[My main Tumblr can be found over at myasphyxiatedmind]
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My name is: Michelle, but most people call me Dark online.
My gender-pronouns are: They/them/their.
I am: 27 years old, a feminist, an atheist, an omnivore, and an ISFJ.
The Feminist: Intersectional, body positive, pro-choice, and sex positive.
My privileged identities include: Female assigned at birth (FAAB trans* privilege), white, able-bodied, allistic (?), dyadic, monogamous.
My non-privileged/oppressed identities include: Gender-fluid, fat, gray-a, neuroatypical, and gay.
I have: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Dermatophagia, and Dermatillomania.
I like: Pets & animals, animal welfare, pet care & pet care education, ~*SCIENCE!*~, anatomy & physiology, roleplaying, anime/manga, computer & video games, rock & metal music.
As often as Kanye West talks about the state of his mental health, one would think that we’d be having a national conversation on mental health–kind of like the way we had a wave of conversations about domestic violence in the wake of the Chris Brown-Rihanna incident. Yet, in the four years since Kanye began talking openly about the depression related to the death of his mother and the dissolution of his romantic relationship with longtime paramour Alexis Phifer, the conversations have continued to be one-sided.
A search for “Kanye West and Depression” brings up surprisingly few articles and discussions. There’s a sterile AP article describing his initial comments, Cord Jefferson advising Kanye to go to a therapist on The Root, an MTV news article on his path to recovery, and Tom Breihan in the Village Voice distilling 808′s and Heartbreak down to “emo bellyaching” and a “album-length tantrum at his ex.” While Bassey Ikpi later argued to have some compassion for Kanye, it was one small plea in a sea of indifference and condemnation.
After four years of being open about pain and vulnerability, I’m starting to wonder if society will ever really hear him.
The R’s editor/owner Latoya Peterson is posting about mental health—in pop culture and in daily lives—all this week. Check out her analysis on Kanye West’ 808’s and Heartbreak and how badly pop/media culture handled his discussing his mental health on the album on the R today. (via racialicious)
Just wanted to highlight this bit:
the only acceptable emotion for Black men to publicly express and still retain their masculinity is rage.
This reminds me of Tricky back in the 90s - he said in a documentary once that whenever he did photo shoots for magazine covers they wanted him to look angry and make rage faces and look tough. But his music wasn’t really about that, it was about feeling sad and confused a lot of the time. But nobody wanted to see that, they said he was more marketable as an angry black man.
this actually, this actually really means a lot to me right. when I first heard that album, it connected with me on a primal level, it’s my favorite kanye album, I think it’s a perfect album and I’ve never understood why people shit on it so much. I still hope that time will tell and and people will come to see it for what it is.
[Inspired by my Amplify associate, Karachi, and her post on Blackface, Slurs and Appropriation]
Yellow Face isn’t just the mere inauthenticity and a failure of aesthetics of white people dressing up, wearing make up, trying to be Asian, and/or playing the roles of Asians. No, it’s definitely more insidious and problematic than that. It is systematic racism and discrimination, refusing to hire Asians or forcing them to play as villains, or when they receive a major role, it is typically a stereotypical one (i.e., martial arts, ‘wise man’, ‘dragon lady’, etc). It simulates a crude idea of what ‘Asians’ look like, all the while perpetuating terrible stereotypes, controlling what it means to be Asian whether it’s in person, on the stage, or on screen.
Orientalism: It’s a dichotomy created by the ‘West,’ it builds a view of the ‘East’ along with many elements of this culture that becomes obscured and exotic. Making a whole group of people seen as something monolithic, creating an erasure of actual identities.
I’m not even going to try to bother with getting too in-depth about the obvious cultural appropriation, ethnocentrism, and orientalism (not too much at least). I’m not going to go into Yellow Face on stage, in whitewashing (too much), in Europe, nor will I take the time to go through political caricatures of Asians throughout history. [Not that it’s less important or there’s a lack of evidence.] These following examples and history checks should do enough for now in getting my point across. (Please find a friend in Google if you really want to educate yourself though! Thank you!)
