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Asian Cultural Sensitivity 101: Why is Katy Perry’s “Geisha” performance considered racist?

I know no one asked me to weigh in on this, but what the heck. I am the resident East Eurasian here. Seriously though my social media is awash in East Asian outrage and also cultural insensitivity over Perry’s performance yesterday at the AMAs dressed in modified,sexy geisha apparel.

perry geisha

It is a Kimono mixed with a Chinese Cheongsam, so manages to neatly appropriate 2 different cultures.

There are a number of comments on the story that ask why is this performance racist and/or offensive?

Like these:

Oh I see, she shouldn’t sexualize geishas who were “Just entertainers”? Wrong. Geishas hairstyles were designed to sexually entice and attract men to spend time with them, who do these twits think WOMEN were entertaining in Japan during this era? Other women?? They were appealing and “forbidden fruit”. Not to mention that a young geishas virginity was sold to the highest bidder in a tradition called “mizuage”. Nope. No sexuality there.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/katy-perry-amas-opening-act-called-racist-article-1.1528285#ixzz2lnCLgIh4

They should just stop and not try to explain someone else’s culture to them when they barely understand it themselves. At least this person has been to Japan, but they still don’t get it…

I agree. I have been to Japan, and I thought it was beautiful. I think a lot of western people don’t get the folklore, and mysticism, and traditions that Japanese hold dear. Most of them don’t even know about the many festivals in Japan , like “The Cherry Blossom”, or Tsukimi.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/katy-perry-amas-opening-act-called-racist-article-1.1528285#ixzz2lnEEOptU

At least this person claims to have a Japanese step-mom, so they must get it right?

I agree. Being offended by everything and making uninformed, false accusations about people is classless and a waist of time. I find it ironic that this is considered “racist”. My stepmother is Japanese and she’s laughing as she reads the posts that call Perry out for racism. “I thought it was beautiful and artistic. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s cultural take on things.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/katy-perry-amas-opening-act-called-racist-article-1.1528285#ixzz2lnEkifH3

Nope. It’s the old “I have a/an (insert ethnic relationship here)”, so therefore it can’t be racist as if you can adopt authority by proxy.

Hannah at afternoonsnoozebutton has already done a pretty good job of breaking down what people found offensive about the performance. If you are really interested in why people find it offensive, read her thorough explanation there. Here are her 5 key points that she nailed…

1. Katy Perry’s “geisha” performance tonight was culturally appropriative.

2. There is a long history of mistreatment and ill-will towards Asian immigrants and Asian-Americans.

3. Western culture “otherizes” Asians by assigning all Asians certain characteristics.

4. Asian women in particular are fetishized. This sexualization of Asian women causes increased sexual violence against Asian-American women.

5. Racism against Asians is often swept under the rug because of the model minority myth, and that won’t change until we start to address racist acts head-on.

Point 4 is particularly powerful as she supports here…

This fetishization has been empirically proven to hurt Asian women. 41-61% of Asian women experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime, the highest rate for any ethnic group. Between 5,000-8,000 Asian women are trafficked into the US each year for sex slavery, also the largest amount for any ethnic group.

This is one more perspective on it from Jeff Yang on The Wall Street Journal Blog

The thing is, while a bucket of toner can strip the geisha makeup off of Perry’s face, nothing can remove the demeaning and harmful iconography of the lotus blossom from the West’s perception of Asian women — a stereotype that presents them as servile, passive, and as Perry would have it, “unconditional” worshippers of their men, willing to pay any price and weather any kind of abuse in order to keep him happy.

So basically Perry’s performance appropriates Japanese culture in a way that perpetuates harmful stereotypes. The Asian submissive, hypersexual stereotype is particularly damaging to Asian women. I’ve been involved with people, who I didn’t understand at the time had no interest in me other than an Asian fetish. No interest at all in my intellect or talents. No human woman neatly fits into a stereotype, and this stereotype is demeaning and dehumanizing.

What bothers me is how unquestioned these stereotypes are and how uncritically they are accepted. Otherwise enlightened friends post stories like this one about Korean beauty contestants that supposedly had plastic surgery and looked freakishly alike from Jezebel to social media. To date there is no retraction that the photos were photoshopped to intensify the similarity. The stereotype that Asians are weird in this case obsessed with looking white is uncritically accepted.

And if you think the stereotypes of Asian women are bad, Asian men are stereotyped as sexually unattractive, dorks in American culture. Despite kick ass examples of Asian male masculinity like Bruce Lee, the stereotype of the Asian male as a lesser male persists.

Bruce Lee JudgingThe stereotype such as perpetuated in movies like Sixteen Candles have been so damaging that Asian men are thought of as undateable by women of other ethnicities. long duck dong

 

Asian men’s supposed lack of virility is still comedy fodder today. In this Guardian article which manages to combine all three negative stereotypes: Asians are weird, Asian men as unattractive dorks, and includes a former Asian prostitute as sex expert to boot. The story is about how the Japanese are having less sex based on falling marriage rates, which is a trend here too as Salon points out.

In fact this story became comedy fodder for Bill Maher, he facetiously used the story to propose posters to encourage the Japanese to have sex. Among the punchlines were the same old tired tropes like… “He’s Japanese it’s not like it’s gonna hurt.” In the same breath he bemoans progressive causes like overpopulation, yet there is the same old stab at Asian males’ dignity, that has gone on ever since American colonialism. Many in his audience don’t take a minute while they’re laughing at the expense of the Japanese to question the stereotypes.

The more things change the more things stay the same. I grew up not feeling proud of my Asian heritage. Years of having my hair pulled as a kid, being mistaken for the Japanese exchange student, having people ask where I am from and the doubtful looks when I say I am American add up. I am raising my daughter to be proud of her Asian ancestry. She even wants to start a Japanese appreciation club at her school. Japanese culture is becoming more acknowledged and popular here.

But there is a difference between appreciation and appropriation and reinforcing stereotypes. The comments on this story have been more offensive than the performance itself. They reveal how little these commenters actually question how the media portrays East Asians in this case. For all the declaring about wanting to know why people find this offensive; the comments show and unwillingness to listen to the reason why. Most offensive is in place of listening these commenters seek to tell East Asians in this case what their experiences are and how they should feel about them.  As for Ms. Perry herself if you are still wondering if she has some of the same unquestioned cultural insensitivity there is this quote about how she feels about the Japanese…

 “I’m so obsessed I want to skin you and wear you like Versace,”

I hope that this helps people to understand why Asians are tired of being portrayed in American media in the same predictable and stereotypical ways.

 

[important]Much of the ideas in this article were discussed first in The Secular Asian Community facebook discussion group. If you are looking for secular Asian support or to support secular Asians, they are a great group. We are putting something together for the next FtBCon, so watch out for that. [/important]

Comments

  1. countryboy says

    I’ll admit to a very limited knowledge of Asian cultures and that I find some traditional dress beautiful, artistic and graceful I have to say my interest is primarily in the musical side. I’m fascinated by the adaptation of traditional instruments to modern musical styles and the use of scales from those traditional instruments with modern instruments. At first it sounds a bit off to western ears buy once you adapt to it some it’s a rich source of inspiration. I try to use some of it in my guitar playing and really enjoy the challenge. I just try not to see other people as stereotypes and figure I can learn something from every culture. That makes my music better.

