Friday, July 15, 2005

Do You Yahoo!?

It seems that Yahoo! has forgotten about the Abercrombie & Fitch scandal that broke about three years or so ago with their 'humorous' t-shirts that read, "Two Wongs Can Make It White," and featured slanty-eyed men doing laundry. See

As I was idly checking my email today, a flash animation ad on the Yahoo! mail site came up big and bold and red. In the animation, an obviously Asian woman (with her slim retro capri pants, black bobbed and barretted hair, little slippers, and slanted eyes; even the red color palette is vaguely Asian) groaning under the weight of freshly dry cleaned clothes walks out of a shop. She leaves the frame of the ad dropping a dress on the ground. Then the ad hocks Yahoo! HotJobs, where ostensibly this struggling woman can find a less strenuous and more fulfilling line of work. So, what do we do with this image? This stereotype? This covert racism?

Both the t-shirt and the Yahoo! ad remind of Dwight A. McBride's book Why I Hate Abercrombie & Fitch and his work on unpacking the strange bedfellows of capitalism, commercialism, whiteness, race, and sexuality. In a deep sense, looking at (really looking at) and critiquing and unknotting what may seem innocent or innocuous or humorous (but in startling actuality is fraught with prejudice) is necessary work. How does the Yahoo! ad talk about race or class or gender or citizenship as whole? McBride says, "While the dominant rhetoric of our national identity presents a color-blind, 'united we stand,' Horatio Alger narrative of upward mobility, in reality, citizenship is raced, gendered, and classed, and the original texts that define citizenship and national identity in the United States reflect this reality" (68).

So, what do we do with the above image? A quick Google search turns up no response or reaction to it. I have yet to see the advertisement again. Maybe it got pulled. Maybe I haven't been fortunate enough to witness it another time. However, I do think there is something going on, something nefarious in kitschy, cute, bubblegum pink, 'humorous' clothing. What made the advert makers choose an Asian woman? Dry cleaning? Red? Separately, these details seem arbitrary. But together they add up to years of stereotyping, assumptions, and racialized (even racist) representation of Asians.

The irony here, of course, is that Yahoo! is one of the major employers of the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley, which I would guess employs a great number of Asians. You would think they would be a little more aware of their own constituents (or maybe it's one big inside joke that just isn't funny).

An Exercise in Narcissism

It seems that fashion (to be followed suit by form and function) demands that all 'serious' scholarship requires a space both on- and off-line for the exploration, publishing, or perusal of ideas, materials, questions, resources, and whatever bits and jots come to mind. As a starting PhD student in English at the University of Washington, I figure I better get with the fashion or be left on the side of the digital highway. Queer View Mirror is my attempt at a scholarly web log where I will wax (and wane) about the things that interest me, that go bump in the night in my brain and heart, that stop me and make me go "hmm." QVM is place where my indisciplinariness can shine and where I can natter on about digital studies, gender studies, race studies, pop culture, film, teaching, writing, reading, and all things intersecting and intertextual.