The Flip Side of A Fetish

by Latoya Peterson

While catching up with my blogfeeds, I noticed an interesting item over at Hyphen. Claire recently uploaded a post titled “Kate Gosselin’s Asian Fetish” where she discussed the racial dynamics dredged up by the reality TV stars’ tabloid fueled falling out:

Since Jon was caught smokin’ in the girl’s room, the discussions of this couple have come back around. I went looking to see if there was any racial teaming-up behind Jon or Kate (not that I could find) and instead found that a couple of discussion boards pointed to this 2007 video (can’t embed.)

In it, Kate says that she’d always had “a thing for Asian men, my whole life,” so the dramatic reveal of Jon’s hapa-green “most gorgeous Asian eyes I had ever seen” when he took his shades off really … er … made her day.

It gets better. About a year later (in 2008) there was apparently an episode, described here, where Kate answers a fan question about having Korean-looking children:

    Kate explained that she has always wanted her kids to “look like Jon.” She talked about having daughters who looked like “little China dolls.” She said she wished she herself were Korean.

Wowza. Even if you discount the whole thing about Kate wishing she were Korean (which could be hyperbole aimed at what she assumed were the audience’s prejudices), you gotta wonder what Jon thinks when he hears his own wife referring to their mixed Korean children as “little China dolls.”

The post was interesting, but the comments went somewhere completely different, basically asking “What’s the problem?”

While Claire accuses Kate Gosselin of “finger painting with genetics,” many of the Hyphen commenters appeared to be rather pleased with the admission.

S. Chamill said:

I think you’re overreacting. I’m an Asian viewer and I don’t consider anything Kate said to be offensive. Like blue eyes or big lips, “Asian features” can be found specifically attractive to some people. What’s the harm in that? If someone complimented me for my ethnicity I would be flattered. People need to stop being so gaurded about race. Get over yourselves. And “China dolls,” to me, refers more to porcelain-like perfection and aesthetic than to an “Asian fetish” as you like to imply.

Andy said:

I’m probably going to get flamed to a crisp for this, but fuck it. You can say whatever you want.

I don’t have an issue with what Kate said. In fact, it made my day. (This is assuming, of course, that she did say such things. I’m at work and can’t see the videos.)

Every day, in the media, we see women of all cultural backgrounds opining, “I have a thing for [black/white/Italian/Latino/Jewish/whatever] guys.” Rare can you fill in the blank with “Asian.”

So why shouldn’t we have our time in the spotlight? The more we see/hear this in mainstream media, the more common it will become, and the more likely that Asian men can also be regarded as sex symbols in the eyes of the general populace without anyone looking askance.

For the record, my wife–my very Irish-American wife–likes Jon and Kate; I sit through it to appease her. I find these people heinous and think that Jon is a poor representative of the Asian-American community. I think they should just break up, already.

Oh, and I’m Chinese-American, for the record. Whether that makes a difference or not for the purposes of this comment, meh.

Alvin said:

Kate’s case is pretty rare; I would venture that it’s more common to see cases of media-influenced Asian fetish evident in White males, or White worship among Asian people.

If you have an issue with Kate wanting kids with more Asian features, what about the commonly uttered statements from Asians who talk about how they want their kids to have more Caucasian features? There are tons of Asians who married White because they didn’t like their Asian eyes or other Asian features.

Brian said:

If an Asian woman married a white man and wished her children had “blonde hair” like her husband (which is code word for ‘I want my kids to look White’), for better or for worse, it’d be the same thing.

For centuries, Asian (and African) countries have idealized white features. So here we have a white woman glorifying Asian features. What’s the harm? Does she do it in a way that’s oppressive to Asians at large? Does she have children who DO NOT possess Asian-features and she treats them like second-class children? Who exactly is the aggrieved party here? And what are his actual damages?

The response interested me for two reasons. The first is that the reaction on Racialicious to similar questions has been on the opposite end of the spectrum to Hyphen’s. When we talked about race preferences vs. race fetishes, the general response was here was “gross!” Atlasien wrote about the issues with being trapped in someone else’s stereotype. And Jaemin Kim illuminated the dark side of a fetish:

During a one month period in Autumn 2000, the predators abducted five Japanese exchange students, ranging from age 18 to 20. Motivated by their sexual biases about Asian women, all three used both their bodies and objects to repeatedly rape – vaginally, anally and orally — two of the young women over a seven hour ordeal. [...]

In Spokane, one of the attackers immediately confessed to searching only for Japanese women to torture and rape — and eventually all pled guilty and were convicted. It clearly was a racially-motivated criminal case. The victims also believed they were attacked because of their race, the prosecutor told me. [...]

But in rapes and sexual assaults targeting Asian women, I can find no instance of prosecutors or police bringing “hate crime” charges. It seems our society frowns on the rape itself, but accepts the racial motivation behind it. Mainstream society simply is blind to this type of racism. Indeed, the Spokane police detective handling the case wrote in an email to me: “It was felt that there was no hate involved instead he [the lead rapist] was very infatuated with the Japanese race.” (sic).

Since many of the commenters who objected to Claire’s analysis appear to be male, I wonder if there is a gender divide when it comes to looking at how race based fetishes or preferences impact us, and whether that impact is positive or negative.

Readers, your thoughts?