  2. says

    Why is cultural appropriation suddenly “racist?” People do it all the time — see something cool another country or ethnic group are doing, change it a little for whatever reason, and make it a part of one’s own culture/style/entertainment. We’ve done this with EVERYONE’s clothes, not just Japanese: Renaissance dresses, nurse, maid, police and other uniforms, business suits, European “peasant” clothes, cowboy hats, even body-armor ferfucksake. What’s so different about Katy Perry sexing up a kimono? Silly and tasteless, maybe, but not racist, any more than it was “racist” for the Beatles to incorporate Indian influences into their music, or for me to like Arabic pop music and Red Army songs from WW-II.

    This fetishization has been empirically proven to hurt Asian women. 41-61% of Asian women experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime, the highest rate for any ethnic group. Between 5,000-8,000 Asian women are trafficked into the US each year for sex slavery, also the largest amount for any ethnic group.

    Seriously? Are you really trying to link cultural appropriation to sexual enslavement? We went through that BS already, back in the ’80s when the Republicans were trying to link porn to violence against women. The link was proven to be bullshit, just another excuse to try to censor all sexually-explicit material, and the issue died when Ed Meese announced his “findings” in front of two nude statues, and couldn’t say whether the statues (or similar statues in art galleries everywhere) caused violence against women.

    How, exactly, does the “fetishization” cause or worsen human sex-trafficking? A more likely explanation is that both of those things are caused by some other common factor, and cracking down on one symptom won’t change the other. Lots of people think Asian women are sexy, for whatever reason. The only such people to blame for sex-trafficking are the ones who participate in it. Same goes for people who think black women are sexy, or Latino women are sexy, or pale chubby blondes are sexy, etc.

    The only thing racist about Katy Perry’s performance was that creepy-sounding quote of hers at the end of your post. THAT was just…wow, what?!

      • says

        And there’s LOTS of overlap between those two, so that difference isn’t all that meaningful. I think the difference we should be talking about is between borrowing from other traditions and perpetuating stereotypes. As in, wearing a kimono is okay, but prancing around in it and acting like a negative stereotype of Japanese women is not.

    • says

      Seriously? Are you really trying to link cultural appropriation to sexual enslavement? We went through that BS already, back in the ’80s when the Republicans were trying to link porn to violence against women.

      The quote links fetishization with sex trafficking, and that isn’t just restricted to porn.

  3. Schlumbumbi says

    This is magnitudes too dumb to be taken seriously.

    1. Katy Perry’s “geisha” performance tonight was culturally appropriative.

    From the outside, the US looks like nothing but a zoo of dumbed down stereotypes and narratives, mostly imported by its immigrants, partly adopted through the lenses of imperialist endeavours.

    By which standard do you judge these stereotypes and narratives ?
    Why are Samurais good and Geishas bad ? Why is Rosie O’Donnell’s “ching chang chong” racist and “Impossibru” is hilarious ? Why do you drool over Oktoberfest and Autobahn and why do you get a boner when Tarantino is scalping blonde germans ? Why exactly are freedom fries despicable while you eat them day in, day out ? Why do you hate the Washingon Redskins but love how white New Zealand rugby footballers are doing some Maori Haka ?

    Whatever the answer to questions might be, they’re yours. Only yours. You keep them and deal with them.
    Call each other racists or bigots or whatevers, apply whatever double, triple or quadruple standards you like, but please – don’t even try to make it look like there’s even the smallest grain of objective truth or moralism in what you do – except of course you want to strengthen the narrative that every american needs his own personal headshrinker.

    Seriously, whenever (or better: if you ever) looked at discussions in other countries and think “what the fuck are they doing?”, did it never occur to you that you might suffer from the same type of idiocy, and maybe to a much larger extent?

    2. There is a long history of mistreatment and ill-will towards Asian immigrants and Asian-Americans.

    Out of curiosity – has there ever been an immigrant group of noticeable size in the US which hasn’t had its share of mistreatment? If that’s a “fits all” observation, then it’s not an argument, except for a general climate of compensatory tribalism within the US.

    3. Western culture “otherizes” Asians by assigning all Asians certain characteristics.

    STOP! America is not a synonym for “western culture”. If there’s still a considerable part of your population which thinks that “africa” or “asia” are countries, or that any sports competition in the US deserves the title “world championship”, then again – your perception – your problem.

    4. Asian women in particular are fetishized. This sexualization of Asian women causes increased sexual violence against Asian-American women.

    Simple solution : Get rid of your fetish for militarism and war crime rape fantasies. Pocahontas doesn’t secretly fancy cowboys and “too beaucoup” is not a compliment.

    5. Racism against Asians is often swept under the rug because of the model minority myth, and that won’t change until we start to address racist acts head-on.

    Swept under the rug ? More like “blinded by the light”. But rest assured that the majority of asians, who by the way live in the country of Asia, don’t give a flying fuck what americans think of them. Why would they? They already own your asses.

    • serene says

      Some excellent points here. In addition, any criticism of art as racist has to be damn sure they are on the money.

    • says

      Thanks for telling Asian-Americans how to feel about America from wherever it is you are writing. I’m sure it’ll be usef–hahahaha, I can’t continue. Out of curiosity, why ask questions (mostly strawmen examples) if you are going to posit a response beforehand? Was there anything in this piece making judgments about other countries that requires you to vacillate between judging what the writer should think about America and what YOU think of America? If it’s all the same to you what we call each other, what the hell does it matter to you? And don’t say blah blah blah American war/rape/murder … it’s a non-sequitur. BTW, if you happen to be coming from a “Western Culture”, based on your rage boner, I think that criticism about otherizing still stands, since you simultaneously lump Asian-Americans in with their “imperialist” oppressors’ war fetish, while acknowledging that we’re criticizing another fetish. Somehow we’re both!

      Oh, and what Asians in Asia think about this is pretty much irrelevant. They don’t live in the U.S. with the everyday reality of this type of imagery. So, I too give a flying fuck about their opinion on the matter.

      Poor organization, incoherent points. Please re-write.

    • says

      I know. We managed to help one person figure it out elsewhere on the interwebs. A Thanksgiving (of all holidays) miracle! It is a hard slog though.

    • Jia says

      “Shut up and listen”? Well I’m Asian – both my parents are Taiwanese. So perhaps non-Asians should also ‘shut up and listen’ to me. This isn’t racist.

  4. BillKnightwing says

    A kimono is not shorthand for “geisha.” If you condemn this, you may as well condemn the Japanese men who wear western suits to work as stealing from “white culture.” Because this is what they are clearly doing. The modern Japanese businessman did not spring out of nothing, he was heavily influenced by the fashions and ideas of post-WW2 USA-occupied Japan. Anime is an approbation of western cartoons, particularly Disney. Osamu Tezuka was heavily influenced by American art. He even stole titles from western books, like “Lost World,” for his own stories.

    To argue that a white person is not allowed to wear “Japanese” clothes (I heard a similar argument about white women and NWA t-shirts) is, in a sense, arguing for clothing segregation along racial lines, and I find that to be very racist.

