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September 4, 2009

The New Trophy Wives

From the cover of the September 2009 issue of Marie Claire:

THE NEW TROPHY WIVES: They're not who you think
They were certainly right. Definitely not who we thought. Upon flipping to the actual article, it became clear immediately from the photos that the new trophy wives are... Asian women. Sounds pretty racist right? The article was written by an Asian woman - Ying Chu - so Marie Claire probably thinks that whatever she says on the subject is "allowed" but eh, we're not convinced.

Rupert Murdoch has one. So do financiers Vivi Nevo and Bruce Wasserstein. Why are the West's most powerful men coupling up with younger Asian women?
Wow. Not only are Asian women portrayed as property, but now it's a new "trend"?

Call it the Woody Allen Effect. When the venerable director scandalously left Mia Farrow for her adopted daughter, South Korean-born Soon-Yi Previn -- 35 years his junior -- he may as well have sent out a press release: Asian girl fantasy trumps that of Hollywood royalty!
What. The. Fuck? Sorry, but the "Woody Allen Effect" is not about younger Asian trophy wives... it's about a man dating his girlfriend's daughter!

Allen was still in a relationship with actress Mia Farrow, Previn's adoptive mother, when evidence of his relationship with Previn turned up. (And by "evidence", we mean nude photographs of Previn that Allen had taken.) She was 21 at the time, which makes it all technically legal... but still amazingly creepy when you remember that they first met when she was around 8 and he was in his 40s. Even though Previn has claimed that she never considered Allen a "father figure," Ronan Farrow - Allen and Farrow's only biological son together - was once quoted as saying "He's my father married to my sister. [...] I lived with all these adopted children, so they are my family. To say Soon-Yi was not my sister is an insult to all adopted children".

Now we're not going to harp on a decades old news story... but it's really offensive and stupid to suggest that Woody Allen started the "Asian trophy wife trend" back in 1992 (or 1997 when they actually wed).

Not two years after they tied the knot, media baron Rupert Murdoch walked down the aisle with fresh-faced Wendi Deng -- 17 days after finalizing his divorce from his second wife. Then CBS head Leslie Moonves wed TV anchor Julie Chen; Oscar winner Nicolas Cage married half-his-age third wife Alice Kim; billionaire George Soros coupled up with violinist Jennifer Chun; and producer Brian Grazer courted concert pianist Chau-Giang Thi Nguyen. Add the nuptuals of investment magnate Bruce Wasserstein to fourth wife Angela Chao and the pending vows between venture capitalist Vivi Nevo and Chinese actress Ziyi Zhang, and we've got a curious cultural ripple.

Sorry, but less than 8 or 9 examples in more than a decade is hardly a "trend"... if we're going to use those kinds of numbers as evidence, then marrying women who aren't Asian trophy wives is a much bigger trend nowadays.

Also, the implication that marrying someone Asian or younger (or both) automatically makes them a "trophy wife" is pretty limiting. These aren't a bunch of bimbos or gold-diggers... Wendi Deng is a Yale graduate and was VP of STAR TV when she married Murdoch. (She's now director of the holding company that licenses the Myspace brand and technology to Myspace China.) Julie Chen is a news anchor, journalist and producer. Jennifer Chun and Chau-Giang Thi Nguyen are accomplished musicians. Angela Chao is a Harvard grad, an executive at Foremost Group (a shipping and trade concern) and on the board of BIMCO (a trade organization). Not to mention, the sister of Bush's Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. Ziyi Zhang is a famous actress, with plenty of trophies of her own.

This isn't to say that a woman without a prestigious background or career is a bimbo gold-digger, but it's still pretty offensive to call these accomplished women "trophy wives" simply because they happen to be young(er), beautiful, and Asian. And of course, these men couldn't possibly be interested in these women for any other reason than the fact that they each have an Asian fetish:

[...] after two or three failed attempts at domestic bliss with women of like backgrounds and age, these heavy hitters sought out something different. Something they had likely fetishized.

