Monday, December 11, 2006

Gwen Stefani the Racist

By Katie Molinaro

Gwen Stefani is a racist. Although I doubt that it is intentional, she is promoting Asian stereotypes. For the past year or so she has paraded around with an entourage of four heavily made-up Japanese girls dressed in a style similar to Stefani’s mix-and-match clothing. The girls follow her to press events, dance in her videos and pose with her in pictures. They are having their fifteen minutes of fame thanks to Stefani. Supposedly they are only allowed to speak Japanese, although I have never heard them speak at all.

Everyone says, nonchalantly, “Those are Harajuku girls,” as if we know what that means or could define a culture by seeing these live baby dolls on MTV. Harajuku is a shopping district in Tokyo known for its alternative styles -- punk, gothic, bright colors, traditional Japanese styles and layering of them all. The emphasis is on individuality, yet Stefani uses her “Harajuku” girls as props and often dresses them all the same.

Stefani is a huge name right now and she is using that power to reinforce stereotypes of Asian women. These “Harajuku” girls are sexy and stylish, but also loyal and obedient to Stefani. Stefani’s white fans can admire these qualities in the four women because that fits our idea of how Asian women are supposed to act: sexy, exotic, polite and non-threatening. And because Stefani is always standing out in front with her platinum blonde hair, a classic sign of whiteness, American women don’t feel threatened by those Japanese sex pots. The white American is still on top.
But perhaps Americans feel their position on top is threatened. In a time when China is gaining more commercial power and North Korea is gaining more military power non-Asians may have good reason to feel threatened by Asians. That could be why people enjoy seeing Stefani’s pets. They appear sexy and bossy as they vamp in the videos, but really they are falling into the category of submissive Asian women. They even wear geisha-esque make-up. It is easier to enjoy another culture when they are wearing brightly colored clothes, smiling and not threatening our own sexiness, our economy or our pride. But they should be threatening our clear conscience.
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Editor's Note: This piece was originally published December 16, 2005 on a communal blog project that was way ahead of its time. After seeing Gwen Stefani degrade the Saturday Night Live music stage this past weekend, I realized that this issue is still very timely. Yodellay, yodallay, yodal-low.

17 Comments:

At 12/12/06, 12:48 PM, Anonymous Adam said...

I have been thinking the same thing for quite some time. At first I thought it was a one time thing as far as video concerns then I realized it was actually part of the album's I guess visual concept (since musical concepts appear to be lacking mainstream music) and would be going on for as long as she was promoting the album. The straight up fact beyond that this is wrong is that this woman hasn't been musically relevant in my opinion in a decade.

 
At 12/13/06, 3:13 AM, Anonymous Adam said...

Man I should really look over my posts before I send them :-p

 
At 12/30/06, 8:25 PM, Blogger Mer said...

Margret Cho said the same thing apparently. I thought about you when I read about this in EW because you as you said were ahead of your time. I ask you though, is it really wrong to have cute Harajuku Girls as imaginary friends?

 
At 12/31/06, 3:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh shut up

 
At 2/13/07, 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh shut your mouth you moron! For all we know you could be racist! Beat that!

 
At 7/5/07, 6:01 AM, Blogger Mary said...

I'm Asian and have been bothered by the HaraKuju Girls for some times. It wouldn't be so bad if AT LEAST the 4 girls wore different outfits. The fact that they have to dress "in uniform" robs them of their individiality. Gwen should really be ashame of such exploitation and racism.

 
At 9/3/07, 10:22 AM, Anonymous J said...

"Oh shut your mouth you moron! For all we know you could be racist! Beat that!"

There's a difference between being a racist and being the one to commercialize, market, & promote Racism.

Besides... your comment is irrelevant to the topic at hand.