    The fact Katy Perry is mixing two different styles is a clear indication of an attempt to create a unique style which reminds one of other styles but is still distinct. She’s not going up onstage in blackface or a full geisha getup and shamisen to prance around and mock people of that ethnicity. Another point you are missing is that she is a woman freely choosing to expose her own body in a sexy/revealing way. Arguing that this is somehow oppressive is an attempt to slut-shame Katy Perry (calling her immodest japanese-chinese styled outfit “fetish” clothes) while hiding behind feminist language.

    I think it’s worth pointing out yet again that arguing that certain people cannot wear certain clothes because of the way those people were born is racist by definition.

    • says

      “A kimono is not shorthand for “geisha.” If you condemn this, you may as well condemn the Japanese men who wear western suits to work as stealing from “white culture.” Because this is what they are clearly doing. The modern Japanese businessman did not spring out of nothing, he was heavily influenced by the fashions and ideas of post-WW2 USA-occupied Japan. Anime is an approbation of western cartoons, particularly Disney. Osamu Tezuka was heavily influenced by American art. He even stole titles from western books, like “Lost World,” for his own stories.”

      A kimono wasn’t all that was represented in the video, so it’s hardly a criticism. The face makeup (sans the heavy white paint which predates contact with Europeans), the aping of certain dances and choreography and the sets were also part of this. Also, the Japanese had access to western style suits long before WWII, and were originally adopted by the military after the kingdom opened up to U.S. commerce. But the comparison falls flat because it ignores the sexism that intersects with the cultural appropriation, i.e. popular culture in the U.S. depicts Asian women in traditional garb along two lines: lotus flower or dragon lady. The “Geisha” costume, in effect, is a racially objectifying costume, whereas the “business suit” was a cultural export that smoothed along commercial ties and was desirable to cultural imperialists. This lack of socio-cultural context also negates much of the entertainment analogy (and btw, I don’t like how some anime depicts white people, particularly Americans myself, so I already know it’s not all or nothing).

      “To argue that a white person is not allowed to wear “Japanese” clothes (I heard a similar argument about white women and NWA t-shirts) is, in a sense, arguing for clothing segregation along racial lines, and I find that to be very racist.”

      Well, for one thing, it’s NOT Japanese clothing as per daily wear. As noted, most of Japan, and most Asians, do not wear traditional dress. However, it is still a thing for white Americans to depict us in wearing outlandish, and alien to American sensibilities, clothing. The adoption of these cultural markers were imposed and practical for economic reasons, and didn’t threaten white American sense of cultural superiority (see film ‘Gung Ho’ for added reference to ’80s style depiction of Japanese corporate business culture vs. white, blue-collar America). A white woman wearing a NWA T-shirt may be a fan of the music of NWA’s music, but if she were to be selling something like Katy Perry (ie her music) while adding a mish-mash of poorly thought out hair styling, African-American urban dialect choices, stereotypical “thuggish” behavior while completely removed from that socio-economic racial class, then the overall appropriating costume and attitude is what makes that a problem.

      “Another point you are missing is that she is a woman freely choosing to expose her own body in a sexy/revealing way. Arguing that this is somehow oppressive is an attempt to slut-shame Katy Perry (calling her immodest japanese-chinese styled outfit “fetish” clothes) while hiding behind feminist language.”

      The long history of how Asian women have been depicted in popular culture here in the states, the stylized version of Katy Perry’s geishas are racially fetishized sexual objects, can’t be handwaved away as slut shaming. Regardless of her intent, her piece ignores that ethnically Asian women are sexualized to a high degree among white men. However “revealing” her costume was, that is not why it’s a problem. Once again, the fact that you draw a line at yellowface as being the boundary of racism essentially misses out on the entirety of her presentation which is not just her costume.

      There are lines of fashions that do take stylistic choices from traditional Asian garb or artwork, and that is a matter of taking things on a case-by-case basis. Such a piece of clothing does not necessitate full-on appropriation beyond aesthetic appeal. Her mode of dress didn’t exist in a vacuum, however, and framing her performance (which, btw, listen to the lyrics and combine with the imagery, and see how that adds another layer of issues) to exclude those other cultural markers is myopic and somewhat dishonest.

      And based on that, I have to dismiss the “reverse racism” conclusion.

  5. L.Long says

    I can not get into Katy’s mind so I can’t say what was on her mind or her intent. So she shook her butt in a skimpy outfit and may have made fun of something. Everyone has been made fun of by some one. Hell that was only one woman doing an act, want racism look at hollywood in the 1950’s cowboy movies. They made a lot of racist fun of indians, cowboys, easterns, westerners, chinese, and everyone else they could. Let’s get over it and deal.
    Lets worry about real racism. I could care less about this Katy, as long as laws and personal actions let any live in peace and equality. Are they beat up and the police let it go? Do they get lower pay, for equal work. and etc.
    One 2-bit singer makes fun of something?? Who cares? Its done all the time by lots of singers and comedians and movies. The worse that can be said was that all the people that paid to see her and enjoyed it, indicates there are a lot of people with low self appeal.

  6. chigau (違う) says

    The costumes, make-up, bowing, hand positions while dancing, background props and pictures, religious symbols, pseudo-taiko, etc. were a cobbled-together, mash-up of a bunch of Asian™ images.
    It was’t an homage. It was a caricature.

    • says

      I smirked when I read the description in the Associated Press piece on the AMAs of Perry’s outfit as a “traditional Japanese dress,’ since it wasn’t. In this day and age it would take about 2 minutes on the Internet to find out that wasn’t a kimono she was wearing, but something vaguely like a kimono created by a fashion designer or costume maker.

  7. cuervodecuero says

    I can’t speak to Perry’s intent, but as has been pointed out time and again, intent means nada if the reaction to the action is w..t…f…srsly!!!??!? Perry could be said to be doing a yellowface minstrel act up there.

    Yes, there are people to whom this musical set is going to be no biggie, but there is also perpetuation of privileged whiteness stereotypes about Asian people (and Asian women especially) going on here when it comes off as a cartoon music skit. Micro inequities piling up and up and up.

    In another example, Madama Butterfly is an Asian stereotype familiar to Anglo audiences. There have been considered efforts over many decades to make performances of it less shtick and more true and respectful to the original culture it purports to display. Those changes came about because Asian voices spoke up about the inadequacy layered into the story threaded around the music. Has that damaged or improved the performances? (not even starting on the storyline of patriarchal/racist fate of ‘country wives’ white men easily abandoned in Anglo/American Imperial times)

    If Katy Perry had done a dog’s breakfast of indigenous cultures icons Pocohontas routine on the stage, (in the last while there has been a lot of consciousness raising about disgraceful First Nations ‘redface’ lazily dumped without thought or respect onto fashion products; let alone sports teams) would it be more obvious to people?

  8. says

    A voice for me and for other Asian women…these things need to be said – and many times. Thank you for writing this, Lilandra.

    In my case, as a Vietnamese American woman, there’s a lot of baggage involved that has to do with the war that has kept me from speaking up more loudly against the cultural appropriation of Asian culture.

    I expect that is also very much the case for both Korean and Japanese Americans.

