Breaking Down Sexualized Stereotypes of Asian Women

When you say, 'I like Filipinas'
Um, how should I reply?
Do you expect exotic booty (cough) beauty
Or do you respect the proud Pinay?
When you have a thing for Asians,
What is it that you seek?
China Doll, Geisha Girl, Comfort Woman
To be subservient and meek?
Uh-uh, get off your Oriental fetish
Sexist, racist mentalities
Another time, another rhyme
I'll break down these complexities
- excerpt from "Come On" by Joy De La Cruz

The hypersexualized and exoticized image of Pilipina woman stems from a very gendered and racialized history rooted in practices that have treated women of color unfairly and unequally. Historical events in Asian American history and Western stereotypes help explain the cat calls and "holleration" that many women experience today.

The term "The Orient" actually alludes to a physical location which serves as the site of mens' sexual fantasies over women. Because European countries were fascinated with the idea of a 'New World' and were seeking to expand their empires, their desire to learn about newly-discovered lands such as Asia constructed what is "Orientalism." This fascination brought about exaggerated recalls from explorers who painted their images of Asians as strange, attractive, or exotic. Orientalism also entails 'othering' people by seeing them not as equals but of a different kind and therefore inherently inferior.

In colonial Asia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, for example, female sexuality was a site for colonial rulers to assert their moral superiority and thus their natural and legitimate right to rule. The colonial rhetoric of moral superiority was based on the construction of colonized Asian women as subjects of sexual desire and fulfillment and European colonial women as the paragons of virtue and the beaters of a redefined colonial morality. - Professor Yen Le Espiritu in her book Homebound

The "China Doll" stereotype portrays Asian women as subservient, compliant and eager to please. It also implies that all Asian-identified women are ethnically Chinese. Like dolls for children, Asian women are meant to be seen and played with--their value and worth relies solely on their appearances. The "Asians are Chinese" stereotype may be due to the fact that the Chinese were among the first groups from Asia to migrate to the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It was during this time period that recently immigrated Chinese women had difficulty finding work and some fell into the sex trade. 

Numbers of imported Chinese women were sold as prostitutes, wives, or concubines to the much larger numbers of Chinese men living and working in San Francisco. Many of these prostitutes were sold into the sex trade by their impoverished families and suffered abuse at the hands of their owners as well as their clients. - Jingwoan Chang
The "Geisha Girl" stereotype is reduced down to that of a prostitute or sex entertainer in Western culture. This indicates that women are valued and used for their bodies for aesthetic pleasure. On the contrary, a Geisha in Japanese culture is a type of social status similar to an artist. They are trained in developing certain social skills such as dancing, singing, tea-making, conversing and serving. It is easy for Westerners to overlook the art, diligence and hard work that goes into certain tasks and make erratic comparisons. It is even easier to mistake said tasks for things of lesser value.  We have to remember that the meanings are not the same in Japanese culture and in American culture.

"Comfort Women" were forced into prostitution and into Japanese military brothels during World War II. Comfort Stations were sanctioned by the Japanese Imperial Army and were sites of forced sex and rape. Comfort Women were sex slaves, sometimes kidnapped or taken from their own homes to "comfort" military men during wartime. The way that the (male-run) governments then seemingly viewed and utilized womens' bodies mirrors the way that some men view Asian women, as dehumanized commodities for "comfort" or "release."

There are circumstances where third world women must--as a result of societal forces and not individual choice--sell themselves to men for marriage or to work to financially support themselves and their families. For some, this is extreme, but really, it's a matter of survival. Pilipina women are the number one export of the Philippines. Rice, fruits, and unfortunately, skin-whitening products are exports, not women. Pilipina mail-order brides are not just a stereotype, they are real people who have to provide for others and they experience a reality built from imperialism, Orientalism, colonization, Americanization, pain, capitalism and poverty.

Mail-order brides are slowly emerging as a new identity for Filipino women. This is a social construct that stigmatizes the women and makes them virtual modern-day slaves. - Cecilia Diocson
The hypersexualization of Asian womyn* is one result of a sexist and racist mentality that can be historically traced as a phenomenon that still lingers in our society. It is evident in our everyday experiences (as Westerners).  Historically, there have been ways in which womyn have had meanings, men, and situations forced upon them. As simple as dropping pick-up lines or mentioning a fetish for Pilipina womyn, these womyn are silenced, left unheard and without a voice to defend themselves.

So my request
And expectation then to all nice guys and real men
When your boy is acting like an ass hole
Call out and correct your friend
- excerpt from "Come On" by Joy De La Cruz

* womyn is spelled this way as a form of reclamation"