Negotiating New Asian-American Masculinities: Attitudes and Gender Expectations

By Chua, Peter; Fujino, Diane C. | The Journal of Men's Studies, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

Negotiating New Asian-American Masculinities: Attitudes and Gender Expectations


Chua, Peter, Fujino, Diane C., The Journal of Men's Studies


Historically, U.S. institutional practices have rendered Asian-American men as simultaneously hypermasculine and emasculated. Today, the model minority myth and asexual media representations have emphasized the feminized Asian-American male. Yet, no empirical study has examined how Asian-American men construct their own masculinities. Toward this end, this study sought to examine: (a) how college-age Asian-American and white men express their masculinities, (b) how Asian-American and white women perceive Asian-American masculinities, and (c) how Asian-American men negotiate their gender expectations. Through quantitative analysis of surveys, we found that U.S.-born and immigrant Asian men view their masculinity as distinct from white hegemonic masculinity. Unlike white men, Asian-American men did not view their masculinity in opposition to their femininity. Some Asian-American men, especially the U.S.-born, appeared to be creating a new, more flexible masculinity--one free from male dominance. U.S.-born Asian men linked their masculinity with certain caring characteristics and were the only men's group willing to do domestic tasks. Women viewed Asian-American men as having more traditional gender roles and being more nurturing, in contrast to their views of white men, which matched American norms of masculinity. Overall, these results contribute to the masculinity literature by showing how Asian-American men negotiate their contradictory positions as members of a privileged gender group and subordinate racial groups.

Changes in Asian-American heterosexual masculinity are of great interest within the Asian-American communities and to the general public. Historically, this racialized masculinity was both hypermasculinized and desexualized as a way to limit economic and racial opportunities in the United States (Espiritu, 1997). While these dichotomous ideas about Asian-American masculinities are still pervasive, new articulations of what it means to be male, straight, and Asian American are affecting different Asian-American communities and interpersonal relationships at home and in workplaces. Issues of Asian-American masculinities are brought up in relation to interracial dating and marriage, expectations about supporting the family and community, sexual violence within the home and sexual harassment in public spaces, racial violence stemming from economic scapegoating and white supremacist ideology, mass media portrayals of Asian-American men, and complexities about ethnic identity and politics.

The present quantitative study uses survey data to examine, from a social psychological perspective, how college-age Asian-American and white men express their masculinities and how Asian-American and white women perceive Asian-American and white masculinities.(1) This study also explores how Asian-American men conceive and negotiate their expectations about gender relations.

This study contributes to our understanding of newer expressions of racial-ethnic masculinities by focusing on contemporary youth to expand the limited theoretical literature on Asian-American masculinity and by providing empirical evidence. There has been exciting fictional and artistic expressions of Asian-American masculinities but little quantitative analysis of these issues. Furthermore, this study enhances our understanding of racial-ethnic masculinities by focusing on changes in racial and gender power relations and expectations.

SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF MALE MASCULINITIES

Masculinity is an important component in the social construction of gender relations (Brod, 1987; Kimmel, 1987; Kimmel & Messner, 1995). Gender refers to the material and ideological relations and consequences based on social distinction made from female and male physical differences. Gender expectation refers to a normative conception of appropriate attitudes and activities for a particular racialized and gendered group. Gender embodies relations of power (Connell, 1987). …

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