Sunday, August 15, 2010

Obnoxious White Man Scott D. Pierce Goes on a Cutting Attack in His "Editorial" Against Yoko Ono

"Cut Piece" 
Performance by Yoko Ono (1965)
In Cut Piece, the powdered up Yoko Ono knelt down in a traditional Japanese position, seemingly indifferent as members of the audience are invited to cut off her clothes with a pair of scissors. This was first performed in May 1964 in Kyoto.  [source: here]
The performance is a feminist work dealing with issues of sexism, racism, and ageism, vulnerability, and assumptions about who has the right to take a piece of what covers you for protection. But don't ask Scott D. Pierce to get it. He's too busy mercilessly cutting off pieces of Yoko Ono's humanity.

Scott D. Pierce isn't exactly the most popular of cutting columnists. And apparently that's not just because he demonstrates racist-sexist-ageist attitudes in his recent editorial about Ono's response to a grossly insensitive and repetitive question from the press. It's not only Scott who displays this callous and contemptuous attitude: for forty years racist-sexist people have found various spurious ways to malign her, question her sanity, and make her seem like an evil or, at the very least, contentious and controversial person. Let's dip into that putrid past, where it has always been permissible and patriarchal to invoke this idea that "there's something wrong with her".

Question: Why would Yoko be in the studio with the Beatles while they are recording???
Answer: Because John welcomed her there and wanted her there. Why isn't the question "How did she cope with all the obnoxious sexism from the band's other boys?"

Question: What does John want to be so controlled by a Japanese woman???
Answer: Equality between a white man and a woman of color is always seen as HER having too much power, because, you know, the Asian woman is supposed to be subservient on two counts to any white man.

Question: How could she have been so cruel as to break up our beloved Beatles???
Answer: This assumes, once again, that it is her agency and power that did something that four guys did all by themselves. They broke themselves up. The Fab Four did it because, you know, they were adults, and they made the decision, and had been slowly breaking apart since their disastrous 1966 (and last) tour, because of in-fighting over song choices, drug pre-occupations, business failures, legal battles, none of which had a thing to do with Yoko entering the all-male sacred ground of their Abbey Road recording studio or John falling in love with a feminist.

Question: But why would a white man fall in love with her???
Answer: Isn't it obvious? She was brilliant, socially and politically conscious, tremendously talented, and not attracted to him BECAUSE he was a Beatle. The assumption embedded in the question is that a wealthy white man can only fall in love with a successful woman of color is because of her manipulations or "ulterior motives". These assumptions and attitudes are both misogynistic and deeply racist.

I mean, white folks don't question why anyone would fall in love with him, right? Because he was, you know, famous, brilliant, witty, white, and male.

But Yoko Ono had a lot to offer him that he desperately needed. Even Cynthia Lennon recognised that.

John and Yoko were a perfect match at that point in their lives. John was done cheating on the "good [white] wife" who was kept out of view during John's Beatlemania days. Let's not forget Cynthia was hated also, when adoring John fans found out he wasn't single and available to marry all the adoring teenage girls. They weren't too thrilled with Jane Asher either, for dating Paul.

But Cynthia and Jane weren't accused of being too powerful and manipulative; they had learned to remain largely out of view (Jane had her own acting career, after all and Cynthia had Julian to raise, mostly alone). Brian Epstein and other handlers made sure the Beatles public image was "available" to the female fans.

Yoko Ono wasn't willing to be so invisible and in the minds of far too many white U.S. and UK men especially--then and now--if an East Asian woman, particularly a Japanese woman, isn't "naturally" demure and deferential, pleasantly cordial and considerate, smiling amicably and adoringly at all times, she's [fill in the racist and woman-hating term of your choice].

We've seen for forty years how Yoko Ono has been scapegoated for decisions John Lennon and the other Beatles made because the white male and white female fan base would rather blame a Japanese woman who was empowered [read: "too powerful"]. 

