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Focus: Peter Jackson's "That's What Rice Queens Study."
White Racism / Its Negative Effects & Associated Masculinity 
(or lack of masculinity / effeminacy) Issues.
This Page: Peter Jackson's "That's What Rice Queens Study." White Racism / Its Negative Effects & Associated Masculinity (or lack of masculinity / effeminacy) Issues.
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Introduction / Contents.
Online Excerpts from 'That's what rice queens study!' noted below and from another article 'Sexual Identity and Cultural Identity: A Crash Course,' by Tony Ayres: "Ayres recounts the response of the first person he summoned up the nerve to speak to on his first visit to a gay bar, the Ainslie Pub, in his first year at ANU after having spent most of his childhood in Perth (underlining added but not by me)... 'so  I went up to him and said…didn’t even get a first sentence out.  All he said to me was, ‘Sorry, I’m not into Asians’.  And that was it.  End of conversation.  That was the first, although not the last time I heard that expression.  Being ‘Asian’, being Chinese, put me in a different category from the other men in the bar.' ..."


Jackson, Peter A (2000).
'That's what rice queens study!' White gay desire and representing Asian homosexualities. Journal of Australian Studies, 65 (June 2000): 181-88, 238. Referenced as follows on a web page related to Peter Jackson (http://rspas.anu.edu.au/pah/research-jackson.htm): "'That's What Rice Queens Study! White Gay Desire and Representing Asian Homosexualities', Special Joint Issue of Journal of Australian Studies (No. 65), 2000, and Australian Cultural History (No. 19), 2000, Diaspora: Negotiating Asian-Australia, (ISSN 0314 769X, ISBN 0 7022 3214 9), pp. 181-189." PDF Download

Peter Jackson's paper begins with:

"I confess reluctance about contributing this essay to a collection on theatre, film, art, and literature by Asian Australians. In Part, I am concerned that the issue of how White gay cultures receive representations of Asian men may not interest a general audience. However, all Australians artists, writers, and academics engage in presenting images and analyses of Asian homosexual men are viscerally affected by the contradictory ways in which their work is received by White gay audiences, and I suspect that those with little direct knowledge of this country's gay cultures do not appreciate the immense power of stereotyping that affects all gay researchers and artists working on gay Asian and/or Asians within their own communities. For this reason it is important that a wider audience should appreciate the fractured and fractious context within which such intellectual and creative activity is carried out." (P. 181)
Jackson highlights the fact that mainstream society, including the educated ones in mainstream society, are lacking in knowledge about certain realities related to gay cultures in Australia, but the Australian gay cultures he described are remarkably similar to other gay cultures located in predominantly White countries such as Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, etc. The "stereotyping" referred to is located in gay communities, or what could be called "predominantly white gay communities," and this stereotyping - often racist and very harmful in nature - is described in the essay. The following are excerpts from Jackson's essay that highlight some serious problems in predominantly White gay communities.

From a "Commentary" following "Anecdote 1" in which Peter Jackson reports on his "gay clubs" related experience in London, England.

"In gay cultures across the Western world race and desire intersect to produce entire argots, specialised commercial venues, and social networks with tightly monitored boundaries of inclusion and exclusion based entirely on the ethnic background of the men one is presumed to find erotically interesting. Food and colour metaphors abound in the popular discourses of the ethnically fractured gay cultures of Sidney, New, York, San Francisco and elsewhere. White men who prefer Southeast Asian men are 'rice queens'. Asian men who prefer White men are 'potato queens'. In London, White men interested in South Asian men are 'curry queens', while in the United States White men who restrict their sexual and romantic contacts to African-American men are labelled 'dinge queens'. These labels for racialised homoerotic desire define entire social worlds within which large numbers of gay men restrict both their lives and their loves. By definition a real rice queen never sleeps with another White man, and a real potato queen is believed to be incapable of having sex with another Asian man. In these intersections of the West's gays worlds, men of one's ethnic background are sometimes called 'sisters' and are de-eroticised by a gay incest taboo. The thought of sex with the ethnic same can arouse disgust or repulsion. It is the other who incites desire." [P. 182-3]

From a "Commentary" following "Anecdote 2" in which Peter Jackson reports on a Sidney, Australia experience.

"A dominant narrative in Australian gay cultures is the cry, 'I don't find Asian men sexually attractive,' a proclamation that legitimate desire is for the race-same. The dominant de-eroticisation of Asian within White gay culture occurs by an effeminisation of Asian men's bodies [Note A] and the privileging of a model of masculinity based on the idealised attributes of a Caucasian male. The effeminisation of Asian males has a long history in Western imperialist imaginings of the Orient and its role in nineteenth-century justifications of the colonialist project has been traced in several studies (6).

