"In this culture everyone is sexualized. Why are they sexualized? They are sexualized in order to be commodified. And why are they commodified?

Cultural rebellion

I could use an Oriental Massage, having nodded my head so frequently while reading the feature ["About face," 8/24] by Soyon Im. My lifetime spent asserting myself as an American should not have been such a task considering that I am second-generation Chinese, but regardless of a string of cultural rebellions in my past, I am still most commonly perceived as an immigrant. Adding insult to ignorance is the fact that I am often patronized as the wrong culture entirely, and to this day am complimented on my ability to speak English, my first language. I can't even begin to express how grossly this has affected my ability (or lack thereof) to initiate a relationship, even in my 30s, and what was once a fear of cultural unacceptance has now degenerated into utter social contempt.

But after reading "About face," having tortured my roommates with an extended rant, I realized something even more astounding. Although identifying with the content, I could not place with any certainty the ethnicity of the writer. Furthermore I am not a woman, and I don't even live in Washington. But it matters little. I find myself in constant need of articles like Im's; a cultural outlet, a kindred spirit, anything to vent the bitterness I reserve for a nation, which, after some 125 years, still refuses to accept us.




It is fitting that Soyon Im limits herself to the Asian-white dating relationship ["About face," 8/24], given the fact that both groups tend to share the same racial bigotries and stereotypes towards blacks and Hispanics—it's part of the "blending in" ritual, and something Ms. Im might discuss at a later time—but at least she attempted to address a taboo issue that places many minorities who have chosen to deny their race (i.e., Clarence Thomas) on the defensive.

I suppose that the problem can be broken down as such: Because we continue to live in a racist society, a white mate denotes an improvement in social stature for a minority, while for white men it is gaining a mate (they think) who is more willing to "put out" for that "gift," while for white women it is confirmation of their moral "superiority." "Confirmation," of course, can and usually does give way to social pressure; while Iago may have been mistaken in regard to Desdemona, his declaration that "When she is sated with his [Othello's] body, she will find the error of her choice" describes many such relationships.

The more pertinent issue for me, however, is the socio-political implications. This will always be, as I have said, a racist society (unless, of course, a passel of Hitlers and Stalins spring up all at once to "remedy" the situation). How one confronts that reality is the important point. The vast majority of minorities seem satisfied to be at the mercy of white society, simply to exist with the crumbs thrown at them, but on the fringes there are the socio-political radicals, and the socio-political whores. I count myself amongst the former group and feel utter contempt for the latter—for they merely perpetuate further the myth of the "good" and "bad" minority, in fact they revel in it.

As for Ms. Im's article, it might have been worthwhile had it not been wasted in tiresome gender politicking. As for the cover query, the answer from this quarter is an emphatic "NO." As they say, beauty is only skin deep.




Soyon Im's fascinating article and extensive chronicle of her personal dating history ["About face," 8/24] reveals a fundamental precept of human attitude: when someone else dates some strange-flavored nooky, it's a betrayal of one's race, but when you find yourself some chocoluscious, creamy vanilla, or sushi-flavored nooky, it's OH-KAY.

Ms. Im commiserated over having felt unattractive as a girl because of her race.

(I can tell you it's far worse to feel unattractive because of your unattractiveness.) Though the acceptance of one's appearance is something each person must deal with individually, our culture now pressures everyone to adjust their attitudes to avoid offending anyone.

There are stupid, offensive people everywhere. Some of them make movies and run Web sites. Sixteen Candles was the worst film of the '80s (beating out unbelievably stiff competition) and Icebox.com's Mr. Wong simply demonstrates that even in net culture, there are irremediable yobbos.

By the way, when Professor Hamamoto mentioned "imperial presence" and "the system of military prostitution," whose was he talking about—America's or Japan's? Ours is hardly worth mentioning, while Japan's was ever so efficient. While there is much to admire about the culture, the very attitude that makes Japanese men so, well, efficient, seems also to be the reason female Japanese 魩gr鳠often give for preferring not to live there.



Yellow people

I think that the content of Soyon Im's ["About face," 8/24] is more about Americans of East Asian background than all Asians, judging by the references to "yellow" people. These sound like a parody of the silly racial theories of 19th-century white supremacists. When mixing among ethnic groups is taking place at an unprecedented rate in this country, isn't it time to toss overboard the antiquated notions of racial pride? What is of most enduring value of any ethnic group of any color is its culture, and the best will prove to be inclusive and worthy of pride. Let's not poison the well of romance among diverse groups with the latest version of political posturing by people of a certain "race." It's the culture, stupid!



Sex sells

Wow! As an African-American woman I have to say I'm really surprised at how little real analysis went into the article on Asian men and women as sex objects ["About face," 8/24]. They young lady seems to me to be someone whose understanding of the culture she lives in is just beginning to emerge, and I congratulate the young sister on that. But let me break it down for you.

In this culture everyone is sexualized. Why are they sexualized? They are sexualized in order to be commodified. And why are they commodified? In order to sell products in a late capitalist economy, where we're selling concepts, and not just wheat or cheese but "sexy" cheese and "sexy" cargo pants are what sells. Black women have long been aware that they are commodified as highly sexual, Amazon "hot bitches with big tits and asses"; black men as "sexual animals" with huge cocks. This depersonalizes the person, allowing them to be sexualized and then commodified for consumption.

An even deeper question is, how and why is it that people can and are commodified for consumption? It's because the dominant culture has uncoupled sexuality from love and community and the "tribe" to create corporate automatons who do not bring their sexuality into the workplace, where it could interfere with production. Then it is resold to them as a commodity, in mass culture and on street corners and massage parlors and Castle Super Store and Deja Vu. People who can be turned into "others," not ourselves but somehow different, are commodified as "exotics." Asian women and men have been commodified like this ever since contact with imperialist European cultures—whose cultures were based on commodification—began. And, look at the depiction of Native Americans in mass culture: strong animalistic male "bucks" and "Pocahontas-type" women.

