This is part 1 of two posts on yellow fever. Here is the following post, “why yellow fever is fucked up!”
I was at my first demonstration a few months ago when I met a male activist through a friend. He was one of the leading organizers. I was new to everything — how to organize, activist lingo, political discussions outside of the classroom, and other activists. This guy that I met – let’s call him Allen – knew this and volunteered to “take me under his wing.” I did not hesitate and gladly welcomed his help.
As a womon — and an Asian Amerikan womon at that — I was vulnerable to men hitting on and harassing me. The stereotype of Asian womyn as submissive is pervasive and leads men to think “she can’t say no to me.” Naïve as I was, I thought that male activists would know better than to fetishize Asian womyn. How wrong was I to assume that! My illusion was quickly smashed when Allen spoke to me online soon after I met him.
He would be very flirtatious with me even when I did not reciprocate. For men, this should be a clear sign that the womon that you are speaking to is uncomfortable. Eventually, Allen asked me if it was a good idea if he asked me out. Without hesitation, I said no, I think it is a bad idea.
It was a bad idea for the following reasons:
(1) The power dynamics of the relationship is similar to that of a teacher and a student. He knew that I was new so he could take advantage of me in any way that he wanted to. His eagerness to want to “help” me should have been a warning sign. Not to mention, he is at least 10 years older than me. After speaking to some other activists about my experience, they told me that it was a common thing that womyn activists generally face — getting hit on by male activists. Tell me how you can go out there and protest about a big cause and NOT be critical of your own practices!
(2) It was obvious that he had Asian fetish. He had a “particular” type of womon that he was fascinated with: North Korean traffic guards. (Those were not the only pictures he showed me.) When he showed me those pictures, I felt objectified. After that, I tried to avoid having other conversations with him. However, I realized that shutting him out was not the best thing to do for me. Instead, I should have confronted him and heavily criticized him.
For Asian womyn, I think speaking out against yellow fever is empowering. You have to tell those bastards to back the fuck off! How else would you have control over your space and body?
The few exchanges that I had with Allen led to me an important conclusion: male culture in activist circles is no different from male culture outside of activist circles. It needs to be overthrown and replaced with a new culture that respects womyn.
I think Asian womyn can initiate this new culture by speaking more about our experiences with Asian fetish and coming up with ways to obliterate the problem. Concretely speaking, what we can do is to organize among ourselves. You know how guys gather together and cat call sometimes? Well, we can pull that shit on a guy who has yellow fever and is unwilling to change. Gather together and embarrass the shit out of him in public together.
However, if a guy realizes that yellow fever is wrong and wants to change, then a discussion might be helpful. These kinds of discussions, especially those initiated by Asian womyn, need to be public because it can help other Asian womyn.
But for starters, we need to flip the finger at those horny pricks who think that they can fuck with an Asian womon! Who said that Asian womyn are quiet and submissive??