Low Level, “No No No”. This morning Chris texted me an Omona headline: "China Reaches New Low With Hyuna Wannabe". Naturally, I had to investigate. The video is hard to watch if you’re at all familiar with “Bubble Pop!”, and the lame attempt at the onomatopoeia hook makes me wince. But the rest of the song hits a pleasure centre in my brain that has everything to do with growing up with a local scene where our favourite bands were people who shouted slogansover iPod beats. There’s something punk about this song, even if it’s just its shamelessness in ripping off a better-known, better-produced one. (The lyrics are apparently quite meaningful, and her brand name-dropping makes me want to believe she’s making fun of the consumerist lifestyle - can someone confirm this?) The way the dubstep section gets reinterpreted at 2:33 is the definition of accidental brilliance.
May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. A rather broad term, Asian-Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).
Like most commemorative months, Asian-Pacific Heritage Month originated in a congressional bill. In June 1977, Reps. Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California introduced a House resolution that called upon the president to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The following month, senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both were passed. On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush signed an extension making the week-long celebration into a month-long celebration. In 1992, the official designation of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law.
The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
“Why do sheng nu happen now in China?” Wu asked. After a dramatic pause, she answered her own question: “It is a result of high GDP growth.” At this point, several women in the audience fidgeted, wary of an economics sermon, but Wu continued. “In the past, there was no such word as sheng nu. But today women have more wealth and education — they have better jobs, and higher requirements for men.” She reflected: “Now you want to find a man you have deep feelings for who also has a house and a car. You won’t all find that.”
She wasn’t telling the women they should want less, exactly. What she was really pointing out was just how much better today’s Chinese women have it. Thirty years ago, a marriage certificate was a passport into adulthood. “Until you married, there were no basic human rights. No right to have sex before marriage. No house allocated by your danwei [government work unit] before marriage.” Today those barriers have crumbled, with rising sexual freedom and a booming private real estate market. Why marry unless you find someone just right? “The future is different,” Wu predicted, waving her arms for emphasis. China’s big cities will be filled with sheng nu. “Those who can bear the shortcomings and sufferings of men will get married,” she concluded. “Those not, single.”
All this grand theorizing was not remotely what Sabrina, a slender 26-year-old with sexy librarian glasses, wanted to hear. “I wish she had given more practical advice about how to enlarge my social circle,” she whispered to me. Sabrina was there because she truly wanted to get married, and by her own anxious calculation, she feared she had about one year left. She had a graduate degree from a good university, held a respectable job in marketing, and was reasonably attractive. It had never occurred to her that finding an appropriate partner would be a struggle. Did I know any unmarried men? she asked. And if so, I should probably tell them she is just 24.
sheng nu- literally, “leftover woman”; derogatory term used to refer to women “past their prime” who are still single… over the age of 27/30.
I honestly have mixed feelings about the article. One is utter annoyance at the almost condescending way it is written- that the author (a white woman) would compare a speaker giving a presentation in this article to another famous white woman at all: why can’t women of color just be who they are?
Second, this line:
The singletons I interviewed in Beijing were anything but dowdy. At 5 feet, 9 inches, the slim woman who slipped into a seat at the table at trendy Opposite House cafe was, in fact, an utter knockout. Annie Xu has a strikingly angular face, large wide-set eyes, shoulder-length hair, and flawless skin.
there’s something in the wording that smacks of cultural assumptions—like why wouldn’t anyone want these women? THEY’RE GORGEOUS ORIENTAL FLOWERS!!!!
thirdly I feel as though she takes the problem to the women, instead of more deeply examining this patriarchal power structure that contributes to these derogatory terms in the first place.
A generation ago, when Chinese society was simpler, there were fewer choices. But today, with colossal economic upheaval — and a yawning chasm between China’s winners and losers — your spouse may be the largest single factor determining whether, in the words of one infamous female contestant on Fei Cheng Wu Rao, you ride home on the back of a bicycle or in a BMW. And that just crystallizes the problem: China’s educated women increasingly know what they want out of life. But it’s getting harder and harder to find Mr. Right.
excuse me, “simpler”? Simpler to who? To you? Take your attitude and shove it up your lily white ass because you clearly don’t understand the substructures that exist within the family dynamic of “pre-liberated and Westernized” China.
While I’ve enjoyed reading articles written by people who “miss the monoculture,” I don’t really miss it or even remember it very well. I’ve always felt a bit off in my own world, which sometimes is a point of pride and other times feels like a kind of social failure. These days, for me, the greatest tension when writing about music is trying to bridge the gap between music as a private or a public experience. So part of me envied those who could join the conversation about Nicki Minaj and connect her music to the broader culture, because so much of the music I love and have interesting ideas about means almost nothing to the world as a whole.
This column connects with some thoughts I’ve had about being a person who writes about music, a person who writes about K-pop, and even about when I moved away from home and found myself in a peer group that grew up listening to a completely different set of records from me. Also, the idea of music that is more interesting to read about than to listen to is great (and makes me feel better about all those times I’ve listened to a song and had absolutely nothing to say about it).
This is from a month ago, as a reaction to that MBC thing, but it provides some interesting context for both the practice of blackface and its reception in various cultures (while not excusing the fact that it happened):
I think the singular difference between blackface in Korean contexts, versus blackface in the American (or European) context is that in Korea, it’s not clear whether blacks occupy a special negative place in the Korean mind — yet, or still. While it’s easy for the Western North American to assume so, since the mockery used on blacks is so often copied straight from our own historically racist entertainment, where blacks did occupy that specially excluded/hated status — and while it is offensive to most black people, and deserving of criticism — the Korean use of blackface isn’t necessarily a sign that blacks are the Most Hated Others in Korean thought. I think this assumption might be lurking behind the loudness the Western response to incidents of blackface (as opposed to the much quieter and gentler expat response to the mockery of Arabs in Korean media).
