Just finished listening to Thom Wong’s inaugural podcast from his fashion blog, The Sunday Best. The podcast would be ideal listening for short airplane trips so I hope he continues to cast, and regularly!
His interview with Lulu Chang of Chictopia and everybody is ugly covered a lot of ground. Here are just some of his questions:
1. How did Chictopia get started?
2. What did she think was the future of the magazine publishing industry in the internet age?
3. What did she think of all personal style blogs that everyone seems to have or contribute to?
4. Why are so many fashion bloggers, young Asian women (yAw)?
Clearly, the last question has a particular “text-to-self” quality about it. But even before threadbared was conceived or launched, I noticed that yAw all over the world were posting about fashion, style, and other related topics. BUT WHY? Lulu suggested that the phenomenon of yAw’s world domination in the fashion blogosphere can be traced back on the one hand, to our essential Asian fierceness and, on the other hand, to the creepy fetishes that persist about us.
Following on Lulu’s musings are some of my own as well as some interesting figures that may help to contextualize the phenomenon (admittedly, the first two are really points of clarification):
- Asian women across the age spectrum have always been a part of the fashion world—though not necessarily a visible part of it. Even so, their invisible (and oftentimes sweated) labor along with the labors of Latinas is the backbone of European, U.S., and Asian fashion production.
- Are yAw blogging more about fashion or style? I know these topics converge and overlap but I wonder if they tend towards street-style type blogs that are photo-centric or blogs that are textual musings about everything fashion?
- In either case, an issue to consider in understanding this phenomenon of the yAw fashion blogger has not as much to do with race than we think and more to do with their socioeconomic status. Not to get too Marxist—but access to internet technology, high-speed internet, the cultivation of cyber-skills, and the available time and energy you have to post has almost everything to do with which household gross income box you check on your tax form! That, and your geographic location.
- According to the 2007 Census Bureau, only 51% of in the U.S. homes have broadband access and the largest portion of these homes (69%) is Asian American, followed by White (55%); African American (36%); Latino (35%); and American Indian (30%). In the Census’ infinite progressive wisdom, there is no data on mixed-raced households.
- Not surprisingly, the data also shows that high-speed internet access is directly proportional to household annual income.
- More surprisingly, though, is the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s findings that “despite America’s readiness and willingness to make use of advanced communications technologies, we are falling behind the rest of the world. In 2001, America stood near the top of global rankings of broadband adoption; a few short years later, we have been leapfrogged by our European and Asian competitors.” Also, “we are doing even worse when it comes to price and speed. The average broadband offering in Japan is 10 times faster than the average service available to U.S. consumers—at half of the cost.” By the way, the top three broadband nations are not in Asia but in Western Europe and Scandinavia: Denmark, Netherlands, and Iceland.
- And finally, cyber-psychology researcher Eric B. Weiser argues that “Increasingly, internet users are now gradually becoming evenly divided among gender lines, and some estimate that women will eventually surpass men in Internet use in the next several years. In addition, findings suggest that interpersonal communication constitutes the dominant motive of female Internet use.”
Whatever the reasons are for yAw’s fashion/style blog world dominance, our online presence in the fashion/style blog world sure beats our other vastly more dominant online presence as mail-order brides, sex workers, and domestics. A Google search for “young Asian woman” or “young [choose your favorite Asian ethnicity] woman” will return sites for yAw services, not our sartorial expertise. As Lulu suggested in her interview and as feminist scholars Vernadette V. Gonzalez and Robyn Magalit Rodriguez argue in “Filipina.com: Wives, Workers, and Whores on the Cyberfrontier,” the internet may be a repository of democratized information and knowledge but it’s still shaped by racially gendered systems of political and economic power.
The phenomenon of yAw fashion/style bloggers is important if only because it provides an alternative and authoritative online presence of yAw that is (mostly) of their own making.
Listen for Thom’s forthcoming podcast interview with Susie Bubble – also, a yAw fashion blogger!