By Alice Dempster
A woman who started a petition asking a new Adelaide pub to change its “derogatory name” says the abuse she’s since received online shows “there is a very real level of racial hostility in Australia”.
Alice Whittingon started the Change.org petition last week, saying the name Hotel Longtime mocked the sexual exploitation of Asian women and was offensive.
Afterwards, she was hit with a barrage of insults on Facebook and Twitter, some including racial slurs and swear words.
“The overwhelming urge to ensure other cultures ‘assimilate’ is to the detriment of different voices being heard,” she told the ABC.
“There is an expectation to sit down and shut up, rather than contribute worldly views.”
Ms Whittington plans to give the petition, which now has more than 1,000 signatures, to the owners of Hotel Longtime next week.
“I just hope that this public conversation empowers other voices of the Asian diaspora to share their stories and opinions, so that we can all better identify and dismantle harmful stereotypes,” she said.
“I hope to deliver the petition soon with the opportunity for them to respond directly to me, but also to the community — as they deserve a response to the petition too.”
Asian gastropub Hotel Longtime opened earlier this month.
Ms Whittington said the name references a scene from Vietnam War movie Full Metal Jacket, in which a Vietnamese prostitute tells American soldiers “Me so horny, me love you long time”.
“By far the most common context in which we hear ‘Me love you long time’ and ‘Me so horny’ is as a slur, or a litmus test to continue saying something even more sexually demeaning,” she said.
“It’s important because a phrase like this is a gateway stereotype that leads to graver long-term consequences, including harassment, abuse, discrimination and an assumption of sexual subservience.”
ABC Adelaide contacted the owners, Alex Fahey and Tin Chu, but they declined to comment.
Ms Chu previously told Newscorp she was a “proud Asian woman who has worked hard to build [her] business” and that the name was not intended to “insult or offend” women.
Criticism of ‘business ideas’
Ms Whittington criticised the owners’ reasoning, claiming it was inconsistent and “weak”.
She said it was “difficult to understand how the combination of [an] Asian theme, ‘Hotel Longtime’, [a] ping pong ‘gentleman’s lodge’, ‘madames’ and neon signs with love hearts and phrases such as ‘long time good time’ never invoked the concept of sexualising Asian women”.
“Whether one of the owners is Asian or not does not make perpetuating this stereotype okay, unless they are reclaiming it to empower the community. As they deny any association to the stereotype, we know that this is not their intention,” she said.
“Overall, it speaks to a greater responsibility to think of your Asian community and to conduct due diligence on your business ideas before you proceed.”
The issue has been amplified online, with celebrity chef and columnist Adam Liaw among those to weigh in.
“Perhaps change the name of your racist-abuse themed pub,” he tweeted.
“This is once again the problem with trying to define racism by identifying racists. Racism has very little to do with ‘racists’,” he wrote in an earlier tweet.
“The most damaging forms of racism are systemic, and we shouldn’t try to attribute them to a person or a group.
“Is the owner of the pub a racist? No. Is the name of the pub a example of racism? Definitely.”
Before launching the petition, Ms Whittington left posts on the hotel’s Facebook page asking questions about the name, pointing out stereotype references, and requesting a review, but did not hear back from Mr Fahey or Ms Chu.