I really don’t want to have to write this post because I am seriously tired of writing about white women being racist, but alas, it’s happened again. I know that some white women try hard to *incorporate* minoritized women into artistic projects to look inclusive; however, sometimes, it just comes across as though white women are trying to look “weird,” “exotic” or “diverse.”
Recently, Lavigne released a video called, “Hello Kitty” where she is decked out in a pink tutu wandering around Japan with expression-less Asian women dancing behind her. The video was removed from youtube because it was accidentally released a day early, even though other posts stated it was removed because it was racist. [It’s back up on youtube though]
In an article titled, Hello Kitty Video is an Embarrassment in Any Language Jason Lipshutz of Billboard magazine wrote:
“Hello Kitty” is the weakest song on Avril Lavigne’s fifth studio album, a grating earworm that squeezes Gwen Stefani’s Japan fetishization into an even more unseemly package. But in a lot of ways, its music video, which wormed its way onto YouTube on Tuesday (Apr. 22) and then was quickly taken down, is even a bigger train-wreck than the track itself.
The “Hello Kitty” video tries to do nothing. Its laziness is demonstrated in the first 21 seconds, during which Lavigne holds a plush stack of cupcakes, shakes her hips, stares at the cupcakes, bounces her shoulders, and then, when she sings the line “Someone chuck a cupcake at me”… tosses the fake cupcakes at the camera, her lip movement not matching up to the backing track whatsoever. Cool!
Because of this quote, I decided to dig into the story a bit further.
Personally, I could care less for Lavigne. I was not a fan of her I’m-a-white-girl-with-a-tie-on-angst back when I was in middle school, and I’m not a fan of her hello-kitty-appropriating-Asian-culture bullshit either. In reality, she’s married to the lead singer of Nickelback…so that was her real career killer. There’s no way to go up from there, buddy.
When Lavigne was confronted about her Japanese fetishization, rather than acknowledging the thousands of voices who were upset, on twitter she stated:
“RACIST???LOLOLOL!!!!! I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video…specifically for my Japanese fans, WITH my Japanese label, Japanese choreographers AND a Japanese director IN Japan.”
Okay, how many times she did say Japanese? Saying Japan x amount of times doesn’t lessen the impact of your racism towards Japanese people. If that was the cure, Lily Allen and Miley Cyrus would be saying, “black, black, black, black” as many times as they could.
Also, the WORST thing you could do when minoritized people call you out for being a racist is gaslighting. Gaslighting refers to a practice where you make victims feel like they’re crazy or overreacting to something that IS actually occurring. The term originated from the play Gaslight which eventually turned into a film.[It’s one of my FAVORITE films!] A husband convinces his wife that she is crazy by moving things around in the house and by dimming the gas lights.
Feminists usually use the term when describing men’s sexism. When a woman points out a microaggression, men usually say that the woman is overreacting or that she’s “crazy” to de-legitimize her claims.
I bring this up because many white women who are confronted with complaints from minoritized women tend to act like chauvinist men who laugh at their critiques. [Lavigne’s response reminds me of the men who participated in Blurred Lines who excused their objectification of women’s bodies by stating that a WOMAN directed the video…so it couldn’t possibly be sexist!]
Musician, Lily Allen reacted the exact same way after tons of women [predominantly women of color] were upset with her racist attempt at a satire. Ironically, Allen was trying to critique sexism in mainstream culture by creating a music video that essentially reproduced the exact thing she was trying to critique. She stood in the front of the camera fully clothed while brown women were shaking their asses and humping cars. To this day, I still don’t know what the satire was. [HINT: white people: don’t make satires when you don’t fully understand the problem!]
In response to critiques from women of color, Allen stated, “The video is meant to be a lighthearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women within modern pop culture…it has nothing to do with race at all.”
Gosh. Yeah, have fun subtracting race from sexism…
As I just demonstrated, Lavigne is NOT alone is her use of minoritized women’s bodies-as-props. White people: you have a culture too. You don’t have to fetishize and glamorize other cultures to feel fulfilled. It’s just awkward.
Miley Cyrus and her crew are guilty of this too. Because she’s just so ratchet man, she’s usually decked out in weird leotards surrounded by Black women twerking behind her to lend her some authenticity.
Ironically, women-as-props is usually a staple feature in men’s sexist videos where women exist to just be sexy, greasy things on the side. Now, white women are using minoritized women’s bodies to function as props in similar ways.
We do not exist to be your social currency. We are not just bodies to use to look “weird” or “diverse.” If you love Japanese culture so much, then support Japanese artists who are trying to make it in the music marketplace. Don’t steal signifers and think that you’re now going to be accepted because you just LOVE them Japanese folk.
I will say there is a giant white population in the U.S. that is obsessed with Asian cultures in a really creepy way. Admiration should not look like fetishization. That turns racist really fast.
It’s dangerous to cast Asian women in this light considering they have so many horrible stereotypes surrounding their person-hood. Asian women are viewed as porcelain-like, gentle, little submissive dolls, and that’s exactly how Lavigne shows them. Ironically, this video is occurring while the first ever documentary-series/reality show has launched called, “I’m Asian American and…” which focuses on the Asian-American diaspora and shows the different lives that many Asian Americans live in the U.S.
Folks–stop being racist and google shit if you think your project *might* be racist. There are tons of us who write to help you out, so you have no excuse at this point.