The following is a guest post by regular commenter, Gareth:
I am a white Englishman with an Asian girlfriend. I believe the so-called ‘Asian fetish’ is both racist and sexist, and here is why.
Being a white, straight man gives me a ton load of privilege, and that privilege is systemic and global. I am aware of my various privileges and can learn to ‘check them in at the door’, but I can never get rid of them. My privileges are not just to do with me, but they emanate from a system of privilege and prejudice with global reach. Everyone who is white or a man has these privileges, and they are not mitigated by being poor, working class, disabled, gay or being part of any other oppressed minority: you just get the mix of certain privileges with certain prejudices against you (this is intersectionality; more on that later).
My privileges put me at the top of a significant power differential when it comes to interactions with others who do not have my privileges. This means that I should be keenly aware that my privilege begets power, and power can be abused. Using this power is racist and sexist.
Sufferers of Asian fetishism often describe their malady as an ‘appreciation’. Try looking that word up in a dictionary; its original meaning is ‘to set a monetary worth on something, to appraise’. Now, we are so used to this word being used to describe non-monetary praise, we are not aware that is still an objectification and commodification of that we appreciate. The male gaze is sexist when all it sees is a smile, breasts, legs, bottom and so forth. The sufferer of Asian fetishism takes this sexist objectification of women and adds skin tone, cheekbones, small build and slit-eyes into the mix. The sufferer of Asian fetishism does not care what your name is as long as it does not sound too white; he can not tell the difference whether you are Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian or Chinese. Prejudice is based on preconceived opinions. There is no doubting that Asian fetishism is prejudiced, and, when this prejudice is coupled with power differential of privilege, it is definitively sexist and racist.
Asian fetishism has previous, and its history is intimately connected with abuse of power. The image of the odalisque reclining on silk cushions in an Ottoman harem, attended by a black eunuch was the Asian fetishism of the 17th and 18th centuries. This image of Asian sexuality appeared at a time when France and Britain were beginning to compete for supremacy over the Ottoman Empire. There is so much sexism and racism that could be unpacked from the odalisque image, but we shall move on. The women of the Indian subcontinent were the next focus of fetishism during the expansion of the British Empire. The power differential there is obvious. The Pacific campaign of the United States during the Second World War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War (read that as: war, war, war) were the backdrop to the specific fetishisation of South-East Asian women during the 20th century. Sufferers of Asian fetishism probably do not realise how much their diseased desire is influenced by popular Western culture and its spinning and retelling of war stories. After all, the classic lines of modern Asian fetishism, ‘Me so horny’ and ‘Me love you long time’, come from the 1987 Vietnam war film Full Metal Jacket.
(The ‘Me Love You Long Time’ scene from Full Metal Jacket)
Intersectionality is the combination of two or more dichotomies of privilege-prejudice, like sex and race. Whereas it is clear that the intersectionality of prejudices should lead to the observation of a more intense prejudice, what is often observed is the obfuscation of prejudice. By that, I mean that the sexism is covered up by appealing to cultural appreciation — these women are so cultural/ethnic/interesting — and the racism is covered up by appealing to sexual appreciation, in turn disguised as ‘love’ — Asians are so beautiful.