S1: I think anti-Blackness is something deeply rooted in the Asian-American community, particularly Asian-Americans who live in towns like these.
S2: Hi, I’m Rachel Hampton
S3: and I’m Madison Malone Kircher. You’re listening to I.C.. Why am I
S2: in case you missed it?
S3: Slate’s podcast about internet culture. We’re kicking off things today with a delightful question from listener Marina. I see. Why am I? Can you cover the good soup meme on TikTok? My older millennial brain is confused. Where did it come from? Why is it all over my for you page? And what does that even mean? I love this question as somebody who I I am, I am possibly one good soup joke away from being evicted from my apartment by my girlfriend because truly any liquid we have consumed in the past week, week and a half, I’ve just gone good to.
S2: I mean, I also think the origins of this meme squarely fit within your wheelhouse in that it is what I like to describe as a white woman culture. So Madison, you want to make this explanation of why?
S3: Oh oh no, I really don’t. I really don’t know. Because good soup. This TikTok audio was in fact brought to you by Lena Dunham. This. OK, so that is Adam Driver, in case you couldn’t couldn’t tell just from the dulcet tones alone, I think I’m probably on like an Adam Driver watch list somewhere. A story for another day. This audio is from an episode of I Believe, Season six of Girls in 2017. I think that’s the last season. None of the plot matters. Not even Adam Driver matters. All that matters is that this is a scene where a man is literally sitting in a diner eating some soup that he declares good at the clip. He throws up this like, very goofy, OK symbol. That’s how you know the soup. Good soup.
S2: So this is where this audio comes from. And on TikTok, the use of this audio started out very literally the first use, with the eternal caveat being that it is in fact, very hard to figure out anything chronological on TikTok because that’s not how the algorithm works. But the first use appears to be a clip from. August from Visions Vibranium pubes. I didn’t read that, I didn’t read that into
S3: my username until just now.
S2: Those visions vibranium pubes posted.
S3: Yes, say it again.
S2: They they posted it with the caption, When the soup is good, which.
S3: And that’s that’s it. It’s just the clip of Adam Driver eating the soup that is good and saying the soup is good.
S2: But since then, soup has come to mean so many more things like literally everything, quite literally any liquid. We’re not going to keep playing the audio because I have the kind of clink of the spoon against the bowl stuck in my head now as just the disjointed piece of audio, and I don’t want to do that to you. But some of the examples of TikTok under this audio, they mostly just feature people drinking some kind of liquid with the caps in on the screen. And so here’s a list of some of the captions someone said sucking the water out of my toothbrush when I was eight, which brought back an extremely visceral memory. I didn’t know I had
S3: someone throwing ashes into the ocean, someone stirring ice cream until it becomes,
S2: well, soup. My one of my personal favorites is when you’re crying alone in your room and a tear rolls in your mouth, which, yeah, that salt really is good soup.
S3: The thing is good soup has now extended beyond just liquids. I saw someone put their chinchilla in a pot and throw some dust on it as a little seasoning. Good soup. Yeah, we definitely talked about this before on the show, and I can never, ever remember the term. But what is like a tide pod, the tumbler term for foods you can’t actually eat?
S2: Oh, I think it’s just called the forbidden food.
S3: Good soup is now entering forbidden food territory. I would say
S2: it kind of is. It’s getting kind of dissociated from the actual thing it’s referring to, which is soup. There are a lot of TikToks under the audio of people just eating ramen, which that’s just objectively true. But my favorite ones are the kind of data. Is this meme where it’s referring to, I think someone was talking about, did you know that they kind of like clip airplanes down when they’re on the runway? Apparently they do. They were. What? Yeah. There’s like a little a little thing, a little line that they clipped. They cook the airplane to the runway, but apparently water pools under whatever they clip the plane to. So someone posted a video of when you have to clip the plane and it’s just this gross brackish water and they’re like good soup.
S3: I feel like we owe it to the IOC. Why am I guys to disclose that you and I can’t see each other right now because my Wi-Fi is out? We love the pandemic. We love to work from home. Rachel, mentally the difficulty. It just took me to conjure up the picture of a tarmac, a plane, a collapse, a puddle. I’m struggling.
S2: I’m very bad at describing things which are being upgraded.
S3: Having a plane like Pictionary with you?
S2: No, no, no. My parents hate me. No, my family hates me. Like I am. Just like, you know the thing with the thing and how it does the thing. Which brings me to my last favorite good soup TikTok, which is you’re either mentally stable or I’m good soup TikTok, which I don’t know if you could tell by this conversation where we’re at. But yeah, good soup. This. Well, now that, I suppose are empty, we’re joined at the dinner table by our colleague, Aaron Mak, who recently wrote a cover story for Slate on the Reddit forums, where a group known colloquially as Men’s Rights Asians or More Asians congregate.
