"That Just Feels Dismissive of Real Pain": Why Katy Perry's Mummified Dancers Are Racist

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Katy Perry is not known for her cultural sensitivity. The way the world was introduced to her was through the single "I Kissed a Girl," a song called out by some for its use of lesbianism to get a rise out of others. On that same album, she sang a song called "Ur So Gay," one that used stereotypes of gay men and the word "gay" to insult a straight man. Just last fall, Perry dressed up as a geisha for her American Music Awards performance, which did not go unnoticed by many. Now she has mummified dancers, with exaggerated butts, large red lips, short black hair, hoop earrings, and twerking, on tour with her. Yet they didn't make much of a splash at all. In comparison to, say, Mileygate after the 2013 VMAs, Lily Allen's blowback from her video for "Hard Out Here," and the response to Perry's own AMA performance, outside of a few corners of Twitter and Jezebel's article on the matter, the pop star's latest stunt has gone mostly unnoticed.

See also: Katy Perry's Mummified Dancers Are Not Racist

For some, though, the first response is to shut down the possibility of the dancers being offensive. Yes, a cycle of outrage does exist on the internet. We are quick to turn on an artist as soon as one person gives us the go-ahead. There's an angry snowball effect that can be gross, exaggerated, and even unnecessary, given the amount of rehashing of the same stock response to an event that can be done. Annoyance with the cycle is one thing. A blatant ignorance of where this anger stems from, who is angry about it, and their right to be upset about it, is a separate and unjust route to take.

In her Voice article yesterday, the root of Kat George's issue with the matter seems to be less the placing of racial codes onto the mummified dancers in Perry's concert tour but the idea that these codes are being placed by "white chicks having opinions." To blame the outrage cycle on "white chicks" is already ignorant of the number of women of color who have been continuously speaking out on these same racial signifiers. Tressie McMillan Cottom was at the forefront of the Miley Cyrus critique, giving a powerful first-person perspective on the infatuation people have with the black female body. Ayesha Siddiqi presented the strongest case for how Lily Allen is an "anti-black feminist" in a piece that came soon after Allen's "Hard Out Here" video debuted. In the same way that we allow Perry to continue being a prominent face of pop music who can walk away from offensive, controversial situations unscathed, we let ourselves believe that there is only one kind of person cultivating this argument just because there is only one significant article on this particular subject.

See also: It's Hard Out Here for Lily Allen

Again, the important part of the latest Perry situation is that not many people are speaking out on it at all. "I honestly think more people haven't been mad about this because we're all just fatigued," says Heben Nigatu, an associate editor at BuzzFeed. "I'm not sure what more we could say here that wasn't already said in the Miley conversation." The use of the black female body as a prop was not only the center of the Cyrus media cycle last year but what helped her transform her image. For Perry, this is just another attraction in her cultural appropriation circus. This is just another questionable moment in her career that will be forgotten until the next time she does something else offensive.



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34 comments
Patty Howe Willey
Patty Howe Willey

Europeans, Asians, Eastern Europeans, etc. Do it all the time. Remember Russians and their love affair with Levis Jeans?

Patty Howe Willey
Patty Howe Willey

@Patrick Lew: since you seem to be making a lot of as u.ption @Patrick Lew: Since you seem to be making a lot of assumptions about people you don't know, I am concerned about how adults and some teens portray themselves. We are a family of theatre people and musicians and athletes. I have two gay grandchildren; however they are smart enough to recognize BS and racism and intolerance and are certain ly not going to be influenced by the likes of Katy Perry. Don't underestimate youngsters. Kids can spot these people faster than most adults.

Patrick Lew
Patrick Lew

Yeah, I do. What're you gonna do, make more shitty comments to feel like a tough guy?

Dave Cruikshank
Dave Cruikshank

"hey it's (not) okay to totally appropriate other people's cultures for my own" Then the whole world cant watch US movies, or wear blue jeans or play rock and roll???? Because it's appropriating US culture? Oh, its okay if YOU deem it okay... Like I said, nutty Orwellian gibberish

Nathan Hinkel
Nathan Hinkel

Yeah, and I bet you love getting offended on behalf of other people and cultures, because it lets you pat yourself on the back for being soooo noble. Amirite?

