These days, I haven’t been on Facebook much (as some of you may already know), but there is the occasional post that catches my eye. About a week or so ago, I came across this in my newsfeed. In a nutshell, there’s a new indie pop artist named Lorde who is being ridiculed (along with her boyfriend) by a handful of users on Twitter because they think she called Justin Bieber and One Direction ugly. The focus is not that she called the guys ugly, but that – get ready for this – her boyfriend is Asian and she’s chosen him over a carbon copy of a Western pop idol.
I’ll be perfectly honest – I had no idea who these people were when I first read this article. A little research showed me that Lorde is a singer/song-writer from New Zealand who is most famous for her fairly recent hit single “Royals.” Born in 1996, she’s not only pretty young, but also new to the indie pop scene, as her hit single was also her first. She has everything going for her to make her a major star in the rising indie pop industry.
But she’s also dating an Asian guy, and as it turns out that might be giving her a lot of notoriety for a lot of wrong reasons.
Apparently, little is known about James Lowe, Lorde’s 24 year old Asian beau. It is reported that they had been dating before her rise to fame. He speaks about their relationship in video blogs posted by his sister (twitter handle @thedownlowe), and in general they seem like your average couple.
But enough of all that – why am I weighing in on all this?
I could sit here and say all the same things that everyone else has been saying on the matter – that it’s insanely racist to call him ugly based off the fact that he’s Asian. How they are unfortunate victims of cyberbullying due to the uncommon mixture of race and gender. How their racial dynamics seem to be upsetting absolutely every tween on the planet simply because they think Lorde has an atypical idea of attraction and doesn’t think Liam or Justin are total hotties (newsflash – there’s absolutely NO evidence that Lorde actually called Justin Bieber and the members of 1D ugly).
Personally, I don’t find him handsome either. Look, just because he’s Asian doesn’t mean he gets a free sexy pass. While I’m attracted to Asian guys in general, that doesn’t mean that I’m automatically attracted to ALL Asian guys. I’m not going to lie and say I’m defending him because he’s a babe. He’s just not. He’s geeky, he’s dorky, and he’s overall a 5/10 at BEST.
I’m mostly defending them because what I’m attracted to is beyond irrelevant to those two. So what if I don’t like her boyfriend? Who cares? Will they lose sleep because some random girl on the internet isn’t thinking positively of them?
I’m also personally defending them because I went down the same path Lorde is now traveling (without the fame, talent, and glory, of course).
As far as your average hit musician these days, Lorde doesn’t seem to fit the bill. She has publicly stated that David Guetta was “gross,” considers teen pop sensations like Justin Bieber and One Direction to be an inaccurate portrayal of what it is to be a young person, and has an overall distaste for today’s pop image. Her atypical viewpoints are a refreshing change, but they’re also bound to make her some enemies among the teeny bopper bandwagon crowd.
She sums up her feelings in a quote from Interview magazine: “Around the middle of last year I started listening to a lot of rap, like Nicki Minaj and Drake, as well as pop singers like Lana Del Rey. They all sing about such opulence, stuff that just didn’t relate to me—or anyone that I knew. I began thinking, ‘How are we listening to this? It’s completely irrelevant.’”
Well… Around her age, I was also disillusioned with “my generation’s” standard of what it meant to be a teenager. Growing up in Utah where everyone is predominately a Caucasian member of the LDS church, my life seemed pretty linear in regard to who I would end up with – a good Mormon boy who happened to be White purely by statistics. The girls who were considered popular went to prom with guys who I found absolutely hideous – the skater boys who looked like a Justin Bieber or One Direction prototypes. They all listened to rap, pop punk, or some other pretty generic-sounding stuff that was all too predictable to me.
Long story short, I became incredibly bored by the monotony that surrounded me.
I don’t think the exoticism of all things Asian is what initially appealed to me – rather, it was the way their ideas and influences seemed to match mine. I found a connection with Visual Kei, a genre within Japanese rock, because… well, the guys were hot. UNBELIEVABLY hot. In my humble opinion.
