Stop fetishizing and stereotyping Asian women

A compilation of columns I wrote every other Monday in Fall 2016. 

I was born and raised in California. But despite this, I’ve spent a lot of my life receiving backhanded comments about being Asian.

Since I don’t have a car at USC, I rely on Uber and Lyft to get me from place to place. I love the convenient price of UberPool and Lyft Line and the fact that I don’t have to find parking, but I am often fearful when I step into these cars because I am berated with offensive comments 60 percent of the time.

Some comments I have gotten in the past year are:

“Are you Filipino? You look like you are. You know, my wife is Filipino.”

“How do you like America so far?”

“What English name do you go by?”

“Where are you really from?”

“Oh! My cousin married an Asian woman last year. Her last name is Chang. Do you know her?”

Yes, because I know everyone in the entire Chang dynasty. Most of these comments have been made by white males. It’s not that these comments leave me in tears, but it shows a lot about the way Asian women are viewed and treated.

When I went to a writing conference for fiction in Connecticut this summer, my mom and I got off our flight at the Tweed New Haven airport and was greeted enthusiastically by a man we did not know.

“Koni chi wa,” he said slowly, happily and a little too close to my face. Did he not know that we speak English? I didn’t think that these things actually happened, but they do.

At the conference, I listened to a talk by author Robert McCann, and sat next to a guy who was taking a poetry workshop. We got coffee and bonded over the fact that we work at newspapers. He told me interesting stories about living in Florida, how his ex-girlfriend broke his heart, and recited his poetry to me without asking if I wanted to hear it.

After listening to a bunch of pretentious words mushed together for about 15 minutes, I felt bad saying it was horrible because he was so excited and passionate to share. To my dismay, he continued and read more.

After the coffee shop closed, he told me about his passion for anime and comic books. I cringed. Was I talking to one of those white guys with weird Asian fetishes? I decided not to be so judgmental and just continued to listen and ask questions. After all, I used to watch my fair share of Naruto back in middle school.

He elaborated on his love for this specific anime character I never heard of and said I kind of looked like her. Then, he abruptly grabbed my face and tried to kiss me. I pulled away and said I had to go home.

When I got home, I called my friend to tell her what had happened. She didn’t share my frustration. Instead, she made it seem like getting male attention was hardly an issue and I was just overreacting about something that many women “would want.”

I’m sure these disturbing instances don’t just happen to me, but to Asian girls everywhere. It might not seem like a really big deal, but this treatment is extremely problematic. It’s problematic to group all races together (Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese) as one race, to assume that they do not speak English and that they can fulfill your weird yellow fetish fantasies. Asian and Asian-American girls deal with this type of treatment on a daily basis. We are people, and it is time we were treated as such, instead of as objects of misconception, stereotype and fantasy.

Erika Lee is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism.  Her column, “Asian Amerikan Heroine,” runs every other Monday. She is also the lifestyle editor of the Daily Trojan.