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“I like to joke that San Francisco is the epicentre of the yellow fever phenomenon”, says Debbie, who describes a general awareness of being looked at by men because she’s Chinese.
But Debbie also believes that Asian American women are paying a price for “positive” stereotyping.
A quick browse on the Internet for “yellow fever fetishes” brings up a host of websites, articles and videos, mostly from the US, that express humour, distaste and offence at the sexualised objectification of East Asian women, with some equating yellow fever to racism rooted in colonial ideas of power and submission.
Interestingly, however, many East Asian women aren’t bothered; some even play up to the stereotypes or entertain such fetishes, according to Dr. Indeed, websites like My New Chinese Wife – set up by Chinese women in Hong Kong, the UK and US, promote what it sees as traditional qualities of “Sweet Chinese Brides”, and assist westerners in finding their own.
One acquaintance told me in wonderment that Chinese women are great in the bedroom – as if I wasn't one – to being casually asked if I’d be interested in a guy “who has been with Chinese girls and likes it”.
I’ve been left puzzled by the insensitivity, and the lack of awareness that such comments may cause offence.
Certainly, the idea of the “passive” Chinese is a well-known, but an increasingly misguided view – particularly given the meteoric rise of China and its achievements in women’s education.But it's subtle, and of course, few would admit to surfing online dating sites for Chinese women, yet when the only girls they date are Chinese, then the probabilities are in their favour.Having said that, I'm surprised at what British men, both young and old, generally get away with when talking about East Asian women (Chinese, Japanese, Korean etc.) as well as South East Asian women (Vietnam, Thailand etc.) I've heard my Caucasian friends recommend to their male, single mates that they should date “nice Chinese girls”, with the added bonus that Chinese women are far more sexually open-minded than Caucasian girls.But while some gendered biases exist in all interracial dating, few have gained as much notoriety as so-called yellow fever.In parts of the US, such a notion has become so pervasive that last year, Debbie Lum, an American filmmaker of Chinese descent, sought to capture the madness in her documentary “Seeking Asian Female”.