Meet Olivia Park and Esther Fan, a.k.a. the Sad Asian Girls.
This American collective of outspoken graphic designers redefines what it means to be an Asian woman living in a Western Culture. They are “activist artists;” raging against the expectations of passivity on the one hand and fetishization on the other.
“unable to identify as either ‘fully’ Asian or ‘fully’ American”
The group started out as Sad Asian Girls Club, describing themselves as a ‘club’ for Asian women who feel like they don’t fully belong in either Western or Asian culture. When asked by Dazed why they chose to be called ‘sad’, they responded that “the ‘sadness’ refers to the confusion and frustration that many Asians in Western societies experience, as we are often unable to identify as either ‘fully’ Asian or ‘fully’ American, Canadian, Australian, British, etc.”
Young East Asian citizens in the West often face a lot of pressure from their parents and society to perform exceptionally well. In a video titled ‘Have You Eaten?‘, Fan listens to her mother’s complaints about Fan’s body and behavior. At one point, her mother gripes “We’re working to death over here so we can pay for your tuition. And you have the nerve to be like this.” This pressure on Asian youth to be respectful towards their parents’ conservative Asian perceptions, can contrast with their own ambitions growing up in a liberal Western setting.
On top of that, East Asians face the same distorted expectations from the whole of society, including fellow Asian youth. This is called the ‘Model Minority Myth’. Also in Dazed, SAG describes this as suggesting “that Asians are more successful and studious than other minorities and thus cannot experience discrimination. It creates not only an unrealistic standard for Asians but also pits us against each other.”
To counter this, Park and Fan use their creative talent and their extensive network of likeminded Asian women to spread a different story. With their sleek and minimalist type and photography their work is all about the message. And we hope their message gets heard.