Indonesian /C/h/i/n/e/s/e/ schoolgirl flips off old begging woman

Dian Agung Nugroho's photo "F*** You (What's on her mind ?)" captures a Chinese Indonesian schoolgirl flipping off an old Chinese Indonesian beggar lady. The title really asks the important question -- what does this little girl know, and what has she been told, that has led her to this pass? F*** You (What's on her mind ?) (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


  1. Please school me– does this gesture mean the same in China as it does in the USA and other western countries?? I was under the impression that this was not necessarily offensive (or AS offensive) in China, and that they have their own obscene gestures.

    I am sure many more will chime in with a similar take on this photo.

    After me, the deluge.

  2. Rebellious children can be found in any society. Even a totalitarian one. May she grow up to regret her action of that day and become the person who frees(sp) China from its shackles.

  3. I’ve been studying in Beijing for a few months now and I can tell you that, though the Chinese like to call themselves socialists, they have a deep-seated capitalist mindset. They have little to no respect for people who can’t rely on their own abilities to make it in life.

    @3, yeah middle finger means fuck you (操你)in China , too. I use it on a day to day basis when I bike around.

  4. I still wouldn’t be ready to rule out the possibility that the homeless woman could have been disrespectful to the girl. Granted it may not have deserved the response the girl gave, but if the homeless in china are just as… “pleasant” as some of the ones i’ve encountered in NY, well…

  5. let me clarify that 操你 is only the pronunciation for “fuck you” in mandarin (pretty much), Microsoft’s IME doesn’t have the right one.

  6. This is taken in Indonesia, noting the school uniforms in that country. I happen to spend some time there a few years ago. Both the kid and the old lady are NOT Chinese. NOT all Asian “looking” folks are Chinese. Regardless, its quite appalling to see this image.

  7. I was a child of about nine when I first flew “the bird”.
    I knew that it was big and definitely bad.
    But like handling anything for the first time it was awkward.
    I stood on the bridge over Ralston Creek and fired away.
    at the water rolling underneath.
    It was just a practice run really.
    What did I know?
    I love it to this day,
    I still use it on occasion.
    It’s a good one.

  8. The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for
    authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place
    of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their
    households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They
    contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties
    at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.


  9. I am not entirely convinced she isn’t flipping off the photographer, and it just came out looking like it was directed at the woman begging on the street.

  10. Traveling abroad for the first time this summer I was in Beijing, and I began dating a Chinese student. What comes to mind when I see this post is the conviction and quickness with which she told me, when I explained how I felt obligated to give to beggars, is that ‘most of the men pretend to be poor so they can use the money to buy prostitutes.’

    Where exactly this line of reasoning came from I can’t say, but it was the first thing she said and she made the claim without a hint of uncertainty.

  11. Please change the title of this picture/blog. This picture is taken in Bandung, Indonesia. If you read the photographer’s About me, this is where she is. Chinese homeless women never wear dresses like those shown on the picture. Please don’t mislead your readers. Thank you.

  12. She’s a child. Children can be very cruel. You think stuff like that doesn’t happen in America? Teenagers in America have recently taken to beating homeless people to death. This isn’t a “because it’s in China” or even a “because she’s a child” issue. This is just the way human beings are.

  13. The gesture has nowhere near the offensive meaning in Asia that it does in the US. I have seen Japanese shows where adults and children flash the bird together. One reason it is considered obscene here is that it’s linked to the word “fuck”. The word “fuck” is a baaad word here but there it’s just a word without the heavy baggage of being obscene. In fact in many Asian languages there are no swear words. I think it’s really a Christian “blasphemous” mindset that labels words “bad” or “dirty”. Like Frank Zappa said, “dirty is a hygienic term”, risque might be a better description.

    People need to realize that applying their culture’s interpretation to another one is very misguided. Once something from one culture is appropriated by another it loses much of the original meaning and intention. Just look at all the “Engrish” t-shirts in Japan.

    “Besides, westerners use the word fuck and flip the bird on a daily basis so it can’t be that bad”, might be their thinking. That said, she could forego a few meals and sit on the corner depending on the kind mercies of strangers to rid her of the disrespectful attitude towards the poor.

