Yoko Ono on Yoko-Hate

by Cara on January 17, 2009

in feminism, gender, Gratuitous Beatles Blogging, pop culture, race and racism, sexism, stereotypes

Yoko Ono has publicly spoken in the past about the hatred directed at her, but I felt particularly compelled to post these brand new comments from an interview given to the Standford News Service.  The interviewer asks some very direct questions about the treatment she received from the public, and they tie in very nicely with my recently completed feminist analysis of cultural perceptions towards Yoko Ono:

You’ve gone from one of the most reviled public figures—the one that was blamed for breaking up the Beatles—to a celebrated international icon. How did you weather the storms?
I think that I was very lucky. I went through the most horrible situation where I could have been killed. There were people who really wanted me dead. I don’t know how I survived that. You can’t advise people. It’s such a severe situation when people go through it, I don’t know what they can do. All we can do is do our best, whatever that is—our best to survive.

Of course, when you burst on the world stage with John Lennon in the 1960s, World War II was only two decades in the past, and the women’s movement had not yet been launched.
Exactly. [laughs]

Do you feel sexism and racism played a role in your treatment?
Definitely. It was very upfront, very clear. I think maybe I was used as an example of something—to make people understand what one goes through. Maybe in that sense it was beneficial—beneficial to society, maybe.

I remember those early clips of you. When you were silent, you were seen as a sort of black spider, sitting in the background. When you spoke, you were seen as domineering.
I think that in some ways most women do go through that. You can’t really stand up for yourself, because then people say, “How dare you!” and if you’re silent, then they will think there’s something really creepy about it.

Of course, I do have a quibble with the statement that Yoko is now an international icon. I personally think that her reviled status is still alive and well, and while she is an icon, it’s only in very specific circles that she’s seen as a positive one.

Still, good interview, and great comments to chew on.  Specifically, while I did cover the issue of Yoko’s treatment when she dared speak, I neglected to discuss how her lack of speaking was also treated as a sign of evil intentions.  I’m glad that it gets analyzed, even briefly, here.

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{ 3 comments }

1 Renee January 18, 2009 at 11:18 am

I think that those that decided that they hate her use any excuse to justify it. I remember a barenaked ladies songs that makes fun of her singing. I think for artists who believe that music is an expression of self that it was particularly cruel. Even though the part of the lyrics did say that she didn’t break up the Beatles there was still an undercurrent of it’s okay to make fun of her because she’s Yoko Ono, they furthermore suggest that John gave up musical genius to be with her. I think that is the heart of the issue.
People walk around with all of these biases towards certain bodies and then stand on their heads to find a way to legitimize them. Obviously Yoko’s race and gender had a lot to do with why she is so reviled to this day, but it is the unspoken element in the critique instead you hear, yeah she broke up the Beatles, or that she has no talent. People don’t want to own their racism or sexism instead it is much easier to point to anything else and assume that those in the know will act to maintain their privilege and jump on the hate ride.

2 Chris January 19, 2009 at 2:00 am

I love it when Yoko’s candid about this sort of thing.

By the way, have you seen this Lennon/Ono cover by Ben Lee yet? Apparently Yoko herself left a comment because she liked it so much.
http://nz.youtube.com/watch?v=iD8kRD6Rv-8

3 Pop Feminist January 20, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Cara! I just have to say how much I love all your recent posts on Yoko. It’s really important for feminists to defend her legacy and you do it eloquently. Bravo!

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