“Ni Hao pretty,” “you’re pretty for an Asian,” and “you’re the whitest Asian ever” are among the verbatim comments received by female Asian-American students in the University that will be displayed around campus later this week as a part of a poster campaign.
According to Alis Yoo ’19, facilitator of the “Asian girls everywhere” poster campaign sponsored by the Asian American Students Association, the sixteen different samples of posters to be displayed around campus in the next few days represent the authentic experiences of University students in and outside of the classroom. The posters, designed by Annabelle Tseng ’19, feature bolded, provocative, texts in midst of a dark background and aim to open conversation about a largely undiscussed topic on campus, Yoo said.
“I want to inundate the campus with the message that for so long, Asian women in general have been silenced by stereotypes, and that we are no longer silent, especially in our current political environment where so many negative things are spoken about women,” Yoo noted.
AASA co-president Nicholas Wu ’18 noted that with this campaign, AASA aims to uplift voices, change perceptions, and break down stereotypes.
Wu is a columnist for the Daily Princetonian.
The campaign initially began over summer as Yoo and a few others surveyed students through AASA and residential college listservs. Yoo and her team subsequently received over a dozen responses from students, both including those who remained anonymous and those who self-identified, about instances and context of discriminatory messages they had personally received.
Yoo identified one poster reading “I’ve always wanted a Chinese bride like you” as her own. Yoo recalled that she had heard those words from a stranger when she was disseminating information about a criminal defense service outside a courthouse in Manhattan during her summer internship. The stranger, who initially expressed intense interest in the conversation, soon derailed into making inappropriate remarks and physical gestures. Yoo remembered the stranger trying to touch her shoulder, spewing uninvited comments about her looks, and asserting that she “would make a great wife.”
“First off, I’m not Chinese, I’m Korean. But the worst of all was that I couldn’t even say anything at the moment because I needed that guy’s support and that I was supposed to act professionally,” she said.
Yoo noted that when she spoke to her mother later about what had happened, she was instructed to avoid wearing makeup and dressed, but to instead put on glasses and “cover herself up” in order to “defend herself.”
Last month, a similar but larger-scale incident happened when the co-presidents of the SAE fraternity sent out an email that signed off with the words “eating Asian pussy, all we need is sweet and sour sauce.” Yoo, among other members of AASA, had authored a letter to the editor to the ‘Prince’ in the aftermath.
“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,” the letter reads.
Though the exposure of this email was deeply disturbing, the incident is a reminder of the amount of work that needs to be done to make sure that people treat Asian-American women as equals, Yoo said.
Yoo foresees that one challenge during this campaign is that some observers may dismiss the scope and importance of the issue. For instance, after the SAE email surfaced, many noted that the language used there was “just a joke,” Yoo noted.
“In the very least, there needs to be clarification on the part of people who perpetrated this that they are sincerely sorry,” Yoo said.
“We hope that everyone is able to join in on the conversation,” Wu said.
The posters, which are being printed now, will go on display later this week, according to Yoo.