Double the Offense: Chinese Laundry and the Boston Herald Blog

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

What is this ad selling?

What is this ad selling?

Finally, what is this ad selling?

All three of these ads claim to be selling Chinese Food, but obviously one of these things is not like the others.

I was only loosely following the Chinese Laundry story that Jenn broke over on Reappropriate. A quick summary:

In a story that seems to come straight out of a movie, gentrification of a neighbourhood in Providence, Rhode Island has forced a long-time Chinese laundry to close after 13 years of business.

[...]

But, what’s really interesting about this story is that the Chow Fun Food Group, which has moved into the gentrified neighbourhood, is running with the tradition of a Chinese laundry in that location by opening a new Asian fusion restaurant called, creatively, “Chinese Laundry“.

The third ad displayed at the beginning of the post was their promotional advertisement.

As I was late catching up on my blogreading, I figured the time for the petition had passed. I had also seen the post pop up on blogs like Angry Asian Man and Feministing, so I figured most people had it covered.

However, somewhere along the line things took a turn for the nasty, and Jenn has been dealing with some of that fallout.

Jenn has been really taking the lead to focus on the Asian-American community and methods by which to peacefully advocate for change. Awesome Jenn, keep working.

Now, I wish that this was the end of this piece. But oh no, I followed an outgoing link to the article Jenn references was published by the Boston Herald. (It was actually on the Inside Track Blog).

And what I found there made me even angrier than the ad.

The article in reference is now archived. It mentions the controversy that occurred, but not so much Jenn’s reasons for objecting. Instead the article decided to have fun with food, starting with “What would really fry [Jenn's] noodle” while discussing the opening party, featuring nyotaimoiri – you know, to roll all the imagery together.

The blog writer (who was not identified of the three main authors) identifies a few of the phrases Jenn used in her original critique but twists them almost to the point of mockery.

For example, after quoting “The advertisement implies that diners of this restaurant will be able to conquer the East, not only gastronomically, but sexually,” the writer flippantly remarks “Well, what if you just want a bowl of chow fun?”

Does anyone here look at the Chinese Laundry ad and think “Oh, yum, chow fun?” That is not what that ad is selling.

What makes me so angry is that we see this kind of attitude that is dismissive of women and minorities all the time.

Even with an ad as egregious as this one, where there is blatantly obvious objectification, where the only way the ad works is when it plays off of ingrained stereotypes about Asian American women being both sexually submissive and available, it astounded me to see this issue trivialized and dismissed as political correctness run amok.

And I am really tired of people acting like the critiques that Asian-Americans have about their images in the media are ridiculous or unfounded.

So, instead of just being pissed about it, I decided to write a letter.

Here is what I wrote the the Boston Herald:

Your Inside Track article published on March 10, titled “New Asian eatery’s wanton ad leaves bad taste for some” was ridiculously dismissive about a very serious subject. The Chinese Laundry marketing campaign is offensive from a feminist standpoint and from a racial standpoint, which is complicated by the fact that an actual Chinese-run laundry service was evicted to make room for this restaurant.

While we can understand how the owner was trying to go for edgy and sexy, the end result was offensive and I am glad the campaign was pulled.

As an African-American woman, I am shocked to see that the writers of Inside Track were so blind to the racist and sexist ideas needed to make this ad campaign work that they chose to target the analysis on Reappropriate rather than the actual image itself.

Please inform your writers that feigning ignorance of racial issues and feminist issues does not make them funny or cool. I was already disappointed with the ad campaign – I really did not need to be disappointed by some half-ass short item on a major newspaper site.

In the future, I hope your writers will actually read the blog posts they choose to critique. Who knows, they may have actually learned something.