    In that regard, Asian Americans can learn a lot from the experiences of African and Native-Americans. In this case, all the same arguments have been made here, that has been made to them, that privilege (white or otherwise) has to excuse and deny cultural appropriation in their effort to silence us.

    – I wasn’t offended.
    – I have (insert culture here) friends who weren’t offended.
    – Other cultures do it all the time, so that makes it OK!
    – There is overlap between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation – I, the privileged class have decided for you, the oppressed class that it is not the latter. (WRT this particular topic and the commenters here – I’d love to see a good blog or article written by ANY Asian-American that insists this WAS NOT cultural appropriation)
    – Look at how bad it was 60 years ago! Be thankful it isn’t as bad now.
    – This form of racism isn’t nearly as bad as ‘real’ racism, why aren’t you discussing that?

    Sound familiar?

    And, as has already been pointed out, this isn’t the first time for Katy Perry. In addition to exclaiming that she wants to wear theJapanese like a fur pelt, she has consistently character-sexualized her Asian costumes with her breast cutouts, mini-skirts and high heels.

    • R Na says

      Thank you, maidao-, you nailed it precisely. Some clueless commenters, as lilandra has said, ‘don’t get it.’ This is an issue of the heart, not of rationalising the subtle and unjustifiable inequities perpetuated by none other than a woman. lilandra did say from a personal perspective of her own experiences that commenters have simply disregarded. Their sense of apologetics and downplaying of issues like this is sickening to me, this is like many discriminatory items,e.g., being a woman, AND being black is a double whammy of inequity. Once my bro-in-law was called by his sister whose husband had beat her and it turned out to be a regular occurence with her too afraid to tell anyone. What was really disgusting and revolting was that her father told the abusive son-in-law irritatingly, “why this time did you allow what you did to show up, you know you can’t leave evidence of what you’re doing to keep her in line, just as in me and my wife, she could never prove anything because nothing was visible to charge me on..” This was her father talking. Geena Davis did studies of women and girls in media and the results were them being reduced to the worst stereotypes in roles they got to be involved in. Bigotry and racism can be quite subtle, and to not speak up however seemingly a trivial matter to many. Moderates in religion opens the doorway to the extremists giving them a pass.
      There’s no justification or apologising for villifying an inequity and as is common the main targets are ethinicity and gender.and the actions can be very subtle. The SPLC has a link to info on Hidden Bias, and it’d be good if everyone at least read the data.Racism is subtle and nuanced, and often where we find it if we look is in ourselves.The brain does its job using stereotype models, but where people are concerned it would do well for us to find another view to use.Look at and deal with indivduals, not on the basis of their group. Women are not a monolith, but are as diverse as the number of women there are and the ethnicity they are in, yet books are around that give pointers on getting laid, and finding the right female yes button is the goal, again, stereotypes in play.
      If you don’t plug the small water leak in your basement, eventually a flood will ensue, but as for women and racial inequity, the basement began half filled with water(religion played a big part), and only by starting now to plug the small leaks, and bucket by bucket remove the present level of water will a dry basement happen.
      .

    • R Na says

      Maidao-horton, if I may, I offer this bit of AAARRRGGGHHH inducing claptrap.And not really off topic.
      “Yeah, what the hell is up with black people and going after Zimmerman. Didn’t we give you people a black president after all?”
      I actually overheard a TeaPartier say this, and OMG it hit me so wrong, as I felt a scathing, scalding, and boiling over refutation coming of that crap and I was afraid it would result in fisticuffs, as it went downhill from there, all the vitriolic spew that came out of him and his friends, some were even women, but none were black, though.
      Add it to your list, as it really fits so often.
      A hacktivist Anonymous document had the line that it is impossible for anyone to be ignorant today…it is a clear choice, with so much information how can anyone offer up just opinion, not an informed one.

  9. says

    I’ve lived and worked in Asia (various countries) for over a decade and have lost count of those who come over with fetishes. There may not be a lot of them, but enough that it never seems to stop.

    Saying “Asian women are erotic / exotic” is as racist as saying something derogatory about people’s eyes and skin. The only difference is that one involves sexual arousal.

  10. blondeintokyo says

    People are saying it is art. But the problem is that there’s really nothing original or different about her costume to distinguish it as *art*. All she really did was copy and paste – it’s just an amalgamation of the same-old boring stereotypes of Japanese culture that every other western artist has used in an attempt to seem exotic. It’s unoriginal, boring, and very badly done- most especially if you compare it to some of the amazing costume kimonos that Japanese artists often wear.

    When are pop stars going to stop doing this? Appropriating the styles of other cultures, inaccurately, badly, just makes them appear at the very least to be completely stupid, and at the worst, racist. It’s glaringly obvious that they haven’t bothered to get below the surface and actually *learn* anything about the culture, and that in and of itself *is* racist. It shows they don’t care about what is real. They aren’t really interested in the culture. They just want the *appearance* of being interested. Worst of all, they don’t care if their portrayal is inaccurate as long as the ignorant masses watch and say, “Oh, pretty!”

    The reason this kind of thing is dangerous is because it just further reinforces the stereotypes, since most people don’t understand that what they are seeing IS a stereotype. I’ve lived in Japan for 22 years, and all the time I find myself correcting people on things they have read about Japan in magazines or seen on TV. They don’t get that *like almost every thing else in the news* it’s almost always been distorted or inaccurately portrayed just to make it seem more exotic or interesting. And since most people aren’t skeptical thinkers, they just blindly believe it as-is. I even have had people argue with me because they think that if they read it in TIME magazine, it must be 100% true. *sigh*.

    That costume was ill-thought out and her publicist should really have known better. Unless their intent was to cause offense so as to get attention? Who knows?

    And I thought “I Kissed a Girl” was annoying….? My estimation of Katie Perry just dropped another thousand points.

    • doublereed says

      Since when do people have to be that interested in a culture to take things from it? I find this to be a bizarre, unnecessary claim. All cultures do this all the time, in a massive variety of ways. The notion of “exoticism” while kind of idiotic on its face, has produced unique and interesting works of art in every medium, in every major culture.

      The only real criticism I’m seeing here is that what Katy Perry did is unoriginal and bland. That is actually an incredibly harsh criticism in of itself to any artist.

      • blondeintokyo says

        The problem is, people copy things from other cultures without even trying to understand what it means to that culture. They really have no actual interest in the culture, and they don’t even care if what they take is an accurate representation of that culture or not. What they are doing then, is taking and spreading stereotypes. The worst of it is, they are happy to remain ignorant, because understanding culture is not their purpose. That demonstrates a total lack of respect for other cultures and is a *perfect* example of cultural racism.

        For example, people thinking that because they saw a kung fu movie they understand Chinese culture, people thinking that watching “Memoris of a Gesha” make them experts in Japan, or even Japanese people who watch American movies and wind up thinking that all Americans carry guns and that America is a violent, dangerous place, which makes them afraid to travel there.

        All of these are examples of a kind of cultural racism wherein people who have no real understanding or even interest in undertanding a culture simply pass on stereotypes.

        And yes, it is a harsh critiscim of an artist to say their preformance was bland and unoriginal. Which fits Katy Perry perfectly, in my personal opinion. You of course, might think differently, which is fine.

  11. Great American Satan says

    Wow, Lilandra, a lot of your commenters are world class pieces of shit. Sorry about that. Good article.

