8.02.2013

Asian Girlz Apologies: On Sincerity and Slut Shaming – 1 of 3

Let's talk about how we react when we are called on our racism and sexism. It happens to us all at some point(s) in our lives, and we go through a process of accountability and learning.

Day Above Ground Facebook Cover Art
IN the past few days criticism of Day Above Ground’s lyrics and Director Michael Steinberg’s music video for Asian Girlz has gone viral with a petition calling for the band and their sponsor On-Stage Stands to drop the video and apologize. There has been inspired discussion calling for accountability from the band Day Above Ground and their sponsor.

DAG's apologies to date have been problematic on a number of levels. Early apologies and statements ranged from the group basically claiming they ‘can’t be racist because we have an Asian guy in the group’ to ‘we meant it as a joke’ to ‘we are making fun of ourselves or white dudes that DO fetishize Asian women’ etc. One more problem is that the group replaces their past statements with new ones but doesn't leave all of it up on YouTube, which would be more transparent. Simply put, they don't come across as sincere in their dialog with fans or critics.

NOW, their latest statement (clipped below) opens with another problematic refusal to process and accept accountability for their work:

Published on Jul 29, 2013
DAG's STATEMENT
This video is intended to be a satirical, provocative, absurd, & even silly work of art. The lyrics, story, and visuals are so completely over-the-top and ridiculous that we thought it'd be impossible to miss the point.
But some very vocal groups, especially the blog, "Angry Asian Men," attacked it right out of the gate very aggressively. Their fury was soon amplified by the blog/news cycle. Shortly after, the views and craziness began climbing by the second.
Angry Asian Men, to you we say - all's fair so well done! We salute you. Seriously. No satire intended this time.
So due to the overwhelming misunderstanding of this video & the anger it has incited - especially the bizarre and horrible personal attacks on actress Levy Tran - we're pulling the video down within the next 48 hours.
But we'll leave it up until then to give anyone who cares a chance to see for themselves what it's really about before it disappears from our channel and website forever.
So just step back, take a breath, and relax.
We thank those who've watched the video & understood it in the spirit it was intended. We loved your thoughtful comments. You are heroic souls, indeed. We will be posting some of your comments (along with the funnier negative ones) on our website. Here are just a few of the hundreds that caught our eye...
mishisoup 58 minutes ago
: I think the video is amusing (and really weirrrd, haha). My view as a 26 year old Asian American woman is that I'm not offended because I know the difference between someone seriously trying to be demeaning and someone who's joking around. This is obviously the latter. The age thing was funny. Com'on guys, relax.
LordAkaneon 9 minutes ago: 
Day Above Ground = a fake band created by the NSA so that you don't notice that Edward Snowden was granted Asylum in Russia
Bob Smith 3 minutes ago: How does it perpetuate ignorance? The band is intentionally being ignorant. They're ridiculing ignorance. They're also getting a laugh at the expense of white men who are made small and caged by their affection for Asian women. They're making fun of white guys who only see the most basic stereotypes and who are the most basic stereotypes
18dot7 9 minutes ago: 
i dont get all the yellers ... they only cater to the cliches already sunk in most westeners mind ... from what i get, they are exposing the stereotype thinking of most people ... and it looks to me as if they hit the nail to the head ... MOST think its racist - and THAT is prolly what they intended ... think thrice ...
We think it's a shame that a music video aimed at entertaining was shouted down. But, as the curse goes, we live in "interesting times."
"It's only Rock n' Roll. (But I like it.)" - The Rolling Stones

"Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable." - Banksy
Let’s unpack that, the group was “attacked” “aggressively” and the “craziness began climbing by the second?”

Wow, that sounds so very similar to how I felt with each passing second when I watched the video! Lyrically and visually, Asian women and cultures were attacked aggressively and with racist appropriation alongside delusional refusal to accept responsibility for the band’s capitalization on racist and sexist tropes and/or absolute failure at satire which in turn escalated over the past 24 hours.

I do agree with their point about the attacks on actress Levy Tran, which we will also address here at Korean Gender Cafe.

The group praises as "heroic souls" those that "understood it in the spirit it was intended" but as LimaLimonArt points out in RE: "Asian Girlz" || Vlog Response || (Petition Link in Description), there is no other spirit BUT making fun of Asian cultures (see LimaLimonArt’s critique at 01:43) and female objectification (see LimaLimonArt’s critique at 02:38).

Nice work by LimaLimonArt for reclaiming a message from the awful original lyrics, and for challenging the video. Since the group plans to pull the video in the next 48 hours, and has revised their statement at least three times, a video like this holds the group accountable and means that the video can't just be dropped and forgotten.

Day Above Ground says they plan to post some of "the funnier negative" comments so that they can continue to ridicule audiences, people of color and their allies.

Finally, the group concludes, "We think it's a shame that a music video aimed at entertaining was shouted down. But, as the curse goes, we live in "interesting times." The inexperience and immaturity is too obvious to warrant further comment. Their online presence speaks for itself, afterall the only other images they post on their Facebook page that are not of the band are both sexually objectifying images, including one that doesn't even include Levy Tran's face! The group never even makes any attempt to address whether or not their work is sexist! Their latest statement itself is addressed to Angry Asian MEN [emphasis mine]. As a process, when it is pointed out to you that you are racist/sexist... DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT... listen to someone outside your narrow entitled social position, read a book, reflect and rethink your actions. Don't think saying "I'm not racist/sexist" matters when you haven't processed your problematic behavior.


Next up, let's take a look at the least apologetic player, Director Michael Steinberg in part two of Asian Girlz Apologies: On Sincerity and Slut Shaming – 2 of 3

Read our other posts in this series on Asian Girlz Apologies:
Part 2 takes on the creative decisions by Director Michael Steinberg visualizing racism and sexism and calling it 'Art'
Part 3 addresses the online and media community and the slut-shaming of Levy Tran

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Images pulled from Day Above Ground Facebook Photos