Busan Slutwalk, Sat Aug 31, 6-7PM, hosted by Don't Do That

Don't Do That Campaign welcomes you to participate in a slut walk

I had a great chat today with organizers of Don't Do That (성범죄인식개선캠페인 돈두댓), a campaign to change mindsets about sex crimes. The group is organizing a slut walk campaign in Busan and Seoul. I translated the information below and hope that readers will share it widely. 

Don't Do That Campaign is a voluntary group that comes together to raise awareness about sex crimes. Their site offers a lot of information and is a great resource.

Event in Busan:
On Saturday, August 31, 2013, 6PM ~7PM there will be a slutwalk hosted by the Don't Do That (성범죄인식개선캠페인 돈두댓) Busan Team.
The walk will take place near Bujeon-dong, Seomyeon Subway Station (Line 1 & 2), Exit 1.
Participants will meet at the ally next to Judies Taehwa and march toward Lotte Department store. Please see the map below and spread the word~
For additional information about this event, please contact organizers via KakaoTalk ID jinamarna or via Facebook.

Updated Note to Participants: It seems that the organizers of Don't Do ask that you prepare some appropriate picket signs and it seems like they have some suggestions about clothing: wearing hot pants or short dresses or T-shirts exposing the belly button, even wearing dressdown/business casual is fine. Inquires can be directed to the contact info above *^^* 
Original text: "적당한 노출이 있는 옷차림과 개인 피켓을 준비하시면 되요^^ 옷은 핫팬츠나 짧은 원피스, 배꼽이 드러나는 티셔츠등을 입기도 하고 자유복장도 괜찮아요^^ "

Here is a little map I made of the area in Busan where the slut walk will take place:

This is an image I found of Judies Taehwa storefront, participants will meet nearby at 6PM:

For more information about Don't do that (성범죄인식개선캠페인 돈두댓) please check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Daum Café

Please share the flyers below. 
Busan readers, if you attend the event, I would really love to hear about it~ I wish I could make it out this time, but I can’t. Please share this event and support the cause. 

Readers in Seoul, I will be sure to provide similar translation/map when I hear from the Don’t Do That Seoul Team.

Another group that may interest readers is Slutwalk Korea. Slutwalk Korea organized the first slutwalk movement in Asia in early 2011. They launched a number of events in global solidarity with the slutwalks that started in Toronto and all over the world that year. They have also hosted global solidarity events for Pussy Riot and on March 8, 2013 for International Women's Day. They have a great Twitter feed and regularly post information related to sexual violence or slutwalk-type events in Korea ( I learned about Don't Do That from a Slutwalk Korea Twitter post).  


Sexual Violence as a Migrating Woman, Re: India Story You Never Wanted to Hear

(Or maybe we could also call this “Sexual Violence as a Migrating -- queer, socio and economically disadvantaged, mostly white and white-passing, able-bodied, educationally privileged, American, cis -- Woman, Re: India Story You Never Wanted to Hear”)

Reflection on Violence while Migrating

RoseChasm shared her experiences of sexual harassment during a study abroad program and her PTSD mental leave of absence from school to CNN iReport "India: the Story You NeverWanted to Hear" on August 18, 2013. (Updated) A response iReport "Same India-Different Story" by twoseat affirms the reports of sexual harassment and also brings a discussion of racism and nationalism. CNN also posts a lengthy statement to the story.

WHEN I reposted this iReport to my own Facebook wall, I wanted to de-emphasize India in the headline, so I wrote “This is a story about sexual harassment and street harassment.” The reason that I de-emphasize India is because I am hesitant to participate in uniquely calling out India for violence against women. I have not been to India. I have travelled in other countries and I have heard first-hand from friends abroad and in the U.S. with similar experiences of street harassment, sexual assault and violence against women. In my view, women who are migrating may be treated differently and/or targeted for violence.

ON this blog post, I hope to further emphasize this point and discuss migration, race and other factors that affect experiences of sexual violence. Sexual assault and harassment are global in scope, but I think survivors experiences (and certainly my own experiences) can be affected by shifts in privilege associated with migration.

I have experienced sexual violence in the U.S. and Korea. Perhaps like RoseChasm I also find it difficult to discuss for a number of reasons. In particular, it is difficult for me to discuss the violence I have experienced in Korea because I want to share deeply complicated contexts and personal ideas that are not easy to sum up. I do not want those listening to my story to think that it is a story about Korea - because it isn’t a story about Korea - my story is about sexual violence. The mechanisms of violence against women in Korea and in the U.S. may differ in some specific ways (location, context, dialog, tone and cues) but they are more alike than different. The stigmatization of women and sex, denial of reproductive rights, slut-shaming, rape culture, poor funding for women’s social services, restricted access to quality ob/gyn care, police and legal discrimination, etc. are common to both societies and found world-wide. However, comparing my experiences of sexual violence in the U.S. and Korea, some differences do emerge, and I tend to think they are related to my own position in society and particularly my citizenship and race.

