I’ve spent time discussing over at East Asia Blog the racism and xenophobia of East Asia in the context of the kerfluffle surrounding the China/Japan problems, but now I’m going to turn to something more close to home: Michael Lohman, Asian fetishism, and the xenophobia, racism, and sexism inherent in American communities.
A few months ago, feministing had a post about Michael Lohman’s assault on Asian women. On one of the feminist live journals I check out from time to time, I came across a post that linked to a forum called ModelMinority: A Guide To Asian American Empowerment. The article posted, For Asian Women, ‘Fetish’ is Less Than Benign, highlights the problems with American society at large while the comments show the problems that the Asian American community is part of.
American society seems to be perversely fascinated by “submissive” women, whether it be finding one, forcing someone to become one, or imagining one. This is not only nothing new but it is, arguably, an integral part of the Puritan ideals America was founded on. What comes into play here, however, is the stereotyping of all Asian women as the ideal submissive woman, the real facts about these women be damned. This notion is not limited to sexual perverts, but can hit anyone: friends, family, and any other people who are usually against racism. I cannot count the number of times I have heard people talk about how submissive Asian women are; I remember having a conversation with one of my cousins about how he wanted a Korean wife because Korean women were so submissive. My story is merely an anecdote and, like the Michael Lohman case, is easily dismissed as an outside incident.
Many might discredit this news as an isolated incident of perversity, but the fact is that there is a pattern in which Asian women are targeted for sexual fetishes, harassment and assaults, even on college campuses. For example, in 2000, two Japanese college women were abducted, raped, videotaped and told that if they told anybody what had happened, the videotapes would be sent to their fathers. The three white assailants admitted targeting Asian women precisely because they had a sexual fetish for “submissive” Asian women, but also because they believed that this same submissiveness and cultural shame would prevent the women from reporting the assaults.
The article begins to explore some of the reasons behind this fetishizing of Asian women coming, not surprisingly, to the media.
Though it may be difficult to identify the exact origins of violence targeted at Asian women, there is no denying that media portrayal of this minority population has had an effect on building preconceived notions and shaping stereotypes of Asian women as passive, exotic and more easily dominated. Images of the Japanese Geisha girl, the South Asian seductress and the China doll pervade American culture and add to the misconception of Asian women. This has had disturbing results. For instance, in 2002, Jennifer Lynn Gossett and Sarah Byrne conducted a content-analysis study of 31 pornographic Web sites that advertised scenes depicting the rape or torture of women, and found that nearly half of the sites used depictions of Asian women as the rape victim.
This fetishization of Asian women is, among other things, a manifestation of American racism/xenophobia. The Asian woman is objectified, dehumanized, and exulted as exotic and Other; an animal that needs to be tamed. While this process is not too different from what all women, regardless of race, go through, the element of Asian-ness adds something more to the Otherness/exoticism of these women. Perhaps, since women have long been the gatekeepers to morality and society, it would not be so far off to suggest that part of this fetishism might be a way to “conquer” the East. But that is mere speculation; I would have to do more research into the matter to support that kind of claim.
The fetishization described in the article is bad enough, but some of the comments on that thread are disturbing, to say the least. The star of this particular show seems to be someone with the charming handle sir_humpslot, who starts off the conversation with accusing Asian women of “yellow cab service” (another way of calling Asian women sluts), accusing these women of playing “dragon lady,” and saying that the women brought the assault on themselves. UsAgainstThem adds, “Lets face it, white guys are fuckin perverts, no matter what they look like, they are thinking it, and they still get stupid ass whoreientals.” Apparently he not only is qualified to speak for the whole of male white America, but also has the insight into the inner workings of Asian women, as whoriental apparently implies that it is “biological for all Asian women to want to be desired.” And he wonders why it is these supposed “white perverts” who get the women while he, who clearly has such high regard for the “stupid ass whorientals,” canâ€™t get the time of day from these women. Right.
It is heartening to see that amidst the racism and woman hating, there are some voices that try to highlight the problems rather than dismissing it as “white men are perverts” and “Asian women are whorientals”:
What a disgusting pervert. Some things can not be forgiven.
Incidents like this show that the fetishization of AA [Asian American] women and the demasculinization of AA men are two sides of the same coin, and both are hurtful racism. AA men and women must join and fight this together.
I don’t think Asian culture blames women for being victims of sex crimes, and in that sense I didn’t agree with the authors of the article. But yes, community support is important but prevention should also have the same amount of attention. It’s stupid INDIVIDUALS who blame victims (not culture), a few stupid individuals have commented on here as well.
You can’t tell me that of these 50 incidents it was the women’s fault all along. DFH, are you saying that if women aren’t taught self defense that it’s their fault if they’re ever assaulted? Why is it their fault that they were minding their own business when some sicko attacked them via bodily fluids?
Knowing that racism, xenophobia, and woman blaming are in no way limited to the Asian American community does not make me feel better about what I read in that forum. Being friends with many open-minded and women friendly Asian Canadians cannot erase the bitter taste of some of those posts, any more than being part of and having friends in the nebulous white collective makes me feel any better about the Asian fetishism, and the sexual assault that goes with it, that permeates American culture. In the East Asia Blog comments I said, “When you have such a strong discourse of Otherness then how can you expect to even begin moving away from xenophobia and racisim?” Here I feel I must add “sexism” to xenophobia and racism, for women are very much part and victims of the discourse of Otherness. So, when are we going to step away from these discourses and start seeing people who are different from us as, well, people?