Being an asian fetishizer does not make you a nerd, it makes you racist.
Portrait of Elizabeth Murray
England (c. 1650)
Oil on canvas, 124 x 119 cm
I think I have seen pictures of this before, in high school maybe, but I don’t remember there being a second person before. I seem to remember this image being cropped differently too, which is very disturbing because now that I see the entire painting, the way I remember it being cropped was very clearly and deliberately intended to remove the person holding the tray of flowers.
Since we’re throwing haymakers at the kyriarchy today, I think this is something that we should really be talking about too, because it happens
ALL. THE. TIME.
Level 1: People of Color from Medieval, Renaissance, and other Early Modern European works were often literally painted over in later decades or centuries.
Level 2: It was very fashionable in a lot of 17th and 18th century paintings to have a Black servant featured in portraits of very important historical figures from European History.
Honestly? They’re practically ubiquitous. A lot of the very famous paintings you’ve seen of European and American historical figures have a Black servant in them that have been cropped out or painted over.
Those silly stock photos from your American History Professor’s Powerpoint?
Your Professor’s PowerPoint for “George Washington”:
The actual painting:
Your professor’s Powerpoint on Jean Chardin:
The actual painting:
PowerPoint on Maria Henriette Stuart (with some commentary about the Habsburg jaw):
But, because of whitewashed history curricula, teachers and professors continue to use the cropped images because they don’t want their lecture to get “derailed” by a discussion about race.
These images are also more commonly seen on stock photo sites, including ones for academic use.
I honestly can’t find anyone really writing about this, or even any analysis on how often the cropped photos are used.
The reason they are so easy to crop out is because of the the artistic conventions which reflect the power hierarchy:
Oil paintings of aristocratic families from this period make the point clearly. Artists routinely positioned black people on the edges or at the rear of their canvasses, from where they gaze wonderingly at their masters and mistresses. In order to reveal a ‘hierarchy of power relationships’, they were often placed next to dogs and other domestic animals, with whom they shared, according to the art critic and novelist David Dabydeen, ‘more or less the same status’. Their humanity effaced, they exist in these pictures as solitary mutes, aesthetic foils to their owners’ economic fortunes.
This is drastically oversimplified, but at least it addresses it directly.
If anyone knows more on any studies or statistical evidence on this tendency, feel free to add it.
As a literary and history student i saw some of these cropped versions in my study books before, and was legitimately oblivious to this,
i am glad to have this information now…
I process a LOT of textbooks during the course of my “day job” (so to speak), and I know I’ve seen a few really unfortunate cropped images.
This post is more specifically addressing educators who either willingly OR unwittingly use modified images in class materials like handouts, PowerPoints, transparencies (YES, they still use them in some places!!!!) and photocopies.
But yes, many textbooks, especially non-ART textbooks, tend to use cropped or edited images without mention that they ARE cropped or edited. That is how we end up so familiar with the faces of white historical figures in “old timey” looking paintings, but seeing a person of color in the same artistic style that is immediately recognizable to a student will strike them as odd or anachronistic.
Even historical figures of color are presented in the same way, and the same context, over and over.
For example, You’ve probably ALL seen this image of Phillis Wheatley by Scipio Moorhead:
First they’ll criticize our slang. Make us seem uneducated for using it, when the reality is they’re mad we can code switch. Then they’ll use our slang mockingly. Like they really don’t want to use it, but it’s so absurd they can’t help themselves. Then they’ll make money off our slang, t-shirts, cups, bracelets, etc. Then they’ll convince us it was never really ours. It’s been public domain forever.
Feel free to replace the word “Slang” with neighborhoods, and music too."
(TW: racism, sexual violence, rape)
tl;dr - Asian women are fetishized and sexualized to their detriment in our society. When Katy Perry puts on Asian culture to give her boring song performance an “exotic” flavor for a few minutes, she doesn’t have to deal with the the stigma of being an Asian woman for the rest of her life. She can take the metaphorical chopsticks out of her hair and resume life as a white woman immediately after the song ends. In those five minutes where she “played Asian”, however, she reified and normalized the white fetishization of Asian women and Asian culture. This fetishization harms the Asian women that are dehumanized as submissive sexualized objects, and has been proven to lead to violence against Asian-American women.
