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Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 01:19 am
Did Beatnik Grifter Play On Loathsome Hipster Negro Fetish?

Imagine it's 1957, and Norman Mailer has just published his essay The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster. White and Jewish hipsters in the Beat underground of the late 1950s, Mailer observes, are distancing themselves from mainstream white society. They're dressing like, talking like, and listening to the music of, negroes. Now imagine a counterblast to Mailer's booster for black culture. A black girl -- a con artist known as the Beatnik Grifter -- has been hoodwinking hipsters out of large sums of money. An article appears in the press headlined: "Did Beatnik Grifter Play On Loathsome Hipster Negro Fetish?"

WTF, you say to yourself. "Loathsome hipster negro fetish?" This headline couldn't happen today, when racism is taboo, and there's a black president. Alas, it can happen, and it does. All you have to do is replace "negro" with "Asian". The Jezebel blog ("celebrity, sex, fashion for women") ran a story headlined Did "Hipster Grifter" Play On Loathsome Hipster Asian Fetish? last Wednesday. It's a racially-angled take on the story The New York Observer ran earlier the same day, the tale of Kari Ferrell, the Korean-American con artist who ripped young Brooklyn bohemians off by telling them she had cancer (and other mini-scams).



The Observer told the story fairly straight as a crime tale. The Vice blog (Kari worked for Vice for a week) just mentioned that they made the mistake of hiring "a grifter". The blogosphere resounded with Kari's witty, direct pick-up lines ("I want to give you a hand job with my mouth" or "I want you to toss your hot dog down my hallway") and "I knew Kari" testimonials, both real and fake. Some naked photos turned up, featuring Kari's extensive chest tattoo. Kari herself even chimed in; on the lam from Utah cops, she emailed Gawker her apologies for the scams, which generally began with sex, developed into "terminal cancer" or "pregnancy", with check fraud and petty theft along the way.



The reason the story got so big is that the charming, self-assured confidence trickster -- the grifter -- is a central archetype in the American psyche, the dark correlate of the sell-you-anything salesman, the white-smiling politician, the human chameleon. On top of that, add some sympathy for the victims, and a big dose of Schadenfreude towards both "bitch" Kari and the "idiot" hipster clique she moved through. Which brings us back to the Jezebel piece, without a doubt the nastiest article I've seen on the subject.

"The most ludicrous theory attempting to explain why Kari managed to scam so many different people for so long despite the glaring inconsistencies in her money/cancer/psychotic ex/employment lies attributes her success to her being Asian (Korean, to be exact)," sighs Jen at Disgrasian, linking to the Jezebel piece. "While Asians are generally stereotyped as trustworthy... and some hipsters do have raging Asian fetishes, this little narrative convenience is completely fatuous. We've seen Asian fetishes rot many things--most notably a man's appeal--but common sense and a healthy dose of skepticism across the board? Continually? As Gawker's already pointed out, Kari got away with her crimes because of her charm."



So how exactly did Jezebel play the race card, and how plausibly did they make the argument that it was relevant? Here's what they said: "The fact that she's Korean-American is intriguing; as anyone who's been to a Williamsburg art opening knows, for a lot of these dudes, having an Asian girlfriend is some kind of weird fetish (to the point where one Chinese American friend of mine remarked once, "I can't go near those hipster neighborhoods. These guys just want to date an Asian, doesn't matter who, and it's racist and weird and really uncomfortable." Another friend adds, "It's obviously rooted in some racist stereotype of the 'exotic' or 'submissive' - I don't even want to know what.") Vice has never made any bones about its love of hot Asian women - see any "Dos" - so Farrell chose her targets well. One has to note that after writing a note to a stranger at a bar reading, "I want to give you a hand job with my mouth,"she signed it "Korean Abdul-Jabbar."

The piece ends with a quote from Jaemin Kim: "Unlike any other racial group in America today, Asian women routinely are dehumanized in popular culture as sexualized, meek and voiceless objects." Jezebel ends its piece: "Surely Farrell knew this too?"

The article (which misspells Ferrell's name) begs an enormous number of questions. Is to be sexual (or "sexualized") to be dehumanised? Was Kari Ferrell -- with her incredibly aggressive and direct sexual patter -- really playing on the stereotypology of being "meek and voiceless"? If so, she went about it in a damn strange way. As someone asks in the comments below, just exactly when, if someone has a girlfriend who is Asian, can we not assume that they have an "Asian fetish"? Does a white with a black girlfriend have a "Negro fetish"? Does a Jewish person with a Jewish girlfriend have a "Jewish fetish"? When do we stop persecuting people for their sexual choices, and their sexual orientation? Only when they've been proved to have no choice about it? Or, precisely, when they've made plenty of other choices (ie don't exclusively date people from one ethnic category)?

