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How fetishizing Asian women is oppressive to them

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For Asian women, dealing with cultural stereotypes makes navigating through relationships, especially with Western males, difficult, and at other times downright oppressive. One woman writes about her experiences in The Sydney Morning Herald, in the hopes that one day women of Asian heritage will be seen and treated as complete human beings.

Jessie Tiu, an Asian woman living in Sydney, recounts her date with a white male, who fetishized her for her race, and brought into the dynamic expectations that she would be gentle and submissive, but hyper-sexual at the same time. When she broke things off with him, he texted her, “I hate you. Thankfully, there are thousands of gorgeous Japanese, Chinese and Korean girls in Sydney, so I will be okay.”

This was just one example of how she’s been treated by white males, something that she’s had to deal with often as an adult.

She writes, “Yellow Fever” is not a preference. It’s a racial prejudice.

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I have a small body. I have an Asian face. Women like me are handcuffed to a double bind. We have to fight off men who infantilize us because of our small bodies, and who also believe the Asian face carries some special gene that makes us soft-spoken, gentle and non-confrontational.

This is both oppressive, and racist.”

Tiu complains that the assumptions that western men have about Asian women, that they’re both publicly docile and privately sexually adventurous, set off expectations that can cause men to be hurtful when the women fail to meet these expectations.

“My body is viewed as a literal and symbolic site upon which to construct their fantasies of the perfect Asian lover.

The pernicious perception that most young Asian women have petite, child-like bodies is not necessarily untrue. What’s frightening is how easily these men enforce their narratives on us.

It’s a painful effrontery, not a compliment. These guys expect something of us and from us, based on their myth about what Asian woman are, and, when we don’t meet those expectations, they have the power to so easily hurt us.”

This makes finding real relationships difficult, as Tiu (and other Asian women) find themselves asking, “Are you interested in me because of who I am, or because of the shade of my skin and the Asian face I’m wearing?” 

What makes this even more difficult, Tiu finds, is that the men in these relationships seem unwilling to examine why they carry these stereotypes about Asian women—refusing to put in the labor of dealing with these stereotypes while positioning themselves as superior in the relationship.

Tiu wonders if she will spend her time in Australia having to overturn these pernicious ways of thinking—which is neither her job nor the job of any Asian woman. Instead, men should carry their weight of this mental and emotional changing of biases.

“These men should scrutinize their so-called ‘preferences’ and work towards modifying racially unjust and untrue perceptions. I am not here for their education, sexual or otherwise.”

Read related: Point for women’s rights – India repeals Section 497, a colonial-era law on adultery

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