Even in the atheist community that prides itself on intellectualism, we often speak for and even instead of Muslims and Ex-Muslims. We have a listening problem. Sadaf Ali, who helped found Ex-Muslims of North America, nails it…
Students from seven suburban Denver high schools walked out yesterday to protest changes to history curriculum proposed by the majority conservative Jefferson County school board. We aren’t just seeing known culture warriors like the Texas Board of Education attempting to promote American Exceptionalism at the expense of accurate history.
So, the comments to the effect of, “Meh, why doesn’t Texas just secede?” These comments are missing the point on several levels.
What is so refreshing about this demonstration is that these students have been taught the history of civil disobedience so well that they are standing up to bigoted authorities. Their teachers also staged a sick out that shut down two schools. The problem isn’t that they don’t understand politics as usual. They don’t shrug their shoulders in response to injustice; they do something about it.
Here are some of the social media parodying some of what the adults in authority would like students to learn about the good ole U.S.A.
If you know history, the protesters of the Civil Rights era would have said, “Right on!” Only this school board doesn’t want you to read about that, because it would destroy the American Exceptionalism myth they want to sell to kids.
Christina Rad has an excellent rebuttal to Jaclyn Glenn’s musings and follow up on Elliot Rodger, and his motives for a mass shooting. She has some astute observations on how words like mentally ill and insane are not interchangeable. I don’t want to ruin it for you, so go watch it. Of course, the comments are already thick with misogyny deniers, and people who think they know when people are insane or not and what motivates them.
Rad made an excellent point about how insanity is defined in a legal context. It hinges on a criminal’s ability to understand whether their action was right or wrong. She sets up a case quoted from his Manifesto, that Rodger was aware of the legality of his actions.
In the aftermath of the shootings, people often said things like we can never know what went on in the mind of a madman. As Rad points out, Rodger laboriously documented his motivations.
I was going to post that I hoped that Glenn would give Rad’s video an equal amount of effort and thought, but she has already posted to it.
Again, since apparently everyone misses this, I said he was VERY misogynistic. I said this several times in both videos. He was also fucked up in the head. Feminists like to ignore that because it doesn’t suit their agenda, hence my video. His mental state made him capable of murder, the misogyny simply determined who the targets would become.I too have lawyers in my family. Yes, insanity was a colloquialism… I mentioned that it was a legal term because that’s the word most people seemed to offended by. Since it is legal (and slang) I pointed it out.
So again, she returns to the point she made in her videos, that feminists are ignoring that Rodger was “fucked up in the head” because it doesn’t suit their agenda. I am pretty sure that Rad didn’t ignore that he may have unusual and I believe she said strange behaviors. More importantly, it isn’t fair for Glenn to accuse “feminists” as a group of ignoring Rodger may have had a psychological diagnosis. (Worded that more charitably) The thing Glenn is missing is it is irrelevant as a motive if he wasn’t legally insane. And too, that is a strong accusation to accuse “feminists” of callously using a mass shooting to further their “agenda”. She hasn’t provided strong enough evidence to make such a blanket accusation of feminists.
While we are on agenda, why would it be a bad thing to draw attention to misogyny culture provided you aren’t glossing over the real motive? I think Glenn must already know that she gets more hate directed toward her as a woman than men youtubers get. Whenever, I discuss feminism on youtube the hate directed towards me is fierce. There are all kinds of gleefully angry comments on my perceived appearance, rationality, and emotionality. It is like dealing with hateful creationists only dripping with more venomous contempt. On other topics that don’t draw misogynists out people comment that my voice is cute or something of that nature.
Youtube right now is a cesspool of misogyny culture. It is denied in some cases by popular atheists, who paradoxically don’t have religious cultural reasons to deny that there is a problem. The culture is so pervasive that it feeds hateful, misogynists like Rodger a steady diet of hate. Don’t forget that Rodger is a youtuber, and posted his death threats there. He also fed himself a steady diet of Pick up Artist rhetoric that dehumanizes women there. Another important point Glenn misses, people often live in subcultures that normalize things that are delusional. That is why religious beliefs are not necessarily diagnosable in the DSM V. If people think they are praying to a god, it isn’t necessarily a psychiatric hallucination. It is normalized by religious culture.
