April 2, 2017

Fetishizing of Chinese Women by Asian People?

Note: I apologize for any spelling or grammar mistakes. I rushed this, I didn't proofread, and I'm not exactly the best writer. I might fix it up in the near future.

I love it when Asians can proudly celebrate being Asian, and I definitely support Asian art, music, films, and anything else regarding that topic. However, there is a line between embracing Asian cultures and fetishizing them. The perpetuation and fetishization of Asian stereotypes by Asian people for Asian and non-Asian audiences just shows how desensitized Asians are to the western media's portrayal of Asian people.

One day, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, and one of my favorite fashion bloggers was wearing a shirt that said "China Girl" with Chinese text underneath, 中国女孩. I'm not sure what that means because I am not Chinese, nor do I speak Chinese (not that all Chinese people speak Chinese, this is important). However, I did enter "China Girl" into Google translate which translated it into the same text that appears on the shirt.

The blogger's caption under the photo... Um, okay?
Anyway, I was shocked because I thought this blogger was more socially aware of social justice issues in comparison to the average person so that was disappointing. I turned to the comments to see how users reacted. One user did express their disgust saying, "as an actual Chinese girl this is so disgusting. when will white girls stop doing dumb shit like fetishising my ethnicity." What was more shocking than the blogger wearing the shirt was the brand's response to the commenter,

"as an actual Chinese person this is great that some one from a different ethnic group can be open."
Comments under the photo. I erased everyone's usernames and profile pictures.
What is important is that at least one of the owners or creators of the brand is Chinese. If a non-Chinese person had created this shirt, I would be disgusted but definitely not surprised. Non-Asian people have been culturally appropriating Asian cultures and religions (as well as other cultures of minority groups) for a long time now, so I am pretty much desensitized to this fact which is sad but true. However, as I have said before, the owner does not seem to be aware of the fact that they are turning Chinese girls into an aesthetic for ethnicities other than Chinese. This, to me, is more sad than anything else.

Their branding clearly fetishizes Chinese girls which is evident by the phrases displayed on their About and Diary page on their website, such as "skin like porcelain dime leanin'," "sweet foreign tongue," and "you'll be a mess without your little China Girl" (which appears to be a reference to David Bowie's 1983 song, "China Girl"). This is problematic for several reasons. For one thing, "skin like porcelain dime" perpetuates the stereotype that all Chinese girls have pale white skin which creates an impossible standard or expectation for them. Although the owners might not have intended this, it could also refer to the "china doll" stereotype since it is often used synonymously with "porcelain." The "china doll" stereotype reduces the Asian female into a submissive and obedient thing. Phrases such as "sweet foreign tongue" refers to the Chinese girl's "exoticness," which again, is problematic because the Asian woman's ethnicity becomes over sexualized; her ethnicity is the main thing that makes her important or special. On the subject of the possible David Bowie reference, well, it's just a mess (ha) all around. The statement does nothing but objectify Asian women, and the brand is no way empowering.

As for the brand's response to the commenter, the brand is essentially saying that, based on how they operate, ethnic groups can open up to one another by turning each other into an aesthetic. This is obviously not true, considering how much trouble cultural appropriation has caused more harm than good. For instance, there are so many cases of non-black people culturally appropriating other cultures such as wearing hairstyles from black cultures. However, black people are still heavily scrutinized in the workplace if they were to wear such hairstyles while white (and other non-black) people can gain monetary success for doing the same thing. Cultural appropriation has not brought races any closer. If anything, it caused more conflict which separates different groups even further apart.

I'm not going to explicitly say which brand or blogger they are because I want to give them a chance to realize why the brand's branding is kind of messed up so that they could fix it (although, they shouldn't be hard to find considering all of the evidence is scattered throughout this post). It is time that both, Asian and non-Asian companies stop profiting off of Asian stereotypes. Stop taking stereotypical Asian roles. Stop letting non-Asian actors and actresses play Asian characters. Stop making jokes and comedy routines at the expense of Asian Americans. Start promoting the idea that Asians are a diverse group of people, not stereotypes.

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