Asian American college men: Constructing gender and racial identities
Ahuna, Kevin Lee
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This ethnographic interview study explores how 16 undergraduate Asian American college students of various ethnic backgrounds construct their identities as men and narrate their experiences in relation to their families, schooling, and stereotypes of them as Asian Americans. Through two semi-structured interviews with each participant, this study explores issues related to family influences, experiences with racism, attitudes about race including interracial dating, and conceptions about masculinity that involve their comparisons of themselves to the white hegemonic masculine ideal. The participants either immigrated to the United States as young children or are children of immigrant parents. This research found that both race and gender have a significant impact on the identities of the respondents, but not always in obvious ways. These men often equate "American" with "white" and seek to maintain an identity that is not "too Asian" or "too white." "Too Asian" denies these men the American cultural capital they believe to be the key to middle class success and "too white" runs the risk of alienating them from parents and harsh peer judgment for abandoning "their culture." The men experience their gender in relation to white males and white majority culture. Aware of prominent negative stereotypes of Asian American males, they internalize some of those stereotypes including seeing themselves as less physically attractive than white males. Although they experience racism, being victims of oppression does not translate to a greater sensitivity to issues of sexism. This is evident in their views of Asian women as commodities and white women as trophies.