Critics say the song and video not only perpetuate harmful stereotypes about Asian American women but are also degrading to all women.
In the video, the band has been shrunk to miniature proportions and is singing inside a birdcage while an Asian model (Levy Tran) strips down to her lingerie. She then takes a bubble bath and opens the cage door, allowing the miniature band members to dive into the tub.
The lyrics describe Asian women’s physical attributes — “I love your creamy yellow thighs, your slanty eyes” — and contain numerous references to “sticky rice” and other Asian foods.
The band has issued a statement in response to the outcry, insisting that there is an “overwhelming misunderstanding” and telling the public to “just step back, take a breath, and relax.”
“This video is intended to be a satirical, provocative, absurd, and 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,” the band said.
In its defense, the band added that the bass player, Marcello Lalopua, who appears in the video, was born in Indonesia. The other members are Joe Anselm (vocals), Drew Drumm (vocals/guitar), Mike Tourage (guitars) and Steve Reese (drums).
Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC is urging Day Above Ground to officially apologize to the community and remove the video from YouTube immediately, not Sunday night as the band has promised.
Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC, sent a letter to the band on Thursday, expressing outrage about the song and the band’s continued promotion of it. In summary, the letter states:
“Although you have issued a statement that ‘Asian Girlz’ was ‘not written with any malicious, hateful, or hurtful intent,’ the song, in effect, is malicious, hateful, and hurtful. Similarly, while you may actually ‘not promote or support racism or violence,’ the song, in effect, promotes racism and violence caused by racism. …
“The opening verse is just the first of many that demean Asian American women and cast mockery on all Asian Americans. In particular, your association of these intentionally chosen words to an ‘Asian girl,’ which is mentioned over 30 times throughout the song, perpetuates the notion of Asian American women as sexually servile and perpetually foreign. Asian American women have long confronted this stereotype and its consequences, which have been anything but innocuous or ‘endearing.’
“As just one example, the ‘happy endings’ referenced in your song discounts the reality that many massage parlors employing Asian American women — precisely because of the perceptions embodied in your song-are centers of human trafficking and sexual slavery.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice is urging concerned groups and individuals to contact the band via email, Twitter and Facebook. The full letter can be downloaded here.