The narrative of the rice queen, the Caucasian gay man whose desire is based on a fetishisation of Asian men and a denial of the attractiveness of other Caucasian men, is subordinate within White gay cultures. The rice queen occupies a stigmatised and marginal position, being stereotypes as a sexually unattractive man who is unable to find a Caucasian partner. The rice queen is mocked as a man whom only 'Asians find attractive'…" [P. 183-4)

"Foucault was right when he said that sexuality and eroticised identity are now regarded as telling us the 'truth about ourselves' (7). One could add that that within gay cultures sexuality has also become the measure of human value. In these cultures founded upon desire-based identity, sexual desirability often becomes a key measure of personal worth. The gay cult of hypermasculinity and the prevalence of testosterone-inflated 'muscle Mary's' in the bars of Oxford St, West Hollywood, the Castro, and elsewhere are testimony to the power of this sexual ideology…

This dominant sexual ideology [being sexually desired = personal worth] becomes even more distressing when we add the dimension of race. When desirability is linked with race, and when certain races are ascribed a greater erotic interest than others, then to be a member of an 'unsexy' ethnic group is to be equated with an inferior form of existence. Within the dominant Caucasian-focused gay sexual ideology, Asian homosexual men are simply 'not worth a fuck'." Gay academics, artists and authors who are concerned about how their work on gay Asia is received within their own communities must also confront the pressures of this dominant ideology." [P. 184]

From a "Commentary" following "Anecdote 3" in which Peter Jackson reports on a experience that has been repeated in his life.

"The racialisation of desire infects not only social relations and sexual and romantic relationships within gay cultures. It is also widely presumed to underpin the production of academic knowledge about non-Caucasian homosexual men. The gay student presumes that my academic interest in Thai homoeroticism emerges from a desire for Asian men. He also presumes that what he perceives to be a change in the focus of my erotic interest may lead to a redirection of my academic attention away from Asia…

Not respecting the racial boundaries that define the tribalisation of gay desire can elicit confused and even antagonistic responses that operate to make the recalcitrant gay man conform to group norms. Within the defensive culture of marginalised White rice queens and their Asian potato queen partners, a Caucasian man who show interest in other White men is suspect. He may be viewed like a traitor who has gone over to the enemy - that is, the dominant White centred gay culture… The racialisation of gay desiring goes much further than excluding Asian men and marginalising Caucasian men who prefer Asian partners… " [P. 185]

Jackson essay ends with:

"Berry maintains that for Caucasian academics writing in Asia this learning process needs to begin from an acknowledgment of 'original sin', by which he means an authorial admission that in choosing to write within Western discourses one must recognize the 'original sin' exclusion 'already committed by the textual practice… taken up' (14). From this starting point it may be possible for gay Caucasian writers, artists and academics to move towards the production of images and discursive representations of Asian homosexual men that are based more on identification than either the overvaluation of fetishistic projection or the undervaluation of racist negation." [P. 188]

Reference Notes by Jackson (2000)

6. See Christopher Lane, The Ruling Passion: British Colonial Allegory and the Paradox of Homosexual Desire, Duke University Press, Durham and London, 1995; and Mrinalini Sinha, Colonial Masculinity: The 'Manly Englishman' and the "Effeminate Bengali' in the Late Nineteenth Century, Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York, 1995.

7. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1, (trans. Robert Hurley), Vintage Books, New York, 1978, p 69.

14. Chris Berry, A Bit on the Side: East-West Topographies of Desire, EmPress, Sidney, 1994.

Note A

There is a long history of Asian men being perceived as effeminate by those in the Western world. Reference #6 above highlights this fact as having existed in the nineteenth century, but the same stereotype was in place in the seventeenth century as indicated by the following reference:

Teltscher, Kate (2000). 'Maidenly and well nigh effeminate': construction of Hindu masculinity and religion in seventeenth-century English texts. Postcolonial Studies, 3(2): 159-79.