    I notice a lot of peeps flipping out because “racist” is such an offensive term to them that even when directed at someone else’s actions, they own it and have a meltdown. What’s worse? Something being racist, or something being called racist?

    I’m not even going to waste my time going point by point with these assholes, as they’ve gone point by point gibbering and screaming at your article. Life’s too short for that. Gonna wash the dishes instead.

  12. Diana Tortolini says

    How could Katy Perry have reimagined her performance to move it from cultural appropriation to cultural appreciation, while still portraying a Japanese theme? How does an artist — a pop artist in particular, who needs to appeal to a broad demographic of people — do so successfully, such that there is both entertainment value and respect for the referenced cultural group? If anyone has specific suggestions I’d be interested to hear them.

    Her performance seemed very “Disney” to me, and I definitely felt it was a white caricature of asian heritage. With different song lyrics it might not have been so obvious to me, but the lyrics essentially tied the visuals of the performance to sexual submission in a way that when taken in cultural context is as much sexist as it is racist. That being said, it was colorful and fun, and if you don’t think too much about the lyrics (which I’m guessing most people don’t, and with most pop acts I don’t either) you won’t tie them to the visuals, and then it becomes a pretty big production and decent eye candy. I understand the sensitivity to the stereotype, but if people aren’t aware of these bigger issues in asian culture the complaint of cultural appropriation is going to fall on deaf ears. And as far as gradations of racism and sexism go, cultural appropriation is at the bottom of the ones I personally consider important; I doubt most white people even know what that is.

    What is far more useful than criticizing KP for an act she probably didn’t come up with herself?

    Donate: http://www.humantrafficking.org/combat_trafficking/prevention

  13. Great American Satan says

    Fuck it, I’ll do one.

    How could Katy Perry have reimagined her performance to move it from cultural appropriation to cultural appreciation, while still portraying a Japanese theme?

    How about don’t? No one said it’s impossible to represent Asian things in art, though if you’re really trying to be culturally sensitive, it’s not going to be as easy as being a cheap asshole about it has been.

    How does an artist … do so successfully, such that there is both entertainment value and respect for the referenced cultural group?

    This was probably the wrong situation to use the theme at all, but if there’s a right situation, I’ve been told doing some homework is a good idea. “Don’t do yellowface” is a good bare minimum starting point.

    if you don’t think too much about the lyrics

    A lot of people can’t make that jump. I think you may be right that the majority of people don’t process lyrics consciously, but I can’t not. Grocery store trips are very aggravating. The Safeway in Ballard sometimes plays Christian pop – or maybe a lot of “soft” pop music went Jesus when I wasn’t listening, I wouldn’t know.
    Also, you and I have a pretty different idea of colorful fun, thought we both may like Fun of Color.

    I understand the sensitivity to the stereotype

    We’ll just see about that.

    if people aren’t aware of these bigger issues in asian culture

    I admit, I skimmed this, and on first read I thought you were attributing the sexism of the imagery to Asian culture. Whatever goes on in different Asian cultures on that front, this one wasn’t on them. On second reading, I noticed you were talking about the issue of Asian perception of appropriation, so, to paraphrase,
    “If people aren’t aware that cultural appropriation is harmful, telling them that it’s harmful will cause them to go deaf.”
    FUCK THAT SHIT.

    What is far more useful than criticizing KP for an act she probably didn’t come up with herself?

    If it isn’t her fault, a call-out is an opportunity to explain your position and point the finger at someone else. If she wants to defend it, she’s complicit and could use some enlightenment, so it becomes an opportunity for KP to improve herself. There is literally no way this is a fucking bad thing, except in that it might hurt somebody’s feelings to think they’re being called racist (as opposed to their actions, which are the actual things being called racist. There’s a difference.)

    And if she was being directly called racist, is it worse to have your feelings hurt by being called racist, or to be the subject of yet one more example of an entire culture’s pervasive racism against your own? HMMMmm.

    And as far as gradations of racism and sexism go, cultural appropriation is at the bottom of the ones I personally consider important; I doubt most white people even know what that is.

    Or to use comment 10 Maidao’s paraphrase of a typical white whine, “I wasn’t offended… This form of racism isn’t nearly as bad as ‘real’ (problems), why aren’t you discussing (those)?”

  14. Diana Tortolini says

    ^Great American Satan….

    You’re right, I wasn’t offended: I watched a music act that I intellectually knew had racist and sexist overtones and did not experience an emotional reaction. Depending on what I’m watching/listening to, I sometimes do get offended. Not this time. And that’s right, my priorities for political activism and social awareness do not focus on asian stereotypes in pop music. I do believe there are bigger priorities. Hunger, poverty, reproductive agency, homelessness, religious extremism and education among them. I do see gradations in harm from racism and sexism. I think the sex trafficking of asian girls and women is more harmful than Katy Perry in yellowface. I don’t defend what she did and I wouldn’t do it myself, but the supposed/assumed harm from that is just something I don’t find viscerally offensive. It’s not a whine. It’s a statement.

  15. M.C. Simon Milligan says

    Yech. Folks, it ain’t just the dress, which I would consider acceptable cultural fusion/appropriation on its own, its the whole package.

    What I don’t get is the hate for Long Duk Dong! Think about it; LDD and Lumberjack have the only fun and healthy (not to mention legal… as in not rape) sexual relationship in that entire film. LDD got wasted, laid, lightly beat up, put a car in a lake and passed out in the front yard. I’ve enjoyed similar nights. It’s kind of a (almost certainly unintentional) subversion of the “nerdy Asian guy” since everyone seems to expect him to live up to that stereotype since the film employs such egregious abuse of the funny foreigner trope.

  16. blondeintokyo says

    Great answer, Great American Satan.

    Great answer, Great American Satan.

    Asian guys have a hell of a time overcoming the stereotype of a nerdy Asian guy. 16 Cansles hardly broke the mold on that, and Karage Kid didn’t help either, particularly the second movie where they go to Japan and have that ridiculous tea ceremony. It’s nothing but stereotypes from beginning to end. I first watched those movies as a teen, when all I knew of Japan or all of Asia was what I’d studied in history class. In other words, pretty much nothing. Now when I look back on those films, I’m honestly *embarassed* for the actors. I once heard an interview with Pat Morita, and he recalled how the typecasting was so hard for him to bear, but as he loved acting and had no real choice in roles, he took them. You’d think we’d have grown since then, but nope- here comes Hiro Nakamura, another nerdy Asain guy (Hereos) and his geeky ineffectucual sidekick Ando. Great! Asians in movies are either geeks, good at math/computers, or kick ass at martial arts.

    I loved Hereos and have great affection for Masi Oka’s Hiro, but as I watched the very first episode, I thought, “Not again! Why does the nerdy character *always* have to be Asian? And what’s with that silly side plot about the trip back to feudal Japan?” give me a break! Japanese guys are, in reality, very fashionable and cool, the “otaku” stereotype lives, but it’s by no means common.

    It’s not hard to understand that white people living in a majority white country would not be aware of or have much concern over how Asians are portrayed. I can also see how portrayals of Asians, while it may concern you, might not be at the top of your list of pressing social matters. 

