Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I love Asian women and so can you!

OK, so yes, this is the academic caveat: I don't watch a lot of tv, but what I do watch is BRAVO and I am addicted to two of their reality shows: Top Chef and Project Runway. This is Season 4 of Project Runway and as we speak I am watching Ginny Barber, wife of Tiki Barber (a former NFL player and Today show host) talking to designers. [NOTE: Don't worry--no spoilers ahead!]

Why I'm noting Ginny Barber is the way she was introduced--it was through the voice of one of the designers, Christian, who, after Tim Gunn said that there was a special guest, described this "beautiful Asian woman (maybe he didn't say beautiful--it might have been stunning or something similar) come through the door. I love Asian women."

I love Asian women . . . what the hell???!!!

I mean, does this guy REALLY love all Asian women? [SECOND NOTE: Christian is the youngest member (21) and is openly gay (almost all of the male designers are openly gay--with the exception of the seemingly sole macho hetero who wants to REMIND viewers of how he's NOT gay. You just want to say, "Relax, dude, we get it--and by the way, the more you keep telling us you're straight the more we're just going to think that you are protesting a *little* bit too much) and I mention this because he wasn't trying to hit on her or talk about her in an overtly sexual way--but of course it still comes across as objectifying her--although perhaps it's the Margaret Cho syndrome, I dunno].

Anyway, it really bugs me--when people say things like they love Asian women. Am I being oversensitive? Of course! But I mean, the whole mass stereotyping (even if relatively positive/benign) is problematic and very specifically saying that you love Asian women (even if you're a white gay guy) is really just reinforcing all of those horrifically patronizing, "Orientalizing," and sexualizing beliefs about Asian women.

One last thing--Tiki Barber (African American) and Ginny Barber (Asian American) make a very visible mixed-race couple. So kudos to BRAVO for highlighting them.

Update, Nov. 29 (Friday): I saw a re-run of this episode last night, and I wanted to clarify the comment that Christian made. When Ginny Barber walked into the room he said "And then this fabulous Asian woman walked in. She looked gorgeous with her dark skin and hair. I love Asian people; they're fierce." Funny how I extrapolated the "I love Asian women" comment--which just goes to show what someone's hypersensitivity will do. It is still problematic, however, to love Asian people because we're "fierce" but it does temper the orientalized tone by saying "people" and qualifying it with "fierce" (rather than just leaving the comment about the woman's great skin and hair). Of course perhaps what I'm really reacting to is that Christian is to Project Runway what Marcel was to Top Chef season 2: young, cocky, and annoying. And one more comment--the other very public but absent inter-racial couple on Project Runway is, of course, Heidi Klum and Seal. So PR really is a show that is promoting inter-racial love.

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