The image above is an oldie but a goodie, and I’m really feelin’ it today, at the close of the first week of the new year. I’ve got a couple of dozen resolutions for 2012 written down, but the biggest one on my list is to embody at every opportunity the sentiment expressed in this poster. It’s to empower myself and others to make noise, speak our truths without fear or care of repercussions, to make statements that make people listen.
I think there’s a little girl with a chili bowl haircut in all of us, yellow or not. And she’s saying, “Stop looking at my helmet-head! Listen to my damn message!!!” I’m going to relinquish some control to my inner-angry-Asian-girl-child this year. What about you?
Even Tila Tequlia says shit that makes sense sometimes.
Get ready, cuz I’m about to say some shit. Not just any old kind of shit, “Asian girl shit.” And you will shit your pants, laughing so hard at me, demonstrating just how materialistic, ditzy, Asian and girly I am for your viewing pleasure. What’s that? You don’t think that would be funny? Me neither. Wait, what? You DO think it would be funny? Well, fair enough.
There are tons of people who think that the original viral video Shit Girls Say is funny. Just ask half the people on my Facebook feed or the numerous YouTube users who left surprisingly (and unsurprisingly) positive comments. And I’m trying my hardest to understand why. I’ve concluded that the people who find the video side-splittingly hilare are those who easily identify with the sentiments expressed, either because they’ve said those exact words themselves or because they know women who fit whatever stereotype is being parodied at any given moment. I can tell you, though, that I have both said some of the shit in the video and know women who’ve said said shit, and I still do not find it funny.
Mainly, I’m puzzled at the intent of the video. On the most basic level, it’s simply a stream of disconnected thoughts, themes and conversation snippets that are meant to evoke recognition and bemusement. Also, it’s a dude in drag attempting some sort of observation. On the whole, it seems to paint a rather depressing picture of womanhood. There are moments where we women are depicted as stupid, lazy, nagging, grating, bored, annoyed, forgetful, interested, disinterested, friendly (or possibly falsely friendly), Valley-Girlish, and even passive-aggressive. But there are no moments of strength, power, intelligence or enlightenment–which I realize wouldn’t be funny.
I suppose what we’re laughing at is a stereotype that, like all stereotypes, rings true in some instances. Consider Chris Rock on Black people, Margaret Cho on Koreans and Asians or George Lopez on Latinos. There is one noticeable difference, however, between Shit Girls Say and the acts of the aforementioned comedians. When comedians mock their own race or nationality or gender or sexual orientation, they do so with a self-awareness and self-deprecation that makes for more nuanced social commentary. They’re able to create a space wherein by laughing at themselves we are able to laugh along with them, to recognize our own prejudices, confront them and transcend them.
Shit Girls Say is a far cry from social commentary or satire. In failing to establish a point to the mockery, it fails to illuminate and to initiate change. In failing to be completely offensive, it offends us women who expect more than the ridicule, the pointing and laughing, and the constantly lurking feeling that whenever we express any emotion that isn’t Rainbows and Happiness we are being unfairly judged.
I’ll go ahead and say it: Shit Girls Say is the weakest of weak-ass weak sauce. You can do better.
To my amazement, a few other videos* have come out that pile on the stereotyping. For instance this:
Hai, Shit Asian Girls Say. I dare say this remake is worse than the original. Or maybe I’m simply reacting to it the way that any Asian woman who doesn’t wear Prada!Gucci!Chanel! on a daily basis would. To be honest, there are a lot more references to materialism and body image in this video than in the original. (“Can I have your credit card, please?” “Let’s go shopping!” “Prada Prada Prada!” “Gucci Gucci Gucci!” “Does this make me look fat?”)
I’ll admit that I cracked a smile at “I wish this could go to my boobs instead of my butt!” And there was a faint glimmer of satisfaction at the end when she beat her boyfriend’s ass for choosing Chun Li instead of her at 3 a.m. BUT, I just about punched my computer screen when they brought out the Bad Driver Asian Lady (1:32). For your information, I’m a DAMN good parallel parker. And several times I wanted to scream “You are not fat!” and “You can go shopping on your own!” Because I tell myself that, and I go shopping on my own, with my own money.
But, see. This is what happens when we watch these videos. Sometimes we find ourselves chuckling; other times we want to rebuke, scorn and lecture our fellow women. We focus so hard on what the Asian girl is doing that we forget there’s a guy there. We forget there’s a patriarchy there, which might explain and inform the stereotype.
We focus so much on what we shouldn’t be and do and say that we forget to write our own stories and carve our own identities. We forget that we Asian girls can make videos too. We can. And when we do, they’ll be a helluva lot funnier than this.
AKQA's "Case for Girls" ad, which encourages women to wear red lipstick on International Women's Day to support Chinese girls and gender equality
I’ve always liked FastCompany, which seems to have one finger on the pulse of cool happenings with startups, branding and activism. Recently, the magazine asked several of the most creative ad agencies in the world to “rebrand baby girls” in mock ads that cast girls as the No.1 choice for consumers across the globe. See a slideshow of the “Case for Girls” ads here.
