Labels: the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Language fuels dichotomies: good, bad, and even ugly ones. Labels, self-prescribed or otherwise, fall under such triple-edged implications.

As an AMWF couple, that’s Asian Male Western Female for those not in the know, who so chooses to self-identify as one, I respect that the label may not work in every said couple’s favor.

Labeling doesn’t have to imply its negative connotation. Why not look at it from a glass half full point of view?

The label works for us, simply, because we are a mixed race/intercultural/international/Jewish-Asian couple. There’s no avoiding this fact, and as long as we’ve embraced it, taking it on willingly, not as a means of fetishizing one another, then there’s no harm. You may beg to differ, and I’ll respect you for it, heck, even jump for joy. Yes, I’m one of those weirdlings who delights in agreeing to disagree as an inevitable fact of life. Even if you find it hard to agree to disagree, at least hear me out as to what makes the AMWF tag equally good, bad, and ugly…

Let’s start with the ugly as it’s nice to get the awful news out of the way first. 

When labels cause discrimination, dare I say racist ones. There will always be people who judge, based purely on what they see: an Asian man and a white woman. Racism is real. Anyone who tells you otherwise should crawl out from under that rock they call their home. Most people don’t know my husband is Chinese, and the AMWF tag, sadly, propagates that fact. Because we’ve chosen to settle in the United States, where intercultural dating is certainly on the rise, and yet still rare enough when AMWF comes to mind, it includes the stares, hushed whispers, and wide eyes, not carrying the same positive connotation as they did in China (except with the ethnically Chinese population). The rarity of Chinese men with white women couplings also receives stares, wide eyes, and pointing from young Chinese kids to the elderly, twinged with a sense of pride, curiosity, and amazement. On one occasion, a middle-aged Shaanxi woman, upon seeing us holding hands, a dead give-away in China announcing our eventual nuptials, told ZJ, in dialect, how awesome he must be.

Phew, got the ugly out of the way! 

Now, for the bad news: unless you both are fluent in one another’s language, you’ll always struggle to fully integrate yourselves into one another’s families, friends, and cultures. Living in the US, ZJ’s English language skills, for the most part, pose very little concern. Misunderstandings do occur, not holding him accountable when that happens, particularly when he recounts events unfolding at work: the ignorant, impatient, and unfriendly individuals frequenting his place of employment are the catalysts, stirring the pot and looking for trouble. My Mandarin language skills are merely conversational. It’s still the one thing I hold a personal grudge towards me, myself, and I. Regardless of not being fully integrated into ZJ’s culture, the appreciation, respect, and admiration, I hope, comes through. I’ve learned a lot from living and working in China, and continue to learn about ZJ’s culture through its food, history, language, news, and entertainment.

Continuing to learn brings me to the good: by harnessing the AMWF tag, I’ve joined an online community of bloggers married to Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other Asian men. Many live in their husband’s home country, while every week, more women living in their respective countries, come out of the woodwork. Many of these women introduced authors writing AMWF-based memoirs, providing a much-needed sanctuary of sorts, to share, connect, inspire, and nurture one another:

So, a big thank you, AMWF tag, because although there’s more to say about the bad and ugly of embracing the acronym, it goes without saying, the good far outweighs the encroaching shadows of the bad and ugly. 😄

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9 thoughts on “Labels: the Good, Bad, and Ugly

  1. Susan Blumberg-Kason says:

    Great post! Thanks so much for the mention. It’s interesting for me to speak with older women in AMWF marriages who had it much more difficult than we did. What fascinates me is that they have almost unamimously said that they never thought of their marriages as AMWF. But they love hearing about the online community of younger AMWF couples.

  2. Marta says:

    I also think tags are useful, and something that is widely used on the internet. If you want readers to find your articles, or if you want to search for something you are interested in, tags are there to help.

  3. Daisy Jou says:

    Hey. Marissa. Don’t let labels or tags to limit your feelings to someone. No matter what races we are, we all just people. I don’t even like ‘foreigner’ this word, it creates barrier between people. I have a Chinese friend who married to an Indian, they are both live in London now.
    I think what she did there is also real cool. You can just imagine how discrimination they face in their marriage. But that Indian man is really a sweet man. They have a pretty good marriage 🙂 I always love multi-culture families, because sometimes we have to humble ourselves and learn things from other culture. and it’s always fun to experience the common or the differences.

  4. Cosette says:

    Came here through Betty. As I have told her in a comment, I’ve also found the tag to be racist, to some extent, but then I figured it worked wonders (more or less) when it came to discovering more people I could relate to.

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