Growing up Asian in Australia has been a journey within itself, but navigating the dating world as an Asian woman has certainly had its challenges. I’ve found it immensely difficult to trust people when it comes to dating because you find yourself thinking, “Does this person actually like me for me, or do they like me because they think I am someone based on my appearance? Do they appreciate me as an individual or for the stereotypes they attach to Asian women? Does this person genuinely want to be with me or am I just something, or someone rather, for them to tick off of their list and ‘try’.”
Racial fetishisation is so much more than just acknowledging someone’s race, it’s making it the only part of their identity considered. It’s when the person with a fetish completely dismisses who a person really is and instead projects their preconceived stereotypes, unrealistic expectations and harmful generalisations onto them.
It’s objectifying someone based on these ideas you have of them. It’s selfish because you know that you don’t accept them for who they truly are but rather to appease your curiosity about them, based on their appearance.
I have come across a lot of men, in person and on dating apps, who have bragged about their obsession with Asian women, or as they often unashamedly refer to it, “Yellow Fever” and their love for how “tight” and “promiscuous” Asian women apparently are. There’s this assumption that all Asian women are submissive, softly-spoken, shy, subservient and hyper-sexual, and that somehow makes us desirable to those who wish to dominate us and have power over us.
When someone fetishises me, I feel that I am not being seen as a human being that has many layers to her. Instead, I feel that I am seen as an object that seemingly doesn’t have a say in how I’m treated and perceived.
“I feel that I am not being seen as a human being.”
So, how do we stop fetishisation in our community? In my opinion, we raise awareness around it. I think it’s such an important step forward in helping to create a safe space for BIPOC and other marginalised people, that brands like Bumble, the dating app that empowers women to make the first move, will now treat fetishisation as a form of sexual harassment and as a result will ban people who exhibit that behaviour from their platform.
We all deserve to feel safe, especially on dating apps. I think it’s symbolic of, and powerful for, those affected by fetishisation to be able to fight back and hold people who fetishise other people accountable, otherwise they’ll continue to navigate their way through life believing that fetishising people should carry zero repercussions.
Those who argue that people are allowed to “have a type” or preference and therefore are not harming Asian women by fetishising them, please take a moment to consider a few things. Do you acknowledge every single Asian woman as an individual or do you see them as a collective and no different to each other? What is it about Asian women that you like and can you admit that a big part of your fascination is rooted in the demeaning ways in which we are presented in the Western world? Is this more about you and what you want out of this or about what you admire Asian women as individuals?
It’s disheartening and dehumanising for people to view me, and other Asian women, purely for our Asianess rather than unique and whole individuals who deserve to be treated with respect.
I’m not just a representation of your fantasies and self-serving desires; I am my own person. Asian women, along with others who are fetishised, are whole and very real people.
We have so much depth to us, and you would realise that if you detached us from the stereotypes and the rather degrading and dehumanising fantasies you have of us. For me personally, telling me you’ve always wanted to “try Asian” or that you “have a thing for Asians” doesn’t sit well. If anything, it makes me feel objectified and as though the only reason you’re pursuing me is purely because I’m Asian — that there’s not one other thing appealing about me other than that. It makes me feel disposable and replaceable.
Reducing someone to a stereotype without accepting that there is so much to them if you were willing to explore it is not a compliment. It’s dehumanising, dangerous and will no longer be tolerated, and I’m glad Bumble is helping us to make this known.
Alyssa Ho is a Vietnamese-Australian writer and activist with a passion for anti-racist storytelling. She is the founder of My Go To Gal, Pretty Little Pink Book and You Are a Gift.