East Asian

I’m Not Your Pretty Little Lotus Flower

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Joy’s Story

I love Asian women!” “Asian women are so hot.” “Japan, Korea, China?” “Asian women know how to treat a man!”

Do any of these phrases sound familiar to you? If they do, congratulations, you’ve come across (or you are) a man — probably white — with so-called “Yellow Fever”.

As an Asian woman living in a country full of white men, I meet these guys a lot. You know, the ones who blurt out all of the above, who try to guess what ‘type’ of Asian I am, whose favourite actresses are Gong Li, Lucy Liu and Zhang Ziyi, who insist on discussing Korean/Japanese/Chinese dramas with me despite me not having seen the series in question, who tell me about all the other Asian women they’ve dated, who complain about how ugly white women are and why Asian women are so much better, and who try to get me to tell them that white men are so much better than Asian men.

Of course, such exotifiying sentiments are meant to be complimentary. After all, the patriarchy asserts, what could be higher praise for a woman than the approval of a white man?

Only…it isn’t praise. It is patronising and dehumanising, and inextricably bound up with the social power of race and gender. To them, ‘Asian’ is our defining characteristic, in a way that ‘white’ would never be used to define themselves. When the “Yellow Fever’ed men speak to me, they aren’t speaking to me, they’re speaking to their idea of an Asian woman, their fantasy made flesh. They’re speaking to every Asian woman they’ve ever seen in the media, every Asian porn actress they’ve ever leered at on their computer screens. My personality is rendered invisible, obscured by the lenses of racial stereotype.

And what a horrifically misogynistic stereotype it is too. Have a wander round any online dating site or Internet forum discussing Asian women, and you’ll notice that one of the most attractive things about Asian women, according to white men, is our apparent ability to “treat our man right”. But what does “right” entail? Well, to put it simply, “treating a man right” is to treat him as superior. Time and time again, Asian women are lauded for our supposedly meek and gentle natures, for our submissive attitudes, for our rejection of feminist values. (Hah!) Through their fetishisation and racist assumptions about Asian women, they reveal their attitudes towards relations with women in general: one should be quiet and meek, contented with a subordinate status, and eager to serve.

How, you may ask, do these men reconcile their ideas of Asian women with the existence of Asian feminists? Easy; they decide that she has been “brainwashed” by Western feminist values, has been contaminated, and has neglected her cultural roots. The fact that they assume submissiveness to be so inherent in Asian women that any feminist ideas must be mere parroting of the ideas of white women, is insulting in the extreme. Nor do I appreciate their assumption that Asian culture is static. I would love for them to cast their eye over their own cultural history, going back hundreds of years, and then tell me — what is “Caucasian culture”? And by rejecting the values their ancestors espoused, have they betrayed their cultural roots?

So please, men with ‘Yellow Fever’, stop objectifying, fetishising and exotifiying us. Instead, try seeing us as individual human beings with individual, unique personalities. Cool idea, no? And next time you have the urge to tell me about all the Asian women you’ve dated and how much you loved Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or Memoirs of a Geisha — don’t.

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Rowena’s Story

Black Women and Exotification

I live in one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Close to 50% of Vancouver’s population is made up of visible minorities, predominantly from Asian countries. Black people make up a smaller number at around 0.5%. As such, I am a member of the rarest minority group in Vancouver. To many I am considered “exotic.” A lot of people consider being called exotic a compliment, and I know many people who actually strive to look more “exotic.” From my experience this is extremely problematic. What that expression means to me is that I’m strange and I’m the “other.” And yes, I am often treated that way.

There have been several times when I’ve been the only black person in a group and the group members suddenly start singing the praises of black people (their looks, athletic prowess, entertainment ability etc.). Again, I don’t see this as a compliment; in fact, all that gushing makes me feel slightly nervous. I wonder whether they really see me or whether they just see my colour, and stereotype me based on it.

In my opinion, exotification leads to fetishism. Due in part to the media, black women are thought to be hypersexual and are thus treated in that way. Additionally, black people are often seen as some kind of “cool sidekick” to have. There is little more annoying than realizing that somebody is just befriending you so you can be some sort of coloured mascot to them. I don’t want to be petted like a dog. I don’t want to be your token black friend for proof that you aren’t racist. I don’t want to sing or dance for you or tell you sassy jokes. You don’t have to tell me you like black people, you have black friends, your last girlfriend was black, or that you have never dated a black woman before. In fact, all those are warning signs that I am being exotified and that I should stay away from you.