I started listening to various bands like X-Japan, Miyavi, Dir En Grey, etc., and it seemed like a natural fit for me. I finally felt like something had awoken within me, and I started to seek out the world around me instead of rejecting it completely as I had before.
Asian guys, naturally, came hand in hand with Asian music. I began dating them exclusively, as that was simply all I was (and still am) attracted to. To my surprise, I found a lot of similarities between my upbringing and the cultures I was exposed to from each subsequent boyfriend, such as an importance on education and strong family connections. I became happier, now no longer forced to subject myself to a culture I simply didn’t feel a part of. While I will never be Asian (and have never tried nor claimed to be), I feel more at home within the culture that my Asian boyfriend and I create just by being together.
I can’t speak for Lorde, but I wonder if she felt the same way – was she as disillusioned with her surroundings as I was, forcing her to seek an alternative culture to better fit her likes, beliefs, and opinions? Did that mean rejecting the Western mainstream standard of hip, attractive, and cool?
Or is she just going through a phase, as so many people have (and still) accused me of doing? Will she one day come to her senses and dump this “PSY gone wrong” and date a “handsome” One Direction bandmate?
I doubt it.
Lorde and Lowe aren’t models. I still have yet to hear any of Lorde’s music or watch her videos, but I just don’t think she’s going to be featured on any beauty magazines or beautiful people lists (which are also biased, but that’s an article for another day). They don’t subscribe to the celebrity dating cesspool that is plastered all over gossip magazines, nor do they ever intend to.
But they’re HAPPY, damn it!
Isn’t that enough? Aren’t two people, being totally honest with their emotions and affections and not letting media dictate who they date, allowed to be together even though they’re not the accepted standard of what it means to be attractive? Why must they be subjected to ignorant comments based purely off a crazed devotion to an image – an idea – of what it means to be a teenager? And why should said comments even carry any weight? Why should these opinions matter?
Zhuangzi once said something that I feel applies to this situation:
“Lady Li is considered beautiful in the eyes of men, but when the fish saw her, they plunged into the deep. When the birds saw her, they flew away. Which of these knows what is truly beautiful in the world?”
Asian men are not considered attractive in Western pop culture, but that doesn’t mean they, as a collective group, are unattractive. Just because a standard of beauty exists does not mean it is THE definitive and ONLY standard of beauty. Beauty is simply not universal, but our respect for another individual should be. Lowe has done absolutely nothing to deserve the amount of bullying he has received – he and Lorde being attracted to each other is not a crime.
I admire Lorde for standing her ground and staying true to who she is. I have been down this path for almost a decade now, and all I can say is that it gets better. The people that once demanded I entertain their standard of beauty eventually faded out of my reality and no longer dictate what I like. Instead of listening to irrelevant peers, I listen to my heart. My heart told me a long time ago that it rightly belongs with an Asian man. My Asian man is my standard of beauty – he is the bar by which all other men are judged.
If Lorde’s heart says it belongs with Lowe, then he is the most beautiful person in her world…
…and that’s all that should matter.
But until Western culture grows up and realizes that it’s not okay to pick on Asians because they’re perceived as the “model” minority that won’t fight back, we’ll be raising generation after generation of Asian men who are taught to believe from a young age that they don’t deserve desirable women. We will be raising generations of Asian men who are so downtrodden that the only way they’ll ever get married is by relying on their parents to arrange things with a stranger or investing in a professional dating instructor (something that I highly recommend you check out if you’ve already had to live through the racist vitriol; it’s worth the investment).
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that sounds like a very fun or fair world to be in. That’s why I’m proud every day to be fighting the stereotypes and misinformation that flood our society, and that’s why I encourage you to take a stand. Take a stand and say that it is NOT OKAY to expect Asian men to take a backseat.
And hopefully we’ll one day be rewarded with a world where any Asian man can date any woman – of any race – he desires without a second glance.