When making strides in progress, society often makes the mistake of forgetting that there are still advancements to be made towards equality. While it's easy to sit back and celebrate the steps that we have made, it's even easier to ignore all the challenges that stand in our way. In the modern world, racism is still an obstacle that presents itself in various, less overt forms, making it a struggle to call it out when it appears. While there are arguments that racism has ceased to exist in the western world, I beg to differ. Racism has never been abolished, but has merely ingrained itself in everyday life: it now consists of the openly hurtful jokes that we make at the expense of someone else's ethnicity, and it is is a deep bias that presents itself as opportunity for profit in entertainment and media. Regardless of which industry you're examining, racial prejudice is still a deep-rooted disease that we have yet to entirely cure.
Racism, for example, can especially manifest in the form of constant sexualization of Asian women.
"But wait!" You might argue, already seeing the direction that I'm going in. "How is that a bad thing? People think that you're fuckable and attractive. You should be flattered." Dissecting that inherently gross statement word by word, let's examine the thought process behind the justification of such derogatory behavior. First, it's entirely too presumptuous that I, a female of Asian descent, should be pleased by the open and constant objectification of my body. There is absolutely nothing gratifying in complete strangers feeling as if they have some kind of claim over my sexuality. At best, it's degrading to constantly hear catcalls like "Hey baby, you can worship at my temple!" when you're walking down the street. At worst, it means fearing for your safety when groups of men leer at you because you resemble the stars of their late night porn stash. There is nothing positive in feeling like I owe any part of myself to anyone because society has deemed my ethnicity to be the flavor of the week.
When I've tried to explain this to non-Asian friends, the responses are almost always the same. Over the years, I've heard all sorts of suggestions, ranging from "Maybe you should just cover up more" to "Oh, just take it as a compliment." First and foremost, my attire has no bearing on my ethnicity: whether I cover up from head to toe or walk around in a bikini, there's no hiding the fact that I am a female of Chinese ancestry, and to the vast majority of the popularity, that's a green light for fetishization. The phrase "yellow fever" has been coined specifically to describe this dehumanizing phenomenon of being sexually attracted to members of the Eastern Asian population solely because of their race. It's a form of racism that I'm most familiar with, having to battle it all of my life, and it's still a construct that I'm struggling to dispute.
If you've ever surfed through a porn site or a Halloween costume store, you've most likely glimpsed yellow fever adapted for profit. The constant sexualization of Asian women markets itself as cheap entertainment, which in turn is ingrained into how society views us. On a regular basis, the only available role in entertainment for Asian women relates back to their sexuality or appearance, enforcing the mindset that we only exist for the lustful male gaze. The idea that Asian women need to be dominated, or are naturally submissive, is a deeply disturbing and dangerous one that leaks into the comfort of our everyday lives. Before we can even define who we are as individuals, Asian women are categorized as sex toys to ogle and demean. This is almost always done without our consent: we did not agree to play this role of sexual fulfillment for your fetish. As human beings, no one has entitlement to our bodies. Whether you've been victim of this or a casual observer, it's time to end the degradation of Asian women before we can truly call ourselves "advanced."
The existence of yellow fever has degraded us into a sublet of your kinks and fetishes, forcing us to play the part of your submissive mistress. It’s an exhausting role, one that comes with humiliation and disrespect. At the age of six, I should not have grown men approaching me about what a "dutiful" wife I'd make someday with the implication that I solely exist to fulfill your sex life. No child should have to grow up with the mindset that they are nothing more than the naughty schoolgirl trope in porn. Asian women are not your property. We are not your sex toys that you jack off to when there's nothing good on television. We are human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. No young women of any ethnicity should be delegated to the role of someone's spank bank because society has deemed it acceptable to objectify an entire group of people. Protect the Asian women around you by calling out this form of racism when it appears, and remember that we are not here for the purpose of your bedroom fantasies.
Sara Li is a freshman at the University of Kansas, where she is double majoring in Political Science and Journalism. When she is not working on Project Consent or her terrible dancing, she enjoys listening to Taylor Alison Swift and paying for overpriced coffee. You can reach Sara through her email or Twitter.