[...] I'm petite and was in fact born in Shanghai, but - to the shock of more than one guy I've gone out with - I'd rather down an icy beer and burger than nurse bubble tea and eat dumplings while massaging his back with my toes.
How much does this have to do with the white man's fetishizing of Asian women and how much does it have to do with the fact that the author has, apparently, dated a bunch of racist assholes? I don't know any Asian women who behave that way, so while I'm sure they are out there somewhere, I'd never assume that. And while I know there are a bunch of racist assholes out there who would believe such a stereotype... I certainly would never date them, regardless of my race.

Is the author suggesting that Les Moonves, Rupert Murdoch, et. al. are also a bunch of racist assholes? And that their strong, intelligent, and - yes- Asian wives are totally okay with marrying racist assholes? (Also, isn't it safe to assume that if these men truly were only with their wives because of some stereotypical misconceptions about Asian women, that they might have realized that they were stereotypes before tying the knot? You know, like the first time they asked for one of these aforementioned "toe-massages" and got shot down). Isn't it even remotely possible that they... you know... love their wives for who they are?

Tellingly, most current trophies of choice are far more exotic arm candy. They are accomplished musicians and journalists, they have Ivy League MBAs and hail from prestigious political families. [...] Why, then, are these women falling for rich white patriarchs? Why be a target for headline comparisons to concubines?
Gee, I don't know... Maybe they married for love? Shocking, yes... because who could possibly fall in love with a rich, white patriarch? (Maybe they have an old white guy fetish?) Maybe the fact that these women do have educations, careers, and accomplishments then these rich, white patriarchs view them as their equals and not some exotic arm candy. Maybe they're attracted to their minds as well as their looks?

And okay... maybe there are some power dynamics and patriarchal issues that can be explored within the older man/younger woman pairing and the way we, as a society, view it. The same goes for the pairing of white men and Asian women... There's a long, complicated history there, so of course, there could be deeper issues in some of these marriages. We're not going to argue that all of the relationships mentioned are perfect, but the author doesn't really address that. She just lumps a handful of "famous" couples together as if their relationships are identical and calls it's a "trend". There's not enough analysis; just playing into a bunch of offensive stereotypes while claiming to be offended by others. And she doesn't address any deeper issues. Okay, well she tries to, but just ends up resorting to more stereotypes in doing so:

[...] could it be that power divorces of a certain ilk make the perfect renegade suitors for these overachieving Asian good girls -- an ultimate (yet lame) attempt at rebellion? Maybe these outsized, world-class moguls are stand-ins for emotionally repressed Asian dads (one cliche that is predominantly true). Or... are these women just glorified opportunists?
Wow. Stereotype... stereotype... and stereotype. Yay!

What's so perverse is that while Asians have always revered their elders, sleeping with a guy old enough to be your grandfather is just creepy -- in any culture.
Wait. So these guys are old enough to be their wives' grandfathers? Really? Because last time I checked... Murdoch is 37 years older than Deng, Moonves is 21 years older than Chen, Wasserstein and Chao are 26 years apart, Cage and Kim are 20 years apart, and the age difference between Nevo and Zhang is a mere 13 years. Those are some pretty young grandfathers, huh?

I suspect there's something else about the East that's seducing business bigwigs at this very moment: globalization. [...] Mandarin classes have spiked 200 percent over the past five years[...] China has claimed status as the world's top export nation. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell theorizes that Asian kids' intrinsic work ethic makes them outsmart American kids in math. [...] It's as though these Western men are hungry for a piece of that mystical Eastern formula. As such, Asians (in addition to African orphans) are hot commodities right about now -- status symbols as prized as a private Gulfstream jet or a museum wing bearing your name (neither of which goes so well with frumpy, aging first wife).
Um... okay. Asian women are a commodity now? Sorry, but Asian women are human beings... not the hottest designer handbag or the newest version of the iPhone. Are men really thinking about math scores or exports when they're planning their weddings? Honestly, there's so much about this article that is offensive. The fact that it was written by an Asian woman doesn't make me feel any better about it. I'm sure her goal was to draw attention to the generalizations of the Asian trophy wife stereotype, but by calling it a hot new trend, she merely reinforces that stereotype (among others). Good thing she didn't decide to address an actually important issue facing Asian-American women... because God only knows what she'd have done with that information.