Though some of the ads may be more successful than others at making the point about gender inequality, I applaud these ad agencies for supporting the cause.
One ad in particular stands out: the submission by AKQA, a digital ad agency that has launched a campaign to get women to wear red lipstick on March 8, 2012 (International Women’s Day), in support of women’s health and gender inequality in China and around the world.
Their ad campaign uses the concept of Nhi Shi, or “You Are,” to encourage support and action. Visit their website here. For a quick overview of their cause, watch the stylish video below:
I personally LOVE red lipstick. So I’ll definitely be wearing some on March 8th. What other creative ways have you found to celebrate International Women’s Day and raise awareness for gender issues?
Miss Universe 2011 happened last night, which none of my Filipino friends or family members failed to inform me about with comments such as:
“OMG she IS so prettyyy!!!”
“I’m skeptical. Wait ’til she speaks.”
“I dunno why I’m hating on my own kind, but I don’t think she deserved top 5.”
“She is consistent.”
“I’m not a fan of how Miss Philippines walks yo… it’s throwing me off.”
Unfortunately, none of this commentary could get me to turn on the TV. But in true Jenny Rain fashion, I googled the goddesses and found out that Miss Philippines, Shamcey Supsup (i.e. the woman with the greatest name EVAR), won third runner-up and Miss China, Luo Zilin, won fourth runner-up. So hayyy, you go Asian girls.
Then I found a link to a slideshow of what many fashionistas and cosplay fans argue is the BEST part of the Miss Universe pageant: National Costumes.
What exactly is a “national costume”? I asked myself that very question upon flipping through a slideshow filled with an odd assortment of things, including but not limited to
Some women went the more “traditional” route, choosing to model an (exaggerated form of) ethnic dress that was at some point in time actually worn by their ancestors or by the tribal cultures that inhabit the contestant’s home country. But a great many of the contestants went the more conceptual route, donning costumes that were debatably representative of their countries in general and involved a great many cheesy, and in some cases poorly chosen, accessories–to the delight and consternation of scores of Internet users. This, my friend, is racial drag in its most acceptable form. When women across the globe get to play a character caricature that’s meant to embody their homeland and sum up in a few precious seconds their rich, complex and sometimes tragic cultural histories with a smile, a wink, a sashay and and twirl.
I had so many favorites this year that I decide to give my own awards out. Lady Gaga, eat your heart out.
BEST LADY GAGA (2nd Runner Up)
BEST LADY GAGA (1st Runner Up)
BEST LADY GAGA (Winner)
BEST SNOW QUEEN (Runner Up)
BEST SNOW QUEEN (Winner)
BEST PROPS/REFERENCE TO POTENTIALLY TRAGIC EVENT
BEST VIDEO GAME VIXEN (Runner Up)
BEST VIDEO GAME VIXEN (Winner)
BEST REAL HOUSEWIFE
BEST “DON’T F*CK WITH ME OR I’LL CUT YOU” FACE
BEST AMERICAN (Runner Up)
BEST AMERICAN (Winner)
And there you have it. Who are your faves? And is this giving you any ideas for Halloween this year? What I wouldn’t give to look like Miss Tanzania or Miss Costa Rica. But I’ll probably just end up half-assing it like Miss Romania or Miss Serbia. Although the sexy vampire look never really goes out of style. Choices, choices…
I didn’t watch the VMAs last night because I don’t have cable. (But if I did, I wouldn’t watch the channel that now exists only to make 16-year-old girls with tons of money to blow on a birthday party or with unplanned babies feel self-entitled). I do, however, have internet, which made it hard to avoid the fashion crimes perpetrated by Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj below.
So, who wore the better Asian appropriation outfit?
1. Katy Perry in a Day-Glo “Geisha outfit”:
"I ruv my My Ritto Geisha Pony outfit! Matching your parasol with your dress color: SO IN. Matching your roots with your cotton candy hair dye: SO OUT. "
2. Nicki Minaj in a self-described “Harajuku Barbie” outfit:
"Gwen Stefani had actual Japanese girls as accessories. But I can't afford to have any flown in from Harajuku, so I'll just drag this creepy-ass cat scratching post around with me."
I vote Nicki Minaj. I mean, wow, what an intriguing statement. Is that a ninja mask or a SARS mask or just your garden variety Japanese allergy face mask? Or all three…? She’s obviously taking a stand against the cat slave labor perpetrated by whoever makes the Maru videos, am I right? Cats are not a piece of meat! At least not in Japan. In China, well…that’s a different story…
But what’s with the resurgence of whore-rientalized outfits? I thought I had at least two more months before Halloween to purge my mind of last year’s fashion horrors. I blame it all on this: