“I’m an Asian Woman and I Refuse to Ever Date an Asian Man.”

A recent post called “I’m an Asian Woman and I Refuse to Ever Date an Asian Man” by Jenny An for the blog xoJane, elicited strong responses online. An writes: “It has nothing to do with skin color. It has everything to do with patriarchy. And guess what? More and more ‘racist’-against-Asian-men Asian women are getting on the white boy bandwagon.” Popular blog, Angry Asian Man called the piece “one of the more misguided and self-loathing things I’ve ever read,” but added: “The confounding thing is, the author seems to be fully aware of that.”

In response to the hoopla, Timothy Yu, a professor of English and Asian American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison writes an online rebuttal to what he calls An’s “race-trolling and self-sabotage” she is doing to herself and other APAs.

“Self-loathing, betrayal, the emasculated Asian man—[it was] all wrapped up into one infuriating headline. And, most of us thought with a groan, it’s all been said before,” writes Yu.

He continues, “It was a crazy jumble. [An’s blog] cited stereotypes of Asian American men (‘geeky,’ ‘scrawny,’ ‘effeminate’), but then An said she liked those things, and that she preferred white men anyway. It expressed hatred for the ‘model minority’ stereotype, but then said that dating white men was a way of escaping (not reinforcing) that stereotype, and that it was also a f*** you to ‘antiquated ideas of Asian unity’ (kiss my ass, Asian American movement!). Whaaa? The piece left Asian Americans with heads spinning—but mostly mad,” Yu writes.
Social commentators assumed the piece was a deliberate provocation, believing An wrote from the perspective of someone whose ideals were shaped by “white supremacy,” showing its “impact on non-whites.”

One commentator describes An’s work as “putting outrageous, extreme and possibly offensive racial statements defiantly in plain view and waiting for reaction to roll in.”
So why bother with An? asks Yu. “Why not just consign her post to the dustbin? Because we’re seeing in her piece a new phenomenon … An’s piece is representative of a new mode of confusion and self-sabotage among Asian Americans … she has a concept of what it means to be Asian American that is so meager, so impoverished, that she can only be revolted by it. It’s only an identity of elimination—what you are when you’re not something else. So you’ve only got two choices: act out the stereotype, or withdraw into nihilism. One FB commenter cracked that it was like An had taken half of an Asian American studies class at some point. To which I responded, if she did, it was the wrong half.”

Immigration Debate: The Problem with the Word “Illegal”

    It’s inflammatory, imprecise and, most of all, inaccurate. So why does everyone—from New York Senator Chuck Schumer to Mitt Romney—use it, asks journalist Jose Vargas in a recent Time magazine article.
After publicly disclosing his own undocumented-immigrant status in the summer of 2011, journalist Jose Vargas describes how the use of the word “illegal” in referring to an immigrant is not only offensive, it’s inaccurate.
Calling undocumented people “illegal immigrants”—or worse, “illegal aliens,” as Mitt Romney did in front of a largely Latino audience recently—has become such standard practice for politicians and the media, Vargas explains.

“But describing an immigrant as ‘illegal’ is legally inaccurate. Being in the U.S. without proper documents is a civil offense, not a criminal one. In a country that believes in due process of the law, calling an immigrant ‘illegal’ is akin to calling a defendant awaiting trial a criminal. The term ‘illegal’ is also imprecise. For many undocumented people—there are 11 million in the U.S. and most have immediate family members who are American citizens, either by birth or naturalization—their immigration status is fluid and, depending on individual circumstances, can be adjusted.”
Vargas continues, “…The term dehumanizes and marginalizes the people it seeks to describe.

Think of it this way: In what other contexts do we call someone illegal? If someone is driving a car at 14, we say ‘underage driver,’ not ‘illegal driver.’ If someone is driving under the influence, we call them a ‘drunk driver,”’not an ’illegal driver.’”

In an increasingly diverse society in which undocumented immigrants are integrated in all walks of life, language belongs to the people whose stories are being told, whose distinct realities need to be accurately and fairly represented to the benefit of everyone, Vargas explains.

