Links – 2009-02-23

Restructure turns an eye to “What PoC Do: Restrain Ourselves“:

The people who say these things appear to think that racism occurs rarely, and that when a non-white person complains about allegedly “trivial” instances of racism, it means that she is like a young child who hasn’t yet learned that not everyone in the world is obligated to be nice to her. In reality, however, I have experienced racial microaggressions since childhood, and I am well aware that the world is not a safe space for people of colour with respect to race. I point out racism not because I’m noticing it for the first time, but because I want to bring it to the attention of others who have grown up shielded from the daily realities that people of colour have to endure. I point out racism because I want to point out injustice, not because I am some selfish oversensitive child who wants the world to revolve around me and my feelings.

Instead of “I’m offended!”, I tend to say, “That’s racist!” However, this method has its own problems, because although you are not calling someone a racist, the accused perceives it that way, that you are personally attacking their character. Calling someone racist, they argue, is an ad hominem and therefore not a valid argument. They say that you are characterizing them as a bad person so that anything they say is characterized as illegitimate. They make it all about them instead of about the action being criticized. They claim that they are being silenced if I use the word “racist”, so that I even considered using the terms “racialist” or “racial discrimination” instead to make the criticism more acceptable. Sometimes I did this, until I realized that even if you use a less offensive word, they still became defensive because they could not accept the idea that racism isn’t over, or that they could be racist (adjective, which is a different concept than being a racist, noun). I also realized that I was bending over backwards as to not hurt their feelings, instead of the other way around, the latter being the illusion that they maintain through repetition.

Lisa Zhu attended an open casting call for Avatar:

[C]asting director Deedee Rickets advised prospective extras in Friday’s Daily Pennsylvanian article “to dress in traditional cultural ethnic attire. … If you’re Korean, wear a kimono. If you’re from Belgium, wear lederhosen.” Unlike the original series, which features almost exclusively Asian cultural influences, Shyamalan’s version will depict the four worlds as “ethnically and culturally” different, according to Rickets.

Alas, my Korean ancestors failed to leave me any kimonos – or saris for that matter – and my authentic Belgian lederhosen happened to be in the wash at the time. So, clad only in a mundane sweatshirt and pair of jeans, I looked around the room. There were about 50 to 60 people in this particular group (more aspiring actors were waiting in line outside), and they were all listening intently to Rickets.

“We’re trying to create these four different nations so we’re looking for different skin tones, and features, and bone structures,” she said. As she spoke, I counted about a dozen small children – as well as two grown men – who were wearing karate outfits. Another handful of prospective extras wore traditional Nigerian outfits (most at this particular casting call were African American), but the vast majority thankfully had on boring, contemporary Western clothing.

One middle-aged black woman, clad in a denim jacket and black slacks, raised her hand. “Are you at a disadvantage if you didn’t wear a costume?” she asked, evidently concerned about her “non-ethnic” outfit.

“Absolutely not!” Rickets reassured her. “It doesn’t mean you’re at a disadvantage if you didn’t come in a big African thing. But guys, even if you came with a scarf today, put it over your head so you’ll look like a Ukrainian villager or whatever.”

Jezebel asks “Why Has it Taken So Long for Disney to Create a Black Princess?”

In any case: Looking at this timeline of “Disney’s multicultural royalty,” something seems off. The “Princess” movies started in 1937 with Snow White, and the first non-white princess was Jasmine, in 1992. Then Pocahontas in 1995 and Mulan in 1998. More than ten years later, Princess Tiana, of The Princess And The Frog. Why did Disney have a Middle Eastern princess before a black princess? Or an Asian princess before a black princess? Sure, the Disney films tap into fairy tales, folklore and myths — most of which come from European sources — but there are plenty of myths and fables involving black people. American stories, tales from Nigeria, Egypt and South African/Zulu folk tales. Yoruba goddesses of love, Caribbean legends. Why has taken Disney 72 years to come up with a black princess? And will this movie — especially the toothless firefly character — insult, or uplift?

Catherine over at Hyphen has two interesting entries on myths. The first is on “Asian Girls and the Guys who Fetishize Them:”

But for a parody of pervy old white men, we sure don’t get much of the pervy old white men. Instead, we get a pretty intense collection of hyper-sexual descriptions of 17-year-old Misaki’s miniskirt and “alabaster” skin. In fact, after a few paragraphs expounding on the bizarre sexual fantasies of this “virgin nymph,” the article starts to read less like a parody and more like the beginning of Asian-fetish erotica written specifically for “balding Midwesterners who carry most of their weight in their stomach.”

Maybe the Onion writers just can’t keep track of their own punchlines anymore — or maybe this fetishized image of the submissive Asian woman is so pervasive that even satire intended to criticize it becomes, itself, a source of the objectification.

And then the follow up, Debunking the White Man Fetish:

Since writing my last entry on the Asian Fetish Myth, I’ve received some interesting responses. Most of them have implied that, while Asian women are fetishized by white men, Asian women perpetuate the fetish by favoring white men in the dating game (I believe Neela commented on this as well).

One person even asked if I was, while writing the post, reminded of my own parents (an older white man with a much younger Filipina wife) — as though the circumstances of their relationship somehow undermine my initial claims about the ways in which the Asian Fetish plays out in the media.

To that, in particular, I respond: Certainly, I had that in mind. But my mother’s marriage to my father (like other interracial relationships) doesn’t undermine my assertion that the Asian Fetish is one perpetuated onto, rather than by, Asian women. In other words, it is characterized by the sexual objectification of Asian women by non-Asian men due to the latter’s (mis)perceptions about the former’s nature and culture (not the other way around).

And finally, I have a piece up over at Comment Is Free (The Guardian) on sexism and racism in gaming:

I’ve been gaming for close to 20 years now. In that span of time, we’ve gone from 16-bits to 64-bits to no longer using bits to describe the amazing level of graphic detail appearing on screen. The world of side-scrolling action games like Contra has given way to sandbox-style games like Grand Theft Auto and the bullet-time pioneer Max Payne. We’ve seen the rise and fall of arcades, and each year expands the capacity for online play, expansions and party linking.

Gaming has evolved in every way but one – the level of acceptable conversation regarding gaming and gaming critique. It never fails to amaze me how a debate can break out over the number of strings on a certain guitar used in Rock Band or other items of gaming trivia, but the very concept of talking about race or gender in videogames is considered verboten.