An Asian American mom was told by her two young children that they “want to marry someone with blonde hair.”
Alyce Chan (@momcomnyc), a Chinese American stand-up comedian and mom of two little boys based in New York City, posted a video on TikTok in which she recalled a recent conversation she had with them. Innocuous teasing led to an eye-opening realization.
“I have mixed kids, half Asian and the other half is European, Persian. But half Asian,” Chan begins. “And my boys were teasing each other and they were like, ‘Oh, who you gonna marry? Who you gonna marry?’ and they both said, ‘We want to marry someone with blonde hair.'”‘
“They’re not that pretty. Blonde hair is better.”
Upon hearing this, Chan tried to find out more about what they meant.
“I was like, ‘Why blonde hair?’ and they said, ‘Because they’re prettier. People with blonde hair are prettier,'” she says. “I said, ‘Well, what about someone who looks Chinese, Korean, Asian? Dark features? Dark hair?’ ‘No,’ they said. ‘They’re not that pretty. Blonde hair is better.'”
Chan then tried to joke with them, and brought herself into the equation.
“I said, ‘But daddy married a Chinese person, me.’ And then I said, ‘Daddy thinks I’m pretty.’ He really does,” Chan said. “And they said, ‘Yeah, but all dads think their wives are pretty. But to us, you’re not.’ OK, I can see that. I’m not hurt, not offended at all.”
This idea that “blonde is better” was surprising to Chan. She wondered how they came to believe this.
“Mind you, we just watched Super Mario, the Mario movie, whatever you call it, and Peach, the princess, is blonde,” she says. “Don’t know if that has anything to do with it, but I really, definitely think that there should be more shows that represent dark hair women, dark hair boys, Asian features, Asian characters. But I was shocked.”
“Anyhow, I will take another poll in a week. Maybe show them Mulan. Maybe their opinions may change,” she added.
Pew Research Center released Marrying Out: One-in-Seven New U.S. Marriages is Interracial or Interethnic in 2010. The study found that, of the 3.8 million newlyweds in 2008, “31% of Asians married someone whose race or ethnicity was different from their own.” While rates for Asians have reportedly changed only a small amount from 1980, for white people, who comprise 9% of Americans who married outside their race or ethnicity that year, “these shares are more than double what they had been in 1980.”
Although these statistics appear to support the idea that an increasing number of Asian Americans are in interracial marriages, it doesn’t really explain why Chan’s sons believe that blonde hair is more desirable. It’s possible, as Chan notes, that their opinions might have been influenced by The Super Mario Bros. Movie — or they could be the result of the persistent societal belief in a Western standard of beauty. However much progress has been made in these attitudes, whiteness, especially standards of “all-American” beauty, remains the ideal.
While women of color continue to break boundaries in their respective fields, the correlation between beauty and whiteness isn’t easily shakeable.
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