“To be an undocumented person in the U.S., after all, is to live a life dictated by getting the proper documents. Immigration in the U.S. is more than a question of legality—it’s about history, about foreign policy, about economy in a globalized and interconnected world.”

Why the Rise of Asia In Fashion Isn’t As Beautiful As It Seems

Even as the fashion industry celebrates the continued “rise of the Asian American designer” it’s clear that fashion hasn’t quite resolved its endemic racial issues, comments Jeff Yang in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal.

On August 30, California surf-fetish apparel brand Hollister Co. continued its Asia expansion with a flagship store in  Seoul, Korea. To promote its grand opening, the company flew in a quartet of American male models, Yang writes. Several models offended its Asian consumers by secretly flipping them the bird in snapshots, and, in the case of one model, uploading a picture of himself pulling a squint-eyed, bucktoothed face while waving peace symbols. When a friend commented on the male model’s Twitter feed that it was “impressive” a number of Asians favorited the offensive image, the model responded by saying “Hahahaha they ruhhvvvv itttt!!!!”—a remark invoking cliche depictions of Asian accents.

As the negative PR mounted, the models in question were ousted and Hollister issued a hasty apology.

“In the U.S., Asian Americans have drawn uneasy parallels to an earlier incident associated with Hollister’s parent company Abercrombie & Fitch which in 2002 raised hackles with a line of t-shirts featuring cartoon caricatures of Asians with slogans like ‘Wong Brothers Laundry Service: Two Wongs Can Make It White.’

“Then Victoria’s Secret drew flak in August with its latest lingerie line, ‘Go East,’ whose tagline promised women the ability to ‘indulge in touches of eastern delight with lingerie inspired by the exquisite beauty of secret Japanese gardens.’ A ‘Sexy Little Geisha’ mesh teddy continued the offensive onslaught and stereotypical images that use racist transgression to create an exotic edge.”

Following this uproar, Victoria’s Secret yanked the Sexy Little Geisha outfit and obscured access to the whole Go East collection online.

Hollister and Victoria’s Secret are openly banking their futures on their ability to export their norms of beauty and aspirational youth beyond America’s borders, comments Yang.

“These brands are evoking a very particular white sensibility in appealing to Asians, in the U.S. and in other places,” explains Thuy Linh Tu, director of NYU’s American Studies program. “You want to think that it’s an aggressive assertion of white American middle-class dominance, but I actually read it as the opposite — that the decision to use this kind of imagery is the result of anxiety over the decline of that era.”

Opinion: K-Pop Star Psy as the Acceptable Asian Man?

    How did Korean American pop star Psy manage to appeal to a Western audience in his phenomenal YouTube hit “Gangnam Style”? Perhaps by inadvertently fitting a stereotype that mainstream Western media permits for Asian men, suggests the writer known as Daemon, on the blog Init Music.
Psy’s “Gangnam Style” music video has over 190 million views on YouTube, is getting airplay over the radio in large U.S. metropolitan cities and even signed to the record label that represents Justin Bieber.
“Much has been said about the viral sensation … examining whether or not this is a boon to Korean music’s attempts to break into one of the most lucrative music markets in the world … [But] I still have yet to read an article that hits one particular reason why ‘Gangnam Style’ is so acceptable to Western audiences when every Korean and Japanese pop artist that tried to make it in America before has failed,” writes Daemon.
Some of the obvious reasons why “Gangnam Style” is so popular is its catchy and fun music, a goofy but relatively easy dance attached to the song, and a humorous music video.
“I won’t need to explain the viral power of that,” comments Daemon.
Then, “I realized that the vast majority of Asian and Asian American men that have ever made an impact in mainstream entertainment fit into a particular conception that the mainstream has of Asian men.
“Alongside comedians like Ken Jeong, Psy fits right into the mainstream-friendly role of Asian male jester, offering goofy laughs for all, and thanks to Psy’s decidedly non-pop star looks, in a very non-threatening package. Psy doesn’t even have to sing in English or be understood because it’s not the social critique offered by the lyrics that matters to the audience, but the marriage of the funny music video, goofy dance and a rather catchy tune, of which two of the elements are comical and, again, non-threatening.”
The problem isn’t with the comedic talents of Asians or of Psy, but rather with the racism and neo-Orientalism prevalent in the mainstream Western mindset that blinds this society from seeing and accepting the full spectrum of Asian and Asian American people,” he comments.

