White culture rejects the agency of Asian women.

White culture humanizes white women more than Asian women. Racist stereotypes about the alleged submissiveness of Asian women convince even white women that Asian women lack agency. While most white women recognize the paternalism of a government deciding that women are incapable of exercising our personal choices responsibly, most white women think of Asian women in this way. According to most white women, Asian women need to be rescued from our own follies through the interventions of benevolent white folk.

White history teaches white people that white culture is the pinnacle of civilization. Because of this, most white people assume that social justice can only originate from white people, and that it must be taught by white people to brown people in order to achieve worldwide equality. Even white liberals have this colonial mentality and attempt to “civilize” brown people in other countries or at home. Unconscious white supremacist beliefs are so entrenched that most white feminists simply assume that gender equality must have originated from white imagination, when the history of North American feminism can be traced to Iroquois culture. The idea that white culture is not the most socially advanced is unimaginable to the vast majority of white people.

In North America, Muslim women are racialized as non-white and are subject to Orientalist stereotypes. When a Muslim woman chooses to not wear a hijab, most white women applaud her decision and recognize her agency. However, if a Muslim woman chooses to wear a hijab or niqab, most white women deny her agency and ability to make a choice, insisting that she must be “brainwashed”. For most non-Muslim white women, all Muslim women who wear a hijab or niqab cannot make a decision about her hijab or niqab by definition; only the Muslim women who choose to not wear any hijab are capable of making an informed decision about wearing hijab. This circular “logic” dehumanizes hijabi and niqabi women as incapable of thinking, and silences any criticisms and insights to be gained from hijabi and niqabi women.

While sexist stereotypes about women prevent white women from being seen as rational agents equal to white men, both sexist and racist stereotypes about “Oriental” women prevent Asian and Muslim women from being seen as rational agents equal to non-Muslim white women.


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Pith Helmet image by Rama under Creative Commons license.

6 Responses to “White culture rejects the agency of Asian women.”

  1. Slush Says:

    “White history teaches white people that white culture is the pinnacle of civilization.”

    True, but if I were an economic historian, I would argue that the economic and political dominance of the West is the reason, not the white-ness of it per se. I don’t think these two observations are actually separable, but I think that providing a purely racial explanation is rather limited.

  2. urbia Says:

    “White culture humanizes white women more than Asian women. Racist stereotypes about the alleged submissiveness of Asian women convince even white women that Asian women lack agency.”

    I’m being told by psychiatrists that I’m incapable of taking care of myself *because* I dare to have more agency than I’m allowed in white culture. On paper, I’m a pathological liar. Having known that I was being investigated, I told a ton of lies to see what would ‘stick’ in order to read my own file, based on what would be ‘echoed’ back to me.

    Basically, I lied in order to get the truth because other people are legally now allowed to tell me I’m being investigated. I didn’t know at the time that this carries a life sentence.

  3. urbia Says:

    *not allowed, I mean

  4. goaler Says:

    How come the women of the winter olympics are better looking
    than those of the summer games?
    Who would one rather go out with Lindsey Vonn or Caster Semenya?
    thats a toughie!

  5. White racism creates more sexism in the world. « Restructure! Says:

    […] non-antiracist feminist movements which assume that Asian women lack agency are prone to being sexist towards and silencing the voices of racialized women […]

  6. The Writer Says:

    Very interesting article. I often wonder about the thoughts of many American/European Caucasians regarding their ideas of purity, dominance, and civilization. Thank you for sharing


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