The thing I notice about the Jezebel article is the stuff I was talking about in The arrow and the frame: that if you switch your focus from the stated opinions in the piece and look instead at the framings, you'll find that the article exemplifies the very racist stereotyping it pretends to decry. How would Google AdSense read the Jezebel page? It would note only the proximity of the word "Asian" to words like "exotic" and "submissive". That the article projects this stereotypology onto hipsters is spurious (I've never heard anyone who actually dates or lives with an Asian partner using this terminology, or even implying it between the lines); it's the framing that counts. If you frame the framing of Asians as submissive, you pretty much frame them, yourself, as submissive. You make that the context for the whole discussion, no matter what sort of behaviour the actual Asian in the story is exemplifying. The stereotype, Jezebel, is in the eye of the beholder.

Let's end with Norman Mailer. Let's imagine that the reason hipsters in 2009 are frequenting (and dating) Asians is that Asian culture is as inspirational to today's cutting-edge subcultural kids as Negro culture was, back in 1957, to their jazz-loving, jive-talking grandfathers. And now here's some ultra-conservative publication coming along to tell us that one particular black girl, who turned out to be a bad egg, "played on the loathsome hipster negro fetish". You'd want to tell them exactly which hallway they could toss their hotdog down, right?

102CommentReply


tropigalia
tropigalia
Dewy-Eyed Disney Bride
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 03:54 am (UTC)
Re: i could say something useful but i prefer schadenfreude

this comment is pretty much why jezebel wrote the article the way they did. jesus.


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bugpowered
bugpowered
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 12:17 am (UTC)

As someone asks in the comments below, just exactly when, if someone has a girlfriend who is Asian, can we not assume that they have an "Asian fetish"? Does a white with a black girlfriend have a "Negro fetish"? Does a Jewish person with a Jewish girlfriend have a "Jewish fetish"?

And since when is having a sexual fetish "racist"?!



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(Anonymous)
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 12:30 am (UTC)

Does every girl I date have a me fetish?


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me.jdcasten.info
me.jdcasten.info
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 12:43 am (UTC)
“Trend” or Con Artist on Trial?

Seeing a pattern with one’s loves—seems pretty reasonable to me, where one befriends new people whom resemble friends of the past—maybe even dating back to one’s family. So a “fetish” for short-haired brunettes might appear after awhile—if one dates long enough without settling down.

But what about “culture fetishes?” Could it be that the phenomenon I just mentioned reaches out from an individual to their friends and community? That seems reasonable too, but then this can lead to superficial choices of partners too—when the reasons aren’t “personal affections” but for some sort of status symbol; Maybe Kari Ferrell was exploiting some sort of “trend,”—but why demonize her more than any other con artist? Is it the “trend” or her that is “on trial” here?

Maybe I’m missing Momus’ point(s)?


http://new.music.yahoo.com/mike-ladd/albums/negrophilia-the-album--14166016


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 01:08 am (UTC)
yes

Sometimes Momus nails down all the nuances of an ethical/sociopolitic situation with the deftness and dexterity of a compound-bow wielding horseman at full gallop socking a bullseye at some 100 meters in dire crosswind conditions. He sometimes manages to completely and fully articulate all the relevant nuances, expose the rhetorical hypocrisies and agendas, et cetera ...
This is one of those days. Thankyou.


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parallel_botany
parallel_botany
Doña Nadie
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 01:19 am (UTC)
Re: yes

Hmm...do I detect a Momus fetish?


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robotmummies
robotmummies
ad reinhardt
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)

i'm starting to think that anything anyone ever writes about "hipsters" is going to be fraught with all kinds of errors


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
me.jdcasten.info
me.jdcasten.info
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 03:55 am (UTC)
Anecdotal? Love, Paranoia, & “Weirdoes”

“Asian fetish” reminds me of one of my drill sergeants at boot camp, who was a Vietnam veteran (a helicopter gunman). Sort of sad and obvious. Is this really a bohemian/hipster thing? Or is Momus just “now noticing all the sports cars of the model he just got that he didn’t notice before?” Even schizos like me can find other “radioheads” on the internet to confirm their paranoia:

http://gawker.com/5099892/following-hallowed-nerd-tradition-michael-phelps-dates-asian-chick


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 03:05 am (UTC)
ughhhh.

Are hipster still around? Didn't Adbusters kill them all off last year?


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its_his_factory
its_his_factory
krylon
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 03:11 am (UTC)

I found the article so meaningless that I couldn't devote any thought to it; thank you for making me realize it deserved some (admittedly negative) attention.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 03:47 am (UTC)

I'm glad you noticed this Jezebel article after yesterdays post. Good one.


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tropigalia
tropigalia
Dewy-Eyed Disney Bride
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 03:57 am (UTC)

i think jezebel kind of sucks but comparing them to anything "ultra-conservative" is laughable to me.

why don't you see the difference between the words "negro" and "asian"?

as much as i like you i feel that your being a well-known asian fetishist colors all of your most well-intentioned and reasoned arguments.

kari was charming, but do you think if it were a charming fat, white girl, the kind hipsters like your commenters rail against, that she would have been able to do the same damage?


