Spotted over at Angry Asian Man — a college student seeking tattooed Asian American women for her college thesis:
For her Gender/Feminist Studies Pitzer College senior project, Dor Zhang wants to interview and photograph self-identified tattooed Asian American women. Her goal is to create a tattoo magazine — think Tattoos For Women — with an Asian American focus.
As Dor puts it: “I don’t see a lot of Asian American women being represented in the media, let alone in tattoo magazines and in the tattoo community. In addition, I think it would be so interesting to see how gender and race (amongst other factors) intersect to shape the artistic and expressive choices of Asian American women.”
While I can appreciate Zhang’s idea and her intention to promote more representation of Asian women in the tattooed realm, as a tattooed AsAm woman myself (don’t tell my moms), my first reaction was: Noooo thank you.
Now I don’t want too poo-poo it before it’s even published or make assumptions about Zhang’s intent or execution of her project — but I can already guess who’ll be the primary market and/or consumer of this mag. And I bet you can too. Surprise!: White hipster men (I don’t need to say “Asian fetishist” because it’s implied in White Hipster). So, although it may be reactionary, this raised a red flag as just another avenue to propagate Orientalism and fetishism.
And personally, I have reservations about my tattoos (and thus my “story”) exhibited to complete strangers trying to figure out my Ancient Chinese Secret…splayed on the page across from Kari Ferrell. But that’s just me. People get tattoos for different reasons, including showing them off.
I’m also fairly confident what kind of tattoo aesthetic would most appeal to readers: “exotic”, cliched ones white people already love to ink themselves with: dragon back pieces, bogus calligraphy, pink lotus tramp stamps, koi sleeves, Sailor Jerry geishas etc. etc. ad naseum. In the ubiqitous style of half-nekkid models and ickyslick production a la Inked or Maxim Magazine.
Besides, with my wildly original tats (see below), I probably wouldn’t even make the cut. But I’m not jealous. NOT JEALOUS.
I’m not advocating that Zhang ditch her magazine because of how readers might interpret or objectify it. I do however, urge that her portraits be done tastefully, and showcase a diversity of tattoos, not just “Asiany” ones. For that, I would give props to Zhang for creating inroads to more fully dimensional AsAm imagery (for all I know, she could already be well aware of the race and gender pitfalls to avoid).
Say! You know what I got a hankerin’ to set my peepers on? A book of tatted up Asian menfolk. Zhang, can you help a sista out? I volunteer to be your “model scout” or whatever it’s called. For serious. I’m very professional. And I keep it real – I propose we start with a Warner Bros cartoon-themed centerfold. Let’s DO this!