Queertoday contributor Mark Snyder‘s Pride 2009 weekend started out kind of rough. And racist! Maybe. After watching a set by New York based performer Wendy Ho, at Polk Street mainstay The Cinch, he penned this entry:
Tonight at the Cinch in San Francisco, a bar known to be very queer and politically left, she performed for a crowd that was divided among those who laughed and cheered, and those who booed and were disgusted. I bet if she had black-face on instead of her blond afro people might have thought twice.
When the Appeal contacted Snyder for more details, he responded (in part):
When Wendy Ho began her performance everyone cheered. Within seconds though, people realized this was not a drag queen but a girl in a blond afro wig. Her first statement, I’m Wendy Ho, I’m Asian, no… I’m black,” garnered cheers and laughs from many, and groans from others.
Throughout Wendy’s performance she spoke and rapped and sang songs about being “ghetto,” and spoke in a way that exaggerated stereotypes of black people. I was in a group of 9 people. We were all disgusted by her blatantly racist performance, as were many of the people around us.
We were all very sad to see that a place like The Cinch, known for it’s radical queer clientele would invite and applaud such a performer.
So there you have it: The Cinch: haven for white supremacists! And there’s more: Anna Conda, the organizer of the Cinch’s weekly Charlie Horse Friday event, had this to say about the evening in a FaceBook message to some fans:
Hope everyone has recovered from Pride! (Or Gay Freedom Day) I had a blast! Except for hiring a certain chanteuse at our Friday Night celebration who was exploitative of myself, the gay community, Asian Culture and Black culture. I am very sorry that so many of you were as offended by her as I was and I have learned a big lesson. NO MORE Wendy Ho at our club. It was a black mark on an otherwise fantastic night! However since we do not censor I guess that’s what you get stuck with when we just say “Yes” without research. Sorry.
Okay, then. It’s definite. Wendy Ho is a racist against black people and also white people and also Asians. Her stance on Latvians and Choctaw Indians is unclear. How can this monster possibly defend herself? The Appeal reached out to Wendy Ho for comment, and received the following from John Kalinowski, Ho’s publicist:
I actually attended that show, and judging from the peels of laughter, raucous applause, and the huge crowd hugging the stage throughout the entire performance, the show seemed to have gone very well. But of course, as with any larger-than-life artform, there will always be dissenters.
Got it. So, let us assume that the crowd at the Cinch were all racists, too. John also provided this statement from Ho, herself:
Wendy Ho is a character that celebrates over-the-top femininity and is by no means meant to offend, but rather to unite communities by blurring the lines of culture and sexuality. She is the product of a midwestern white girl, Wendy Jo Smith, who grew up listening to gangsta rap where the words “bitch” and “ho” were common terms for women.
Wendy Jo was told repeatedly that she had a “big black booty,” and, in her predominantly “white” choir class, was asked not to sing so “soulfully.” With a tongue in her cheek, Wendy humorously calls herself a “Ho,” thereby taking the power out of the word as an act of feminism, not an act racism.
And when Wendy takes the stage, she is saying that it’s ok to be a loud white woman who is not simply confined to the “skinny,” “quiet,” “pretty,” “submissive” stereotypes that still plague white women today.
It should also be noted that Wendy Ho plays primarily to gay crowds who generally applaud her work because they seem to understand what it feels like to be judged and condemned for a part of who they are. Wendy Ho is the mouthpiece for Wendy Jo Smith to dismantle these stereotypes through the power of music and comedy, where the joke is always on “da Ho.”
So, the question that I have for these concerned audience members is, “Who is stereotyping who?”‘
Oh. So, wait. We are the ones who were racists all along? Shit.
The best part of Ho’s (very reasonable, to us, but one of your correspondents is also a loud non-skinny formerly Midwestern white woman, so: biased) statement is that it saved us the time of trying to encapsulate her ethos for you. So, instead, we’ll just give you this: her YouTube channel, her site, and he alter-ego, Wendy Jo Smith’s site. Now you know everything.
Dear readers, we’d love to hear your perspective on Ho and her reception in SF. Did Wendy Ho, perhaps, poke a hole in San Francisco’s self-satisfied bubble? Or was she just talking offensive trash wrapped in some art school fancy talk? Is Ho friend or foe? Were you at the show? Please, give us the scoop in our comments.