I am Japanese and I find the usage of the word “kawaii” by non-Japanese people to be extremely appropriative and damaging. I’ll tell you why:
- It is not just a word for cute. When non-Japanese people say something is “kawaii,” they are not simply saying something is cute. There are hella connotations and implications that come with the word. Which brings me to…
- The subtleties of Japanese pop culture, style, street fashion, etc. get completely lost on non-Japanese people. “Kawaii,” the way non-Japanese people use it, is like a 2-d projection of a very complex and multi-faceted subculture. The subversiveness and subtleties of things like Lolita and Harajuku culture are completely erased when taken out of context and away from actual Japanese people.
- “Kawaii” as an aesthetic contributes to the commodification and exotification of Japanese people. Japanese pop culture and style is not for your consumption. It is not for you to steal and make money off of. It is not for you to exploit. There is a very thin line between “appreciating” things from other cultures and appropriation. You are allowed to engage in Japanese pop culture, but chances are that your desire to consume it is rooted in some really deep exotification, which also ties into…
- Japanese people are not your prop or your costume, we are not here to be cute for you. “Kawaii” and its implications contribute to stereotypes about Asian people. We are not cute, quiet, submissive playthings for your enjoyment. The stereotype that all asian people are just docile is really damaging. I am not your asian bitch. I may be cute, but it’s not for you. We are radicals, we are angry, we fight. That shit isn’t “kawaii.”
- We are so much more than what you take from us.We aren’t just peace-sign loving girls in pigtails and school-girl outfits. We have an entire fucking culture and language that is incredibly rich and beautiful. “Kawaii” as a style just serves to make a caricature out of an entire culture and people.
So basically, if you’re not Japanese, don’t say “kawaii.” Just call it fucking cute. That way your words won’t carry racist implications and I won’t think you’re an asshole.
**This is just what I feel about the matter. My voice should not and does not represent all Japanese people. However, my voice calling this out should be enough for people to stop doing this. It is offensive. It is disrespectful. It is hurtful.
All of this. All. Of. This.
Its not just a white American thing, white Australians put us in the Mexican category as well.
That’s true it’s a global white supremacy thing. One thing I noticed that it comes to Latino things in here in Korea, it’s viewed through an American/Western lense. So here they think Mexican= it’s surrounding countries=tex mex food=cinco de mayo style poncho mustache sombreros=sexually exotic. And I can’t blame this country because it’s not them but the English speaking USian media that perpetuates these images internationally. However these things never extends to Spain which is given and portrayed with more nuances, complexity and “sophistication.”
*draws my 100th map of the US and Mexico for stranger to explain my origins*
I can’t teach Spanish with that Silabario hispanoamericano shit. I was looking through a pdf of it and it had pickaninny black children and racist drawing of a chinese person on it. And of course ends with a note telling us to pay tribute to Spain. I was looking to see if there are any phonics components I could use, but fuck that 1950s book we should burn all of it.
Occasionally, I’d notice that I had become a peculiar creature to many people, and even a few friends, who had assumed that being Palestinian was the equivalent of something mythological like a unicorn or a hopelessly odd variation of a human being. A Boston psychologist who specialised in conflict resolution, and whom I had met at several seminars involving Palestinians and Israelis, once rang me from Greenwich Village and asked if she could come uptown to pay me a visit. When she arrived, she walked in, looked incredulously at my piano – ‘Ah, you actually play the piano,’ she said, with a trace of disbelief in her voice – and then turned around and began to walk out. When I asked her whether she would have a cup of tea before leaving (after all, I said, you have come a long way for such a short visit) she said she didn’t have time. ‘I only came to see how you lived,’ she said without a hint of irony. Another time a publisher in another city refused to sign my contract until I had lunch with him. When I asked his assistant what was so important about having a meal with me, I was told that the great man wanted to see how I handled myself at the table.