Imagine being treated like you’re a zoo exhibit. That may sound harsh and over the top but that’s exactly how I’ve felt on several occasions. I have lost count of the number of people who have touched my natural (coily) hair without asking. You Can Touch My Hair is a direct descendant of the Hottentot Venus Some people have actually asked if they could touch my skin! In all honesty it makes me feel as though they don’t consider me fully human, someone with feelings. Do they truly believe that I enjoy being prodded and stared at? To me this behaviour is reminiscent of the treatment of Sarah Baartman, the South African Khoisan woman who was exhibited in a European freak show over a hundred years ago. Europeans paid to see Sarah naked, ogling in amazement at her African physique. Sarah’s life was very tragic and I am in no way lessening her trials by comparing my less tragic experiences to hers, I’m simply saying that over a century later not much has changed in the way that society views black women, and my personal experiences help to prove that.

The odd thing is people who do the exotifying don’t seem to realize what they are doing! On the Psychology Today website I came across the termracial microaggression”  which is defined as follows:  “… the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities and denigrating messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned White people who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated. These messages may be sent verbally (“You speak good English.”), nonverbally (clutching one’s purse more tightly) or environmentally (symbols like the confederate flag or using American Indian mascots). Such communications are usually outside the level of conscious awareness of perpetrators.” (from: )

I recognize incidences of exotification more readily than I did when I first moved to Vancouver. I’m not sure what can be done to rectify the problem, to be honest, but something tells me that media portrayal of black women can play a huge role in remedying this.

Joy Goh-Mah is based in London and writes about feminism at Crates and Ribbons. She has a background in management and human resources and is passionate about equality and diversity. Joy is a triple threat ‘WOC, a threat to patriarchy & all forms of oppression’ Read her first Telegraph article Why are black female victims seemingly invisible?  Find her on Twitter @CratesNRibbons

Rowena Mondiwa was raised in the UK and Africa and currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. She is a soon to be Graduate School student and will be doing an MA in International and Intercultural Communication. Rowena is interested in education, literature and cultural and diversity issues. She blogs at Les Reveries De Rowena and can be found on twitter @RowenaMonde

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50 replies »

  1. As a white guy who has had Far East girlfriends, this is something I care a lot about. My response is- consider your own position and how judgemental you are being.

    Just because I happen to be attracted to East Asian women does not mean I’m ‘objectifying’ them. That is a hugely overused term anyway. Thanks to feminist logic, attraction is now ‘objectification’ I deeply resent anyone dictating who others should and shouldn’t date.

    I acknowledge that there are some white guys who view Asian women in certain stereotypes that can be perceived as detrimental but in every ethnic group there are trends. And observing those trends is not ‘racist’ It is unfair to claim that all western men who date Asian women must have patriarchal attitudes. You can find controlling attitudes within white-white relationships but bigots never focus on that.

    I have known literally hundreds of Chinese- male and female and they are just as diverse as any other group of people. I do find an attractive femininity among a lot of Chinese women but if you think that means I ‘look down’ on them you are misguided. Actually its probably the ladette culture that has emerged in Britain in recent years that puts me off dating British girls. And for me the other reason is that those British girls I do like tend to be with other guys. And I just don’t interfere with women already in a relationship. Before anyone pounces on that- no, im not calling all British girls ladettes.

    If some guys have harassed you or you feel they have looked down on you I can understand that being frustrating but I’m really getting sick of the bigotry directed at mixed-race couples. I treat any woman I’m with respect. You don’t know me so what gives you a right to judge? Personality is equally important. I happen to be attracted to East Asian women but that doesn’t mean I discriminate against white, black or Hispanic women.

    If you don’t want to date a white guy no one is forcing you to- but you have no right to spread hatred against an entire ethnic group (white men)

    Your victimhood mentality here to me hides the real issue- you are both a racist and a control freak. You are a racist because you are demonizing all white men who date Asian women to be controlling patriarchal freaks with a ‘yellow fever’

    And you are a control freak because you are spreading stereotypes about mixed dating and trying to stir up negativity against white men- you are trying to influence other women into thinking we are all like that. There is also overtones of sexism in your argument. Indeed I regard modern western feminism as a misandry movement using ‘equality’ as an excuse for its real agenda- stirring up hatred and division between men and women. There are many parts of the world feminism is needed but in the west, whereby equality is enshrined in law, I regard feminism as a hypocritical, exclusive and obnoxious movement. A movement that blames men for the decisions women make. A hateful movement that NEVER has a positive word to say about men or masculinity.

    I am sorry if you have personally experienced guys making you feel uncomfortable and you have a right to be frustrated with those individuals but you have no damn right to spread hate against all white guys as a result. If other Asian women choose to date white guys you have no right to right to dictate whether they should or shouldn’t.

    Maybe one reason I am attracted to East Asian women is that the hateful way western feminism has developed hasn’t yet spread to that part of the world. And its got far more to do with misandry than it has to do with equality, despite feminist propaganda. Men like me are fed up of being made to feel guilty for the crime of being a man.