Issues related to the 'effeminate' or 'feminized' nature of Hindu males, however, have not only been a feature of the White Western / India discourse. For example, this issue has been an integral part of significant problems in South Asia, particularly between the Sikhs and the Hindus as indicated by the following excerpt from Veena Das (1998). Specificities: Official narratives, rumour, and the social production of hate. Social Identities, 4(1): 109-130. The paper is related to:

"events [… that] occurred in India during the 1980s, when the militant movement in the Punjab and the related counter-insurgency operations of the state generated considerable animosity between Hindus and the Sikhs. The result was violent confrontations that obliterated the solidarities of everyday life. I focus on an especially grievous event - the brutal violence against Sikhs in th resettlement colonies in Delhi in 1984, following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi." [P. 109]

Issues related to masculinity / femininity as related to Sikh and Hindu males are reported as follows:

"In the written and oral discourses of Sikh militancy, the Hindu 'character' was envisaged in terms of dangers it posed to the masculinity of the Sikhs. There was a move to establish that the history of the Sikhs - inscribed on the body of the martyr - was a reflection of the masculine Sikh character, while the feminine Hindu character has been ascribed on the history of the Indian nation. Thus, masculinity became the defining feature of the Sikh community; and the Hindu community was understood to be characterized by an emasculated femininity." [P. 110]

"In the written and oral discourse of Sikh militancy, it was repeatedly stated that the Sikhs could not belong to a nation that claimed a feminine figure such as Mahatma Gandhi for its 'father' (bapu - the affectionate title given to Gandhi by the general populace). The defining principle of the Indian nationalist struggle, non-violence, was said to be 'passive' and 'womanly'. Anxiety about such femininity became palpable in the oral discourse, but it seemed to threaten the inheritance of the manly way of confronting evil, an inheritance which was further characterised as the national birthright of the Sikhs. Gandhi's non-violent movement, it was said, was appropriate only for the feminised Hindus. In one of his speeches. Bhindranwale propounded the idea that it was an insult for the Sikhs to be included in a nation that considered Mahatma Gandhi to be its father, for his techniques of fighting were quintessentially feminine. He (Gandhi) was symbolised by the charkha, the spinning wheel, which was a symbol of women. Bhindranwale asked his listeners,

'Can those who are the sons of the valiant guru, whose symbol is the sword, ever accept a woman like Mahatma as their father? Those are the techniques of the weak, not of a race that has never bowed its head before any injustice - a race whose history is written in the blood of martyrs.'" [P. 112]
 

Commentary

The construction of masculinity by Sikh males is, in some ways, similar to the present White heterosexual male construction of masculinity in the Western world as reported in many studies. The process begins in childhood for boys who live in environments where a certain group of males are defined to be "feminine" and everything that a real male - a self-respecting male - or "a real man" should NOT be - according to learned anti-feminine - highly sexist - ideologies. Nayak and Kehily (1996: 214) describe the association between hegemonic masculinity, misogyny and homophobia:
"Lees (1993, pp. 89-90) remarks 'it is an insult for a boy to be called a 'woman' because being similar to girls is also to be associated with a lower status group'. The connection between hegemonic masculinities and homophobia can be seen when we consider that many of the characteristics ascribed to gay men are applied to women. In this sense homophobia and misogyny can overlap where one is 'spoken' through the other. An example of this occurs in Lehtonen's (1995) study of young people's sexual identities in Finnish schools where he remarks on the use of the term 'vitun homo' meaning 'fucking queer' which is made up of a combination of the words 'cunt' and 'gay'. Homophobia is then a means of consolidating sexuality and gender through the traducing of femininity, and its association with homosexuality… Young men may worry about being gay, and being called gay, in part due to the intense hostility expressed towards women and femininity."
A variation on the theme that females and gay men are similar is articulated in the ethnographic study of Puerto Rican adolescents in the city of New York (Ascencio, 1999). In a section titled "The opposite of macho is an 'effeminate' man," the traditional view of women in the western world, that of the Madonna and the whore, is still being replicated in the minds of Puerto Rican adolescent macho males. In their view of things, the whore is called "the slut" and, "like sluts, homosexual males deserve societal scorn and violence toward them… A common belief was that male homosexuals wanted to be women and wanted to be treated as women. The assumption was that females or 'like females' have a natural sexual attraction for males," except that gay males were even less than most women. They are the equivalent to the most degraded women that no one is to respect: "the slut".  "The relegation of gay males to female status was considered as abhorrent to some of the self-identified heterosexual males as the thought of same-sex sexual behaviors… Constructs such as 'homosexual' and 'slut' are imbued with complex social meanings and consequences. The females in the group feared the label slut, while both genders, particularly males, feared the label homosexual" (115-6).

