I imagine I am much like other girls trying to feel their way into becoming a woman.
On October 29th, 2016, Misbah Awan delivered a speech at Bard College during an event on Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed the death of Eric Garner, and police brutality. She discusses the importance of educating yourself and speaking against injustice.
Most of us, as people of color, have experienced being fetishized by another race at least a few times in our lives. These experiences are always disorientating, steeped in racial prejudice and outlandish stereotypes; They’re just downright creepy.
Racial fetishization involves an individual being attracted to another individual belonging to a different race, because of the latter’s culture, ethnicity or specific facial features. It involves one party perceiving the other through a stereotypical racial/ethnic lens, objectifying, and (for lack of a more appropriate word) enjoying specific parts of their identities instead of loving them as a whole.
Racial fetishization is hardly a new concept. It has been well documented that Black women suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their slave masters and this was a heinous representation of control, domination, and power. Black women were viewed by their slave masters as mere objects of sexual gratification.
But that is not to say that Black women and specifically, black bodies, are entirely free from the shackles of racial fetishization today. In 2015, when reality TV star Kylie Jenner began sporting a much poutier pair of lips, the internet and effectively the world exploded into madness. Teens and young adults sought to emulate Jenner’s new look by sucking on shot glasses. These actions contributed to the birth of the #KylieJennerChallenge. This trend of DIY temporary lip plumping also saw a surge in severe injuries around the lips and mouth as the non flexible rims of these shot glasses shattered under the pressure.
This commotion caused by Kylie Jenner’s plumped up lips reveals this: stereotypically black features can only be considered beautiful when donned like an accessory on a white person. This point is further corroborated when popular fashion magazine Elle wrongfully referred to full lips as “Kylieesque,” blatantly ignoring the existence of black people who inherently had this particular facial feature. Society’s reaction towards Jenner’s lips clearly demonstrate whose bodies are valued and whose are not.
Another classic case of racial fetishization can be evinced from the term, “Yellow Fever”, which is referred to nonAsians, particularly whites, who have a fetish for Asian people. Not only is this horrendous term telling of Asian fetishization, but also, it demonstrates a fetishization of a specific type of Asian. People tend to forget that Asia is not a country, but in fact a continent; the world’s largest and most populous continent at that! Asia spans an area of 44,579,000 square kilometers and comprises of a whopping 48 countries ranging from Afghanistan to Vietnam. Therefore, it is interesting to note that only a specific category of Asians, mainly East Asians, are considered to be the prime targets for racial fetishization.
In fact, when I enter the words “Asian female” in the google search toolbar, I receive about 447,000,000 search results in 0.61 seconds. The first hit on the top of my list is delightfully titled, “SeekingAsianFemale.com.” I click on the link and am immediately treated to a full-screen photograph of a tiny Asian woman in a cheap wedding dress and lacklustre bouquet. She is being carried by a much older white “gentleman” who looks to be sweating heavily while simultaneously attempting to mask his discomfort with a grin on his double chin. As I realize that “Seeking Asian Female” is actually a film title, I briefly heave a sigh of relief. However, my hopes are cruelly dashed when I read the little synopsis at the top page which reads: Seeking Asian Female is an eccentric modern love story about Steven and Sandy—an aging white man with “yellow fever” who is obsessed with marrying any Asian woman, and the young Chinese bride he finds online.
*Immediately feels pulse to check my heart rate.* I can only pray to all the gods from all religions that filmmaker, Debbie Lum, was being highly ironic.
Again, I enter “Asian women” into the Google search toolbar, and this time I find gold. I click on a website titled thechive.com, and immediately the title screams at me for attention: “ASIAN WOMEN ARE THE EIGHTH WONDER OF THE WORLD (40 PHOTOS)”.
These photos were uploaded by the obviously non perverse sub¬human named “Bob”. I cannot help but laugh while scrolling through all 40 photos in this terribly strange website. Is this the image that racists think of when the words “Asian” and “women” pop into their minds? Being Asian, I can attest to a few things that I have seen my whole life: 1) not all Asians have bedroom eyes that are comparable to Bambi’s on shrooms, 2) not all Asian women have the skin color of fluorescent milk, and 3) not all Asians have tiny waists, big boobs and eurocentric features. *Also, none of the props that the women hold (ranging from phones to boobs to crotches and ice cream) enhance the photo in any way; but instead promotes the sexualization of Asian women!*
The point I am trying to make here, is that racial fetishization is stupid and extremely dehumanizing. What makes racial fetishization more problematic is that this form of fetishization is becoming more prevalent among people of color within their same race. East Asian men are now increasingly tending to hanker for East Asian women, who clearly exist only in Adobe Photoshop. Men gravitate towards Black women with certain specific physical features like a “fat ass”. This idea that there is only one “ideal” woman that exists within each racial category is clearly unrealistic and not okay; this denies the existence of so many different types of wonderful women.