In the collective white Western mindset, an extensive set of stereotypes about Asian women continues to fester. Many of these stereotypes stew most feverishly in the minds of certain white men -- quite a few of them, apparently -- who obsess about Asian women in sexual terms. There is of course a lengthy historical context for this racial fetish, as well as a term for what amounts to a common white male illness -- "Yellow Fever" (I also used to hear the men afflicted with it referred to as "rice kings," but I don't hear that term anymore; has it fallen out of use?).
The Online Era has served to agitate Yellow Fever, especially in the proliferation of "Asian Bride" sites (which don't seem to fully merit anti-racist and feminist disapproval) and "Asian Porn" sites (which are, I think, much more difficult to defend). The latest mutation seems to be Asian-women iPhone apps.
What would you do if you were sitting, say, in a subway or a classroom, and a man next to you started blowing (feverishly, as it were) into his iPhone, and it turned out that he's trying to blow aside the skirt of a tiny, simulated Japanese woman?
As for me, I would move away, fast, but not before telling the hyperventilator that he's acting like a racist weirdo. Sadly enough, there actually is such an app -- it's called "Puff!" -- and it's one of many that invite iPhone users to ogle, caress, drool over, and yes, even blow on, images of Asian women.
As Iris Chung recently wrote for the NY Daily News, "this app-etite is sickening." By solidifying the reductive, sexualized conceptions of Asian women that already exist in the collective white psyche, these pervy Asian-women apps perpetuate demeaning and ultimately dehumanizing stereotypes. I also believe that such interactive images can encourage abuse that specifically targets Asian women (and so far, I have yet to hear a convincing argument that such simulation instead offers some sort of harmless release, for aggression that would otherwise target women).
Chung's opinion piece on these apps is worth quoting at length:
I was walking near the Port Authority Bus Terminal recently when a balding guy smoking a joint yells "Sexy Asian girl!" I give him a dirty look; he smiles.
As a 26-year-old Korean-American woman, I am wary of men whose attraction to Asian women leads to exaggerated gestures. I still remember Sam, the "Asiaphile" in my freshman dorm who majored in East Asian studies, practiced t'ai chi and presented handmade origami paper cranes to his love interests. Then there was Matt, whom I met at a wedding. When he mentioned that he was "really into Asian girls," I wasn't sure what he meant. I wondered if he had some perverse "Oriental" fantasy to satisfy. When I showed no interest, Matt moved on to Grace, the only other Asian girl in a reception of 150.
Asian women are everywhere. We rank No. 11 on the blog "Stuff White People Like" and star in a host of iPhone apps: "Cute Asian Girls" promised; "If you have yellow fever, this app is the cure!" "Asian Boobs," which heralds our modest-sized racks, was a top seller for the App Store in October.
Now, we're playing peek-a-boo in "Puff!" In this app, the user selects a photo from a scrolling selection of Japanese women, then blows into the iPhone microphone to lift the woman's skirt and reveal her undergarments. The more vigorously the user blows and rubs the screen, the higher the skirt flies. Shyly attempting to cover herself, the woman yelps delightedly, wearing an inviting smile. "If the girls don't react, try changing breath length," instructions advise. "Winning a special bonus is all up to you!"
I'm infuriated at the thought of sitting next to some pervert on the subway furiously blowing and touching a woman who giggles adorably in response. But what I hate most about this app is that it feeds into an old and tired stereotype. The image of the voiceless, passive Asian woman is a common form of racism in visual media. She's the "Puff!" woman - cutesy and obedient, she'd never kick a creep to the curb. She's not too different from that saccharine Hello Kitty, the infantilized mail-order bride who promises to "love you long time" or the hypersexualized character in anime porn.
Passing off sexual stereotypes that reduce women as objects of so-called harmless fetishes is socially irresponsible. And it's not harmless. By fostering a culture of behavior that denigrates one group of women, all women are denigrated. And that is unacceptable . . . .
You can read the rest of Iris Chung's piece here.
Angry Asian Man has also been tracking this obnoxious app trend in a series of posts:
"yellow fever in the iphone age"
"another dumbass iphone app: meet a chinese girl"
"pervy iphone upskirt app"
"yellow fever for your pocket"
"a geisha for your pocket"