  14. she is flipping off the photographer. she might just be glancing at the old lady as her friend is making her turn around.

  15. “Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator.”


  16. “Heart transplantee visits her old heart in a museum – Boing BoingHeart transplantee visits her old heart in a museum. Posted by Cory Doctorow, September 25, 2008 7:35 PM | permalink. Rick sez, “Heart transplant recipient …”

  17. The photographer is showing disrespect by taking the beggar’s picture.
    Asians loathe being photographed without permission.
    So. . .f**k you.

  18. And then the old lady stood up and shouted “ARE YOU ASKING FOR A CHALLLEEEENNNNGGGGEEEE?!?!?!” You know what happened next.

  19. looks like the old lady dissed on the fact that she wasn’t wearing her ‘chuck’s’ and like the little girl was all like “oh yeah?!” and the old lady was all like ” bitch, you aisn’t alla daat!” and the lil girl was all like “yo, granny! don’t you get all up inna my grizz-ill!” and the the old lady was like” her ya go, girly, now you’ns kin have a pot to pizz in! hayawk hawyawk!”and so the little girl went all “oh no you di-int!” and flipped that old bitch da bird.

  20. wow, my comment was chopped in twain. i swear it was much funnier. i swears it! where did it go? i feel so lost without it.

  21. Ah, I get it now, Cory posted it only for someone to pull it after discovering it had already been posted on the 4th of September…

    Freaked me out a bit, perhaps because Papworth holds the last substantial uncremated bits of my dad…

  22. Also: Japanese sign language – that’s the sign for mountain, and with a very slight movement (that we may not see here) it’s the sign for good morning.

    It’s possible (not probable, mind you) that she’s saying good morning to the beggar lady in sign language.

  23. @23
    I don’t know about Japanese, but Chinese definitely has monosyllabic and compound swear words. The word for fuck is the character to enter,入,written over the character for meat, 肉。Also 母狗, literally female dog, has the same connotation as in English. 王八蛋 means bastard, literally son of a turtle (because they don’t know who their fathers are). These words all have very harsh definitions and would not be used in polite conversation.

    Also, I think previous posters are right about this not being China. At the risk of making a generalization, I have never seen a Chinese girl that resembles this one.

  24. @ETI #29 I thought my sister and I were the only ones who remembered that.

    As far as the finger, I’ve never seen a kid so young handing it out like that. Perhaps she needs more home training on how to act in public.

  25. Is it just me? But I think the girl is flipping the photog. The way the the angle of the girl’s arm and the pattern of the sidewalk makes me see that she intended it for the lens not the old woman. And also the girl’s line of sight is to woman but her friend is pulling her neck around with her hand.

  26. “I gotta wear this outfit and march in a line, you’re just sitting there”

    Wait, this isn’t a Fark caption contest?

  27. I would like to agree with all the commentators who already pointed out that the girl is NOT flipping off the old lady. If she was her arm would be more to the side. She is clearly directing her action either at the photographer, or someone off camera to the right of the photographer. In either case, it is NOT the woman on the sidewalk next to her.

  28. I’m from China.

    Whatever this photo shows, it’s not in China. Because Chinese woman don’t dress like that begging woman. That’s not even our clothing style.

  29. As it’s already been established that this is not China, and as Mousewrites @#33 has basically the same point, perhaps this is irrelevant; but my understanding is that in Chinese sign language this is the gesture for ‘wheelchair.’ I don’t imagine this is what the girl is saying, but it does further illustrate that we may be taking this grossly out of context.

  30. #41 oasisfl, I’m not surprised to hear old ladies in China do not dress like this. :-) The lady is wearing a sarong. She has another sarong draped across her shoulders and one more lying on top of the bag. This kind of clothing is quite common in this area, amongst the older people, especially in the rural areas. (I’m in Malaysia, next door to Indonesia). My grandmother used to dress like this. The school uniform is Indonesian (it’s blue in Malaysia).

