To our fellow Princetonians,
Every week, the Nassau Weekly publishes “verbatims.” Normally, they’re just funny slice-of-life comments from students. Last weekend, however, one of the verbatim submissions was the sign-off on a fraternity email: “Eating Asian p****, all we need is sweet and sour sauce.” It's a lyric from a Kanye West song that the Chicago Tribunecondemned in its 2013 review: “[West] goes out of his way to be more explicit, more tasteless than ever in rhymes that equate sex with violence and casual misogyny.” Erasure of non-Chinese American identities aside, it reduces Asian American women to "p****" and Chinese takeout. It’s disappointing to see that there has been little change in attitude since 2013 and that racist and fetishizing references can still be made with no consequences. The lyric was offensive and outrageous when “Yeezus” dropped, and it's not any better now.
There wasn’t any major backlash against the fraternity when it sent out the offensive line, and we at the Asian American Students Association want to use this event to draw greater attention to issues of identity and intersectionality. This incident indicates a shocking lack of respect for Asian American women on campus. We can do so much better as a community.
AASA recognizes that, even within the Orange Bubble, networks of oppression overlap and create unique problems for Asian American women. Kimberlé Crenshaw famously wrote about the concept of intersectionality and the different ways in which interconnected social categorizations like race and gender create systems of discrimination or disadvantage. The quote dehumanizes Asian American women through their race and sex. They are referred to as "p****," reducing their personhood to a derogatory sex term. It goes on to say "all we need is sweet and sour sauce."
The language is one of consumption, elevating the reader to the consumer and reducing women to food. And it's not just any kind of food —sweet and sour sauce is a synecdoche for the cheap Chinese takeout we guiltily eat when we're too tired to eat "real food." The implications, when mapped onto Asian women, are devastating, that they're cheap, convenient objects to be consumed and eventually trashed. It is not independently being an Asian American or a woman that is at stake here, but the intersection of the two identities that helps define the unique struggles of Asian Americans who identify as female. That this characterization of Asian American women as cheap objects of consumption was used by an all-male community in a supposedly private space is altogether unacceptable.
There are persistent, pernicious stereotypes like the "Geisha Girl" or the "Dragon Lady" that draw on the exoticism of being Asian or Asian American and the sexual objectification of women. With the recent verbatim suggesting that parts of our campus still see Asian American women as racially fetishized sex objects, AASA is striving to combat these reductive stereotypes by elevating the experiences of female Asian American students through its Identity and Intersectionality Initiative and other work.
AASA is currently working with the Nassau Weekly to publish pieces that address the fraternity’s email from a more personal perspective in order to continue this conversation. AASA also aims to change the part of campus culture in which it is acceptable to “other” and fetishize a substantial part of the campus population, whether in closed or open spaces. We invite others and the fraternity that used the Kanye line in their e-mail to engage in dialogue with us, and look around to see and learn about how their actions affect Asian American women and all women on campus.
The Princeton Asian American Students Association
Editor's Note: In the original email sent from the fraternity and theNassau Weeklyverbatim did not censor the word "pussy." Using "p****" was an editorial decision made by the Prince.