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The “Fox Eye” Challenge Trend: Anti-Racism Work, Platform Affordances, and the Vernacular of Gesticular Activism on TikTok

journal contribution
posted on 2023-03-13, 02:06 authored by Andy ZhaoAndy Zhao, Crystal Abidin
This article takes the “Fox Eye” challenge that trended on social media in 2020 as a case study in anti-racism activism by (East) Asian users on TikTok. The “Fox Eye” challenge was a trend in which both celebrities and ordinary users—often predominantly White women—posted photos and short videos on how to wear specific styles of make-up to achieve almond-shaped eyes or “fox eyes.” This was often accompanied with a “migraine pose” where a user pushes their index and middle fingers up against the temples on both sides of their head to “lift” the corners of their upper eyelids, and was colloquially referred to as a “Chinese” or “oriental” look. In response, (East) Asian users on TikTok called out the historically racist undertones of this seemingly superficial trend, using the features and affordances of the platform to produce everyday, nonheroic forms of digital activism, as an act of civic engagement and activist campaigning. Building on the scholarship on digital activism, we consider how TikTok has emerged as an alternative activist space for young people, specifically as it services users as a video production and sharing app. We specifically focus on the audiovisual aesthetics of the TikTok narratives in the counter-Fox Eye trend campaign, wherein the strategic and templatable deployments of vernacular TikTok aesthetics—curated image selections, creative uses of sound and audio memes, specific renders of visual filters and effects—play a central role in giving meaning to the online activist narratives created. This has given rise to platformed activism in the TikTok vernacular that we term “gesticular activism,” which focuses on the generation of visibility and virality as awareness-building and consciousness-raising tactics.



Social Media + Society














SAGE Publications