And still, I can hear the denials that I have already heard before that you shouldn’t take internet posts like death and rape threats seriously. They’re trolls, right? Don’t be a victim Glenn urged in her videos, because she says you can’t affect the victimizers.
As someone, who has been bombarded with hateful comments, I say fine you can’t stop insults. However, youtube has to stop being a place for mass shooters to threaten people. The death and rape threats need to be against comment policy and taken down. How come youtube can defend copyrights of corporations, but not the rights of living people to not have their lives threatened? What if you want to hear Christina Rad, Ashley Paramore, or even Jaclyn Glenn, but you can’t because they have been targeted by misogynists and it has taken a toll?
It looks like I am not the only Asian, who recognized that Elliot Rodger is not quite as white as people think. Although Rodger identified as white, his obsession with blondes may have stemmed from the fact that he didn’t feel white enough. Although Asian voices are seemingly invisible, they can provide valuable insight. This is a close reading of Rodger’s Manifesto by writer Jeff Yang.
But after seeing him consistently described as fitting the “typical mass shooter profile” of a young, mentally disturbed white loner, I realized that both the conventional news and much of social media were making a profound and possibly important error. Because if you’re Asian, a single look at his picture is all you need to realize that Rodger was not white.
Being a Eurasian that doesn’t pass for white, who has a brother that does and identifies as white, I can tell what you look like is not insignificant in how people perceive you and treat you. Although I was recently told by a co-worker that she didn’t know how people recognized me as Asian because I didn’t have tiny eyes. Yang’s analysis is pretty much spot on in what Americans are raised to value.
It turns out that Rodger’s mother is a Malaysian Chinese nurse, who works for film productions. Rodger came to internalize racism against other races and even Asians growing up around the film industry.
In fact, based on the memoir-cum-confession that he left behind, Rodger’s murderous rage was rooted in an obsessive self-hatred, born from his belief that he was entitled to, and thwarted from obtaining, a trifecta of privileges: Race, class, and gender. He saw himself as not quite white enough. Not quite rich enough. Not quite “masculine” enough, in the toxic, testosterone-saturated way that that term is defined in our society.
He expressed surprise and anger at the sight of an Asian talking to a white girl…
“I came across this Asian guy who was talking to a white girl. The sight of that filled me with rage. I always felt as if white girls thought less of me because I was half-Asian, but then I see this white girl at the party talking to a full-blooded Asian. I never had that kind of attention from a white girl!+
“And white girls are the only girls I’m attracted to, especially the blondes. How could an ugly Asian attract the attention of a white girl, while a beautiful Eurasian like myself never had any attention from them? I thought with rage. I glared at them for a bit, and then decided I had been insulted enough. I angrily walked toward them and bumped the Asian guy aside, trying to act cocky and arrogant to both the boy and the girl.”
In his mind, attaining a white girl would show everyone that he was one of the “cool kids”,and not an “ugly Asian.” I don’t look at this new information about his race as the key to how he became unhinged. It is more interesting to me how toxic the messages our society sends out about what is valuable in a person.
It is still odd that Rodger’s values were so two dimensional and shallow. That he never learned to value things outside of the narrow white supremacist end of the spectrum. We all get these messages as soon as we begin to understand that people are different skin tones. I didn’t know I was different in the mostly white kindergarten I went to until I was teased about it. But throwing a temper tantrum about it won’t change a thing. Learning to unlearn stereotypes and getting to know people as individuals is by far a more enriching experience.
If I were to tell you that a purportedly secular anti-abortion group was engaging in the very same fear mongering and harassment of abortion providers that the largely Christian dominated pro-life groups do; would you be surprised? The True Pooka’s final report on Secular Pro-Life’s tactics is posted.
