“Yellow Fever”: Asian Woman Fetishization in The Windup Girl
What disturbs me most about the text is the assault and degradation scene of Emiko. As a New Person of Japanese origin, Emiko is victim of Asian fetishization. Asian fetishization is the concept than Asian women are perceived as not only submissive, but hypersexual – and let’s not forget exotic. Exoticism + submission + hypersexuality = a toxic cocktail of dehumanizing acts against Asian women. Emiko is programmed for sex, and more specifically for others to be sexually gratified. With her programming, Emiko isn’t allowed to say no. Even during her sexual abuse, Emiko can’t defend herself or voice her qualms. She is, inherently, the fetishized Asian woman. The sex club patrons aren’t the only ones who fetishize her, though. Anderson is guilty of it too. He doesn’t act on his sexual desires, but he does find Emiko exotic and attractive, which is still problematic.
Let me iterate that finding an Asian woman attractive doesn’t make it a fetishization. Fetishization occurs when attraction to an Asian woman is based on her “exoticness” or stereotypical expectations in regards to her look and actions. When the only importance in attraction is her identity as “an Asian woman,” problems will breed. Asian woman are first and foremost people, and the dehumanizing act of seeing them only for their race and gender takes all individualistic quality away from them.
The history of Asian women manipulated into white men’s sexual fetish began in the early twentieth century. Japanese woman, especially, were used as American soldiers’ prostitutes. But besides this, before WWII, Japanese women were tricked into scam marriages. These unions were realized to be false, and the men or fake husbands, would sell their wives to men in America – a twisted take on mail-order brides.
The video below is from MTV’s Decoded with Franchesca Ramsey. She “decodes” stereotypes, assumptions, and other problematic ideologies. With this episode, Ramsey analyzes Asian stereotypes. The first half is focused on Asian women’s fetishization and the second half focuses on Asian men’s perceived effeminate stereotypes. I glossed over a lot of the information, because how Ramsey gives the information is fascinating, humorous, and much more intelligibly than I am able to explain.
Bacigalupi, Paolo. The Windup Girl. San Francisco, Night Shade Books, 2009.
Ramsey, Franchesca. “The Weird History of Asian Sex Stereotypes.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 May 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=HS2jGfW5aOE&t=208s.