    What I don’t understand though, is why you’d take time to try to dismiss others concern over it, or even try to downplay the effect it has. That’s white privilege- and it’s important to recognize that. 

    I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced the effects of being racially stereotyped by the media, but I have. As a blonde, buxom Caucasian girl in Japan, it happens to me *all the time*. As a result, I’ve become much more sensitive to the portrayals of cultural stereotypes in the media, and it’s really opened my eyes. Hopefully, articles like this one will go a ways to do that for others. 

    IF people would open their ears and listen. 

  17. Great American Satan says

    I think the sex trafficking of asian girls and women is more harmful than Katy Perry in yellowface. I don’t defend what she did and I wouldn’t do it myself, but the supposed/assumed harm from that is just something I don’t find viscerally offensive. It’s not a whine. It’s a statement.

    The implication of your statement is that by calling this out, we find it more harmful than sex trafficking. Did you even put a moment of thought into that statement? I find that viscerally offensive. If it’s harmful AT ALL, it should be OK and correct to call it out. To say otherwise is a Dear Muslima argument, which has been ably dismantled, inverted, and demolished a thousand times over by now.

    Blonde- thanks! Oh, Pat Morita… Sorry about that. I’d be interested in what Mako would say on the subject…

    Milligan- Interesting observations. 80s movies were hella messed up, espesh for rapey misogyny. On LDD, I found the character repellently offensive, but the actor is fucking adorable. Gary Watanabe is just a cute and charming human being. Kinda sucks he had to do parts like that. A much more humane part for him, though still funny foreigners-ish in a mighty-whitey themed movie, was his role in Volunteers. I haven’t seen much else by him in ages, can’t remember.

  18. Patrick Reynolds says

    I really don’t see what the big deal is regarding Katy Perry’s dance routine. If I had no choice and had to solely rely on the dance routines of singers and performers then I’d still be thinking that everyone in Holland wears wooden shoes. If I had to rely on movies to accurately depict cultures then everyone in Ireland really thinks that leprechauns really exist. Does the Lion King accurately reflect life in various African cultures and countries? I’m guessing probably not.

    I personally do not rely on movies and the acts of singers and other performers for what real life in Holland or Africa or Japan is like. I don’t even rely on TV shows (scripted shows) to accurately tell me what women really think, feel and believe. Instead, I live in the real world where I actually interact with people from different cultures. I get to talk to these people, see their traditions and ask questions about them and their beliefs.

    Anyone who gets their view of reality or of various cultures from scripted tv shows or scripted movies or the dance routines of performers needs to get out of their basement and interact with the real world.

    • blondeintokyo says

      Well, Patrick Reynolds, not everyone is as lucky as you are to be able to travel the world and interact so personally with people from other cultures. And not everyone is as skeptical as you are, able to discern fact from fiction when watching TV or other media. Most people don’t know any better, and aren’t even interested in learning better, and that includes pop idols like Katie Perry, Gwen Stephanie, and most Hollywood producers.

      That sir, is why people like Lilandra feel the need to write blog posts about cultural sensitivity and cultural appropriation, and some of the commentors, like Great American Satan and I, feel the need to comment on said blog posts, in the hope of educating those who need educating.

      If everyone were like you, no- this wouldn’t be necessary. Unfortunately, they aren’t, and it is.

      So yeah…..your comment was actually quite unnecessary.

      • Patrick Reynolds says

        Well, Patrick Reynolds, not everyone is as lucky as you are to be able to travel the world and interact so personally with people from other cultures.

        Oh, right. I forgot – there are none of these cultures within the borders of this country.

        If truth be told, however, I live within 10 miles of the largest Arab-American/Muslim communities in the US – Dearborn, MI. If you know where Dearborn is then you know that I live and work with many African-Americans. I don’t know how it is in other career fields but in my career field I work with people from all over the world. I have worked with people who immigrated from Russia to live here. I’ve celebrated Denali with Hindus, gone to many Thai and Chinese restaurants with people from China, Japan and Taiwan. During these events I was able to interact with these people and learn about them, their beliefs and their culture.

        The truth of the matter is that there are many opportunities to meet and interact with people from other cultures without having to leave this country and travel the world. We have, after all, been described as a melting pot so if someone can’t meet someone of a different culture then he/she is not trying at all.

        And not everyone is as skeptical as you are, able to discern fact from fiction when watching TV or other media.

        Can’t argue with you there.

        Most people don’t know any better, and aren’t even interested in learning better, and that includes pop idols like Katie Perry, Gwen Stephanie, and most Hollywood producers.

        I don’t know these people personally so I can’t tell you what they really think or believe and I don’t think you know them that well either.

        In our culture and age we go to movies or see performers to be entertained. A the movies we watch a man flying around in a suit of armor. We watch hammer-throwing gods and don’t really believe they exist or are being portrayed correctly. On the other hand we go to schools to actually learn about other people and other cultures. If you are going to say that the Japanese culture is not being portrayed correctly keep in mind these movies and performers portray American or European culture just as inaccurately but no one claims that they are being culturally or racially insensitive. Where are you when cowboys or Swedes are being insensitively portrayed?

        • blondeintokyo says

          Let me rephase that. Not everyone in the US is lucky enough to be able to either travel, or to work in an environment where they meet people from around the world, or even have the chance get to know those poeple outside of a professional capacity.

          Additionally, not everyone lives in a culturally divirse area where they are able to interact with people from other cultures in a way that is meaningful. Compare the experiences, for example, of a farmer from rural middle America (like my father) and an American expat who works abroad in a multinational conglomerate (like me).

          Considering that the majority of people in the US are in rural, semi-rural, or small-mid size cities and towns, I think it is quite safe to say that for most people, there really isn’t that much of an opportunity to really get to know other cultures. Generally, they rely on TV and other media.

          I also have to say, you really do have to spend a significant amount of time in a country in order to say you really undertand the culture. It’s not as simple as eating Japanese food at a restaurant with a Japanese person. I have lived in Japan for 22 years, speak Japanse fluently, eat Japanese food every day, have close Japanese friends, work in a Japaense company with Japanese co-workers, and I STILL learn new things all the time. :)

          Very simply, the average person living an average life gets most of their cultural understanding from the media and not directly from an authentic source, and as such, it’s arrogant to assume that is suffiient. What is much more likely is that you’ll make a bit of a fool of yourself, make a huge faux pas, or even accidentally offend someone.

          Like Katie Perry – she wore the kimono badly, and it was clear she had taken a crash course in Japanese dance especially for that show. Some people, who spoke up quite clearly, were definitely offended by that. IT was sloppy, it was careless, and it was racially stereotyped.

          And, LOL…I can’t count, for example, how many times a Japanese person has asked me, “Can you use chopsticks?” “Do you own a gun?” or thought that as an American, I must eat steak *literaly* every day. They get their info from their media, too- and it shows in their every day interactions with foreigners. It can be hilarious, it can be irritating, adn yes- it can be downright offensive.

          And if Katie Perry can’t do any better than that ridiculous performance, and a Hollywood director who has tons of researchers at hs beck and call, can do no better than “Memoirs of a Geisha” or “The last Samurai” then do you really think I should believe that they really seriously want to learn culture and are only wanting to use their media as a vehicle for teaching about different cultures?