    Yes, (#3 ill lich), the gesture has the same meaning here as it does in western countries. If her mother saw what she’s doing …

  31. #16 moperandi, I’ve never heard anything about men begging for money to pay prostitutes, but ever since I was little, I’ve often heard of rumours that some beggars were rich and drive luxury cars and live in large homes in their “off hours”. I’m not sure this is true or not, but it’s possible, if the beggar is in a high traffic area.

  32. Sorry for “broken” english. I’m indonesian, i can’t what say what happened here but i can give another perspective. There is a lot people in indonesia to make beggar become profesional job. They even richer than even the one to give money to. This enterprises involved whole family even a whole village. They are even news segment on this on indonesian news television. What i really see in the picture is the girl mocking the “beggar” which is not serious enough to look like an actual beggar. And alas, by this time of the month ( idul fitri, islam holiday), suddenly whole city full of them.

  33. Tht ndnsn grl pprs t b flppng ff th phtgrphr. Yr prjdc gnst Chn s nt cl, BngBng.

    That Indonesian girl appears to be flipping off the photographer. Yr prjdc gnst Chn s nt cl, BoingBoing.

  34. Something seemed odd about the photo if it was taken in China. In Beijing and Shanghai, the beggars quite literally prostrate themselves on the ground, face down, and hold their bowl out with an outstretched hand.

    Side not: there seem to be more beggars per capita in San Francisco than in Shanghai.

  35. Also to anyone saying that the image is taken out of context. Please follow the link and read the photographers thoughts. It’s portrayed in the correct context even if it is the wrong region.

  36. Wynnstate, just in case you want to copy this to use it later: 肏 。

    On the subject of people flipping the bird in photos, I see it so often in photos of Americans these days that it seems to have lost all offense. It’s now seems only about as “badass” as the east Asian victory sign/cute sign when taking photos.

  37. Just an FYI to add to what it might mean in other languages or sign language; in Japanese sign language it means “brother”. If it’s held up high it’s “older brother” and if it’s held low it’s “younger brother”. But, most people don’t know that unless they’ve learned Japanese sign language, so yea…

    It also does look like the girl is aiming her finger more at someone off to the side of the poor woman, but I can’t be sure. Her facial expression also doesn’t seem to be as menacing as it might be if it was directed at the woman, unless she was just doing it “for fun” instead of an actual insult.

  38. that is not in China,
    it’s in Indonesia, my own country,
    backed by the source site, it was
    in Bandung, Indonesia.

    And I’m not proud of it,
    it’s so sad…

  39. Reading the original page, I’m struck by the reference to the photo being taken in “Bandung” – and the rather non-Chinese nature of that name – and the rather short time it takes to actually look up where that is.

  40. I’m waiting to see just how many more comments pop up pointing out the clear error in the post before it gets fixed.

    I mean, seriously, you guys are usually pretty spot-on with correcting things… whaddap?

  41. As others have said above, the angle the girl is facing really doesn’t look like she is flipping the begger. That said one so little shouldn’t be flipping the bird to anyone.

  42. Thanks to this post, I’ve finally created an account on this site :) Clearly, this is prejudice at its best. So, all Asian girl doing a finger at an old beggar must be a Chinese …

    Wow, speechless…

  43. All look same?

    …and I’m not sure who she’s flipping off – I mean the girl’s looking at the old lady but flipping the bird in the direction of the photographer.

  44. Haylie you are full of crap.

    It certainly LOOKS like it’s taken in China: The clothes, the shoes, even the architecture and those tiles on the ground look Chinese.

    As for the woman’s clothes, it’s absurd to say that in the vast area of China (with what, 90 minority groups some measuring in the 10s of millions) that no old lady asking for money could be dressed like that?

    One thing I would note is that the little girl in front of the bird-flipper is pulling the bird-flipper forward (a very Chinese thing to do, by the way), so that they have most likely just had some kind of confrontation or interaction with the homeless woman.

  45. I don’t think this photo was taken in China because the average skin color of Chinese people is not as deep as the begging old woman in the photo. I bet it was taken in somewhere southeast asia.

