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June 1, 2006

science says i'm gorgeous!

there are two stickers on the back of my trusty little Honda. one is a gentle suggestion: "Live Larger, Drive Smaller: Not Everyone Needs An SUV." the other is a statement: "100% Hapa."
i get more comments from people about the hapa sticker, which surprises me. everyone knows what an SUV is; the word hapa is a little more obscure. it's a Hawaiian pidgin word that literally means "half," but has come to generally refer to people of half-Asian, half-Caucasian descent. (thus the humour: 100% half. hah hah.) i'm proud of my identity as a person of mixed-race; i've posted before about how proud i am of my parents' relationship. growing up in Asia, but speaking English at home and being exposed to a fair amount of American culture (albeit a bit filtered), i suppose being comfortable with my dual cultural identity makes me even more happy with my dual racial identity. sure, i've experienced my share of odd discriminations, and i've wrestled with the "where do i fit?" question. but i just can't get on board the Angry Hapa Train, the one where the passengers hate having a stranger ask, "Excuse me, what are you?" or get pissy when they fill out surveys asking for race and have to check the "Other" box. words that can be meant as positive are always viewed with suspicion ("exotic," "best of both worlds," "progress against racism," "hybrid vigor"). honestly, this seems to be a colossal waste of energy. SIGH. pardon me; i would like to address my peeps:
fellow hapas (and others of mixed-race), i realise we live in a world where dialogue about race and identity is important. i realise that without this dialogue, without self-questioning, we'll get smushed into that dreaded "Other" box. or worse, we'll never feel comfortable in a society addicted to classification. but while we're busy challenging stereotypes by simply existing, could we please have more of a sense of humour? we do indeed have the right to choose our own culture(s); let's stop being derisive and suspicious and instead laugh about how far -- or not so far -- that we've come.

okay, now that's been said, i would like to laugh heartily about this much-ballyhooed study published in Psychology Today and elsewhere. an Australian psychologist, Dr. Gillian Rhodes, asked a group of Caucasians and Asians which race they find most attractive, and not surprisingly, most said members of their own race. she then showed them a random series of faces, both male and female, and asked them to rate each one's attractiveness on a 1-10 scale. the pictures were actually digitized composites, ranging from exaggerated (more than 100%) Caucasian features to over 100% Asian features, with mixed percentages in between. despite their earlier assumptions about their own race, both male and female participants overwhelmingly rated the Eurasian, or "hapa"-looking faces as the most beautiful.
what makes me chuckle is Dr. Rhodes' conclusion as to why the composite mixed faces were preferred: health. the hypothesis is as follows: people of mixed-race ancestry have two parents from very different genetic backgrounds. therefore, the chance for mutations and inherited diseases are lower. thus, a beautiful face also means a healthy potential mate. the article lists plenty of other studies that link health and beauty, but i couldn't help but snicker: i'm supposedly beautiful because i have a less likely chance of having hemophilia? really? i'll have to ask T.T. if he thinks i'm pretty because of my stunning lack of mutated features. of course, the irony here is that in highschool, i had some friends jokingly call me "The Mutation" because my eye color is, inexplicably, green. (it should be, according to Mendelian genetics and known family history, brown.)

in other hapa news, the project from whence that 100% Hapa sticker on my car sprung, is finally out in public. check it out here, or read this recent article on "Hapa Nation." if you live in the L.A. area, you can attend the big opening of the exhibit here.

now, if you'll excuse me, i need to go wield my exotic, hybrid-vigor beauty over T.T. and convince him to give me a back massage...

Posted by hadashi at June 1, 2006 1:05 PM

Comments

Dr. Rhodes could have saved herself a lot of time if she had met my hapaness, Sam. That kid is stinkin' HEALTHY!!!

Posted by: C of CAKE at June 3, 2006 5:42 PM

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