Eugene Cho

sexism? stereotypes? guilty as charged.

As most of my readers know, I wrote as post regarding Ann Rice’s simple but dramatic departure from organized Christianity entitled, “Why I’m Not Quitting Christianity.”

I was encouraged by how it was generally received. It was crossed posted on numerous places including Huffington Post.

But shortly afterwards, I asked for some honest and gentle feedback about one little line I inserted – not necessarily intentionally but because I’m a wanna be funny guy. It was my attempt to use humor to diffuse a tense subject:

First of all, I am a fan of Anne Rice. In fact, I don’t know of many people that dislike her. She’s a phenomenal writer and additionally, she’s gotta have some Asian genes in her. She’s 68 and ages like no other.

But I received several emails and notes about the possible racial or sexist undertones. Some of these came from absolute strangers or stalkers and couple came from folks I know.

Was that statement racist?

No.

Was it sexist?

Maybe. I didn’t believe it then. That’s why I wrote it. And I don’t think so now…

But it certainly makes me think.

Two quick thoughts:

Physical Appearance.

I asked for your feedback because I’m fully aware that I have my blind spots.

I was particularly stumped by someone’s comment that alluded to the unfair and unbalanced accentuation of physical appearance for women.

Clearly, I wasn’t try to mack on Ann Rice.

[Wait a minute…was that bad humor?]
[Now, I’m getting paranoid…]

Women – if we’re honest – are most defined and judged by their physical appearance and my comment – while not intended – only added to that unbalance and gender-ism. I was particularly struck by this comment:

What we’re often not sensitive to as men is the enormous pressure our culture places on connecting womens’ appearance to their value. I know so many women pained by a lifetime of not measuring up in appearance and having appearance over-weighted in others’ assessment of them period.

So in that sense, when talking about a woman’s professional giftedness and spiritual journey, almost any comment about her appearance seems to reinforce a painful paradigm.

Guilty. as. charged.

I apologize.

I am a man and thus, I have immense privilege. And in that privilege, I sometimes don’t see…

Stereotypes

That’s what I am guilty of? You got me.

I harped on a stereotype that some who know their genetics would swear it to be quasi-scientific. But that leads me to a more difficult question. I know what my politically correct mind and intellectual construct says but sometimes, my lips definitely don’t follow. Here are the questions:

  • Are stereotypes ever good?
  • Is there a place for stereotypes?

What do you think?

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18 Responses

  1. mo says:

    Oh man, too early for such a heavy one. I think we learn to take advantage of stereotypes sometimes, which makes us label them as “good” (asians are smart), but at the end of the day, if there were none, we’d be better off, not worse.

    That’s not rely possinle, tho, so I’ll take the “smart” label over the myriad other ones I could get hit with.

    I like that you ask questions worth answering.

  2. yaakova says:

    I have been reading this blog for years, though I suck at commenting. I honestly think this issue your having to deal with is way overblown. I even sat down and shared the Anne Rice post with my wife to get some female perspective. Even she thought you really did nothing wrong.

    My old Pastor had a saying: If you look hard enough you will find what you are looking for. Another words people could find something sexist or racist in the Sermon on the Mount if they wanted to.

    Now there are times when people are being sexist, racist, etc and should be called out on it. I just feel people in some circles have both an itchy trigger finger and quick defense mechanism.

    Keep on with what you do here. It blesses me daily.

  3. Daniel says:

    Your post was NOT sexist.

    But I understand why some were bothered by it and I respect you for hearing them.

  4. I like that you’ve been wrestling with this. But are you saying that although you’re guilty of reinforcing a painful (sexist) paradigm, you don’t think the aging comment itself was sexist? Would you say that this or that man “ages like no other”? Thanks for being open.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Dick Clark ages like no other.

      But as to your point, I acknowledge and agree. We live in an unbalanced society that heavily favors men. And I benefit – in more ways than I can acknowledge.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eugene Cho, Christian Ray Flores. Christian Ray Flores said: check this out sexism? stereotypes? guilty as charged. http://bit.ly/bRg2fE […]

  6. Tony Lin says:

    I don’t know how this adds to the conversation… probably not at all. But I found out the other day that Anne Rice had gastric-bypass surgery back in 2003 and lost over 100 lbs as a result.

  7. dmbaldwin says:

    You are a good man Eugene Cho. I don’t think you did or wrote anything wrong. Your humility in taking the blame for something that really has been blown way out of proportion is great.
    It makes me respect you even more.

    Blessings,

    Dave

  8. Smoaky says:

    Sometimes stereotypes are cultural fact. Read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

    I saw nothing wrong with your comment Eugene. Continue the good that you do my friend.

