Monday, February 8, 2010

On Bishies

Why I am a fangirl: Korean boy-band MBLAQ - a beautiful sight

I have recently come to the conclusion that I like bishies. "Bishie" is an English slang word for the Japanese "bishounen", i.e. "pretty boys". During a late night conversation with my white female friends after a few (too many?) drinks, I decided to share with them my affection for cute Asian pop stars. Upon seeing photos of the dudes I had been spazzing about for the past month or so, they were horrified. "Eeeek! He's so pretty! You're attracted to that?!" I was not expecting such a strong reaction. We had an extended conversation where we touched upon evolutionary reasons for attraction, cultural differences in what is considered attractive, and hipsters, but I left my friends that night still feeling a little confused. Mainly because once again, it was shown that I am a weird, weird person compared to the general populace, but also because the idea of Asian dudes being attractive was one that my friends just could not fathom. While I am comfortable with the idea that I am particularly strange, I don't think that finding pretty Asian dudes attractive is abnormal. Why was there such a difference in our assessments of what is attractive and what isn't? I can offer a few ideas, but I'd love to hear someone else's take on this.

I think it is a combination of differences in culture, experience and exposure. It's a cultural thing in the sense that the Western heterosexual norm that has spread to most parts of the world is that you're more attractive if you're more feminine (for girls) or more masculine (for guys). Points are taken off for any deviation towards an opposite pole, and too much deviation will earn you the label of "queer" even if that's not accurate. Adhering strictly to these norms becomes a problem, however, when one encounters a non-Western culture. In Asia, ideas of masculinity are very different. Men are expected to put as much effort into their appearance as women, and even the most masculine men wear skinny jeans and have nice hair. I recently heard a hilarious story of a guy who couldn't find anyone to date when he travelled to Asia because the abundance of dudes with stuffed animals in their cars messed with his gaydar. People consider different things attractive because they have different ideas of what is masculine and what is feminine, and these ideas stem from the culture that they have grown up in.

It's also a personality thing because different people want different things in a potential partner. They choose them based on their needs and desires at that particular point in time. For example, when asked which celebrity she would hook up with, my (white) friend immediately said Penelope Cruz. However, when it came down to men she was attracted to, she went for big beefy guys who made her feel protected. I found it interesting, but not surprising that she went for aesthetics and sex appeal for the random hookup, but security when it came to actually dating. Also striking is the 180-degree switch when it came to masculinity/femininity. You'd think she'd be satisfied with some happy medium, but no mas. Thinking about my own preferences, I decided that I'm cool with dudes who aren't all the way at the "MAN" section of the spectrum. I'm not looking for a protector. I'm looking for a partner in every sense of the word (I'm reminded of this song that I really shouldn't admit to knowing...)*, so I'm not hung up on whether a man is "manly" enough for me. (I also don't believe more "masculine" dudes are better in bed.) In fact, I'd rather he wasn't so "manly" in the Western sense, because then he'd likely see some need to assert his superiority over me to prove this masculinity. I've always wondered why dudes were so obsessed with this issue, especially after watching ad after ad during the Superbowl advertise products that promised to save men from emasculation (here's the best one).

On to the exposure thing. I've heard many black women complain about the dearth of "good black men" and then proclaim that they are "branching out" (i.e. dating outside of the race) to solve the problem of their singleness. I think it's interesting that in the US, where society is slowly becoming more and more multicultural, interracial dating is still seen as an adventure or act of courage (or desperation) of sorts. It's understandable since our evolutionary tendency is to go for people who look like us, and there are cultural issues of background and experience that can't be ignored. But I don't see why it's such a big deal still. There are good-looking people in every race - you just have to take a second look. I admit that when first coming to college I only looked at the black men, but after being here for a while, and being initiated into all things Asian, my horizons are expanding and I'm beginning to appreciate different types of attractiveness. It's kind of like being exposed to a new art form or type of music - even if you don't get it at first, if you give it a chance you eventually come to see the beauty in it. And even if not, the idea that someone else likes it is no longer shocking. Sugabelly is a great example of this - when I first showed her the bishies in Revolutionary Girl Utena, she dismissed them as being too feminine. However, after finding an anime that she loved featuring bishies, she came to appreciate them, and is now a fangirl like Eccentric and me :)