In addition to the other tactics Pooka documented, the group is promoting a campaign against abortion providers in the guise of concern for the safety of women. According to Pooka, in addition to making stuff up about the safety of abortion to women…
The site also doubles as an intimidation tool to be used against doctors. It doesn’t matter what type of doctor you are, if you’re a family health doctor and abortion consists of 1% of your medical activities, they’ll label you an ABORTION DOCTOR and list your name next to numerous other doctors who secularprolife have judged to be unsafe doctors ( judgment passed using their hard earned degrees in Looking Shit Up On-Line from Internet University).
I know there are people reading this who are not at all surprised by the sliminess. I hope that they haven’t also grown, so calloused by this group and other anti-abortion groups’ relentless assault on the right to choose whether a person gives birth, that these tactics are working.
However, I don’t think this group’s presence at atheist conferences, a group that misrepresents both science and the truth, can be totally explained by its relentless tactics wearing people down.
How did it get past the smell detector?
The group’s members have the appearance of fresh faced kids. Ex-Christians like myself or people with well meaning anti-abortion friends may be mistaking what they are doing with the mistakes we made as Christians. In my Christian past, I have actually given diapers and my daughter’s bassinet to a Christian pregnancy counseling center in hopes of helping women, who wanted to give birth and keep the child.
Looking back on it now, I was misguided. These groups main function is to guilt women with ultrasounds of their fetuses. I remember the tour, and the center’s pride that they had received an ultrasound.
Would you be surprised to learn that the Secular Pro-Life website directs people with crisis pregnancies to Christian counseling centers? This is the picture posted on their resources page…
The group’s defines its secular mission thusly…
Secularism. SPL seeks to increase the inclusiveness of the overall pro-life movement by creating space for pro-life atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other secularists.
I don’t think directing the atheists, agnostics, etc. to a Christian pregnancy center agrees with their purported mission to create a safe space for them. Particularly if they survived spiritual abuse.
This group is not simply misguided. A former member of theirs glibly showed all of us including children in the audience a video of abortions during a debate with Matt Dillahunty. She most definitely had the fresh faced, well meaning look down, even when she showed us the video without batting an eye. She also argued that abortion should be criminalized and prosecuted as murder. Matt’s recent debate with an SPL member showed the same callous lack of regard for women. The Christian debater argued that a woman shouldn’t be allowed to abort a pregnancy that would cripple her.
I don’t ever remember being that inhumane and judgmental at the height of my Christian years, and there is difference between some misguided person that you know or the pro-lifer you may have been and SPL.
As of this moment, Pooka and I plan on seeing them at The American Atheists Convention in Salt Lake City this weekend. We hope the information we provided helps people to make informed decisions. I can’t help picturing a Reed Warbler unwittingly nurturing an imposter Cuckoo chick.
Should we defend freethinking spaces from anti-choicers like Secular Pro-Life? I wanted more information on this organization as I have seen them at conventions. Lucky for me, I know you-tuber True Pooka, who as he will tell you, shares the same concern. He has more experience investigating anti-choice groups than I do. He has shown me things I wouldn’t have seen; even though SPL hides them in plain sight. So I asked him to help me gather information in order to share it with our community. I don’t have faith in anything, but I trust in the people I have communed with at gatherings that they are an intelligent bunch, and can make up their own minds. So here is his first post in a series on what he found when looking at Secular Pro-Life…
We report, you decide, right?
This is his rationale for investigating SPL’s claims…
This is a topic that I’ve always found rather fascinating. I was raised in a strict Judaic upbringing so I’ve always considered the pro-life position on abortion law to represent a two-fold threat; a threat to not just the rights of women but to the right of my religious group of upbringing to practice their religious beliefs when it comes to abortion.
I was also once one of those young men who were placed in the unfortunate position of having to fight his way past protesters to help take a loved one to have a needed abortion, an abortion that she would die without. So I’ve always had a multi-faceted interest in the abortion issue and over the years have done a certain amount of study on the topic. I was genuinely curious because while I’ve heard quite a few arguments against abortion that claim to be secular in nature, as of yet none of those arguments that have been presented to me have been logically consistent. In fact the presentations of the majority of alleged secular arguments against abortion are distinctly religious in nature.
