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Gap’s China ads display “Yellow Fever” stereotype

January 7, 2011

The giant Gap billboard I see every day as I descend the stairs into the Nanjing Dong Lu (南京东路) subway station on my way home from work.

The Gap just arrived in China, opening their first two stores in Shanghai in October 2010. They have been advertising widely with images like the one above: Chinese women with Caucasian men. The billboard above, as well as two others I’ve spotted, feature white guys with beautiful Chinese girls.

The message seems to be, “Shop at gap, score a white husband.”

The campaign’s theme is East meets West – “Together” – and granted, there is also an ad that features a Caucasian women with a Chinese woman, and one with a Caucasian man with a Chinese man. But none of the billboards have a Chinese man with a Caucasian woman.

I won’t deny that the Asian girl/white guy pairing is much more common, both in China and in the U.S., than the reverse. But I’m still rather surprised that Gap would so prominently display the former while obviously excluding the latter pairing.

Another prominent Chinese girl/white guy ad from Gaps' China website.

I’m not judging Gap by any means, and I don’t find this display to be offensive. I just find it curious because it’s further proof that the “Yellow Fever” sterotype is going mainstream.

Where I’m from, it is commonly accepted that lots of Asian women will date caucasian men. Guys who prefer to date Asians are often referred to as having “Yellow Fever” (or just “the Fever”).  On the other hand, it’s rare to see Asian man, white woman couples.

This situation causes resentment among some Asian males.  My brother Mason, who majored in Sociology at UC Davis, told me that during class discussion sections, his male Asian classmates openly resented white men because of this situation. Moreover, hite men who pursue Asian women were portrayed by course material as lecherous, obsessed with Orientalist ideas of Western power over the East. (I think that’s BS.)

It will be interesting to watch how the interracial marriage landscape changes with globalization; but things could turn ugly if certain pairings are far more common than others. I think I read somewhere once that a smiliar thing happens in the U.S. with interracial black marriages: black men are more likely to marry other races, while it is uncommon for black women to marry outside their race. (Sorry I don’t have a citation for this – I think it was an academic essay I found on JSTOR during college.)

I wonder if the marketing strategy will work for Gap?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2011 7:15 am

    Ran into you mom when I was actually working at Gap on Burlingame Ave! On the Gap internal website there’s a hefty bonus if you refer a mandarin speaking American to be a manager at one of the new China Gaps. I wonder if they’re choosing them based on white male-ness/exoticness? Anyways, great blog and lemme know if you want a career change in China 😉

  2. StirredNotShaken permalink
    February 17, 2011 3:48 pm

    “Yellow” Fever Stereotype?

    Are you saying you think these ads are aimed at White men in China, suggesting to them that if they buy GAP clothes they’ll score a Chinese woman? Okay, maybe not, because you then write: “The message seems to be, ‘Shop at gap, score a White husband’.” If that’s the case, Morgan, don’t you think you should have entitled your blog entry: “Gap’s China ads display ‘White Fever’ stereotype?”

    Between your title and your second paragraph you seem to have lost your way.

    You also write that where you come from: “Guys who prefer to date Asians are often referred to as having “Yellow Fever”. Of course, it’s only White men who are so disparaged, and it’s not just White men who prefer to date Asians. It’s any White man who dates Asian women at all. White men – and only White men – aren’t supposed to date interracially.

    I’ve known White men who dated Asian women, but I’ve never met a White man I thought had Yellow Fever, and I’ll bet it’s only a minuscule fraction of a minuscule fraction of White men who even know this ad campaign exists. Your Chinese ads have nothing to do with White men, Morgan, and they’re certainly not “further proof that the ‘Yellow Fever’ stereotype is going mainstream.” Maybe you should have an honest talk with yourself about whether you really “don’t find this display to be offensive”.

    If you want to disparage White men, Morgan, could you wait until they do something wrong?

    Thanks.

    • February 22, 2011 9:25 am

      StirredNotShaken,

      I apologize for offending you – I certainly had no intention to disparage white men. You’re right that a more accurate title may have mentioned White Fever, not Yellow Fever. It’s just that Yellow Fever is term people know, so I put it in the title. I don’t think there is anything wrong at all with white men dating interracially. I just observed that society presents the white male-Asian female paring much more readily than the vice versa, both at home and here in China. I believe that will change, and the amount of interracial dating in all forms increases, I hope white men will no longer be stigmatized for dating Asians, or accused of being Orientalist.

      Again, did not mean to offend you, and I’m all for interracial dating. I myself am currently dating a Mexican American, and I’m lucky enough not to be judged for it.

  3. Sn090909 permalink
    May 30, 2012 1:54 pm

    I’ve seen these ads and I find then pretty shocking. These ads are huge, plastered in MTR stations and you see pair after pair of White men with a Chinese female. I have noticed the exclusion of Asian males in media for a long time in North America, and now we see it in China. The Chinese women you see are all famous celebrities that many girls look up to. Not gonna lie, seeing all of them seemingly as an “object” for their White man was pretty unsettling.

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