INTRODUCTION
Racial Castration
I am an Oriental. And being an Oriental,
I could never be completely a man.
song liling, M. Butterfly
Being Oriental: the antithesis of manhood, of masculinity? So declares
Song Liling to the judge, to the law, under oath, and in a suit.The derobed
Chinese opera diva/transvestite/spy attempts to explain to the pontifi-
cating bureaucrat how it is that Gallimard, the white male diplomat, can
mistake him less for a rug than a woman: ‘‘The West thinks of itself
as masculine—big guns, big industry, big money—so the East is femi-
nine—weak, delicate, poor.’’
1
Such is the particular crossing of sexual
and racial fantasy that compels Gallimard’s colonial world order, a fan-
tastic reality in which the Oxford English Dictionary would define Orien-
tal as ‘‘submission,’’ as ‘‘weakness,’’ as ‘‘woman.’’ Such is the fantasy that
makes Oriental and masculine antithetical terms in Gallimard’s universe,
a place in which an ‘‘Oriental . . . could never be completely a man.’’ In
such marvelous narratives of penile privilege, the Westerner monopo-
lizes the part of the ‘‘top’’; the Asian is invariably assigned the role of
the ‘‘bottom.’’ For twenty-five years, Aiiieeeee! editors Frank Chin, Jeffery
Paul Chan, Lawson Fusao Inada, and Shawn Wong have bemoaned the
predicament of Asian American masculinity in similar terms: ‘‘It is an
article of white liberal American faith today that Chinese men, at their
best, are effeminate closet queens like Charlie Chan and, at their worst,
are homosexual menaces like Fu Manchu.’’
2
In ‘‘Looking for My Penis,’’
Richard Fung summarizes the phenomenon even more bluntly: ‘‘Asian
and anus are conflated.’’
3
Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America explores
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