Fetishization of POC (people of color) is extremely common in and outside the POC community. We see and hear of it all the time, but might not truly recognize what it is or how it can cause a huge impact. This brings up the question: What exactly is fetishization? Fetishization is defined as an unreasonable interest in or obsession with something, and can also be defined as the act of sexualizing things that aren’t typically sexual or meant to be sexualized. This can be based on sex, gender, sexuality and so much more-- in this case, race.
Black people have experienced this more so in recent years. Black men have been victims of fetishization for years, especially by white women. A white woman may refer to herself as a “snow-bunny,” and enter a relationship with a black man with the intention of having mixed, light-skin babies with loose, curly hair and light eyes; this frankly racist motive to enter a relationship is a perfect example of fetishization. When black people are bombarded with phrases such as “I’ve always wanted to try out chocolate,” it’s extremely uncomfortable. Comparing black people to food has always been strange because black people are not food so there is no need to treat them as if they were. However, makeup companies simply do not understand this. The darker foundation shades become, the more strange the names they‘re given are. POC are not pieces of honey or caramel, coffee, cocoa etc. It is completely dehumanizing.
Another example would be with Hispanic women. Hispanic women have terrible stereotypes put onto them. They are called “hot tempered” and “toxic”, They are labeled as “exotic” and are heavily sexualized. Latinas are seen as attractive only because of the sexualization and fetishization that others put onto us.
Native American women can also relate to this. For years, Native American culture has been seen as a costume, and popular celebrities have mimicked their culture. However, cultural costumes are ridiculously sexualized: very short, low cut, and revealing. This is nothing like traditional clothing. Comparing Native American women to Pocahontas (or Matoaka) is also a prime example of fetishization. Pocahontas’s life was turned into a romanticized Disney movie that is used to wash away true history. She is not a sex object; Matoaka was just a girl who was preyed on by the British settler John Rolfe, who wanted her land as his own for tobacco. Sexualization of native women has occurred since the time of colonization up until now. This is just one example, but how many more do we need to understand that fetishization is harmful and wrong?
Asian traditional clothing, both eastern and southern, has also been sexualized for people’s personal entertainment. Unsurprisingly, Asian clothing not the only thing that others have exploited and sexualized. People love to label their attraction towards Asians using the horrendously offensive name of “Yellow Fever.” Another such trope is the “Lotus Blossom” stereotype, which states Asians are submissive and do what they’re told. Asians have been hyper-sexualized for their culture, clothing, and languages. This continuously contributes to the racism that they face.
Sexualization of POC women in the past has directly affected the fetishization of POC women today. The objectification of POC is so normalized and is a direct reflection of the actions of society. This brings up another good question: How can we stop this? The answer is simple. We need to educate ourselves while also acknowledging right from wrong. We need to learn about different cultures and how to properly appreciate them without fetishizing POC. We are people, not objects.