So, why did Yellowface occur? Was there a shortage of Asian people to play these Asian roles during the times this practice was most rampant (19th and 20th century)?
Meet Sessue Hayakawa (Born 1889-Death 1973), the first Asian American leading actor. He was one of the highest paid actors of his time. His talents were definitely recognized by Paramount Pictures and was even considered a sex icon. But despite all of this, he still met discrimination and racism everywhere he went. He was always forced to either play “the exotic villain” or “the exotic lover.” He waited for his turn to be casted as a hero of color, but it never came.
This is Anna May Wong (1905-1961). During the 1920s-1930s, Anna was given many different roles as a contracted Paramount Pictures actress, but they were always either as a “dragon lady” or a “butterfly lady.” Despite all of that, she was still a household name and was considered a fashion icon.
She was the top contender for the leading role of O-Lan, a Chinese heroine for the movie The Good Earth (1937) by MGM, but that role was later given to Luise Rainer (definitely not Asian). MGM went to her and tried to give her another role for a film called Lotus, but it meant that she had to be the villain again, so she turned it down and left for Europe for more opportunities and eventually went back to Paramount Pictures.
Say hello to Philip Ahn (1905-1973). For the film, Anything Goes, Ahn was initially rejected by the director, Lewis Milestone, because—I shit you not, he said this to Philip Ahn—he thought Philip’s “English was too good for the part.” During World War II, Philip Ahn was often forced to play roles of Japanese villains. He even received death threats because people thought he was actually Japanese.
Other Asian actors/actresses: Barbara Jean Wong, Fely Franquelli, Benson Fong, Chester Gan, Honorable Wu, Kam Tong, Keye Luke, Layne Tom Jr., Maurice Liu, Philip Ahn, Richard Loo, Lotus Long, Rudy Robles, Suzanna Kim, Teru Shimada, Willie Fung, Victor Sen Yung, Toshia Mori and Wing Foo.
Merle Oberon can also be added to the list, although she was part white/part Asian. She had to lie about her origins and applied whitening make up to pass as fully white. Other Asian actors and actresses: Jack Soo, Pat Morita, Mako, Bruce Lee, Lucy Liu, Margaret Cho, B.D. Wong, Amy Hill, Jennie Kwan, Masi Oka, James Lee, Ming Na, Daniel Dae Kim, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Charlyne Yi, Miyoshi Umeki, Shin Koyamada, John Cho, Brenda Song, and George Takei. Click on this link to see a hundred more.
After going through the list, ask yourself why the majority of the actors and actresses here are either in some martial arts movies or some other stereotypical crap?
TL;DR this section: There definitely wasn’t a shortage of Asian American actors and actresses. And there still isn’t.
Very Few Examples (of Very Many) of Yellowface in History:
Nil Ashter as General Yen from The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)
What Nils Ashter really looked like:
Harold Huber as Ito Takimura in Little Tokyo, USA (1942)
Interestingly enough, everyone who was a “bad guy” in this was portrayed as Japanese. Even more interesting, this was around the same time Japanese Internment Camps were happening.
What Harold Huber really looked like:
Katharine Hepburn as Jade Tan in in Dragon Seed (1944)
Katharine Hepburn just a few years after Dragon Seed:
Jennifer Jones as Dr. Han Suyin in Love is a Many Splendored-Thing (1955)
Another interesting concept found in this movie. “BEING WITH ASIAN WOMEN IS SO HOT AND EXOTIC. LET’S FETISHIZE THE SHIT OUT OF THEM.” Yup.
