Sunday, September 09, 2007

Small Idea

Hail,
First off - failed one, passed one. All through the preparation I knew I was better at physiology than pharmacology. Phys just seemed to stick in my head, pharm wouldn't. I didn't have to work as hard at phys, it seemed to come relatively easily, whereas pharm I had to hammer in. And the phys exam was relatively straightforward, both the written and the viva, wheras the pharm multi-choice was tricky and the viva bloody hard.

So I was pretty sure that I'd done a lot better in one than the other. And I was right. The noticeboard said passed pharm, failed phys.

Yep, failed the relatively easy one, the I always found relatively sensible, the one where the examiners smiled and nodded and said "don't worry, that was good". Passed the hard one I knew I couldn't understand, where I guessed between two equally unlikely alternatives in the multiple choice section and where the examiners frowned and shook their head or waited, pointedly, for answers that never came.

Anyway. It's over now. If I ever study again, it won't be in the next month. I am taking said month off and reassessing my priorities. And thanks again for the comments.

Now, the following few paragraphs have proved rather difficult to write, and my cringe-o-meter is going off as I do so. But here goes.

One thing I noticed wandering around Melbourne in my post-exam delirium was the mix of ethnicities. Mordor is white-bread white, Melbourne has tv ads in Greek, shop fronts with the day's specials written in Arabic, huge Vietnamese and Cantonese communities - and correspondingly, some of the best food I have ever tasted.

Now, someone explain this to me: why, in situations like this, when you get what my grandmother used to call "mixed race couples" (dead set), it's alway the Caucasian guy and the Asian woman?

Seriously. It got so I was counting, and in two days I saw eleven couples. Eleven European-looking men with Asian-looking women. Exactly no cases of the reverse, no Asian-looking men with women who looked European.

Why is this so?

I have a few theories. They're not really well thought out theories, and they're white male hetero theories, and they're rather difficult to express. But maybe it's something to do with our ideas of the mysterious, feminine East, all passive and hypersexualised, the sloe-eyed and obedient woman scrubbing your back and pattering around the immaculate house on her tiny feet.

Maybe it's something to do with the succession of lenses through which we see: that progression from such and such a physical appearance to such and such an intrinsic ethnicity to such and such a set of sexual, moral and intellectual characteristics. If you have straight, glossy black hair and you don't have an epicanthic fold, you must be an Asian. If you are an Asian, you must be
submissive and hyperfeminised and mysterious and so on. So, if you're a certain type of white male, anyone who looks a certain way is going to have a certain appeal*.

And I'm not in any way suggesting that every European-looking man who goes out with an Asian woman is hoping for a geisha girl - although I think any European-looking man who only went out with Asian looking women might benefit from asking themselves that question. And I am aware that there has to be some kind of process going on the other way - Asian-looking women choosing European looking men. I am just wondering if this European man plus Asian woman thing is seen other places, if it is exclusively Melbourne or exclusively me, or there is any reason for the disparity.

Interesting, by the way, to look at the outcome of European wars in Asia over the last century - and I'm using Asia here to mean anywhere that Westerners think of as Asian, anywhere east of Turkey. We rational, masculine, straightforward folk haven't done that well in the mysterious East. God knows how we managed to be defeated so many times - I don't know how the enemy managed any kind of co-ordinated military strategy with all that talking in mysterious utterances and smiling quietly and stroking the beard - but it happened.

Anyway, it's been very frustrating writing this because I know I haven't had the words. it's like when you write about evolution and you write "gazelles evolved to run faster" when what you really mean starts with "a series of random molecular events..." and finishes with "more gazelles in the population that run faster". I don't want to write that someone with Korean great grandparents who is fourth generation Australian, mono-lingual, has never been north of Queensland and plays centre-half back for the Bidyadanga Emus is "Asian", but it's a shortcut you end up using.

Anyway. Enough on this. I am going out to hit the punching bag and revel in my freedom.

Thanks for listening,
John

7 Comments:

Blogger Camilla said...

