TikTok, the global social media phenomenon and the thing getting us all through quarantine has a little something for everyone, but with the positives come the negatives. In this post, we'll be reviewing some of the most problematic TikTok trends we've seen. Feel free to let us know your own!
1. "Fox" Eyes
I'm sure we've all seen Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Addison Rae, and countless other influencers pull their eyes back in photos to attempt the "fox eye" look. And there have been two sides to this argument: one, that they are making a trend out of something historically racist towards Asians. Two, that they are just doing it for the aesthetic, and anyone who thinks otherwise is just oversensitive. Tons of creators have defended themselves for doing this, and as far as I've seen, none of them have apologized for it.
As you've noticed, our design theme at DeclarASIAN focuses on Asian eyes and really capturing the beauty behind them. We referenced tons of images of Chinese, Korean, Pakistani, and Indian eyes to best represent their features. But this was inspired by my own experiences as a kid, and even now. Just last year, I was still made fun of for having small eyes, with classmates rudely pulling their eyes back to mock mine. And honestly, it hurts. Something that I have personally been bullied for is now being appropriated by models and "influencers?"
The people who partake in the "fox" eye trend might not be directly trying to be racist, but there's an entire world of hurt and meaning behind this rude gesture and look for Asians across the world, and subtle racism like this cannot be forgiven anymore.
2. Chinese Street-Style Videos
This isn't necessarily a toxic trend, I actually enjoy seeing these videos on my FYP. But I think the shift was way too sudden, considering a few months ago, xenophobia and racism towards Asians (specifically East Asians) was rampant, and now people are transfixed by these street-style videos? It makes me think that people are quick to hop onto trends, whether they be positive or negative. Because let's face it, racist jokes towards Asians in early 2020 were being made by tons of people on TikTok because at that time, it was the "norm." Virtually everyone was doing it, so others just hopped onto the bandwagon. Then a few months later, without addressing the racist Asian jokes they had made before, people began praising Chinese street-style videos because it was, again, trendy. Maybe some people will say I'm just too "pressed" about this issue, but I think it's again, something that society lets slide by because of many factors (model minority myth, stereotypes, "it's a joke bro").
3. "It's a Joke"
Racist jokes on TikTok, not just towards Asians but also towards other races have become so prevalent, it's hard to scroll on TikTok without seeing another popular creator say the "N" word or culturally appropriating an entire culture. When you think about it, almost all of the platform's most popular creators have been caught in a racist scandal of some sort, but we just let it slide. I'm not a big fan of cancel culture at all, but I do think that someone should be held accountable for their actions when they have a big platform. The thing is, some people never do apologize, and the internet moves on, and they're off the hook.
Even most apologies are half-assed nowadays, saying a simple "it was just a joke" seems to suffice. Two years ago, someone asked me if I was going to cook my dog for dinner. I was disgusted, and got furious with him. When I asked for an apology, he said, "it was just a joke, chill." (Yes, that is literally what he said). Not only did this "apology" undermine what I go through as an Asian in a predominantly white school district, it was nowhere near an actual apology.
So many things said on the internet now are just brushed off as a "joke". So my question is, when and how did we lose the distinction between being racist and making a joke?
This ended up as more of a rant than an in-depth look into TikTok's worst trends, but I hope this was relatable to you in some way, whether you are Asian, or another POC who has experienced similar things on TikTok.
I also wanted to touch base with you all, as it is National Suicide Prevention Month. DeclarASIAN is a pretty small team, and we are always happy and open to chat with anyone. Especially with social media and school starting and the stress of the pandemic, times are challenging, and your mental health should never be overlooked.
Please feel free to reach out if you have some pent up anxieties, emotions, or feelings that you need to share with someone, and we will always be here to listen. Below are also some resources to help you get through this. You are not alone and we will ALWAYS be here for you.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Online Chat: Click Here (24/7)
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
Author: Carina Sun