Friday, December 16, 2005

Gwen Stefani the Racist

Gwen Stefani is racist. Although I doubt that it is intentional, she is promoting Asian stereotypes. For the past year or so she has paraded around with an entourage of four heavily made-up Japanese girls dressed in a style similar to Stefani’s mix-and-match clothing. The girls follow her to press events, dance in her videos and pose with her in pictures. They are having their fifteen minutes of fame thanks to Stefani. Supposedly they are only allowed to speak Japanese, although I have never heard them speak at all.

Everyone says, nonchalantly, “Those are Harajuku girls,” as if we know what that means or could define a culture by seeing these live baby dolls on MTV. Harajuku is a shopping district in Tokyo known for its alternative styles -- punk, gothic, bright colors, traditional Japanese styles and layering of them all. The emphasis is on individuality, yet Stefani uses her “Harajuku” girls as props and often dresses them all the same.

Stefani is a huge name right now and she is using that power to reinforce stereotypes of Asian women. These “Harajuku” girls are sexy and stylish, but also loyal and obedient to Stefani. Stefani’s white fans can admire these qualities in the four women because that fits our idea of how Asian women are supposed to act: sexy, exotic, polite and non-threatening. And because Stefani is always standing out in front with her platinum blonde hair, a classic sign of whiteness, American women don’t feel threatened by those Japanese sex pots. The white American is still on top.

But perhaps Americans feel their position on top is threatened. In a time when China is gaining more commercial power and North Korea is gaining more military power non-Asians may have good reason to feel threatened by Asians. That could be why people enjoy seeing Stefani’s pets. They appear sexy and bossy as they vamp in the videos, but really they are falling into the category of submissive Asian women. They even wear geisha-esque make-up. It is easier to enjoy another culture when they are wearing brightly colored clothes, smiling and not threatening our own sexiness, our economy or our pride. But they should be threatening our clear conscience.

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