IN the United States I have experienced sexual violence and felt relatively assured of and informed about my legal rights, access to medical care and the availability of support services. This absolutely offered me a greater sense of security and of my capacity to cope with violence. This is not to say that I wasn't silenced in some ways, some people around me minimized my story or even blamed me. While abroad and as a non-citizen, I have to put different effort into seeking legal recourse, there is a barrier in services, and it may be harder to find support. This also impacts my sense of security and ability to cope harassment and sexual violence. While abroad, some fellow expats and some nationals have also minimized my story - some tried to tell me that I misunderstood a 'cultural difference' and others, instead of hearing my story, rushed to tell me that they had experienced the same or worse in the U.S.

We often think of sexual violence in very narrow terms, sometimes calling it a "women's issue" or failing to be inclusive of all voices. Rape and Sexual violence in the United States and other countries is not only violence against women, but also racial and gendered violence (other examples are terribly abundant but violence on reservations and against transwomen are two that I wanted to highlight here). Although I am mostly white and white-passing (rather, I glow in the dark), I have also experienced sexual violence accompanied by cues related to my race such as racial slurs or references specific to my nationality. I don't mention this in an attempt to equate this and other deployments of racism in sexual violence, but I point this out because it exists and it happens.

I hear often from Korean and Korean-American women who grew up, travelled to or lived in the United States about the fetish sexualization of their bodies as 'exotic' and the accompanying harassment from American men. We saw evidence of many of these stereotypes recently in the Asian Girlz song and music video, but the very real sexual violence and slut shaming of Asian and Asian-American women is generally overlooked in the United States. Thus, I feel that in sharing experiences of sexual violence that occurred in Korea, I simultaneously need to hear and challenge sexual violence in the United States. I am concerned that attention to sexual violence against white women, while absolutely important to our dialog, can get tied up in media and individual-level racism if we place one-sided emphasis on certain societies as perpetrators and certain survivors' voices.

Support for Survivors 

THE kinds of legal recourse or emotional support facilities we might be able to utilize at home may not be present or visible enough for migrating women. Expats do not always have the same rights or access to rights in a society. For example, recently for employment and visa-related reasons three women I know were in effect discouraged by police from making reports or pressing charges against an assailant. By having a pending case, they feared their employers would drop them in a few months when contract renewals are up, and without an employment contract they would lose their legal visa status. The police reminded them one that they may have legal trouble that lasts longer than their visa eligibility and that it could be inconvenient to be summoned back to Korea for the case. This in turn evoked fear about finding translators or a lawyer to help with the case, about their sexual assault being publicized in the workplace, at school or among their social circle, about recovering the huge ($10,000) security deposit they made for their apartment lease if they lost the visa status and had to leave earlier than anticipated, etc. etc. etc. Some of these concerns are unique pressures tied to living abroad. Other stigmatization and slut-shaming might be tied to race or nationality, I am so tired of hearing that Sex and the City is representative of Western women and their sexual promiscuity.

THE rape of women that are migrating or transiting through countries is especially under-reported in the US, and in many places there are inadequate facilities for support, medical treatment or legal aid for migrating women (see Tiffany Kim's research with Latina migrants in the U.S.). In other regions important NGOs and state actors have stepped up to extend that support to non-nationals.

EVEN when there are legal or social support facilities operated by a state, they may be problematic and migrating women might not want to use them. Interviews of those who use facilities for migrant women show some criticism of the services (see Grace Cheng & Joan Yoo's research with marriage migrants women in Korea). Compared with familiar facilities available in one's home nation, language and legalese might make a sexual assault survivor abroad feel less empowered to act. Documents might not be translated in a language one is comfortable with. Women might perceive that the Multicultural Centers and Migrant Women’s Shelter are tied up in a problematically racialized “Multicultural Policy" that exerts pressure on non-citizen women in a variety of ways or with national pride/image in mind. Therefore, these spaces may be uncomfortable for some women and impact their perception of safety of of their rights.

RECENTLY in South Korea we have observed that expat women are building their own spaces to provide support for sexual assault survivors. Perhaps this could be because the existing spaces fail in some way to meet their needs. Groups such as Stand Up to Sexism, JeollaSafety Alliance, Hollaback! Korea, and Disruptive Voices bring together community members to discuss sexual violence, prevention and awareness.

Violence Against Women Abroad

I appreciate and respect RoseChasm for sharing her story of sexual harassment and for highlighting the problematic institutional response to her PTSD and to survivors who participated in a university study abroad program. Survivors of sexual violence challenge our system with their stories and call for solidarity and awareness about sexual crimes.

TOO many of our international and personal responses to violence against women incorrectly emphasize women’s migration itself as the problem, when we need to challenge societies the world over to change attitudes toward women.

OUR international regime to address human trafficking grounds itself in migration policy and links to organized crime, thus far too many nations respond by restricting the ‘illegal’ movement of women instead of addressing employment structures in origin countries and inadequate legal and social protections for women in destination states (see Vidyamali Samarasinghe's research on trafficking policy).