He will get to the meat of what he found this week in the next post.
Lucky for you, you can get a peek of what’s going on in their rationale because Matt Dillahunty is debating one of their openly Christian members this next week on March 25. His last debate with a former SPL member was more like debating someone, who argued like a Christian.
SPL has also taken umbrage at PZ, Greta, and Avicenna’s post on their blog.
It is often difficult and awkward to move disagreements forward to where they become productive in the insular, organized atheist community. Especially for a family that is as actively involved as the Ra family, because a lot of times we know and like and often respect the people involved on a personal level. And to make matters more awkward so do our other atheists friends. So basically, we all collectively cringed about Dave Silverman’s comment to conservatives about abortion rights, because we really like him and we respect his professional accomplishments in the secular realm. Of course, many of us were also chagrined because we are part of the super-progressive reproductive rights community. This is the comment for reference although you mostly likely already know what he said…
“I will admit there is a secular argument against abortion,” said Silverman. “You can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.”
There have already been many criticisms from the fiercely, liberal secular types including PZ Myers, Sarah Moglia, Steve Ahlquist, Ophelia Benson, and Jason Thibeault. And too, there has been support for Silverman from no less liberal sources such as JT Eberhard and my personal friend, who I can testify is actually a ray of Secular Sunshine Shanon Nebo. Silverman clarified his comment on her blog.
I was talking to a lot of press this week – I mean a LOT of press, and most of it hostile. When I was talking to Raw Story I gave them the same pitch I’d given so many times before: Conservatism is basically divided into two parts, fiscal conservatism, which is real conservatism, and Social conservatism, which is Christian theocracy masquerading as conservatism, with the latter holding down the former. Is the fiscals dropped the Christian social bullshit, I said, real conservatism would benefit from the influx of conservative atheists who avoid the movement due to the theocratic aspects.
I said that all of the social conservative agenda was religious in nature, to which the reporter eagerly countered that there was a secular argument for abortion. He clearly knew he was right, and so did I – there is a secular argument (one with which I firmly disagree) whose existence I cannot deny.
Rather than take the road to discussing abortion, I acquiesced to his correct counterpoint, returned to my point, and said that school prayer, LGBT equality, and Death with dignity were better examples of purely Christian positions (“it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage”), and we went on with the discussion on why American Atheists was there.
There’s my scandal. The rest of what you may have read is reckless “positing” by people who didn’t do what you did – ask me. Thank you for being responsible.
So there it is, Silverman says that even though he disagrees with secular anti-choice arguments, he couldn’t deny that they exist. As many of you already know there are secular arguments against gay marriage and euthanasia that are just as bad as the ones against a woman’s right to choose. You really don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface of all of these supposedly secular arguments to smell the stink of repressive Christian culture.
In fact, I just did a presentation in February for the Secular Humanists of Southern California on how thinly veiled secular anti-choice arguments are. I don’t want to belabor the point but here is a photo from Secular Pro-life‘s website to just show you how they basically just spin religious arguments into secular ones.
I have seen this group tabling at atheist conventions. If the Discovery Institute were to table at an atheist convention with their supposedly secular arguments like aliens seeded life on this planet; it would be a sideshow. Yet secular arguments against a woman’s right to choose are not self evident to some of us that they don’t have some sort of merit. We scoff at canards like “Teach both sides of the controversy” and try to be more than fair to religious based arguments like the one in that poster.
I first became aware of Secular Pro-Life through the work of Godless Bitches Beth Presswood and her husband Matt Dillahunty. Matt debated one of their members at a Texas Freethought Convention.
In the debate, she had the audience sit through a graphic video of abortions.. Nobody in our community puts reproductive rights on the secular agenda more than Matt and Beth do.
