We often talk about the sexualization of women through the male gaze. However, we do not often talk about the ways that this interacts with race through an intersectional lens.
Does the term ‘yellow fever’ sound familiar? This typically refers to non-Asian individuals who are extremely attracted to Asian people. In this context, I’m going to be primarily relating this term to Asian women.
Let’s get a couple of things straight about this term:
1. Asian women are not a preference.
Saying that you have a preference for women who are a certain race means that there is something that you are inherently focusing on that you think makes them look ‘more attractive’ than everybody else. However, having a specific trait that you are attracted to (darker skin, slanted eyes, etc.) reduces the person to the sum of their body parts.
The alternative preference to the physical appearance of Asian women is their minds or character. Thinking that Asian women just have better personalities is also problematic. First of all, what does that mean? Secondly, it may just be founded on racialized misogyny.
2. It’s not a compliment
It’s not that being attracted to someone who is Asian is wrong (in fact, it would be worse if you decided you weren’t attracted to Asian people at all), but there is something very unnerving about exclusively wanting to be involved with Asian women.
Many people believe that this is flattery. Surely, thinking someone is beautiful isn’t a bad thing?
It is when it’s solely based on their race.
Putting a group of people on a pedestal is its own form of racism. It diminishes that person to the stereotypes that you have placed on them or the characteristics that you expect to see. Think about what happens if they don’t meet your expectations and fall off of the pedestal.
3. Asian women aren’t ‘exotic’
News flash, many Asians were born in the country that they currently live in. They are not a walking fantasy from some far-off land. Asian people and culture are everywhere, especially in a country as diverse as America. Exoticizing people who could literally be from the same geographical region of the world as you are ignores their human experience and romanticizes a culture that you are not a part of.
This also labels Asian women as an ‘other’ regardless of whether they grew up in Asia or not. You will never view them with the same human decency if you are constantly emphasizing how different they are.
4. It stereotypes what an Asian looks like
East Asians (Koreans, Japanese, Chinese) aren’t the only Asians that exist, but they are typically the only people that are classified as such.
Erasure of Asian heritage is already an issue: people from South Asia (India, Bangladesh, Pakistan) and South East Asia (Cambodia, Malaysia, The Philippines) are told constantly that they aren’t really or don’t look Asian. As someone who is a biracial Filipina, this affects me at a personal level. We’re being told that we aren’t Asian enough. Therefore, the narratives of our cultures aren’t being represented in either reality or the imaginary idolization of an Asian woman.
Let’s all take a moment to watch how these factors play out in a song (warnings for some mature content):
There is a fine line between appreciation and fetishization, and this is what the latter looks like in it’s most basic and literal form. Don’t even try to tell me that this song doesn’t give you the creeps.
So, in summary, kindly throw your ‘yellow fever’ in the trash where it belongs.