A Mysterious Equation
Written by: The Girl with the Yellow Tattoo
Being yellow is generally a term associated with belonging to a South East or North Asian cultural heritage. The term yellow peril was used at the turn of the century to describe the Chinese as evil gremlins stealing prosperity from the white man.
In the 1990s, teen hit series Power Rangers really morphed the minds of young kids to associate various colours with various races. The yellow ranger was played by an attractive Asian female with long jet black hair, almond shaped eyes and seemingly blemish free, smooth skin.
However, more recently, the term yellow is used to describe what is called yellow fever – the objectification of South East and North Asian women by non-Asian men. The traditionally, demure, meek and subservient Asian woman, with a small frame, slim build and almond shaped eyes are perceived as exotic, appealing to the appetite of non-Asian men . Asides from the striking features and a perceived persona, it is a complete mystery as to the allure and effect that Asian women have on non-Asian men.
The first time I ever encountered this term was in 2006, when I first saw the short film produced by Asian American film makers Wong Fu productions, with the name, yes you have guessed it yellow fever. In a humorous way, these guys managed to unravel this unsolved mystery and came to the conclusion that the non-Asian male was a bed of dreams for the Asian woman. As much as I appreciated my brief education on this term, I was critical of the fact that it was projecting the idea that Asian women ogle over non-Asian men and that the men could magically click their fingers and before anyone could blink, there was the Asian woman, ready to satisfy their fantasies.
In saying that, over the years, the yellow fever phenomenon made me reflect and it made me become more aware of my environment and what was happening in the world of courtship and dating. It is not hard to encounter a non-Asian man attempting to greet me with a ni hao (hello in mandarin), lei ho ma? (How are you in Cantonese) and a leng lui (pretty lady in Cantonese), and expecting me to fly into their arms embracing them because they know a few words in Chinese? Is this where our society has come to? Unknowingly poor accents and expecting to pick up?
I also realised that Asian Americans were more open to admit that yellow fever existed and that it was not necessarily a great phenomenon either. But in Australia, there are push backs when the term is even uttered – out of mind, out of sight. This is a huge problem, because this denial of truth enables the fever to spread, fester and become part of a skewed version of normalcy and acceptability.
How as Asian Australians, do we allow this inherent discrimination to continue and why do we take it as a compliment rather than taking it as discriminatory behaviour?
The Perilous Yellow – The Power and Glory Algorithm will be explored in the next instalment of the series.
The writer of this piece freelances as a blogger and writes various articles for many independent publications.