IN Korea, the state Multicultural Policy singles out domestic violence in international marriages to justify increasing state intervention into the ‘multicultural family’ and hysterize divorce, without acknowledging that Korean families in similar socio-economic conditions have comparable violence and divorce rates. One reason may be that foreign women are perceived as the most easily mobilized resource to solve the various family crises and care-work burden facing Korean society (see Hyun Mee Kim's research on Multicultural Family Policy).

IN the U.S. this iReport could be an opportunity to articulate how privilege operates differently in the U.S. as a white woman, (with some presumed) economic or educational privilege, and based on citizenship. RoseChasm talks about the preparation to go abroad - I think other organizations also try to 'prepare' (particularly) white women for what will happen when they go abroad and are not ‘protected’ by certain racialized and gendered social and legal structures that in the US tend to emphasize their rights or voices as sexual assault survivors when women of color or migrating women might be ignored or more actively silenced by the same social or legal structure in the US.

Advising Women to ‘Protect Themselves’

I have participated in a number of programs abroad, interviewed for other abroad programs, and myself managed or been in charge of orientation for abroad program participants. I have been the recipient of and the provider of advice to women and men in navigating personal safety and acclimating to differing positions of privilege while abroad. I have heard, internalized and offered advice similar to what RoseChasm reports,
“I was prepared to follow the University of Chicago’s advice to women, to dress conservatively, to not smile in the streets.”
Similarly, I was advised extensively about what not to wear as a woman, how (not) to drink, advised not to participate in later ‘rounds’ of outings with co-workers, etc. I was told as a newly arriving woman in Korea that if I entered a motel and was raped, the police would not believe me. I was warned that entering a motel would be seen as consent to whatever ensued thereafter. I was told stories of women who came before me and experienced ‘problems’ or ‘cultural misunderstandings.’ This advice came both from fellow Americans and from Korean staff overseeing programs. There was not a lot of discussion about how to respond to sexual harassment or violence.

I felt deeply uncomfortable with this advice, and when it was my turn to serve in temporary short-term capacities offering advice and reflection to Americans abroad, I parroted the stories but thought that I was framing them with my own view that it is never the victim’s fault. I told women it was not their fault if they were sexually harassed but that advice was offered as how to try to behave in order to possibly avoid some of it. I shared my own experiences of navigating street harassment, but tried to emphasize that my response is not THE response and that these are individual choices, I offered up stories of other friends. I told GLBT members that it was their choice to be out or come out, but offered up stories of what friends who had (selectively) or hadn’t experienced, and talked about the stigmatization I had seen in media about homosexuality. I felt that what I was saying was not good enough because I felt it was important to challenge the root of the problem, which was violence directed at people based on their gender and sexuality.

Inadequate Institutional Responses to Violence Against Women

WE see again and again that institutions such as Peacekeepers, Peace Corps, U.S. Department of State Fulbright Grant, study abroad programs and others, may not take adequate measures to support members who are assaulted, to listen to stories of violence and initiate policy change, to push for legal rights or social support for participants, to take care of their members who are abused. Institutional accountability needs to be more clearly articulated and this dialog is important.

PERHAPS a part of the problem may be that some people overseeing these programs do not personally experience the violence, or because of their own gender/race/sexual orientation/class*/educational*/citizenship status* lack an awareness of how these privileges might operate and affect the safety of program participants, or deny that sufficient 'proof' of violence exists. It is flawed to say that we care about the safety of our program participants, simplistically advise them to ‘be’ safe, but fail to adequately emphasize their safety to partner organizations or advocate for their safety in our broader work - when we vote, in our mindsets, and with our own participation - in social and legal structures.

WITH only a few months experience in Japan, or with only a year of experience in Korea, I was chosen to help new arrivals with their own process of acclimation. I was not an expert, and even years later my own views are constantly changing and growing based on experience. I am aware that by being selected for these positions by an institution - based on my race/gender/sexual orientation/class/educational background - other voices may not have had the same priority in an program. Institutions may rely too much and too passively on women, people of color and LGBT members to step up and speak out or apply for the kinds of leadership programs that I sought, but these same institutions should be accountable for caring about safety, questioning conceptions of safety from diverse perspectives, seeking out knowledge and sharing it. It is not enough to passively welcome women, people of color and LGBT members to speak, rather institutions needs to take a more active role in learning and incorporating diverse concerns in their safety programming. Thoughtful safety policies require careful consideration of gender, race, sexual orientation, citizenship status, etc.

Poor Media Responses to Violence Against Women

AGAIN and again we see troubling coverage of violence against women in the media. I am particularly disappointed that CNN iReports updated the story in the days after it was published to add a “producer note” BEFORE the text by RoseChasm. I took a look at a dozen other iReports and while most had an ‘Editor’s note’ that provided background info/credentials about the writer or summarized a related new story, NONE directly or indirectly questioned the iReporter's motive for sharing their report or offered a lengthy quote by an opposing viewpoint or institution.

