Sunday, January 17, 2010

Asian women can't sell clothes?

I beg to differ.

But according to the Frith, Cheng, and Shaw article, Asian women are presented in less seductive clothes and poses in comparison to their Western counterparts, and are more frequently used in skin and hair product advertisements rather than clothing ads. And I doubt that rockin' the face wash and conditioner in ads is celebrating the sexuality of Asian women.

It's weird that I never really noticed the stereotypical placement of Asian women in advertisements. This is probably because I hardly ever see any Asian women in commercials and even more so in print ads. While I do often find Asian models in fashion editorials, there is a huge difference between Asian women in fashion editorials and runways versus Asian women in commercialized and mainstream advertisements. For example, there are many international Asian supermodels, but at most one Asian Calvin Klein model or one Asian Gap model (but of course, never in a print ad). But then again there are those United Colors of Benetton rainbow ads featuring the prized Asian baby--he/she is ready to be Madonna's new adopted baby and that is what sells clothes people.

This got me thinking--why are Asian women able model on the runway and in fashion shoots, but when it comes to print ads there are so few, and more importantly so few in less controversial situations?

I do understand why Asian women are placed in skin and hair product ads. Asian women are stereotyped to all have really great, white skin and nice, soft hair. After all, we created Shiseido and we did invent the Japanese straight chemical perm which gives many Asian girls their "natural" sleek hair. What this means though is that Asians aren't seen from the neck down--the Asian body is invisible to the mainstream media.

The final stereotype which bothers me most is that all Asian women are "pure" and modest. Not saying Asians aren't pure or modest but what this purity, naivete, and innocence comes down to is stereotyping Asians as subservient to the dominant West where the women are able to dress in scantily clad clothing, pounds of makeup, and do seductive poses. Instead there is the stereotypical placement of Asian women in domesticated situations, assuming that Asian women are more likely to be in the house than elsewhere. Seriously, when was the last time you spotted an Asian woman or man posing in rocker chic clothing? Or in a Guess campaign? While some Asians aren't built like a Victoria Secret model (but seriously, who IS?), the translation of Asian beauty needs to be brought and understood in the States ASAP. This stripping of Asian sexuality and independence seems to be an overlooked issue--I mean, what is strong and confident about an Asian baby in a Benetton ad?

What's more interesting to me is the lack of Asian women and men in clothes advertisements in print ads. There are pretty much none in the fashion magazines I come across. Is it that Asian models can't sell sex or clothing? I doubt that. As an avid fashion blog reader of blogs such as The Sartorialist, there are many Asians seen in the streets of New York City or Paris looking absolutely elegant, chic, classy and/or sexy who can definitely sell some clothes. While the print ads seem to have a strict policy against promoting full-bodied Asian models, at least we have the Internet where Asian bodies aren't limited to the neck and up.

Amethyst Wang
Blog post #3

Frith, Cheng, and Shaw. "Race and Beauty"
United Colors of Benetton Asian Baby ad.
The Sartorialist blog link.

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