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


IN THE INDUSTRY, the representation of the men, who consume these "Lotus Blossom Babies," is of the intelligent and enlightened male. Gary Clark's web site definitely wants to make the consumers of mail-order brides feel good about themselves. Browsing through the page, one can see that there are numerous places that sites Davor Jedlicka's study that the men were "above average." A page even has a successful medical doctor being asked why he would want a mail-order bride. He responds, "I have become very disenchanted with the American woman. There are no more old-fashioned values, no commitment to a long-term relationship." Hence, one gets the assumption that these men could find wives in the U. S. but that they just do not wish to. Under "Lies and Misconceptions," the web site states:

MAIL ORDER BRIDES
PER WEBSITE

BREAKDOWN INFO
Number of Women
Per Each Website

FOREIGN LADIES

  • Philippines: 3,650
  • China: 97
  • South Korea: 9
  • Japan: 73

    ASIA BLOSSUM

  • Philippines: 1,279
  • China: 480
  • South Korea: 10
  • Japan: 27

    CHERRY BLOSSUM

  • Philippines: 14, 128
  • China: 906
  • South Korea: 79
  • Japan: 71
  • Clark goes on to say that the only "real losers" are the men who are "hoodwinked by the liberal pro-feminist hogwash that the ideal family should be headed by a husband and wife who share power as equals." Thus, the representation of the men, who consume mail-order brides, is that they are above average and enlightened to what a real family should be like.

    THESE TWO IMAGES of the "Lotus Blossom Baby" and the intelligent, enlightened male are the representations of the Asian mail-order bride industry. Yet, most of the time, these representations are not true to life. In particular, no Asian woman can and should live up to the image of the "Lotus Blossom Baby." Dr. Timny Thein of the National Network of Asian and Pacific Women states that men who shop for Asian mail-order brides only want "old-fashioned, submissive, cook-and-clean types." She goes on to say, "We're not commodities for sale, and we're not a monolithic group. We don't want to be stereotyped as loyal family women." For example, a mail-order bride named Merides claimed she did not live up to the standards of her husband. She says, "My husband wanted me to obedient, but I've never been obedient." In this case, Merides had never been the stereotyped Asian woman, but in other cases, women just change when they come to experience Western society. Gabriela, a mail-order bride from the Philippines, divorced her husband. Of her ex-husband, she says:

    Films Breaking
    Asian Female
    Stereotypes

    Joy Luck Club

    JOY LUCK CLUB
    Film that follows the lives of four Asian American women that break many stereotypes.

    Flower Drum Song

    FLOWER DRUM SONG
    Musical highlights many Asian female characteristics beyond the "Mail-Order Bride" stereotype.

    Double HappinessA

    DOUBLE HAPPINESS
    Movie that follows an Asian female's journey to follow her own dreams.

    When it comes to marriages through this industry, the wife usually cannot be what the husbands want them to be. The representations of these Asian women as "Lotus Blossom Babies" are false and eventually become shattered when it comes to every day life.

    IN REALITY, THE WOMEN, who are apart of this industry, are not the ideal Asian women for which Western men are looking. These women are usually just looking for a way out of a life of extreme poverty and oppression. One can see this fact in the countries from which mail-order brides come. These countries are usually full of political unrest and the most poverty-stricken in the world. The Philippines, which has a per capita income of $1,151 compared to the U. S. with $28,789, is the country that exports more than 50% of mail-order brides worldwide. Most sources say that the Philippines is responsible for an estimated 20,000 mail-order brides sent abroad per year. When comparing the number of women from three Internet sites, it is easy to see that there are more women from the poorer nations on their sites:

    RECENT INFORMATION SHOWS that the Philippines and China, the two poorer countries, have a much higher number of women who are Asian mail-order brides than the more affluent countries of South Korea and Japan. My parents know many women who become mail-order brides from Vietnam. I could not personally get in contact with these women, but I did interview my parents about them. They told me that the perception in Asia of the U. S. is a land of affluence and easy living in contrast with life in Vietnam. Hence, these women seek any way they can to get to the U. S. "so poor that [they] see no other alternative." Hence, the reason these women sign up to become mail-order brides is their poverty and hardship not necessarily, that they want to please Western men. These Western men then have very high expectations of the women who advertised themselves to be so compliant and obedient. But when the women cannot meet the standards of the men, the women can become the subject to domination and even abuse.

