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She notes the sexy Geishas, femme fatales and Kung Fu fighting seductresses in place of what she calls “ethnically neutral roles”.
In the BBC’s official response to BEA’s letter, it stated its commitments to diversity (in a rather patronising, verbose manner). But Asian women are understandably in a rush to change the status quo.
It’s as if the Chinese are so foreign it doesn't count.
In the UK, Sherry Fang, a 26-year-old British Chinese student, tells me she's had strangers say to her “you look just like his ex, she was also Chinese”, and argues it would be wholly inappropriate if she were black or Indian.
Furthermore, stereotypes around timidness, not being outspoken or politically active also mean people can make such comments with no backlash, she says.
Certainly, the idea of the “passive” Chinese is a well-known, but an increasingly misguided view – particularly given the meteoric rise of China and its achievements in women’s education.
“I like to joke that San Francisco is the epicentre of the yellow fever phenomenon”, says Debbie, who describes a general awareness of being looked at by men because she’s Chinese.
But Debbie also believes that Asian American women are paying a price for “positive” stereotyping.
Part of the bias is down to aesthetics, it would appear, as a study by Cardiff University in 2012 on facial attractiveness showed that East Asian women scored highest, while East Asian men came bottom of the pile (interestingly, results for black and white individuals did not show discernible differences based on gender).A quick browse on the Internet for “yellow fever fetishes” brings up a host of websites, articles and videos, mostly from the US, that express humour, distaste and offence at the sexualised objectification of East Asian women, with some equating yellow fever to racism rooted in colonial ideas of power and submission.Interestingly, however, many East Asian women aren’t bothered; some even play up to the stereotypes or entertain such fetishes, according to Dr. Indeed, websites like My New Chinese Wife – set up by Chinese women in Hong Kong, the UK and US, promote what it sees as traditional qualities of “Sweet Chinese Brides”, and assist westerners in finding their own.Yet this portrayal epitomises what many see as a narrow perception of East Asian (defined as Chinese, Japanese, Korean etc) women.Elsewhere, in an open letter to the culture minister earlier this year, actors from The British East Asian Artists (BEA) criticised the BBC and other outlets for their cultural stereotyping of East Asians on TV and stage – describing the female parts as “passive and submissive”.