Eddie Huang may very well be the face of Asian America right now, and that pisses me off. When you're one of the few Asian Americans that holds a spot in the limelight, with a voice that people will stop and listen to, you carry a weight and responsibility that you cannot simply shirk aside. Is it fair? No. Does it matter? Yes. How is Huang doing? Bad doesn't begin to explain it.
Huang's recent appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher is emblematic of the problematic, racist, and sexist commentary he provides, and his subsequent Twitter feud primarily with black feminists is not just disappointing—it is disgusting.
Context for his recent sexism and misogyny:
.@BlackGirlDanger now you speak for all black women? who's the idiot here...— RICH HOMIE HUANG (@MrEddieHuang) April 26, 2015
@BlackGirlDanger are we dating cause you wildin. lol— RICH HOMIE HUANG (@MrEddieHuang) April 27, 2015
.@FeministaJones i could easily pacify you bums but i'm not. i know what i stand for. i know what i said. CALL ME IF U WANT SUSHI— RICH HOMIE HUANG (@MrEddieHuang) April 27, 2015
.@FeministaJones this brand of "feminism" has gotten nowhere because its formulated in ivory tower labs and void of conversation or reality— RICH HOMIE HUANG (@MrEddieHuang) April 27, 2015
I get it. You're mad that Asian American men are emasculated, are made to be caricatures in the minds of popular culture and in the broader American fabric. But continuing the use of sexism and misogyny to produce an image of masculinity is tired and needs to stop. The construction of some potentially positive masculinity does not require sexism, nor does it require you to be racist on top of it all.
This linking of sexism and masculinity is a Frank Chin-esque misogynistic rhetoric that suggests the only way for Asian American men to appear masculine—which is a problematic endeavor in and of itself—becomes a preoccupation with changing the stereotypes that plight their male identities, instead of aiming to change racial—and sexual—stereotypes more broadly. Anti-racist dialogue that builds its foundation on either sexism, homophobia, or, somewhat ironically, anti-blackness is never productive, nor is it anti-racist at all.
Being sexist and anti-black does nothing to change the issues Asian American men face.
Let's face it. The fact that it was @BlackGirlDanger, @FeministaJones, and others that called Huang out early on is already an issue to begin with. We, as other Asian Americans, need to be swift and unrelenting in calling out the bullshit produced by other members of our society.
It is true that the emasculation of Asian American men has been a facet of undesirability in the West for over a century, perhaps longer. It is true that this emasculation provides a space in the social that is psychologically damaging, emotionally stunting, and very much internalized through the constant barrage of stimuli reminding you of your emasculation.
But to jump to a misogynistic masculinity is not the answer.
No—I posit that jumping towards masculinity is not that answer either. Masculinity is inherently sexist and misogynistic, what society views as masculine is almost always at the expense of women to empower men. Misogyny is a lackluster response to the easily damaged male ego, an easy solution to reinforce systems of male power and domination.
So the solution towards Asian American emasculation is to work to dismantle the systems that not only uphold the emasculation of Asian American men, but that also burden female-identifying members of society with unrelenting sexism and reinforce the anti-black world order.
Mark Tseng Putterman at Race Files puts it well when he writes:
Thus, the trouble with Huang’s “big dick Asian movement,” or with any concerted attempt to address the widespread emasculation of Asian men in American pop culture, is in the framing. Are we critically redefining masculinity? Or are we simply seeking to claim a patriarchal and heterosexist version of American manhood for ourselves?
And Jenn Fang of Reappropriate puts it more eloquently than I ever could:
Feminism and racial solidarity cannot be mutually exclusive concepts because our identities are not isolated, they are intersectional. Our lack of privilege in one arena does not delegitimize our obvious privilege in another. Acknowledging male privilege and checking sexist behavior when it arises does not insubstantiate the racism that men of colour simultaneously face.
I am tired of Asian American men that excuse their sexist and misogynistic manners by claiming they are attempts to reclaim some broken masculinity that I never want to take part of.
The privilege that Eddie Huang so clearly demonstrated both on Twitter and on Bill Maher—where he posits that he is able to represent the whole of Asian America and said that "Oriental" is not a racist term—is precisely what Huang needs to check and recognize.
Despite our emasculation, Asian American men—both as men and as Asian Americans—hold considerable privilege that does not disappear in light of any adversity. To be complicit in any form of sexism and anti-blackness is inexcusable and not ever justifiable.
Accountability is important, and yet it is unsurprising when women—particularly black women—attempt to hold Huang accountable, he does not listen and instead responds with this gross behavior:
.@BlackGirlDanger lemme take u out doe. u like sushi and shit?— RICH HOMIE HUANG (@MrEddieHuang) April 27, 2015
Is there a way to discuss the oppressions black women face with that Asian American men may face? Yes, there is—just take a look at the open letter Man Forward wrote in response to all this to Huang.
We cannot pick and choose which parts of the Model Minority Myth we want to push back against and fight, nor can we only concern ourselves with the Myth and not the many other oppressions other communities of color face every day.
We need to do better. We need to call out Eddie Huang, we need to call out anti-blackness in our communities, we need to call out sexism and misogyny. We need to write and speak up and push back.
Masculinity is not the answer to emasculation.
Photograph via Vulture by Kenneth Cappello