Martino (1999: 244) reports on similar male attributes in his study of 15- to 16-year-old West Australian males:

"On the basis of this research, it appears that many boys learn to establish their masculinity in opposition to femininity (see Connell, 1994). In other words, they define their masculinity within a set of cultural and social practices which involve a rejection and denigration of what they consider to be feminine attributes or behaviors that often serve as markers of homosexuality in the policing of ascendant forms of masculinity (see Ward, 1995; Butler, 1996; Laskey and Beavis, 1996). This is also reflected in the tendency of many boys to avoid expressing their emotions which appears to be predicated on the basis that showing emotions is considered to be feminine. And as one boys stated in an interview, learning to be masculine involves 'staying away as much as possible from being a female'."
If one is masculine, one is therefore also heterosexual, and vice versa, with no room existing within this definition for homosexuality. This has been called hegemonic masculinity(ies) or heterosexual masculinity(ies) that is apparently what all real males should become or, by a belief induced default, they would then be feminine and homosexual. As stated by McGuffy and Rich (1999: 610, 618), "other" in the world of hegemonic masculinity is "typically defined as 'effeminate.'" By an early age, children have also learned that "'masculinity is power' (Kaufman, 1995: 16)… and masculinity [power] is maintained through a hegemonic process that excludes femininity and alternate masculinities."

The above system has often been describe to be very harmful to many of the more feminine boys who will be growing up to become the self-identified gay males who form "gay communities." Interestingly, these males do have significant ongoing problems with "femininity" as highlighted in the first book on the subject: Sissyphobia: Gay Men and Effeminate Behavior by Tim Bergling (2001). A related review is appropriately titled " Nellies need not apply: Gay culture celebrates effeminacy as a social ideal. Why does it ridicule it as a sexual one?"

"Gay men encourage effeminacy by venerating drag and calling each other "girl." They love bitchy humor and consider camp an art form. But you'll never see effeminate men idealized as sexual partners…

That masculine gay men prefer other masculine gay men as partners isn't a shock. What is surprising is how few effeminate men wanted other effeminate men as sexual partners. Bergling quotes a study published by the American Psychological Association [Bailey et al., 1997] showing that a substantial number of effeminate-identified men prefer masculine men as sexual partners…

It's a shame that even a nelly doesn't equate nelliness with sexiness, because there's something self-negating about taking on characteristics you don't want your partners to have. There are lots of ironies in gay life, but perhaps none greater than this: Sissies are often the biggest sissyphobes of all" (Alvear, 2001).

About 80 percent of gay or bisexual identified adolescent males and young adults venturing into gay communities have varying levels of often detectable "femininity," with about 25 percent likely being very "feminine" (Bell et al., 1981; Remafedi et al., 1991), but all is not lost for these males, so it seems. Having found themselves at the losing end of a "masculinity" system where those manifesting "hegemonic masculinity" are idealised / desired - as it is made apparent in the dominant forms of gay pornography - we must nonetheless ask if such males - truly "masculine' males - exist in gay communities. This is a good question given that even those gay-identified males with muscles are referred to as "muscle Mary's" or "muscle queens,' and other gay males into the symbolic trappings of some historical forms of icon masculinities, such as cowboys wearing their leather chaps, are called "leather queens."

This world of 'queens' was reported on by Ridge et al. (1997: 157, 174) on the basis of their ethnographic study of 24 Australian homosexually active males ranging in age from 19 to 36 years:
"The friendships established on the [gay community] scene, social dynamics were not conducive to developing intimate and meaningful relations. Social activities such as cruising for partners; pleasure seeking; the emphasis on superficial attributes including looks and styles; styles of social interaction including bitching and 'camping it up,' which kept communication at a superficial level; the sexualizing of social relations; the limited shared history of participants; and the need for men to compete for and maintain social status left little time for, and worked against, the establishment of close friendships. Difficulties in making friends create a tension because informants often adopt the rhetoric of 'community' to understand social relations in this setting early on. Some men compared scene friendships to the school yard where surface issues and belonging to in groups were also priorities… Informants did not describe their experiences in the scene in terms of finding unity. Connection, support, friendliness, openness, and acceptance - aspects of community that men had originally expected. Men could also misinterpret some dynamics such as experiences of pleasure as integration into a community. A Major theme emerging from this study was the multiple and fragmented youthful social networks made up of relatively exclusive social groups of varying status, maintained and influenced by rigid social regulation. Not belonging to a valued network was to risk "otherness" - as being too old, not the right look, not the correct ethnicity or class. Rather than interpersonal connection, competition, conflict, and the threat of becoming "other" permeated social relations and were experienced in alienating ways. Most informants, regardless of class or ethnicity, had described difficulties in developing socially supportive scene networks. Informants from lower-class and some ethnic minority backgrounds experienced additional but not unique isolation and alienation, including from racial discrimination and lack of familiarity with the mainly White middle-class culture. For men who continued to frequent the scene despite its perceived limitations, utilizing the scene in specific instrumental ways was not just a masculine or middle-class strategy as noted by Lynch (1992). It was also about self-protection against the scene."
Predominantly White gay 'communities' are therefore far from being sites of happiness or harmony for White males themselves, and the situation appears to be much worse for males of colour who venture into these communities given the racism manifested by many White gay males. This reality indicates that important intersections / relationships should be explored between masculinity (lack of masculinity for males, effeminacy, hegemonic masculinity), sexism / misogyny, and racism.

