A tutoring website is being accused of racism and sexism over an advertisement that plays off stereotypes and makes fun of an Asian woman’s accent.
Singapore-based Tutoroo, an online tutoring service that helps students connect with tutors, refuses to take down the ad, claiming it’s neither racist nor sexist.
The ad, titled “Getting the phone number of a Chinese Girl,” appeared on Twitter in January but has come under scrutiny since a user called it out last week.
“A British guy asks a Chinese girl for her number, here is how she answers,” the description says. In the video, a white man sees an Asian woman at a bar and is nervous about approaching her. As she is about to leave with her friend, he walks up to her and asks for her number.
The girl smiles and says, “Sex, sex, sex, free sex, tonight.”
The guy looks confused before she punches in her number on his phone: 666-3629.
The ad then shows a date where the British man is teaching the woman how to pronounce the numbers.
The ad both mocks the woman’s accent and plays on the historic fetishization of Asian women as most “sexually desirable,” especially by white men.
Journalist Yuen Chan shared a tweet last week stating they called out the ad but got a defensive response.
“We believe in making language learning fun, and funny,” a tweet from @ContactTutoroo said.
Others also called out the contact of the ad for misogyny and racism.
In a lengthy Twitter thread, Tutoroo stated critics were “overthinking the message we tried to convey here.”
“We believe that associating a language to a group of people, or to a country, is nearly a thing of the past,” the company said.
In response to a user’s comment about it being offensive, the company tweeted, “offence to who? To your lacking sense of humour? Definitely.”
In a statement to the Daily Dot, Tutoroo founder Nicolas Vanhove said the majority of the company’s staff are women who are from or live in Asia. (Vanhove is a white man from France.)
“Everyone in our team understood this was a joke way before it was released over a year ago,” Tutoroo said, adding he stands by his Twitter statement that came under scrutiny by “Twitter activists and journalists.”
Vanhove also pointed to the original Facebook ad, which had generally positive reviews. However, understanding racial nuance requires listening to the demographic you’re targeting with either a “joke” or an ad (in this case, both).
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