Whether they knew it or not, she was and is an accomplished conceptual, performance, visual, and musical artist, crossing genres from avant-garde to pop. The Y E S YOKO ONO retrospective show was, by far, the best visual art show I've ever seen, combining drawing, sculpture, film, and interactive conceptual pieces. For those who don't know, she was a key figure in the Fluxus movement and had an amazing career--a whole life--well before she met John Lennon when he came into the Indica Gallery to meet her, the artist, on 9 November 1966. (She didn't seek him out.)

If time shows us anything, it demonstrates that misogyny and racism don't fade into the sunset, but seem to rise, like the hot sun, every morning, setting every evening without plans to do otherwise the following day. To this very day.

Yoko Ono Scott D. Pierce goes on the attack

Published: Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010 3:00 p.m. MDT

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Yoko Ono isn't exactly the most popular of celebrities. And, apparently, that's not just because she's blamed for breaking up the Beatles.

(I'm not blaming her. But people do.)

Appearing before television critics to promote an upcoming documentary about her late husband, John Lennon, Ono's behavior was jaw-droppingly odd. Offensive, even.

She accused one writer of being both "sexist" and "racist" for asking the most innocuous of questions. In a completely nonjudgmental, nonconfrontational tone, the writer asked Ono why she still lives in the apartment she shared with Lennon in the Dakota. Because he was shot to death on the sidewalk outside the building.

Here's the exchange:

Writer: "Sometimes when events like this happen, people leave behind the place it happened. Can you talk about why you didn't leave behind New York and why it's still a part of your life?"

Ono: "I think people say, 'Why are you still living on Dakota?' You know, I think it is a slightly racist remark, and maybe sexist, too. Because I'm sure that many people are living in their own ... home, that he or she shared with their spouses, even after the spouse has passed away. Especially because they passed away. Because there's a lot of memories, and also you built the place with the spouse. I'm not going to leave that and go to some strange house. ... This is something we built, and when you go inside, you see that each room is something that we made."

Her reason for wanting to stay in the Dakota is absolutely valid. It was a perfectly good answer to the question.

But to suggest that the question was "sexist" or "racist" was bizarre. And it was Ono who refused to let go of it, returning to the question even after another had been asked.

Ono: "Wait a second. I want to answer more fully about what he said, because that's sexist and racist. The thing is ... when somebody like me, who is probably not part of your culture, how you think, 'Why she still living there? We wouldn't live there. Well, maybe because she has a different tradition and she doesn't care about the fact that he died there.' You know, something like that. A little bit more barbaric or something.

"I think that you would want to live there, too, because ... you cherish the memory of that person. That's one. ... The other thing is, for you to be able to say something like that, 'How dare she's living there?' is sexism, because I know that all guys wouldn't care. They would just live in the house whatever happens. They may not even care that they got a divorce or whatever happened. They would just live in the house, and no one's going to comment. No one's going to comment that you would go to maybe a whorehouse or something like that right after your wife died. 'I'm so sorry. He must be so sad.'

"I was still sad, so I'm still living in that house. Do you mind?"

This was something new. Literally, my jaw dropped in shock.

I had to question Ono's mindset. Or maybe her sanity.

She went from an innocuous question to a whorehouse? Really?

The writer who asked the question apologized, although he had absolutely nothing to apologize for. He was in no way confrontational or rude. And the documentary in question, "LennoNYC" (scheduled to air on PBS in November) is about, yes, Lennon's life in New York City. So it was a perfectly legitimate question.

Ono went on the attack for no reason whatsoever.

It would be hard to argue that cultural differences led to her misunderstanding. She's lived in the United States off and on since she was an infant, and full time for decades.

Maybe it dawned on Ono that she'd gone over the line. Later, she said she "was being a little bit facetious. I'm sorry." And, still later, she said, "Well, I cracked a joke. Now I'm so sorry I did."

To be clear, there was neither the hint of a smile nor even the tiniest spark of humor as she was speaking.

