The Concept of Yellow Fever and its Destruction of Identity

By: Dana Chen

I was around fourteen years old when I first heard the term ‘yellow fever.’ At the time, I thought it was merely a disease, like scarlet fever, and never thought more of what it meant. A few months later, the phrase would come to mean more. It was brought up in a circle discussion along with my closest friends. The infamous ‘do you have a type’ question came up and lo and behold, ‘yellow fever’ had become a new vocabulary word. It then dawned on me that the term was not only a viral disease on the immune system but also a metaphoric viral disease imposed onto the Asian race.
The term ‘yellow fever’ or ‘Asian fetish’ is the [obsessive] interest of the Asian culture by those that are non-Asian. Made popular in media and contributing to the portrayal of Asians as ‘submissive,’ yellow fever not only diminishes the cultures of Asia but also disrupts the identity of Asian women and men.
There shouldn't be a ‘thank you’ that comes along with the sexualization of Asian cultures. Asian women are constantly perceived as ‘sexy geishas’ or anime figures that are only needed to please others and thus become degraded down to simply a lustful object. Including the ideals of being the Orient, aka ‘mystical and foreign,’ women find themselves in a bind to fight against these continual subjugations.
Orientalism and ‘yellow fever’ have found their way onto social media as well. Anna Akana, a famous youtuber, describes this construct on women as the “living embodiment of a stereotype.” As Akana explains her disgust at this concept, she brings up an important concept of identity as well. This entire fetisization completely dismisses the personality, heritage, culture, and everything else about a person. Instead, the only known detail that is needed in order to be attracted to that person, is their skin color.
Nevertheless, there will always lie some ‘idea’ of how women should act in their respected culture. For example, the hypersexuality of black women or even the simple idea that women are inferior to men have found their ways across the world.  These simple ideas, transcended across multiple mediums, have consistently been damaging the identity of women. It then becomes a part of someone, and that in itself is something that needs to be changed.
A person’s identity shapes their perception of the world and the world’s perception onto them. With such a disease like yellow fever, their identity is diminished and ultimately rendered useless. People need to start realizing that these types of metaphoric diseases mean more to specific people and need to be taken seriously. Until then, let’s hope the Center for Disease Control and Prevention finds a cure for this type of disease.



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