Of course many white feminists get that advocating for gender equality is valueless if you don’t include equality for people of color too. Supporting women of color is a no brainer. Then there are a few with blind spots, who ostensibly get this idea, but then in practice fail to question their own internalized racist ideas.
This is Ani DiFranco, singer, poet, equal rights activist, and to some feminist icon in words on economic and gender equality…
If you’re not angry
you’re just stupid
or you don’t care
how else can you react
when you know
something’s so unfair
the men of the hour
can kill half the world in war
make them slaves to a super power
and let them die poor
|June 25 – 29
Nottoway Plantation – White Castle, LA
exploring these and a few more of our favorite things!We will be shacked up at the historic Nottoway Plantation and Resort in White Castle, LA, for 3 days and 4 nights exchanging ideas, making music, and otherwise getting suntans in the light of each other’s company. During the day, myself, Toshi Reagon, Buddy Wakefield, Hamell on Trial and others will lead workshops and lessons that focus on developing one’s singular creativity. In the evenings we will perform for each other and enjoy great food in a captivating setting.
Why doesn’t she get that the Nottoway Plantation is the largest former plantation in the South?
Mark Faulk points on his blog what the problem is..
Here’s the problem: Nottoway Plantation is the largest plantation mansion in the South, literally built by slaves who had to carry the huge logs over (as Nottoway’s own website puts it) “miles of plantation ground to the construction site”. The owner, John Hampden Randolph, built his fortune on the backs of slaves. He even signed over 46 slaves as collateral to build his 53,000 square foot dream house.
To date there has been no official response by DiFranco to answer the criticism about the appropriateness of the venue or to cancel this event. People make mistakes, and sure this one is a huge oversight in the most charitable light. But when people call it to your attention that you’re holding your folk songwriting event in a symbol of oppressive capitalism such that 46 human beings were used as capital to build it -just maybe you should reconsider. And too, going with what should be becoming more painstakingly obvious upon further reflection -the place is also an oppressive patriarchal monument.
More importantly, DiFranco and other non-black feminists can’t feel the injustice done here as keenly as black feminists do, but they can do the work required to empathize. I am not black and I haven’t really experienced the racism directed at black people in America. Even though my son is black, I can only listen and empathize. If you inadvertently step on someone’s toes; apologize and listen so you can make things right. Admittedly the price tag of this event is prohibitive to most people of any color, but who wouldn’t want to be welcoming to all women?
Although there are people calling DiFranco out as racist for this event, what it looks more like to me is a disconnect between words and deeds in regards to racial equality. Where the absurdity of this venue would have been immediately obvious to a black feminist; these things can be overlooked by some white feminists because institutionalized racism doesn’t target them. Indeed popular fiction like Gone with the Wind glamorizes the Old South for young girls. The appeal of this plantation is that of a whitewashed bygone era of Southern gentility.
In absence of DiFranco’s answer to criticism there is a comment war going on between DiFranco’s defenders of her choice of venue and rational people on her facebook, who don’t get why people don’t get this. The defenses range from minimization and telling black women what they should feel about this to outright absurd, racist gate-keeping as documented by For Harriet . Get your oven mitts ready to facepalm…
The post as is, is patronizing and has a badly, misunderstood idea of what it means to “reclaim” something. What if a man told her to attend an event at a “historic” and “captivating” remodeled Magdalene laundry owned by Hobby Lobby because the baby stealing era is over and “reclaim” it and give a symbol of brutal, dehumanizing oppression a “new meaning ? She could rightly tell them where they could go!
The post was bad enough, but in an absurd effort that would be funny if she wasn’t serious she posted this…
This post doesn’t resemble the speech pattern of any black feminist that anyone knows. The name LaQueeta Jones on top of this may be a clue that she doesn’t know any real, black people apart from hackneyed stereotypes. She goes on embarrassing herself, and illustrating the need for some whites to get out more especially if they are toting equality until someone busts her.
Who are these people? Seriously. Who gets this personally invested in defending reprehensible, regressive ideologies? It would be funny if these types of ideas don’t pop up in every earnest discussion about racial injustice. When you find yourself telling people that they should just adopt the right attitude about the racist things that happen to them -just stop. Even less obvious racist crap like this, like Di Franco’s decision of an exclusionary venue for songwriting about gender and economic equality have the net effect of marginalizing people of color’s voices. Equal means everyone should ideally have an equal place at the table. Do the work and put more thought into it DiFranco.
However, as frustrating as the whole thing is, you can take heart in the fact that most of the posts are calling for Di Franco to do something about this on the event page. They are posting this same statement to her facebook.
“I stand in solidarity with the Black women calling Ani Difranco out for this decision to hold the Righteous Retreat at the site of a former plantation.”
And now there is a petition to sign.
[notice]About 15 min ago, DiFranco replied to the criticism on her facebook. You can view it in its entirety here. I’m still weighing her words, before I decide. I am glad though that she canceled the event and gave it more thought. [/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]