The “CNN Producer Note” quoted below in effect minimizes much of RoseChasm’s story, seems to question her motives for sharing the story, and prioritizes the words of the University of Chicago staff and professor who manage the study abroad program [emphasis mine –CBM]:
CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Please note that CNN cannot independently verify the events described in this post [This is the fundamental premise of the CNN iReport system, isn’t it? The reports are not made by CNN staff, but by people on the ground. Yet, by writing this, CNN seems to cast doubt or distance themselves from this iReport –CBM]RoseChasm says [Was her iReport in doubt? –CBM] she shared her account of studying abroad in India and experiencing repeated sexual harassment in hopes of spreading 'international exposure about what women travelers and residents experience in India.' [Why do her motives need context? None of the other iReports I have read question the motive of the iReporter CBM] The University of Chicago issued the following statement [Why does the UofC statement come BEFORE her report? –CBM]:
'Nothing is more important to us at the University of Chicago than caring for the safety and well-being of our students [And apparently they or CNN care quite a lot about making sure that UofC gets this statement out there in cases when a student shares about threats to their safety BEFORE we even read the story about sexual harassment –CBM], here in Chicago and wherever they go around the world in the course of their studies. The University offers extensive support and advice to students before, during and after their trips abroad [Be specific: How extensive and how useful? –CBM], and we are constantly assessing and updating that preparation in light of events and our students' experiences [Be more specific: How will it changed based on this report? What has the institution learned from this story? –CBM]. We also place extremely high value on the knowledge our students seek by traveling and studying other civilizations and cultures, and we are committed to ensuring they can do so in safety while enriching their intellectual lives.' Dipesh Chakrabarty, a University of Chicago professor who was in India for the first three weeks of the session, told CNN that he was unaware of RoseChasm’s situation [Then why is he being asked to comment on this ireport BEFORE we read RoseChasm’s story? –CBM]. He noted, though, that the university tries to prepare students for what they might encounter while abroad.'Both faculty and staff in Chicago and our local Indian staff counsel students before and during the trip about precautions they need to take in a place like India,' Chakrabarty said in an e-mail. 'Ensuring student safety and well-being is the top priority of both the College and staff and faculty associated with the program.''Every year about 25 students enroll in it and several have gone on to become India-specialists by doing PhDs on the country and its past and present. This is the first time that I personally have come across such a serious problem,' he said. You can read more about this story on CNN.com.
- katie, CNN iReport producer” 

*I think that class, educational background and citizenship status are important to discussions of migration and sexual violence. Processes of migration are heavily impacted by these statuses.  


Asian Girlz Apologies: On Sincerity and Slut Shaming – 2 of 3

Asian Girlz music video Director Michael Steinberg is getting very little response to his visual interpretation of the song. As the director, he is responsible for the scenes, editing, camera angles, etc. He is responsible in one way or another for everything except the lyrics of the song. So, any response to actress Levy Tran, for instance, should also have been a question or a critique to Steinberg.

Worse, while Levy Tran has made an apology, and the band has made some insufficient apologies for their racist and sexist lyrics, in the Twitter conversations below, director Steinberg comes off as completely unwilling to reconsider his video scripting and his objectifying camera angles.

It would be better for the director to answer criticism with a bit of self-reflection. How much being called out does it take before an ‘artist’ will really think it through instead of coming up with lame reasons to pass on their own responsibility for using their "art" platform for racist or sexist ideas?

Steinberg is absolutely responsible for the concept of the music video. His Tweet back in February shares this concept:

 As far back as… uh… January, he was preparing for the project:

This is how Steinberg has decided to deal with audience criticism. He merely asserts that his work is ‘Art’ without intention to be racist or sexist. Please Note *underlining added for emphasis, you know, because I am EDITING and taking CREATIVE CONTROL over how to explain my INTENT and TELL a story:

 By writing the above responses, Steinberg denies that his own work could also be exploitative. The director is defensive and asserts his work is great. Rather than reflect, he turns responsibility back on the audience to define for him 'the line.' At best, he asks 'should we take it down' but his exchanges with audience members refuse to acknowledge his role as as director and the impact his work has had on the audience. 

I'm not sure that Michael Steinberg's writing can demonstrate the nuanced understanding of race that would be required for him to claim that he is producing 'Art' about racial stereotypes. His own writing is full of intentionally used cliches, particularly evident in his publicly accessible writing sample for a TV Pilot titled ICE that he describes as a "procedural about Immigration and Customs Enforcement."
Note how non-white characters are introduced by name, followed immediately by race, then a character motive description (sometimes playing into stereotype). Meanwhile, characters he intends to be white are not given any racial description at all. It is pretty clear that as a writer, he writes from the perspective of, and for white audiences. Why is it hard to understand that his 'Art' could be received differently by non-white or racially-conscious audiences? Probably because Steinberg lacks sufficient self-reflection about his role as an ‘Artist’ and that his writing, creative control and direction of pieces portray people of color.   

The song and its music video are totally unclear and ineffective if their intent is to mock Orientalizing fetishism or racist attitudes. In filming the music video, a couple of smarter choices might go further to establish its cred as a critique. One example, Steinberg’s decision to shoot the striptease scene from this angle puts Levy Tran on display as an object of The Male Gaze. Perhaps simply shooting from a level angle could make a difference by shifting emphasis from objectification of her body and toward her performance. This is a fundamental concept in cinematography that even I, with no background in film, can grasp and am aware of.

