As the divorced (and practically single) mother to two Asia American/Caucasian children, I struggle. Specifically as the mother of an Asian American/Caucasian boy, I struggle with the idea of masculinity.
My father is a traditional man’s man. As a small child he (and a few of his friends) built an addition to our family’s home. He did almost, if not all, of the minor repairs to our home, cars and appliances. He drinks, he smokes and like many men of his generation, he waxes nostalgic by singing old folk songs while he smokes and drinks.
He put together bikes, painted walls, mowed the lawn (after us kids picked up sticks and pulled weeds, of course), washed cars and pumped gas. (After 40+ years of marriage, I don’t recall my mom ever pumping her own gas.)
On the other hand, he was an abusive husband, an alcoholic, a strict disciplinarian and according to legend, back in the day a bit of a woman’s man. Retrospectively, I see he suffered from bouts of depression and experienced loss for his homeland, all in the name of sacrifice for his family.
In the recent past, the image of Asian men has become more masculine. Daniel Dae Kim of Lost, Li of well . . . Jet Li, Wong as Dr. Wong on the Law & Order series and Chow Young Fat have all contributed to the increased image of “masculine” in American media. On the other hand, I wish I could say the days of the image of Long Duck Dong from Sixteen Candles are gone, but I can’t – there’s Hiro of Heroes and his partner (though they are much milder versions of emasculated or stereotyped Asian men I saw as a child).
But before I can go and raise my son to be “a man”, I guess I still have to figure out what it means to be a man. Does being a man mean you watch sports, drink beer and scratch yourself? Does it mean being able to fix things around the house, replace the alternator and weed and feed the lawn? What about being man enough to hug your child(ren), love your wife and devote yourself to family? Does cooking sans grill, folding the laundry and clearing the dishwasher make one less of a man? What if you like to water paint instead of water sports?
Specifically, how do images of Asian men in the media affect the idea of masculinity for you, your spouse and your male child? (And what about how it affects our daughters? I mean after all, some of our daughters will grow up to date – or not date – Asian men.)
-Angie in Texas needs a checklist for what masculinity means, what it really means.