So it's about personality, culture and experience all intertwined. But attraction is about more than what's on the surface. We really do judge people based on more than their looks, and we should try to do that more often. Some people say that they can't get over their non-attraction to people of a certain race or body type, but I don't think that it's completely impossible. You just need to keep an open mind (and possibly heart?) and build your opinion/impression of people in a well-rounded way. Love is universal - and even though that's the corniest thing I've ever written in my life, I actually believe it's true.

I close this post with this awesome and funny video from Asian-American vlogger KevJumba which I think is pretty appropriate.

Have a good week y'all! And Happy Valentine's Day, since this is probably the closest thing to a Valentine's Day post I will ever write. I refuse to be a romantic - pink is not my color.

*Starts at 0:44. For some reason, the more feminist lyrics in the chorus of this song (by Play) are changed to less militant ones in Disney's Cheetah Girls version. Does Disney hate feminists? (*gasp!)


  1. Really Random NameFebruary 8, 2010 at 6:00 PM

    the problem is that most ''pretty boys'' are usually ghey. Not like there's anything wrong with it. It might be a stereotype but there's some truth to it

  2. @Really Random Name do you men most 'pretty boys' in Korea or in USA or where exactly?

    @mellowyel, i really enjoyed reading this post. i like the way you pointed out the cultural differences and all. i'm sorry if i don't have anything quite constructive to add in this comment except that i LOVED it. and i can never understand how someone can look at an obviously attractive man but no think he is attractive due to his race....

  3. @Really Random Name - true in America, but not in Asia.

    @eccentric: "and i can never understand how someone can look at an obviously attractive man but no think he is attractive due to his race...." I know right??? I was SO confused. I still am. but hey, more for us right? though i might be too tall and not skinny enough for Asian dudes so maybe i should give up on them, lol.

  4. @mellowyel, lol 'more for us' indeed. loving bishies is alright even though i have sort of resigned myself to it being a one-sided affair.

  5. i think this is all to do with what the industry wants and stuff
    if you dont appeal to those young teens which are the majority of the market, then it wont sell
    when 2pm was marketing jaebum
    he showed off his charisma, charms and his choc abs
    he has always been avid exercise freak but what he shows is dedication

    there are a lot of pretty boys
    i can name i few
    jang guen sok
    ft island
    cn blue

    i can really name some ugly/normal people cos there really arent alot
    the only one comes to mind is bbaek ga from koyote, wish him the best with his recovery but his dress sense isn't the best
    theres also another rapper, dont remember his name, was in hyori clip, song has a catchy interlude singing, oh oh ok,oh oh ok, ok ok, that rapper had long hair like bbaek ga and didn't care
    then 6 months later, he has a hair cut and performs with navi on stage with heart damage
    when they said his name, i had to double take and check on youtube to make sure it was him

    anyway what im trying say is, the industry require young hot metro men and hot women to sell the music, if not, well they will have to disband

    when i listen to a mv with a new song, i will listen to the song without the clip first then watch the clip and make my decision

    i know this blog was about pretty boys, oh forgot to mention dna, zea, mblaq, beast (oh i hate their new songs, all about the hook and no real beats)

  6. I'm an American and to me "pretty boy" just means a guy that is unusually attractive, like model type attractive. So other men are jealous and will label him a "pretty boy". There is also a racial component: light skin black guys are often considered "pretty boys" and it is meant in an insult implying they are effeminate.

    I love Mblaq. To me some of the hair styles are effeminate but most of their stage performance style is hyper masculine.