In this essay, I plan on making five key points:
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.
1. What happened tonight?
Katy Perry performed at the AMA’s tonight with a “geisha”-themed display that included a sexualized “geisha” costume (which people have pointed out also resembles a cheongsam), stunted pseudo-Asian dance/walking, cartoon Kabuki makeup on her backup dancers, lots of fans, people in “Oriental” costumes beating drums, rice paper screens, and lots of paper umbrellas. Here’s video of her performance and more pictures. Perhaps the most perplexing part about the performance was the fact that the song she performed, “Unconditional”, has no ties to Asian culture or aesthetics. Ms. Perry, however, does seem to have a fascination with Japanese culture. In a recent interview with Jimmy Kimmel, she said “I’m obsessed with Japanese people though”, and, speaking about a Japanese person (in the same interview), “I’m so obsessed, I want to skin you and wear you like Versace.”
From Lorde to Macklemore, it’s a sentiment that’s galling for its popularity: white artists need to stop using the wealth signifiers of rap music to gesture at their self-important “anti-consumerism.” What Allen misses as she washes rims in a kitchen decorated only with bottles of champagne is that it’s not anti-consumerism when it only targets one type of consumer.
Rap owns a unique history soundtracking the triumph of financial success in a country that long barred black Americans from that success. It shouldn’t be an opportunity for white artists to wax superior. Beyond poor taste, it’s the myopia of latent racism that’s more anxious about gold chains on a rapper than an Armani tie on a hedge fund analyst.
Similarly, Lily Allen’s response to sexist industry demands for thinness becomes entirely ineffectual when it lashes out against women who succeed despite those demands. Allen is not savily critiquing the world of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Miley Cyrus, she’s resentfully bemoaning not getting to enjoy the same success.
“Hard Out Here” is the opposite of Mileywave. Instead of using black women as props to further her career, Allen blames them for its stagnation. In full-sleeved dresses Allen mocks her inability to twerk amidst women of color in body suits who launch into exaggerated dance moves, licking their hands and then rubbing their crotch. Her older white male manager tries to get to her to mimic them. Meanwhile she sings, “Don’t need to shake my ass for you/‘Cause I’ve got a brain.” Cut to black women shaking their ass, so much for sisterly solidarity."
Lily Allen’s Racist New Music Video, “Hard Out Here”
You can say please all you want, but at the end of the day most white people honestly just don’t care. Despite widespread criticism of Miley Cyrus for her racist cultural appropriation and use of black women as props in her videos, despite criticism of the likes of Lorde for their flippant degradation of the consumer choices and desires of poor black people, Lily Allen arrives in grand racist fashion with her debut track from her upcoming third album.
The video is meant to be a critique and satire of popular culture and manages some deserved jabs at Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” videos among others, but in the end it just reduces itself down to elevating Lily Allen’s white female body and objectifying and utterly denigrating those of the black female dancers she deliberately surrounds herself with from start to finish.
Let’s just go through a few image stills from the video to start…
(Image description: Lily Allen in a golden room standing in front of a group of 6 female dancers, 4 black, 1 Asian (?) and 1 white)
Much of the video features Lily Allen dancing in a golden room in front of a primarily black group of female dancers. Of course, to contrast the sexuality and exotic nature of their bodies with the others and hers, the black women are dressed in leotards and bikinis while the others have jackets, pants and the like. But honestly, I pretty much just shrugged until the utter reduction of black women’s bodies to props and sexual objects commenced in quick haste…
(Image description: A torso of one of the black female dancers in a leotard with her hand over her vagina)
Wait… what?! We only later get to see this black woman’s face really well. Gotta start with the pussy shot of her body since clearly it’s her virile sexuality that’s the real focus here.
(Image description: the upper body and head of the black female dancer with her hands parted and her tongue out)
I guess… happy that we saw her face now at least? Oh but of course she has to be licking her hands and the air.
(Image description: White dancer sticking a dollar bill into the bra of a black female dancer with the latter dancer gasping and looking at the camera)
Any words necessary? It gets better, though, once Lily Allen switches scenes and gets to objectify them and contrast their “gratuitous” bodies with her white femaleness some more.