    With my Chinese girlfriend, I never told her what to do, never spoke down to her, never dictated what she could wear or any other perception you may have in your head.

    You come across as someone bitter towards white guys and men in general.

  2. As an Afrikan woman living in Kenya, my home country i am thoroughly sick of white men who leer at me. at age 15 i was harassed by an old white man outside a mall. he looked at me and assumed that he could simply buy my body because ofcourse my race meant that i have a price. a couple of months ago i was walking home when a white man who was driving saw me and stuck his head out the window with the ” i know u want me, I’m white” look that they often throw at locals. its disgusting, degrading and ridiculous. these people feel that it is their right to come to our continent and abuse our women and children sexually because they have money and whiteness.

  3. I do agree that some white men are abscesses with Asian women, but for me it all happened naturally and I hated when people told me I had yellow fever… I live in Vancouver and there is a huge Asian population. Through our my life only Asian women have ever shown interest in me an became friends or more with me. White women have generally not shown interest in me. I have no idea why. I do believe people are attracted to people with different back grounds. It’s natural, because we don’t want to be too similar to our partner for instinctual fear of incesst. Growing up my best guy friend was Korean. Things only got worse for me. Everyone teased me for having yellow fever. It bothered me so much. I went to visit my friend in S Korea when he moved back. People all teased me and said I must of went there for the girls… When I came back I wanted to learn Korean because I became really interested into Korean calture on my trip. I decided to do a language exchange in Vancouver with a Korean and everyone thought I was doing it to meet Korean women but I made sure I only did the exchange with Korean men. I didn’t want people to think I was going crazy with yellow fever… Today I am happily married to the love of my life and she is Korean. She is not my “Asian slave”. We cook together and take care of each other. I just wish people didn’t think I met her because they believe I had yellow fever.

  4. Reblogged this on Corner Store Press and commented:
    “The odd thing is people who do the exotifying don’t seem to realize what they are doing! On the Psychology Today website I came across the term “racial microaggression” which is defined as follows: “… the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities and denigrating messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned White people who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated. These messages may be sent verbally (“You speak good English.”), nonverbally (clutching one’s purse more tightly) or environmentally (symbols like the confederate flag or using American Indian mascots). Such communications are usually outside the level of conscious awareness of perpetrators.” (from: )”

    • That’s called a preference. From what I’ve read, you don’t intend on fetishizing these Asian women and making them into mere robotic parts you tend to fuck and order around. I think you might like the cultures, or hey, maybe there are Asian-dominant physical features they have you prefer. As long as you still see them as equal human beings first, then you’re pretty much good.

  5. Obviously some asshole stereotyping all Asian women as submissive slaves is wrong, but is preferring Asian women over other ethnicities really wrong? When I lived in LA so many of the Asian girls I went out with asked me if I only dated Asian girls. Answering yes to that question would get a worse reaction than saying I had an STD. I always knew to say no, which was true, but the majority of girls I was attracted to and went out with were Asian. I’ve said since I was a little kid that Asian women are the most beautiful in the world. Seriously, like since I was 6 or 7 years old. For a lot of guys, like myself and other guys I’ve met, a preference for Asian girls isn’t some fad or “fever” that will be healed eventually. These days, it seems we’re more understanding of “what floats someone’s boat”. If you’re attracted to the same sex, then that’s your right. Why is preferring Asian women such a taboo thing? I know the guys this article is (supposed to be) referring to, and I despise them just the same. But unfortunately people like me get lumped into that same group. I’ve always been attracted to East/Southeast Asian cultures, that’s why I decided to move here. They seemed more “in tune” and more respectful and I was always so drawn to them. I figured it was just movies that made me think that, until I moved to Asia. What I thought I was attracted to about Asian cultures turned out to be correct, at least in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, and judging from the Japanese and Chinese people I’ve met, I would definitely take to their cultures as well. Having an interest in Asian culture should be a good thing, right? So why is the writer of this article vilifying some poor guy who wants to talk about Korean dramas with a Korean person? That’s what really got to me. Anybody who goes to that that length to learn about a culture is obviously not the type of guy this article should be addressing, and punishing him for that is just sad. Look, if you’re dating or hanging around assholes, then you’re dating and hanging around with assholes. It doesn’t matter if he’s primarily an asshole to Asian girls or whomever else, he’s still an asshole. Just please don’t label guys like me as objectifying, stereotyping, assholes because I think you’re beautiful and have an interest in your culture.

    • Wow. You’re exactly the kind of greaseball this article talks about, and you’ve had to jump through countless intellectual hoops to rationalize it. You are the worst.

