Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Backlash over ‘racist’ theme of new Sydney bar
A NEW Sydney bar and restaurant has come under fire for its “sexy pre-war Shanghai” theme as social media users flood the business’ Facebook page with accusations of racism and cultural appropriation.
Suey Sins, a new bar and restaurant in Surry Hills, only opened its doors for business this morning but has already received a barrage of criticism over its name, traditional qipaos as staff uniforms, and theme.
The critics claimed the venue was glamorising the dark reality of Chinese culture during the British colonial era and “continuing negative colonial ideologies”, and “racist fetishisation of a marginalised women [sic] for a dollar”.
“Mind explaining the brilliant idea of blending “sins” and “chop suey” to come up with the name?” one person asked. “Mind explaining this incredibly obvious perpetuation of the longstanding stereotype of Asian women as exotic sex toys?”
Another social media user wrote: “The creepy concept of this bar makes my skin crawl. “The gross cultural appropriation is abhorrent and they also refer to “geisha chicks” in at least one of their posts while dressing their white staff in qipao as though Asian cultures are all the same. Ugh.”
In a press release, venue owner Eli West said the bar was named after “a famous Shanghai call girl ... a quintessential icon of the ‘Shanghai Naughties’.”
“I have spent most of my life travelling in Indonesia, and have some Chinese heritage and I like to think I may be related to a character very similar to Suey Sin,” Ms West wrote.
“I love the idea of this seductive, alluring woman who had old world charm and poise but also knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it. I see a bit of that in myself and the young women who will drink here.”
News.com.au understands Suey Sin was a Chinese woman working in the film industry — and not as a call girl or pre-war — in Los Angeles in the 1920s.
The venue also features a collage of Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong who, during her illustrious career, was passed over for a role playing a Chinese woman by MGM in 1935 in favour of German actress, Luise Rainer, according to concreteplayground.com.
Venue management responded to the backlash on their Facebook page but has not yet responded to requests for comment from media.
“We acknowledge and understand that there has been some criticism surround Suey Sins,” the statement read.
“It has never been our intention to offend. We simply sought to create a venue that focuses on delicious Asian fusion inspired street style food and creative beverages for all to enjoy.”