I also really liked this quote about the dominant culture’s perception of what racism is vs. its reality:
When people sympathize with me, they’re usually thinking of how alone they imagine I feel here, or how hard it is to be somewhere where your mother isn’t providing you with home-cooked side dishes on a regular basis — not people calling any woman beside me a “foreigners’ whore” or a “crazy bitch,” or being attacked in subway stations by random assholes, or having my contract illegally changed midway through, or going unpaid by an employer, as many white hakwon teachers seem to experience. When they imagine racism against blacks in Korea, they think of rude old men muttering bad words into the wind, not assaults on the subway or in the streets or a constant barrage of being told to “go home” or the way leadership in this society thinks of black people almost all the way to the top, or how insulting and dehumanizing the depiction of blacks is in the media here. When those Koreans who are at all sympathetic imagine the problems of Southeast Asians, they think of hard work and low pay, not fear of summary arrest or violence at the hands of employers or unthinkably dangerous working conditions.
To this I would add that in the North American context, this is often reversed: the popular perception of racism tends to be limited to physical violence and/or dramatic things like cross-burning (hence the fallacy that our society is “post-racial”, because things like that don’t happen in the open any more), not the more insidious, subtle things like Othering, stereotyping or withholding jobs or good grades. That’s not to say that physical violence isn’t part of the reality of racism - the recent cases of Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi definitely say otherwise - but that it isn’t the whole picture, and racist attitudes still count even if their holder hasn’t committed an outright act of violence.
How does a white woman claim to be the victim of yellow fever? I know, it’s so absurd it’s funny. But she manages it, by denying the impact of racism, and replacing it with a spiteful sense of competition. She doesn’t criticize her boyfriend’s race-conquest. She doesn’t flinch at his weekend tally of Asian indulgence. Instead, she basically protests that Asians took my boyfriend.
In selecting this story This American Life poses two subtexts: that white women are the natural objects of sexual attraction, and that people of color are a threat. It nurses a wound that whiteness was overlooked, and makes a fresh contribution to the Jezebel accusation of the racial temptress–”over-sexualized” Black women, “spicy” Latinas or “bellydancing” Middle Eastern woman.
For East Asian women or gay men, yellow fever isn’t a triumph, it’s a trauma. The fact that her boyfriend is a cheater is half as noxious as the fact that his casual sex is raced. But in this story, somehow, the white protagonist has managed to describe herself as oppressed by, well, Asian oppression.
ARGH. I don’t listen to NPR (which I would only be able to get in podcast form anyway) but this made me want to flip my desk, for all the reasons articulated in the essay. On the upside, there’s some excellent discussion going on in the comments section, with clarifying information and a diversity of viewpoints represented, each with good points.
Oh boy. Obviously, it’s completely impossible to talk about Jeremy Lin without talking about race. Mindful of the other Asian players who’ve played in the NBA, I think it’s still safe to say that Lin is the Asian player who, through a combination of circumstance, luck, timing, and some monster performances, has captured America’s admittedly infantile and famously fickle imagination.
But the true testament to how rare a phenomenon Jeremy Lin is in the NBA is this: NBA fans have almost no vocabulary with which to talk about him. As with any Asian person in popular culture, people’s first resort is a torrent of pan-Asian racist gibberish: If it has anything to do with any country, food, product, concept, or stereotype involving Asia, the rule is basically, “Make any association or equivalence you want, whatever….”
The case of Lin, however, brings out another issue unique to basketball, summed up fairly succinctly in this Tweet, from @itsGQ: “Where tha fuck this Jeremy Lin nigga came from??”
And with that, we have a bit of unpacking to do.
I have to admit that I’ve been pulled in by Linsanity, or at least reading every news article and thinkpiece I come across. In part it’s because I’m looking to groan at a writer who gets it wrong when talking about him and/or his race (the same impulse that keeps me reading the comments sections of online news stories). Despite being neither Taiwanese nor American, I definitely have felt the “one of our own” pride that many have described, which is maybe what keeps me reading.
What I’m really hoping for, I think, is that this is the beginning of a dialogue about how we talk about Asian people, and especially North American-born Asian people. This piece demonstrates that the current vocabulary is fairly limited, and that for Asian-Americans, in the public mind, what comes before the hyphen is the only thing that matters, so much so that it’s a surprise when what comes after the hyphen is demonstrated to any extent. As Edmund Lee writes at Capital New York:
The connection Luo describes [in the New York Times] is real and it’s one I feel too, but I also can’t help but feel it’s a reaction to the reaction as much as anything else. We Asian Americans are pointing to the TV screens and the Twitter streams and saying, “See, see, as long as you see what I know, then we’ve won.” Meanwhile, really, I know that Jeremy Lin is as distinct from me as anyone else on the court.
We are not Jeremy Lin. Rather, the triumphal narrative here is that the rest of the world now has some small clue about our own miscellany, our own idiosyncrasies and beliefs. We are not all Tiger Mom cubs. We are not so uniform and so blind to feeling and emotion and that we can’t swagger and sway. We’re not merely silent strivers. Some of us can dunk and drive and smile like everyone else.