I Am Not Your “Kim Doll”

A+young+asian+woman%2C+put+into+a+box+labeled+%22Kim+Doll%22.+This+woman+doesn%27t+have+a+face+because+she+represents+the+women+in+the+Asian+community%2C+who+constantly+are+put+in+a+box+and+on+display+for+others+who+view+them+as+a+collectable.+

Sydney Tran

A young asian woman, put into a box labeled “Kim Doll”. This woman doesn’t have a face because she represents the women in the Asian community, who constantly are put in a box and on display for others who view them as a collectable.

I am a 17-year-old Vietnamese girl, and racial comments aren’t uncommon to me. The ones I never expected were the comments that had sexualized me. Yeah, sexualize. Do you feel uncomfortable yet? I have been uncomfortable for the better part of my teenage years. 

There were two incidents. 

The first was over the summer, I was snapchatting a guy and during the conversation, I was struck by this sentence.

“Yea you Asians are pretty freaky.”

There is a lot wrong with this comment. First off, it had set the tone for the rest of the conversations I had with him. I liked him, but I felt like I had to act a certain way to fit his idea of “Asian.” I felt gross. I would go to the gym and up the speed every time I felt the disgust of the conversations. It was like I was punishing myself for a standard I didn’t even set. And these statements are made to hundreds of teens because of the way the media depicts Asians as exotic. 

But I realize now, I am not some boy’s “Kim Doll,” and I do not fit the standard that was made by men who try to prey on girls like me.”

Like a Pokémon, encouraging white boys to catch them all. But I realize now, I am not some boy’s “Kim Doll,” and I do not fit the standard that was made by men who try to prey on girls like me. This is why stereotyping is so dangerous, especially for young girls, because they start to feel the pressure to become what they are “supposed to be.” If they fold and become their stereotype, they will feel self-loathing and they will feel shame for something that isn’t their fault. But, if we fight it, we are silenced. We are told to suck it up. It’s a compliment, that’s what they think. And, sadly young boys who should know better aren’t the only ones who do this. What sparked this article was an incident that happened a few days ago at work. 

An older man came in, and I am talking ‘old enough to be my dad old,’ with no mask on. So, of course, I passive-aggressively told him to get a mask, and, like most adults when confronted, he complied. I stayed behind the counter, my safety barrier between customers who give me bad vibes. He came up to me and said the batteries were expensive, so I stepped out of my safety corner, to him, and offered to sign him up for a Carepass, a rewards program, so they would be cheaper.  

Then he got really close to me, cheek to cheek, and said “Shhhhhh”. But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was the conversation we had at the register. 

I was minding my own business getting him signed up and he said, “You know, you are a beautiful Asian young lady.” 

The first thing that popped into my head was, get out. Get him out, just stay calm. But, my face was hot and I started feeling the grossness I had felt from the first time a comment like this was made to me. 

All I said was a fake “Thank you.”

And he continued, “How old are you?”

“17”, I said, I should’ve said 12 or something but I was feeling panicky.

What sent me over the edge was when he said, “Ah, too bad”

Too bad? What was too bad was the fact I was so scared and freaked out, when he left I went back to tell my manager about what had happened. And when I came and saw him, back in the store, walking around like he was looking for me, my heart had dropped. I swiftly walked to my counter in the front and just stood there. I didn’t do any store maintenance, I didn’t unload any boxes, I just stood there. I watched him. I watched him hang out in a corner, crouched down for such a long time it was suspicious. Then he walked around, and at that moment I had just called my manager so I could go to the break room until he left. And when I came back out, the corner he was in had a ripped open box of headphones for little girls. 

A type doesn’t make racially untrue stereotypes that cause distortion in the way Asians are perceived.”

These two incidents disgusted me. It made me want to peel off my skin and shed the nauseating feeling it gave me. Yet some people say, “It’s a compliment”. No. Fetishizing Asians and setting stereotypes are wrong. Fetishizing a race implies it is wrong to like the stated race. Think about it. Foot fetish. Fur fetish. Even crushing things with a high heel is a fetish. I could go on. There is a difference between a type and a fetish. A type doesn’t make racially untrue stereotypes that cause distortion in the way Asians are perceived. So they are perceived as an object, as a thing that shouldn’t be sexualized but is so exotic and special that both young men and boys need to get their hands on one. So no, nicknaming an Asian fetish as “yellow fever” isn’t flattering. Because it makes us seem like we are a sickness and unnecessarily comments on the yellowness of our skin. As if you are in a hospital bed and the only cure is an exotic Asian, yeah that doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable. 

But, how can we reframe the way we oversexualize young Asian women? First is to seriously think about what you are saying because you may think it is normal but to another, it feels predatory. For you, the words may last a few seconds the sound lasts. But, for the receiving end, it may be a lifetime of being cautious because of the way they were viewed and talked to. Sometimes it is hard to see the line between a type or a fetish, but understand the gravity of the word “fetish”. The negative connotation the word itself holds and how it can impact a race, a group, a kid. It is truly up to you if the trend continues, or if it ends. And listen actively, hear those who have been screaming it to you, instead of letting them be background noise. So tune in, because yes, this conversation is uncomfortable but, in order to get people to notice, you have to make them uncomfortable. So that they can make the changes in their habits that stop young Asian American teens like me from feeling uncomfortable.