Tag Archives: New York Times

Review: The Beautiful Generation: Asian Americans and the Cultural Economy of Fashion

By Guest Contributor Catherine A. Traywick, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine

Perhaps the most celebrated Fall collections to debut at this year’s Fashion Week were those that creatively incorporated technology. Several designers showcased computer-generated prints, retooling traditional craft textiles into computerized patterns comprising ultra modern garments. But even as fashion critics overwhelmingly celebrated this preponderance of technological innovation, most seemed similarly enamored of Ralph Lauren’s far less pioneering embrace of one of fashion’s oldest tropes: Shanghai Chic. Critics eagerly dedicated valuable column inches to the collection, which featured all the mainstays of Asian-inspired fashion: jade jewelry, golden dragons, cheongsams. While some candidly wondered whether the designer’s invocation of China was a statement about the nation’s growing economic competitiveness, others were simply happy to break out as many tired euphemisms for “Eastern” as possible. (Not only did the “Orient Express” make several stops but East, inevitably, met West.)

The familiar scenario aptly reinforces a key observation made by culture critic Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu in her newly published book, The Beautiful Generation: “Even when freed to dream and invent,” she writes, “[designers] seem only to return to long-held ideas about an exotic and erotic orient.”

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How to Otherize Your Friends for Christmas

By Guest Contributor Jenn, originally posted at Reappropriate

(Hat-tip: Gawker)

So, let’s say you’ve got to buy Christmas presents for a friend of yours, but you just don’t know what to get her. A gift certificate from the local steakhouse? The latest 50 Cent CD? A gag gift from Toys ‘R Us? A new crockpot?

But what a minute! Your friend is Latina! Surely, that’s a hook to get her the perfect Christmas present! But, gosh, you just don’t know anything about Latina heritage. Well, New York Times has the perfect gift suggestions for you: how about a children’s book on Sonia Sotomayor? How about Iman’s book of beauty tips for women of colour? And, of course, there’s always a “Wise Latina” t-shirt! (Because apparently the hot thing for Latinas this year are Sotomayor-related products.)

And what if you’re buying me a present? Well, clearly, because I’m Asian American, I simply must have a copy of “Asian Faces“, a book that tells Asian women how we’re applying our eye makeup wrong, and how to do it right.

The New York Times isn’t exactly known for its racial sensitivity, but what moron green-lit this racist stereotype-perpetuating gift suggestion feature?

The assumption made here is that people of colour somehow need “race-related” presents, because our race is the be-all and end-all of our identities (and Christmas gift wishes). Not only that, but NYT readeres are encouraged to typecast their friends of colour to find “race appropriate” gifts — so, the friend is no longer just a friend, she’s “the Asian friend” or “the Latina friend” or “the Black friend”, and gifts should be bought reflecting your brand-spanking new racial categorization. Meanwhile, your White friends don’t need to be Otherized, since obviously they don’t have racial identities to contend with, so you can get them meaningful and non-offensive presents!

(Which makes me wonder what you do if you have mixed race friends? Do they just get multiple racist gifts? Or do you just pick the gift most in-keeping with the race you think they look the most like?)

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And All The Blacks Are Men, Pt. 301283

by Guest Contributor Shani-O, originally published at PostBourgie

Much is being made of Michael Luo’s piece in yesterday’s New York Times which explains how simply being black often hurts job seekers:

Johnny R. Williams, 30, would appear to be an unlikely person to have to fret about the impact of race on his job search, with companies like JPMorgan Chase and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago on his résumé.

But after graduating from business school last year and not having much success garnering interviews, he decided to retool his résumé, scrubbing it of any details that might tip off his skin color. His membership, for instance, in the African-American business students association? Deleted.

“If they’re going to X me,” Mr. Williams said, “I’d like to at least get in the door first.”

Similarly, Barry Jabbar Sykes, 37, who has a degree in mathematics from Morehouse College, a historically black college in Atlanta, now uses Barry J. Sykes in his continuing search for an information technology position, even though he has gone by Jabbar his whole life.

“Barry sounds like I could be from Ireland,” he said.

Though Luo is working under the rather shaky premise that recent progress for blacks, like Barack Obama’s election, was supposed to improve prospects for black job seekers, he notes the opposite attitude in his interviewees:

Many interviewed, however, wrestled with “pulling the race card,” groping between their cynicism and desire to avoid the stigma that blacks are too quick to claim victimhood. After all, many had gone to good schools and had accomplished résumés. Some had grown up in well-to-do settings, with parents who had raised them never to doubt how high they could climb. Moreover, there is President Obama, perhaps the ultimate embodiment of that belief. Continue reading

Quoted: From the Mouths of Fashionistas

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson

This recipe for femininity looks, to me, as if it is aimed toward a stereotypical Hong Kong billionaire’s wife. The clothes evoke a demure, under-control, decidedly non-rowdy (read: non-Western) type of woman who appreciates her role as an ornament of great value, and sits prettily and quietly in Gulfstream jets.

