As a kid, I was used to standing out for lots of reasons, like my “Star Wars” obsession or the black eyeliner and vampire chic that made up my high school wardrobe.
I never expected my race to be one of those reasons.
I grew up as an Asian-American among Asian-Americans, so I certainly wasn’t used to being viewed as what we English Lit majors call “the exotic other.” Even when I went to college in St. Louis, it wasn’t that much of a problem. I did go on a date with a guy who went on about his trip to Japan and the extreme “femininity” of its women, but that was about it.
It wasn’t until I moved to the UK that it kicked in: men – and it was always men – shouting “NEE HOW MA” or “KOH-NEE-CHEE-WAAAH” or even “Me love you long time!” as I walked down the street; starting conversations with “Soooo … are you from … China?” before they’d even asked my name; playing up their supposed interest in Asian culture while going on about how “feminine” and beautiful Asian women are. Keep reading »
Sometimes brands are so dopey that you almost feel bad for them for not realizing they were being racist. (Almost.) First Paul Frank were ding-dongs with their Native American tee-pees-and-tomahawks party on Fashion’s Night Out. And now Victoria’s Secret is selling an outfit called “Sexy Little Geisha” featuring an “Oriental” patterned fan and hair sticks with tassles to put in your hair. Keep reading »
A geisha girl and a samurai warrior: these are the stereotypes Mattel used for Japanese Ken and Barbie dolls. Barbie is dressed as a geisha with lotus blossoms in her hair, a gold fan, and some gladiator heels which are badass-looking, but I’m thinking not particularly Japanese. Ken is dressed as a bare-chested samurai warrior with a small ponytail and a long sword. An ex-boyfriend who went to grad school in Japan called the Japanese Ken doll, quote, “pure Fu Manchu stereotype” — minus that nefarious mustache, of course. Surprise, surprise, Mattel has a long history of representing their Japanese Barbies as geishas. Keep reading »