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ASIAN MAIL-ORDER BRIDES
The Circuit of Culture
Article written by Christine Ho


SEARCH FOR "ASIAN EXOTIC MAIL ORDER BRIDES" in excite.com, and one will come up with 195 hits. Browsing these sites, one can see that these sites advertise that they have hundreds of ads of women with pictures, physical statistics, and biographies all wanting to marry a Westerner, usually an American. The mail-order bride business has been booming of late with over 200 agencies estimated in the United States. Cherry Blossoms, one of the oldest and most renowned sites, is reported to having grossed over $500,000 annually.

Christine  Ho   
Background Info
On the Author

Christine Ho

She was a 21 years old student at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

While an undergraduate student, she was a Government & Pre-Law major whose ambition is to become a civil rights lawyer.

Presently, she is a second year law student at William and Mary Law School.

She also write the article on the "Murder of Vincent Chin."

IN PARTICULAR, the industry has targeted Asian women as their products for sale. This targeting is significant in the stereotypes that have been known about Asian women for centuries. These stereotypes are that they are submissive, obedient, loyal, soft-spoken, and meek making for the geisha girls, China dolls, Miss Saigons, and Comfort Women found in the mass media, history, books, and popular culture. In analyzing the circuit of culture (production, consumption, identity, representation, and regulation) of the Asian mail-order bride industry, it will be shown that this industry is just another means by which stereotypes against Asian women are perpetrated.

FIRST OF ALL, the production of the Asian mail-order bride industry is quite extensive and reinforces these century old stereotypes against Asian women. As stated before, mail-order bride agencies are in abundance in the U. S., and the numbers suggest that the trend is growing. In 1986, there were approximately 100 mail-order companies in the U. S. By 1996, the estimate had doubled to over 200, according to the Federal News Service. Particularly with the advent of the Internet, this industry has thrived even further. The report of the United Nations Caucus on Violence Against Women reports:

TODAY, THE MAIN MEANS OF PURCHASING a mail-order bride is through the Internet, but there still remain agencies that produce actual paper catalogues of mail-order brides. Hence, this paper will focus on both the paper catalogues of mail-order brides and the Internet as the primary sources Asian mail-order brides.

ASIAN MAIL-ORDER BRIDES are produced through two different processes: a very rigorous screening process through agencies in Asia or through the much more lax method of the Internet.


ANOTHER STEREOTYPE
Asian Female Fetish

A recent article stated the following:

In recent years, Asian & Asian American females have been increasingly accepted into what the mainstream considers "attractive." While, at first, this may seem relatively harmless, a closer look reveals why this trend could in fact be problematic.

It seems that white guys are more and more "into Asian girls" than ever before. Some (many) white dudes are so enamored with Asian and Asian American females that they have developed what is often termed an "Asian fetish."

"Fetish" is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as "an object of excessive attention or reverence."

This attraction to Asian American females is essentially a process of objectification. People with Asian fetishes aren't nearly as interested in individual qualities, but are attracted to, and objectify all Asian females in the same way.

To read more of this article, click HERE

IF THE WOMEN IS ACCEPTED by the agency, she then goes through a rigorous screening process, including a very in-depth questionnaire. Aside from biographical data, questionnaires seek information on family background, education, work experience, and character references. Some other information requested in questionnaires may include: a brief description of an ideal man, a personality profile, description of physical appearance including statistics, list of hobbies and interests, and views on marriage, love, and age difference. According to People Weekly, these questions in some surveys were asked:

THESE TYPES OF QUESTIONS show the objectification of Asian women in this industry. One questionnaire even warns, "Failure to follow instructions and supplying false information may cause automatic cancellation of visa petition." This statement is not only false in that the Immigration and Naturalization Service will not deny a person a visa for lying on a questionnaire but it tells of the nature of the business - having the Asian women please the Western men.

ONCE A WOMAN IS DONE with all the questionnaires and personality evaluations, the agency reviews her answers to make sure she is "suitable" to Western men. If she is, she is included in a paper catalog that goes out to hundreds or thousands of men. She is usually given a number and her photo with her name appears in the catalog. A brief description is also given of her. Some examples are:

THE MOST NOTABLE CHARACTERISTIC of these ads is that right at beginning the women's physical statistics are included showing the industry's emphasis on appearances. No doubt the men are seeking beautiful, petit Asian girls, and the industry attempts to accommodate the men. The photographs that accompany these descriptions are also usually very alluring and flattering further playing to the stereotypes of Asian women. "Asian women activists object to this particular feature because it perpetuates the stereotypes of Asian women as sexy, exotic man-pleasing women on display as commodities for sale." If a woman does not have the look of being "sexy and exotic," the picture is not included but rather the brief description stands on its own. Yet again, this fact demonstrates how the Asian mail-order bride industry adds to the stereotypes of Asian women.

