Hello, I’ve really been enjoying your podcast but as an Asian American woman it upset me to hear you (in 3.b) both be so dismissive to the possibility of a racist element in the reaction to Yoko in the 60s. Your gleeful and mocking disdain for Yoko in general left me feeling uncomfortable. But that it extends to the point you can not envision how challenging the world was for an Asian woman living in a very white, conventional England in the sixties is upsetting to say the least.Our Tumblr Asks
Thank you for this thoughtful ask on an important topic!
We deeply regret any implication that we don’t believe Yoko faced special and unfair challenges due to race or nationality, because we are absolutely positive that Yoko faced racism, sexism and anti-Japanese sentiment in the 1960s (and probably still does today).
In 3.b we were specifically suggesting that the cause of the negative public reaction to Yoko was not solely about race, but mainly due to her behaviors, attitudes and artistic eccentricities such as her unconventional fashion sense, her jarring and very unusual singing style, her bizarre art and artistic “happenings” (the nude album, the interviews in black bags, throwing acorns at their TV audience, etc). Yoko was a conceptual artist whose career was founded on shock value and making people uncomfortable, so from our POV it is disingenuous for John & Yoko to be surprised or offended when people react with shock and discomfort.
John and Yoko were weird, unconventional and provocative (which they embraced), and this alienated almost everyone virtually overnight, which is why we find it unhelpful to attribute her negative public reception to the single cause of racism. This is not to say we don’t believe she experienced racism; of course she did! But both things can be true at once. She can experience racism and she can also be disliked for reasons having nothing to do with racism.
Similarly, we don’t think the reaction to Linda, as touched on in this quote was based soley in anti-semitism. At the same time it would be absolutely insane to suggest that Linda had never experienced anti-semitism in her lifetime.
In the breakup series we are mainly focused on the dynamics within the group, and we believe their primary issue with Yoko seems to have been her disruptive and unwelcome presence within a creative space which for years had been the sole domain of the bandmates.
In any case, we sincerely apologize for upsetting you.
We never want to reduce Yoko to her sex or race, which we feel is both unfair to her and an impediment to a candid examination of her work (which we think has been absent from Beatles discourse). One of our biggest complaints is how Beatles authors only evaluate Yoko as an influence on John, and never allow her to stand or fall as an individual artist in her own right.
As for our occasional mocking of Yoko (which often includes John), we can assure you that has nothing to do with race either. Any disdain on our part is reserved for the self-aggrandizing tone with which John and Yoko often discuss themselves and their art.
We acknowledge that it can be difficult and challenging to be critical about a woman with such a controversial place in history, perhaps undervalued as an artist and subject to some unfair prejudices. We have tried to strike a balance in terms of being empathetic to Yoko as a person while simultaneously subjecting her to the same rigor we would any artist, including the Beatles – whom she famously considered herself to be as good or better than.
Thanks again for taking the time to write to us and share your reactions. We will continue to consider this important topic in the future.