By Guest Contributor Tressie McMillan Cottom, cross-posted from TressieMC
When Suzy Lee Weiss wrote her now infamous, high profile screed about how diversity initiatives in college admissions unfairly penalize white middle class kids who don’t have the good fortune of gay moms, Indian headresses, or African poverty, I condemned the Wall Street Journal for running it.
My thinking is that permanent records of our intellectual and emotional development should not be used as fodder for pushing an editorial agenda of a for-profit company. I sincerely hope Suzy Lee Weiss comes to understand why Indian headdresses, queer parents, and geopolitics that reduce a continent and a people to poverty porn are not useful tools in presenting one’s self as educated or human. Thus, my critique focused on the cynical editorial decision to profit from her while ultimately, implicitly betting that she’ll be at 30 who she is at 18. The Wall Street Journal did not leave a lot of public room for Suzy to grow.
When Michelle Obama revealed the “secret” to her workout for perfectly toned arms, it became national news. This revelation, however, did not quell the debate and fascination over the gender politics surrounding this particular body part, as CNN and Fitness magazine are two of the many outlets that use Michelle’s arms as the ideal goal of suggested workout plans. Michelle has gracefully weathered the storm of public attention about her workout regimen by turning health and fitness into one of her defining public issues, with the “Let’s Move!” campaign. But the story about Michelle’s arms is not an innocent case of celebrity flattery or fitness gossip; it is part and parcel of the American public’s obsessive concern with the public presentation of Ms. Obama’s body.
“Can we try it more mysterious, with that mystique from the East?
… Channel a late night sex chat ad
… Maybe go back further into your heritage … A little more ethnic.”
Remember those racist-alicious ads from Michigan senatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra, the ones where the docile, limpid eyed, bike-riding Asian woman thanked “Debbie Spend It Now” for spending so much American money that she singlehandedly ruined the U.S. economy while giving more jobs to China? Well, that Sinophobic Super Bowl ad promptly inspired several spoofs including this one from Funny or Die, and this clever one from Kristina Wong that I found recently on Disgrasian.
In it, Wong plays an actress obviously starring in a “Debbie Spend it Now”-type commercial. The disembodied (presumably white, male) director’s voice is off-camera, insisting that Wong play her role with more ethnic “authenticity.” At one point, he asks her to read the lines like her mother might. When Wong delivers the lines in an American accent, the frustrated director corrects, “But that’s the same as you read it last time, is that how your mother talks?” Wong nods, deadpan. “She was born in San Francisco.” Later, he reminds Wong that she is “in a rice paddy.” To which she exclaims, “Oh, I thought we were in Runyon Canyon.”
Kristina Wong’s spoof speaks to the continued conflation of Asian American and Asian identity. No matter how many years, or generations, we’ve been in this country, we Asian Americans remain ‘contingent citizens’ and ‘perpetual foreigners.’ (You’ve heard the question: “Where are you from? … No, where are you really from?”)
Wong’s spoof also speaks to the sexualized, passive tropes surrounding Asian American womanhood. In a recent talk I gave for Wellesley College’s GenerAsians Magazine, I suggested that three tropes still seem to encapsulate much of how Asian American women continue to be perceived:
Reader AnoninPhilly sent us a link to the latest in the woe-are-unwed-black-women articles from the Wall Street Journal, this one titled “An Interracial Fix for Black Marriage.” Sing along if you know the words:
Audrey belongs to the most unmarried group of people in the U.S.: black women. Nearly 70% of black women are unmarried, and the racial gap in marriage spans the socioeconomic spectrum, from the urban poor to well-off suburban professionals. Three in 10 college-educated black women haven’t married by age 40; their white peers are less than half as likely to have remained unwed.
But since it’s the WSJ, the idea of the market is the main angle of the story.
I came away convinced of two facts: Black women confront the worst relationship market of any group because of economic and cultural forces that are not of their own making; and they have needlessly worsened their situation by limiting themselves to black men. I also arrived at a startling conclusion: Black women can best promote black marriage by opening themselves to relationships with men of other races.
In a pair of interviews posted since Latoya’s column on Amy Chua’s recent Wall Street Journal piece, Chua elaborated on both the themes of the book it was taken from, Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother, and said the newspaper mis-represented her book.
Hardass Asian Parents have hit the mainstream – and they came with a healthy heap of stale stereotypes:
A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too.