  46. Excuse me, but to my untrained eye this photo looks photoshopped. The young girl appears to have 4 arms, 1 gesturing, 1 with hand on face and two arms tucking in the shirt of the girl in front of her. There is not another set of feet for another child.

  47. From his photostream on flickr, it looks like Cory is in India right now, so it’s quite likely he’s doing the tourist thing rather than sitting at his desk; that may be why he’s so late in correcting the headline.

  48. Beggers get the bird, or beaten, or mugged, or raped, or killed everyday here in America yet I’ve never seen a post on that here in Boing Boing…

  49. Can we *please* get the OP to fix the title of this post??? This is highly misleading and frankly offense. Not all brown-skinned slanty-eyed folks are Chinese. As other have said, this photo was taken in *Indonesia*.

  50. @69 – it doesn’t look photoshopped. There are 6 feet for the three girls; 3 different pairs of shoes.

    The girl on the left is making a gesture with her right arm, and her left arm is touching the middle girl at her waist/at her bag strap. The middle girl’s right arm is hidden, and her left arm is bent back with her elbow at her waist, (near Gesturing Girl’s left fingers) and with her left hand under Gesturing Girl’s chin.

    Gesturing Girl’s right sleeve is inflated, which hides most of the middle girl’s left wrist and makes the hand look detached, but the original photo at is bigger and it’s easier to see that’s all middle girl’s left arm.

    It’s hard to see where Gesturing Girl is looking but it could be she is just turning away from looking at the photographer.

  51. I totally agree with
    #7 banjology and #50 ponbam,
    The homeless, beggars, panhandlers, spangers (spare-change askers)– whatever you call them, they are plague in every major city across the globe.
    Vagabonds and hoboes have made parasitism a profession of sorts.
    I understand empathy for those temporary displaced, but I have no patience for the prolonged presence of the leeching homeless. Sorry to sound cruel, but my experiences in Chicago and Columbus have been associated daily dealing with the more aggressive variety of panhandlers– they can be quite the nuisance.

  52. Anyone notice how the guy on the scooter in the background is just driving past? Why isn’t he stopping to admonish the child (in Mandarin) and give the old lady some yuan?


    Or maybe he was photoshopped to look like he wasn’t stopping?

  53. I also agree with #7, #50 and #77 many times the homeless are running some sort of scam.

    I have worked with a non-profit that helps homeless alcoholics get clean, on their feet and a place to live. They decided to give out 3,000 coupons for a free meal (no sermon, no questions asked). Out of those 3,000, do you know how many people came in with coupons for their free meal? Seven. Most of these homeless people aren’t using the money you give them to better themselves.

    Now that is to say that I’m familiar with other parts of the world, and how they oppress their lower classes, and it’s still pretty uncool that that girl finds it ok to use that gesture.

  54. My god! Please check the link of the photo again.
    This photo is taken in Bandung, somewhere in Indonesia. You can see the name of the photographer, I don’t think it could be a name of Chinese.

    I know U.S. guys hate Chinese, & I just not like them very much… But @ least check before you write. Especially for a popular blog writers.

  55. Frankly, I’m surprised that we haven’t yet heard from any Ayn Rand fans praising this young lady for boldly assessing and commenting on the parasitic old woman’s refusal to pull her own weight. Let her die, then, and reduce the population.

  56. I think there’s a lot of overinterpretation going on here.

    Little girl wants to be a badass and try out her “nasty” gesture she just learned from her brother in front of her friends. She figures the beggar is not in a position to do anything about it.

    Kids can be assholes the world over – in China, in Indonesia, in New York, wherever, I am sure kids in an urban setting occasionally react rudely to beggars.

    To me the scene has a ring of universality to it.

  57. #71 OASISFL:

    I know nothing about China?

    Given it’s size and depth this may be true, but it’s not for trying. Consider:

    1. I’ve lived in China
    2. I’ve been married to a Chinese woman for 20 years.
    3. One of my college majors (in addition to Physics) was Chinese language. I still speak and read some Mandarin and I comprehend some Shanghai dialect.
    4. I traveled around Central China last year.

