That is what Chinese model Cai Niangniang wrote in a recent impassioned social media post, after old pictures of her went viral for all the wrong reasons.

For several days she had been attacked online for being “deliberately offensive” and “unpatriotic”, over a series of advertisements she had appeared in for Chinese snack brand Three Squirrels.

Her apparent crime? Having narrow eyes.

Some social media users were so outraged that the company eventually removed the ads online, and apologised for making people “feel uncomfortable” over them.

But Ms Cai said that she did not know what she had done to get cyber-bullied, noting that she was “just doing my job” as a model.

My looks were given to me by my parents,” the 28-year-old wrote on the Twitter-like platform Weibo.

“Have I insulted China the day I was born just because of how I look?”

‘The West no longer has absolute say’

The ads, originally shot in 2019, were dug up by nationalist netizens amid a period of heightened sensitivity online in China over advertisements depicting Chinese people.

In November, a top Chinese fashion photographer apologised for her “ignorance” after a picture she shot for French luxury brand Dior sparked a backlash. It had featured a Chinese model with narrow eyes.

In recent days, there have been other incidents of social media outrage over adverts by Mercedes-Benz and Gucci that featured Chinese women with narrow eyes.

Amid a growing sense of online nationalism and anti-West sentiment in China, some have seized upon these advertisements as examples of racism towards Chinese people. By featuring models with narrow eyes, critics say these companies are perpetuating Western stereotypes of Chinese faces.

Many asked why these adverts did not feature the kind of models more commonly seen in Chinese advertisements who have fair skin and large round eyes, which are typically considered ideal beauty features in China.

A recent editorial by state news outlet China Daily highlighted how “for too long, Western criteria of beauty, and Western tastes and likes and dislikes dominated aesthetics”. That included depicting Asian women in adverts as having narrow eyes, it said.

“The West no longer has an absolute say over everything,” the opinion piece read.

“The Chinese people do not need to follow their standards on what constitutes beauty and what kinds of women are considered beautiful.”

As a Chinese brand, Three Squirrels “should have known about the sensitivity of Chinese consumers to how they are portrayed in advertisements,”, it added.

At the heart of the controversy is the perception that such depictions invoke the “slanted eyes” stereotype of Asian people which emerged in Western culture in the 19th century, and which is considered hugely offensive by many Asians today.

Bir cevap yazın