I am an American of Chinese and Filipino descent. In high school, there was this girl who bullied me to death. She made my high school experience unbearable. One year, I had the art class after hers, and I hear the teachers gushing over a piece of hers. I walk over to look, and I almost get sick at what I see.
In front of us is a Prismacolor self-portrait of her wearing a ratty Party City qipao ripoff, holding cheapass fans in front of her face with her most “come hither” expression. As if that wasn’t enough, her self-portrait is entitled: “Geisha Girl.” My friend, who was in this class and is also of Filipino descent, rolled her eyes and said to me, “Yeah, all she talks about is Japan and how she wishes she were Japanese.”
Now, I already hated her for the bullying, and this little stunt made me hate her more, but what happened in my senior year was what made me hate her the most.
During my senior year, a girl from the Philippines started attending our school. And this girl ate her up. She immediately latched onto the girl, considering that she was the only “new Asian” in the school who didn’t hate her, and was INCREDIBLY condescending to her. She ran around calling her a “modern-day Mulan,” a “Gothic Lolita princess”—despite the fact that the new girl never wore anything lolita-styled and we had a uniform code, and, one time, on a field trip, took her to a seafood restaurant, saying, “We’re gonna get calamari. That’s squid. You know what that is, right?”
I was able to get the point of “this girl is a horrible human being” across, though. My senior year art piece was about cultural appropriation and the fetishization of Asian women in the US—and I used the same sort of imagery and pose that she tried to pull off, as well as strong, controversial imagery that almost got my school in the news. It was worth it, though.
And when I presented it, she magically was nowhere to be seen. Not surprising that racists can’t handle it when it turns out that their fun is actually hurtful.