(Image description: Lily Allen in a fur coat dancing in front of a car surrounded by her dancers twerking around her)
And it keeps going…
(Image description: Lily Allen dancing fully covered in front of a car surrounded by her dancers twerking around her)
Literally only your black dancers are the ones with much skin showing (no problem with that in and of itself but that deliberate contrast with yourself and your non black dancers is sickening) with you as the ~innocent~ white woman dancing fully clothed around them and even one of them on all fours twerking next to you?! Jesus fucking Christ.
But it keeps going… (I told ya’ll this was bad)
(Image description: One black female dancer in a bikini pouring champagne down her chest)
(Image description: One black female dancer in a bikini twerking and slapping her own ass as champagne is poured on it by another black female dancer in a bikini)
Since you know, black female bodies and twerking (a form of black female expression with their bodies) are all so funny and a joke, WHY NOT END BY SMACKING ONE OF THEM ON THE ASS TO REASSERT YOUR DOMINANCE AND PRIVILEGE OVER THEM AS A WHITE WOMAN?
Oh wait, she did that too:
(Image description: Animated gif image of Lily Allen laughing and slapping one of her twerking black female dancers on the ass)
I feel sick to my stomach so I didn’t even have the energy to screencap and post the scene where Lily Allen is dancing alone in a dress adorned with images of The Notorious B.I.G. and another one where her and her white manager are attempting to learn how to “twerk” from the black dancers. I just don’t have it in me.
What I can say, though, is that the video is sickening. It is meant to be a critique of popular culture and consumerism but employs and denigrates black female bodies to do so and elevate her status as a white woman. The lyrics of the song are also so indicative of this:
"I don’t need to shake my ass for you because I got a brain"
So women (and I’m guessing you really mean black women, right, Lily?) who shake their asses are all stupid and have no value, huh?
What’s all so funny in the midst of this is that Lily Allen has said that her upcoming album has “feminist vibes” to it, which is all too indicative of why black women (and other WOC) feel so detached from the mainstream white feminist movement. It’s why Alice Walker coined the word “womanist” to mark a departure from that movement into one that understood and saw the wholeness of her as a black woman. Intersectionality is important and erasing it, as many white feminists (and black men in discussions about race with black women) do only reveals the real intent of said movement to preserve and enshrine white womanhood at all costs even if it takes denigrating WOC to do so.
There is an incredibly valid critique to be made about hip hop culture and music videos which consistently demean black women, but to ignore her enormous privilege as a white woman and engage in exactly the same racist, degrading objectifying fuckery as Miley Cyrus (who this video was apparently at least partially a “dig” at) is disgusting to say the least.
I keep asking myself when will white people learn, when will they stop degrading my sisters under the auspices of being “progressive,” and when will they stop lauding shit like this as “saving pop music,” but the depths and depravity of racism don’t make any sense, especially in the context of the racialized antiblack misogyny (misogynoir) that black women face every single day.
On that note, FUCK you Lily Allen and who asked you to drag your ass out of musical retirement in the first place? Despite loving your music (and finding this song catchy), I sure as hell want you to take your ass right back there ASAP.
And one last time for posterity…
(Image description: Animated gif image of Lily Allen laughing and slapping one of her twerking black female dancers on the ass)
I’ve seen people mention cultural appropriation and about how this is all about what sells$$$. But what I think is missing from the conversation is the history of Compton.
During the Great Migration, hundreds of thousands Black people migrated out of the South into the cities of the North and West in hopes of WWI & WWII jobs and to get away from crazy white people in the South. They were sad to find out that America was racist from sea to shining sea and there was just as much discrimination in their new homes as there had been in the South. In L.A., Blacks (as well as Asians, Mexicans and Native Americans) faced harassment and couldn’t go or move into certain neighborhoods/areas. One of the areas they couldn’t move into was Compton.
Back then, Compton was a suburb of L.A. and it was the white “suburban American dream”. It was completely white. However, as Black citizens and lawyers (particularly Thurgood Marshall) beat formalized racism in the courts (i.e. Shelly v Kraemer and Brown v Board of Education), new Black migrants set there sights on Compton.
