Earlier this week while getting an Aveda prescription hair treatment, adhering to the newly established tenets of metrosexualism — yes, I made that an active verb — I searched for a suitable male magazine.  

Unable to locate Maxim, Playboy or anything otherwise distinguishable as “male,” I settled upon Details, a thirty-something brother magazine to GQ, complete with articles about fashion, etiquette and non-gossipy social observances. It was Details or stare at the wall, pretending to be invisible while waiting for my hair to dry. Needless to say I settled on the magazine.  

While flipping through Details, I came across a standing column called “Gay or …”; the column takes a person and picks apart their look, asking whether each part of their outfit is gay or whatever the case may be. This month’s column, “Gay or Asian,” written by Whitney McNally, featured such observations as “Dolce & Gabanna Suede Jacket: Keeps the last samurai warm and buttoned tight on the battle field” and “White T-Shirt: V-neck nicely showcases sashimi-smooth chest. What other men visit-salons to get, the Asian gene pool provides for free.”  While the tendency is to laugh awkwardly or dismiss such “jokes” as ineffective, I couldn’t help but think about a recent cartoon reducing the history of black people to having been invented in the 1700s as a cheap form of labor. While one could find a way to read this column as a tongue-in-cheek play on contemporary interpretations of the commingling of fashion and culture, lines such as “Louis Vuitton Bag: Don’t be duped by ghetto knockoffs. Every queen deserves the real deal,” make it difficult to look past the racist, classist and homophobic nature of the “humor” employed in this article.  

In an era of championed liberties — the right for heterosexuals to revel in the privilege to marry, the right of conservatives to target minority populations vis-à-vis attacks upon social politics designed to correct social injustices which continue to prevent day, the freedom to speak, or in the case of media, to print that which we feel without consequences for that which we say — how are we to effectively combat the ways that mainstream media uses crude reductionism, crass classism and, in this case, racist/orientalist tropes (read: stereotypes) to pass as inoffensive “humor?” Perhaps, equally pressing is how do we communally access humor without having to offend or make fun of socially preserved and perpetuated stereotypes?

What will you do?

—David Johns

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