Goal: To blog our revelations of Asian Pacific American Women (APAW) issues.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What Does it Mean to Be Exotic in the US- Mao Otajima

    Yes, I am technically an exotic being because I’m not American.
However, my physical characteristics shouldn’t be used to assume my nationality because the United State is a melting pot. There are Asian Americans. They are yet American. I shouldn’t be bothered by seen as exotic person since I’m a foreigner, but I am bothered to be seen as an exotic object. It means people treat Asian American in a same way. 

     The word "exotic" basically means foreign. The social context adds the meaning of sexual attraction as well as objectification. Exoticism excludes the certain group of people: Asians from being American.According to Aki Uchida, the author of "The Orientalization of Asian Women in America," the possible origins of Asian American woman to be categorized as exotic, oriental existence are the images of the Chinese prostitution during 1870-1900s, the picture-bride practice, and the experiences of soldiers in Asian countries during world wars. "The representation of Asian women as Oriental Women demoralizing and corrupting white Christian America was used to keep Asian women in a status less than human, not worthy of rights and citizenship. These images were later reflected and perpetuated in the media: 'Hollywood movies and newspaper cartoons confused and combined Chinese and Japanese images into a general 'oriental' stereotype, and Asian women were portrayed as exotic, sexy, and determined to corrupt the morals of white American men' (Okamura, 1976, p.90)."(Uchida, 164-165)
Therefore, American men have these stereotypical images of sexually available Asian Woman. Sadly, these images are simply connected to their physical features.

     As a Japanese girl, I had experienced this situation.
Last weekend my Mongolian roommate and I was at a supermarket in North Hollywood where our friend's house is located.
I immediately started feeling uncomfortable because every single person whom we were going by was giving wired eyes on us. As if they are looking at exotic animals in a zoo. Some of them were even, as if they are at a pet shop and looking at kittens and puppies with the feeling of availability to own them if they want. It is very usual for me to be seen like that, and I am partially getting used to it, but this time it was just a little bit too obvious.We finally noticed that people in the supermarket were almost all white Americans. I saw no Asians except my roommate. We simply differ from them.

     Even though I didn't feel that they were giving unwelcome eyes on us, there were definitely eyes. They were the eyes that look at unusual, different, rare, extraordinary things: objects. I assume that they are not giving us these eyes because they know we are foreigners, but because simply we are Asian.

     Is this discrimination?  I don't know, but these eyes certainly came from racial matter, and it is happening all the time.

Now I think about this. What if I was Asian American who grew up here as American and speak perfect English?
If I were American, I'd been seen as a foreign object just because I am Asian. You are not American. You are not even a human, but an object.

     I want to know their feelings and real life in the U.S. Moreover, I want to find understanding of their experiences as Asian woman of America.

What is exotic again?

To define what exotic we first need to know who the natives are.
Who are Americans?
White people?
Because they built this land as a national county?
However, they were totally aliens from Native Americans' stand point.

Then, Native Americans?
Because they are the first people who are already living and have civilization on this land?

What about people who are born in this country?
Because as long as you are born here, you have US citizenship. That means you are American.
Asian Americans are officially American; however, they are suffering from being exotic.
It seems, for me, Americans are fiction.
Everybody is American, but nobody is American.
 The fact is white people have privilege in this social context.
They have created exoticism. Exoticism promotes dehumanization, objectification, and extracting equality and rights.

     Sadly, in fact, when people in this country mention about American, they mean only white Americans. Even non-white American consider American as white people. Non-white American strongly should proclaim their dignity as American. 

     If it's still difficult for Asian American women to be treated as solid American, I hope they are at least treated as subjects.

Work Cited
Uchida, Aki. 1998. "The Orienatlization of Asian Women in America," Women's Studies International  Forum, 21., no 2.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences and illustrating how Asian women are sometimes portrayed as objects. You made the statement that "Everyone is American, but nobody is American" I would actually argue that nobody is American but white's. A lot of people when they say American's, they are referring to only whites so it's interesting that you stated that because I see where you're coming from. Why can't we all just be Americans? everyone has their own definitions.
    -Meryllia Luavasa