S3: It’s decidedly not good soup in these forums. This is a story about weaponized ideology that is used to harass Asian women in ways that have very real and very scary consequences. It takes a lot of twists and turns from perhaps what you might imagine when we say the term red pill. But also it’s a story about an attempt to get more Asian men into porn. We’re going to get into all of that and more after the break. OK, and we are back after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, a Yale undergrad by the name of Eileen Huang wrote an open letter warning about, quote unquote rampant anti-Blackness in the Asian-American community that could bring violence against us all.
S1: I was just really driven to talk about a lot of what was happening in the Asian-American community. I think anti-Blackness is something that’s really deeply rooted in my community and in a lot of Chinese-American communities. But it’s also a subject that’s very taboo. So a lot of people tend not to talk about it or, you know, nobody likes to talk about how they’ve hurt other communities or their own flies. So it’s really not a conversation that really happens anywhere.
S3: What could have been met as a really important, crucial sentiment instead for Eileen meant she was harassed aggressively, frighteningly by a subset of men on the internet known as men’s rights.
S4: Asians Eileen was the target of a pretty high profile wave of attacks from Asians kind of near the start of this year, when the spike in anti-Asian violence kind of caught media attention. And a lot of Mak Asians thought that, you know, she was kind of complicit in the violence that was happening against Asians across the country because she had a reputation for talking about anti-Blackness within the Asian-American community. So she was someone who had firsthand experience with this kind of wave of harassment.
S2: That’s Aaron Mak, one of our colleagues and the author of A Huge Blockbuster Investigation The result of years embedded in the Subreddit called Asian Identity, which is also the unofficial hub for a group known as Men’s Rights. Asians. One thing that continued to come up during his reporting is the tie between this group and anti-Black racism.
S4: I think prior to this year, Men’s Rights Asians mostly focused on Asian women who are dating or have dated white men in the past. This year, they started focusing on black Asian relations, mostly because, as I said, there’s a spike in attacks against Asians across the country, and a lot of the videos that have gone viral from those attacks have happened to feature black perpetrators. Not to say that, you know, this is a mainly black phenomenon, and this is there’s no there’s very little proof that black people are primarily responsible for these attacks, but they have taken those very viral videos to kind of blame the black community for the violence that’s happening as Asians. And generally they’ve been kind of resentful of black people because, you know, progressives rightly focus on the black experience. Black people will face, like, you know, a lot more systemic racism than, you know, Asians or, you know, other other people. But they think that that is kind of unfair and that Asians should really be, you know, focused on among the progressive left.
S3: What exactly is the Subreddit our Asian identity? Where did it come from? You just got into a little bit about what the grievances of that group are, but so much of this is coming from Reddit. So I would love if you could talk a little bit about the community over there.
S4: Our Asian identity was a Subreddit founded in 2015. It’s kind of an outgrowth of a very notorious anti feminist men’s rights Subreddit called Ah, the red pill, which, as you probably know, was known for like rape apologia and just kind of general men’s rights, hardcore men’s rights activism. So some Asian members of that Subreddit kind of branched off to make their own series of subreddits focused on Asian men using the kind of red pill lens. And one of the future iterations of that kind of branching off is our Asian identity, and they’ve kind of grown in the last like five or six years by tens of thousands of members. And they’re now like this, you know, kind of unofficial hub of men’s rights Asians on the internet.
S2: Could you kind of explain what the difference is or if you think there is any difference between the kind of political ideology of the original kind of red pill incel forum and Asian identity? Like, do you see any kind of shades of variance between them?
S4: So they’ve made efforts to kind of distance themselves from the men’s rights movement at large? The manosphere, according to a researcher I talked to, it’s largely because Reddit has really cracked down on red pill forums like Are the red pill right now? Is quarantined, which means it’s harder to find in search results and everything. So they’ve kind of cleaned up their line quarantined. Yeah, they call the quarantine on Reddit. So, yes, very, very much so. Yeah, so basically, they try to clean up a lot of like the kind of outward signs of red pill ideology so they don’t use words like cock anymore. But I think, you know, a lot of people I talk to would argue that, you know, the roots of what they’re arguing about and what they think are very similar to thoughts that are ideologies that are the red pill is trying to disseminate into the broader culture. I don’t think they would say that they believed that they wouldn’t say that in such explicit terms. But a lot of what they argue and a lot of the harassment that has been connected to them is very along those lines.
S3: Erin, what would you say are the core tactics this community uses to spread its ideology?
