Commentary  Geisha doll

Why my race is not your fetish

To the man who catcalled me last night with a drunken slur, “Be my geisha doll, baby”:

For you, it’s a quick howl out the window of your four-wheel drive. For me, it’s a feeling of inferiority engrained all through a lifetime.

You probably intended it to be a compliment. I’m sure you meant well. But there’s a difference between preferences for certain features – black hair, petite stature, small noses – and an appetite for women with almond-hued skin.

It’s a phenomenon, isn’t it: yellow fever? You’re afflicted with an attraction to women purely based on their skin colour. I’m expected to be one of two preconceived types for women like me: the bitch or the weakling.

I could be a Dragon Lady, icy and vicious. I could be the red lipstick type: your fantasy woman. Exotic, erotic, and exciting, I’ll blow your mind in bed. I’ll be the cutthroat bitch: always be overachieving, always in control. Haven’t you always secretly wanted a woman who dominates?

Or you might prefer me as a little Madame Butterfly. I’ll submit to and obey your every whim. Helpless, weak, I can’t stand on my own two feet. That’s exactly where you want me, no? You’d love to scoop me up, and carry me over your shoulder. With me around, your fantasy of being a macho hero can be a reality.

You’re into the idea, failing to see the human being behind the formula. My intelligence, my interests, and my humanity are substituted with a fabricated and unattainable paragon that defines how I should be. Subtly mixing racism with sexism, you will never know the consequences of your fetishization. My value as a human being is cheapened to a certain brand of sexual gratification.

It’s not a coincidence that a significant number of the world’s mail-order brides are sourced from the Philippines, Thailand, and China. Nor is it a fluke that Thailand and Cambodia are hotspots for child sex tourism. Through your ignorance, you’re doing more than degrading me. With your words, you authenticate and legitimize the ‘Asian ethnic fetish,’ unwittingly contributing to these crimes.

The shame and the guilt of the silent victims – prepubescent girls sold as commodities of ethnic fetishization – will never haunt you. How can you be expected to understand the relentless feeling of isolation and subordinance that torment those who cannot conform to these limited archetypes? With your brown hair and light skin, you’re so blissfully unaware of the power you hold.

I’m sick and tired of the racism and the sexism that follows me everywhere. I’m tired of trying to differentiate between men who are interested in me and men who are interested in my ethnicity and its implications. I’m disgusted with the silent degradation you impose on “oriental” women; racism doesn’t just hide under the hood of the Klan or behind the swastika.

I’m more than my skin colour; I’m a human being, and no, I’m not your geisha doll.

Jennifer Yoon is a U0 student. To get in touch, email