  6. […] Exotification Discrimination can also disguise itself as a positive, too, as you can see in these two accounts of exotification of asian and black women. Sich fetishisation of race is most often dehumanising by associating race with stereotypical […]

  7. To Wayman; I am sorry, but I cannot let your fatuous inaccurate nonsense go unchecked. The oppression that Joy and Rowena live with is daily, and structural. Yours is based upon fantasy, conjecture and your own opinions.

    To make light of the oppression of women of colour and people of colour more generally by switching it and talking about you only serves to reinforce your own ignorance on the matter.

    Finally, I’d love to meet your harem of women but not sure they exist.

  8. “I love white boys “white guys are so hot.” “Swiss, Swedish, Scandinavian?” “white men know how to treat a lady”
    Do any of these phrases sound familiar to you? If they do, congratulations, you’ve come across (or you are) a woman — probably asian — with so-called “White Fever”.
    As a White male living in a country full of asian women, I meet these girls(http://dateinasia.com) a lot. You know, the ones who blurt out all of the above, who try to guess what ‘type’ of white guy I am, whose favourite actrors are Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Gerard Butler, who insist on discussing American/English/Canadian dramas with me despite me not having seen the series in question, who tell me about all the other White men they’ve dated, who complain about how ugly asian men are and why white men are so much better, and who try to get me to tell them that asian girls are so much better than white girls.
    Of course, such sentiments are meant to be complimentary. After all, the asian women assert, what could be higher praise for a man than the approval of a asian woman?
    Only…it isn’t praise. It is patronising and dehumanising, and inextricably bound up with the social power of race and gender. To them, ‘white’ is our defining characteristic, in a way that ‘asian’ would never be used to define themselves. When the “White Fever’ed women speak to me, they aren’t speaking to me, they’re speaking to their idea of a white man, their fantasy made flesh. They’re speaking to every white man they’ve ever seen in the media, every white chick-flick actor they’ve ever leered at on their TV screens. My personality is rendered invisible, obscured by the lenses of racial stereotype.
    And what a horrifically misandristic stereotype it is too. Have a wander round any online dating site or Internet forum on white men, and you’ll notice that one of the most denied attractive points about dating white men, according to Asian women, is our apparent ability to “treat girls better”. But what does “better” entail? Well, to put it simply, “treating a girl better” is to pay for everything. Time and time again, white men are lauded for our supposed fat wallets, for our supposed assertive attitudes, for our acceptance of misandristic values. (Hah!) Through their fetishisation and racist assumptions about White men, they reveal their attitudes towards relations with men in general: one should be rich and strong, contented with an authoritative status, and eager to accommodate.
    How, you may ask, do these women reconcile their ideas of White men with the existence of White feminists? Easy; they decide that he has been “brainwashed” by misogynistic values, has been contaminated, and has neglected his societal norm. The fact that they assume misogyny to be so inherent in White men that any feminist ideas must be mere parroting of the ideas of women, is insulting in the extreme. Nor do I appreciate their assumption that White culture is static. I would love for them to cast their eye over their own cultural history, going back hundreds of years, and then tell me — what is “Asian culture”? And by rejecting the values their ancestors espoused, have they betrayed their cultural roots? (**definitely)
    So please, women with ‘White Fever’, stop objectifying, fetishising and criticizing us. Instead, try seeing us as individual human beings with individual, unique personalities. Cool idea, no? And next time you have the urge to tell me about all the White men you’ve dated and how much you loved Pretty Woman or The Proposal — don’t.

    • Your comment is fantastic. The original post is unusually straightforward and sensible about its observations and point, but then your comment also adds brilliant dimension to it, too. 10/10

    • Wayman -

      I’m afraid your comment reveals how little you understand about racism, sexism, and white supremacy. By copying my article in its entirety and swapping ‘white men’ and ‘Asian women’ around, you suggest a symmetry in the relations between the two, a problem that is shared equally on both sides. Nothing could be further from the truth. While there are indeed many Asian women who prefer white men, such a mentality is mired in imperialistic notions of white superiority. It is a worship of power and prestige, a vestige of colonialism, as opposed to the fetishisation of submissiveness that informs the white male obsession with Asian women. The idea that Asian women have a “misandristic” stereotype of white men is just laughable.

      • Well done Wayman. As a white man living in Asia, trying to find a girl who likes me for who I am rather than liking that I’m white, you are 100% correct.

    • I really have to agree with leopard here. It was an interesting choice to copy the article with the appropriate substitutions to make your point, but i think it actually ended up obfuscating your point, especially in the 6th and 7th paragraphs, which i consider to be the strongest points in the original piece.

