If you're a woman of color, you've probably encountered people who comment on your looks based on your race, ethnicity, or skin color. Even if aren't a woman of color or haven't experienced these types of coments, though, it's important to understand how it feels to be fetishized for your race — and Vine user Olivia Sui perfectly captured it in one short video. It's a must-watch for everyone.
In the video, Sui is innocently going about her day when overhears two men (Shayne Topp and Noah Grossman) talking. Upon hearing one of the men say, "I am so into Asians," Sui lets out a shriek and books it down the hallway as fast as she can, all the way down a flight of stairs, and eventually out into the road where she stumbles and trips as she's crossing the street. I'm sure I'm not the first to say it, but Sui's video illustrates the feelings being fetishized for your race or background can prompt: It's a mixture of being aghast, irritated, and wanting to run as far away as possible from the person who said it. Why the running away? Partly because you don't want to spend the time explaining why their statement is not OK, and partly because people suck and sometimes running away from them is the best possible option.
As a woman of color myself, I can definitely relate to all of this. So in the interest of putting Sui's shriek-running into words, here are three reasons being fetishized for your race is not flattering, as explained by a woman of color:
1. Fetishization Is Racist
Saying "I like all Asian girls" or "I am into all black girls" implies that these people are supposed to act or look a certain way based on their race, reducing them to simple stereotypes. For example, "jungle fever" and "yellow fever" are extraordinarily problematic terms and imply that black people are from the jungle (equating them to animals) or thateast Asian people have yellow skin (in effect, dehumanizing them). Fixation on someone's race is not flattering; it's super problematic.
2. Fetishization Isn't "Appreciating My Culture"
When I explain to people that their obsession with brown girls is actually problematic, they often tell me, "I'm not fetishizing brown girls, I'm just appreciating your culture!" Fetishization and appreciation are actually two completely different things; the former implies worship or obsession, which is literally or figuratively sexual in nature, while the latter means to understand and fully recognize the nuances of something. If someone actually recognizes the nuances of and depths of a culture, they won't boil it down to just a fantasy, sexual or otherwise.
3. Fetishization is Alienating
Telling people you're into them because of their race automatically "others" them and alienates them from the implied default: Whiteness. Now, I know what some of you are thinking: "How can I be alienating people if I'm into them? Aren't those things opposites?" Of course you can be a white person and be genuinely attracted to a person of color without fetishizing their entire race — that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the people who like PoC because it's "novel" or "exotic" to like them, and because of stereotypes associated with their cultures. Those are the people who are really alienating us.
All in all, fetishization sucks. If you do it, stop, and if you're never done it, keep doing what you've been doing.
Images: Giphy (3)