          For crying out loud- in “The Last Samurai” they made it seem as though you can see Mt. Fujji from Tokyo Bay! They made it seem as though cherry blossoms bloom all spring and summer long! They got so much wrong with that movie that I couldn’t stop lauging. My Japanse friend said to me, “Is that really what Ameicans think about Japan?” Yeppers, it is- because Hollywood is either too lazy or too stupid or too busy catering to nonsense stereotypes to get it right. Thus, you have a whole lot of Americans who really think you can see Mt. Fuji from a ship in Tokyo Bay. Nice job, Hollywood.

          Finally, don’t lecture me about my not being concerned about how Europeans are portrayed. You sound like creationists bitching because atheists “only” go after Christianity. I went after Katie Perry and movies about Japan in particular because that is what I *know best*. If I happen to notice the same thing happening to other cultures, I will for absolute certain speak up about it. Additionally, I am not so naive as to think any movie portrays a culture realistically. I don’t beleive what I see on TV. I don’t make assumptions. I ask questions and seach out knowledge. But in my experienice, not that many people are that skeptical or even interested in learning. Most people are sheep.

          • Patrick Reynolds says

            Considering that the majority of people in the US are in rural, semi-rural, or small-mid size cities and towns, I think it is quite safe to say that for most people, there really isn’t that much of an opportunity to really get to know other cultures. Generally, they rely on TV and other media.

            According to the US government census for 2010 only 19% of the total population lives in rural areas and this is down from 21% in 2000. Since you offered up the life and experience of your dad, my step-daughter is a world language teacher in a rural area and they teach children about different world cultures. In addition their school system has a wide diversity of students, including some from India, as well as those of various religions.

            Traveling around this country one can meet people from various cultures. African Americans almost anywhere, my roommate in college in Arizona was a native American, Italians in New York, Cajun in Louisiana, Latino in the southwest, etc.

            I also have to say, you really do have to spend a significant amount of time in a country in order to say you really undertand the culture. It’s not as simple as eating Japanese food at a restaurant with a Japanese person. I have lived in Japan for 22 years, speak Japanese fluently, eat Japanese food every day, have close Japanese friends, work in a Japanese company with Japanese co-workers, and I STILL learn new things all the time. :)

            I’m sure that if someone wanted to really immerse themselves in a culture they could spend years learning it and still not know it all. So what? I personally love the Japanese culture and have always wanted to go see it but this is about being culturally sensitive. Like most people I’m never going to be an expert or even knowledgeable about most cultures but I can still strive to be sensitive and differentiate between what is culturally valid and stereotyping.

            Very simply, the average person living an average life gets most of their cultural understanding from the media and not directly from an authentic source, and as such, it’s arrogant to assume that is sufficient. What is much more likely is that you’ll make a bit of a fool of yourself, make a huge faux pas, or even accidentally offend someone.

            I never said that the media was the place to learn culture. If you read what I wrote you would realize that I said that the popular media is NOT the place to learn about other cultures. If the only place someone learns about culture is from popular media, especially in this day and age where tons of information is at their computer fingertips, then that person is just plain lazy. Whose fault is it when someone refuses to distinguish fantasy from reality?

            Additionally, I am not so naive as to think any movie portrays a culture realistically. I don’t believe what I see on TV. I don’t make assumptions. I ask questions and search out knowledge. But in my experience, not that many people are that skeptical or even interested in learning. Most people are sheep.

            If they are sheep then that is their choice. It isn’t the fault of Katy Perry or anyone else who does not portray various cultures accurately. Being skeptical is a choice not everyone makes.

  19. blondeintokyo says

    “If the only place someone learns about culture is from popular media, especially in this day and age where tons of information is at their computer fingertips, then that person is just plain lazy. Whose fault is it when someone refuses to distinguish fantasy from reality?”
    My point exactly.
    Most people learn about other cultures through TV and other media because most people ARE lazy. Most people are lazy because they don’t *have* to be culturally sensitive. That is just what naturally happens when you are in the majority. White privilege is all about not needing to be culturally sensitive because your culture is the pervasive one. And that is exactly why stereotypes thrive – most people have little or no interest in, and thus no real awareness of, any culture other than their own. This is not a criticism; just a simple fact of life.
    Only those who are particularly interested in other cultures will seek them out and actively learn about them, and those people are few and far between. Most people are quite happy to go through life in ignorance, and usually think that they know all they need to know.
    And just because people are exposed to other cultures does not mean they will actually take the time to learn about them. I might have been wrong about the numbers of people who live in big cities vs. rural/small towns (and you were right to point that out to me) but the point remains that even people in big cities who are exposed to different cultures very rarely take the time or make the effort to really get to know them well enough to become truly culturally sensitive.
    And I did not claim one must know a culture perfectly in order to be culturally sensitive; what I did say was that it takes time and effort to get to know a culture beyond the stereotypes. If someone like me is still learning, then how ignorant is the average person who spends zero time studying other languages or cultures and whose only real experience of another culture is eating at a Japanese restaurant with a Japanese person, or perhaps having one or two friends who are racial minorities?
    That’s why Asian-Americans are sensitive to cultural appropriation and stereotypical representations of their culture by media figures such as Katie Perry. They get tired of seeing their culture portrayed badly, and the daily microaggressions from culturally insensitive people make them feel “othered” and marginalized. They are *not* wrong to feel this way.
    I personally also feel this way, because as an immigrant, I have also experienced this cultural stereotyping and cultural ignorance. As an example, there was an ad campaign a while back by McDonald’s Japan that portrayed foreigners in a culturally stereotypical way. The foreign community here was outraged, because an international company like McDonald’s should know better than to run an ad that reinforces negative cultural stereotypes.

    And I gotta say: as a white male living in a majority white country (I assume this because you seem rather ignorant of the effects of cultural stereotyping) you should be *listening* to what cultural minorities are telling you instead of trying to negate their experiences and tell them they are wrong for feeling the way they do about the portrayal of their culture. I suggest you spend a few years being in a foreign country and livening with having *your* culture racially stereotyped, as well as living with the expectation of the people around you that you fit into that stereotype. Have you ever experienced *pervasive* racism or *pervasive* cultural stereotyping? If not, then you should not make the assumption that you understand it.

    • Patrick Reynolds says

      Most people learn about other cultures through TV and other media because most people ARE lazy. Most people are lazy because they don’t *have* to be culturally sensitive. That is just what naturally happens when you are in the majority. White privilege is all about not needing to be culturally sensitive because your culture is the pervasive one. And that is exactly why stereotypes thrive – most people have little or no interest in, and thus no real awareness of, any culture other than their own. This is not a criticism; just a simple fact of life.
      Only those who are particularly interested in other cultures will seek them out and actively learn about them, and those people are few and far between. Most people are quite happy to go through life in ignorance, and usually think that they know all they need to know.

      Some people are lazy, I’m sure. Not my problem. I don’t see why I have to tailor what I watch to their tastes.

      An analogy to this is this – many people in this country are under the age of 12 years old. Should my viewing and entertainment pleasures be shaped to educate a 12 year old or younger? If I have the ability to discern between authentic cultural dances and one that is done just for entertainment purposes why shouldn’t I be able to watch it? Why should I only be able to watch those things designed to educate someone to lazy to do it himself.

