Asian Masculinity

Aaron Kim


As Am 115

Growing up as kid, I have always seen Bruce Lee as the epitome of Asian men. He is both strong, quick, respectful, lovable, and of course Asian. In the eyes of an Asian person, seeing Bruce Lee take away Hollywood as the main character in films brings about something to celebrate and even look out for. But Bruce Lee in actuality not only appealed to Asians, but also to other races. For example, his pupils in the art of Jeet Kune Do (a martial arts ‘style’ as well as philosophy) were mainly all white men. He had influences from the Asian community, as well as America through his films.

In our readings of Shimizu’s Straitjacket Sexualities Chapter 1, we read about how Bruce Lee redefines Asian sexual manhood, in aspects where performance in strength greatly exceed the ideal manhood of the penis and phallus. Surely, throughout his films and works, Bruce Lee broke down the stereotype that Asian men are weak. But as most main characters in films participate in the essence of love and sex, Bruce does not. It’s mind blowing to me because whenever I would watch Bruce Lee movies, I would never have thought about Bruce’s sexuality. I did see however that Bruce is a gentleman for women in his films, but no sex is involved. A sense of mutual respect as well as degrading the fact that men prevail over women, is seen through Bruce Lee’s depictions.
This is particularly interesting because he defines himself as a character in the role, but many other people see Asian Americans through his depictions. Such depictions include asexuality, homosexuality, mindless violence, and even savage. But Shimizu offers Bruce Lee as someone like the Renaissance man. He urges to be someone of ethical manhood, that is, to fight injustice. He also brings about violence only when it is necessary to establish a greater good.

What I don’t get is why they would question his sexuality. Why is such question necessary for building up the character of Bruce Lee? Surely he is a male, but does a male in the essence, have a greater need for sex than for ethical needs? Masculinity should not be correlated to sexuality, but rather the mutual respect that Bruce Lee shines, as well as the ethical morals he conjures. Shimizu quotes: ” I argue that Lee’s manhood is contingent upon a larger field that must account for his ethical relations with male friends, romantic relationships, and his protection of community as well as nation”, in order to show that his manhood can include all of these. But if we look at Bruce Lee in reality, he was a heterosexual man married to a white woman. Just that fact in itself should be enough to break the stereotype that Asian men are homosexual or asexual. When one does look at Bruce Lee as an individual of asexuality, it can be perceived that asexuality can be means for stoicism and principles of strength through his independence.
Overall, one’s sexuality does not and should not affect his character and morals.


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