I Love Korean Boys: The Problem of Fetishization
The verb “to fetishize” means to be excessively or irrationally devoted to (an object, activity, etc.)
*Disclaimer* Despite the title, this is not meant to solely point the finger at girls/women. However, as a female fan of Korean music this is from my point of view and my experiences with others I have come across, who also share my interest in Korean popular music.
“Stereotypes kill. Even the “good” ones. Stereotypes end careers, or prevent them from ever getting started. Stereotypes hide real discrimination, and excuse real violence. Stereotypes change the fate of nations, usually for the worse.
So hit “ESC” on the macro in your head and think, dammit. And the next time you find yourself trying to justify a stereotype, or downplaying a stereotype as “good” stereotype, recognize what it is you’re doing… You are the problem.”
– N.K. Jemisin, “There’s no such thing as a good stereotype”
When people make general statements (sometimes unknowingly) such as ”most Koreans are beautiful”. What does that mean? The population of the Korean peninsula alone (not including those in the diaspora) is roughly 74million inhabitants. How many Koreans have you met that you feel experienced enough to state that most Koreans are beautiful? That is a stereotype. There is such a term as positive racism. What happens is that when you meet people that do not fulfill your criteria for “Korean-ness” is that they get called “not real Korean”. There are numerous accounts of this happening with Korean Americans, or second generation Koreans in the West. The same way when a black person that isn’t the image of “ghetto” gets referred to as “not really black” or an “oreo”. It’s offensive.
People are often guilty of homogenizing Asians, again I understand how one may not be aware of what they are doing. Saying things such as “I love Asian boys” is an extremely bold statement to make. Asia is not limited to China, Japan and Korea (which a lot of the time is what people mean). These are East Asian countries. Even in East Asia there are three other countries and two standalone territories (under China). There are, in fact six regions in Asia namely:
NORTHERN ASIA (Russia – Siberia)
SOUTHERN ASIA (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka)
SOUTHEASTERN ASIA (Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam)
EASTERN ASIA (China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan)
WESTERN ASIA (Bahrain, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen)
CENTRAL ASIA (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan)
Yes, these countries, as of this present time, all classify as Asia. Surprised? You want to marry an Asian person? Doesn’t matter who? That means you are saying that all of these countries with their various histories, cultures, and distinct ethnic features are all the same to you. As long as they are “Asian” you’ll be okay? Granted some people are joking, or being light-hearted. I get that. At the same time there are also people that are not. I’m directing this to the people who really mean what they say. Why not “I want to marry a Korean K-pop idol/celebrity” or “I want to date someone who looks like a Korean K-pop idol/celebrity”? If you want to be shallow, be proud of it , accept it and don’t try to disguise it as “love for THEIR culture”. It really is the same thing as someone saying, “I want to marry a European”. You would get blank stares all around. “But Europe is a continent with many different countries and not all Europeans are the same…” you say? Bingo.
Being proud of having so-called “yellow fever” is a form of racism. You are not only trivializing a disease that is still prevalent (yes it really is, affecting roughly 300,000 and killing 20,000 people each year) but also saying you won’t date other races is…well racist, isn’t it? You don’t know what tomorrow may bring; you haven’t met all men from every race. How can you happily dismiss a person based on their ethnicity before knowing their personality? You would be happy with an abusive partner as long as he/she was a particular race? Whether or not this is what you believe, by making that statement, this is the thought that is implied. It is a form of hypersexualization.
Sometimes I feel like people who post things like “I want a Korean boyfriend/girlfriend” have this assumption that all Korean people are like their bias. K-pop does not equal Korea.
I saw a statement online once that read “I honestly feel bad for the people who can’t differentiate between their bias and the whole of the Korean population”. Your bias isn’t even necessarily showing their true self (not to say that Kpop stars aren’t good people). People sexualize Hyuna then go on to “slut shame” her. She has even said herself that she is not like that. She is doing her job. SNSD’s Sunny has unrivalled aegyo skills, but that doesn’t mean all Korean girls or women go around doing “gwiyomi” all over the place!
“Racism is not in your intent. Your intent is immaterial in how racist your actions are. This isn’t about you BEING a racist. It’s about you DOING A THING that is racist. Your intent doesn’t change it. Your ignorance of its meaning doesn’t change it. It’s got nothing to do with you as a person and everything to do with the meaning of your action in the context of sociocultural history.”
– Moniquilliloquies (via tumblr)
What’s wrong with just dreaming about having a partner who cares about you and respects you? If they also happen to be Korean, so be it.
When you generalize a specific race or group of people, you deny each and every one of them their individuality and their right to be who they are. Say what you mean. If you mean idol, say idol. It is understandable if you find idols attractive. It’s the star power that attracts us to celebrities, they make SURE that, as consumers, we stay attracted to them. They have first class skincare, that “Hollywood smile”, perfect hair etc. Everyone knows about the infamous, always at hand “co-ordi noona” to make sure perfection is the standard.
You can still be a K-pop fan without fetishizing Koreans as a people.