“Yellow Fever” – What is Wrong with the Preference?

After watched the documentary Slaying the Dragon and Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded (2011)[1], I was curious how many Asian American women do get marry with men of different ethnic background? In other words, do “yellow fever” still exits? And most importantly, what is wrong with the preference?

According to the Wang’s report from the Pew Research Center, “About 15% of all new marriages in the United States in 2010 were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another, more than double the share in 1980 (6.7%). Among all newlyweds in 2010, 9% of whites, 17% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics and 28% of Asians married out.” [2] Despite the fact that interracial marriages are becoming popular in the United States, Asian Americans are still the most active players in this game. Wang has also mentioned, “About 36% of Asian female newlyweds married outside their race in 2010, compared with just 17% of Asian male newlyweds.”[3] We can learn that Asian American women have around twice higher rate than Asian American men to get into the interracial marriage. Besides these data, I wondered how could we explain this phenomenon?

People who think Asian (or Asian American) women are attractive (sometimes even more attractive than female of other ethnic group) will glorify the elegant appearance and sexy posture of Asian women. As Kim, the professor of Asian American Studies of UC Berkeley has mentioned in the documentary Seeking Asian Women (2013), [4] “Part of it has deal with a fascination with something that seems totally different, even physiologically different. Like bonded feet and horizontal vagina…” I think the “yellow fever” like this is the side product of orientalism. In fact, it reveals the insufficient recognition of Asian American female.

(Chart published on Jun 11, 2015 by Pew Research Center.)

Unfortunately, I could not see any mass media outlet in the United States is willing to break the oriental myth. Most of the Asian American female characters, now, are still portrayed as either a dragon lady or a lotus blossom (or both like Maggie Q in Nikita[5]).

I do not want to maliciously speculate why a white man would love to marry an Asian American woman, but I do want to point out that, biased media environment could mislead our expectation and have no contribution to prepare us for the real culture shock.


[1] Directed by Elaine H. Kim, see more information about the documentary: http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/pages/c889.shtml

[2] To see the full version of the report, please go to: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/02/16/the-rise-of-intermarriage/

[3] Id.

[4] Directed by Debbie Lum, please go to: http://theyreallsobeautiful.com/

[5] TV Series, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1592154/


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