Coined the term chineseprivilege in Singapore. Mar 2, Hand-in-hand with a white man: Dating and racial hierarchies in Singapore To a young Tamil Singaporean woman like me, the concept of racism is nothing new or inconceivable. The surprised looks by strangers were one thing, but the harsh comments made to me by fellow Indians, especially men, implying that I had somehow betrayed Indian men as a collective, came as quite a shock to me.
I have been trying to grapple with this response and believe it all boils down, as do most issues, to racism and sexism. Now I always knew that Singaporeans have particular dating preferences, as do people all over the world.
I was acutely aware of this growing up, when I was mocked by some of my peers for having dark skin and curly hair. I wanted to sink into the floor when my teacher in Secondary School declared that she, a Chinese woman, would never date an Indian man. So you can imagine my genuine surprise when I flew to Europe for a university exchange programme and started to be on the receiving end of a fair amount of male attention.
The dark skin and curly hair that I was ridiculed for in Singapore were admired and complimented for the first time in my life. I did wonder if I was being exoticised by some European guys, but the fact that I had to even question why anyone would find me attractive reflected a bruised self-esteem that growing up as an Indian girl in Singapore had dealt me.
Before I say that minority women, especially those with darker skin tones, are generally considered to be less desirable in Singapore, I must admit that I personally know many dark-skinned Indian girls who are dating Chinese, Malay, Eurasian or Caucasian guys here. But the statistics suggest that I may quite possibly know all of them.
Indian grooms and Chinese brides rounded up the top 5 ethnic group combinations at 5. I have also heard Chinese Singaporeans state unequivocally that they would never date Indians. Furthermore, conventionally Chinese or East Asian features are constantly lauded as the ideal standards of beauty in Singapore. Numerous advertisements and the recent Cosmopolitan Singapore controversy are testaments to this. Would seeing a Caucasian man and a Chinese woman together elicit the same reaction?
Strangely, the most disapproving looks I have received are from fellow Indians. Some of my male Indian friends have remarked to me that my decision to date a Caucasian man, presumably before other Indian men, speaks to a broader pre-occupation with the white male ideal.
These friends have even implied that it is insincere of me to be critical of heterosexual white male privilege and date a white man at the same time. This begs the question: Moreover, why does it appear incongruous when a white man and an ethnic minority woman are seen together? What sorts of power structures and hierarchies does this pairing upset? The answer is not as simple as saying that people prefer to stick to their own ethnic groups, where they can find partners with whom they have a greater cultural affinity.
Even evolutionary biology would disagree with this explanation, as interracial relationships are biologically advantageous. If it was not race, but gender that was the issue and I was an Indian man with a white woman, would I be criticized of the same?
My guess is that I would be getting a few congratulatory thumps on the back instead. When Indian women, who are generally considered to be less desirable in Singapore for aforementioned reasons, date white men, this upsets the racial hierarchy in Singapore which places slim, porcelain-skinned Chinese women at the top of the totem pole and dusky Indian women at the bottom.
It upsets gender roles that seemingly entitle men to women of the same ethnic group. Awareness can be a powerful tool to stop the perpetuation of harmful social inequalities that are reproduced and justified on the basis on race, gender and class. He insists on dividing the household chores and care-giving responsibilities equally.
It may not seem like much, but active awareness can do a lot to even the playing field, in a sphere as small and as private as the home.
The full report can be found here. Radha is a Singaporean Tamil girl who believes that human dignity should not have to concede to social harmony.