Thursday, December 01, 2005

Blog Against Racism Day

So, as today is the first day of December, it just so happens to be World AIDS Day and Blog Against Racism day. Since I should be more informed about the state of AIDS worldwide, I will not be posting about the new addition to the US's global gag rule on family planning education, which now includes HIV prevention (as in, no one funded by the US government may offer HIV prevention services to people wanting information on family planning, birth control, sex, etc). I would also like point out how I keep finding instances of the US government trying to kill as many brown people as possible, and really, it's depressing me.

Originally, I was gonna write about how many white men i encounter are hella invested in their privelege, but seeing as people are crazy and will go batshit crazy in my comments, and seeing as how i am not of the mind to deal with it right now, i'm going to talk about my big pop culture pet peeve.

That way, we're focusing on other people and not people in my life who are busted. Additionally, people can remain content in their whiteness. Sorry if I sound bitter, but I've had really just awful conversations with 3 white men about being racist in the past day and they're dicks about it. SO, yes, I'm copping out for now, which in and of itself is a sign of allowing my white privelege to keep me from addressing racism where it should be addressed.

On to blogging against racism!

As I've mentioned before, I have an issue with Gwen Stefani's use of four Asian womyn as her backdrop. Of course, none of these womyn is allowed to speak, or get in front of her on stage, but they do seem to be there to accentuate Stefani's fashion choices and to make her whiteness look so much more the ideal by comparison. The first time I saw Stefani's Harajuku Girls, it was a performance at the MTV Europe movie awards and they were on the stage dancing as her Whiteness was lowered, like some sort of white savior, down to the stage. I almost threw up right there.

So, in essence, Gwen has this posse of Asian womyn who she pays to represent Asian Harajuku culture in her videos and whatever. But, instead of merely profitting off of this huge exploitation, she also started a website called Harajuku Lovers, which from my browsing of it, has the sole purpose of selling teeage white girls Harajuku culture through a white lens and then letting Gwen have the profits. It's true that there are "profiles" of the four womyn on the site, but all they have are some pictures and the English name that Gwen decided to bestow on them. Also, all the little Flash animations of the women have a white blonde girl front and center, with the four "Harajuku Girls" behind and halfway hidden. So, she's really turned Asian womyn into a consumer product to be purchased, as white people have been doing in different forms for thousands of years to womyn of color.

Notice that her posse are the Harajuku "girls" and not "womyn". The reason for this, of course, is the stereotype of Asian womyn as docile, fragile little girls who are often exotified by straight white men as the perfect woman "QUIET and EXOTIC and PRETTY!" Of course, these 4 womyn are quiet, exotic and pretty to Ms. Stefani too, but just not in a hypersexualized way. They're also "cute" everywhere you see descriptions of them as to not threaten the American ideal feminine beauty standard of tall, skinny, white and blonde. Also, the fact the womyn are silent and behind Gwen is another ridiculous stereotype of Asian women brought to the American mainstream through a supposedly innocent publicity stunt.

So really, I don't think Gwen is being any different than many of the male pop bands and artists who lace their videos with women as an accessory to themselves. I suppose it's just the same cycle being done over and over again by different people who have the privelege of buying others. But Gwen thinks it's not racist because she truly likes Harajuku fashion (so why doesn't she just use her loads of money and wear it?) and because she wrote a really shitty song about Harajuku girls on her shitty album. And, I think she might mention them in every single song on the album. She's merely using these womyn of color to profit on carcicatured versions of womyn of color, and the side effect is that white girls everywhere now think it's cool to essentialize and appropriate Japanese culture, as long as it's gwen stefani's version of it.

Really, it's just a larger trend of tokenization by people who are considered oppressed classes, or consider themselves oppressed. I mean, here you have a white woman using womyn of color to sell her product. Additionally, if you look at the way gay advertisers sell things to white gay men, you'll often see your exotified queer man of color used to sell whatever it is one might want to buy. Each person of color is valuable only to the extent that they can sell something, made by white people, to other white people. And yet, people still don't understand how people aren't thrilled that Asian womyn are being represented in pop culture, or that fact the gay community actually sometimes acknowledges that queer people can be people of color too.

I just get frustrated so much by racism within gay and lesbian spaces and also feminist spaces. As my friend Daniel says, liberals always say "well, we're all human, so race shouldn't matter" and as a result constantly erase the work of people of color within movements.

So, not only are my white male friends not willing to see their privelege in the way they talk about race (as if they are the only people who are able to define what race is and what racism is, when in fact, they would be least likely to understand it), but people who are supposedly progressive constantly discount race because they're too afraid to deal with the fact that they may be racist on an every day basis and they're afraid to give up the power that comes with being one of those good white liberals who knows exactly what to say to people of color when they actually encounter them (rarely, of course), and easily classify race as trivial, so that they don't have to step back, so similarly to what conservatives do.

Blah. On another random note, Angie Paccione is running against Musgrave. I'm excited because she is a badass. Someone I know once said Rep. Paccione reminded him of me...I think I'll contribute some money to her campaign because Bush was in Denver yesterday to fundraise for Musgrave because they're scared as hell she might not win.


At 1:31 AM, Anonymous ms. b. said...

great post! there's always been something that bugged me about Stefani's use of the Harajuku girls, thanks for putting your finger on it


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