Asian Woman Writes That She Refuses to Date Asian Men: Is She an Internet Troll or Agent Provocateur?
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
On Friday, xoJane, the irreverent women’s blog founded by Jane Pratt, posted the latest in its “It Happened to Me” series, first-person confessionals on topics that are sometimes whimsical (“My Toilet Exploded. Again.”), sometimes dark (“This is the First Time I’ve Written About My Rape, and I’m Doing it For You, Todd Akin”), sometimes awkward (“I Tried to Have Sex With My Gay Best Friend”), but nearly always shocking. Shock is what xoJane does best — it is, after all, the publication whose former beauty editor, Cat Marnell, wrote an essay about using Plan B as her preferred form of contraception, and posted regularly about her spiraling drug addiction until the site fired her for refusing rehab.
Shock draws attention. Shock generates pageviews. And this installment, by freelance writer Jenny An, seems poised to blow all of its predecessors out of the water. It’s been tweeted and Facebooked thousands of times and is now the most commented-on “It Happened to Me” story ever. It may yet end up as the most discussed piece in xoJane history; the editors are savvy — they’ve since given the story prime positioning as the main feature on the site’s home page. Which seems odd, given that the story is seemingly about as insider-y an inside-baseball piece as you might possibly imagine: Titled " I’m an Asian Woman and I Refuse to Date an Asian Man," it’s an extended and somewhat bizarre diatribe in which An outlines the reasons why she finds dating someone of her own race to be anathema, and chooses to date white men instead.
“It has nothing to do with skin color,” the subtitle says. “It has everything to do with patriarchy.” An then goes on to write that she’s “one of those [Asian girls] that date lots and lots of (mostly, but not always) white guys. Why? It's simple: I'm a racist.”
Now, to proudly out yourself as a “racist” in the second line of a first-person confessional takes a nearly terminal excess of chutzpah, blissful ignorance or both. It also serves as a smoking gun that something was up in the piece’s narrative — that maybe it shouldn’t be taken entirely at face value. Especially when An goes on to state bluntly that her “pale, white-bread boyfriend jokes that I'm one of the whitest people he's ever met”; that “Dating white men means acceptance into American culture. White culture”; that she’s “drinking the same Kool-Aid as everyone else [of] white supremacy. The idea that white is still tops, SAT scores, corporate jobs and fancy degrees be damned” — all while simultaneously acknowledging that her “thinking is f*cked up.”
For me at least, it triggered the same instinctive reaction I had when I first encountered the now-infamous Wall Street Journal book excerpt, " Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," by Yale law professor and mother of two Amy Chua, now better known by the sobriquet Tiger Mom: These are ideas and phrases that have been consciously engineered and carefully chosen to generate maximum backlash.
Which is why, when I posted An’s piece to my Facebook circle for comment, I did so with the following message: “Oh, boy. Girlfriend is so totally trolling. But...thoughts? And by thoughts, I mean thoughts that aren't a long string of expletives. Thank you.”
Trolling is the online term for — we’ll let Wikipedia chime in here — posting “inflammatory, extraneous or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response.”
Trolling is often done merely to taunt or prank (especially as a kind of hazing to newcomers to an online community). With the rise of the clicks-for-cash business model in digital media, however, trolls have found a new place in the Internet ecosystem: As highly effective breadwinners for the sites in which they nest.