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Friends are once again teasing me for having “yellow fever,” and as far as facts are concerned, I can’t argue with the designation: My current partner is Chinese-American, while my most recent ex-girlfriend is Vietnamese-Canadian. I can dismiss their playful ribbing the same way I dismissed most name-calling during elementary school—after all, there’s nothing wrong with dating women of Asian descent—but “yellow fever” isn’t an innocuous, empty label. Friends may just be having fun, but to my ears, I’m being called a deviant. Google “yellow fever,” and you’ll see that many Asian women have taken back the term to shame white men who fetishize them based on racial stereotypes.
Such men believe all Asian women are docile and hypersexual, and happily project these qualities onto potential romantic partners.
When I received messages from other people of colour, they didn’t even mention anything about the fact that I was Asian.
As my boyfriend (who is a white male himself) puts it, “Every white guy wants to have sex with an Asian girl, but not all of them want to date one.” We all know the popular slang term “yellow fever”, which describes a (usually) white male who fetishizes Asian women.
There are times that I have been discriminated against because of my race.
There are many myths and stereotypes when it comes to dating asian guys.To me, it was just another form of teasing that I threw into my sizable trashcan of forgotten terms, lying dormant all these years—until now.After spending half of my twenties living and working in Hong Kong and South Korea, I returned to North America last summer, at 30, with a reputation as a White Guy Who Dates Asian Girls.In other words, they prey on Asian women simply because they’re Asian.But this essay isn’t about that type of yellow fever. While I’m sympathetic to the plight of Asian women who are exotified by awful white men, this new, zeitgeisty application of the term “yellow fever” hasn’t replaced the way it was used in my schoolyard all those years ago: as a catchall term for Asian person.