 
At 1/27/08, 2:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t think she’s being a racist. if anything she’s helping them because if it wasn’t for her a lot of people wouldn’t have a clue on what harajuku girls are, because I know I didn’t until I heard it in one of her songs. I think your just reading to much into it and that she doesn’t intend on any of it being interpreted on how you did. I actually would have to agree with the other person on you maybe being a racist because of your comment on how we should actually be afraid of Asians because of china and north Korea. Just because 2 country are like that doesn’t mean a whole continent is, because there’s definitely more then 2 countries there. You kind of sound like America after pearl harbor when you say that, cause everyone was scared of the Japanese after that and pretty much sent them to concentration camps. I think she just like there style and makes them dress in the same uniforms so they can be mismatch but have the same theme for her music videos because if they didn’t them id look to out of place for each of them. The videos have themes to them that there trying to stick to, like in "what are you waiting for" its based on "Alice in wonder" land so if they wore the same outfits as they do in "the great escape" then it wouldn’t make a lot of since to have them running around in prison outfits in a maze of bushes, now would it? And as for "them only being allowed to speak Japanese" that’s a myth that people made up, and they do talk, they’ve had small parts in songs were they speak both Japanese and English and the reason they don’t talk very much is because there her back up dancers, key word: dancers. She’s also helping Them though because if they tried to do fashion Or anything like that without the help of her They wouldn’t get very far because our fashion Is mainly focused on white women models and So minorities like Asian and black have a harder time Accomplishing much. So like a couple of the other people I have to disagree with you but I’m stating why and not being ignorant about it though while I do it.

 
At 2/26/08, 3:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hahahaha ur all actually hilarious. get a grip!!!

 
At 3/23/08, 10:21 PM, Anonymous Lady Lottimort said...

How is this any worse than the many rap/hip-hop arists that use women as props to make them look more powerful? At least these girls have some sort of style and personality. I mean, it's not a new concept - I think you'll find in many concerts/music videos dancers are objectified to potray a visual theme, e.g. the robots in Kylie's "Can Get You Out of My Head" vid. And of course, they need to be idenitical or somewhat "summissive" to centralise and distinquish the star. It's a much larger issue. Of course, the fact that the girls are Asian makes it a tricky issue, but I really don't think any racism was intended by it. I've been obsessed Japanese and Asian culture from a young age and it never striked me as rascist. At least she's giving some exposure to Harajuku fashions and Asian girls - otherwise they would barely exist in the Western music industry.

 
At 4/20/08, 12:31 PM, Anonymous GwenStefanimyIDOL said...

Ur momma is racist bitch! she is one of the people that i look up too, so shut the fuck up u friggin retard!

 
At 4/20/08, 12:33 PM, Blogger patrick said...

GwenStefanimyIDOL, you make a convincing argument.

 
At 5/5/08, 10:22 PM, Anonymous Jessie said...

I don't think it's racist as much as it is sheer ignorance. Also, she's not "helping" the girls. Okay, so they're being paid big bucks. But it's not as if Asians are all scrounging around for scraps and Stefani has taken them under her wing. (Don't interpret this as if I'm saying they're all rich. I know they're not).

Personally, I'm half Korean and the issue of the Asian Stereotype has really caught my attention. I think the fact that the girls are Asian makes the whole thing a touchy subject. As someone else mentioned, it's not very different in theory from the music videos that have scantily-dressed women dancing around.

From the girls' point of view, it was probably some cool opportunity. I mean, let's face it. It would be cool to travel to another country and work for a big-name star. And get paid very well. If they were white, no one would bat an eye.

Although, as we can see, the girls are Asian. And the photo has certainly stirred up mixed emotions.

In the end, I think that it probably wasn't the wisest choice on Stefani's part, but it can't be helped. Besides, it may even work on breaking the Asian stereotype. Asian girls brought into big-name videos? It could really be turned into something good.

Let's not be so quick to judge.

 
At 8/17/08, 4:00 AM, Anonymous Rayna said...

For heavens sake shut up woman Gwen stefani is as far away from being racist as they could get im black and i love her and many people i know do to Gwen may use the harajuke girls and they dress alike but if it racist its for sure unknown becuase she just not like that what part of she like their style dont you understand and if you look close enough you can see their not all dressed alike very different but your so bent on giving her a bad rep that you dont even see that shes an awsome woman and you horrible for saying that then putting it in the media!

 
At 11/26/08, 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you guys are so retarded. if you don no what harajuku means then be quiet. in japan there are harajuku girls that dance in these big beautiful outfits. they are praised. gwin is far from racist. she loves the japanese culture. you guys should really do some research before puttin her out like that.

 
At 1/31/09, 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Gwen went back to her Jamaican phase and started walking around with Jamaican "figment of her imagination" who weren't allowed to speak without accent, would that be perfectly okay?

 
At 8/15/09, 4:47 PM, Blogger Douchebaguette said...

I am so there with you on this one. I actually started thinking "Hey, there is no way I'm the only one." and googled "Gwen Stefani asian racial" and found this. Thanks for the thoughts on the subject. :)

 

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