By Dhanika Pineda
American musician Doja Cat, known for her multi-genre pop-rap sound, is facing controversy in the Filipino community after inaccurately describing balut.
She referenced the Filipino street food and delicacy in her most recent song.
“I named the song Balut because it signifies a bird that’s being eaten alive. It’s a metaphor for Twitter stans and the death of Twitter toxicity. The beginning of ‘X’ and the end of ‘tweets,’” the artist wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday, Sept. 17. The song was released two days prior to her explanation on Sept. 15.
The inaccuracy in her statement stems from the implication that balut is a dish eaten alive. Balut is actually a fertilized duck egg, typically incubated for about 18 days according to the Journal of Ethnic Foods. It has been fully steamed before consumption. There are no live birds incorporated or eaten in the delicacy.
Many members of the Filipino community have reacted negatively to the artist’s misinterpretation of the dish. Many called out the falsehood of her explanation as cultural appropriation.
A popular Filipino artist and author shared that sentiment, adding that this is an instance of “Pinoy baiting.”
“Using a culturally significant term without proper context incorrectly trivializes and commodifies our culture,” Kristian Kabuay told AsAmNews. “This can also be perceived as ‘Pinoy baiting,’ which is exploiting Filipino elements for gain without genuine engagement or representation. ‘I love your food and beaches, but no comments on your everyday struggles.’”
Social media users explain that the issue is not simply Doja Cat’s inaccurate explanation of the dish, but rather the negative connotation that her explanation gives to balut, and further extends to Filipino cuisine and culture.
One user on X wrote that “My problem with Doja Cat not only appropriating the Balut but also deliberately misinterpreting its meaning is that it’s taking a much loved Filipino delicacy and effectively staining the Filipino food with a bad image. It’s very American of her. Appropriation AND exotification.”
Others have further argued that Doja Cat’s false definition of the dish stigmatizes and exotifies balut, tainting the image of Filipino cuisine for Doja Cat fans who are unfamiliar with such cultural foods.
“Using such a specific cultural term in a negative and exaggerated context can be harmful to an audience who may not know the significance of ‘balut’ in Asian communities,” said writer and Filipina activist Camelia Heins to AsAmNews.
“For many of Doja Cat’s listeners, this could be their first time hearing the word and with her interpretation in mind, the term is immediately stigmatized, furthering the already negative cloud of stigma around ‘balut’ as an ‘exotic’ food,” she said.
Yet some Filipino social media users have defended Doja Cat’s mistake, taking pride in the idea that the cultural dish is gaining such large recognition through the artist’s platform.
“Filipinos need to stop being over-sensitive about this. As a Filipino, I’m honored that an artist with the reach she has, has even heard of balut. Despite her definition being misguided, it certainly is not meant as a slight to our people. Besides, it’s just a song title. Many other Americans have said MUCH worse about the Filipino delicacy. Frankly, some Fil-Am folks as well. Let’s not pretend balut is the crème de la crème of our cuisine. It’s no kare kare, that’s for sure,” one user commented on an Instagram post about the artists’ explanation. The user did not respond to a request for comment.
This perspective, however, appears to be the minority, with the majority of Filipinos, including those who are Doja Cat fans, disappointed in the artist for her misguided cultural commentary.
“It could absolutely be called cultural appropriation because it does fall under the definition AND she’ll be making money off this misaligned use of song title. Outside of the Philippines, balut is already seen as controversial and used to shock people, mainly Westerners, and it can add to the collective negative views about Filipino culture,” Chase Nick, a Filipino Doja Cat fan told AsAmNews. “Filipino culture isn’t a new thing, especially in terms of our cuisine, so being impressed that she knows about balut falls flat when her use of it is inaccurate. Being impressed gives ‘pick me’ energy. Frankly, she fell short with this one.”
Representatives for Doja Cat did not respond to AsAmNews’ requests for comment.
Kabuay further explained that the implications of Doja Cat’s words represent a larger problem.
“While it’s easy to go after Doja Cat, given her in-your-face presence in pop culture, this moment should also prompt us to examine our own relationship with our culture and how we represent or misrepresent it in various contexts,” he said.
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