Meeting Yan Yan: How the Objectification of Asian Women and Hate Go Hand In Hand

This incident happened about ten years ago.

One of my favorite places to go in Chicago is the Richland Food Court. It’s a Singapore style food court in the bottom of an office building in Chinatown. It’s basically an incubator for restaurants. Cheap eats, great food. I hold an annual event at C2E2 (the Chicago Comic Con & Expo) there. It’s often referred to as a “hidden gem” by restaurant goers.

It is also often full of Asian college students and the office building upstairs once housed Chicago’s headquarters for K-Pop. More than a few non-Asians can often be seen walking in confusion as they try to make sense of the food court where businesses sometimes don’t even have names in English.

Every year my event brings 30–50 people to said basement there’s a liquor store two doors down. For convention life it’s the best food and drinks you can actually afford the entire show.

One summer night my ex-husband and I were having dinner there when a Chinese woman walked up to us and gestured to borrow a phone. She appeared to be in her late 20s and spoke very little English. We are the only white people having dinner down there. She’s extremely deliberately pantomime dialing a number over and over again. I asked one of the employees for help translating.

This woman was speaking Cantonese and most of the people there spoke Mandarin.

She hands me the phone when a voice answers and its a coal miner in West Virginia who has no idea why she called. I gesture the numbers wrong she goes back to it. Finally another voice comes through.

She’s dressed clean. Physically looks OK.

“Oh my God, where is she? Is she OK?”

Her name was Yan Yan.

She starts speaking a mix of Cantonese and English to the person on the phone. The phone is handed back to me.

The friend on the other end asks me to get her to the cops. He relays the story: Two days earlier she was in New York and kidnapped into a slavery ring with an offer of a restaurant job from a friend of a friend and was moved immediately to Chicago. She has been raped.

She escaped. I assure him that we would help her. He tells Yan Yan what’s going on and that we are OK.

We walk her to the police station which thankfully was a few blocks. As the night air blows back her hair I can see the side of her face is covered in bruises.

The police call in the officer who speaks Cantonese who physically looked like the stereotypical Chicago cop. That fluency impressed me.

They tell us it’s OK to go and they will make sure she gets home.

Staring at us the entire time through a brown plastic bag was the lenticular print we had just bought. It depicted an Asian girl in a bikini lenticular that transformed into a tiger when you walked by it. We’d bought it as kitschy art, something for a man cave blowing off the crude objectification. We couldn’t blow off the woman we had brought to the police station. Would she not have had this experience if she wasn’t Asian? Just one more unanswerable question to add to the pile of the entire evening.

Needless to say that was trashed and so were both of us for a good full day drunk after. Asian objectification and Asian hate go hand in hand.

The story was previously published as part of a larger published story. Full link at

Lys Fulda is a pop culture publicist who’s been running Sphinx PR for 20 years. A DC metro transplant to the third coast, she’s known for her authenticity and transparency as well as the Adventures of the Danger Twins: her two cats Lady Batman and Sir Cupcake.

Photo by Henry and Co.




Publicist, storyteller, geek sherpa, dictator at Sphinx PR

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Lys Fulda

Lys Fulda

Publicist, storyteller, geek sherpa, dictator at Sphinx PR

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