And even though Silverman didn’t intend to be dismissive to all of us, who are fighting the Religious Right’s relentless efforts to deny access of a safe and legal abortion. Groups like Secular Pro-Life, that openly cooperate with and have members from the Religious Right, can rightly claim that he said there is a secular argument for their cause. One already has. (As Jason Thibeault predicted, so it has come to pass) I appreciate his clarification that they are bad arguments, but secular pro-choicers can’t catch a break especially here in the South. We need help and are just as under fire as science advocates are from creationists down here.
This is what really matters. It is now virtually impossible for rural Texans to get a safe and legal abortion here, because religious crackpots like Rick Perry run the government and have passed unnecessarily draconian restrictions on abortion clinics that only 6 clinics in Texas are currently up to speed on. Two more clinics have shut down just last week. How is passing more restrictions on clinics and on women’s reproductive choices fiscally conservative? Legislating the hell out of women’s uteruses and fighting tooth and nail regulations on guns and other businesses doesn’t make sense.
Most importantly, where are rural Texas women going to go when they have a crisis pregnancy when the nearest clinic is 6 hours way. And there will be more of those because Planned Parenthood clinics that provide access to contraception have been shut down by the Texas government too.
I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church where Planned Parenthood was stigmatized. As a young woman, who didn’t yet have the resource to raise a child, I avoided the Planned Parenthood clinic that was in walking distance from my apartment. I didn’t even own a car and walked or took the city bus everywhere. I still had more privileges than millions of rural women have right now.
I wound up raising a child as a single parent because poor women often have relationships with poor men and the economic stresses that go along with that. Most of the girls in my youth group had unplanned pregnancies due to the stigma of seeking contraception and impractical Christian advice about staying a virgin until you are married. In every state that advocates abstinence only sex education even though it is in a secular manner, the teen pregnancy rate is the highest. The funny thing is that advice is do as I say not as I do because 85 percent of evangelicals have sex before they are married. Our culture still has Christian hang ups about sex, and they are largely unnecessary due to low cost contraception, which would reduce the number of abortions.
Maybe reproductive rights is not a battle that American Atheists has the resources to fight like school prayer and the cross at the Ground Zero museum. However, religious-based regressive social policies including anti-choice are hurting millions of families nonetheless. And I think it has already been shown that if you advocate for women that more women will join your community. That is more volunteers and donors to help fight religious policies that restrict the freedom of women to choose what is best for their families not the government. Most certainly not pro-life groups of any stripe that don’t have to live with the consequences of another woman’s unplanned pregnancy. My hope is that Silverman will use the opportunity this has created to show strong support for reproductive rights and to denounce religious regressive policies.
[notice] If anyone reading this would like to help maintain access to a safe and legal abortion, especially for low income women please support The Lilith Fund and Planned Parenthood. I also will be talking about secular arguments for abortion to do my part on making pro-choice a more self evident secular position on The Magic Sandwich Show on March 23. I may see if I can enlist a fire breathing pro-choice friend too.[/notice]
Much discussion has focused on bringing women and minority groups into the secular fold. Considering the gender gap in secular communities (these numbers are from America) this is a laudable goal. Conversely, in religious communities there is an inverse relationship in the ratios of women and ethnic minorities. From Protestant communities where there are 8 percent more women than men to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Historically Black Churches where there are 20 percent more women than men. There is a real disparity in the secular community between gender and ethnic minorities and white males. In fact atheists equal the Mormon Church, a racially segregated community until the 1970s, in disproportionate ratios of whites to ethnic minorities with 86 percent white adherents to 14 percent ethnic minority adherents.
Why is there a gap between women and ethnic minority participation in the secular community? That’s the million dollar question.
Some charts with data collected by the Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Survey…
Unfortunately often when these sorts of questions are asked; there are superficial answers that affirm the status quo rather than brainstorm solutions to the problem. To paraphrase some have speculated that women are less likely to be secular because they aren’t “intellectually active” enough. On the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities; I’ve sat in presentations where whites have asked black speakers why blacks are Christian because of slavery in the Bible. There is a bit of lazy thinking that comes with stereotyping and overgeneralizing going on. Especially by secularists who aren’t members of these groups, and lack the personal experiences or they haven’t taken the time and thought required to educate themselves to understand a different point of view.
