Not Your Exotic Fantasy

Amy Nguyen
Jun 29, 2017 · 3 min read

The summer before I entered Stanford, the university set up a Facebook group for us all to get to know each other. I befriended some classmates and chatted with them almost everyday. One of my new classmates told me he had friend requested every person in the 1000+ member group whose name or profile photo suggested they were an Asian woman. It was just his taste, he explained, shrugging off centuries of colonialism without another thought. I thought of him a few days ago, and saw that he’s a venture capitalist now.

I recently visited Singapore and went to one of their famous hawker centres on a rainy day. Outside, a group of white tourists were shouting and laughing at us, taking up as much space as possible as we quietly looked on. One of them grabbed my umbrella, laughing at how hilarious it was that he could just take anything he wanted from Asian people. I screamed, “Get the fuck away from me” as loudly as I could. He shrank back. Because of my Asian face, he didn’t realize that I spoke English, had no qualms about defending myself, and had had enough of his shit.

Justin Caldbeck has been outed as a serial harasser, and it seems like most (if not all) of his victims were Asian women. The one sentence that keeps ringing out to me when I think of all the news about Justin Caldbeck and Binary Capital is this: “Unfortunately for him, he ran into some very strong women.”

I wonder why “strong” isn’t our default descriptor. What do people think of when they think of Asian women? Quiet, docile, subservient, obedient, domestic. But not strong. Strong is for dragon ladies in Chinese movies. Strong is not for Asian women in everyday life, even the ones who become entrepreneurs and executives. It’s still unexpected when we are strong.

Why are Asian women so appealing to white men? In the context of the tech industry, I’ve heard people argue that it’s not a race thing, it’s just that there are a disproportionate amount of Asian women in tech, they want to date women who can talk tech with them, and it just becomes more likely that those women happen to be Asian. It’s not a race thing.

Days before The Information’s story was released, Caldbeck contacted one of his victims to suggest that he would give her more funding to stop the story.

Are we even real human beings to people like Caldbeck? Or are we exotic playthings to look at and grope without ever seeing our humanity? Do they even seriously consider our life’s work, startups like Evertoon, as something that exists on its own even when they don’t need to shut us up?

When a white man in tech dates an Asian woman in tech, is it because he wants to be with his intellectual equal, or because he wants to have a captive audience who can understand his accomplishments? Does her work matter, or just the fact that she can appreciate his?

Our dreams are not your playthings. Niniane’s startup doesn’t exist as a solution for your disgusting behavior. Your type is not just “Asian women.” Which Asian women? Literally all of us, or just the ones who meet your expectations? How many ways do we have to demand to be seen as separate, individual human beings with rich lives of our own before you can really see us for who we are?

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