Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mail order bride agencies

Mail order bride agencies on the Internet frequently do have something to say about the ethnic traits of the women they feature. For instance, one venue declares that unlike modern-day American women, Filipinas are completely devoted to their husbands and families. The same characteristics are attributed to Latinas on another website. An agency based in Italy states that Filipinas are still “good Catholic girls” — which Italian women apparently no longer are. Some organizations play minority women against each other, touting the superiority of one group. According to an American outfit, women from the Philippines are more beautiful than their counterparts from China and Japan, so much so, the site adds, that Filipinas are often hired to play Chinese and Japanese roles in the movies.

uzbek woman

While it’s easy to condemn such pronouncements as sexist, many mail order bride agencies don’t shy away from commenting on the men from these women’s homelands.

But they don’t paint a very flattering picture of them. One site featuring Filipinas purports that Asian men, in contrast to their Western peers, don’t hold doors for women (this certainly wasn’t true of the Asian students at my old university). Another claims that Latin American husbands typically come home drunk and beat their wives. The purpose of such bad-mouthing, of course, is to convince potential clients that by choosing an American (or Australian or Western European) husband, these women are getting a far better deal than what they’d find in their country of birth and will be grateful as a result.

tajik bride

In the end, however, the mail order bride racket can’t be boiled down entirely to race. A good portion of the women signed on with these agencies are white, generally from the former Soviet Union, and some of the men who “order” brides via such venues are not. Among the frequent destinations of Filipinas, for example, is Japan. As well, some American clients who seek wives from the Third World and Eastern Europe, Russia and Ukraine, are black or Hispanic. The movement of mail order brides is less a flow of women from non-white to white countries than from poor to rich ones. There probably aren’t too many mail order brides going from Japan to Romania, for instance.

kazakh woman

Though Romanian men may very well hold the same stereotypes of the “passive Oriental lady” that other white men do, the fact that at the moment Romania is a poor country and Japan a rich one effectively stops the flow of brides between the two nations in its tracks. The predominance of economics over race can also be seen by looking at individual countries. When the mail order bride phenomenon first caught the public’s attention in the 1980’s, most of the women in question were Asian. Yet a glance at any mail order bride website’s headings for industrialized Asian nations such as Singapore and Japan will show that the women featured are primarily Filipinas working there as domestic servants. Japanese and Singaporean women don’t need to go abroad as mail order brides.

In addition, the fact that a mail order bride transaction is interracial rather than interracial doesn’t mean that ethnic stereotyping isn’t involved. Some agencies supplying Filipina women to Japanese men, for example, contrast the former’s traditional devotion to home and hearth to the modern Japanese woman’s supposed rejection of marriage and motherhood.

Others depict Russian mail order brides as uncontaminated by the militant feminism that has allegedly infected America’s female population (why Russian women would be considered June Cleavers is somewhat curious, as at least during the Soviet regime most of them worked outside the home). And just as mail order bride venues often portray Latino and Asian men as boorish compared to their white American counterparts, Eastern European men are described as slobbering drunks who don’t know the meaning of the word “provider.”