Western Masculine Ideal vs. Asian Masculine Ideal
So here’s a great article on the 10-year anniversary of the movie Fight Club and it’s impact: Fight Club 10 Years Later
… Fight Club isn't saying something as simple and inane as men are pussies. It's not a dumb jock statement of being a "man." Rather, it shows how through the alienation of social institutions, and the de-masculination of culture, the rugged individualist is rare. How to tap into being a man, fast?
"Punch me as hard as you can."
… watching Fight Club, ten years later, with all that we have available to us, it seems even more prescient. For better and often for worse, we've become even more disconnected from ourselves. And even more narcissistic. People text, they twitter, they communicate online instead of talk on the phone or in person. They create alternate identities and pretend to be tough in, of all places, chat rooms, and blogs. Can you imagine a flame war in a biker bar? It's no surprise Fincher's now making a movie about the social networking site Facebook. Tyler Durden would now be a viral creation.
Although the writer of this article is a woman, I think most women don’t fully understand why men nowadays feel disinherited and disconnected from their sense of masculinity. Which is why the book and movie “Fight Club” is so popular. I think with Asian American men, this disconnect is compounded by the fact that we’re a minority with few role models. We end up looking to masculine ideals in Western cultures, not realizing there have always been masculine ideals in Asian cultures.
This is also the point Frank Chin makes in his writings as well. When a great cultural heritage has either been stripped, suppressed or forgotten, then men either emulate other cultural models to give them a sense of manhood or they make the sh!t up. We already have masculine ideals in Asian culture. It just needs to be a part of Asian American culture.
Throughout history Asian men were laborers, soldiers and pirates in far off lands all over the world. They were away from their wives and loved ones for long periods of time.
Don’t you think Asian men got busy doing the horizontal mambo with the local women in these far off places? Well if you look, at places all over the world, like the Philippines, Africa, Central Asia, the Americas and even in Europe, Asian men have left their sexual legacy. So much so that Asian men have altered the gene pool of entire countries.
Now I’m not saying that being a man-whore is the masculine ideal to strive for. People act like the Western masculinity and Asian masculinity are mutually exclusive. But men are men, no matter what part of the world you’re talking about. Men of all cultures do stupid sh!t, like wage war, screw lots of women and say things they later regret.
The Western masculine ideal stems from Greco-Roman culture, a major thread in European and Euro-American culture. Their ideal masculine archetype is that of the warrior-explorer-conqueror. It was Julius Caesar who gave us such a succinct gem as:
“I came. I saw. I conquered.”
Greco-Roman artwork tended to glorify the warrior’s physical strength and the body he chisels through training and battle. This physical ideal is still with us, which is why men go to the gym. Every guy feels like they need to look like the guys from 300.
Side note: Although Western society idealizes the Spartans, this cultural ideal conveniently leaves out the historical fact that the Spartans and other ancient Greeks were pederasts. Hence the reference to anal sex as “Greek style.”
Asian cultures also glorified their warriors. Much of what is discussed in Asian literature is mostly military-related: The Art of War, The Book of Five Rings, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin. Although the physical ideal was not depicted in glorious fashion in ancient Asian artwork, Asian men did practice strength and combat training.
But something happened with Asian cultures (particularly Confucian-influenced cultures such as China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan) that altered the masculine ideal. When Confucianism spread across such societies, the role of the scholar was elevated and the role of the warrior was downgraded. The exception of course was Japan, who kept the samurai at the top of the class hierarchy.
So for well over a thousand years in Confucian-based societies, the key to success was to study hard, get a government job and everything you wanted (wealth, women, happiness) would follow. Follow the conventional path to success. Don’t take risks. Don’t stand out. And as result, many Asians nowadays are unhappy and live unfulfilled lives due to a thousand years of social programming.
Here’s an extreme example of social programming: Scaredy Cat Tigers
Zookeepers in China say their tigers have grown so tame that they're frightened of the chickens they're supposed to eat. The Chongqing Wild Animal Park has five rare adult white tigers which were originally trained to perform tricks for visitors, reports the Chongqing Morning Post. Keepers have been trying to encourage them to follow their natural instincts by throwing them live chickens - but without success.
Feeder Shi Ruqiang said, “They're supposed to be wild and scary, but due to their soft lifestyles and human care they have gradually lost their wild nature. I have been trying to interest them with live chickens but it was quite a funny scene. The tigers were so scared that they wouldn't go near them. One chicken passed out and the tigers did eventually approach it - but then it woke up again and squawked and they ran for their lives!"
Shi says the keepers are now forcing the tigers to stay outside their cages for at least 12 hours a day to toughen them up. And they are planning to introduce a wild tiger to show the domesticated big cats the ropes.
"If all else fails, we will simply cut down their rations until they are so hungry that they are forced to hunt for themselves," he added.