Cross-posted at Jezebel.
Drawing on data from the Pew Research Center, I recently wrote a post showing that inter-racial and -ethnic marriages are on the rise. Not all groups, however, intermarry at the same rate. Asians are more likely than Hispanics, Blacks, and Whites to marry someone of a different race or ethnicity. Whites are the least likely to do so:
Gender matters too. Whereas White and Hispanic men and women tend to outmarry at about the same rate, the outmarriage rates for Blacks and Asians are dramatically different.
The gendered rates of outmarriage likely reflect the way in which we gender race and racialize gender. I’ve written about this in a previous post:
Consider: according to American cultural stereotypes, black people, both men and women, are more masculine than white people. Black men are seen as, somehow, more masculine than white men: they are, stereotypically, more aggressive, more violent, larger, more sexual, and more athletic. Black women, too, as seen as more masculine than white women: they are louder, bossier, more opinionated and, like men, more sexual and more athletic.
Likewise, Asian people are feminized. Both Asian men and women are seen as somehow smaller, more passive, the women sweeter, the men less virile.
These are cultural stereotypes derived from the particular history of the U.S. White elites masculinized Black women in order to justify their hard labor during slavery. The idea that Black men were hypermasculine emerged after emancipation; the idea that Black men were sexually-vicious brutes was used by some Whites to terrorize Black men into continued subservience.
Asians were feminized after the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The Chinese immigrants who had labored on the railroad, now out of work, found niches in feminized occupations in the mostly-lady-free American West. They became cooks, tailors, and launderers, and domestic servants. The gendered nature of their work contributed to their feminization.
So, race and gender intersect in history, and today, in ways that shape sexual desire and supposed romantic compatibility. If men are supposed to be sexy by virtue of their masculinity and women sexy by virtue of their femininity, then Black men and Asian women will be seen as more sexually attractive, and as more ideal marital partners, than Asian men and Black women.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.