Steinberg didn't want to respond to our critique or explain his creative decisions as director of the music video: 

If Steinberg’s intent was to poke fun at guys who fetishize, he fails big. A director/artist is supposed to think about audience. Even commentators who are sympathetic to the claim that the video was intended to make fun of racists point out it’s utter failure. For example, GangnamBoy writes, “I’m sure most of the intended audience will be too stupid to even understand the "message." They’ll just stare at the hot girl. The problem is that they just aren’t clever enough to make a satire. Whatever message they’re trying to say is just going to be lost in internet comment wars.”

Furthermore, a good critique doesn't need to be EXPLAINED in an interview or post or Tweet. An ‘artist’ shouldn’t need to inform the audience at large that "no no I totally meant to make fun of racists... I just failed, but this is ‘Art’ with a capital A so I am absolved of your critique." These excuses really don’t work if your project just regurgitates racist words/ideas.

To wrap this up, I love that rather than promote Steinberg’s video, some groups have started to make alternate play lists, such as Feed The People Playlist: APIAFemale-Identified Musicians by Sean Miura.
For Discussion:

I enjoyed a chat about the Asian Girlz MV with my good friend Taylor Bradley, parts of which I’d like to share here in the hope that others will join our conversation (in the comments section below). We discussed what we though the band and director might have ‘expected’ and we touch on an ongoing debate about cultural appropriation in the music industry. We end by addressing the ‘Art’ of the Asian Girlz music video.

[Chelle B. Mille] want to contribute a reaction for my blog?
[Chelle B. Mille] calling for your solidarity~
[Taylor Bradley] god thats painful
[Taylor Bradley] lyrics music the fucking faces
 [Taylor Bradley] *their
[Taylor Bradley] i wonder what the reception they were expecting
[Chelle B. Mille] yeah... the part of the video that they shot IN China Town or KTown was confusing... I wonder, did they just tell people they were shooting a video, or were those folks fans, had they heard the song?
[Chelle B. Mille] As for Levy Tran, just because one individual who is a woman and Asian consents to the song with participation... doesn't mean it is a good idea or is gonna fly... but maybe it made them think there would be a positive reception to the song?
[Taylor Bradley] im not sure how bad appropriation is. I mean GDragon wears his hat sideways....
[Chelle B. Mille] are you thinking about the blackface image where he mimics other celebrities that wear a hoodie in solidarity for Trayvon Martin... but in blackface?
[Taylor Bradley] no. just wearing his hat sideways
[Chelle B. Mille] I don't think that in and of itself upsets anybody... its when someone then tries to put on a 'performance' of another culture... like separating an unknowing performance from its history or context. If an American woman performs as aegyo... what does that performance mean?
[Chelle B. Mille] likewise when Hyuna sings about having dark ‘chocolate’ skin in a kpop MV ‘ghetto’ in her Ice Cream MV... the appropriation of cultural history, music, fashion, etc. do come across problematically in my opinion. It ties into racialized consumption or use of anothers culture while also taking over control of its interpretation.
[Taylor Bradley] i dont know.  i feel the problem is only when you appropriate the bad symbols.
[Chelle B. Mille] hmm
[Taylor Bradley] like if kanye wanted to wear a kimono that would be fine
[Taylor Bradley] but if he wore a [Japanese] imperial officers uniform
[Taylor Bradley] that wouldnt be fine
[Chelle B. Mille] what examples show good/bad appropriation? or is there a distinction to draw between appreciation vs. appropriation?
[Taylor Bradley] second question: i dont think so
[Chelle B. Mille] I think it matters what he does in the kimono, too. And the original use of the kimono. That is why the "headdress Indian" costume is offensive to some... the headdress is a sacred religious artifact being disrespected at a kegger party.
[Taylor Bradley] yeah that makes senses
[Taylor Bradley] be careful with bad symbols, and be respectful with good ones
[Taylor Bradley] maybe thats the rule
[Chelle B. Mille] but I can't figure out a method to distinguish clearly and instructively how to evaluate appropriation. seems the logical first step is to be knowledgeable about the culture... but then we still have to be careful about not perceiving a right to appropriate based on being 'in the field' as so so so many anthropologists have done in the past.
[Taylor Bradley] i like my morality simple
[Taylor Bradley] rule one: dont be a dick
[Chelle B. Mille] yeah... it ought to be common sense like the guideline you mention, but wow, we are capable of such stupidity
[Taylor Bradley] rule two: follow rule one
[Chelle B. Mille] lol
[Taylor Bradley] i think that if you are showing respect to another person culture your fine
[Taylor Bradley] its usually not hard to tell
[Taylor Bradley] with the days above ground guys though
[Taylor Bradley] they werent trying to be disrespectful, just fucking clueless
[Chelle B. Mille] hmmm... I think they were trying to 'push boundaries'
second line about butt fucking... they weren't being respectful for sure... they wanted shock value... they wanted to use sex to sell records... they just vomited up every cliche they could think of
[Taylor Bradley] haha
[Taylor Bradley] but their response seemed so naive
[Taylor Bradley] youre right they may be savvier than im giving them credit for
[Chelle B. Mille] hahaha... I may assume everyone is devious until proven dumb

