Thu, Jan 21, 2016 - Page 11 News List

Book review: The rise of the Asian online fashionista

Minh-Ha Pham’s study provides scholarly insight into the world of Asian personal-style ‘super bloggers,’ but may be reading a bit too much between the racial lines

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

One of the more intriguing points of the book is the degree of “differentness” that a minority can display without making the majority feel uncomfortable or threatened. While these bloggers look Asian and express certain traits that are perceived as Asian such as “cuteness,” they are fluent in English, attuned to Western culture and are relatable enough that the majority would follow and even mimic them.

While the hows are explained well, some of the racial explanations for certain behavior feel like borderline over-analysis, especially when you’re writing about a very select group of individuals. While most of Pham’s arguments make sense on a logical level, at times it left me wondering if I am really that oblivious to certain racial injustices carried out by the majority or whether Pham is simply reading too much between the lines.

For example, she attributes certain phenomena to the bloggers being Asian — such as how they conceal the work that goes into making a blog post to counter the sweatshop stereotype — but really, this type of action is universal in the blogosphere regardless of race, as people in today’s instant-gratification Web culture probably wouldn’t want to see photos of them shopping or editing their photos. They just want the end product.

There are a few mainstream articles Pham sees as singling out Asian bloggers as tacky, unethical and trying too hard, but as she mentions throughout the book, the original and most prominent fashion bloggers are Asian, so they could naturally make for an easy target. If there were any counterexamples of Caucasian bloggers and media coverage of them, the argument would be stronger, but unfortunately the book barely mentions any, which is another glaring problem.

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