      For example:

      “you’ll notice that one of the most denied attractive points about dating white men, according to Asian women, is our apparent ability to ‘treat girls better’…white men are lauded for our supposed fat wallets, for our supposed assertive attitudes, for our acceptance of misandristic values”

      -the validity of this statement is extremely questionable. To agree with leopard again, I think the appeal of the white male lies more in their societal value than their wallet. Although I will concede that societal value is often reflected financially, I think the expectation of men, to burden the financial responsibility of a relationship, transcends race. It’s more a product of sexism, which renders it’s link to the fetishism of the white male moot. I also don’t see any evidence that white males are widely considered to be any more assertive or accepting of misandry than men of any other race. However, the subservient, demure, and meek stereotype of Asian women is very widely recognized. It would be simply ignorant of you to deny it.

      “The fact that they assume misogyny to be so inherent in White men that any feminist ideas must be mere parroting of the ideas of women, is insulting in the extreme”

      -this is simply ridiculous. It actually doesn’t even make sense enough to properly address it’s error.

      “what is “Asian culture”? And by rejecting the values their ancestors espoused, have they betrayed their cultural roots? (**definitely)”

      -”asian culture” is a actual thing that is recognized in many different ways and has been exploited and commodified many times over. The rhetorical device does not work in this case, for that reason. Moreover, the question of “betraying cultural roots” is a very real thing that asian women have to ask themselves constantly. The original post was pointing to the fact that white men do not have to deal with this question to the same degree, and your reversal of this question, again, does not work because feminist white males are not criticized for “denying their roots,” if anything, they are praised for it.

  9. You raised a lot of good points in your article. Although, being from the Philippines, I don’t think too many Filipinas fit that mold of “submissive Asian woman” too well. Here, terms like “ander da saya (under the skirt)” and “kumander (commander, referring to a wife who has her man firmly in line) are the norm and their usage in slang pre-date the 1960s.

    Yes, there is a fascination in our culture for foreign men. We were in the convent for almost four centuries and in Hollywood for decades after that, after all. Colonization will leave its imprint. And it does on our mixed-race heritage, too. Our people are a mix of caucasian (Spanish, American, with some Anglo and Dutch thrown in), Chinese and Malayo-Polynesian and Indon stock, perhaps with some Indian genes mixed in somewhere (not in the region of our noses, unfortunately).

    Perhaps it is because people who are not mixed-race and who are not from our island seem exotic to us. More often than not, it is the variety in eye colors that fascinates us. We usually see brown eyes in shades ranging from amber to near-black.

    But Filipinos are a people who like to poke sharp sticks, too. This trait manifests often in how we refer to caucasians (and some African-Americans) collectively as “kano (American, in slang)” not minding (or caring) where they actually come from. We may also call them “puti (white)” with a derisive snort hidden behind a well-placed hand. I may not agree with these backhanded put-downs, but, there they are.

    When non-Filipinos attempt to “fetishize” me, I laugh at them and, if I speak their language, tell them in that language that they are wasting their time. Then I get asked if I am American. It must be the unexpected directness.

    You are right in asking men to just see you as a human being, first. Perhaps that is the best way for a human to approach another human. May that sentiment thrive and spread.

  10. I have a question that has been bugging me for a while. I’m caucasian, and my heritage is primarily Eastern European (Polish/Hungarian). I am proud of my ancestors and the stories I know about them, I am interested in the culture and like to make ties back to them when I can. I treasure heirlooms and recipes passed down through generations, and sometimes I think of a very brave ancestor of mine who is an inspiration to me. Since I am white, however, I feel almost guilty in feeling proud of my heritage…and uncomfortable talking about it with anyone. I grew up in the U.S. but was always interested in family history and the culture we originally came from. I certainly wouldn’t limit my choice of possible partners or friends based on their heritage/ethnicity/what have you but I still am proud of my ancestry. I know that I cannot understand the racism that some people have to endure daily, but I try to be understanding and sensitive to these issues. I have only had a couple of strange comments about my ethnicity from some creepy old men saying things along the lines of “oh, you’re Polish and Hungarian? Of course you are. Only that exact combination could make a woman as beautiful as you!” (blegh.) Anyways, I want to learn more about my heritage, to feel comfortable being proud of it. Is that…okay? Like, is that an example of white privilege or can I still be proud of my roots?

    • Hi Helena,

      Personally I think everyone should be proud of their roots and get to know their history and culture. Like Bob Marley said “If you know your history, you will know where you’re coming from.” I don’t think you should feel bad for feeling proud of your culture at all! I think all we can do is be culturally sensitive to others and to try to expose ourselves to different cultures and people to get rid of our subconscious stereotypes.