What Jennifer Jones actually looks like:
John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror (1956)
John Wayne, y’all:
Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Mickey Rooney at that time:
Joel Grey as Chiun (Kung Fu Master, everyone—on the left) in Remo Williams (1985)
What Joel Grey really looked like:
Other cases I haven’t really taken the time to cover: Charlie Chan Series (Actors who played as Charlie Chan from 1931-1981: Warner Oland, Sidney Toler, Roland Winters, Peter Ustinov) Fu Manchu, Madame Butterfly, The Teahouse of the August Moon, Shanghai Express, The Manchurian Candidate, Sayonara, Mr. Moto Series, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, Short Circuit (1986 & 1988), The Party, Gunga Din, Broken Blossoms, The Year of Living Dangerously, etc.
I mean, I guess you could say, “But those movies were decades ago!”
Alex Borstein as Ms. Swan.
Nicholas Cage as Fu Manchu (2007)
(Other actors who played the role of Fu Manchu starting from the 1920s up ‘til now: H. Agar Lyons, Warner Oland, Boris Karloff, Harry Brannon, Christopher Lee, and Peter Sellers)
Christopher Walken as Feng (2007)
Rob Schneider as Asian Minister in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007)
M. Night’s The Last Airbender (2010)
Well, the show was based on Asian and Inuit culture. But just look at the casting. The three protagonists are all light skinned while Zuko (played by Dev Patel in the movie) is dark skinned, and by default in this movie, the bad guy. Someone please just remake this movie. Please.
British Actor, Jim Sturgess, (rocking bad eye prosthetics) playing as a Korean in Cloud Atlas (2012)
Like I said - I continue to refuse to support media businesses which overtly show you they’re totally about segregation era- hiring practices - because how much more obvious can it get than…
“We wanted an asian character, but we hired a white person, and even though we say it’s about acting chops MORE THAN APPEARANCE, we decided to dress them up to LOOK ASIAN, so in reality what we’re saying is we wanted someone who ‘looked asian’ but we were too damn racist to consider giving that money to an actual asian so instead we spent lots of money on make up and CGI to instead, so that tells you how much money we’re willing to drop to make sure we don’t accidentally give any Asian actors a paycheck.”
The History channel NOT to call indigenous peoples “primitive” simply because they don’t want none of your White Western technologies an’ shit.
They always edit out the fact that like 80-90% of those “primitive” people have cell phones and other technologies that are just damn convenient, and integrate them seamlessly into traditional life.
The Maasai, traditional pastoral and nomadic folk use cell phones to coordinate business and everyday life as well as call doctors, and gain access to apps for weather and grazing information. (article has video)
And just text each other and bullshit.
Traditional Mongolian folks (dressed for Naadam in the photo)
And traditional Inuit living in arctic Canada generally use the internet to connect and also pass on those traditions to the next generation…
So yeah a ton of those documentary-anthropology shows are editing out things that don’t fit their idea of “primitive” and then ramble on and on about how “primitive” the people they’re following around with cameras are.
It’s total bullshit.
is don’t trust anything the police and the media tell you.
Stop and think for a minute. Winnsboro is Klan country, a short drive from Jena. Do you think there aren’t Klansmen and sympathizers in the Winnsboro police?
As my comrade Tony Murphy wrote: “I would also like to point out the speed at which the Winnsboro police have cast doubt on her story — compared to the foot dragging that Trayvon Martin’s parent’s encountered when they tried to find out what happened to their son. One article had the police determining this was a hoax in ‘less than 24 hours,’ performing analyses of the car, her fingerprints — they were a regular CSI Winnsboro.
“In Sanford, police had Trayvon’s body in the morgue for two days while the parents frantically called them looking for their son. I saw Winnsboro referred to as being in the ‘Klanbelt’ — Jena is 60 miles away, and another town, Ruston, is 75 miles away, where the Klan marched in the late ‘90s.”
