The fetishization of East Asian women can easily go unnoticed, especially in a city as liberal as Berkeley. However, everyday, East Asian women are stripped of their humanity. Whether it be through social media interactions or passing comments regarding harmful preferences, they are reduced only to sexual beings in the eyes of Western society. This issue affects millions of women around the globe, including here at Berkeley High School (BHS).
Mina Moreland, a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), shared her experiences as an East Asian girl in Berkeley.
“Most [of the] outright fetishization I see and have experienced takes place online — I think because people are more comfortable saying things like that when it’s not to your face,” Moreland said. “People tend to make comments online such as, ‘I’ve always had a thing for Asians’ or other phrases which come across as casual mentions of a preference but signal a bias towards and fetishization of East Asian women.”
It’s important to remember that people can’t draw this up to their environment, as Asian people make up the smallest demographic at BHS. People aren’t born with a certain type, or specific features that they find attractive, it’s all learned. This is why it’s imperative that those with an “unconscious Asian preference” examine where this supposed attraction emerges from.
The line between preference and fetishization of East Asian women can also affect many East Asian women’s views on dating. BIHS senior Lindsey Chou explored this, touching on comparison to white girls, how her race might play a part in attraction, and overall insecurities. It is evident that many East Asian women across the globe have grappled with these effects of being fetishized, which creates challenges in the dating world and their own self-perception.
The fetishization of East Asian women is not only an issue in the world of dating and sexual preferences, but one of the many ways in which the impacts of anti-Asian racism are felt, especially in the Bay Area. Chou explained that the fetishization of East Asian women “really shapes the way I perceive myself in relation to others … and is pretty deeply ingrained in how I see the world.”
It’s easy to believe that a community such as BHS may be more progressive than others, but even in a very liberal community, it can still exist. It’s common for East Asian girls to wonder if those who express interest in them beyond a platonic relationship genuinely like them, or if it’s solely due to their race. This frustrating question never goes away, as one’s race is something they will live with for the rest of their lives.
The impacts of the objectification of Asian women extend beyond these direct encounters, connecting to the objectification of women, and of human beings in general. If we are to amend our society and its perception of East Asian women, it is imperative to listen to those most affected by this fetishization, to understand and process their thoughts and experiences completely unfiltered and uninterrupted.