Patrick Lew
Patrick Lew

Because everyone should only focus on one issue at a time. Cool.

Patrick Lew
Patrick Lew

Boy, I wish I lived in your world where "just because it doesn't affect ME then I think it's bullshit and NOBODY else should worry about it". I'm sure you're one of those "i'm not racist, but" types too.

Patrick Lew
Patrick Lew

Because she's a highly visible celebrity and--whether you like it or not--can and does influence young girls. That's the problem: she, in her own stupid way, is saying "hey it's okay to totally appropriate other people's cultures for my own". Now, that is not to say that she is consciously racist (she probably doesn't think she is at all), but that's not an exclusion for doing or saying racist things.

Patty Howe Willey
Patty Howe Willey

@ Patrick Lew: I went back and read the article and now I see why this is offensive as well it should be seen as such. Who gives a rat's nose about an idiot like Katy Perry. I can only wonder why someone who makes as much $ as she does needs to stoop to something as inappropriate as this, unless she has a real hate on. But today IS NOT 1954; the "do" not that era either Dutty D. . I may not know A freakin'' thing about today''s entertainers but , yeah, I would give that performance a "thumbs down".

Dave Cruikshank
Dave Cruikshank

First world problems...aka the horrors of peace and abundance. Let's FIND something to get worked up into a San Francisco froth.

Dave Cruikshank
Dave Cruikshank

Portlandia style, pop psychology, mumbo Jumbo, Orwellian doublespeak....

Joseph Duke
Joseph Duke

Dutty, 1998 called. It wants its joke back.

Nathan Hinkel
Nathan Hinkel

Let me guess Patrick Lew- this isn't the only thing you have righteous indignation over, is it?

Patrick Lew
Patrick Lew

Perhaps if you had read the article and not just the headline..

Patrick Lew
Patrick Lew

Or maybe it's for people like you who don't understand how some things ARE racist.

Nathan Hinkel
Nathan Hinkel

If you need an entire article to explain why something is racist, it's probably not that racist.

raxel
raxel

It is her mummified music I object to..

Terry Murphy
Terry Murphy

Yep. Cultural appropriation started with Kate Perry. Not with the Romans.

lewise27
lewise27

Allrighy pipe down rookies. Katy perry is obviously undergoing a transormation at the present time but this article is spot on using making a mockery out of egyptian culture and so forth is an outrage totally unexceptable. Its quite appraent that the powers at be dont know whay they are doing spiritual power wisdom and the devine aka the light is real and fortunately they have overcome the suppression of the fake powers who are blinded by money and power and as a result posses a low intelect and are very easy to manipulate. The lesson learnt here is that if you are going to put someone on a pedastool of great proportion do your homework. This is the time for women to shine not be potrayed as objects of sexual desire. Respect fot women is the key to moving forward. True wealth and genreal levels of well being are obtained by learning to appreciate art and culture and learning life values and morals from them and the united states is a complete failure so they have very little if any moral high ground to stand on. Its a chain reaction a snow ball effect which is all ready in motion those who wish to dwell in beds of cash and hollywood egotistical power trips have been blind sided. Thanks for coming. Lewis Elliot P.S hopefully katy who may well have been intrenched throws the past in the trash because she is Modern day god and I have great respect for her as musician and artist I dont know her personally but my gut tells me that's she got a good heart and a soft loving soul if not then well shes a puppet so we better get some new strings??? Lets take a closer lewk

Peter Lopez
Peter Lopez

Whoever is writing the blogs as of late has horrible taste in music. And I thought village voice was a independent source not mainstream. -_-

Ramanda Clarke
Ramanda Clarke

Nothing better in the world of music to write about?

John T Sahtila Jr
John T Sahtila Jr

They just did an article on how it wasn't racist.. The village voice is a bipolar bitch

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