Edward Said, Between Worlds: a memoir
Great commentary on how academics, scholars, etc. that write/research about certain ethnicity or community of people often treat them as such, a study, a research topic, a “a peculiar creature” as Said points out, people that need help with gaining a voice, someone who needs assistance. This kind of narcissistic mentality where the savior complex of these people is in full force is not only toxic and demeaning to people they “study” but it’s disrespectful the issue at hand, because at the end of the day what might be a paper topic, a book that needs to be published, an article for these so called scholars is a real ongoing issue for people they study. Writing, studying, researching certain issues, people, and communities does not automatically excuse you from being considered racist unless you actively work against that racism already in place.
This is funny cause I just came here to make a semi-related post but this has happened to me in the past with people I actually considered pretty good friends, not to mention over educated professors that think they can figure everything about you and what opinions you hold if they know what family/what city you’re from. I’m deadly serious about how over-educated liberals weird me out so much more than your run-of-the-mill xenophobe, I’m not just saying it for tumblr points.
I felt like this in Central American studies class and some white girl followed me home because she wanted every detail about the dirty wars in El Salvador and Guatemala to write her paper. ㅠ_ㅠ
Language is political. That’s why you and me, my Brother and Sister, that’s why we supposed to choke our natural self into the weird, lying, barbarous, unreal, white speech and writing habits that the schools lay down like holy law. Because, in other words, the powerful don’t play; they mean to keep that power, and those who are the powerless (you and me) better shape up —mimic/ape/suck —in the very image of the powerful, or the powerful will destroy you —you and our children.
- June Jordan
Ever since Katrina, I always though that people in the US were one natural disaster away from living in third world conditions, especially if you’re of color. Sandy shows this. It’s not that our infrastructure is weak per say, rather our infrastructure doesn’t give a fuck about certain people. East Asia (talking South Korea and Japan) has it’s problems with inequality but they’re better at emergency response (and adapting to technology in general) because they see their people like extended family, brothers and sister. Granted they’re also way more homogenous. In the United States the people of a different demographic living across town are considered completely alien to each other, so I’m not surprised sadly.
i love how my dash is full of folks stabbing the fuck out your white authoritarian dreams. *tears up*
ok, i am fully sick of this shit, dictionaries are not sparkly magical oases of unbiased truth, utterly untouched by racism or political agenda
whose political agenda exactly? here, lemme show you. i took five minutes to search for the creators and current owners of merriam-webster and the oxford dictionary and this is what i got
noah webster, wrote the first webster’s. did you also know he was a hardxcore american nationalist and christian who thought the written word was explicitly a tool that needed to be used to control public dissent and individualism which he considered to be badwrong? LOOK IT UP, SHITDICK
oh but who owns it now? well websters became merriam-websters which is a subsidiary of encyclopaedia britannica inc. currently, but here are just some of the white dudes who owned the rights to webster’s shit along the way
hello richard warren sears, yes THAT sears, you are looking particular white and rich
senator william benton, yale graduate, founder of benton & bowles advertising company! rockin that rich whiteness
jacqui safra! member of the famous safra banking family, current owner of encyclopaedia britannica, and merriam-webster and spring mountain vineyard, friend of woody allen and financer of EIGHT of his films. how deliciously white and rich you smell.
here is a small sample of the white dudes that collabed on oxford dictionary originally, archbishop trench, herbert coleridge, frederick james furnivall and sir james murray by this point i was 500% done with reading biographies on boring white dudes doing boring white dude things so instead let’s just all bask in how boring and white they are
for added fun the wiki article on the oxford dictionary has a whole section on criticisms that basically outlines exactly the fucking problem here
Despite its claim of authority on the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary has been criticised from various angles. It has become a target precisely because of its massiveness, its claims to authority, and above all its influence. In his review of the 1982 supplement, University of Oxford linguist Roy Harris writes that criticizing the OED is extremely difficult because “one is dealing not just with a dictionary but with a national institution”, one that “has become, like the English monarchy, virtually immune from criticism in principle”.:935 Harris also criticises what he sees as the “black-and-white lexicography” of the Dictionary, by which he means its reliance upon printed language over spoken—and then only privileged forms of printing. He further notes that, while neologisms from respected “literary” authors such as Samuel Beckett and Virginia Woolf are included, usage of words in newspapers or other, less “respectable”, sources hold less sway, although they may be commonly used.:935 He writes that the OED’s “[b]lack-and-white lexicography is also black-and-white in that it takes upon itself to pronounce authoritatively on the rights and wrongs of usage”,:935 faulting the Dictionary’s prescriptive, rather than descriptive, usage. To Harris, this prescriptive classification of certain usages as “erroneous” and the complete omission of various forms and usages cumulatively represent the “social bias[es]” of the (presumably well-educated and wealthy) compilers.:936
so basically, fuck you, you fucking fuck, if you trot out a dictionary definition as proof of racism against white people cuz THE DICTIONARY SAYS that racism is defined only as “racial prejudice or discrimination” (merriam-webster) or “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race” (oxford).
