Fetishization of Asian women is not new

Seemingly “recent” AAPI hate crimes shed light on the long-standing objectification of Asian women

The “recent” news about Asian-American Pacific Islander hate crimes is not a sudden occurrence but one that’s been decades in the making, building upon racist stereotypes that serve white people, the entertainment industry and the economy. The fetishization of Asian women — specifically East Asian women — is a product of a racist history that would be more fitting for a research paper. Instead, I specifically want to talk about why the fetishization of Asian women goes hand-in-hand with the violence we face.

I am surprised yet unsurprised by the number of people who did not know that fetishization of Asian women was a concept, and how it is not flattering us but hurting us. I blame this wholly on the political history of wars, othering and demonization of the East, and the ongoing use of racist stereotypes that Americans consume as entertainment. Either seen as docile and submissive, hypersexual or sexually deviant, or robotic and without feelings, Asian women cannot escape objectification. This objectification is greatly underplayed because people love to consume Asian archetypes, culture, and products but do not care about how their preconceived and mistaken notions of us make us uncomfortable on the everyday level.

For one, school skirts and traditional wear (such as qipaos) are hypersexualized and appropriated too often in fashion. The fashion industry is guilty of using the sexualization of Asian women to sell their products. Some of my Asian friends avoid wearing pleated skirts out of fear of being sexualized, even if they like the style. I have been asked to wear school uniforms and perform Tik Tok dances to Japanese songs. On this note, being Asian became a “trend” on Tik Tok and online, especially in 2020, where Asian-fishing became a phenomenon. The AAPI-hate crimes we see subsequently cannot be a coincidence. I grew up hearing people say (often lewd) phrases in Japanese to me or ask me to say specific things, again, all for their entertainment. People are too comfortable asking for “services” that are clearly meant for us to perform the role that we fit into.

Anime and porn industries only amplify our discomforts and feed into the racist mindset. It is especially prominent and uncomfortable encountering these microaggressions in intimate relationships. I sometimes ask the question: “What assumptions do you have about me?” The answer often plays into sexualized Asian stereotypes. Before I knew my self-worth, I would bear with racialized discomforts, seeing how far men would go until it was impossible for me to associate myself with them. Dealing with discomfort from racial slights is dealing with an everyday violence and a destruction of your peace and selfhood. Especially at Trinity, men have a “preference” of only liking white or Asian women, which I see as highly problematic, especially when announced to me. Is this because they are comfortable within “Asian” culture and not others, or do they have a colorist mindset (assuming that white and Asians are in close proximity through skin color, which again is terribly wrong)? Why exclude the other “races” and backgrounds from your dating circle? I assume that they are only willing to date white women or Asian women because they have already mentally conquered the latter.

Asian women are discouraged, weary, and cautious of men with yellow fever who think it is a compliment to be fetishized. It is assuming that we need validation from men in order for us to feel valued.