Asian Fetish

Apparently, on OKCupid Asian Women get the most messages. This preference is true for men of all races except, strangely, Asian men. Interesting! I’m sort of jealous, but also having a little bit of schadenfreude at the same time. Cuz, you know, us white women hear a lot about how Western beauty standards damage the self esteem of women in other races.

But, you can’t blame us anymore! Western beauty isn’t where it’s at, it’s passé, old news! So, I hereby bequeath all of our liberal white woman beauty guilt to Asian women (and, Middle Eastern women who apparently also get a lot of responses.) Next time someone goes on about how our beauty standard is whitewashed, you can be all “what are you, stuck in 1950?” So, for realzies, white women may still be over-represented in magazines, but that’s just a holdover – it’s on the way out, as the racist old men who control the media slowly die. Also, are we even sure all those women are being “whitewashed?” Seems to me some of them could be being “Asian-washed.” As a very white English woman, I can testify that my particular very-pale skin tone is usually not in fashion unless some Winona Ryder renaissance is happening.

However, the way liberal discourse responds to white women being desired as opposed to Asian women being desired is very different. When white women are “what’s hot” it’s an example of an oppressive beauty system that is degrading to other races. BUT, when Asian women are “what’s hot” it’s an example of Asian fetish, which is degrading to Asians.

So – to simplify:

White women hot? Seen as privileging white women.

Asian women hot? Seen as dis-empowering Asian women.

It is worth noting, that according to Wikipedia Asian Fetish supposedly doesn’t exist, and even on OKCupid white men responded to Asian women and white women a similar amount. Yes, it’s true *some* white men say some really terrible things to Asian women (and, there’s a tumblr about that) but I’d suggest that it’s more that the race difference opens up opportunities for a *particular set* of vile things to be said.

This difference in how we read preference for white women vs Asian women reminds me of how we read preference for thin bodies as opposed to a preference for heavier bodies. Many heavier women complain that they are de-sexualized, and also that the only people who sexualize them are fetishists. But, what they fail to see, is that thin bodied women are also frequently fetishized – in that, many people who date thin women are not interested in their sparkling personalities, but have an obsessive attraction to a particular body type. Many heavier women won’t see this as a similar thing, but this is because of the ways that heavy women *themselves* are privileging thin bodies. On some level, men who are attracted to heavier women are seen as “fetishists” because we view it as abnormal to be attracted to fat women. Men who behave the same way toward thin women aren’t viewed as “fetishists” because we see that as normal. So – again, attraction to fat women is phrased in a way to disempower fat women, whereas attraction to thin women is phrased in a way to empower thin women.

Similarly, we have normalized attraction to white women so we see attraction to Asian women as fetishized. If you believe it is fetishizing to be attracted to Asian women because of typically Asian physical traits, but it is not fetishizing to be attracted to white women because of typically white traits, then you have brought into the idea that the white appearance is the default, and you may want to introspect a little on that. (I’m not calling you racist, but… well, think about it.)

I’m not saying that Asian women don’t face racism, or that heavy women don’t face size-discrimination. In fact, I’m saying the opposite of that – that racism and sizism are so prevalent that they they have infiltrated liberal discourse such that Asian women and heavy women are seen as being *disempowered* by things that would be seen as *empowering* white or slim women. We are denying the Asian/fat groups access to the power that we would grant the white/slim groups (and, yes, I hope women get power outside of their physical appeal – my point is Asian and fat women don’t even get *that.*) And, the problem isn’t with the fetishists – the problem is with is the liberals whose critiques of beauty culture end up implicitly reinforcing the prejudices they are attempting to denounce.

The trap is a trap, watch out for it.

5 thoughts on “Asian Fetish

  1. I’m critical of the background issues for what you’re writing about here, but I don’t think I have enough authority to write about them with much consistency. I saw this today and I think she speaks with more precision and with more authority than I could ever try for:

    Another thing I happened upon today, coincidentally, was in a comment of an advice column. When a small girl became obsessed with “being pretty” and asked her mom, “Am I pretty?” Her mother would reply, “Yes, of course you are pretty! And what else are you?”

  2. I mean, I also have no authority to write on these things, so maybe I shouldn’t. I offer no justification, but people who don’t like it can not read my blog. I’d seen that video before, and I feel a little uncomfortable when I watch it – like, watching Ellen Page’s coming out, or read about Audrey Hepburn helping starving children. Something like, the institution of celebrity is oppressive to everyone who lives a normal life? We can look to them for inspiration, but what they give us is hollow. What she said may be important for many people to hear, like Ellen Page when she came out, but it also can’t erase her participation in a system that is by its nature oppressive. Even if all races are seen as equally beautiful, Hollywood will still oppress America as a whole by pushing a type of aspirational consumerism on us. To turn to those who participate in it for our meaning and validation is ultimately self defeating.

    • I’ve spent a bit more time thinking about my perspective on things, and I’ll try to explain a couple of my issues:

      I agree with the sentiment that turning to others for the entirety of your meaning and validation is ultimately self-defeating, but it has nothing to do with the people you look to. How you relate to people–how you draw on the lessons of others is up to you. Some people don’t have the background or experience to filter out the good from the bad (or the relevant), or get lost in limited paradigms of meaning (this may be universal to inexperience). If you use mass media or beauty magazines for that purpose you’re probably going to have a bad time. Role models are useful for expanding the lens. A deeper understanding of those role models allows you to focus. It all comes back to you, though–no one can embody every aspect of yourself, because they are not you.

      From my view, “Celebrity” is oppressive only if you give it the weight it needs to be so. If you feel celebrity is the only way to achieve your objectives, then that is the view that puts you in that position. Otherwise, celebrity is just another aspect of our society which can be used as a platform, as the woman in the video did to lend their experience to young girls like her, or for any reason the participant deems important to them.

      I guess where it ends up for me is, just because I’m not a celebrity doesn’t mean that celebrities are oppressing me. Just because I don’t have what you have doesn’t mean you’re oppressing me. Just because I’m in the minority of something doesn’t mean I’m oppressed. Just because I have an advantage over others doesn’t mean I have to shed it. Just because I have money or privilege doesn’t mean I have to spend it to exploit my position. Just because “liberals” say something doesn’t mean that I have to buy into it. I don’t see any reason to resent or judge anyone for their life, their opportunity, or their choices. It’s up to me to find my own happiness, even if other people are telling me I’m doing it wrong.

  3. Happened upon this today and thought it was sort of relevant (turn on captions):

    Getting trapped in a world of theoretically limited choices (I am black or I am white) has got to be confusing. Having been trapped by systems of belief before, I try to be more aware of the potential limitations for a certain way of thinking. People like creating boxes to classify things. The students of that classification system regurgitate the implied lessons to educate/normalize and fit the supposed facts of reality into the paradigm. Everyone does this. If I don’t fit into one of the pre-made boxes, then do I even exist?! What’s wrong with me?! Conformity to the norm is an attempt at security, but sometimes what is “normal” hasn’t caught up to the reality of our environment. That’s why “thinking outside the box” is kind of crucial to escaping damaging paradigms.

  4. Pingback: White People Gotta Write About Being White | Love and Void

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