well guess the fuck what.
RICH WHITE PEOPLE WRITE AND CONTROL ENGLISH DICTIONARIES.
RICH WHITE PEOPLE ARE THE ONES DEFINING THE WORDS THAT MAKE IT INTO ENGLISH DICTIONARIES.
AND IF YOU THINK FOR A SECOND THAT RICH WHITE PEOPLE ARE WITHOUT MAJOR FUCKING BIAS YOU’VE GOT ANOTHER FUCKING THING COMING, MAINLY A WHOLE WORLD OF UNCHALLENGED IGNORANCE
all of this.
what i like to bring up as an example is the tomato. you know how everybody argues about whether or not it’s a fruit or a vegetable? so get this: legally, the tomato is a vegetable. the SCOTUS ruled in 1893 that the tomato is a vegetable because they wanted it to get taxed (at that time there was no tax on fruits and U.S. markets were being flooded by foreign fruits).
you guys, the definition of a tomato had a political agenda.
a fucking tomato.
what on earth does quoting the dictionary on oppression (which is vastly more complex than a tomato, mind you) make you think that you’re somehow unbiased or neutral?
really a tomato?
This is why I call out language prescriptivists as inherently racist because they uphold the values of white supremacy be it Merriam-Webster or Real Academia Española. Making fun of how “poor people” speak “ungrammatically” is incredibly ignorant, but it’s apparently okay because there are tons of volumes and lastest editions to validate that type of thought.
you know that awkward moment when you are sitting with a bunch of deaf Latin@s (born and raised in Central America) and a half Nicaraguan, half American (gringa blanca) deaf woman makes a disparaging comment about the “dark-skinned, short” Mayan natives of Guatemala, and then complimenting a deaf international student from Guatemala for her “light-skinned beauty.” She laughed, making some dismissive comments about the Mayan native folks of Guatemala, implying that they were ugly, inferior, stupid, and uneducated.
Even the light-skinned Guatemalan girl (who looked more Spanish than native) looked uncomfortable.
Yeah, did you ever had that awkward moment?
That happened to me last night.
I mean, what the fuck?
I didn’t say anything, but I felt weird. I wanted to say something back, but I kept silent, because I did not think it was my place to correct her, because I am not Latina, Central American, or Native/Indigenous. But, her comments remind me a lot of the shadism bullshit in my community (South Asian, Indian, Desi) … and the attitude that light skin is better and more beautiful than dark skin. Don’t get me started on the shadism prejudice against poorer, low-caste Indians, too.
white latin@ once again proving how awful they are.
is anyone surprised?
yep. didn’t think so.
hanging out with most expats. My coworkers are actually all very cool and a few queer and POC, but I don’t like hanging around their friends. Honestly though my straight scottish friend whose non-United Statesian is the chillest dude.The first night I almost got in a fight with a foreigner remember? Anyways it’s not super uncommon for something racist, sexist or homophobic to be said because expats are usually from relatively privileged middle class backgrounds. Maybe I’m too much of a SJ warrior, but I cannot stay quiet. When I challenge someone being fucked up I get ostracized and they’re like “why are you giving us a hard time?” “You’re ruining the night!” Maybe ‘cause idk white Americans give EVERYONE a hard time globally and are so used to being unchallenged? Like I called out a girl for calling me “a Mexican” and she said “but i’m just an ignorant white girl!” She literally said that like it was cutesy and she batted her eyelashes to make it go away.