Author: ashleighfield

Viewing myself on an Asian dating show

In my previous post, I proposed my individual project of examining Asian culture through dating shows and recorded my initial thoughts and assumptions of these shows, specifically, If You Are The One, a Chinese dating show where one man attempts to impress 24 women. To delve deeper into the understanding of this culture, I’m now attempting to reflect upon, analyse and interpret this experience within its broader sociocultural context using an autoethnographic research approach.

Chang observes that the uniqueness of autoethnography comes from the way it “transcends mere narration of self to engage in cultural analysis and interpretation”, setting it apart from things such as memoirs and autobiography. It is not about focusing on just self, but finding understanding of others through understanding your own assumptions and beliefs. For my project, I am not focusing on my own dating experience; I am finding an understanding of Asian culture by using my own experiences as reference and context.

My first reaction to the dating show was pure shock and humour. If I envision myself in the position of the audience members, I would see myself rooting for one of the girls, or picture myself dating the man on offer. But instead, from my own perspective, all I could do was laugh. The reasoning behind why the women didn’t want the man seemed so far-fetched and unusual to me and when the first contestant began performing their talent to win over the other, I froze, wide-eyed and whispered …. What the shit am I watching?

This is entirely indicative of a Western, single, young woman mindset who has never considered some of the things these people considered when it comes to dating such as children and whether my family would be ashamed, or whether their hair is too short so he looks too bad …

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Vast outlines critical cultural differences between Asian and the West dating. He explains one of the main points to be that Asian women are interested in guys who genuinely make them feel liked since they are often considered to be insecure. He explains this to come from the fact that “Asian girls focus on how much you care about them, and want to stay with them, because they don’t have the same financial security and earning opportunities as Western women do”. Moua adds to these differences, stating that family values are very important in Asian dating, “women are often introduced to eligible men through their parents’ mutual contacts and are expected to be married [between 22-24]. The parents of the eligible singles often [screen] the other person before deciding if they should start contacting one another.” As such, Asian women look for a man who will please her parents and would provide a family for her soon. Moua continues that public affection is something that Asian couples are expected to avoid – “being seen in public together is often enough for a man and woman to be recognized as a couple.” This is entirely different to Western dating, where affection is often a key point in the relationship.

These stereotypes and dating norms were prevalent in my first reaction to If You Are The One, highlighting the tendency to unconsciously relate to any text we consume by viewing it in the context of our own culture and experiences. Even though I previously did not have a lot of knowledge with Asian dating norms, seeing them so starkly compared to what I am used to has bridged a connection and understanding in under an hour.

To conduct further research on Western match-making, I shamefully reopened my old Tinder conversations to see what kinds of things were talked about first, similarly to an episode of the show. Usually, the conversation began with some cringe-worthy pickup line or comment on appearances, followed by the standard questions like what I do with my life and what my weekend entails. When I compare this to the Asian dating show, similarities do surface like the job questions and the judgement of appearances. However, I am yet to see the use of a pickup line throughout the show and there are definitely no inappropriate sexual comments which are way too common on Tinder 😦

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An interesting point I noticed on a recent episode of If You Are The One, was that a woman instantly turned off her light for an American man and justified this by saying that her family would never approve. From my perspective, interracial dating would never be an issue. But when statistics are considered, 88.8% of Chinese men marry Chinese women, and 79.9% of Chinese women marry Chinese men (source: Le). This, again, creates a difference between Western and Asian culture, understood from an autoethnographic standpoint.

After researching further into Asian dating culture and viewing more episodes of a show that is very similar to that with which Australian people readily consume, I understand more that it is naïve to just brush Asian dating norms off as strange and accept that I would never behave the same way that some Asian people do during dating, because there are actually dense similarities between us. Our context and history has changed certain behaviours, but underlying all these talent and dating shows, there is a culture of appearance judgement and considering how all aspects of your own life would fit with the other person’s life: it is just that these Asian people often live a very different life.

As such, autoethnography has allowed me to grasp an understanding of Asian culture by understanding and examining my own biases and experiences to filter out similarities and differences between the two cultures. I have found that my continual viewing of If You Are The One, has changed slightly where I strangely enough now try to consider myself from an Asian woman’s standpoint to try and guess whether the woman will choose the man or not. It is surprisingly more entertaining. Stay Tuned.

The brutal and hilarious world of Asian dating

Most of you reading this will know about television shows such as The Bachelor and X-Factor. Some of you might even be huge fans, with your Foxtel IQ memory being used up by countless hours of women crying over one man and people who can’t possibly think their talented making a fool of themselves on national television.

