This is not a think-piece. I am no racial commentator and my fledgling attempts at gender & sexuality advocacy and activism can’t even be said to have taken flight yet. I write emotion pieces, sometimes dating-app-chat commentary, but mostly this blog is just a place for me to dump my thoughts.
I do not watch Eurovision. I did not grow up in Europe and didn’t hear about it until university, and when I learnt about it, all it was to me was oh.. just another reason for people to party and get drunk. I do have one firm memory of Eurovision party I attended, which ended with me being hilariously drunk and spending the night on the host’s sofa. But that was more about the friends than about Eurovision itself – and that was about 6 years ago.
So, the year is 2018. My socio-political education is more London-based and LGBT-based than it was probably 10 years ago when I used to write socio-political commentary on Malaysian politics.
The year is 2018. I heard Israel won Eurovision. I heard it may be problematic. I searched for it and watched it on YouTube.
My heart sank in a pit of nauseating horror as I saw it. It was yellowface. And to add insult to the injury, it was yellowface with lucky cats, outrageous kimono-like outfit and clucking humans pretending to be chickens.
The singer claims the clucking represents the cowards of the men involved in #metoo. The lyrics “i am not your toy” resonates in the chorus of the song. There are proclamations that the song is about empowering women.
There is an experience common to east-asian-looking women who live outside of east asia. We are seen as submissive. Perfectly trained housewives. Clean freaks (no shoes indoors!!), good cooks (albeit sometimes weird… pigs brain anyone?) and generally subservient and obedient. This is the east asian version of the ‘black women are aggressive’ stereotype.
The experience of being assumed to fit the stereotype is undeniable to anyone who has experience it, and totally invisible and incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t. We (east-asian-women-not-living-in-east-asia) are all victims to this stereotype, and those of us who don’t fit into it will all have clashed with it at some point. We see it in the workplace, we see it on the street. We see it on the dating apps. We see it in every “nihao” and “konichiwa” shouted at us on the street. We are so used to it we live with it daily and it is just another factoid of living our lives.
So this performance, which inexplicably uses east asian visuals even though it has nothing to do with the song itself….. This performance plays on a stereotype deeper than most viewers will see. “I am not your toy”….. This phrase plays deeper and truer to us non conforming east asian women than to the average white woman on the average london street.
If you are a white woman.. tell me… has anyone ever asked you to be their toy? Has anyone ever stereotyped and expected you to be their toy?
Well, I am a yellow-skinned woman, and before I shaved my hair off and dyed it all shades of the rainbow – this was a common experience. My waist-long straight black hair was treated as a commodity, my submissiveness and obedience assumed to exist. Even now I get asked on dating apps which photo is more recent, usually with the hint that the ones of me with long hair is prettier and more desirable.
This song, which claims to empower women, does so at the expense of the stereotype of east asian women. It makes fun of us. It steps on those of us who conform, it pisses on those of us who don’t. It is unlikely to rile the anger of people living in east asia, and that will be their defense, but to us, who live in a predominantly white world, where this stereotype is widespread and common, to us it is insulting, it is humiliating, it is embarassingly typical of a white-majority world with no clue of race relations, which haven’t learnt from the backlash of blackface, with no concept of colonialism and the sociopolitical manifestations of it in daily life.
The number of times I haven’t been seen as a full fledged equal human. Where I am treated as a thing, a tool, a toy.
The Israel performance makes me sick to the stomach and I do not have the words to explain why. I don’t have a socio-political education or writing background. My chosen activism has been in gender and sexuality.. not race. But today, this morning, with this feeling of nausea deep in the pit of my stomach, I have to write this. This is my view. This is my take.
I am not arguing this view, I am not justifying my emotions and opinions. I am saying this song was personally horrifying and insulting. This a personal feeling and opinion and I do not have to validate myself to anyone.
If you think otherwise, please kindly fuck off.