    Parts of China ARE in Southeast Asia. For someone to say that there are no old ladies who wear either a sarong or something sarong-like in any parts of Southern China means you know nothing about China (even if you’re from there).

    Everyone’s problem here is that we think this photo somehow represents some major statement about China in general. Something like this probably happens every day in China, and in the US and France and Indonesia for that matter.

    Let’s just relax.

  58. It’s pretty sad that an adult would be trying to bum money from eight-year-old kids anyway. Maybe she said something to offend the little girl. When I was about fourteen, I saw a panhandler on the street who kept saying “Can I have a dollar?” to everyone who walked past him. I felt badly so I gave him the change that I had in my pockets…three quarters. He looked in his cup, then looked back at me and said, “I asked for a dollar.” I didn’t flip him off, but I was pretty irked by his reaction.

  59. Keeper of the Lantern:

    I’ve told you that Chinese don’t dress like that and you just don’t believe it. Fine. Ask your Chinese wife and see if she agrees with you.

    However I agree that Something like this can happen in many countries. But if the title of THIS PHOTO told everyone it’s from your homeland, would you “just relax”?

  60. Do you not realise the old lady is asking little girls to pee in her bucket?

    Or perhaps the photographer paid the child $10 to flip the bird at the beggar?

    It is a photograph, it tells a story but without context or evidence the interpretation can only be hearsay.

  61. #71 Keeper of the Lantern:

    It doesn’t matter how much you know about China, that’s not even relevant anymore, because the photographer says on her own site(link in the OP) that the photo is shot in Bandung, the capital of the West Java province of Indonesia.

    So unless you want to argue that the photo was shot by an Indonesian photographer in a Chinese city which just happpens to have the same name as a major Indonesian city, whose schoolgirls just happens to have the same uniform as most Indonesian schoolgirls, whose inhabitants just happens to dress as Indonesians do, then you are the one who needs to relax.

    I’m not doubting that you know a lot about China, except in this case it’s not about Chinese knowledge, but what the author of the photo says.

  62. If you go to the photographer’s profile, you will find that he is from Indonesia, and all his pictures appears to be in Indonesia.

    By the way, the school girl is flipping off at the photographer as my friend pointed out. Look at the angle and direction of her arm and where she is standing.

    I think this post and title is misleading and should be corrected.

  63. OASISFL: No, I wouldn’t care much. What the hell’s a “homeland” anyway? A political boundary? A geo-ethnic commonality? If I saw a photo of someone purportedly flipping the bird in Los Angeles (or NYC, where I’m from) and if it obviously wasn’t, I might bother to point that out but I wouldn’t give a crap. One little girl flipping the bird does NOT equal Chinese society breaking down.

    As for #90 (Shanghai’ed), if you look carefully I’ve never claimed that the photo was definitely in China. That’s not the point. The underlying issue here that I’ve been trying to point to is that there seems to be the assumption that this photo is someone damaging or speaks to the reputation of an entire nation, as ugly as it appears to be.

    It’s a little girl being shitty. I’ve done shitty things as a kid and I don’t think that this should mean that my neighborhood/city/country/planet is somehow by implication evil or corrupt or breaking down.

    As for the clothing issue, who here happens to be from Yunnan province or one of the other Southeast Asian provinces with relatively fewer Han people? Can you tell us whether there’s some kind of ban on non-Han people wearing their traditional clothing? Anyone who claims there’s no ethnic group in China that dresses like this knows zero about the vast diversity that is China.

  64. The place is Indonesia. You can tell by the little girl’s uniform for her elementary school
    The girl is not Chinese. She is native Indonesian, she may even be Javanese. Claiming that she is Chinese is very dangerous, considering there is a very high racsim in Indonesia against Chinese people. This kind of claim will cause a dangerous climate for Chinese Indonesian in Indonesia. The beggar is also Indonesian, native javanese also, by the look of her.
    The story that will circulate in Indonesia based on the picture and the tag will be “Chinese girl flipping off Indonesian beggar” This is how it works in Indonesia.Anything to justiy the stoning of Chinese.
    Be carefull boingboing!