One often neglected piece of data on the topic of secular diversity is income.
Christians still hold an eroding majority at 78 percent of the US population. About 30 percent of Protestants and Catholics, the largest sects of Christianity, live under the poverty line. In comparison atheists and agnostics are about 4 percent of the population, and about 20 percent of them live under the poverty line. If you look at the numbers for historically black churches the number jumps to 47 percent. Another church with a high level of minority participation are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Half of the JWs are black and latino and 42 percent of their members live beneath the poverty line.
It’s true that at about 40 percent college graduates atheists and agnostics are better educated than the average Protestant and far exceed churches with majority minority populations. Education is definitely a factor in religiosity. However the list of most educated adherents also reads like which groups have better access to education in this country by culture or income. Not just for women and minorities, but for everyone affected by poverty including whites. So you still can’t tease income out of the equation.
Religious institutions have traditions in place that support the poor. However, the support can often come with ideological beliefs that trap their adherents in the cycle of poverty. The Catholic Church’s stance forbidding birth control is a good example of this.
My experiences growing up in both the Catholic and the Southern Baptist Church doctrines limited my choices as a woman. I was told early and often that my role in life was to be subservient to a man. These doctrines condition women to accept patriarchal authority without question. Looking back on it now deciding who’s in charge of important decisions by genitals rather than critical thinking was not a good idea. Studies have shown that educated, empowered women make better life choices that fight the cycle of poverty.
Some organizations in the secular community are working to close the income gap by offering childcare and low cost and free admissions. Skepticon every year is supported by donations. It is an example of an organization that saw a need and stepped up to fill it. Low cost regional conferences like FreeOK help to alleviate problems caused by the cost of travel. Internet conferences like FTBCon and internet resources like podcasts, blogs, and youtube help to close the income gap too.
One of the most interesting findings of the Pew Forum’s study is that the “Religiously Unaffiliated” is the fastest growing population of them all. The Catholic Church is losing the most to attrition, but they are staying even by immigration. Although Protestants still have the most adherents in the US especially in the South, it too is in decline. The young are where churches are losing the most adherents to us. If the trend continues most people will be unchurched. Secular organizations will hopefully rise to the occasion and welcome the newcomers.
One group that interests me that could use more focus is evangelicals. They are most often from the South. I live in the South, and was raised in a Southern Baptist Church. So I have had a front row seat to the havoc they wreak on public policy in education, reproductive rights, poverty and so on. Can they be reached? The answer sometimes is surprisingly yes. Matt Dillahunty and Beth Presswood of the Atheist Experience and Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist are examples of evangelicals gone rogue. Their media outreach has helped other evangelicals to see the light of reason.
It is one area where me and Aron Ra are different. He doesn’t understand why believers believe because he never really had strong religious beliefs. There is a disconnect between unchurched and lifelong disbelievers and former believers that gives rise to generalizations just like with any group that is prone to being misunderstood. The secular community can always find new ways to welcome former believers, and that can only be improved with greater understanding.
Towards that goal, I have asked Tasa Proberts, former believer and musician for the GUTS megachurch In Oklahoma to chat with me and Shanon Nebo on The Nones about her deconversion from evangelical Christian to atheist. Part of what helped her deconvert is the outreach of The Atheist Experience. We’ll be joined by the Atheist Experience’s Russell Glasser and Jen Peeples. We will also have Recovering from Religion Tulsa facilitator Rhonda Dorle on. It should be interesting if you want insight into former believers to have a greater understanding of them, or if you are a former believer too and want to help, or if you are an evangelical looking for a way out.
[important]The show will be on Thursday December 19th on our youtube channel. I will also post a link to watch it here on the day of the show. Visit our facebook for updates. You can also PM us there with story ideas or questions.[/important]
[notice] This is the link to watch the show directly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IExEG9dKzdg[/notice]
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.
There are a number of comments on the story that ask why is this performance racist and/or offensive?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
The 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.
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]