For the record: There has been a general silence about racism in New Zealand's gay communities. Early in 2002, however, a young New Zealand gay male university student of South Asian ancestry wrote:

"Im not sure why there is such a void in sexuality studies in NZ. I know there are some academics here that are starting out... but it wouldn't suprise me if there was nothing on racism in the LGBT community. As I said my opinions are just based on my experiences; as a person who has found the gay community initially very uncomfortable (and bland)... to such an extent I don't really involve myself in any gay communities. Im not so silly to think there is no racism in the 'straight' world, but I think it is definitely more magnified within the gay community" (Email: March 29, 2002).


References for Commentary

Alvear, Michael (2001). Nellies need not apply. Salon Magazine. Internet: http://www.salon.com/sex/feature/2001/08/01/nelly/

Ascencio, Marysol W (1999). Machos and sluts: gender, sexuality, and violence among a cohort of Puerto Rican Adolescents. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 13(1): 107-26.

Bailey JM, Kim P, Hills A, Linsenmeier J (1997). Butch, femme, or straight-acting? Partner preferences of gay men and lesbians. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73: 960-973.

Bell, Alan, Weinberg M, Hammersmith S (1981). Sexual Preference: Its Development in Men and Women. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.

Bergling, Tim (2001). Sissyphobia: Gay Men and Effeminate Behavior. New York: Harrington Park Press. Internet: http://www.sissyphobia.com

Butler J (1996). The Poof Paradox: Homonegativity and Silencing in Three Hobart High Schools". In: Laskey L, Beavis C, Eds. Schooling and Sexualities: Teaching for a Positive Sexuality. Geelong: Deakin University for Education and Change. Cited by Morino (1999).

Connell RW (1994). Knowing about masculinity: teaching boys and men. Paper presented at the Pacific Sociological Association Conference, San Diego, April. Cited by Morino (1999).

Laskey L, Beavis C, Eds. (1996). Schooling and Sexualities: Teaching for a Positive Sexuality. Geelong: Deakin University for Education and Change. Cited by Morino (1999).

Lees S (1993). Sugar and Spice. Sexuality and adolescent girls. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Cited by Nayak and Kehily (1996).

Lehtonen J (1995). The heterosexual matrix and the school system - are young people getting support in the creation of lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities? Paper presented at the European Sociological Association Conference, Budapest, Hungary, September. Cited by Nayak and Kehily (1996).

Lynch FR (1992). Non-ghetto gays: an ethnography of suburban heterosexuals. In: G. Herdt (Ed). Gay culture in America, 165-201. Boston: Beacon Press. (Cited by Ridge et al., 1992)

Martino, Wayne (1999). 'Cool Boys', 'Party Animals', 'Squids' and 'Poofters': interrogating the dynamics and politics of adolescent masculinities in school. The Journal of Sociology of Education, 20(2): 239-62.

McGuffy CS, Rich BL (1999). Playing it in the gender zone: race, class, and hegemonic masculinity in middle childhood. Gender and Society, 13(5): 608-27.

Nayak A, Kehily M (1996). Playing it Straight: Masculinities, homophobias and schooling. Journal of Gender Studies, 5(2): 211-230.

Remafedi G, Farrow J, Deisher R (1991). Risk factors for attempted suicide in gay and bisexual youth. Pediatrics, 87(6): 869-75.

Ridge D, Minichiello V, Plummer D (1997). Queer Connections; community, "the scene," and an epidemic. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 28(2): 146-81.

Ward, N. (1995). "'Pooftah', 'Wanker', 'Girl': Homophobic Harassment and Violence in Schools". In: Girls & Boys: Challenging Perspective, Building Partnerships. Proceedings of the Third Conference of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Gender Equity, Brisbane: Ministerial Advisory Committee on Gender Equity. Cited by Morino (1999).


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