S4: Yeah. So they actually have like a whole Wikipedia guidebook kind of thing set up on their Subreddit where they like kind of explain to you how to do this. So one of their favorite tactics is to like, create, as I said, kind of berner sock puppet Twitter accounts. So they explicitly tell users or members of the Subreddit to go into Google, find pictures of like decent looking Asian men. Put that on a Twitter profile and then just, you know, go ham on like harassing Asian woman. So like anonymity and like kind of these burner accounts are a big part of their kind of strategy because they think that it makes it seem like their ideology is more widespread than it actually is. And then another thing they like to do is, you know, kind of create these broader or sorry, they try to create these more established organizations like magazines or non-profits or things like that that try to, you know, lend the area of legitimacy to the kind of movement they’re trying to to launch into the broader mainstream.
S3: I love the specificity of like, go into Google images and find a picture of an Asian man to be, but make sure he’s good looking. That’s for.
S4: Well, I like that they specifically say decent looking. So I think the idea is like they can’t be unrealistically good looking. It’s like this one needs to look like like an actual Asian man that could exist.
S3: Aaron, was there any moment in this reporting as you’re sitting on your computer, your phone, scrolling through Reddit doing this research, that sort of was an aha moment like the light bulb went off.
S4: Yeah. So at one point they tried to crowdfund a porn shoot featuring Asian men. The idea is that if we can get more Asian male porn actors kind of in the industry, this will spread this kind of image of Asian male virility and masculinity. And I think like, yeah, on that on its face, that’s like not a horrible idea. Like, yeah, they’re great if more Asian men in porn. But the way they went about it really kind of hampered the reach that that initiative could have had. So basically what they did was they tried to. The plot of their porn shoot was to have an Asian man have sex with a white Twitch streamer who’s trying to get back out racists online who are like kind of blaming her or kind of vilifying her for dating an Asian man. And that kind of that storyline is a very thinly veiled adaptation of something that’s actually happened to a white Twitch streamer who has faced, you know, awful harassment from trolls for dating an Asian man. And I think that kind of myopia, they just don’t realize how this is going to affect the woman that they’re portraying women in general kind of really kind of hampers their their kind of initiatives to kind of, you know, make Asian men be seen as more kind of sexual. So that kind of just made me realize that some of the things that they’re kind of grasping at or some of the problems are realizing in American culture are real. But just their singular focus on those issues is really problematic and not really getting them any allies.
S3: Basically, for all that, this is a story about a group engaging in online harassment, which we’ve established. We hate that. Don’t do that. The core issue of this group, though, is the, you know, racism and stereotyping that Asian people face in American culture, and that that’s a fucking real issue. How do you think this group’s ideology got so warped?
S4: Yeah, I, you know, a lot of the the people I spoke to for this piece, people who have been harassed, Asian women who have been harassed. They were very intent on saying like, these issues are real, at least to the extent that the Asian culture tends to do sexualized Asian men and portrayed them as timid. Generally, Asians are disadvantaged in a variety of aspects and sectors in American society. But the way that they’re responding to it by taking it out on the. Asian woman is unproductive, not healthy, and it causes a lot more pain. So I think I walked away from this piece not thinking that these people are like irredeemable in some way. In fact, like towards the end of the piece I talk about there are some discussions and like kind of Asian Facebook groups about people who had previously kind of ascribed to the men’s rights Asians ideology most in their teen years and then realize that, you know, this is really not helping anything. You know, maybe seeking solidarity with Asian women and other people of color would be the way to go. So I think that, you know, they are responding to, you know, real kind of racial trauma and racial issues in this country. They’re just the way that they’re going about it is, you know, just really harmful.
S2: I’m curious as your research in the story, as an Asian man yourself, if you found yourself sympathizing with any of this.
S4: So I would say that I understand, you know, that feeling of feeling kind of undesirable and kind of sexualized. I think that if I had found this forum when I was a teenager like that very well could have been something I would have been kind of I was curious about, if not kind of seduced by. I think that if you tend to spend a lot of time in these spaces, it just becomes I can see how that could happen to someone that they definitely take it to an extent that is like just a way out of bounds and is extremely harmful to people around them,
S2: something that’s always interested me. And that always interests me. When I heard you were doing this story, is that the centering of lack of romantic prospects in this kind of world presents a kind of interesting parallel between the online experience of dating as an Asian man and dating as a black woman. I think the statistics on dating apps are actually fairly similar in terms of like the hierarchy of desire. And I’m curious as to whether that’s ever acknowledged in these spaces and if it’s not, whether you think that kind of solidarity building might create a kind of healthier space.
S4: So interestingly enough, I think a few years ago there was kind of this trend pushing the Asian men to date black women. They kind of thought that this would be like sort of solution to a lot of, you know, problems that they were facing, which I don’t I don’t think I have like a problem with that. That seems like a fairly like, OK, direction to try to take things. I think they also, though more destructively tend to say like, oh, like, there’s a lot of discussion about how like black women are like kind of, you know, seen as, you know, less desirable the same way as Asian men. So why can’t we talk about this in the same way? And I think what they’re kind of forgetting is that the way that they talk about a kind of Liisa harassment and it’s just been kind of associated with harassment, you know, for the past. I mean, at least online the past few years, but it’s been going on for decades from what I’ve heard from people I’ve talked to.
