With its elaborate rose ceremonies, stringent rules about premarital sex and early aughts prom fashion aesthetic, ABC's The Bachelorette isn't exactly known as a paragon of progressivism. And yet, the show managed to top itself in terms of offensiveness during its premiere on Monday night, when one of the bachelors made an off-color joke about how his race relates to his penis size.
During the limo introductions, Jonathan, 29, a technical sales representative from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, walked out of the limo in a kilt. The sartorial choice, he explained, was a nod to his mixed heritage:
Translation: "Don't let my non-gender-normative costume and weirdly excessively moisturized skin fool you. Underneath this kilt, I got a big ol' peen and balls dangling between my legs like a car air freshener, and you are cordially invited to sit on it post-haste."
JoJo was... vaguely amused:
Of course, as any lady who's ever heard a dude tell her he has a big dick could've probably predicted, Jonathan's boasts about his manhood didn't go over too well: He was eliminated in the first round. (Though that might have had less to do with the dick joke and more to do with the fact that he said he "wasn't wearing panties" under his kilt).
But even though Jonathan's offhand remark wasn't particularly egregious in itself (other than the fact that it wasn't super funny), it was yet another drop in the bucket of The Bachelor franchise's complex relationship with race. Even though JoJo Fletcher herself promised that the show's cast would be "very diverse" this season, a quick view at the suitors' bios reveals only six nonwhite contestants — a number that's since been further reduced, following the elimination of men of color like Jonathan.
The remark also played into a long history of racist stereotypes associated with Asian men, who have been dogged by the stereotype that they're somehow less well-endowed than men of other races for years. (Hell, Chelsea Handler has basically built her career around it.) Indeed, when Jeremy Lin beat the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012, a sports columnist tweeted that "some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight" — an odd thing to say, considering that Lin was probably considered the most sexually desirable man in America at the time.
Yet the "Asian men have small dicks" myth is just that — a myth. Although some studies have attempted to quantify the average penis size by ethnicity, most of this data comes from faulty, unreliable and arguably racist reporting, rendering most racial or ethnic stereotypes invalid. Yet aside from being, ya know, not true, what's so problematic about the stereotype is that it stems from the systemic desexualization of Asian men. Despite the rise of prominent (and frankly, bone-worthy) Asian male actors like John Cho and Ki Hong Kee of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the stereotypes that Asian men are inherently less masculine than men of other races persists to this day.
So a brief memo to Bachelorette producers: even though your show might not exactly be a bastion of progressivism, don't cater to the lowest common denominator this season by propagating dumb stereotypes about Asian dudes' wangs. Also, make sure said wangs in question are covered up by underwear when they arrive on set, 'cause that shit is just unhygienic.