Monday, August 21, 2006

Lotus blossom fever?

Everybody has a "type" - specific physical characteristics to which they will always be attracted. I love guys with pale skin, thick dark hair and blue eyes. I'll always check out a guy who fits my "ideal," but that doesn't mean I'll date him, or even like him as a person. I've gone on dates with men of almost every 'type' and race that there is; personality ranks way higher on my list than any physical characteristic ever could.

Maybe it's a Gemini thing; I like variety. Maybe it's because my group of friends looks like the Human Rights Council of the United Nations - I'm comfortable talking to pretty much anybody. My point is, making assumptions about who someone is based on how they look is very retro in a decidedly non-stylish way. The few men that I have truly loved all possessed two traits that I cannot live without: brains and a sense of humor. Non-physical, those, and if you haven't got them, buh-bye. I don't care how blue your peepers are if you're a dope who can't make me laugh. When I'm contemplating a real relationship, personality is paramount.

Dear readers, there's nothing wrong with having a type. It's one thing to like a certain look, but fetishizing the people who have that look is a different thing altogether. Case in point:

On Friday night, my friend Lisa invited me out with a group of her friends who were going to a club called Ivar. I don't love the Hollywood club scene, but I do love to dance, and hadn't gone in quite a while. Lisa and I are both a little overworked lately, and neither of us were feeling great, but decided to drag ourselves out anyway. All work and no play makes us dull girls, after all. I figured I'd get a second wind once I was on the dance floor.

I met up with Lisa and her girlfriends on the sidewalk outside of Ivar. The club's Friday night event was being hosted by a Koreatown radio station, and as we entered, I realized that I was the lone redhead standing in a sea of Asian people of various ethnicities.

"You stick out a bit in this crowd," Lisa, who is Chinese, teased me. Did that bother me? Readers, of course not. A 6'3" drag queen once gave me a lap dance at a friend's birthday party; it takes a lot to make me feel like I'm out of my element. Besides, everyone was friendly and the club's sound system was decent. This is all I need for a good night out. Lisa and I hit the dance floor pretty quickly, and her friends joined us after they'd had a few drinks.

We were all having a good time, and the club was getting more and more packed as the evening wore on. I was enjoying a freak-free night out, which is rare for me, particularly when I'm at a club. Yours Truly was beyond pleased. Lisa and I were people watching as we danced. A couple of white boys had congregated at the edge of the dance floor. "Hey look, a few white guys showed up!" Lisa teased. "What a relief!" I laughed. "I'm not alone anymore." Like I cared.

Readers, what transpired next creeped me out. These white boys, who were all silent and sipping drinks, split up and started to roam the dance floor. Not to dance, mind you. They positioned themselves and, well, stared at the groups of Asian women that were dancing together. They were literally standing and staring. Not trying to dance with, start a conversation with, or even smile at these women.

Staring. Silently.

"Do you see this?" I leaned over and asked Lisa. "What's with the staring? Do you think that is creepy? Because my skin is crawling."

"That is creepy." Lisa shook her head. "Asian fetish guys."

Readers, the way that these men were staring at these women was beyond my comprehension. I've seen plenty of uncalled-for behavior from Various Dudes, but I've never seen anything like this. It's impossible to accurately describe, but I'd say that it was akin to hungry dogs watching chickens turning on rotisserie spits. It was as if the women weren't even people to these men. Everybody else was dancing, talking, laughing with each other...but these guys stood and Just. Fucking. STARED. Say "hello", for god's sake. Smile and nod. Don't just work your way into a woman's space so that you can repeatedly look her up and down. Even if you're shy, a nod and a "Hey" should be doable if you regard the woman as a human being.

Listen, I can appreciate that lots of white men think Asian women are beautiful; I have to agree. They most definitely are. However, there's a big difference between appreciating someone's beauty and staring at her as though she's up for auction. Just because you're not actually physically touching someone doesn't mean you aren't being invasive. This is what fetishizing is; it goes beyond appreciating beauty (your "type", as it were), and turns anyone with a certain "look" into a thing to be desired. Not interacted with, not treated like a person. Just an "exotic" object to look at.

