Gwen Stefani Doesn’t Think Her Harajaku Thing was Racist

12.09.14 3 years ago

Gwen Stefani, the affable addition to “The Voice” whose hair is usually the color of the $5,000 wedge on “Wheel of Fortune,” finally gave a long quote to Time about hiring four Japanese backup performers and making them dress in Japanese schoolgirl attire in 2004. Her opinion? It was a lovely gesture and you just want it to be racist. Here's her full quote: 

“There”s always going to be two sides to everything. For me, everything that I did with the Harajuku Girls was just a pure compliment and being a fan. You can”t be a fan of somebody else? Or another culture? Of course you can. Of course you can celebrate other cultures. That”s what Japanese culture and American culture have done. It”s like I say in the song [“Harajuku Girls”]: it”s a ping-pong match. We do something American, they take it and they flip it and make it so Japanese and so cool. And we take it back and go, “Whoa, that”s so cool!” That”s so beautiful. It”s a beautiful thing in the world, how our cultures come together. I don”t feel like I did anything but share that love. You can look at it from a negative point of view if you want to, but get off my cloud. Because, seriously, that was all meant out of love. What do you think?

And the girls themselves, it was just a magical thing to get to know them. They were dancers that were cast, but they became real. One girl was a Japanese girl that grew up in L.A., and she got to hang around with three different Japanese girls that were from different places in Japan and had different backgrounds. They became best friends, and she got to go to Japan and see her heritage and see how we are all the same. And I got to hang out with girls for the first time.”

Here's a refresher on Gwen's “loving” tribute to Japan:

I say this as someone who owns most of Gwen Stefani's commercial output and thinks “What You Waiting For” is the underrated single of the early 2000s: What the hell is she saying here?

I will attempt to decode: Because cultures appropriate other cultures, that makes it OK to hire Japanese girls to coo like schoolchildren behind you? That makes it OK to write lyrics like “Just wait 'til you get your little hands on L.A.M.B.”? She infantilized and objectified Japanese women, full stop. If she thinks wearing some Harajaku skirts and toeless tights is a commensurate payment for their humiliation, she's wrong. This is so weirdly tone-deaf on Gwen's part. Disappointing — but not surprising given that whole Native American debacle

Also Gwen, why is it “magical” to get to know a Japanese person? And better yet, who actually says something like, “She got to go to Japan and see her heritage and see how we are all the same”? She's seriously talking about a grown, professional performer as if she's four years old. Ugh. Ugh! Oh, Gwen. Unlike the video for “Looking Hot,” you can't take this one back.

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