S3: I actually want to read a section of your piece, Erin. The surge of violent attacks against Asian-Americans has over the course of the pandemic, unexpectedly knitted together two different threads of what Asians hate about progressivism. Empowerment of Asian women. And an emphasis on the experience of black people braided together. It’s a kind of warped photo negative intersectionality. I love that analogy. Could you talk a little bit about that inverse intersectionality? I know we’ve been we’ve been sort of speaking of it already, but that that section just really struck me.
S4: Yeah. So I think one of the underlying ideas of the Subreddit is that Asian men in particular are like one of the most oppressed group of people in America. And they see this because they think they are oppressed racially on the right. They see that, you know, white people, they see it as like being on the top and then they see on the left. They think that black people are on the top of a racial hierarchy, so they think that Asians get left out kind of in that sphere. And then they think that in terms of gender, they also left out because they think that the left focuses too much on, you know, addressing kind of, you know, centuries of sexism by, you know, trying to promote women in this world. So they think Asian men in particular, are being left out because of these kind of two trends and they kind of end up taking that out. Confusingly, mostly on Asian woman, rather than like trying to confront like black people about it. But yeah, that’s kind of where that kind of inverse intersectionality comes from.
S2: So as a person of color, so often when we write about our communities in not the most positive way, we often get feedback along the lines of this. This is what you’re focusing on. Why couldn’t you do something else? Just because I mean, there’s so little representation. And I’m curious as to whether you’ve gotten any feedback. Like that,
S4: I would say. Yeah, I mean, you know, the you know, the idea that we need to address white supremacy first and then kind of address the misogyny within our community, I think that’s a false choice. I think we can do both at the same time. And I also think that, you know, I do take this very light. I do think about this very carefully. Like, I’m not like, you know, running a bunch of pieces about how like Asians are bad all the time. But I think in this very specific case, it was important enough because so many Asian-American women have been experiencing this for so long. It kind of merited a deeper look at what was going on. So it’s not something I take lightly, but I think in this case, it really didn’t merit it.
S2: What’s something about this story that you think everyone gets wrong?
S4: I’d have to say that it tends to get portrayed as like this kind of very small, insular kind of Subreddit that, you know, it’s problematic, but they kind of keep to themselves, you know, it’s it’s like not really a big deal. Why focus on this? And I think if that was the case, I wouldn’t have written this. But I think because they so often harass Asian women and they take their kind of really toxic ideology beyond the bounds of the Subreddit. That’s why it’s important. I think after this piece came out, you know, a lot of kind of acquaintances that I’ve had kind of just working in media. Asian woman, just so many of them have said that they’ve had and run-ins with them, too. Like that, I didn’t even realize. I mean, I’ve been working on this for like two years, and I didn’t even realize, I think the extent of how many people they’ve kind of gone after. So, yeah, I guess I would say it’s not really just like this, some kind of weird subculture on the internet. It’s like, I mean, it is this weird subculture, but it’s it’s a way bigger than that.
S3: What is something you hope that people take away from this piece that the broader internet should learn from, from discovering this community and getting to know them better?
S4: I think like the best reactions I’ve seen to this piece are Asian women online saying like, you know, this is what it means to be an Asian woman online like this is something that we had to deal with for a long time. And I think it doesn’t get talked enough about. And I think just realizing that this is like something that you’re kind of swimming upstream against as an Asian woman is pretty important to realize.
S3: Erin, thank you so much for talking with us today and for writing this piece, which we encourage everybody listening to go read. We’ll make sure it’s in the show notes.
S4: Awesome. Thanks so much for having me.
S3: Once again, that was Aaron Mak. He’s a staff writer here at Slate, who focuses on technology, and you can read his incredible story about men’s rights Asians on Slate right now.
S2: All right, that is a show we will be back in your feed on Wednesday, so definitely subscribe. Once again, it’s free 99 and the best way to never miss an episode. In the meantime, please continue to spread the word of the IOC. Why am I gospel? You can always follow us on Twitter at ISYOU. Why am I underscore pod, which is also where you can DM us your questions and also we can dilemmas your meme. And as always, you can drop us questions. Notes loves praise at ASU. I’m at Slate.com. Who knows you might have you on the show.
S3: I see Why Am I is produced by Daniel Schroeder, our supervising producer is Derek John Forrest Wickman and Alexa Frank are our editors. And Alicia Montgomery is executive producer of Slate Podcasts. See you online
S2: or in a Subreddit.
S3: I go first on Wednesdays.
S2: I thought you went first.
S3: Why get the tattoo, Rachel?
S2: No, you go first Saturday. I so. A fun.