I'm sure someone will respond to this, saying that because I'm not Asian - and the author is - that I am not allowed to be offended by this subject. (Been there, done that). Or that I'm totally missing the deeper philosophical meaning or post-racial commentary behind the article... maybe so, but it's something that could easily be missed by any other random Marie Claire reader. The fact remains that someone is doing Asian women - and the men who marry or date them - a disservice here. Whether that's Chu's fault or Marie Claire's is up for debate.


bad-boy said...

I once had a profile set up on a popular and respectable dating website. By a landslide most of the invites I received were from asian women my age. Go figure...

Anonymous said...

I agree that the article sounds like it was horribly written, and full of race, age, and gender stereotypes. Yikes.

But, the one thing that that's true is that wives of rich men are often still commodities. Rich men still tend to marry beautiful younger women, and don't tell me that a lot of these beautiful young women would still marry them if it wasn't for their money. Times may have changed enough that maybe there's love as well as business in a lot of these marriages, but until we see these rich men marrying women their own age, making the same salaries, and at their own level of attractiveness, how can we say that many of them aren't trophy wives, whether they're "Asian" or any other "race"?

I otherwise agree with you: I imagine that the increase of "interracial" marriages has a lot more to do with globalisation and the loosening of outmoded prejudices and sterotypes than it does Asian fetishes.

Anonymous said...

you have presented so eloquently all the angry thoughts that have been swirling in my head all day after reading the marie claire article. thank you.

Anonymous said...

To some extent, I wouldn't be surprised if there was some self-hatred within these women. Strangely, this seems to hold true more so in educated Asian women.

I have experienced too many comments first hand from western friends who notice self-hatred going on with Asian women. At this point, It's hard to believe otherwise.

Oh well, the cold-hearted truth is they make themselves easy. Who could blame the guy when the girl is throwing herself all over you?

Anonymous said...

Believe me- well-bred and well-educated Asian women would cringe at the thought of becoming a second wife of an old man regardless how wealthy and powerful those men are. Just like our counterparts in the West, we are raised to marry a respectable man of similar background and age.
Doesn't this enough to explain that Deng, Soon-Yi, Chen,etc are viewd nothing but the social climbers and gold-diggers in the East and America?

Anonymous said...

Get real! Of course Wendi is a slut. She betrayed the trust of a woman that befriended her and helped to get into US and taught her English, then comes in has an affair with her husband. That first marriage of Wendi's only lasted a little over two years with that same man she had an affair with- he was married!

The other stuff of Marie Claire is burgeoning with stereotypes.

A good person does NOT stab benefactors and friends in the back in the name of money!

Twallock said...

The only reason Murdoch dumped his second wife and married Wendi Deng, good looking though she may have been, was so that he could have a close family member to entrust with his Chinese assets. The CCP is not known for being nice to foreigners when it comes to business, often cutting them right out of the action by, oh, say, throwing them in jail without fair trial for a trumped up charge. Happens more than you know, at all levels of China business.

Get yourself a Chinese wife, especially one with strong CCP connections, and you will be allowed to play business in China. Simple as that.


So we see that the recent scandal involving Wendi Deng's husband Rupert Murdoch has brought some interesting commenters out of the woodwork.

Unknown said...

My exotic and sexy wife is Chinese, she is 10 years my junior, and I love her very much. She still works 5 years after I retired, yet she has the body of a 17 year old girl (no kids helps) I consider her a gift from above. She rarely drinks, no tat's or piecings, never swears or raises her voice. She is always a lady, and perhaps most important of all, she NEVER wants to be "one of the guys". She is happy being one of the girls, seeing that no one wold mistake her for a guy!