Article References
Supporting Documentation

  • Kelson, Gregory and DeLaet, Debra. Gender and Immigration. New York University Press: New York, 1999, p. 130.

  • Tizon, Alex and Henderson, Diedtra. "The World of the Mail-Order Matchmaker" (March 12, 1995). Seattle Times

  • Espiritu, Yen Le. Asian American Women and Men: Labor, Laws, and Love. Sage Publication: London, 1997, p. 94.

  • Kelson, Gregory and DeLaet, Debra. Gender and Immigration. New York University Press: New York, 1999, p. 130.

  • "Girls Represent Two-Thirds of 100 Million Children Out of School Commission on Status of Women Told." (March 1, 2000). United Nations.

  • Glodava, Mila and Onizuka, Richard. Mail-Order Brides: Women for Sale. Alaken, Inc.: Fort Collins, Colorado, 1994, p. 12.

  • Ibid., p. 19.

  • Small, Michael and Mathison, Dirk. <,a href="http://infoweb12.newsbank.com/" target="blank">"For men who want an old-fashioned girl, the latest wedding march is here comes the Asian mail-order bride" (September 16, 1985). People Weekly

  • Glodava, Mila and Onizuka, Richard. Mail-Order Brides: Women for Sale. Alaken, Inc.: Fort Collins, Colorado, 1994, p. 20.

  • Asian and Russian Ladies,/a>

  • Glodava, Mila and Onizuka, Richard. Mail-Order Brides: Women for Sale. Alaken, Inc.: Fort Collins, Colorado, 1994, p. 21.

  • Asia Blossoms

  • Ibid.

  • Tizon, Alex and Henderson, Diedtra. "The World of the Mail-Order Matchmaker" (March 12, 1995). Seattle Times

  • Glodava, Mila and Onizuka, Richard. Mail-Order Brides: Women for Sale. Alaken, Inc.: Fort Collins, Colorado, 1994, p. 18.

  • Ibid., p. 15.

  • Ibid., p. 21.

  • Tizon, Alex and Henderson, Diedtra. "The World of the Mail-Order Matchmaker" (March 12, 1995). Seattle Times

  • Ibid.

  • THE PROCESS of becoming a mail-order bride on the Internet is much less rigorous and probably takes about half an hour in all to finish. I found this web site called "Asia Blossoms" where "Ladies Join For Free with Free Membership and a Free Newsletter." All I needed to do was enter my email address, which I had acquired at Hotmail, and the web site automatically sent me a password that I could use to set up my profile. At the profile page, it asked for my name, age, physical statistics, occupation, education, religion, language spoken, favorite flower, qualities, interests, and what I was looking for in a man. It was easy and quick to fill out. The questionnaire was not very thorough and obviously, I fibbed on my information all the while using a fake email address. My ad is actually online at this moment listed as:

    • Cindy: (Asian, Vietnamese, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
    • Occupation: Student Age: 21 Sign: Virgo
    • Education: College level. Height: 160cm (5'3") Weight: 48kg (106lbs)
    • Never married with no children. Religion: Catholic

    I HAVE NOT YET been contacted through my fake email by anyone. I believe this fact is in large part because I do not have a photograph up. Asia Blossoms actually states, "Photo ads receive 10 times more replies than ordinary ads. So if you are serious about meeting that special someone in your life, you should send in your photo." Once again, this emphasis on appearances demeans a woman by objectifying her into a thing of beauty only to be looked upon. Nevertheless, I became a mail-order bride, and it was quite an easy process as opposed to the paper catalogues produced in Asia.

    THE CONSUMPTION SIDE of the circuit of culture also furthers the stereotypes against which Asian advocacy groups have been fighting. To "consume" a mail-order bride costs as low as $4,000-6,000 to as high as $10,000-15,000 according to different sources. Consuming a mail-order bride through the paper catalogue method, one must buy the catalogue, pay for postage of letters, pay phone bill costs, send gifts overseas, visit the foreign country, pay the cost of the wedding, pay the cost of gaining the "bride" entry into the country, and buy a plane tickets to fly her over. One company sells a catalogue of 320 numbered photos of women eager to marry for $35. Clients also have extra features, such as buying manuals called "How to Write to Oriental Ladies," or buying videotapes of interviews of the women for $39.95 each.

    THROUGH THE INTERNET, there are a variety of services that can accrue more costs. Aside from the usual costs, some agencies will now send flowers overseas to the women, do more psychological evaluations at an extra cost, give tours in Asia, assist in obtaining immigration petitions, and even purchase a wedding dress for the bride. Due to the high costs of "consuming" a mail-order bride, these Asian women are perceived as purchased commodities and put in a very vulnerable position because the men they marry expect to get their money's worth. Ninotchka Rosca, the New York director of an international women's organization called Gabriela Network, says, "A paid-for wife is a slave for life."

    To continue to Part 2, click HERE

    Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

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