      And those creepy old men think they are being charming, don’t they? ;)

    • Hi Helena = )

      I can’t feel proud of being White, because I still benefit from the legacy of imperialism and ongoing White supremacy. ‘White pride’ is a problem because it must be either ahistorical (and thus untenable to justify as a link to heritage) or overtly supremacist.

      However, I love heritage and I feel affection for the area I come from, and have made occasional efforts to explore the local dialect, food and traditions. This is an act of archaeology because that microculture is dissolving into a more mobile and interconnected contemporary world! The increasing obscurity only makes it more fascinating to me. I’m also interested in and enjoy British heritage more widely – even aspects of it that are problematic for my own beliefs, like stately homes and estates. I love to visit the gardens of Chatsworth, even though I hate the inequality that allowed its creation.

      When I think about being British, I feel shame for some things and pride for others. I can’t stand the sight of my country’s flag, because of all the suffering and injustice meted out under it over the centuries. At the same time, I love many things about this country and its people and I celebrate them. One of those things is cultural diversity. British pride is revolting when it excludes non-Whites, even though non-White people have been part of the population for over two thousand years. I’d say I feel a qualified pride, and a qualified sense of belonging. I try to engage with my heritage critically and with a historical sense, and above all rejecting the ridiculous, racist image of Britishness as White.

      White privilege might be tangled in cultural heritage, but it’s not the same thing. Celebrating your own identity in a way that doesn’t erase or denigrate others must be an enrichment to your own life, and to others too. When you celebrate your Whiteness, you’re flaunting privilege, but your culture is not defined by Whiteness; we are all more than the narrow racial construction of ourselves.

      • Good point, Rose-Anna. It happens without fail that during Black History Month (February in Canada and the USA) there are some disgruntled white people asking why there’s no White History Month. I’d never really thought about that before but I think people know more European history than African, Asian etc (I most certainly do). We do have several European cultural festivals in my city (Greek, Italian, Scottish etc) and I always attend those. It’s always a great experience and I love the food and the music:)

        I think the problem with White Pride is that despite white people being racial minorities if you take the entire global population, the Eurocentric standard has been imposed on people. White people are more prevalent in media, positions of power etc and do have a position of superiority. The rest of us are indeed marginalized in many ways. I hope I’ve made sense!

  11. Agree here that the differences are almost as interesting as the similarities. Stereotypes are a difficult and interesting line to walk. I for instance have always been told how exotic I look (I am Greek and Syrian) but because I draw great strength from the identity I share with my ancestors, I have always considered this a compliment and I still do. I think that despite being “stereotyped” as Mediterranean, Arab, and therefore “exotic”, I personally have always found this to be a matter of pride rather than dehumanizing. I like that I am identified with a group of people to whom I am proud to be related; it has been, to me, empowering.

    Of course, it’s possible that this is a result of one of two things: First, that these largely tend to be positive, rather than negative, stereotypes, (although that might not be true in the Arab case); and second, that I personally have chosen to identify with the positive aspects of these stereotypes rather than the negative.

    It also helps that the stereotypes I’m associated with are still, essentially, white.

    Thoughts?

    • Hey Amira! Thanks for commenting:)
      Hmm, interesting. I am also proud of my culture and my heritage despite its often negative portrayal in the media. I think pride in self is so important and that it’s also important to know your culture and your history. It does a lot for the self-esteem.

      I was having a conversation the other day with someone who thinks stereotypes can actually be useful, especially if they are positive. My response was that stereotypes make people feel safe, help give a false illusion of safety. There are positive and negative stereotypes about blacks, the positive ones are mainly concerned with entertainment and appearance (“black don’t crack” etc). I still find them annoying because people shouldn’t assume I’m a great dancer (in all honesty, I’m pretty decent), an athlete (I’m sooo not) or anything like that just because I’m black. What about my other achievements and merits that aren’t considered stereotypically African/black? Unfortunately those tend to get overlooked. I’m happy that I am strong enough to ignore stereotypes and just be me.

      • Hi Rowena and Amira! The issue of positive stereotypes does strike a chord with me; there are many people who say (East) Asians don’t experience discrimination because the stereotypes associated with us are positive — good at math and technology, hardworking, achieving good grades in school, and so on. In some ways these can be beneficial, for instance, when I worked in the tech industry, I was assumed to be more knowledgeable than my white female colleagues (although still deemed less so than male colleagues of any race). Yet, positive stereotypes don’t exist independently. If the stereotypical view of Asians asserts that we are good at math, it also asserts that we are less good at the arts and other creative activities. If the stereotypical view of Asians asserts that we are high achievers in school, it also asserts that we are ‘nerdy’, with poor social skills. And if the stereotypical view of Asians asserts that we are hardworking and obedient, it also asserts that we are more suited to the role of follower than leader.

