Sad Asian Femmes (SAF), formerly known as Sad Asian Girls Club, established in Fall 2015, generates media and internet content, including videos, graphic series, and art installations related to the experiences of Asian women in a predominantly white society. It is run solely by two graphic designers, Esther Fan and Olivia Park, at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). They strive to highlight problematic aspects of Western spaces that have been normalized at the expense of Asian women. Instead of submitting quietly to the pressures of social norms and stereotypes, they are speaking out through art and media. The mission of SAF reflects and builds upon the ideas and actions put forth by Asian American activists throughout history.
“Have You Eaten?”
Sad Asian Girls Club
November 16, 2015
“Have You Eaten?” highlights SAF experiences around food, gender expectations, and cultural norms through this blunt portrayal of the Asian femme struggle of navigating daily life with an intersectionally oppressed identity.
Sad Asian Femmes (SAF) was recently rebranded from their old name, Sad Asian Girls Club, in order to dissociate themselves from the Tumblr “Sad Girls Club” movement and make their name, content, and movement accessible to a broader audience. This inspiration from internet culture has a strong link to the nature of their activist work, particularly their focus on the lack of meaningful and inclusive discussion around Asian femininity. SAF strives to break the culture of silence around East Asian women in Western cultures, emphasizing the necessity for outspoken activism to reveal silenced Asian narratives.
The work that SAF produces is inherently political because of their identities as Asian American women. This relates directly to dissenting citizenship, which is broadly defined as a series of gestures to defy stereotypes prescribed onto certain identities through the surrounding society, including culture and politics. SAF actively employs dissenting citizenship through educating the community and displaying art meant to shock a society that perpetuates stereotypes of Asian women being docile and meek, as well as question racist and sexist cultural norms. Without necessarily striving to gain cultural citizenship in Western society through assimilation into the general population, they defy expectations and create disturbances in current perceptions of the Asian female identity group.
“ASIAN WOMEN ARE NOT”
Sad Asian Femmes
SAF posted 100 graphic images containing submissions from other Asian femmes in the format “Asian women are not _____,” highlighting the oppressive, fetishizing, dehumanizing, and contradicting stereotypes and expectations surrounding Asian femmes.
Art Book Volume I, Issue 3
Sad Asian Femmes
These Art Books contain photographs, poetry, prose, internet slang, and various other forms of media to draw attention to Asians women’s daily expressions of self in a society built without them in mind.
SAF actively rebels against the notion of Asian exclusion from the Western racial dichotomy of white and Black, creating a space where East Asian women can find community, validation, and refuge in societies that silence and fetishize them. The two founders are both women, and their media projects tackle racism and sexism from an intersectional point of view. Through their activist art, as well as in their personal lives, they seek to deconstruct toxic messages that are continually engrained in the psyche of Asian femmes.
As for the future of SAF, Esther and Olivia are looking to continue engaging with their own lived experiences in this lens of activist artwork. Because of their looming graduation from RISD, they are looking to expand the ownership of SAF so the movement can continue to spread across Asian femme spaces (Sukeban). They are being invited as guest speakers to various college campuses and events, continually sharing their experiences and insight as an act of empowerment to East-Asian femmes in Western spaces around the world.