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Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of dating and talent shows, but my god has that changed. I have recently been made aware of the single greatest dating show I’ve ever seen. It’s called If You Are The One and it’s so great. Brutal, full of surprises and so opposite to every Western dating norm that I am used to, If You Are The One is a cultural phenomenon. It has bridged an understanding of Chinese dating and partner types through the use of entertainment, but the real understanding comes from my own experiences: the fact that some of the dating standards are so strange and so funny to me produces a strong juxtaposition between Australia and Asia and allows me to understand the culture so much more – a direct feature of autoethnography.

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To describe the show quickly, a lone male suitor has to impress a panel of 24 single women (The Bachelor), who register their interest or disinterest through the use of podium lights (X-Factor). Throughout the show, the man introduces himself through pre-filmed footage and short performances of their talents. If the man and woman choose each other, then they win a trip to the Aegean Sea – wild. But the real lessons and entertainment comes from the reasons the women don’t choose the man, usually for purposes such as their family would disapprove of they are not ready to father children immediately.

My initial encounter with this Chinese dating came a few weeks ago during my first viewing of the show, from which my spiralling obsession has grown. I recorded a few observations during this first episode:

  • Huge live audience with lots of applause
  • All the 24 girls are beautiful and very thin – much like Australian dating shows.
  • The show uses purely English music – empowering as the man walks on, sad music if he walks off alone
  • Win prizes if every girl turns light on. If no one turns on light, they get another chance with audience members who are interested.
  • First impressions: turn lights on if they like him. Purely based on looks (Tinder).
  • Women makes comments like “You’ll be fun to marry”
  • The men and women perform things to impress each other: breaking dancing, singing jazz dancing and yoga – maybe the funniest thing I might have ever seen
  • Seems like a talent show and dating show mixed into one
  • Man shows introductory videos: one of them is about past relationships: re-enacted videos of the lovers together: seems so odd for the new women to want to see that. Man describes why the relationship ended – usually things like careers not matching or man not ready for marriage or children (this usually means many women turn their lights off)
  • So brutal when the countdown from 24 women goes further and further down (written largely on the screen)
  • The participants seem much more picky than Australian dating shows. Consider deeper things than just personality and looks
  • Internal thought: “50 minute episodes and 4 people find a lover or not- this is so much fucking better than an entire season of the Bachelorette. No drama and no tears!!!”
  • One woman sang to show her feelings – ‘Can’t take my eyes off of you’ – why an English song?
  • Most men speak of the expectations to find a wife and have children to keep family happy and leave a legacy
  • One couple chose each other and straight away decided by what age they would have children together. When choose each other, straight away choose when to have kids by
  • Feels like such a weird blend between English and Chinese. The music and show really don’t mix together well

As such, my individual research project aims to understand Asia, in particular Chinese dating, through my own experiences, considering how my own cultural biases and experiences form my opinions. “Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)” (Ellis et al. 2011). In this way, the researcher makes themselves the subject of research by using their thoughts and observations. So, by describing and analysing my personal experience of dating and dating shows I will produce research into the cultural experience of Chinese love.

I plan to continue watching more Chinese dating shows (hell yeah), and then produce a digital artefact which compares or relates what I am used to (Western dating) with the norms of Asian dating. I am still tossing up with the form my project will take – however, I am sure I will take notes during the dating shows of anything that seems different to what I am accustomed to. I will then use this information to create a project which clearly highlights the differences in culture, perhaps using reasons that people in Wollongong have decided not to date someone.
Autoethnographic research will allow an insight into Asian culture that regular research would not – application to real life situations. Hopefully, this form of research will produce an interesting, humourous project that bridges an understanding and connection between Australia and Asia.

Heading back into the man’s game

Understanding my assumptions throughout It’s A Man’s Game:
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Using our own culture and experiences to understand another is something that we all do on a regular basis; autoethnography puts this into an academic setting where we can use personal aspects such as perspective and opinion to contribute towards research to develop a deeper understanding. I attempted to tackle this unnecessarily-difficult-to-say word and the meaning behind it by recording my personal experience of Korean culture – my thoughts during the documentary State of Play. State of Play is a documentary that looks into the eSports profession in South Korea. It is centered not so much around the actual gaming, but more so around the hysteria that exists within the gaming industry: the fans, the hours of training, the huge stadiums, the money, the sacrifices the gamers make and, overall, the intense and fierce nature of the eSports scene. For me, it was difficult to concentrate on much else than the gender roles that were screaming at me. Literally. Women were only portrayed as screaming, adoring fans whilst the men were the talented, moneymaking gamers. Watching and recording how I felt was the easy part. Understanding how I came to my assumptions is the in-depth process, the autoethnographic process.