    THE WOMEN WHO MARRY THESE MEN are also in for a surprise. According to a NNAPW study (1988), the women "see Western men as white knights carrying them off to a fantasy land of affluence and plenty." But these mail-order brides are then in for a rude awakening. Many women have reported "being held in isolation, beaten, forced into slave labor or tricked into prostitution." In 1986, Helen Mendoza Krueger, a mail-order bride from Honolulu, was murdered and mutilated by her husband in front of her two year-old son and then thrown in a dumpster. In Seattle in 1995, Timothy Blackwell stabbed his mail-order wife, her unborn baby, and her two friends to death in front of the courthouse at which she had filed for divorced. Yet, these are two extreme cases; yet, oftentimes the women do live in subordinated positions and face physical and mental abuse. In these marriages, the men are trying to make the women into what they "paid" for - the stereotyped Asian Miss Saigon.

    Article References
    Supporting Documentation

  • Clark, Gary. "Separating fact from fiction about mail-order brides."

  • Ibid.

  • Ibid

  • Small, Michael and Mathison, Dirk. "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. 65.

  • Altink, Sletske. Stolen Lives: Trading Women into sex and slavery. Scarlet Press: London, 1995, p. 137

  • Glodava, Mila and Onizuka, Richard. Mail-Order Brides: Women for Sale. Alaken, Inc.: Fort Collins, Colorado, 1994, p. 47

  • Henderson, Diedtra. "Mail-Order Bride Industry Thrives." (March 4, 1996). Seattle Times.

  • Personal Research from World Wide Web Sites: http://www.foreignladies.com, http://www.ab3.com, http://www.cherryblossom.com

  • Ho, Barthelemy and Nguyen, Thinh, telephone interview by author, 6 April 2001

  • 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. 65.

  • Tizon, Alex and Henderson, Diedtra. "The World of the Mail-Order Matchmaker." (March 12, 1995). Seattle Times. Retrieved March 14, 2001, from Ibid.

  • Ibid.

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

  • Ibid.

  • Ibid.

  • THIS ABUSE OF MAIL-ORDER BRIDES leads to the last aspect of the circuit of culture: regulation. The mail-order bride industry is virtually free of any government regulation. According to Gregory Kelson and Debra DeLaet, the authors of Gender and Immigration, "immigration law is presently the only source of national control over the mail-order bride industry." To qualify that statement, they go on to state that this "control" is inconsistent, partial, and ultimately ineffective. Basically, the only governmental regulation with which these mail-order bride agencies must deal is the INS because it grants the mail-order brides entrance into the country. The INS grants a mail-order bride a conditional status for two years allowing her to stay in the country as long as she stays married to the American citizen. Thus, she may be deported at any time if she leaves the marriage. After the two years, she may change her status to permanent resident. This type of system allows for the abuse discussed earlier. The women in these mail-order marriages want to stay in the U. S., and hence, will do anything including the withstanding of abuse to not be deported. The woman can get her conditioned status changed to permanent resident if she can prove she is living under "unreasonable conditions," such as abuse. But the burden is placed on the woman to prove such. The INS is concerned with marriage fraud and rightly so, but the means to this end puts the burden on the mail-order bride, a woman usually not familiar with the foreign culture, the English language, and least of all, the bureaucracy of the U. S. Yet again, the regulation of this industry puts the Asian mail-order bride in a subordinate and vulnerable position thereby perpetrating the centuries-old stereotypes against Asian women.

    IN CONCLUSION, the circuit of culture of the Asian mail-order bride industry does in fact reveal that the industry has further contributed to the long-standing stereotypes against Asian women. The production, consumption, identity, representation, and regulation present in this industry show the mail-order bride industry's contribution to the stereotypes of Asian women. The image of the "Lotus Blossom Baby" is rooted in century-old attitudes about Asian women being the faithful wife, the self-sacrificing mother, but all the while the sensuous lover. Confucian philosophy requires the woman to fulfill these family roles. Foot binding in China can be seen as a part of this image of Asian women. Not only are the feet small and crushed to be petit, but also they do not allow for mobility of the women.

    THE SPOILS OF THE LATEST WARS of this past century have further perpetrated this image through the prostitution that ran rampant. As the popular media witnesses this portrayal of Asian women in their own countries, the popular media brings this image to Western countries. Books, movies, plays, television, and other mediums of the mass media then add to this stereotype of the Asian woman. From Miss Saigon to the Adventure of Suzy Wong, the "Lotus Blossom Baby" has been rooted in the popular imagination. Now with the advent of the Asian mail-order bride industry, these stereotypes are only furthered and made more rooted.

    WHAT CAN BE DONE about these falsely based stereotypes? Only education and the attempt to stop industries, such as the mail-order bride industry, pornography industry, and prostitution industry, can fight stereotypes rooted in such time and mass belief. All of these industries play on the subordination of women to meet men's desire, and all women not just Asian. The lesson that can be learned from the analysis of the Asian mail-order bride industry is that an industry that might seem benign in that it only allows for "women and men to meet and fall in love" can truly be dangerous to the well-being of the people of this world.

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