“Asian Fetishist,” our response to “Asian Girlz”
I live in the Arctic. My Internet connection is slow when the weather is bad. And the weather is bad a lot. Watching Day Above Ground’s music video for “Asian Girlz” with a slow Internet connection is even more painful than usual. The video plays for a few seconds, flashes a creepy image here or there, and then freezes, leaving me to reflect upon whether this video is real and, in the style of David after the dentist, IS THIS REAL LIFE? Also, I don’t get it. What part of it is the ironic humour? The part where it makes me feel crappy about myself as an Asian girl? Not that I needed any more help.
Recently, the band Day Above Ground released a statement that they didn’t write the song with any malicious, hateful, or hurtful intent. I’m not sure what their actual intent was, but let me tell you what the result was, for me as an Asian girl.
Let me tell you what emotions and memories are immediately and involuntarily triggered when watching this video. I automatically think about every time I’ve ever been sexually harassed by a creep with an Asian fetish. I think about the number of times people have asked me if I have a sideways vagina. I think about the number of times people open a conversation with me with “What are you?” and won’t accept “Canadian” or “human” as an answer.
I think about that time when I was 17 years old, waiting for a bus stop, minding my own business, when a stranger suddenly struck me while screaming “FUCKING CHINKS”.
I think about the time I was riding the subway in Toronto and a creepy man sat right in front of me began yelling how people like me should get out of his country because we’ve overstayed our welcome – and the whole time none of the other passengers came to my defence.
I think about how there are parts of the world where my girl friends can walk around and feel perfectly safe, but if I walk alone, I get chased down by men who yell CHINA, CHINA, CHINA at me, as though yelling geography at me will cause me to fall in love.
I think about how when I go to a night club with my girl friends, sometimes I am bombarded by series of guys who think that it is an impressive pickup line to point out that I am not white (“OMG are you Japanese? You people are so beautiful. So docile and graceful.”), and I start wishing they could just sexually harass me like a normal white girl – yes, this is how messed up I am, I want to be sexually harassed like a white girl, because it seems slightly less insulting.
I think about how when I was growing up in a small town, the kids would pull their eyelids back and taunt “Chinese eyes! Chinese eyes!” AND IT WOULD MAKE ME SO MAD, not because it hurt my feelings, but because they were so stupid. I actually have really big eyes. Also, I’m not Chinese.
I think about all the times people question whether I speak English, even though it’s the only language I speak fluently.
I think about the times when I meet some new people, people who seem really cool, and then they start cracking jokes about Asians, but you know, ironically, because they’re totally not racist and they’ll prove it by saying racist things that of course they would NEVER actually believe, and I feel awkward in pretending it’s okay, but really I am just thinking how dare you think it’s okay. How dare you assume that racism is an obsolete thing of the past and therefore really quaint and funny to joke about, like those bicycles with the big wheel in the front.
This is what irritates me the most. If I don’t know you at all, how am I supposed to know that you are only joking about being racist, when I have met so many real racists in my life? The problem with ironic racism is that racism is real, and the experience of racism isn’t very funny. Ridiculous at times, perhaps, and maybe my reaction is to laugh and shake my head because there is nothing else I can do…but it doesn’t mean you should force me to have to react that way.
I think about how my family raised me to be proud of my identity and who I am, but there are times when this kind of unwelcome attention makes me wish I was invisible.
Was “Asian Girlz” supposed to be funny? Maybe I’m missing something, probably because I’m lost in these memories and emotions that they’ve triggered, which apparently they did not intend to do. They intended to be ironic, to make the world a better place and less racist somehow by triggering these memories and making me feel shitty about myself. The video could use a trigger warning.
Look, I’m a tough woman and I try not to let these things bother me. I don’t dwell on these ugly memories on a daily basis. These are mainly microaggressions. And let’s be fair, ever since I moved to the Arctic, where there just aren’t that many people (there are two people for every polar bear, in fact) I haven’t encountered a lot of Asian fetishists, so my day is usually good. But a lifetime of these encounters gets tiring. And if you think a video like “Asian Girlz” makes me feel good about myself, think again. When stuff like this comes out, I think, man, Gloria, maybe it’s time to stop smiling and pretending it’s okay. Maybe I should talk about the effects this so-called ironic racism has on people like me, so hopefully people will think a little before unleashing their hilarious ironic wit. And ask how it’s supposed to be funny.
Last year, my band Scary Bear Soundtrack released a song that seems to have become a pre-emptive response to Day Above Ground’s “Asian Girlz”. Our song is called “Asian Fetishist” and I’m hoping it explains the problem with Asian fetishism in a way that is more succinct than this ranty post. Plus, the music video was made with cute little paper dolls that my talented sister Esther made, and who doesn’t love lo-fi stop animation?