Dear Fellow Asian Women,
I’ll throw you this disclaimer, knowing it’s really not necessary, but it feels important to acknowledge anyway- despite being 5/8ths (yeah, I broke it down like that) Filipino – a group of Asian/Pacific Islanders with Spanish, Malay, Chinese, and our own island blood and having my own internalized shit about being an “Asian Woman”– I need to level with you.
What are we doing?! Why or how do we continue to fuck with dudes, systems and ideologies that keep perpetuating the same stereotypes about us being submissive/dragon ladies/tiger moms?
There’s really two critiques going on here, so I’m not going to fault you completely, as you’re not 100% complicit in this, but we have ownership over a good portion of what’s up here.
Backstory Pt. 1
Today I got involved in a random Facebook discussion – somehow between the 8000 other things I had to do at work and a day where I openly cried in the office at three different points in time (me crying at work is not totally foreign, it usually happens somewhere behind a closed door, not in the middle of the front reception area, oops) – that was sparked by this quote:
Three records into his career, Drake still seems invested in our knowing that he’s a better musician than he is a person, which as revelations go was never interesting in the first place. (Via)
The debate quickly sparked into two parallel tracks- one discussing Drake the rapper vs. Drake the person contextualized by both his ability to manipulate the English language so well, and articulate pretty deep emotion through it. The other discussing his misogynistic tendencies- all summed up so well by a very good friend:
“His vocal clarity and emotional clarity are laudable, but I just wish he would push further than emotive description into emotional reckoning. He hates women but lives performing a kind of love/hate of women for men.”
Did you miss that ladies, “He hates women, but lives performing a kind of love/hate of women for men”.
I won’t front. If you look at my text exchanges with my best friend for the last few weeks you’ll see quite a few moments of Drakehating. (I coined the term Kaperhating last night in a text to my boy hating on Colin Kaepernick, it doesn’t have the same ring, but it stays). During the VMAs, Snow Tha Product retweeted a statement so true, I’ve been running with it for weeks.
But………. (and that’s a big but, with all of the elipses possible) as a single woman, hip-hop lover and human being, I’ve been playing Take Care and a leaked version of Nothing Was the Same, when I have the “feels”. The worst part, is that nothing about what he’s actually saying, like the actual content- is designed to make me feel better. It’s mostly shitty shit, about women, including calling out a handful BY NAME. Sample A:
“I taste pain and regret, in your sweat/You’ve been waiting for me, oh ho/I can tell that you been practicing… All those other men were practice, they were practice/Yeah, for me…”
That don’t make me feel better. Sample B:
"And I love it when your hair still/ Wet cause you just took a shower/ Running on a treadmill and only eating salad/ Sound so smart like you graduated college/ Like you went to Yale but you probably went to Howard”
That’s just not even the full on misogynistic shit, he’s got worse and I still eat it all up. When I am feeling any kind of low, somehow all roads lead to Drizz and all his emoting. It didn’t take this debate for me to realize that. I realized it a long time ago, before my first listen of NWtS, and to echo the above tweet, Drake became my feelings. Certainly not a well-thought out -provocative-boundary pushing-revolutionary-feeling about race/gender/ shit… class even- feeling, as illustrated by the 2000 critiques and criticisms that the internet is brewing right this minute. But, for whatever reason, it sucked me in. Shit, could be why I cried 3 times today.
Though I promise, my Asian sisters- this is not a close reading of Drake’s new album, NWtS does have one more important influence on this letter to you.
Someone in the 50+ comments mentioned the NWtS track From Time Featuring Jhene Aiko. The chorus includes this:
"I love me, I love me enough for the both of us/ That’s why you trust me, I know you been through more than most of us/ So what are you? What are you, what are you so afraid of?/ Darling you, you give but you cannot take love”
Again, this caught my attention the first time I heard it. Backwards, fucked up it actually doesn’t matter that you treat me like shit, because I get it, you don’t know how to receive love BS? That’s some uncessary rationalizing there. And after someone felt the need to make mention of Jhene’s other work in our internet convo, it dawned on me I’d seen her name elsewhere.
Backstory Pt. 2
Somewhere in the random notebook I call a journal that’s covered in SF Giants, SF 49ers, a Viva Obama and an Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack sticker, I started an actual close reading of some reference Drake made in Take Care (the specific reference was actually “You know I want it all and then some, Shout out to Asian girls, let the lights dim some” ).
But it wasn’t just a close reading of Drake, it was also a critique of one of our other favorite women-hating, for men rappers.
