Asia’s sexpat journalists become the story

The LA Times‘ man in Beijing isn’t having a good year – first it was this, and then this.

MeToo turns the spotlight on Asian newsrooms and accuses (some) male foreign correspondents of sexual misconduct against female colleagues. Quite a story by Joanna Chiu: on top of the usual gender-based power-relations phenomenon, it has racial privilege/entitlement, a dash of Oriental fantasy-exoticism/cheap booze, and plain hypocrisy in a profession that aims to fearlessly expose injustice and exploitation.

Who are braver: the women coming forward with painful personal stories of harassment and assault, or the smallish number of men who dare poke their head over the parapet to ask whether this is fair on all males/over-hyped/necessary or at least question details? A few embarrassed guys who know the accused are apparently denouncing this as a witch-hunt. It’s a bold position to take – there’s not much room for sitting on the fence here.

There is also a mild backlash against describing the villains as Western male expats, on the grounds that it doesn’t apply to Germans. Perhaps ‘Western’ is largely code for a few particular nationalities – possibly those known for dominating international media and with serious histories of getting into other cultures’ faces in Asia and elsewhere. Alternatively, we can’t rule out the possibility that some locally born native men in Asia can also be predatory pests or rapists (indeed, purely domestic MeToo protests provoke seething outrage among male establishments in Japan and Korea, and are banned as an evil foreign influence in China).

Nor of course does it stop at ‘sexpat’ journalists – there must be ‘sexpat’ bankers, ‘sexpat’ teachers, ‘sexpat’ priests and for all we know ‘sexpat’ chiropodists (there are certainly ‘sexpat’ Oxfam workers).

Here is some earnest advice for white male 20-somethings abroad in response to this story. Males will either cringe at it, or with it (to some extent, it might depend on age – it does say 20-somethings). The point is that underlying this tale of obnoxiousness and intimidation is a story about things getting better, and very rapidly.

Until a few years ago, it would not have been news, let alone shocking or distressing news, that some Western guys in Asia preyed on female colleagues with impunity. (They were the ill-bred, loud, boisterous oafs whose uncouthness, it has to be said, did not repel all women as instantly as those of us who were and are well brought-up and decent might expect.) And you didn’t even ask what happened at the regional management conference or rugby club tour in Bangkok. I recall a Hong Kong-based financial services guy whose doctor would helpfully call his wife in for a ‘flu shot’ if he came back from a business trip with something nasty. How could the world not be getting classier?

There were no hashtags in those days. MeToo is not about something that’s recently started to happen, but something that has become unacceptable – so suddenly, that even guys in newsrooms didn’t see it coming.

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13 Responses to Asia’s sexpat journalists become the story

  1. Not A Political Decision says:

    Well I’m glad I was a 20 something white male before all that shit storm.

    As for the foreign correspondants, God laughs at people who whine about the consequences whose causes they treasure.

    Nothing about that Politico/SCMP stuff ? Quite epic to see an alliance between CCP croonies and US liberals cum apologists.

  2. Mark says:

    Cum apologists refers to the SCMP or the Journos?

  3. Miss O’Genist says:

    Companies can shoot the #MeToo fox. Stop hiring females. For anything. Let them do only the job nature intended. The most important job: mothering children. Oh, and washing the dishes.

  4. Stanley Lieber says:

    “Are Chinese girls easy? Yes. Yes, they are. But, it’s not all as it seems.”

    Winston Sterzel, a.k.a. Serpentza, explains sexpat relations in China.

  5. JFK says:

    The oriental exoticism bit goes out the window considering that both Kaiman’s accusers are Caucasian.

  6. Cassowary says:

    Ah, the wailing and gnashing of douchebro teeth. The poor dears are upset that the party’s over – at least until they find another country lower down on the income and enlightenment ladder to live out their puerile, adolescent fantasies.

  7. Knownot says:

    I don’t remember what was going through my mind as I went upstairs. I am now certain that I was so drunk that I was both willing and unwilling to do nearly anything, and both able and unable to consent. I hope I express my dilemma clearly.

    I was an innocent young foreign reporter, and I am now devastated, not by regret or self-recrimination, or by shame at my behaviour, but by anger at the male who took advantage of me.

  8. Isaac Asimov says:

    I’m fairly sure this op-piece is more relevant to the post 50 somethings than 20 somethings, at least, going on behaviours in Hong Kong

  9. LRE says:

    @Issac Asimov

    Therein lies an unfortunate inter-generational communication problem caused by Twitter’s co-option of old symbols: to people over 50, who’ve spent a long time on push button and dial phones in Hong Kong, the # symbol is pronounced “pound”, leaving the older expat somewhat bemused by the phrasing of the #metoo campaign.

  10. Chinese Netizen says:


    Or…LMFAO for those more tech savvy.

  11. JFK says:

    Back in the day the initial act the accuser describes (before she drunkenly went to bed with him) was known as a “knee trembler”. Now, if I had a few dollars for the number of time gals initiated said knee trembler on me… I’d have a yacht, albeit a small one

  12. @LRE – only in America. In Britain, pound refers to the sterling currency symbol £.

  13. LRE says:

    @Old Newcomer
    Not strictly true (also, your atlas appears to have been savagely abridged) — Hong Kong* also said “pound” for #.

    HK often eclectically adopted US stuff instead of following the UK — like mother’s day, the dollar peg, french toast, 7-11, Circle K and the weird gear stick on the steering wheel system in Taxis. # as pound appears to have been one of these.

    *I recall many a moment of uncertainty when being requested to “then press pound” by a fairly broad cross-section of automated telephone menu themed circles of Hells in Hong Kong.

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