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"I wasn't thinking about it, but now I am."Dating sites and services tailored to race, religion, and ethnicity are not new, of course.JDate, the matchmaking site for Jewish singles, has been around since 1997.In April, they closed four million dollars in Series A funding.Tokioka, a serial entrepreneur in her late thirties, started the company after she found that major dating sites like E-Harmony and Match were limited when it came to Asian candidates."Absolutely," I nodded in agreement—Asian women are —before catching myself.How the hell are your critics supposed to find your rebuttal when it exists solely offline, in a single location, amid the gridlock of L. My bafflement only increased: the app was clearly attempting to reach , but whom?Over the years, a dating landscape with its own peculiarities and logic began to emerge within the walls of the East Meets East app.
I'd originally asked for a visit, because I wanted to know who was behind the "That's not Racist" billboard and why, but I quickly learned that the billboard was just one corner of a peculiar and inscrutable (at least to me) branding universe. I asked East Meet East's CEO Mariko Tokioka about the "That's not Racist" billboard and she and Kenji Yamazaki, her cofounder, explained that it was meant to be a response to their online critics, whom they described as non-Asians who call the app racist, for catering exclusively to Asians.
For example, women on the app were more particular than their masculine counterparts when it came to level of education and type of employment.
Cities with small populations of Asian-Americans, such as Denver, had much higher match-rates than big cities with many Asian-Americans, such as New York and L. (likely because there are fewer users, and thus fewer choices).
From their tidy desks, the team, almost all of whom identify as Asian-American, had long been deploying social media memes that riff off of a range of Asian-American stereotypes. When I showed that last image to an informal range of non-Asian-American friends, many of them mirrored my shock and bemusement. Yamazaki added that the feedback was especially aggressive when Asian women were featured in their advertisements.
An attractive East Asian woman in a bikini poses in front of a palm tree: "When you meet an attractive Asian girl, no ' Sorry I only date white guys.' " A selfie of another smiling East Asian woman in front of a lake is splashed with the words "Just like Dim Sum...choose what you like." A dapper Asian man leans into a wall, with the words "Asian Dating app? When I showed my Asian-American pals, a brief pause of incredulousness was sometimes followed by a kind of ebullient recognition of the absurdity. "Like we have to share Asian women as if they are property," Yamazaki said, rolling his eyes.