Cintra Wilson, “Critical Shopper: Derek Lam,” The New York Times

(Thanks to Rob Schmidt for sending this in!)

(Image credit: NYT)

Fashion and Patronizing, Colonial Rhetoric, Take #758080

by Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

So even though fashion designers have a tendency to appropriate and re-design fashion they witness during their world travels (or, cough, imperialist imaginations), the magazine writers and journalists just can’t seem to find the right words to characterize the collections. Instead of talking about geometric prints, the use of found objects as jewelry items, and color choices in a way that could be deemed appropriate and less offensive, they shade their words with sweeping generalizations and talk about “Africa” like a one trick pony.

In a recent New York Times fashion week photo spread entitled “African Influence on the Runway,” the first mistake made is the usual assumption that Africa is one big country. Morocco has a completely different fashion history from South Africa which has a different fashion history from the Congo, just, you know, as a tiny example. So in the title alone, they end up equating the diverse fashion traditions to one big imagined Africa. To make matters worse, the corresponding article is entitled “Out of Africa.” In reading the captions, I kept waiting for a punchline. The Times was just being ironic and funny, right?

Nope. They were for real.

Photo 1: a woman with crimped hair

“In the 2009 spring season, African style is a drumbeat through the clothes and accessories. Surprisingly it isn’t about the ethnic. Instead, it is the sculpted geometric shapes of Africa and its rich spicy colors that are the strongest forms of identity. Couture coiffeur Orlando Pita created these sculptural silhouettes for Christian Dior.”

African style is a “drumbeat?” Come on, y’all, really? Oh and just in case we forgot, “rich spicy” is not a way to describe food. It describes a continental identity in its “strongest forms.” Barf.

But wait, there’s more. . . so much more! Continue reading

From a Mixed Race Child: Tips for a White Parent

By Special Correspondent Thea Lim

The other day in convo with a friend, I burst into tears when he mentioned a couple he knows who are in the process of adopting. As a Korean couple, they have been discussing the potential race of their baby and whether or not having a Korean child is a priority for them.

My reaction was pretty over the top. Maybe it was because I was tired and stressed. Maybe it was because it was close to 4 p.m. and I hadn’t talked to anyone except my cat that day, and I don’t deal well with isolation. But the truth is on an ordinary day, when I hear parents talk about choosing their child’s race, or the politics of having a child of a different race, I immediately clench up.

My mother is English and Irish, and my father is Singaporean Chinese. Neither of them are particularly involved in radical race politics, and I will never know what or how they thought about having mixed race children before my sister and I were born, because (at least at this point in my life) I am afraid to ask them that question.

I often imagine that their thought process was similar to that of Nicole Sprinkle. In her article for the New York Times Magazine, Sprinkle talks about being the white mother of a white/Colombian daughter*:

When I was pregnant, the thought of having an “exotic” looking child based on our combined genetics – Jose’s inky black hair, dark eyes, and round face coupled with my waspy, delicate looks and tiny build – hadn’t really occurred to me.

Sprinkle talks about how this attitude changed after the first time she and her husband experienced discrimination as a mixed race couple:

Would her choices of where to live or travel be compromised by her looks? Or would her mixed genes work in her favor? Not being quite Hispanic-looking enough to make her a victim of racism, but enough for, say, college scholarships? Maybe she’d walk through different worlds at will, be whoever she needed to be for any situation. Nice in theory, but the idea of conveniently shifting identities to protect or promote herself left me cold.

One of the first posts I wrote for Racialicious discussed mixed race parenting, and I remember being quite moved by a comment Abu Sinan made:

Thanks for the article. As a father of two bi-racial children I try to understand as much as I can about the issues they are going to face here in America.

As the daughter of parents who, for better or worse, never discussed what it meant that my sister and I were mixed race (except to regularly tell us that we were “beautiful” and “special”), I am captivated by parents who want to talk and learn about how being mixed race might be a big deal for their kids, and even further, white parents who can admit that – even though they came forth from their own bodies – their children will have experiences that they themselves can never understand.

Sprinkle goes on to describe her family’s attempt to navigate the hairy terrain of multi-racial experience, and even lovingly accepts the reasons why her husband is hesitant to speak Spanish to their daughter, based on his own experiences of discrimination. Yet despite her initial sensitivity, Sprinkle quickly lost me.

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