Who Do You Center?

June 18, 2020

Too often when I create (from food writing to Instagram to developing a new dish), I find it easy to unconsciously center the white gaze. After all, I’ve been indoctrinated to this PoV since age 6. To unlearn that has been challenging and, at times, severely unpleasant because it meant admitting how deep in the system I was. It’s only been in the last 2 years or so (really since creating Studio ATAO) that I’ve found more pride & comfort in pointedly focusing on "more niche" groups I care about. Sometimes that meant Asian Americans who want to dismantle white supremacy, other times artists who enjoy mixed medium work, or perhaps chefs who believe in the significance of food beyond cooking. Even if the specific audience may change with the content, I finally felt each piece coalesced into a real whole.

 

I’ve learned that IT IS OKAY to say, “I refuse to change how I will present this, because YOU are not the person I’m trying to present it to.” I’ve learned to step into my ability to WILL a new audience if the current one no longer served me: I still remember vividly when Studio ATAO debuted our Asian in America series & began to focus on marketing it to our followers; we lost 1,000+ newsletters subscribers almost overnight. It was a clear sign I had basically been asleep at the wheel for years, allowing others and “society” to dictate what I was building instead of centering the people I wanted at my (literal and figurative) dinner table.

 

This is absolutely not something I’ve “figured out”. I still consistently struggle with actively creating for the audience I want (now & in the future), so I put together some questions I’ve found useful in better clarifying who I’m actually giving my time to. This is not to say there’s anything inherently bad about centering one group or identity over another (in fact it’s 100% necessary to focus your audience so you can better create content that is appealing & useful for them). But please, be cognizant of exactly WHO you are centering, HOW you are doing so, if that is indeed the audience you WANT to cater to, and WHY that is.

 

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