I’m not fat — by American standards. I am considered slightly chubby for an Asian in China. I’m 5’1” and about 100 pounds, give or take five pounds depending on whether it’s New York Fashion Week or final exams week at Columbia. Everyone assumes I’m naturally petite because of my Asian genetics, but the truth is, I count my calories like Ebenezer Scrooge counts his gold coins and run and do yoga like Lululemon is paying me. The moment I “let myself go,” the weight bounces back.
I try not to talk about it, though, because the moment I do, someone always says, “Shut up, you’re Asian. You have genetics on your side.”
That’s the problem — Asian girls are suffering from body image issues and eating disorders because they try to hold themselves up to the expectation that Asian girls are naturally slim. In fact, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Diane von Furstenberg said, “It is great to design for Chinese women, because they have great bodies. They are slim and have tiny waists, so it’s nice.”
Elizabeth Harker recently wrote the most amazing piece about being a fat foreign girl in China, in which she discovered the difference betweenpang, which means fat in an almost affectionate way, and fei, which is the adjective my mother uses to describe fatty pork dishes. Asians are open to talking about weight — they’ll force-feed you when they think you’re too thin and they’ll shame you when they think you’re too fat.
When I came back from my first year of college in New York, my mother whispered to me, “You’re a little fat now.” When I fell on my butt during cheerleading practice, my dad said to me in the car, “I wonder if it’s because you’re fat for an Asian.”
The first time I realized I was “fat” for an Asian girl was when I was 10 years old, on a trip back to China to visit relatives. A distant cousin whom I had never met before grabbed my arm and said, “Hao fei,” which, roughly translated, means, “So porky.” Since that day, I stopped wearing short sleeves whenever possible because I was afraid others would notice my “porky” arms.
In Chinese culture, eating is seen as a form of affection and commitment to the family, so I always ate every meal, every single kernel of rice in my bowl. But I also felt fat and unfit to be the “perfect” Asian girl, as I compared my body to those of my fellow Asian American girl friends. When we would go out to eat and drink — a group of petite Asian girls — I knew I had to work out more and eat less the next day to make up for the amount I ingested with my friends. I’ve spent countless Friday nights in college, feeling completely inadequate because every single Asian girl I met was thin and beautiful with porcelain smooth skin, like Asian girls are supposed to be. I started to wonder if I was the only Asian girl who felt this way.
My metabolism just can’t keep up, but no one believes me.
“Asian girls eat like football players but they just don’t get fat — it’s great,” remarked a guy friend, as I picked at my spinach salad.
This past summer, over cocktails (400 calories, I counted), a fellow Asian girl confided in me, “When I was at my lowest weight, 98 pounds, I ate only two yogurts a day. I was so miserable, but I had to — how can you be Asian and not be thin?” For many Asian girls, being thin is imperative; being a fat Asian — or even an Asian of “normal” weight — basically implies you’re a glutton who managed to out eat your own superfast metabolism. To be an attractive Asian girl, being thin is supposed to be a given.
I spent much of my life hating my body because it felt imperfect for both Asian standards and Western standards. I wasn’t skinny or tall enough to look like a fashion model or busty enough to be a swimsuit model, and I wasn’t petite and cute enough to look like a Korean pop star. As a little girl growing up in an immigrant Chinese household in America, I never thought I was pretty. I wasn’t considered beautiful in either of the two cultures I considered part of my identity. I spent the first half of my life wishing I were a beautiful white girl, and the second half of my life wishing I were a beautiful Asian girl.
My friend Elaine Low wrote an article for Mochi (an online magazine for Asian American girls) called “Diagnosing the Asian American Disorder,” which explains: “‘It’s meaningful that a white woman can turn on a TV and find a broad range of characters, but Asian Americans are portrayed the same way over and over again,’ said Dr. Teresa Mok, a clinical psychologist who treats a lot of college students. ‘For someone struggling with self-esteem issues, this reinforces the feeling of invisibility.’”
I’m aware that body image isn’t an issue specific to Asian women — but the interesting thing I’ve discovered is that being Asian — or any minority — makes you harshly critical about your own image. You don’t get to see yourself much on TV or in magazines, and when you do, you get frustrated if you don’t fit into that perfect airbrushed image.