  9. your friend says:

    Okay, folks, we all got it, don’t we (even those who are a bit slow, and I do not mean this disrespectful!)

    Eugene IS NOT a racist, NOT a sexist!

    So let’s get on with life! Have a donut! Or better: Donate to ONE DAYS WAGES! Because THAT would be really supporting a non-racist, non-sexist good cause!

    Let’s DO something about sexism or racism, not just debate tongue slips or worse: wait to catch someone unawares.

  10. with all due respect to the writer of the comment at 6:48 above, Eugene did ask, more than once, for people’s thoughts on this. I don’t know Eugene personally, but I understand him to be humble and sincere in asking for feedback. In any case, I admire the public way he’s been considering this issue.

  11. Scott says:

    stereotypes are important cultural frames of reference, i think. how else can you understand norms of behavior? the “stereotypical” elite businessman in a certain industry might dress and act a certain way; that’s critical information for someone headed to a job interview in that industry!

    the moral aspect of communicating in stereotypes is straightforward: try to avoid reducing individuals when you generalize about groups. and that requires knowing in every conversation who your audience is and how you are perceived by them. that’s why black people and white people can joke about the “N” word, but they probably can’t joke about it in mixed company. on the other hand, when a black guy tells me “You’re my n*gga!”, i don’t really care in that situation about the theoretically injurious and reductionistic implications of the term; it’s a high compliment.

    as an Asian guy giving props to an older white woman, you actually direct a stereotype to a socially constructive end. had you then employed a derogation (i.e. “and she should thank God that her white hag genes are recessive”), you might be indefensible. but one stereotype does not imply the other, and stereotypes in and of themselves are not reprehensible to utilize and communicate.

    • Andy says:

      I would disagree. Stereotypes may see OK for a majority group that isn’t constrained and reduced by existing stereotypes, but to the minority, they can be very harmful, both emotionally and to life chances.

      For example, what stereotypes exist for minority groups such as Asians, blacks, and Hispanics? How many are positive? Negative? Now ask yourself, do those stereotypes accurately portray their LIVED EXPERIENCES or simply reduce them to caricatures?

      I’d argue for the latter, especially because these same minorities CAN’T CONTROL THEIR OWN REPRESENTATION in the media. I have many black friends who don’t appreciate the N word used in jest, regardless of what YOU think it means or whether you’d be complimented.

      Stereotypes in and of themselves reduce people to caricatures. This is most devastating to minorities who aren’t making the stereotypes; they are being subjected to them by the majority group and the media.

    • Andy says:

      Please reconsider your opinion of stereotypes. As an Asian American Christian brother, and many of my minority Christian brothers can attest, they serve to mask and devalue the rich life experiences and unique personal stories of people from all backgrounds.

      I thought we learned this lesson from Deadly Vipers.

  12. Bryan Todd says:

    i saw this quote in my readings and thought it might apply a little.

    It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong. – G. K. Chesterton

    in another direction, I think context is essential to labeling stereotypes as good or bad (or anything else)

    AND

    i think it is a very slippery slope because it seems everyone has a different take or can even be in a different context within the same conversation, which means we can be playing one game where everyone has a different set of rules.

    I think I need to read outside the philosophy genre for a little bit.

  13. Andy says:

    Hey Eugene,

    Though I don’t know you personally, I have been a ghost on your blog for a little while. As a fellow Asian American Christian, I find it empowering that there is a pastor who is both CHRISTIAN and fights for justices issues. This post was very self-reflective and honest, and I’d love to offer my 2 cents soon. I’d love to maybe get in touch with you to write about RACE AND THE CHURCH for my campus, as I’d love to get your perspective on things. It would mean a lot to me.

    I look up to your courage and resilience, and believe me, you are inspiring young Christians like me.

  14. Carlos says:

    stereotypes are a natural (psychological/cognitive)way that people make order of the world. To this natural way the human mind works we apply our own critical reflection and consciousness (particularly in areas where privilege would make us blind) to make choices about how to act. I appreciate your honesty and transparency in the blog. It’s what continues to draw me to your blog (oh . . .and the funnys).

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One Day’s Wages

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Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer. Seattle. 7:00pm. Desperately holding on to summer. #goldengardenpark #nofilter Happy Birthday, Minhee! I'm so grateful for you. You radiate faith, hope, and love.  No...you don't complete me. That would be silly and simply humanly impossible but you keep pointing me and our family to Christ who informs and transforms our lives, marriage, family, and ministry. Thanks for being so faithful. I love you so much. (* And what a gift to be in Korea together.)

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