Reel China: A Crash Course in Different Storytelling Traditions

A traditionally depicted Chinese film hero: Tony Leung in John Woo’s “Red Cliff.”
A traditionally depicted Chinese film hero: Tony Leung in John Woo’s “Red Cliff.”

Hollywood and China are separated by more than 6,000 miles, but the more significant gulf can’t be charted on any map. There are vast, historical differences in storytelling tradition that owe as much to Confucianism as modern political sensitivities, and bridging that narrative chasm has become a burning challenge given that within the next few years China will become the world’s biggest movie market.
The LA Times reports on reconciling disparate narratives in China versus America which has become a challenge for filmmakers to appeal to Chinese sensibilities and censors.
American movie heroes typically choose greatness, but their path to glory is often sidetracked by failings or doubts as the idol struggles with physical and emotional setbacks. Chinese movie paragons, on the other hand, normally have greatness thrust upon them, are physically and emotionally stable and rarely change over the course of a tale. American heroes go out of their way to search for trouble. A Chinese protagonist, conversely, does what he does because it’s his duty, it’s his job—not because he wants to do it.
Thanks to loosening quota limits and an explosion of new theaters, Chinese moviegoers have been patronizing American movies in record numbers. The returns for U.S. films have been so outsized this year that Chinese authorities in the last several weeks have tried to limit their popularity. The steps include blackout periods in which no imported films can be exhibited in China and releasing two Hollywood blockbusters on the same day to limit their upside, as Chinese exhibitors recently did with “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
There is no clear definition of what you can do and what you cannot do—from both the culture aspect and the censorship aspect, comments the LA Times. To qualify for co-production financing, productions must include a Chinese story element and employ some Chinese production staff. China benefits from the expertise of foreign filmmakers, while Hollywood, in addition to avoiding the retaliatory distribution tactics, gets access to Chinese funding and a bigger cut of box office receipts than a purely American production.

Hollywood and China are separated by more than 6,000 miles, but the more significant gulf can’t be charted on any map. There are vast, historical differences in storytelling tradition that owe as much to Confucianism as modern political sensitivities, and bridging that narrative chasm has become a burning challenge given that within the next few years China will become the world’s biggest movie market.
The LA Times reports on reconciling disparate narratives in China versus America which has become a challenge for filmmakers to appeal to Chinese sensibilities and censors.
American movie heroes typically choose greatness, but their path to glory is often sidetracked by failings or doubts as the idol struggles with physical and emotional setbacks. Chinese movie paragons, on the other hand, normally have greatness thrust upon them, are physically and emotionally stable and rarely change over the course of a tale. American heroes go out of their way to search for trouble. A Chinese protagonist, conversely, does what he does because it’s his duty, it’s his job—not because he wants to do it.
Thanks to loosening quota limits and an explosion of new theaters, Chinese moviegoers have been patronizing American movies in record numbers. The returns for U.S. films have been so outsized this year that Chinese authorities in the last several weeks have tried to limit their popularity. The steps include blackout periods in which no imported films can be exhibited in China and releasing two Hollywood blockbusters on the same day to limit their upside, as Chinese exhibitors recently did with “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
There is no clear definition of what you can do and what you cannot do—from both the culture aspect and the censorship aspect, comments the LA Times. To qualify for co-production financing, productions must include a Chinese story element and employ some Chinese production staff. China benefits from the expertise of foreign filmmakers, while Hollywood, in addition to avoiding the retaliatory distribution tactics, gets access to Chinese funding and a bigger cut of box office receipts than a purely American production.

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