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krskrft
krskrft
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 04:24 am (UTC)

I don't think Momus's point stems from an attempted equivalence between "asian" and "negro," but rather from the fact that you'd never hear somebody actually try to perform the logic used vis a vis the Kari Ferrell situation on a black female "hipster grifter." It just wouldn't happen.

Jezebel also wrote, a while back, about the "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" type that drives the hipster guys wild. I think their prototype was Natalie Portman's character in "Garden State" or something.

So, the Jezebel staff just really seem to have something against guys actually dating women they find attractive, and will generally make any logical leap necessary to tear down their ever-present, usually entirely fantastical, made-up-for-the-movies, potential romantic competition.

At the end of the day, can't this Jezebel-style commentary just be chalked up to the cultural tendency for women to just tear each other down and generally be evil to one another?


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 04:23 am (UTC)
Comparisons.

"Does a Jewish person with a Jewish girlfriend have a "Jewish fetish"?"

Did you not mean to say this instead?:

"Does a Jewish person with a non-Jewish girlfriend have a "shiksa fetish"?"

-Vivian


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 04:57 am (UTC)

My immediate reaction to seeing this being written by you, without reading a word and instead just seeing Kari's picture was a huge sigh, a facepalm, and an "oh, Momus." I seem to have that reaction to you quite a lot.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 07:15 am (UTC)

On the upside, it's mean a few days since we've seen an Asian woman with her tits out on this blog, so thank heaven for that.


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krskrft
krskrft
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 05:00 am (UTC)

In response to Momus's main article:

I pretty much agree with everything you've said.

At the same time, I'd warn against any call for equivalence in outrage. There are plenty of reasons why racism against black people is seen as more caustic than racism against people of Asian descent, particularly in America.

I think the problem is--and I'm sure you'll agree with me--that racism against Asians, particularly East Asians, seems to have passed as a healthy angle in the Kari Ferrell story. It's not that we need to be offended to the same extent by anti-Asian racism as we would be by anti-black racism (as in, seeing the same exact social danger in it ... which would be kind of absurd), but that we need to be against a world in which people who otherwise imagine themselves to be progressive and anti-racist can make these types of remarks, seemingly oblivious to the racism contained within them.


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qscrisp
qscrisp
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 09:31 am (UTC)

Just realised this says a bit better what I was trying to say in the comment I posted just now.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 07:40 am (UTC)

It's worth remembering that Jezeabel presents itself as a feminst site (well feminism lite, anyway) and that may go some way to explaining how they got into murky racial waters

I think many white women (misguidedly) have a problem with white men and Asian women as they feel that Asian women are less pushy and demanding as well as more feminine and that many white men are now rejecting white (and other) women because they want to go back to pre-feminist relationships. I agree that some guys do feel hard done by because of feminism (some people will always play the victim) - this could be the reason why some white guys date Asian girls but I'm sure a lot do for other reasoins too.


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krskrft
krskrft
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 11:17 am (UTC)

It could also be because white women--in large part due to men--are often quite neurotic/mentally insane.

Maybe it's just a case of men running away from the Frankenstein's monsters they've created!


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caws_pobi
caws_pobi
Caws Pobi
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 08:41 am (UTC)
Loathsome Hipster Asian Fetish

Hm. I'd never heard of any "loathsome hipster Asian fetish" before reading the Jezebel post. Kind of like how I'd never heard of the "submissive Asian" generalization until an American girl was criticizing me for dating a Japanese girl.

Her: Isn't it kind of sick to exclusively date an ethnicity because the women are known to be submissive?

Me: You really think women from Japan are submissive? I must have gotten the wrong one!

Seriously, the only way Ferrell's Korean-ness could be an issue in this story is if you tracked down every guy she scammed and interviewed them. If they all say "She was a hot asian, I couldn't say no, that's what I look for" then yeah, something's up with the hipsters. And I have some issues with Jaemin Kim's quote:
Unlike any other racial group in America today, Asian women routinely are dehumanized in popular culture as sexualized, meek and voiceless objects.

Really? I didn't know all the women in rap videos were Asian. I didn't know all the daft women in VH1's rich-slut-reality shows were Asian. And I didn't know those were Asian faces adorning every fashion and porn magazine on American shelves...


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apis_cerana
apis_cerana
Erika <3
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009 03:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Loathsome Hipster Asian Fetish

Was the American girl white or Japanese? If she was white, I would've laughed at her wording -- "known to be submissive"? Ha. White people can be such white knights.

I really don't get why Jezebel racialized the whole thing, but it is true that Asian women are often sexualized and seen as being "meek" -- there's tons of Asian porn out there which exploit women using wording like "exotic", "quiet" and "lotus blossom pussy (lifted from a site verbatum, lol)", and they have been shown as being such in film and literature as well. I hate linking to Wikipedia but you can check out the sources


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