A couple of weeks ago some friends of mine shared on Facebook an article that soon became very popular. The article was a merciless criticism of Taiwanese girls. It accused them, among other things, of being “Hello Kitty, submissive, shallow, brain dead and a good f***” (read the full article here). The post was – I think – nothing more than a collection of passages from posts that had already been circulating online for some time. But despite not being at all new, pieces like that always stir minor controversies every time they are (re-)published.
The reaction of Taiwanese netizens to this post was a mix of anger and shame. Some people told me that they admitted that the content of the article had some truth in it, but they were angry at the offensive tone and the exaggerations of the author.
Now, let me first say something about the style of the post. Of course, it is offensive and simplistic. However,
1) I think that this is a marketing strategy. Writing posts that oversimplify complex topics and make people feel angry is a deliberate technique. In fact, readers are more likely to share or comment on an article if it provokes in them a strong emotional reaction. If you write a long and difficult article, people will not react to it. Just go to a library and take a look at the piles of great books that no one touches. It’s because they are too complex, or too deep, or because people don’t have time to read them. On the contrary, tabloids like Apple Daily in Hong Kong / Taiwan, or Bild Zeitung in Germany attract millions of readers. It’s because they provoke, oversimplify, publish trivial pieces, nurture prejudices, show pictures of half-naked women etc., and people read them because they affect their emotions and arouse their interest. I’m not defending this strategy, but unfortunately that’s the the way it is. If you want to write something popular, one of the best ways it to provoke and make people angry. Chances are people will share your content.
Some of you may remember the ill-famous blogger Chinabounder. He was an English teacher in China, and he launched a blog called Sex and Shanghai, in which he wrote about his sexual exploits with Chinese women, and even with his own school students. He became a celebrity because a Chinese professor started a campaign against him. Chinabounder, who published his posts anonymously, was for a while searched by the police, who, however, never found him. His blog became a short-lived internet sensation. It is hard to tell whether popularity was Chinabounder‘s intended target. But if it was, then he certainly achieved his goal.
The author of the article I mentioned before achieved his goal, too; it was shared more than 20,000 times on Facebook, and more than 400 on Google+. If you read the piece, you will certainly notice that it is not written as an objective social analysis. The author either wanted to vent his anger, or write something popular. That is why his language is simplistic, aggressive, provocative and sharp. Therefore, its content should not be taken too seriously.
2) There is, however, another reason why the post raised such an outcry: it promoted the stereotype of the easy and shallow Asian girl, and at the same time it promoted the stereotype of the arrogant, disrespectful foreigner.
I believe that these two stereotypes are based on a perception that should be understood in the context of cultural difference and of certain cultural misconceptions. They are not totally untrue, but they seem to me a product of a lack of mutual understanding. In the next posts, I will try to explain why in my opinion some Westerners perceive Asian girls as easy.