“I have a thing for Asians.” Everyone has heard this phrase at least once in their lives, either told to them or told to someone else. Although this is commonly heard or said, it is not commonly questioned. What does a “thing for Asians” actually mean? Asian women in America are victims of cultural and ethnic fetishization. America fetishizes Asian women as two popular stereotypes, one of the timid, docile, and obedient woman, and the other, the hypersexual exotic woman. These labels and stereotypes create oppressive circumstances and terrorism for Asian women, including assault, sexual abuse, and domestic violence. To support my claim, I will provide evidence and explain my research regarding mainstream media’s portrayal of Asian women, human trafficking and commercialized “mail-order brides,” and military presence and the network of brothels existing during WWII.
A few years ago, the video “What Do Western Men Think of Asian Women?”, was circulating around Youtube. It brought out a conversation that many people have chosen to ignore, the intersectional sexism and oppression Asian American women face. Nearly all the men in the video claimed that Asian women were “submissive,” “quiet,” “sexual,” and “made good wives.” All of these beliefs are EXTREMELY dangerous! These widespread beliefs are used to excuse the abusive and oppressive behavior of men towards Asian women. 80% of Asian women have reported or claimed some form of sexual assault or abuse. The reason for these numbers lies in the unsafe stereotypes that invite sexual violence. Asian fetishization is not only a current issue, but is an issue that can be seen throughout history.
One of the main contributors to the fetishization of Asian women in America is military influence. Wars such as WII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War heavily influenced the image of Asian American women today. After WWII, the United States adopted the system of sexual service workers used by the Japanese and disguised it as the Recreation and Amusement Association. After the Vietnam War, over 300,000 Asian women were involved in the sex industry. The Korean War caused a spike in overseas adoptions (Park pp.32). It was believed that Asian genetics would create a beautiful family. The presence of the United States military in these countries promoted and funded the sex industry.
One of the major common occurrences that promote Asian fetishization is “mail-order brides.” Mail-order brides are women who are bought through a system that involves men, who are generally from North America, searching through photographs with brief descriptions to find their “perfect” wife (McClelland 2002). Filipino women have a higher ratio of mail-order brides than any other country. There is a belief that Filipino women are faithful and caring mothers, which would make the picture-perfect wife (McClelland 2002). Mail-order brides have encouraged human trafficking, many women who are mail-order brides have been victims of human trafficking. These labels as “homemakers” and “picture wives” encourage men to seek and desire Asian women for their sexual and family lives. The spread of these ideas and stereotypes on Asian women have caused this industry to boom and thrive. White male privilege is a leading attribute in supporting the mail-order bride system.
Asian women are portrayed as “docile,” “weak,” “submissive,” and “fragile” in mainstream media. This image can be seen in television, books, movies, comedic acts, music, and more. For example, in a recent comedy stand-up routine by Amy Schumer called, “Mostly Sexy Stuff”, Schumer argues that she cannot compete with Asian women. She then continues to stereotype them by claiming Asian women have “naturally straight hair”, “cover their mouths when they laugh cause they know men hate it when women speak,” and lastly that “Asians have the smallest vaginas in the game.”(Park pp.29) This is a common theme spread out through many forms of mass media. Movies such as, “Miss Saigon,” “Madama Butterfly,” and “Madame Chrysantheme.” These movies all share the same plot of an Asian woman marrying a white man, the relationship resulting in failure that leads to the woman killing herself.
One may argue here that racial preferences are being misinterpreted as sexual racism or the fetishization of Asian women. Skeptics claim that the preference comes from the basis of phenotype, not stereotypes regarding race. Other preferences such as hair color, hair length, eye color, height, and weight are never associated with objectification or racism. The argument does not carry relevance to the issue of racial oppression, but attempts to tiptoe around it.
Although this view seems convincing, it fails to apply logic to the issue of the fetishization of Asian women. The argument at hand may be plausible, but does not explain the phenomenon that exists for Asian women. Several surveys and interviews showcase a pattern of how Asian American women are viewed by the public. The stereotypes of the timid and hypersexual Asian woman define their personality and lifestyle, which contradicts the argument made by skeptics of it being purely superficial.