        So, for Asians whose talents and ambitions happen to coincide with Asian stereotypes, it may well work to their advantage. However, for the rest of us, even positive stereotypes can work against us, since it pigeon-holes us into doing what is expected of us, not what we truly want.

  12. Great article. Even before reading up on exotification (all thanks to the communities on tumblr a couple of years back), I’ve found it quite uncomfortable coming across people who have overtly fetishised ethnicity in the past as much as feeling uncomfortable due to people who disapproved of the colour of my skin. Whether compliment or ignorant observation, as said above, it’s still marking you as “the other” from appearance alone. It’ll be interesting to discuss the differences in own Fanon-esque pride in looking different and exotification of self on a personal level. Can we be equally guilty of doing this? What makes it easier for some of us to forgive MIA for her Bad Girls music video as opposed to Gwen Stefani’s use of Japanese culture.

    Regardless of these questions and (as evident) the minimal reading I’ve done on this topic, I definitely do agree with the above. It doesn’t happen all the time, but you worry about it after a few experiences (especially after hearing “oh, you know, the indian girl she was with”, “there’s this black girl at work, really nice”). You meet someone new, to this person your appearance may already be attached to a number of pre-judgements. South Asian looking girl: must be religious, must know how to speak “indian”, obedient and shy, strict parents, etc. There’s a formula on your head already without you even opening your mouth.

    As Rowena says, some of it is down to the media. In most TV shows and films there is the stock minority character. It’s something I find really degrading when watching certain TV shows who do nothing BUT perpetuate the stereotypes, use of fashion as well. To me, exotification can both lead to and stem from this: one of the best examples I know of is the appropriation of culturally important symbols such as Native American headdresses or bindis. It’s fashion when worn on someone who is white, it becomes a commodity, positive “exotic”, but when worn by a woman of colour, she is not integrating, she has marked herself more “the other” than her skin colour would have done – she could have looked white if it wasn’t for that.

    There’s so much to say when it comes to this, most of which is still being argued out now, I imagine: every person has their own personal boundaries when it comes to the construction of self as viewed by others. If a person wishes to exoticise themselves, what can be said about that? What if they do enjoy being complemented on this? To what extent should we each take personal responsibility for this as well, how much of that part of our perceived “otherness”/identity do we wish to reinforce, disregard?

    • I may be overstepping my boundaries here, but I feel that a person can’t ‘exotify’ themselves – if they choose to wear traditional dress for example, they are maintaining their culture, expressing & exploring identity etc. Exotification is a function of the White gaze. However I agree there’s a lot to talk about. Maybe someone might take advantage of stereotypes to forward their career or attract a partner, either deliberately or because of internalised orientalism/white supremacy. To me that would be similar to what some women do to get by under patriarchy – we blame the victim when we condemn that person, and should instead target and condemn the structures that lead to the situation. We can support without being complicit in stereotyping, mainly by educating ourselves and creating space for the voices of non-White people. (Maybe I should stop taking up this space!)

      • Hi Rose-Anna,

        I wanted to go into more detail about self-exotification in my post but I didn’t have enough space:) There are black women who strive to be seen as mixed-race because they perceive that as being better. Some examples are black women who wear coloured (blue, green, grey) contact lenses, also those who have eye surgery to give their eyes a more slanted, Asian-like appearance. Unfortunately I know too many women like this and it appears they have bought into the “exotic” lies.

        I sometimes wear African clothing, or African headscarves (like the one I’m wearing in my profile picture). I wouldn’t consider myself to be self-exotifying but I am aware of the fact that my choice in clothing is considered unique in this part of the world so I am willing to answer questions when approached!

    • Ooh, interesting point about exotification vs, a Fanon-esque pride! Now you’ve got me thinking of the black power movement in the 1970s:)

      I think dialogue is so important. Also, interacting with a diversity of people, reading good books on race is a must.Unfortunately I think most of us collect racial stereotypes from the media. I think we have all done it at one point or another. It’s great when that lightbulb goes off and we start questioning what we see.

  13. I was very briefly discussing this with the bf and he pondered whether or not this is something that we all do and happens to everyone regardless of ethnicity. I think not. The experiences related here simply do not happen to me as a white woman. People don’t poke and prod me, I’m not used as evidence of someone’s lack of racism, men don’t assume I’ll treat them “right.” As a fellow Rowena, the most racially loaded comment anyone has ever made to me is “funny name for a white girl” which, although confusing, I couldn’t say was hurtful or offensive. The dream of genuine equality for all people on all levels seems so far off.

    Excellent piece. Thank you for sharing.