      And just because people are exposed to other cultures does not mean they will actually take the time to learn about them. I might have been wrong about the numbers of people who live in big cities vs. rural/small towns (and you were right to point that out to me) but the point remains that even people in big cities who are exposed to different cultures very rarely take the time or make the effort to really get to know them well enough to become truly culturally sensitive.

      Again, these people are not my problem and my entertainment choices shouldn’t be limited to only those things that would, hopefully, educate them.

      And I did not claim one must know a culture perfectly in order to be culturally sensitive; what I did say was that it takes time and effort to get to know a culture beyond the stereotypes. If someone like me is still learning, then how ignorant is the average person who spends zero time studying other languages or cultures and whose only real experience of another culture is eating at a Japanese restaurant with a Japanese person, or perhaps having one or two friends who are racial minorities?

      It doesn’t take time to know a culture beyond the stereotype – it just takes effort and curiosity and a desire to learn. If someone is lacking in these qualities or chooses not to exercise them then it is his/her loss, not mine. I will continue to learn and enjoy other cultures.

      That’s why Asian-Americans are sensitive to cultural appropriation and stereotypical representations of their culture by media figures such as Katie Perry. They get tired of seeing their culture portrayed badly, and the daily microaggressions from culturally insensitive people make them feel “othered” and marginalized. They are *not* wrong to feel this way.

      I personally also feel this way, because as an immigrant, I have also experienced this cultural stereotyping and cultural ignorance. As an example, there was an ad campaign a while back by McDonald’s Japan that portrayed foreigners in a culturally stereotypical way. The foreign community here was outraged, because an international company like McDonald’s should know better than to run an ad that reinforces negative cultural stereotypes.

      I have seen Asian stereotypes throughout my life. When I was a kid I watched the old Dick Tracy cartoons with a stereotyped Asian character. I’ve seen white actors portraying Asians, as well as Native Americans, in both movies and TV and I choose not to watch those because of the way the Asians are portrayed.

      On the other hand, my step-daughter who lives in a rural area is totally in love with the Japanese culture so much so that she taught herself Japanese – the power of the internet.

      And I gotta say: as a white male living in a majority white country (I assume this because you seem rather ignorant of the effects of cultural stereotyping) you should be *listening* to what cultural minorities are telling you instead of trying to negate their experiences and tell them they are wrong for feeling the way they do about the portrayal of their culture. I suggest you spend a few years being in a foreign country and liveing with having *your* culture racially stereotyped, as well as living with the expectation of the people around you that you fit into that stereotype. Have you ever experienced *pervasive* racism or *pervasive* cultural stereotyping? If not, then you should not make the assumption that you understand it.

      Yes, I have lived in several foreign countries and thus have experienced various cultures. I have experienced how someone may not like me just because of where I am from.

      It seems to me that you are stereotyping people, the way you portray a majority of people as sheep and ignorant and lazy. No matter what country I lived in or visited, I’ve never portrayed any large portion of the population in those or similar terms. I think most people in most countries are intelligent, like other cultures, and want to be culturally sensitive. Before you ask others to check their racism perhaps you should check yours.

  20. Voiceofreason467 says

    So let me get this straight shall I? Having a particular attraction to Asians is harmful because a study says so? So by that logic, having an attraction towards Blonds and Red Heads and women with a bigger bust is therefore also sexist… a study would say so? That makes no sense. It’s called sexual selection, we all go though it and just because you’re attracted to women with fairer skin or darker skin tones doesn’t make you anymore racist as being only attracted to one of your own race.

    I mean, I’m Irish with Native American blood and yet I am attracted to not only Asians but also Busty Asians and Black girls too… does that make me a racist then? Of course not, it means that I have a particular attraction brought on by natural selection. It’s about as sexist or racist as being a male or female.

    That being said, maybe I am missing something that requires me to understand the difference between having an attraction to a particular race/sex and fetishism. And if that is the case, why is a fetish that involves a race wrong while having a fetish for say, transexuals, somehow not? It just sounds like people being overly sensitive.

    Oh and one more thing… what the hell is up with you people trying to say that you need to be an Asian in order to understand what they go through? I mean seriously, it just seems like the weakest way to negate someone’s argument without ever actually addressing it.

    • S M Nakao says

      You need to consider the reasons WHY someone would be attracted to Asians. There are social, cultural, political, and historical reasons for that attraction in addition to whatever biological or instinctual things that may or may not be going on. In other words, your attraction to Asians is not only about your penis. It also has to do with your conceptions of Asians as a category and how you create that category in the first place. Your attraction to Asians does not encompass anyone and everyone from the continent we now know as Asia and the islands immediately around it; in other words, it’s not equally focused on someone from Turkey, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Korea. Being attracted to “Asians” as a group has little to do with the geography traditionally associated with that term. It has to do with certain looks, certain mannerisms, and certain cultures that you, as a white man, have been conditioned to find appealing. All of the things that may make “Asians” attractive to you (e.g., submissive, exotic, petite, fragile, beautiful in a way that’s interesting but not too divorced from globally-dominant white standards of beauty) are not only influenced by your position as a white man but also by the stereotypes created by the white supremacy that runs the society you’re enmeshed in.

      Not to mention that all of the Asians I know (including myself) feel extremely objectified by Asian fetishes and find Asian fetishists racist. Now, I know it’s not the malicious, KKK kind of racist, but it still is tangled up in the racist white supremicist structures that we are all forced to live in. So, basically, if we–who are oppressed and objectified by the white supremicist world–find it racist, then it is. No white man may come in and say that we’re wrong; his opinion just isn’t part of the conversation.

      Also, accusing someone of being overly sensitive should be outlawed by humanity.

      • Voiceofreason467 says

        1. You know very little, if anything about who I am, what I like or what my personality is, but you’re going to declare what I like, who I like and for what as if you’re psychoanalyze me on the internet. That is incredibly offensive, so fuck off.

        2. What stereotypes are talking about regarding Asian women? I know of no stereotypes that exist of Asian women other than maybe pushing their kids to get an A+++ on every fucking test. I watch hentai sure… but I am not basing my attraction of personality based on that alone.

        3. What part of being Native American and Irish did you not understand?

        4. Saying that you’re apart of a specific race, therefore your opinion doesn’t count, is extremely racist by the way. So nice job at being an antiracist.

  21. Patrick Reynolds says

    What interests me is that Katy Perry also put out a video called “Roar” where she crashes somewhere in Africa. In the video she does not perform any authentic African dance yet no one seems to be accusing her of cultural insensitivity. I can’t imagine why.

  22. S M Nakao says

    Everyone remember: no white person may tell us Japanese-Americans about whether or not something is racist against us. If we feel the stings of racism, then tellings us that we should not feel those stings or that we are being overly sensitive or illogical is the height of arrogance and grossness. It’s essentially saying that a white person’s idle passing interest in upholding logic is more important than a Japanese-American’s pain or outrage. The only way that makes sense is through white supremacy. White people: educate yourself on Racism 101 before commenting on racism articles and stop being white supremacist by acknowledging that people who are not white are as important as you and furthermore have a vested interest in not being hurt by white supremacy.

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