Writer: Banyu Bening
Editor: Adelyne Koe
Graphic Designer: Betty Zeng
In recent years, people have been making a great effort to highlight and appreciate the importance of Asian cultural history and to address issues in the Asian community. The likes of Asian culture such as K-pop, anime, sushi, bubble tea, and Asian-made video games like Super Mario Bros are taking the world by storm. However, within the newfound appreciation for Asian culture, something more damaging has come to pass. As time passes, Asian fishing becomes a real-life issue that’s gaining more and more traction.
It may not seem like a serious issue at first glance, but in reality, it carries extremely harmful undertones and causes real damage. According to The Boar, Asian fishing is a term used to describe people who try to pass as east-Asian. This is prominently shown when non-Asians appropriate Asian features, such as particularly slanted or mono-lidded eyes, so as to alter their image for aesthetic purposes.
The fox-eye trend is a common, highly looked-down-on form of Asian fishing. It features when a person pulls their eyes back or uses make-up to make their eyes appear slanted in a way that resembles the almond shape of many Asian eyes. Fox-eye makeup tutorials on YouTube showcase methods to create a winged aesthetic using eyeshadow and eyeliner that makes the eyes appear elongated upwards. While it may seem like a trivial misdemeanor or even something utterly harmless, it carries a much heavier weight than that.
The fox-eye trend might not have been concocted from malicious intent; however, it signifies an ignorance towards past and ongoing racism. Historically, the appearance of one’s eyes has been known to be one of the most common insults towards East Asians that has been used to demean them in the past.
Platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube show influencers glorifying the “#foxeye” trend by using makeup to model themselves into having stereotypical Asian “almond-shaped” eyes. According to CNN, the hashtag #foxeye has gathered over 72.8 million views on TikTok and has accumulated more than 70,000 posts on Instagram, thus becoming a viral and rapidly spreading beauty trend.
Following the fox-eye trend, even more pressuring forms of Asian fishing occur. This features a majority of white influencers doing their makeup to appear more “Asian” and putting on schoolgirl-like lingerie to pose for their OnlyFans content, which does nothing but continue to perpetuate the issue of the hypersexualization and fetishization of Asian women.
What’s most ironic about the rise of Asian appropriation is the simultaneous occurrence of the rise of Asian racism and hate crimes. In relevance to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, xenophobia and bigotry towards Asians have been on a rampage since March 2020. Over 80% of Asian adults, according to Pew Research Center, claim that violence against them is increasing. This stands out in stark comparison to 56% of U.S. adults who make the same claims. It is mentioned that 45% of Asian adults say that since the start of the pandemic, they have experienced at least one of five specific offensive incidents. Some of these incidents include people outwardly acting uncomfortable around them, being subject to slurs or racist jokes, receiving remarks about “returning to one’s home country”, and being blamed for the virus outbreak.
Asians, particularly Asian women, have struggled for prolonged periods of time against boiled-down stereotypes of Asian orientalism and mannerism. According to sociologist Yen Le Esperitu in her book entitled “Asian American women and men: Labor, laws, and love”, these-boiled down stereotypes include both the images of either a docile and submissive
“Lotus blossom”, or a deceptive and mysterious “Dragon Lady”. These forms of objectification render Asians increasingly vulnerable to discrimination, sexual assault, and other types of trauma. Stereotypical characteristics such as these are said to be sources of ridicule and bullying from non-Asians.
While said non-Asians may claim to enjoy Asian culture, the appropriation and objectification of Asian features and the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes do naught to portray their so-called “appreciation”. Valuing Asian culture must come with valuing Asian voices.
Asian features are not a temporary trend that is open to being appropriated. Non-East Asians who involve themselves in the fox-eye trend have the convenience of being able to unstretch their eyes and remove their makeup, whereas millions of Asians born with such features have to face taunts and disrespectful comments regarding their features every day.
“There is so much we can do, but healing the damage will take a societal change,” says Judy Chu, a psychologist, and representative for California’s 27th congressional district. “We need to stop treating people of color as others and tear down the divisions between us that create isolation and mistrust.”
With that being said, it is of utmost importance to direct our attention and support AAPI organizations, and to unite against racism and xenophobia. Several such AAPI groups:
Asian American women and men: Labor, laws, and love by Yen Le Esperitu