  65. Erica Asahan wrote:

    This photo is really not what its seemed! The little girls hand is a little too high up, meaning she’s probably flipping the camera person. The old lady is too low on the ground. But I could be wrong! And if I am, this photo really is very heart breaking. It’s so sad, but this is what some part of the world looks like. The photo makes me cry.

  66. Well, it was funny, even if it wasn’t China. And it does seem that the girl is flipping off the camera holder. Privacy aside, lots of strange people photographing girls in school uniforms lurk about, and the kids would be sensitive to that.

  67. An interesting and thought-provoking image, and the photographer’s other two pictures on that site are also great. This one captures (or at least appears to capture) a moment in time that allows for a number of different interpretations, and I’m fascinated with the ways commenters seem to so quickly and vehemently identify with the girl or the beggar, or against the photographer. There seems to be a much stronger amusement and “[someone] asked for it!” current here than there is among the audience on the original photo site … maybe we’re just more inured to “sassy children” images around here these days.

    The mis-labeling of the image and the people involved as “Chinese” has led to so some interesting conversations and conspiracy theories in the comments, and some resurrection of the charges of bias from brand new accounts we saw with previous posts on Tibet and the Olympics. We shouldn’t forget that there’s a long tradition in the West of “Chinese” being used as a default stand-in for “Asian,” and that a lot of people have been and continue to be annoyed and insulted by that kind of cultural laziness.

    I’m more than willing to assume that it was an innocent mistake on Cory’s part, maybe someone forwarded it to him with the misidentification in the Email subject, who knows. The fact that none of the mods or other Boingers have fixed it since it was put up yesterday seems a little bit wonky, though. The number of late comments that echo the error is equally disheartening, since it demonstrates how few people bother to actually read threads before they jump in to the fray.

  68. Just by looking at a glance to the photo, I already knew that this pic is taken in Indonesia. I can see it from the children’s uniform and the old woman’s clothing.

    Flipping off the finger is a bad thing, especialy when it’s done by children.

    But I totally agree that the little girl IS NOT flipping at the old woman. It must be into someone in the right side of the photographer.

  69. Sorry to editor,

    i don’t think they are chinese, maybe thailand or some other over conturies..because chinese are more white more lightly the pic they are too black more than chinese…here is the mistake.but we usually to make joke from chinese pity…here i found a page to show what chinese girls skin color…

  70. #92 Keeper of the Lantern

    All I do is to point out that the picture can’t be taken in China because no one dress like that. I believe you have travelled a lot in China, but have you seen anyone dress like that? NO! Because It’s not Chinese traditional clothing of any minority in China.

    Unfortunately you are too obstinate to believe it.

    Yes, you may know much about China and I apologize for saying “you know nothing about China”, but I’m pretty sure you know little about the clothing of minorities in China.

    This is the third time I say Chinese don’t dress like that. Check it out if you still doubt it. I don’t wanna argue with you any more because there’s an idiom in Chinese: 事不过三.

  71. This is in Indonesia, not in China. The child is wearing Indonesian school uniform, the beggar is wearing kebaya (indonesian traditional clothes), and the location of the photo is in Bandung, Indonesia. The photographer Dian Agung Nugroho, is Indonesian.. it’s indonesian name

  72. Way to go Boingboing. Not only have we discovered here in the comments that this girl might be in a completely different country, but that she might not even be gesturing to the old lady to begin with. Then, when you consider the cultural differences with regards to what that gesture means, you wonder if the poster managed to get anything right about this photo.

  73. Since so many people have posted to inform boingboing that this is an Indonesian schoolgirl – why does hasn’t boingboing fixed the misleading headline?

    It’s been days now!

  74. I have no doubt that any misrepresentation of this image was without conscious intent. Even so, while I’d like to believe that Sinophobia played no part in the misunderstanding, in the absence of any explanation or even correction, that’s difficult.

  75. Definitely photoshopped. The girl appears to be missing all but her middle finger, and has a man in a motorcycle helmet sprouting from the back of her head.

  76. Indonesian, not Chinese. Check. I’ve dropped Cory a note. In the meantime, anyone who thinks the error was due to prejudice isn’t thinking very hard.

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