Michael Steinberg's Tweets from https://twitter.com/cine_fix
Michael Steinberg's writing sample was posted to his website at http://michaelsteinbergfilms.com/writing

Asian Girlz Apologies: On Sincerity and Slut Shaming – 3 of 3

 Just STOP slut-shaming Levy Tran!
Levy Tran, at work.
IT is counter-productive, at best, to accuse the band Day Above Ground of sexism and racism and then go on to criticize Levy Tran for her choices about he own body, dress and behavior. What was her choice in this context? By dressing and performing in the music video she pursues her career as an actress and model. Did she contribute to writing the lyrics? No. Did she choose the camera angles or edit the film? No. Is she responsible for her own participation? Yes, and she has offered the most sincere apologies for Asian Girlz despite having the least creative control over the entire racist sexist mess that is this song and music video.

IT is no doubt challenging to have an ethical career as an actress or model, and accountabilty for mistakes is important, but let's not reinforce sexism by going after the actress and letting the director slide. Let’s re-examine the goals the band and director pursued:
 "They said they want to push the boundaries, but by pushing theboundaries there are going to be thousands, if not more around the nation whoare going to say it's okay for me to push the boundaries." 
according to an interview with Rabiah Khalid, who serves as the Avocacy Manager for AsianAmericans for Community Involvement

Khalid spoke to the issue of sexual assault and harassment of Asian Americans in the U.S.
“People have groped them and it’s okay, because you’re an Asian women,we’ve been told this stuff,” Khalid said. “It would have been different if itwas another ethnic group,” she said. “I feel like media and everyone would havebeen on it right away.”
I appreciate Khalid's excellent points demonstrating the link between this video and everyday harassment of women.

ON the other hand, some commentators are inappropriately slut-shaming Levy Tran out of concern for Asian women. Some are concerned about the representation of Asian women because of violence against Asian women. Isn't it obvious that to prevent violence against Asian women, we need to focus on the behavior of violent offenders? In that vein, I am far more concerned with the creative entitlement that the band Day Above Ground and Director Michael Steinberg think they are at liberty to direct at Asian women. By 'creatively' treating Asian women as objects lyrically and visually, they justify the same misogyny and orientalist behaviors they claimed to 'make fun of.' Violence against women is an incredibly important issue to address, but by slut-shaming Levy Tran we are enacting some violence against her.

SO far Levy Tran has offered a few apologies and there is likely more information about her opinion to come. In the meantime, here is an account of model Paige Morgan's decision-making and limited creative and editorial control over Vice Magazine spread shot by Annabel Mehran and editedby Annette Lamothe-Ramos and its' problematic portrayal of women authors who committed suicide. 

For example, Morgan says,
"You pose how you're told to pose, you wear what you're told to wear, you pose with who you're told to pose with — even in situations where someone is physically unsafe, or enduring sexual harassment, if you say, 'Stop, this is unsafe,' most often the person who bears the brunt of that is the model. The model is the person who has the least amount of power in the situation."
"Unfortunately, in this industry, any sort of objection to a job is seen as you being 'difficult,' or you just purposefully creating 'drama.' No, I'm not 15. I don't have an agent. But there are other factors at work. And it's extremely easy to say, 'You should just walk, and find some other way to make money.' But I don't think we'd necessarily say that to anyone in a more regular job, faced with that sort of decision."
WHAT did Levy Tran do? She danced, she took a bath, she acted and undressed. Are these actions that women are not entitled to take? Are we not allowed to perform? Are we not allowed to make decisions about how to look, how to dress? Aren't we allowed to be sexy? Let's not confuse Levy Tran's creative choices with those made by the band and director - they are absolutely different.

SO let's take a broader look at Levy Tran, her (limited, so far) body of work shows quite a lot of positive messages. From her Tumblr over the past several months you can see a lot of positive messages to promote body acceptance and confidence:
 “Remember- nobody’s perfect. Work hard and strive to be better than youwere yesterday. Study hard. Be kind. Tip the barista at your coffee shop. Opena door for a stranger. Let someone into your lane. Don’t speed in a residentialarea. Floss. Read a book. And please stop hating on other people. It only makesyou look bad. Say one positive thing about yourself in the mirror. Repeat “I amworthy!!!" 
“I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. All I know is that I’m a good daughter. I’m a good person who is kind to people. I work hard. I keep reminding myself to not listen to the negative comments people say about me. No one will ever really know who I am unless I let them in. Just because I have a few provocative photos does not make me any less of a person. I’m a woman. I am ok with my sexuality. Most of my post have to do with food and fitness. Which is what I’m about. It’s taken a long time to build confidence and I’m not giving it up. To those of you who are still struggling to block out the negativity- stay strong. People say the meanest things sometime.”
  “I am so excited. So grateful for a job. I am grateful for all thesupport from my family, friends, and followers. I am grateful for the food inmy belly, for the roof over my head, for the air in my lungs. I am happy. I amcontent. I don’t need much. I work to excel, not to be rich or famous. “Thebest way out is through"- Robert Frost. We all must go through our ups anddowns to appreciate the ups. Work hard. Be honest. And don’t be an asshole. :)” 
 “Love your body. Don’t hate it and wish it looked like someone else’sbody.” 
IN an interview a few years ago she emphasized messages of confidence and definitely shows she is critical of degrading ideas: 
(asked) What is one feature you wish you had more of?
“Man, are you sure you want to ask a girl this question?! This list could go on forever, but if I were to choose…I would have to say confidence. I wish I had more confidence in front of the camera.
(asked) In fire what would you save makeup/shoes/purses (only choose one & why)?
“This question is degrading.”
OTHERS are concerned about the image of Asian women. These commentators really play into slut-shaming because they deny the basic right of women to choose what to wear and how to behave. These attitudes are just as sexist as the stereotypes and objectification in the song and music video itself.

