Emma Chamberlain poses for the "Fox Eye Challenge" — a racist social media trend. (Image courtesy of Kate Li / YouTube)
Northwood High School

Opinion: The ‘Fox Eye Challenge’ ignores underlying racism, cultural appropriation

Emma Chamberlain is a famous YouTuber with over 9.5 billion followers on Instagram and 9.01 subscribers on YouTube. She recently posted a controversial image on her Instagram in which she had her eyelids pulled back in a slant, referencing the emerging “Fox Eye Challenge” on social media.

Many of her Asian fans were quick to point out the inherent racial discrimination of the post. Within Western communities, Asians have often been mocked for their eye shape and called offensive names. Despite the backlash, Emma left the post up for around two days before finally taking it down. She later apologized in a tweet saying those weren’t her intentions, and that she is truly sorry for all the people offended by it.

Some believe she was genuinely trying to share a harmless photo, and that people were overreacting by taking it personally. However, I think she fails to realize how much influence she has as a role model for many young teenagers. Her internet presence is huge, and celebrities need to understand the risks associated with having a large online following.

Due to the diversity of her fans, she should’ve taken the time to research the potential racial implications before carelessly uploading the image. Also, Emma should have immediately removed the post after the plethora of negative comments saying she was using a pose that Asians had been mocked for as an “aesthetic.”

Various TikTokkers and YouTubers have already spoken out and acknowledged the problems with her photo. Kate Li, a full Chinese YouTuber made a video titled “Why Emma Chamberlain is being called out” where she explained the pain many Asians experienced growing up.

From being bullied and teased to being called racial slurs based on their eye appearance, Li notes how “when a POC says they feel oppressed, listen. Just because this gesture has been “normalized”, doesn’t mean it’s okay.”

The “Fox Eye Challenge” began as a social media trend inspired by model Bella Hadid and actress Megan Fox, as a recreation of their makeup look with almond-shaped eyes lifted at the outer corners to create a smoldering effect. It has since been transformed into a popular photo pose, where people deliberately pull their eyes back at the edges.

Of course, it didn’t originate with intents to imitate the specific Asian characteristic, but nonetheless, many see it as an act of cultural appropriation and ignorance towards past racism.

Some are taking the trend positively, commenting on how “being Asian now feels cool” or “more widely accepted.” Emma has fans defending her, responding to her haters by saying that they are simply using the opportunity to cancel her.

However, this doesn’t address the years of traumatizing memories some Asians have experienced, and any trend that makes people feel uncomfortable about their race or culture shouldn’t be promoted at all. People may see it as harmless because they’ve had the privilege of not having to deal with discrimination. This doesn’t make the feelings of Asians who are offended by it any less valid.

“I personally haven’t been bullied for my eyes, but it’s been mentioned and I just uncomfortably laugh it off,” sophomore Vivian Guo said. “The people who haven’t experienced it or don’t even try to see it from an Asian person’s point of view really shouldn’t have a say in what they can find offensive.”

Based on background and influences growing up, people are likely to have varying responses to the offensiveness of a beauty trend like this one.

However, when a community voices their discomfort and concerns about seeing cultural appropriation in the media, people need to listen.