Regarding the preference for women in adoption

Someone raised the interesting question after Koyama’s lecture about the preference for girls in international (Asian) adoption. To be honest, while I think this is a very relevant and interesting topic and the people who responded had respectable and nuanced opinions to share on the topic, I was anxious when it was raised. This is because I think some of the issues attached to this preference are not easily traversed, especially when your words are being recorded.

The thoughts that were running through my head at the time were first of all that the way that Emi framed the issue in her presentation suggested the primacy of aesthetic fetishism in the choice of girls over boys — not in an explicitly sexual vein, although that might be arguable, but to the same extent that pretty women have been used as “office flowers,” the extent that women are fetishized as aesthetically pleasing (by both men and women) and considered well-behaved or more emotionally stable. I think the commenters covered this point rather well.

On the other hand, what I saw as a possibly more controversial or touchy subject, I think there are also psychosexual racial politics attached to this preference as well, particular in that the preference is inseparable from a relationship of developmental responsibility that is uniquely inherent to raising children. That is, I feel like adopting parents may be influenced by a subconscious anxiety that parents (with socially specific “parental love”) share in wanting to raise their children to be the best they can be. If we were to explicate this desire, I think it might be expressed as a desire to raise strong, courageous, responsible men (not boys) and respectful, beautiful, talented women (not girls). Which is where psychosexual racism comes in; we’ve discussed how Asian women are fetishized by Americans as almost “more feminine than females,” and the use of the adjective “beautiful” to refer specifically to adopted asian daughters. Subjecting Asian males to the same psychosexual racist gaze, I think there is a strong Euroamerican characterization of Asian men as sexually impotent, smart (=nerdy/otaku) but not strong, loyal but not courageous, high-achieving but not necessarily responsible in the same way that men in America are expect to become pillars of strength and responsibility in the nuclear family. I wonder, therefore, whether or not there is an anxiety among adopting parents that somehow an Asian male child would represent some kind of failure on the European parents’ part. Certainly, this idea of optimal development is central to eugenics debates on “edited” biological birth, and it seems to me that sexist, racist issues are incredibly relevant to that discourse.

Again, I was anxious to say this in class, because I think there are a lot of missteps to be made in expressing or wording these sorts of issues. I’m also not a big fan of Freudian psychosocial analysis, so it seems to me like there should be a better answer. Please be flexible in reading it, I don’t want to offend anyone.

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