AS a footnote to his post, blogger Angry Asian Man tells us: 
“The scantily clad actress in the video, by the way, is Levy Tran.” 
It is unclear what the purpose of this footnote was, but the tone itself can come across as pretty sexist in slut-shaming Levy Tran. It is not clear enough whether AAM is critiquing the clothing in the context of the music video (which would be an art decision by the director) or whether he is criticizing Levy Tran for wearing this outfit. It seems more likely that the emphasis is a criticism of Levy Tran herself, since AAM is identifying her, and never identified the director of the video. With this choice, AAM moves from criticizing the song and video and starts off a round of slut-shaming Levy Tran. 

THESE disturbing comments from Facebook and Twitter exemplify slut-shaming:
*KGC cut out other comments responding to this apology to save space

Levy Tran's self-respect is pretty evident in her Tumblr and interviews, but @somebadideas jumps on the bandwagon to slut-shame her. @biostudentgirl's comment shows us some strong moralizing rhetoric and emphasizes 'disgrace.' @dansuyume points out the creative control element of this debate. 

@NamPhanMMA puts too much responsibility on Levy Tran by propping her up as accountable for representing all Asian Females and socially policing her representation. But @dansuyume is also insulting and condescending Tran as a 'poor misguide video hoe' while in reality Tran publicly apologizes and take accountability for her actions because she demonstrates the capacity (absent in the Band and Director) to reflect on her decisions. It generally troubles me that we are so quick to dismiss our fellow women as morally inferior, stupid or slutty when it serves our own arguments or sense of ethical superiority. 

 *Twitter is public and open to all, but I removed names from this FB post bc privacy settings were not public. 
This statement by *F___ shocked me because of it's direct and unapologetic slut-shaming.

I think the debate here between @steviegell and @dansuyume starts to point out the problematic position occupied by some netizens who call out the music video as sexist, but then deploy sexist rhetoric and attitudes against Tran. 

TO conclude, while the director is unwilling to reconsider his video scripting and his objectifying camera angles, the band is unwilling to do the work of reflecting on their mistakes. In contrast, Levy Tran's apology is the most sincere, and at the same time the most upsetting. Her apology upsets me because it reflects the sexist attacks of the online and media communities. Why is there such harsh shaming? It is clear from her work that she wants to promote body acceptance and self-love, these are both great messages. So she picked a project that is out of step with those messages, she has apologized and accepted responsibility for her role. At the same time, have WE been held accountable for slut-shaming her? 

BY slut-shaming Levy Tran, we take up a role reinforcing racist and sexist views about Asian women. We participate in socially policing her behavior, appearance, clothing and body. We say that while the band and the director don't have a right to 'use' her body or make racist and sexist statements, WE do have the right to say that her body should be covered up, her apologies are not enough, she has shamed us all by not conforming to the role WE give her and the behavior WE demand. It is enough to challenge her to rethink the meaning and significance of the project.

Read our other posts in this series on Asian Girlz Apologies:
Part 1 critiques the problematic racism and sexism in Day Above Ground's lyrics and apology
Part 2 takes on the creative decisions by Director Michael Steinberg visualizing racism and sexism and calling it 'Art'


Asian Girlz Apologies: On Sincerity and Slut Shaming – 1 of 3

Let's talk about how we react when we are called on our racism and sexism. It happens to us all at some point(s) in our lives, and we go through a process of accountability and learning.

Day Above Ground Facebook Cover Art
IN the past few days criticism of Day Above Ground’s lyrics and Director Michael Steinberg’s music video for Asian Girlz has gone viral with a petition calling for the band and their sponsor On-Stage Stands to drop the video and apologize. There has been inspired discussion calling for accountability from the band Day Above Ground and their sponsor.

DAG's apologies to date have been problematic on a number of levels. Early apologies and statements ranged from the group basically claiming they ‘can’t be racist because we have an Asian guy in the group’ to ‘we meant it as a joke’ to ‘we are making fun of ourselves or white dudes that DO fetishize Asian women’ etc. One more problem is that the group replaces their past statements with new ones but doesn't leave all of it up on YouTube, which would be more transparent. Simply put, they don't come across as sincere in their dialog with fans or critics.