Readers, I wasn't the one attracting the freaks this time. But lord, I was infuriated on these womens' behalf. They didn't need any help from me, of course; they just ignored it, or moved away, after which the guy in question would meander over to another set of Asian women. Watching this clumsy dance of objectification left me with a feeling of ickiness that I could not shake, kids. It may seem like I'm overreacting, but if you'd been there, believe me, it was The Height of Creepy.

My friend Mira, who is Filipina, once brought up the Asian fetish issue. "It's weird. It's tied into these white men wanting a submissive woman," she said with disgust. "Let me tell you something about Asian women..."

"Girl, I already know what you're going to say," I interjected. "That "exotic lotus blossom" stereotypical bullshit turns my stomach."

"Well, we may seem very demure," she leaned in conspiratorially, "but we run everything. We run the house. It may not look that way, but that's the way it is," she said with a giggle.

A male Chinese friend of mine gave me his take on the incident very succinctly: "Yellow fever."

"What?!" I laughed, before I realized he wasn't joking. "Come on. That is not a real thing." Readers, I may sound naive, but since (to my knowledge) there's no such thing as "Irish fever," I have no point of comparison. Of course, I've dealt with an incident or two thanks to my red hair, and found it pretty annoying. Hair color is a small thing, though; race is a far more serious issue, and the hyper-eroticizing of certain races has often been used to oppress the people of those races, particularly the women.

"Oh yes, it definitely is true," Lisa countered. "I can spot the yellow fever from a mile away."

Now I can too, and it isn't pretty. Big Bad Chinese Mama agrees; go visit her site and have a laugh. Lotus blossom indeed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

being Filipina/Mexicana, I can relate somewhat; however, that is the first time I ever heard it called "yellow fever"!? If someone doesn't pick up on my "asian" side (and why should they since I'm only 1/4) then they are definitely more interested once they discover I am at least 1/4. Strange...this past weekend, I went to comedy show with my sister and mom and the headliner commented three times, "we've got some beautiful latinas over here"! It was like, "okay, white boy - we get it. you like a little spice."?!

10:10 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Anon, I think it's the idea of the "exotic other"; the concept that people who look different than you must intrinsically BE different than you. Give me a break; there's only one race, the HUMAN race, and we all want the same things; to be valued and loved, to live full lives, and to accomplish something of note before we croak. As a white person, I was pretty embarrassed that night - I realized for the first time that this was something that my Asian girlfriends have all dealt with at some point or other. It's a real social phenomenon, not just a dumb joke.

11:45 PM  
Blogger feitpingvin said...

Being (half) Chinese, I totally relate to this freakshow. I've had the Asian fetish freakballs do their staring thing et al... the one thing I have found though is that men like that are generally weak and pathetic. You know, the kind that jump ten meters in the air if you say "boo!" They're afraid of non-Asian women and seem to feel "safer" with Asian women due to the stereotype...

Back when I was young and pretty and had all these freaks after me all the time, they would always try to guess my alleged nationality, and after a few guesses I would say "right! Finally! I'm from Thailand (or whatever country they guessed)! In fact, I'm the ambassador. Do you know what that means? It means I can kill you and use my diplomatic immunity to get away with it..."

Worked like a charm every time...

1:49 AM  
Blogger Jennifer R said...

Hm. Is it fetishing if a blonde-haired, hazel-eyed girl goes for dark hair and blue eyes (too)? I always wanted blue eyes...

You gotta laugh at the guys who think they are getting a demure-yet-hot Asian. Boy, are they in for a surprise!

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Medicine Man said...

My brother married a sweet filipino lady and I can attest to the fact that they filipinas are not demure. All the filipinas I've met are dangerously sweet and dangerously stubborn. :)

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Heather Graham said...

"My point is, making assumptions about who someone is based on how they look is very retro in a decidedly non-stylish way" - That is so deliciously cunt, I can't take it! Muah! Heather Graham

5:18 PM  
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