- In 1955, Blacks made up 17% of Compton’s citizenry
- In 1960, Blacks made up 40% of Compton’s citizenry
However, that didn’t mean it was integrated. Informal policies upheld by the majority White population (realtors, businesses, school officials, politicians, everyday citizens, etc.) maintained segregation. One of these informal policies was violence. Black people were harassed and abused by the LAPD and white gangs like the “Spook Hunters”. There was literally two Comptons… one Black, one white.
People like to romanticize the Civil Rights Movement, but they forget there were a lot of scary race riots across the U.S. in the 60s as well. The government decided to enact programs to fix income inequality. White people got angry and the racial tension that
wasis always there began to bubble to the surface. There was lots of violence. One of the most violent riots was Watts Riots.
Watts Riots (August 11-15, 1965)
The backdrop: Race relations were strained all over in the 1960s, and Los Angeles was no exception. Growing tension between blacks and whites and between police and civilians added fuel to the fire.
The final straw: A white California Highway Patrol officer pulled over and arrested a black man for driving drunk, but the growing crowd of witnesses soon turned antagonistic. The mob grew angry, and when the CHP officer wound up arresting the man’s brother (also in the car) and mother, full-flegded riots broke out in the Watts section of town. Fires, violence, and looting were rampant for days, and the riots would be the biggest in L.A. history until those in 1992. The National Guard eventually came in to help. At the end of the spree, 34 people were dead, more than 2,000 injured, and almost 4,000 arrested.
Rather than doing the right thing and ridding the city of its racism, white Compton residents decided to just abandon the city. This phenomenon is called “white flight”.
The development of the freeway system made it easy for whites to travel farther away to the suburbs, further instigating segregation. Blacks soon overcrowded the South Central area of Los Angeles, eventually boxed into an area confined within the largely uncrossable borders of the 110 and 10 freeways and Pico Boulevard.
As America’s economy shifted from a manufacturing base to the service sector in the 1970s, many jobs left Compton. This is really when Compton enters into a decline.
By the 1970s, the area’s density and shortage of manufacturing jobs increased crime and branded the black communities - even including more affluent and middle-class nearby neighborhoods like Baldwin Hills - as one large, notoriously violent enclave.
By the 1990s, the mere mention of the name Compton had become so toxic that the nearby southern California suburbs had the city of 100,000 erased from their maps. Its schools were crumbling. Drugs were rampant, and street-gang tensions had escalated into what historian Josh Sides describes as “a brutal guerilla war.” The city became the U.S. murder capital, per capita, surpassing Washington with one homicide for every 1,000 residents—and the details were numbing. In 1989, a 2-year-old was gunned down in a drive-by as he wandered his front yard; a 16-year-old was shot with a semiautomatic weapon as he rode his bike.
And this is the climate under which Niggaz Wit Attitude emerged. Their violent, aggressive storytelling reflected and brought attention to the deterioration of Compton. NWA spoke out against the notorious L.A. Police Department. They went multi-platinum and ushered in a new form of music, gangsta rap. All this was in spite of the fact that radio wouldn’t play their music and MTV wouldn’t play their videos. The FBI even sent them a letter trying to censor them (apparently they didn’t like “Fuck tha Police”). It was the emergence of NWA that crystallized “the image of Compton as a defiantly violent ghetto,” an image the city is decades later still trying to change.
Two decades later, Compton has a new lease on life. The community is still poor, and unemployment is more than twice the national average. But the number of homicides is at a 25-year low, slashed in half from 2005. There are fewer gunshots and more places for kids to go after school. Alongside the liquor stores and check-cashing stands are signs of middle-class aspiration: a T.G.I. Fridays, an outbreak of Starbucks and a natural-food store. Along the way, blacks became a minority in Compton, which is 60 percent Latino today.
And they just got a fierce new mayor. But the point is, people still live in Compton and thus their lives are impacted by all the history of their environment. The LAPD is still corrupt and racist. Regardless of whether or not Forever 21 has truly pulled the shirts, you can easily find these same shirts on etsy or on other places online. But, why would you want to wear that? Compton exists. If you’re not from there then???? It’s just very tacky.