And let's assume that she was kidding. It's unconscionable to make unfounded charges of sexism and racism even if it's a joke.

So the only possible excuse for her behavior means she did something utterly indefensible.

Come to think of it, it really isn't particularly surprising that Ono isn't exactly popular.

Another world: Ono does seem to live in her own little world. And it's a strange place.

"It's so funny because when I go into Central Park on the weekend and all these guys are seriously just sort of pushing the stroller, with their babies. ... And they don't know that before John, no men did it in the world," she said. "No men did it because they would be so embarrassed, I suppose. But they don't even know that John is the one who started it."

Yes, because Lennon was the first man on the face of the Earth who ever pushed his child in a stroller.

Welcome to her world, where reality seldom intrudes.

[And in Scott D. Pierce's world, empathy and compassion seldom intrudes. My posted comment follows.  -- Julian]  

Reader comments for
Mindtrain | 4:30 p.m. Aug. 12, 2010
Nowhere in the transcript does Ono call this reporter "sexist" or "racist" as your misleading story claims. She says that the question is sexist because it would only be asked (in our culture) of a widow and not a man. She goes on to say that there may be an element of racism in the question because it's possible that there is the assumption that she is different because of her racial background. These are ideas and not insults hurled at a reporter. They are not thoughtless and they hardly come from nowhere. She's asking very simply: What are the assumptions of this question? And whether the reporter intended it this way or not, this is what she heard (which she has more than likely encountered before). One could question your headline in a similar way. Ono did not attack anyone. She did attack an idea. To say that she "goes on the attack" when she has been the victim of relentless attacks for decades is disingenuous. Should she just "take it?"And your statement that "I'm not blaming her (for breaking up the Beatles). But people do." Is an attempt to have it both ways.

Belching Cow | 8:06 a.m. Aug. 13, 2010
Why did the theme from twilight zone start playing in my head when I was reading this article? Obviously some people can make a controversy out of nothing. However, she does look very sophisticated with the way she peers over those funky glasses perched on the end of her nose.

angelbug | 11:12 a.m. Aug. 13, 2010
To quote Yoko, "That's one. ... The other thing is, for you to be able to say something like that, 'How dare she's living there?' is sexism, because I know that all guys wouldn't care." etc. It seems it's okay for her to say sexist things I guess. Does she really think she "knows" ALL GUYS WOULDN'T CARE? That seems to be a pretty huge sexist remark from the mouth of a lady speaking out against racism & sexism - even in the same sentence! No one should have a problem with her living where she shared her life with John. I think she is a bit over-sensitive in what she perceives people are saying about her. I took the original question as to why she would want to stay there where her mate was violently killed. As for the comments from Belching Cow & Mindtrain; I fall in between both of them. I did hear the Twilight Zone theme, but felt Ono's sadness too. Maybe, in her remaining years, she can receive compassion from us and she can have a softer heart toward others. Forgiveness can heal both sides.

Julian | 4:56 a.m. Aug. 15, 2010
I don't recall Paul McCartney being pestered by being asked--for years--"Why are you still in the same home you lived with your now dead wife Linda?" Because, you know, it's assumed a UK white man's house is HIS castle, not hers. And to ask is crass. I see nothing wrong with Yoko's reply, and find the way you frame up her reply as racist and sexist. I'm not saying you are either, but the way you present this editorialised "news" participates in a decades old practice of inferring the way a woman of color "goes off" and "may be crazy" for having a response to a matter that you have neither experienced nor dealt with from the public so many times that it's probably sickening just to even hear the question thirty years after the fact. Clearly she wants to live there, right? Why should she have to answer to living in her home? Why not live there? From the wicked "Dragon Lady" on, why are you so eager to tap into these old racist-sexist characterisations of a woman who has been stigmatised for years?  
[My comment has been removed from the Deseret News for violating their terms: you can't criticise the writer's editorial for being callous, racist, and sexist, apparently.]

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