For some reason certain Olympic teams have seen fit to act in “schoolboy” fashion by making “slit-eyes.”
“Spain’s basketball team were the first [at least the first to be photographed] to spark controversy at the start of the games when a photograph showing all 15 members pulling the skin around their eyes ran in a Spanish sports newspaper… Several days later another photograph emerged of fellow Olympic athletics, this time tennis players, making the same gesture apparently during an earlier sporting event in China … And …members of the Argentine women’s football team were the latest to be criticised after being photographed making the same crude impression of their Chinese counterparts” (from link above).
To me this is just crude immature posturing. Certainly it’s insensitive. But I’m wondering, what if Chinese players were photographed making their eyes “rounded” by pulling the skin vertically? How would that be taken? I’ve never seen this. Has anyone? Would a Westerner be offended? Would it be automatically construed as a sign of Chinese racism? The ony difference I can think of is that Western people have had a history of blatant prejudice agaisnt the Chinese, and therefore such a gesture (from Europeans) sets the tone of our own pre-judgment.
Anyway here are related questions that I believe are unanswerable: if we pinch our eyes shut are we insulting dead people? If we cover our eyes with dark glasses are we mocking the blind (especially while holding a cane)? If we close one eye are we ridiculing, er…one-eyed people? If we fill our eyes with tears are we mocking the sad? If we feign crow’s feet around our eyes are we scorning those who are middle-aging?
Unfortunately intent is everything, but intent can rarely be known.