    • Totally agree, even on the extremely rare occasions when I experience stereotyping White privilege protects my ego and status. Yesterday I was at a Nigerian wedding and since I love dancing & Nigerian music, I hit the floor as soon as possible. Since White people can’t dance (stereotype), many people laughed benignly at my enthusiastic efforts, affected to teach me some moves, and even said ‘well done!’ to me. I was puffed up by their friendliness and acceptance. Totally different situation in reverse!

    • Thank you for commenting! For me the awareness that I was being exotified was a long process. I honestly did not want to believe it! I felt uncomfortable talking about race and racism because so many believe that we are living in a post-racial society, but I think if we don’t air our concerns they are always going to be the proverbial elephant in the room!

    • Of course it doesn’t apply to you, you’re not an Asian woman living in a predominately white country. Go to Asia and see what happens. You will quickly learn the meaning of objectification. I live in Asia and all my Asian friends tell me all the time how much they want a white girlfriend. They ask if I know any white girls who are coming to our town. They talk about how much bigger their tits are. How much bigger their asses are. I get invited out with people all the time because they want to show the white person to their friends. Obviously for me, a guy, this isn’t a bad thing. It’s quite fun. And to tell you the truth the white girls who come out here love all the attention. But my point is you can’t compare apples to apples with the author’s situation.

  14. Reblogged this on Unquiet and commented:
    I find the differences in the way these authors are exotified by people they meet even more interesting than the parallels. The stereotyping of an Asian woman as meek and submissive, as Joy points out, relates to misogynistic, reactionary norms, while the exotification of a Black woman seems more connected with an acquisitive desire to ‘prove’ non-racist identity and the desire to infiltrate protected space as well as hostile stereotyping and othering.

    White women need to read this, as we, including some feminists among us (by contrasting ourselves with ‘submissive’ ‘oppressed’ women elsewhere), have been and still are guilty of perpetuating and facilitating exotification, and White ego/White saviour complex presses us to acquire friendships to soothe guilt and enhance our non-racist images of ourselves.

    • Look, a troll.

      You’d have to be a troll to say this bull. Or possibly just terminally stupid. Like everyone else who wants to go back to the early 1900′s. Women are people now. We don’t have to be dependent on you in order to survive in the world, which means we don’t have to suck up to you or baby you. Get over it.

  15. Reblogged this on Don't Be That Girl! and commented:
    Men who reject white women and date only Asian women are simply looking for a woman who will treat them with respect and not betray them by stealing their children, home and financial resources in a divorce. Unfortunately as this post aptly demonstrates Asian women are not immune from the corrupting influence of feminism; and a female whose mind has been corrupted/tainted by feminism is forever unfit for a long term relationship – marriage – and the raising of children.

    • There are many definitions of feminism. The one I adhere to is the following: The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

      I do not see how feminism can be a bad thing. People who are scared of feminism tend to be highly patriarchal. They expect women to be barefoot and pregnant, cooking meals for them in the kitchen. Not all women want to get married or to bear children. It does not make them any less of a woman. My worth as a woman does not depend on my getting married and bearing children.

      Do these men who only date Asian women respect them/see them as equals? Is it only the woman’s job to show respect to the man?

      Again, we can’t say that ALL Asian women respect their men, we can’t say that ALL black women are hypersexual, etc. And we can’t blame the women when relationships go wrong.

      • Intellectual tyrants and intellectual rapists such as feminists, liberals and conservatives as a group always refuse to see and understand the damage their various ideologies have done both to individuals, society and to families. Though a few do indeed come to repent of their wicked ways from time to time, unfortunately, their repentance comes all to often too late to stem and/or mitigate the tide of damage their intellectual and political malfeasance has unleashed upon our modern day society.

        This is why more and more intelligent men are saying no to marriage and intimate relationships with a gender of which far too many have chosen to make themselves unfit for marriage and the raising of children by giving in to their self centered and self destructive whims.

    • Luckily every woman who reads your comment will simply laugh at you.
      Good luck with your racist, sexist, misogynist approach to relationships love.

      • Feminists are not women as a woman is a adult female who takes responsibility for the consequences of their choices and actions as opposed to blaming others – especially men – for their failures. The dishonest of heart always mock those willing to stand up and be counted by telling the truth while in the end sudden destruction always falls upon the heads of those who refuse to listen.

    • …Did you even read the article?
      If no: Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to fail. Also, try reading it this time.

      If yes: You lie. Try reading it again. Then go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done.

      • Issues no just a keen understanding of the reality where females are concerned. I get ads for Asian girls all of the time in my email but ignore them just as I do the females I come in contact with in public – unless of course they make an excellent model for a poem or short story. Thirty-two years plus of marriage and careful observation of the females in my family has forever cured me of the naivete most men still have let to grow beyond in regards to the feminine gender.