I am angry about something. I ran the same situation by Elise, and she just found it amusing.
I’m interested to know what you think, posed in both hypothetical and actual flavors.
You are attending a conference titled “Asian-Americans Emerging in Social Media.” Whether or not you are Asian is irrelevant; assume you’re interested in the content of the conference, and that 98% of attendees are at least partially of Asian descent.
While picking up your registration packet you recognize a non-Asian blogger, and he’s wearing a t-shirt that says, “I’ve got yellow fever!”
Later in the day, you run into a white female you don’t know wearing a tank top that says, “I’m turning Japanese.” Perhaps it’s just text, or perhaps it’s paired with a minimalist illustration of slanted eyes on an “O” face in a nod to the song’s subject. Later, at a party thrown by a Chinese culture website, her apparel bears something to the effect of, “Don’t worry boys: size doesn’t matter … to me”**
Note your initial reaction to the shirts, considering the context of the conference. Now, consider that both wearers blogged/twittered a promise to “pack their most inappropriate t-shirts” for the conference. Has your reaction changed?
The attendance, while not 100% female, is very largely so. I haven’t seen more than 20 or 30 male attendees since I’ve been here.
The first one I saw just after arriving, at a restaurant in the hotel. I noticed him due to his shirt. It showed a graphic of a woman with her breasts exposed, her nipples replaced by @ signs. It read “show me your tweets.”
Then, not an hour later, I saw a man sporting a shirt saying something along the lines of “I love mommy bloggers–they put out.” The next day, the same man attended a party, hosted by an ostensibly feminist website, sporting a shirt reading “I am having very spiritual thoughts about your breasts” or some similar nonsense.
Did you have a similar reaction to those slogans? Note that they’re clearly aimed at women no matter the setting, while in my hypothetical two of the shirts wouldn’t have been as striking sans Asian context.
Again, does it change your opinion that that both bloggers blogged a promise that they had packed some offensive apparel?
Both the hypothetical and the actual rubbed me the wrong way. Yes, they might be wryly humorous, but why bring that wry humor to a place celebrating a medium where a specific minority has escaped marginalization and become empowered?
Elise – an Asian woman – found them both amusing – especially “yellow fever” and “show me your tweets.”
Are Grace and I humorless feminazis for being offended?*** Or, is Elise is a self-hating Asian woman?**** Neither. Grace and I don’t appreciate tacit misogynism. Elise gives people the benefit of the doubt.
A final fact: both of the male bloggers commented on Grace’s post, claiming they wore the shirts to get noticed and start conversations (they apparently forgot that they’d be noticed simply by being a male). Those comments were followed by friends/readers who vouched that no offense was meant (they have “good hearts”), as well as a number who less-than-kindly called Grace overly-sensitive (a gem: “Is it possible it’s your own insecurities causing this? Seems to me that you feel like you’re less than a man.”).
Next year BlogHer is in New York City, and I’m contemplating attending. And you had better believe that if I do I am going to spend at least one day hanging out with Grace wearing the most hard-core grrl-power t-shirt I can find.