Exhibit B. Here we have a picture of a woman who can play more than one musical instrument, can sing and dance, is a canny and well trained business woman in charge of her own image, and is well respected within her own culture.
The other is a picture of Katy Perry, showing off what is possibly the dumbest costume ever sported by a White woman pretending to be a Geisha, or whatever she thought she was doing. You will note, Katy Perry is not wearing a kimono, she is wearing a fusion between, maybe, I’m forced to guess, a Chinese cheongsam, a Japanese obi, flapping pieces of fabric dangling off her wrists to mimick either a kimono or an artist’s rendition of a nineteenth century Turkish coat, a weird cut-out to accentuate her very Western bosom, and long slits up the side to the hips almost, which would maybe therefore include the traditional Vietnamese ao dai, except Vietnamese women wear them with trousers underneath, because they are classy.
Oh, and look, sparkly ankle socks! I can’t tell from the photograph if they are tabi socks or not!
I wonder if the Geisha in the second picture ever gyrated around screeching to a man about how “unconditional” she’d be for him— we’ll never really know, but I’m gonna guess NOT. Which is another reason Katy Perry’s choice was problematic— that myth of the submissive Asian female isn’t exactly a non-racist choice in this context. Something the pictures don’t show us is the actual performance, in which Katy Perry bowed with her hands together at key words, and her backup dancers did the same stereotypical movements, complete with umbrellas and fans.
The eroticization of the Submissive Asian Female is an insidious and deeply engrained piece of racism buried deep in Western thought, the arts, and our collective history. Almost every ephemeral idea attached to the Submissive Asian Female image was brought back to the United States by American military men, and used to not only reinforce the superiority of White Womanhood, but to denigrate white women as well, for not being as sexually obedient. Meanwhile the Actual Asian Female, from countries all across Asia, since there really is no one monolithic “Asia” except as a geographical fact, were raped and brutalized and abandoned with mixed race children by these same white colonizers who brought this idea home with them.
Oh, yeah, and here in the States were actual immigrant Asian Women, who had to put up with the same shit.
And yet Actual Asian Women ruled countries, were warriors, fought revolutions, farmed acres of land, sailed the seas as pirates, were merchants in their own right, studied the arts, wrote poetry, and were, you know, women. Like all women, everywhere. People, really. Radical thought, I know.
This is the nexus of Racism and Patriarchy. And what did Katy Perry, a possibly liberated American female, what did she do with this? Why, she used it for her own commercial ends, and went with the unfortunate tendency of white women everywhere to completely ignore women of all other cultures in favor of the Patriarchy. Now in a sense that’s a whole nother story for a whole nother time. I’m here to bitch about Katy Perry being a racist. But you see, this is what Intersectionality is all about. It’s hard to divorce racism from sexism in moments like these, where a white woman is walking around on a stage out in public looking like THAT and bobbing her head about how Unconditional her love is. She may as well have struck a gong on the punchline, it was so fucking obvious. Yeesh.
our piroFriend has done a series of four of these commentaries on the katy perry human person’s weird act at the american music awards, which we did not watch, for we are fish. but go read them, they are funny!