Why is Asian culture only ever championed when it is adopted by individuals that are part of white mainstream pop culture?


Rose Alley, March 2016 —

Imagine being part of culture where it feels like your very physical appearance is unacceptable.

Imagine being part of a culture where you are constantly side lined.

Imagine being part of a culture where you never see that physically resembles you portrayed as beautiful and fashionable.

Imagine the warm sensation of hot hurtful tears rolling down your face as someone shouts a racial slur in your direction as you try to proudly walk with your head held high with your grandmother in her ethnic clothing?

Or think back to all the times when simply being you, from the colour of your skin, to the shape of your eyes and even the thickness of your hair was ridiculed.

Then think of the all of the times in which that very same culture celebrated celebrities like Kylie Jenner wearing a bindi. Or the time when Gwen Stefani’s subservient troupe of Harajuki Girls were seen as the hottest new accessory in popular culture.

Welcome to the curse of cultural appropriation.

The Asian female experience is vast. But despite all the ethnic and geographical differences, there are uncomfortable similarities when it comes to racial stereotyping and cultural mis-representation.

For too long Asian women have been viewed as exotic and sexual beings, readily available to be fetishized in the imaginations of white Eurocentric heterosexual men. Or if not hyper sexual beings then we are reduced to passive caregivers, timid, scared and in need of rescuing by our Western saviours.

For too long we as Asian women have found ourselves operating not only the sidelines of the mainstream society that we have proudly assimilated into, but also in our own private communities, in which the plague of patriarchy has been carried across oceans.

Why is it that we seldom see a face like our own gracing a catwalk? Or in a music video? Or as part of motion picture in which we are treated as human beings, rather than an over inflated stereotype, the butt of every joke?

Why is Asian culture only ever championed when it is adopted by individuals that are part of white mainstream pop culture?

Why are Eastern looks only accepted by Western media outlets when worn by people like Beyonce, Nicole Scherzinger, Nicki Minaj and Gwen Stefani? The very same media outlets that ironically do not feature Asian women in their publications, or cover our struggles.

Why is Henna heralded at festivals attended by affluent members of society such as Coachella as the hottest new fashion accessory? Especially when my ancestors have been adorning themselves with it for centuries?

Why would the appearance of Tokyo street style inspired outfit cause alarm if worn to your job in a corporate office, but celebrated when used as props by a white female?

Why is being Asian only considered cool and chic when it can be something that can be adopted by companies in order to further their own Capitalist agendas?

Since when did being an ‘other’ sell?

Why can we not simply embrace our Asian identity with all of it’s ethnic wonders and be deemed fashionable ourselves, rather than face ridicule?

All of these factors combined lead to a pollution of our physical selves, and that is why it is even more important to take a stand about who we are, what it means to be Asian, and to gain validation from within in order to cement our identity.

Let’s stop being ashamed of where we come from, of who we are, and what our heritage is.

Don’t compliment as though we are fashion accessories. Give us the respect we deserve.

We do not need permission to be who we always were. Let’s control our fluid identities, which have already survived countless readjustments across our journey, and the journey of our parents. And let’s own our Asian heritage, and dictate it to others, not the other way around.