ate with your hands. I thought Asians used chopstick?”
    “How come Chinese here speak better English than those who are from mainland?”
    “Most guys here are quite tall, eh?”
    “Why aren’t your body as slender and petite as Asian?” (to be fair he never thought my body would have curves lmao he didn’t meant in a mean way)

    When he saw that dogs aren’t allowed to be used in culinary, he was really surprised that it is true in some parts of Asia do eat dogs but he was also surprised to see a lot of Southeast Asia country ban it. Mind you, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia is one of the only countries in Southeast Asia where they served exotic food like bugs, insects and worms. The only thing O can used agaisnt him is the terrible Scandinavian jokes among themself like “You know why you’re so organized? because you have been using an IKEA manual”.
    P.s. those jokes are the worst

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  10. Honest between him and myself, I’m just trying to think…the closest I’ve said to him….your skin looks so dead white ..in the areas that never see sun. 🙂

    My skin areas that don’t see sun, are just whitish, but not true white. 🙂

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