Opinion | Ariana Grande should end her ‘Asian-fishing’

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Photo courtesy of Berisik Radio.com/Flickr

Ariana Grande performing during her Honeymoon Tour On Aug 26, 2015. Assistant Opinions Editor Rayna Wuh believes that the artist should stop trying to appear Asian.

By Rayna Wuh, Assistant Opinions Editor

As I mindlessly tapped through Instagram stories, I landed on a post accusing Ariana Grande of “Asian-fishing.” My heart sank.

In addition to being a fan of Grande’s music — according to Spotify Wrapped I consumed more of it than 99.9% of her listeners — I admire the compassion, humility and grace she exhibits. However, her status as a celebrity and positive role model does not absolve her of any wrongdoing.

The term “Asian-fishing” refers to the act of individuals of non-Asian descent using makeup, photo editing and clothing to appear East Asian. In now-deleted photos Grande posted to Instagram, the combination of her eye makeup, bright lighting and angles led many to debate whether her photos fit under this category.

Although I recognized her immediately, many people reportedly could not place her right away. Upon re-inspection, her eyes appear slanted and her eyelid creases seem concealed to look like monolids — typical features of Asian eyes — in the photos. Additionally, a combination of the lighting and editing make her skin fairer in line with East Asian beauty standards.

The question of whether Grande is Asian-fishing or not is ambiguous. However, there is a stark difference between how the same outfit and makeup look in the photos and on “The Voice,” a show Grande judges. Her television appearance is similar to many of her other recent looks and that alone would not raise the same controversy her post did.

This discrepancy, itself, is problematic because a single style should not vary so noticeably in appearance. The social media feeds of celebrities like Grande are highly curated. While posts could come directly from Grande, they are likely subject to more scrutiny than the average post, especially given her position as one of the most-followed people on Instagram.

Even if the intentions behind the post may not have been harmful, it was still important for her and her team to fully consider its consequences prior to posting and prior to receiving backlash. The issue of Asian-fishing reaches beyond the appropriation of a look traditionally associated with a particular race.

Part of the harm associated with Asian-fishing arises from white people profiting or being praised for effectively imitating the same features people of Asian descent are typically made fun of. This messaging implies certain features are only attractive when they appear on a white face.

Furthermore, Asian-fishing reinforces generalized perceptions about how an Asian person looks or behaves. Thus, the act is inextricably tied to the fetishization of Asian women who are disproportionately stereotyped and objectified. 

In extreme cases, this depersonalization results in harassment and violence against women of Asian descent motivated by racism and misogyny. The misleading act may seem innocuous enough on its surface, but appearing Asian is not an aesthetic, and for people born Asian, it is not a choice.

K-pop, anime and other Asian pop culture phenomena have risen in popularity in recent years. This increase in traction has brought some to appropriate the culture for self-gain and reap the benefits without suffering from any of the consequences.

Despite the personal hardships Grande has faced, she still retains certain privileges as a white woman and as a popular celebrity. Even if she did not have the explicit intent to offend or appropriate, she is still responsible for acknowledging the ramifications of her actions.

Grande should extend empathy and humanity to encompass all groups, regardless of their identities — as many fans expect her to as a public figure and celebrity.

Rayna is a sophomore in LAS.

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