I’ve done my best to be the perfect Asian daughter — getting straight As in high school and attending an Ivy League university, for example. I, and many of the Asian girls I’ve talked to, have expressed the pressure to be “perfect” in every single way — whether it’s because society expects you to be as the “model minority” or your parents expect you to be as the “precious daughter.” I never let myself be happy with the way I looked; after all, if I could work for perfect grades, why couldn’t I work for a perfect body?
I told a white classmate about how casual it is for Asian parents to make comments about their children’s’ weight. She frowned and said, “That would not be okay in my household. That would not go over well.” It’s a cultural disconnect I’m still trying to grapple and understand.
I don’t think I’ll ever be thin enough to satisfy my family. I don’t think I’ll ever be thin enough to satisfy society. And unless things start changing from the inside, I don’t think I’ll ever be thin enough to satisfy myself. As of right now, I’m still spending hours every week, working off the calories at the gym and measuring my portions on the kitchen scale. I’m still trying to be the perfect student, daughter, and human specimen — as futile as that may be, I feel that it is expected of me. I know all experiences — and body types — are unique and I’m not speaking on behalf of all Asian women, but I know I’m not the only one.
I wanted to reblog this because it came up in the comments of my last ED post, somebody saying that they felt a lot of pressure to be thin because they were Asian. It’s something I completely understand, though I never had to deal with that specifically since even before my ED I was what people would consider to be thin.
But the “oh you’re lucky, you’re Asian, you’re naturally thin!” thing I’ve heard a lot. Along with “oh, you’re lucky, you’re Asian, it’ll be so easy for you to transition and be beautiful!” or the more transphobic version: “Asian men make the best women” (as an ex boyfriend told me right before I dumped him.) Or etc etc… because our media has this idea that all Asian women are thin, and feminine, and Asian trans women are cis-passing, beautiful and thin.
Even in the comments of this blog, somebody wrote that manga art was an accurate version of how Asian women look like because we all have baby faces. A Japanese pop star was offered as proof. And that’s generally, what people remember, because Asian people aren’t individuals in white western society, and we’re represented by only a select few aesthetics. So if people only see East Asian pop stars with child like faces and thin bodies, well that’s what East Asian people should look like!
Much like women, in general, in our pop media are represented by only a few body types. And it’s an extra pressure that women of colour, and specifically, in this case, East Asian women face. And all the assumptions and non-support we get because “oh you’re Asian, you don’t need to worry about that!” or how “lucky” we are to be Asian women (cis and trans) because of the exotification and stereotypes surrounding us.
While I don’t struggle with the pressure to fit this idea that all Asian women should be skinny, I do struggle with my fear of aging and my face looking old. I realized the other day my internalized racism, where I could see many kinds of beauty, young and old in white women’s faces, but in Asian faces, I could only see “old and wrinkly” or “young, puffy and child like”, and even though I know that’s not true, it’s just so embedded in how the society I live in views East Asian women.
And it’s obviously not just me, since as I said, I’ve had people say that, and people even comment on this blog arguing that this is the norm for East Asian women. And when you stereotype a “race” as being “naturally” like XYZ, no matter how positive XYZ is supposed to be, you’re also telling (consciously or not) every individual of that group that they need to measure up to that standard, since after all it’s how we should be “naturally.”
It also ends up creating an environment where any of the issues we face relating to the “positive” stereotype, gets erased and dismissed. For example, the woman in the above piece had her body image issues ignored because of the idea that Asian women have hyper metabolisms and we’re always super thin. And when I was early in my transition, I faced a lot of dismissal of my fears, body issues and dysphoria by white trans and cis women because of the idea that all Asian trans women are just super beautiful and cis passing.
Nobody’s “lucky” to be trapped in a box where we can’t be individuals.