Welcome home! And congrats on passing the hard exam :D

About your question, you've got me curious now, so I'm going to pay attention next time we're in Eindhoven among crowds. My feeling though is that it might be different, because the ethnic mix is way different here and the groups behave differently (particularly because of religious separation - there is a very large Muslim population in NL, and as far as I can tell, they tend to keep to themselves rather than mix with the wider population. Could be wrong though...). However, there are also a lot of people living here from the Dutch colonies (Surinamese, Indonesians etc.), and I think they tend to behave differently because they come from a background that's already a bit Dutch.

Camilla
:)

4:18 PM  
Blogger Foilwoman said...

In the U.S., it has generally been white man/Asian woman, black man/white woman (in public since the Civil Rights era, but the genetic background of most U.S. blacks would be mixed, mostly white man/black woman from slavery times), but that's changing. Around D.C., I see more black men with white women and more white men with Asian women, but of the men that I (a white woman) am seeing right now, one is Asian, so I'm helping the demographic.

Was it the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, or Saturday Night Live that had a segment on sexual discrimination against Asian men, and were trying to get disadvantaged enterprise funding for a porn flick starting Asian men? Did you see that in Oz? Anyway, an idea whose time has come, gone, and probably is now orbiting Neptune (not Uranus).

Congratulations on passing the hard exam.

3:06 AM  
Anonymous ladyk73 said...

Congrats on the passed exam...
However, I must admit I felt sad and disappointed that you failed the other exam. I was rooting for you, virtually, from the other side of the world.

Oh yes...the mixed relationship observation. Oh yes....I know many men who wish upon such a relationship.....

As from the female prospective....?
I attend a school with a huge international Asian population. I feel so alien from their world. And in some ways they are alien to each other. As example, We have US citizen Chinese from NYC, and Chinese students from China...and I beleive they don't interact amoung themselves (which I am sure have a strong national loyal prospective behind it).

But as a white (non-Jewish) girl I have had my share of rejection from non-white males. Most notably, from Jewish men who believed me nice enough to bed, but not nice enough to love. As the expectations to marry a nice Jewish (name your cultural choice here) girl.

So perhaps as the "dominant" cultured female...I am "nothing" to most Asian and other cultured/ethnic men.

Perhaps my response is colored by my dateless existance, and feelings of loneliness. But your post boiled up some heartache from my long-ago undergraduate days.

Oh yes, that romantic loneliness has colored my post. I better stop thinking about it, or "desperate" might be tatooed across my forehead.

Yes, the lifestress of a 34 year old single girl whose biological clock is ticking to oblivion.
(and resigned to the fact that the whitepicket 2.5 kinds thing will never happen)

4:38 AM  
Blogger Bronze John said...

Hail Cam',
Hope you two point whatever are going well, and that Arni has recovered from ho the season went. Anyhow - do tell if things are different over there.

Look after yourself,
John

9:12 PM  
Blogger Bronze John said...

Hail FW,
You're right, this is a complex area. One thing I didn't take into account was that there is a sizeable social stigma associated with the whole white man Asian woman thing because of the whole mail order bride market.

Again, you've probably got a lot of very happy relationships, but I know when I see even the happiest couples some part of my brain is turning over the horror stories too - one man over here had seven overseas brides in succession.

And thanks for your support over the last x years. You've been wonderful.

John

9:25 PM  
Blogger Bronze John said...

Hail ladyk73,
Thanks for writing. I can think without trying of several women - three over thirty and one over forty - who were single at thirty four and are now happily married.

Having said that, I can think of a much larger number of women of a similar age who were miserably married at thirty four and are now gloriously single, but from a purely mathematical point of view that's good news for you too.

John

9:37 PM  
Blogger Foilwoman said...

Dr. John: Support? I thought I was just stalking you. Well, eye of the beholder, all that.

LadyK: (with apologies to Dr. John for hijacking comments) My completely unsolicitied advice (and remembering how tough it was to be single in my 20s and early 30s, and how much less tough it is this time around) is as follows: Completely ignore all demographic data and information (i.e., men want to date someone younger, blah, blippity, blah). It's not true, and even if it is true for a group as a whole, you actually don't want someone representative of a group. You want someone who you like who likes you. That's all. Seek out people you like, and keep yourself on the lookout for people who like you. Since most people are not that likeable, you'll have done a very efficient pre-screening, and then you can get down to business, knock boots, jump the broom or whatever else you want to do. Good luck. And have fun.

12:13 PM  

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