April 13, 2005

Racism, Sexism and Fetishism

Elizabeth Chu and Julie Chen relate their experiences with exoticism and fetishism as Asian-American women at UVA.
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Subject College student newspapers and periodicals
URL http://www.cavalierdaily.com/article/2005/04/racism-sexism-and-fetishism, Racism, Sexism and Fetishism
By Elizabeth Chu and Julie chen
LAST WEEK marked a week of awareness for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence with Take Back the Night programs at the University. Even as we saw support for these events, we are still harshly reminded of the reality of pervasive sexism and racism in our community. It has become obvious that even as we try to raise awareness segments of our population are still propagating views that continue to marginalize, stereotype and sexualize women of Asian descent. These are incidences that further affirm the lack of racial awareness beyond black and white at the University.
Oftentimes, racial awareness and education centers around the issues surrounding the black and white communities. The Asian community is glaringly left out of this discourse, as are Latinos/Hispanics and other ethnic minorities. Racial incidences against Asian-Americans do occur; this is proven by the disheartening situation of University Facebook groups, such as the formerly named "Americans for the Increased Importation of Asian Women" and the group "People for the Propagation of Asian Fetish."
The latter of the two self-describes its purpose as "to bang out asians. Bang hard or go home. Yes, even the ugly bitches." Additionally, in the most current announcement, they say, "People say we are sick. People say our parents must have touched us when we were little. But I can't help it if my dick likes the taste of Teriyaki sauce. Or soy. Or duck for that matter. And when I'm feeling a little risky, wasabi."
In the past, other listings have included not only objectification of Asian women based on physicality alone, but also trivialized our bodies as mere commodities that function purely for sexual gratification. For example, in a former listing, a group placed a picture of an Asian woman with the caption, "Made in China.Size: Small.Wrinkle Resistant." This at once stereotypes, essentializes and provides insight into the ignorant views that plague members of our community. Views such as these detract from the idea of women as complete individuals in possession of our humanity and simultaneously insult the dignity of all women, but especially Asian women.
Any time people are referred to as "imports," it reduces them to the status of objects or things. They become possessions that can be easily traded, bought and sold, reminiscent of the history of slavery and the current increase of illegal sex trafficking. The invocation of such imagery specifically targets phenotypically Asian women and places them in a context of powerlessness and discrimination rooted in racism and sexism. This blatant racism and sexism is an unacceptable message for a university of our caliber to be sending to our students as well as to our peer institutions.
The fact that there are students here who started and joined these groups showcases the significant lack of awareness, sensitivity and education to issues of racism and sexism at the University, or an indifference toward them. As proud Asian-American women, we feel trivialized and dehumanized based on this stereotyping of our gender and race. Further, as women, we are insulted and infuriated that men in our day would still hold such regressive views -- and even more so, we feel betrayed by the fact that other women who have joined such groups are perpetuating the ideologies that discriminate against our gender. The idea that women are objects solely for the pleasure and gratification of men should not be tolerated, especially at the University, which prides itself on its progress in matters of race and gender.
This is only one incident in a string of racist and sexist acts committed against Asian-Americans on campus. We are forever thought of as foreigners or exoticized commodities who are left out of dominant racial dialogues. By speaking out, we hope to break the silence, both within our own community and to effect change with the greater community.
Elizabeth Chu is a second-year student in the College and a Student Council representative. Julie Chen is a second-year College student and the incoming vice president for administration of the Asian Student Union.

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