By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the controversy concerning the Day Above Ground video Asian Girlz. In response to an avalanche of protest, the band took the video down, though only after announcing they would leave it up for a while to give us all a chance to look at it again (and drive up their views) and see it for “what it really is.”
I’ll tell you what it really is. It’s one of the worse examples of hipster racism on the internet. The song and accompanying video are intended to “parody” the popular sexual fetish for Asian women. Instead, it has the effect of making a bad joke out of a very problem with extremely serious consequences. And while the band claims to be opposed to racism and sexism of the sort they are parodying, they’re attempting to make money from the existence of same, putting them on a continuum of men making money off the bodies of Asian women that begins with peddlers of music videos and ends with slave traders (hang in there with me on this one), all of whom are trading in the same stereotypes and fantasies.
Try again, boys. Presenting images of Asian women as mere toys may be popular, but that just makes it all the more dangerous. To make the point, I did some internet searches through Yahoo.
The first term I used was “Asian girls.” I hit return and got 113 hits on eleven pages of which 112 were porn sites and escort services, many featuring “teens.” The one outlier was the humor site, Stuff White People Like. Almost funny, until you realize that they are referring to “Asian girls” as “stuff.” There were no other hits.
Undeterred, I decided to use the term “Asian women.” I got 115 hits this time. Of those hits, ninety-three were for escort services, mail order bride companies, and porn sites. Not very encouraging, but at least twenty-two were positive things, right? Wrong. Twelve of those twenty-two non-sex trade hits were for various pages on the site of the New York Asian Women’s Center.
The New York Asian Women’s Center is a very positive organization, but they exist in order to help Asian women survivors of domestic violence. What does it say that more than half of the non-fetish hits in a Yahoo search for “Asian women” are for a domestic violence and sexual assault program?
So, boys, I know lots of people have said your video is juvenile and insulting to women in general and Asian women in particular and I’m sure that hurts. I mean, thousands of people now equate Day Above Ground with “douche bag.” I get it, and I’m actually genuinely sorry that this dialogue couldn’t have taken a more constructive turn.
But, I’m not dwelling on that point. Instead, I’d like you to consider for a moment how incredibly derivative your concept is, and what it is, in fact, derivative of.
The images and stereotypes you’re playing with fuel fantasies that drive industries that trade in Asian women as commodities. Some trick women living in poverty in places like Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand to list themselves with mail order bride services that sell them to men seeking Asian wives they believe will fit the stereotype you’re parodying. Once having acquired a wife, the man’s wish often comes true because the legal and financial dependency from which these women suffer make them appear submissive in the face of sexual and physical abuse.
Still other businesses, and there are plenty of them, just kidnap women and traffic them as sex slaves. An estimated 30 thousand women from Asian countries are trafficked into the U.S. every year. Traffickers trade in Asian women as commodities. An estimated 10 thousand Asian women are working in brothels in L.A., your own home city.
Boys, this is the kind of bullsh*t you inadvertently stepped into when you made that video. Taking it down is a nice gesture, but I do believe that at the very least an acknowledgment that you made a mistake is in order. Dodging that admission by saying that folks just aren’t getting the “joke” only makes matters worse.