So I’ll give some context for the above image because if you’re reading it for the first time, you might feel as simultaneously angry and confused about the laughably ridiculous situation as I initially was. A few weekends ago while doing my daily browsing through Tumblr, I stumbled across this particularly inflammatory, offensive, and all around racist, anti-Asian post written by a 20-year old white woman under the guise of a personal rant questioning why Asian men only date Asian women. Fortunately, I only came across this post because many of my fellow Asian/Asian American women bloggers on Tumblr circulated the posts, calling out the user for what she had said, to the point where she was rightfully reported and removed from Tumblr (to my knowledge). Upon browsing through more of this woman’s blog, it became obvious that she fetishizes Asian, particularly East and Southeast Asian men due to her own obsession with K-Pop. On top of that, she feels entitled to a relationship with them because she believes herself to be racially superior to Asian women, whatever that even means. Even more alarmingly, she not only fetishized underage K-Pop stars, but also made various references to raping them.
While this particular woman’s racism may be one of those cases where you sigh to yourself, whisper yikes, and resist further engagement, it’s still indicative of a larger, and sometimes seemingly innocuous phenomenon of fetishizing and dehumanizing Asian bodies – a subject that I find myself all too familiar with. First I want to address this phenomenon of fetishizing Asian men. While not as widely discussed as the fetishization of Asian women, it is happening, and it isn’t okay.
- It’s racist. Asian and Asian American men are not your IRL K-Pop idols and anime characters. Not to mention neither are their various ethnicities interchangeable, nor should they be ascribed any kinds of qualities you perceive that Asian men essentially have based upon a very limited scope of representation. Another important thing to note is that fetishization can occur even within one’s own race or ethnicity because such “preferences” are ultimately based in stereotypical assumptions of the group, rather than the acknowledgement of one’s individuality beyond their racial and ethnic background.
- It’s not a compliment, and not something that Asian men should or would be grateful for. Despite rampant historical and media-enforced desexualization and emasculation of Asian men and findings which indicate Asian men are less likely to marry interracially than Asian women, this issue is not one that can be fixed through fetishization – especially when the basis for this fetishization is rooted in a kind of benevolently racist appreciation for their existence.
- No one is entitled to be in a relationship with Asian men, period. It’s almost as if Asian men are their own people and can make their own decisions about dating for themselves. And it’s probably unsurprising that none of them are dating this racist.
Secondly, her racism toward Asian women:
While it’s entirely possible that this user could just be a troll at best, the points she makes struck a particular chord with me and likely hundreds to thousands of other enraged Asian women and girls on Tumblr. Not only was I angry at her disgusting fetishization of Asian men and her sense of entitlement to them, but her reasoning for why Asian women shouldn’t be considered desirable were the very reasons for why we are fetishized as well. What she implies is that we should also be grateful to anyone who does take a liking to these stereotypical and essentializing qualities about us, because ultimately white women are the pinnacle of male, and especially Asian male desire.
I went through the majority of high school believing that being Asian made me unattractive. While I never hated being Asian and I have since moved past subscribing to Eurocentric beauty standards and seeking affirmation from others, white women at the time were the standard of beauty in my eyes, and seeing this post brought me back to those days where I did not think of myself as beautiful or desirable simply because I could never have those “essentially white” qualities she described. Although it’s obvious that traits such as “pretty colored eyes”, a “banging body”, “spunky and outgoing” personality, and non-abusive households are not limited to white women – for the longest time I felt as if my stereotypically “Asian” features – petite figure, brown eyes, and painfully shy personality made me less than beautiful. Believe my surprise when senior year of high school came around, most of the guys I knew were suddenly interested in dating (East and Southeast) Asian girls, but for all the wrong reasons. Although I was initially flattered, it didn’t take too long for me to feel incredibly uncomfortable and recognize how messed up it was.
There’s plenty of brilliant pieces out there about the inherent racism and violence behind the fetishization Asian women. I’ve read them, I’ve shared them, and I’ve spoken out about it. And when I did this, I was bombarded with vitriol from a multiracial coalition of proud Asian fetishizers from my high school. My Asian American guy “friends” quietly unfriended me while their white friends bragged about the number of Asian girls they had slept with and told me to get out of the country if I didn’t like it. We’re not racist because we find you attractive (for now), even though we don’t respect you as individuals or actual human beings was the message that I got loud and clear. And the message from this 20-year old white woman on Tumblr parallels this sort of racist logic, as she espouses the same sense of entitlement toward Asian male bodies while simultaneously being incapable of viewing Asian people as anything beyond basic stereotypes.
The good, if any that came out of this incident was the kind of support Asian girls and women on Tumblr expressed for each other and for the Asian men and boys that were being fetishized. The racist user’s old URLs were taken over by users willing to give people a space to vent about the situation, the “dear Asian boys” tag was taken over by Tumblr users addressing her racism, and new blogs were created to affirm the self-worth and humanity of Asian girls and women which this user so vehemently denied. Even if she’s still out there, we are speaking out. We are not submissive, we are not “shit”, and we are definitely not letting her, or anyone else for the matter get away with racist fetishization.