At one point in time, (unnecessary disclaimer again) as a coping mechanism, I absolutely and totally created this plan to somehow end up in Brooklyn (I know, I know) and end up engaging in an epic dance off with Donald Glover, wherein we’d fall in comedy love, and make comedy babies (not necessarily the human kind, but just the kind of creations comedy geniuses make when together, again, I know, I know). This was just as I was getting introduced to Donald’s non-Community starring rapper alter-ego, Childish Gambino, whom Jhene has recently been collaborating with.
(Anyone have any feels at all about this inverted Yoko Ono/John Lennon thing going on here???)
Like Drake one can debate Donald Glover the actor/Comedian/person with “Childish Gambino” the rapper, his own relationships with emotive (highly educated) word manipulation and CG the misogynist. In fact, it’s been debated at length already… Links on Links on Links
The problem sisters- is that we, as Asians, have a tendency to bandwagon our public recognition as an Asian people. Bruno Mars. Jeremy Lin. Ichiro Suzuki. Julie Chen, the Asian contestants on Idol. Let’s be real: talented or not, we LOVE our brothers and sisters out their getting theirs. There’s nothing wrong with that, as noted, I love me some Tim Lincecum and his ¼ Filipinoness. I’ll claim him. I’ll claim Bruno sometimes. But we also claim, and cling onto other people who meremly mention us in their work.
Quick Poll: How many of you thought Foxy Brown was ACTUALLY black and Filipino when she rapped about it on that Jay-Z song? Yeah… I thought so. And you loved that joint didn’t you? And you still dance to it like it’s the jam? Shit. I do.
The same can be said when any mildy popular, mildy famous, decent seeming/looking, rapper shouts us out in his songs. I honestly think, at the time I started this whole exploration, in my journal/not journal, your boy Donald’s biggest following was hipster Asian chicks (Truth: I shouldn’t even get started on hipsters and Asian hipsters and race/gender shit, so I won’t but put a pin in that one will ya?).
Sisters, you LOVED, and STILL love your boy Gambino. But then this song came out…
And that, my friends, was my deal breaker. I don’t even want to give time to the lyrics, what is there to say? If I really spent time and took a look at how many times dude has referenced Asian chicks, it would be as long, if not longer than this very post.
What people aren’t talking about (at least not in our circles) is his blatant hate of Black women who rejected him, (though he’s kind of talked about growing up dealing with race here) - or his blatant fetishizing of our lady friends and his overall super uncomfortable love/hate of hating women as my friend so articulately described.
As I mentioned before, you’re not to blame alone. You’re not alone in that so many women still love dudes who profit (financially, psychologically and even physically) off of hating women publicly, and privately (I am intentionally not touching cycles of domestic abuse/violence which clearly mirror this here argument). This kind of love isn’t race specific, but as a segment of the female population with a very specific, and very marred narrative where we’re gendered via the whole, Geisha/Dragon Lady complex, it’s important.
My question, acknowledging that I DO IT TOO- is why are we some of the largest consumers of shit that perpetuates these very stereotypes? And letting fools PROFIT off of it? Why are we okay with the public fetishizing, and even finding ways to profit off of it ourselves? We could certainly ask the same of other groups, but I’m asking you, as my peers.
And what of our public love of non-threatening, albeit often sexist, smart black boys who are just safe enough for us to get caught dating by our potentially racist parents? (Yep. Went there.)
There aren’t a lot of us Asian sisters, being featured on rap albums, and I’m really honestly happy we’re getting ours, but to what end is our appreciation of, and fandom of these people, places, things, actually just keeping us where we’ve always been? How can we evolve from there and still get that check? Still enjoy and appreciate music that isn’t totally terrible, shoot, it’s my jump off of the moment when I’m on my emo tip.
This is just the beginning of the conversation. The follow up questions I have, aren’t just about why we buy into this but also how to separate the rapper’s talents from their words, and non-rap personas, but that’s a debate for all of our internet brethren to hash out.
So dear sisters. I can’t tell you to stop. I just ask that you marinate on it, and ask yourself what you’re doing the next time you catch yourself at a Childish Gambino show, or screaming “Oooohhhhhh!!!” when you hear that dim sum line from Aubrey. I’ve been questioning what I’m up to since I realized I’d listened to Take Care anytime I felt a little low, and will continue to do so through whatever this now publicly shameful thing is I have going on with Nothing Was The Same. Maybe I’ll start playing The Roots again next time I’m sad and maybe I won’t cry publicly next time.
UPDATE: https://myspace.com/discover/trending/2013/09/25/drake-rhymes-about-women Check out this comprehensive list of all the women Aubrey Graham calls out by name.