Today’s lesson in how not to invoke racist and sexist stereotypes that belittles the work of women of color involves the Seattle Times, who described longtime Macklemore collaborator (and one-time Jezebel contributor) Hollis Wong-Wear as his “sidekick” in the headline of a piece about her band, The Flavr Blue.
In case you are wondering why that is wrong: there is a very long and storied American history of Asians being depicted in film, television, and literature as “sidekicks” to more important characters who are usually white and male. The stereotype is so pervasive that in 2013 a Twitter hashtag went viral: #NotYourAsianSidekick.
The piece itself did not use the term, and Wong-Wear notes in a Facebook post that the writer/interviewer, Jacob Uitti, is not responsible for its inclusion in the headline; newspapers in particular often have copyeditors or their equivalent generate headlines for articles. Either way, the use of the word is ignorant at best, particularly in a city that likes to pride itself on its liberalism.
In her Facebook post, Wong-Wear registered her shock and disappointment at being reduced to a stereotype in one of her city’s two daily newspapers:
That feeling when you grind hella hard for years alongside your bandmates and you finally get/earn the premiere Seattle publication look.... And they “sidekick” you before you can even see what they actually said about you.
I’m not interested in being a victim or in sympathy. I am interested in holding Seattle media accountable for its egregious incompetency when it comes to women and people of color. I am interested in publicly questioning an editorial staff that is oblivious to last year’s highly public#NotYourAsianSidekick media moment. I am interested in how many women copyedit the Seattle Times before it goes to print.
When Jake Uitti - who did not write the headline, and who conducted a thoughtful interview - asked me personally what I’ve been working on, I intentionally omitted the fact that I have been working w Macklemore & Ryan Lewis on their upcoming release. I am in no way ashamed of my work w Ben and Ryan, but I am my own person. With this profile, I wished most of all for our band to be recognized for our hard work, and for the music we’ve created. To remark that I have worked with M&RL is expected. To be immediately labeled in boldface as a white guy’s sidekick is fundamentally insulting.
Indeed. If you’re in Seattle, The Flavr Blue is playing its album release show tonight at Chop Suey.
Update, 4:57 PM ET: The Seattle Times changed its headline to “Warmth and intimacy from The Flavr Blue’s ‘Love Notes,’” but did not issue a correction or note that it had previously been titled “Warmth and intimacy with The Flavr Blue, with Macklemore sidekick Hollis Wong-Wear.”
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image via Ben Sellon/Facebook.