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Johnny Depp and Asian Incels

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Just wow. The whole Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation lawsuit. Wow.

During the span of this super public trial, I can’t help but think about incels and the Men’s Rights Movement, both of which are based in the idea that men are oppressed. And the Depp v Heard case is the kind of example that these groups would be drawn to.

And let’s be clear. Men definitely can experience abuse, violence, and injustice. But men are NOT oppressed on a systemic level. And much of the hardship that men experience can be traced to the effects of patriarchy. And for Asian men, it can also be traced to racism. I’ll explain this later. But let’s first discuss Incel.

What’s Incel?

Here’s just a quick summary of the incel subculture.

Incel stands for involuntary celibate. They are men who have a tough time in their dating and sex life, hence, they are celibate, but is involuntarily so. They gather and connect through online communities.

The incel subculture really garnered public attention after mass murderers such as Elliot Rodgers and Alek Minassian were linked to the subculture.

And knowing the history and continued legacy of anti-Asian racism, I’m not surprised that there’s a contingent of Asian incels.

Patriarchy Is Painful For Incels

When I think about incels, I often feel conflicted. Having worked with incel clients, my therapist brain understands their pain. They experience very real pains around bullying, isolation, racism (for racialized men), and self-worth.

My feminist brain completely disagrees with Incels blaming their celibacy on feminism. Male gender roles and toxic masculinity is the result of patriarchy. The idea of “alpha” and “beta” males is a patriarchy thing. And the idea that men need to derive self-worth by having sex with women is one of those harmful ideas that patriarchy teaches men (and women).

Feminist theories actually want to free men from male gender roles like this. And here, I differentiate feminist theories from individuals who identify as feminists. That is because every person who identifies as a feminist will understand and practice feminism differently.

And if you dig deep enough (which Incels will do), you’ll find “feminist”-identifying individuals who will do and say things that Incels deem as derisive to men and Incels. Heck, I’ve been guilty of that myself.

But at its theoretical core, feminism don’t want men to suffer. It advocates for men to be free from the burdens of gender roles, and free to live a healthy life with healthy and meaningful relationships with themselves and with the people around them.

The First Asian Incels Were In The 1800’s

Let’s cut to the chase. Asian men are perceived as the least desirable out of all the races, according to a study done on online dating and dating apps.

So what the hell is going on here? Well…let’s take a look at the history of why Asian men are perceived as emasculate, asexual, and undesirable.

We have to trace back to the days of the Chinese railroad workers. These workers were all men. And after the completion of the railroad, Canada didn’t want anymore Chinese people coming to Canada, cause this country is racist as hell.

So they created the Chinese Head Tax (1885), where Chinese immigrants had to pay a fee to enter Canada. And then they passed the Chinese Exclusion Act (1923), that outright banned Chinese immigration.

So what happened to all the Asian men, after the railway was completed? They were basically segregated and lived in ghettos, which our regional governments now lovingly calls it “Chinatown” as a showcase of diversity. But back in the day, these were areas of poverty and result of segregation.

Due to the Chinese Head Tax and the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Chinese railway workers were not able to bring their families to Canada. So Chinatown was populated by primarily Chinese men. This led to the questioning of Asian men’s sexuality (homosexuality or asexuality).

To top it off, Asian men were discriminated against when looking for jobs. The only jobs available to them were what was typically thought of as “feminized” professions such as laundries, restaurants, tailors, etc. This led to Asian men being viewed as emasculate.

And out in California, anti-miscegenation laws were passed, to prevent interracial marriages. All these laws forced Chinese men to remain bachelors, remain stuck living with other Chinese bachelors, and only working in “feminized” jobs. So perhaps, these railway workers were the original Asian incels.

This is the legacy of anti-Asian racism in North America. And one of the impacts of this legacy is that Asian men are considered emasculate and undesirable.

Through the years, this stereotype has perpetuated. We can see this in the media and popular culture. Asian men are either not represented at all, or if they are, they usually play the role of the unattractive geek, like Long Duk Dong.

So What Does All This Mean?

It’s important to understand history, to help us understand how things came to be. While incels blame feminism for their pain and struggles, it is actually patriarchy that’s to blame. And for Asian incels, the long history of anti-Asian racism plays a huge part in their struggles around self-worth, and building meaningful and healthy relationships.

As always, thanks for tuning in. If you found this helpful, get my free Asian Survival Guide.

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Harry Au

Therapy for Asians

MSW, RSW | he/him

I help Asians go from feeling trapped to becoming self-liberated.

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