Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My latest post on Blogher: New blackface not fashionable; still racist


In a society that privileges a typically European (read: white) standard of beauty — pale skin, straight hair, slim noses and lips — there is a penalty for being the opposite of that standard, for having physical features common to people with African ancestry. Black people pay the cost for their physicality everywhere from the bedroom — where blackness can reduce a woman's sexual currency — to the boardroom, where employers develop policies that penalize African-Americans for wearing their hair in natural styles. But in no career is the penalty for "looking black" higher than in fashion, an industry devoted to beauty and to framing, promoting and defending whiteness as its standard. Read more...
I lamented the fashion industry's marginalization of black women in a recent post on Change.org's Race in America site (excerpt above). The near invisibility of black women, and other women of color, in fashion magazines and on the runway has been an ongoing controversy. Jezebel.com, which has been tracking participation by models of color in New York's fashion week since 2007, called this year's shows "almost a total whitewash." From within this context comes the disturbing trend of "blackface" in print fashion -- painting white models and adorning them with afro wigs. It would seem that the fashion industry doesn't want black women ... even when it sorta does.

The latest photo spread to attract attention appeared in the October issue of Numero magazine and featured blond, blue-eyed, white model Constance Jablonski sporting darkening makeup, faux tribal prints and accessories, and various afro wigs, while cavorting with a naked black baby in some savanna-like locale. It is a veritable stew of race fail -- at once managing to offend, appropriate culture, further stereotype and discriminate against black women. As difficult as I imagine it might be for a black model to participate in this hot stereotypical mess of a fashion shoot, why not simply hire a black model rather than paint a white model to look like one? Read more...

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