NOW, their latest statement (clipped below) opens with another problematic refusal to process and accept accountability for their work:

Published on Jul 29, 2013
This video is intended to be a satirical, provocative, absurd, & even silly work of art. The lyrics, story, and visuals are so completely over-the-top and ridiculous that we thought it'd be impossible to miss the point.
But some very vocal groups, especially the blog, "Angry Asian Men," attacked it right out of the gate very aggressively. Their fury was soon amplified by the blog/news cycle. Shortly after, the views and craziness began climbing by the second.
Angry Asian Men, to you we say - all's fair so well done! We salute you. Seriously. No satire intended this time.
So due to the overwhelming misunderstanding of this video & the anger it has incited - especially the bizarre and horrible personal attacks on actress Levy Tran - we're pulling the video down within the next 48 hours.
But we'll leave it up until then to give anyone who cares a chance to see for themselves what it's really about before it disappears from our channel and website forever.
So just step back, take a breath, and relax.
We thank those who've watched the video & understood it in the spirit it was intended. We loved your thoughtful comments. You are heroic souls, indeed. We will be posting some of your comments (along with the funnier negative ones) on our website. Here are just a few of the hundreds that caught our eye...
mishisoup 58 minutes ago
: I think the video is amusing (and really weirrrd, haha). My view as a 26 year old Asian American woman is that I'm not offended because I know the difference between someone seriously trying to be demeaning and someone who's joking around. This is obviously the latter. The age thing was funny. Com'on guys, relax.
LordAkaneon 9 minutes ago: 
Day Above Ground = a fake band created by the NSA so that you don't notice that Edward Snowden was granted Asylum in Russia
Bob Smith 3 minutes ago: How does it perpetuate ignorance? The band is intentionally being ignorant. They're ridiculing ignorance. They're also getting a laugh at the expense of white men who are made small and caged by their affection for Asian women. They're making fun of white guys who only see the most basic stereotypes and who are the most basic stereotypes
18dot7 9 minutes ago: 
i dont get all the yellers ... they only cater to the cliches already sunk in most westeners mind ... from what i get, they are exposing the stereotype thinking of most people ... and it looks to me as if they hit the nail to the head ... MOST think its racist - and THAT is prolly what they intended ... think thrice ...
We think it's a shame that a music video aimed at entertaining was shouted down. But, as the curse goes, we live in "interesting times."
"It's only Rock n' Roll. (But I like it.)" - The Rolling Stones

"Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable." - Banksy
Let’s unpack that, the group was “attacked” “aggressively” and the “craziness began climbing by the second?”

Wow, that sounds so very similar to how I felt with each passing second when I watched the video! Lyrically and visually, Asian women and cultures were attacked aggressively and with racist appropriation alongside delusional refusal to accept responsibility for the band’s capitalization on racist and sexist tropes and/or absolute failure at satire which in turn escalated over the past 24 hours.

I do agree with their point about the attacks on actress Levy Tran, which we will also address here at Korean Gender Cafe.

The group praises as "heroic souls" those that "understood it in the spirit it was intended" but as LimaLimonArt points out in RE: "Asian Girlz" || Vlog Response || (Petition Link in Description), there is no other spirit BUT making fun of Asian cultures (see LimaLimonArt’s critique at 01:43) and female objectification (see LimaLimonArt’s critique at 02:38).

Nice work by LimaLimonArt for reclaiming a message from the awful original lyrics, and for challenging the video. Since the group plans to pull the video in the next 48 hours, and has revised their statement at least three times, a video like this holds the group accountable and means that the video can't just be dropped and forgotten.

Day Above Ground says they plan to post some of "the funnier negative" comments so that they can continue to ridicule audiences, people of color and their allies.

Finally, the group concludes, "We think it's a shame that a music video aimed at entertaining was shouted down. But, as the curse goes, we live in "interesting times." The inexperience and immaturity is too obvious to warrant further comment. Their online presence speaks for itself, afterall the only other images they post on their Facebook page that are not of the band are both sexually objectifying images, including one that doesn't even include Levy Tran's face! The group never even makes any attempt to address whether or not their work is sexist! Their latest statement itself is addressed to Angry Asian MEN [emphasis mine]. As a process, when it is pointed out to you that you are racist/sexist... DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT... listen to someone outside your narrow entitled social position, read a book, reflect and rethink your actions. Don't think saying "I'm not racist/sexist" matters when you haven't processed your problematic behavior.

Next up, let's take a look at the least apologetic player, Director Michael Steinberg in part two of Asian Girlz Apologies: On Sincerity and Slut Shaming – 2 of 3

Read our other posts in this series on Asian Girlz Apologies:
Part 2 takes on the creative decisions by Director Michael Steinberg visualizing racism and sexism and calling it 'Art'
Part 3 addresses the online and media community and the slut-shaming of Levy Tran

Images pulled from Day Above Ground Facebook Photos