The question is not who we should choose to couple with as partners, but how do we develop an awareness of why we make the choices that we do, and what are the consequences for ourselves, our communities, and the larger culture. Only when we are able to develop an understanding of what we do and why can we become fully human and less a tool of a profit-centered machine that denies us our ability to truly love ourselves and others as the unique individuals we are.

By the way, I'm sure the publishers of Seattle Weekly never considered how placing the face of a beautiful Asian woman on the cover might sell the magazine. See, girlfriend, they're just playing the same game.



Asian heterocentrism

Mille thank yous for Soyon Im's article ["About face," 8/24]. It's about time that someone put the spotlight on a subject that the majority of the printed media realm has either ignored or perpetuated [a myth about].

I do have to raise a stink, however, about the heterosexuality fueling Im's report. Simply put: Where are the Asian lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered segments of said culture? Oh sure, half-assedly referring to Asian gay porn could qualify, but what are the ramifications behind that? (And I'm sure I don't need to expound upon that one.)

Being an Asian lesbian who grew up in Mormonized Utah, sexually bi-polar Clark Air Base, Philippines, and overwhelmingly ethnically aware Los Angeles, I, too, had to deal with the same trials and other bullshit that Im describes. Indeed, I must confess—dude! Kudos from me for raising the geisha-girl issue. You MUST NOT FORGET, though, the other half of AmerAsian population. We have to not only deal with interracial dating (something that is pretty much as Freak Show as the het counterpart), but we have to fight for having same-gender relationships, sweetie.



Girl power?

Why must my age group always be characterized as completely vacant young women with nothing better to do than talk on the phone, paint our nails, and listen to the latest bubble-gum pop release? The article ["Girls who love boys," 8/24] criticizes the female teen-oriented magazines for convincing the young women of America that there is nothing more important than getting a boyfriend and looking good. I agree with Karen [sic] White in that respect, but as a 15-year-old girl who does read those magazines on occasion, I'm insulted by the insinuation that girls like me and my friends take it seriously.

The assumption that we swallow these magazines' "girl power" slogans right along with their make-up tips and boy obsession is ridiculous. The fact is that everyone I know reads magazines such as Seventeen and YM for fun and absolutely nothing else. We do not fashion our lives in response to their creed.

As for the new generation of girls with stress problems, it should not be taken lightly or with sarcasm. Free time was a rare occurrence for me last year as I juggled homework, music lessons, orchestra and choir rehearsals, and sports. It will be even worse in this coming school year. It is a very real problem that doesn't just cause insomnia, eating binges, and hair loss, but can also threaten a teenage girl's very precarious balance in life. The tug of war between "the Eternal Feminine," as Ms.White

referred to it, and "this sleepless girl" is

brutal, and when a girl like me loses control of it, it's nothing to dismiss with the sarcastic tone she adopts in the final paragraphs of the article.

In fact, "boy crazy" is the last thing any of my friends or I expected to be right now amidst the flurry of expectations layered on us 24/7. Maybe Ms. White doesn't know very many teenage girls, but the ones I know have long accepted that we belong in the world even without a boyfriend.



Emily White responds: I appreciate Rachel feeling fed up with stereotypes of vacant, love-crazed girls, but my article wasn't about the readers of girls magazines, it was about the magazines themselves. I never argued that these publications were "convincing" girls

of anything.

Feminism: obsolete

I'm writing regarding the article written by Emily White titled "Girls who love boys" [8/24]. I am a 21-year-old female; I live downtown with my 21-year-old boyfriend, who I am madly in love with. A unified world is our hope and we do everything we can in our daily lives to further this cause. It's very interesting examining the motivations and mentality of teenagers through their cheap, fake media (magazines like YM, Cosmo Girl, etc.) but I tell ya, I don't trust ANY adult who eagerly awaits their next issue of Glamour or Vogue. I got sucked into that as a 17-year-old and quickly saw that "Women's Fashion Magazines" are merely a (heinously socially irresponsible) advertisement within an advertisement within an advertisement. . . .

The thing to pick apart is these girl's motivation for pursuit of the male-female energy exchange. Do they do it for attention or power? Let's hope and pray not. I think they do it for thrills and excitement, and these reasons are good and real. That kind of fun is one of the funnest things in human life. I'm tremendously relieved to hear that "the boy is still the thing" with America's girls, because I also believe (and hope!) that "the girl is still the thing" with America's boys. That's fine, good and true, don't you agree?

Which leads me to those magazine's articles on "Girl Power" and "Hero Girls." Emily White stated that this is the trickle-down effect of feminism. Feminism is now obsolete in America. Perhaps places like Afghanistan still need the efforts of feminism, but in America, lack of influential women is hardly a problem. It is a well-known and accepted legal and social notion that women are not second-class citizens, and blatant inequality is not tolerated. Therefore these obsessive actions to try to pound the idea that women are capable human beings into the national consciousness are sickening steps backwards to me. Overinsistence on this point is leaving NO ROOM for the glorification of males and is therefore creating suffocating pain in America's men.

If these efforts aren't redirected and changed into celebrations of accomplishments and breakthroughs in equality, pretty soon neither males nor females will mean anything in our society, women will be demanding attention for being an "outstanding woman" (Girl Power!) and men will be so hurt and confused and in pain they won't be able to respect even themselves, much less their wife or girlfriend.



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