Research shows an increase in the number of young middle-class Thai women marrying white men. It reflects not only a shift from a struggle for financial security to self-fulfilment based a love match, but also a clash between the new social trends versus traditional social prejudice.
On 5 July, ‘The farang husband nirvana phenomenon in social media: Reproduction of the ‘Motherland’ norm in international policy implementation,’ a paper by Supitchaya Promboon, an graduate from Faculty of Political Science who took the summer course in the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Programme (WGSS) at Thammasat University, was presented at Thammasat’s Thaprachan campus. The paper will be published in the WGSS academic journal in August along with other research papers.
A recent social media phenomenon sees Thai women overtly expressing their attraction to western, or white men, while more and more young Thai women are engaged in transnational love affairs and even marriage, Supitchaya found. To the researcher, this is a surprising trend because of the social stigma attached to ‘mia farang’, Thai women marrying white men. Supitchaya was curious and thus conducted her research to understand this phenomenon.
“Before I conducted this research, I thought that Thai women marry white men from economic necessity, but after I studied the situation, I changed my mind,” said Supitchaya, who studied the trend through match-making websites, targeting Thai women and white men.
The researcher found that Thai women have been engaging in love affairs with white men through their own will instead of for economic reasons. She found a growing number of young (about 18-30 years old) middle-class Thai women marrying farangs. These women are well educated and financially quite independent in comparison with the former generation which mostly came from the working class in Isan.
Moreover, the new generation’s preferences are different from the past. Instead of old rich men, they prefer young and educated men and their economic background matches their education.
There are currently three reasons according to the research study for Thai women having love affairs with white guys.
First, there are more opportunities to study English to improve communication skills, which facilitates interaction between couples.
Second, there are social media and match-making websites that facilitate meetings and dates between couples of different backgrounds, especially race, leading to a higher chance of marriage later on. However, social media does not ensure that women will have farang boyfriends. “It is like regular match-making where both people have to meet each other’s requirements in order to start a relationship,” she said.
Third, most of these women do not possess the appearance which is valued by Thai men (Chinese-like faces, white skin and skinny bodies). White men however find them attractive.
Despite all the factors that help Thai women and westerners start relationships, there are also some illusions about Thai women that please their counterparts.
“Westerners like to think that Thai women are good at cooking and doing chores. Although some women are not good at them, they still benefit from this stereotype when looking for a farang husband,” added Supitchaya.
Social prejudice against mia farang
Although new dimension of love is blooming, it is undeniable that there is still social prejudice against women as economic dependents of their foreign partners.
Supitchaya said that women who marry white men do not want to be condemned by society as money grabbers. However, women must overcome social prejudice instead of surrendering to it.
“If society has pre-judged them [mia farang] that way, then what should they do? Do they need to abandon their desire and wait for leftover Thai men to have a crush on them at the last moment? Women have the right to choose their partners too”, said Supitchaya.
Finally, she reminded women to think if marrying a white man is their true wish or just a cool trend.
Historically, the rise in the number of Thai women marrying westerners was a result of the pro-US economic policies during the administration of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, a military dictator who ruled the Kingdom between 1958-1963 when Thailand was very dependent on western financial aid and investment in order to stimulate growth and generate wealth, which also attracted westerners to Thailand. As a result, western men and Thai women were able to meet and falling in love and finally marrying.
Supitchaya believes that these policies made Thai people recognize themselves as inferior to westerners in the same way that women are inferior to men. It led Thais to look at themselves as economically dependent on westerners. This perception of westerners spilled over into other social dimensions, one of which is transnational marriage.