11 April 2013

A Thought on IMBRA

A bit ago, Chewie and I were discussing some hodgepodge points about the differences between being Stateside and expatriating overseas. One of the points involved a federal law in the U.S. known as the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (or IMBRA) for short.

[A brief primer]

In a nutshell, IMBRA is touted as a way to ensure the safety of foreign people who may come to America to date and marry Americans, and to close loopholes that may enable Americans with violent or criminal records to leave the country and victimise other people and/or engage in human trafficking through "mail-order bride" services.

The law deals not just with the issuance of K-1 marriage visas, but also with even exchanging contact information. Specifically, it requires that businesses that facilitate connections between Americans and foreigners for the purposes of dating and/or marriage must:

  1. search all of the federal and state sex-offender public registries
  2. collect detailed marital, familial, and criminal-background information on the U.S. client
  3. translate into the foreign client's native language
  4. provide a government-written pamphlet about the legal rights and resources
  5. obtain the foreign client's signed and written consent to release her contact information to the U.S. client

Supporters note that the language of the law is gender-neutral and thus a "marriage broker" that offers services to American women looking for foreign men would have to get the same data from the American woman before passing the man's data along. Further, supporters argue that previous cases show that the firms themselves cannot necessarily be trusted to self-police and weed out users who may be prone to cause violence or commit sexual trafficking.

Opponents argue that the law is inherently sexist, a "pet project" of prominent radical-feminists, and designed to mostly (if not only) apply just to American men. Specifically, opponents point out that most users of international dating services are men, and the documentation and checks exceed that for most other federal applications, including to purchase high-powered firearms. Opponents argue that many feminists wanted the law in place as an attempt to dissuade American men from looking for foreign girlfriends or wives on the basis that doing so undercuts the marital prospects of American women, and claiming that said foreign women are "scabs."

Further, IMBRA opponents note that the rest of the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), of which IMBRA is a part, makes no federal provision for male victims of domestic-violence (NB: some activists allege that VAWA itself effectively punishes domestic-violence shelters if they are not exclusively-female, noting that not one shelter for battered men has been built since VAWA came into existence). Opponents say this fact is significant because the required government notices that are to be provided under IMBRA are meant assume that the foreign client is female and the U.S. client is male.

[end primer]

This in mind, Chewie and I had a discussion on whether or not American men who marry foreign women are going for "scabs" and what to make of it. Neither Chewie nor I believe that American men who marry foreign women are "scabs" (as prominent feminist blogger Amanda Marcotte is alleged to have said). Rather, we've found that men who do tend to do so not because the foreign woman is foreign, but because the American man and foreign woman, well, "clicked."

The thing we believe is that many American women believe that they are entitled to a captive audience (this of course being American men; and implying that American men should ONLY be limited to choose his mate from American prospects).

Oddly enough, this same attitude was taken not between men and women, but with cars. In the mid-1970s, Japanese automakers became successful and started entering the American market. The Big Three in Detroit had always assumed that Americans would buy only American cars. Consequently in the late 70s and early 80s, the market saw that GM, Ford, and Chrysler were slow to innovate and suffered from one mishap after another. Not surprisingly, this only made the Japanese cars even more popular and leading to import quotas in 1981 at the insistence of the U.S. automakers.

Interestingly, the Japanese somewhat got around this by building plants in the U.S. and adding higher-end makes (e.g. Acura, Infinity, Lexus).

Eventually, the automakers thought about it and realised that they needed to innovate; the quota . They had to ask themselves three questions:

  • What do the Japanese cars that appeal to American consumers have that ours don't? 
  • More specifically, why do Americans prefer their products over ours? 
  • How can we innovate and make our products better such that we can return to competition with the Japanese makes? 

Likewise, American women are in that same predicament. In a sense, American women are like Detroit's automakers in the late 70s, and American men are the general public.

Rather than trying to appeal to the government to implement measures that they hope will stem the flow and preserve their captive audience, many of these women should be stepping back and asking themselves the questions the automakers had to ask themselves by the mid-80s. They need to figure out "what is it about foreign women that more and more American men find appealing" and "how do we take that and apply it to ourselves?"

Sure, it's easier to blamestorm and point fingers than make meaningful change. But the truth is that blaming others isn't going to solve the issue. In a market situation, it never has and it never will. Unfortunately for them, the fact is that it's all about the markets.

This in mind, here's a little parable I came up with off the top of my head whilst conversing with Chewie on the topic:
A man goes to a hardware store for tools to get his project done. So, he goes to the aisle containing screwdrivers. He may not know exactly what he may need (say, a #2 Phillips with a magnetic head), but he at least has a general idea of what will work (he probably will need a new Phillips screwdriver and some screws). While in the aisle, he'll usually see something he thinks will do the job and goes to pay for it. Sometimes he'll look over a couple of different options.  
So, our man finds two possible options. He finds an inexpensive screwdriver and a screwdriver set that obviously costs more. Chances are that our man is probably thinking: "Sure, the inexpensive one may get the job done. But what if I have another project and would like to do something else? Wouldn't it make more sense to pay a bit more and know I likely wouldn't have to make another trip here?"  
Thinking this over, he decides on the screwdriver set and leaves, having only spent a few minutes in the shop. 
Now, let's flip this around and look at the owners. You have a company A that makes the inexpensive screwdrivers and another company B that produces the screwdriver set. One day, the head of Company A sees that his sales numbers for his screwdrivers are falling to his rival B. What does he do? Does he attempt to shame and insult the people who look at his product and decide not to buy it? Or does he sit down and try to figure out how he could make his product better and sell more?

Obviously, we can deduce that if he wants to stay in business, he will make concerted attempts to re-tool his product in order to re-capture the market. He may decide that perhaps mass-making cheap screwdrivers and selling them based on an inexpensive price-point isn't cutting it anymore. He might ask: "What does company B offer and how can our company take those lessons and better our own product?"

We posit that dating choices are in a sense very similar. For example, we could say that in our society:

  • American women are like the cheap screwdrivers
  • Foreign women are like the screwdriver sets
  • American men are like our guy who goes into the hardware store
  • The dating market is like the hardware store
  • Social, political, and media organisations that advocate for domestic women in social, political, cultural, etc. respects are like Company A. 
  • Social, political, and media organisations that provide forums for men in relationships with foreign women are like Company B. 

However, unlike the prudent manager in the story, the attempt by the various medias to shame and insult men who decide to forego American women in favour of foreign women. They (and many American women) would rather yell "You didn't buy our product? YOU SUCK!!!" to these consumers rather than figuring out what they're doing wrong. And not surprisingly, more men (their targeted customers) are picking up on this and seeing what else is out there on the market.

This really isn't hard to figure out, and the seemingly-collective refusal on the part of American women to address this really is their problem. I would even go so far as to say that this is probably the worst thing the "pro-woman" advocates could do.

Why, you might ask? It's simple, really. Driving away men and leaving your average "all-American girl" in no position to marry and have a family is probably (and ironically) the most misogynistic choice these so-called advocates could make. Suffice it to say, the obvious costs from this miscalculation will be ones that we all will have to undoubtedly bear.

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