The most common thing I did throughout the viewing, was compare my culture to that of South Korea. For example, “but what isn’t obvious throughout the documentary is whether girls even try to compete at a professional level, whether any of them are interested, whether they just accept the gender norms, or if there are girls out there who are frustrated by the fact that men dominate the gaming industry and they are expected to just scream and squeal for the boys until their throats are sore, at which point they just fall to their knees and present the gamers with gifts, even when they’ve lost.” Words such as ‘them’ and ‘they’ provide obvious disconnections between myself and South Korean women, even though we share so much in common. It is my lack of experience with the gaming culture that creates my disconnection. But naturally, as a human being, I grasp on to any sense of familiarity by recalling memories of being a celebrity fangirl myself as a young teenager, as the South Korean girls are portrayed. This was how I made sense of what I was viewing, this is how my personal experiences shape my understanding. Ellis et al. describes this as they way we “systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (2011).

It is interesting to consider how my assumptions throughout State of Play were sometimes very different to that of my classmates (see Digital Asia blog). This is where the individuality of autoethnography is so obvious: since every person has different experiences, different knowledge and different perceptions, the way that we perceive things can vary immeasurably.
For me, one of my biggest passions in life is gender equality, and so I tend to pull this out in every possible opportunity. Specifically in State of Play, gender equality was nowhere in sight, and so my personal understanding of South Korea shifted. Upon reflection and research, feminism is actually surging within this country. Leading the pack is Megalian.com, a website which uses technology to promote gender equality and to humorously bash the misogyny that exists within South Korea. “To see the misogyny that is today taken as acceptable social behaviour and spat at South Korean women every day: to turn it around so men and women alike can witness it in its honest, raw form – discrimination.” Having this new knowledge answers some of the questions I considered upon my initial viewing of the documentary: I genuinely did not know if anyone was interested in women empowerment or if traditional Korean culture was just happily accepted. With this new knowledge, my next viewing of State of Play would probably provoke all new assumptions, highlighting the nature of autoethnography and how each experience can hugely impact each perception.

Autoethnography allows us to critically understand the assumptions we make and what they say about our cultural experiences and understanding. It makes us consider why we feel a certain way about something to, in turn, lead to a deeper understanding and more useful and reliable research.

 

It’s a man’s game

My main thought during State of Play: woah these are some dedicated and passionate boy gamers; woah those are some dedicated and passionate fangirls.

 

 

State of Play is a documentary that looks into the eSports profession in South Korea. It is centered not so much around the actual gaming, but more so around the hysteria that exists within the gaming industry: the fans, the hours of training, the huge stadiums, the money, the sacrifices the gamers make and, overall, the intense and fierce nature of the eSports scene.

But, to me, what was most prevalent within the documentary was how glaringly obvious the gender roles were. Men are the talented, moneymaking gamers; women are the screaming, adoring fans. My lack of knowledge and exposure to the gaming industry prevents me from knowing too much in this area, but what isn’t obvious throughout the documentary is whether girls even try to compete at a professional level, whether any of them are interested, whether they just accept the gender norms, or if there are girls out there who are frustrated by the fact that men dominate the gaming industry and they are expected to just scream and squeal for the boys until their throats are sore, at which point they just fall to their knees and present the gamers with gifts, even when they’ve lost.

After researching into the area of autoethnography, it is interesting to consider how my passion for feminism and gender equality effects my viewing of State of Play. Being asked to observe and record my perspectives when watching the film and then consider how my cultural biases and experiences forms my opinion, it makes me wonder whether other people around the world view the film the same way as I do. In particular, do women in Korea watch the film and are completely oblivious to the gender divide purely because that’s all they know and that’s all their culture is used to?

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)” (Ellis et al. 2011).

In this way, the researcher makes themselves the subject of research by using their thoughts and observations.

So, by describing and analyzing my personal experience of women empowerment in order to understand the cultural experience of South Korean gaming, it is obvious that I am watching this film as an outsider, completely amazed and confused by the industry purely because of my cultural differences and experiences. I am used to, coming from Western culture, people expecting women to be involved in areas that men are also. It shocks me seeing women being completely put into submissive roles of fandom and no one questioning it. And that is my understanding of autoethnography: my experiences affecting my viewing.

I’d like to add that I do not speak poorly of gaming or the talent and passion of gamers. (This is me personally looking into an industry that I know little about: I watch the gamers’ fingers tap against the keyboard hundreds of times a minute in awe). Rather, I am impressed by the gamers and encouraging of anyone who can make money where people don’t typically think there should be money. I’d just like to see some female hands holding that money too.