Malaysian mail-order brides: what fairy tale?

Excerpted from The New Straits Times:

Once upon a time, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella had to battle witches and overcome spells to find Prince Charming. Now, young women are discovering that the road leading to “happily-ever-after” is wider, shorter and much less of an obstacle course.

In recent years, a large number of the fairer sex have chosen to sign up with matrimonial websites to increase their chances of meeting a knight in shining armour. The mail-order bride industry has been around for ages. However, limited to print ads in monthly magazine, singles had a slim chance of finding their perfect mate.

There is something decidedly twisted about comparing mail-order brides to fairy tale princesses. But perhaps due to sheer naivety, the news report ignores the fact that mail order brides have long been an established object of racism, poverty, sexism, and comedy. Despite Malaysia’s notoriety for pompous display of first-rate infrastructure and tall buildings, it shares with a number of foreign bride exporting-nations the kind of urban and rural impoverishment that invariably affects women the worst.

So, for the many women involved, the reasons are largely economic. But there is nothing romantic about meeting and marrying someone you barely know for the sake of an improved standard of living. Except for Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella were, after all, born from affluence, not economic refugees. For the men who search through mail-order bride websites, however, it’s all about accomplishing an impossible romantic dream:

One of these websites promises to introduce foreign men to single, Malaysian women who are petite, feminine and affectionate. It claims the only way to find marital bliss is to marry from within our shores. Another website says it has thousands of eager Malaysian women searching for true friendship and to possibly become a “Malaysian bride”.

“You’re about to meet hundreds of beautiful and available Malaysia women from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, known as ‘Ticas’. This country has over 1.5 million beautiful single women,” another site proclaims. Incidentally, this company also arranges group parties for foreign “grooms” and travel tours that promise a great holiday and a perfect wife.

This is nothing short of an Asian fetish extravaganza. Not only is the marriageable, feminine ideal  defined by looks and submissiveness, there is also a kind of mystique and exotic je ne sais quoi about the ‘Malaysian bride’. There is also nothing realistic about the overblown claims of “1.5 million beautiful single women” in Malaysia. Instead, such claims tend to capitalise on Malaysia’s relative obscurity on the world map and the ignorance of a potential client.

The article fails to tell the difference between mail order bride websites and online dating agencies, which makes it harder to distinguish some concrete reasons why there is an increase in Malaysian women who advertise their availability on the internet. Dating websites attract both single men and women with similar conundrums – lack of time to socialise and small dating pools, and allows for mutual interaction and selecting. Women advertised as mail order brides do not have the luxury of choosing their romantic partner from a selection of eligible foreign men. And they invariably end up with men with some serious anti-feminist and racial essentialising issues as this pre-PC video below will show you.

2 thoughts on “Malaysian mail-order brides: what fairy tale?

  1. Pingback: Friday Links — February 6, 2009 « Muslimah Media Watch

  2. I think mail-order marriage is completely disgusting. It’s entirely dehumanizing. I’m disappointed that people nonetheless choose to belittle themselves like this. This is a moral suicide. Some people seriously need to grow a pair and build their own future not through money but through their own fortitude.

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