Blackface?
October 14, 2009 1:14 PM   Subscribe

French Vogue accused of publishing blackface photos of Lara Stone?

55% of those polled on Huff Post say that the photos are racist. Outrage on the internets.

Interestingly, there is little to no commentary on the photos from the same shoot, published in the same spread of the model in "whiteface". To see the whole spread, please see the photographer Steven Klein's site [Scroll: Photo/Editorial/French Vogue/2009/Lara Stone ]
posted by pwedza (142 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Seems more chocolate than black. Certainly not OMG Minstrels in blackface!
posted by Gungho at 1:17 PM on October 14, 2009


More to the point she likely doesn't have any on her staff, especially in an editorial capacity. And that points to the real issue: not a white model painted in blackface, but a dirth of black faces in a white industry.

Speaking of editorial staff, Huffington Post...
posted by dersins at 1:20 PM on October 14, 2009 [10 favorites]


Haven't we been through this recently? Not every case of racial insensitivity of fashion stupidity has to be made into a fpp.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:21 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think this is better contextualized around the fact that the fashion industry seems incredibly resistant towards using black models in anything other than "exotic" spreads. So much so that when Vogue Italy ran an "all-black" issue, it was hailed as a watershed issue.
posted by muddgirl at 1:23 PM on October 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


If I were to make a movie of this, I would call it Dirth of Blay's Ragin'.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:25 PM on October 14, 2009


Keep her in the ghetto? Or train to Auschwitz?
posted by ignignokt at 1:27 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Speaking of editorial staff, Huffington Post...

Shirly you don't think the Huffington Post has a dirth of Editorial Staff.
posted by blucevalo at 1:28 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Muddgirl. I recognize your perspective and that is an issue that has been heavily discussed.

I simply find it interesting that three or four photos of a 13 photo spread are the source of controversy without putting the photos into the actual context. If you read any of the articles that I linked to, it would seem that the whole spread was of a white model painted black - which is obviously not the case.

The photographer introduces the spread by speaking of the model's sensuality and her ability to metamorphose. She is the focus of his spread.

I don't deny that the spread can be seen as provocative. However, I don't find it to be racist.
posted by pwedza at 1:31 PM on October 14, 2009


There's no way Steven Klein would purposefully make a photo shoot controversial on purpose. *eye roll*
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 1:32 PM on October 14, 2009


In the context of the whole shoot (the theme of which seems to be "model in shocking poses"), these pics don't seem overtly racist. I imagine the artistic direction was about challenging the viewer, etc.
posted by Go Banana at 1:36 PM on October 14, 2009


How is this "blackface"? Without the white/black painted lips, I hardly consider it "blackface".

A white person can't pretend to be black, but the Wayans can have an entire movie around two black men trying to appear as white women. I guess this movie couldn't get made now.

People that read Huffington Post are outraged about something? Um yeah... that's a REAL barometer of outrage.
posted by inthe80s at 1:38 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, do I take it that black is the new black?
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:40 PM on October 14, 2009


Wait, because fashion magazines include pictures of real people?
posted by Sova at 1:41 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


A white person can't pretend to be black, but the Wayans can have an entire movie around two black men trying to appear as white women.

Truly, White people have it rough.
posted by chunking express at 1:42 PM on October 14, 2009 [18 favorites]


I guess this movie couldn't get made now.

God, I hope not. Have you seen Soul Man? It's fucking terrible.
posted by dersins at 1:44 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Truly, White people have it rough.

Tell me about it! Man, I hate how people continually bump into my knapsack all the time, and then mutter some stupid excuse about not having seen it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:46 PM on October 14, 2009 [8 favorites]


Hey, Lara is a Dutch girl. It's probably just clean old good fun, done in the ancient Zwarte Piet and Santa Claus tradition.
posted by ijsbrand at 1:48 PM on October 14, 2009


It's very hard to guage what these photos mean, although the African-looking clothing is pretty damning. If she was painted darker to make her resemble an African, then, yes, this is blackface, and, yes, it's offensive, and are we really going to have to detail why one more time?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:51 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hm yes this is just like Al Jolson singing Mammy.
No, wait, it's not and that's a stupid idea. Go swill Fiji water and pomegranate juice, Arianna.
* Is there racist intent in those images?
* Are they trying to make an entire race into buffoons?
For me, the answer is no.
posted by boo_radley at 1:52 PM on October 14, 2009


please see the photographer Steven Klein's site

Dear photographers:
Have better websites. No loading screens. No "Enter Site" buttons. No awful ambient sound. Seriously.
Sincerely,
SpecialAgentWebb

On the issue at hand, though, I feel like it's manufactured controversy. I agree with infinitefloatingbrains' implication.
posted by specialagentwebb at 1:54 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Man, imagine if they painted her a different colour, like brown or yellow or - heaven forbid - blue.
posted by GuyZero at 1:54 PM on October 14, 2009


Speaking of editorial staff, Huffington Post...

The problem is, if Jim Carrey and Nicole Kidman want to write for your blog, who the hell are you going to have tell them it's not spelled that way?
posted by Naberius at 1:55 PM on October 14, 2009


SENSITIVITY ALERT! SENSITIVITY ALERT!
posted by m0nm0n at 1:55 PM on October 14, 2009


Re: Zwarte Piet:

if they have been bad, Piet will scoop them up, stuff them in his huge dufflebag and spirit them away to Spain as punishment

Wow. Those Dutch know how to scare kids. SPAIN!
posted by GuyZero at 1:56 PM on October 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh yes, Lara Stone is so versatile, she can even fulfill the stereotypical "exotic" role! Why hire ethnic models at all when we can paint a pure white model and call it art?

You can see the whole spread here, with commentary from Tom and Lorenzo. Also note that the "white face" used later in the spread to justify the earlier images is a completely different effect.
posted by muddgirl at 1:57 PM on October 14, 2009


Astro Zombie - why is the 'African-looking clothing' damning?

This whole 'African-inspired garb' [as the Huff Post author states] thing is tripping me out..
I assume that you are referring to the first photo of the spread [on Klein's site].

I don't know of any culture in sub-Saharan Africa that wears clothes like that. I'd say that it is much more Middle Eastern. Yemeni, Omani or such.

She's not in a dashiki or kanga.. Though, it would have been interesting if she was.

I'm left to wonder if when a white model is painted dark, then is she necessarily black?
posted by pwedza at 1:59 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


What was that movie from the 80s where the white guy like, put on some experimental bronzer or something so that he could get into college? If nothing else that's what the first couple images remind me of.
posted by muddgirl at 2:00 PM on October 14, 2009


Wait, because fashion magazines include pictures of real people?

Gappy teeth, no eyebrows, inverted nipples, wonky walk and um, size 8 with hips and breasts. She is pretty far away from "normal" fashion magazine fodder.
posted by fire&wings at 2:00 PM on October 14, 2009


There's just something dumb about this whole enterprise. It's like criticizing the KKK for not having any female Grand Wizards. I mean, sure, but.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:02 PM on October 14, 2009


If she were painted dark to look like an Arab, it's also a problem. As I said, it's hard to parse previsely what was meant by this, although, having seen the entire spread, it seems to my eyes that they meant to represent the model as dsark-skinned and light-skinned, and I think that was a very poor decision.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:03 PM on October 14, 2009


If she was painted darker to make her resemble an African

Most racist thing on this entire thread. Including the pics of the model.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 2:03 PM on October 14, 2009


or - heaven forbid - blue.

They may take our lives, but they'll never take OUR PRADA!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:05 PM on October 14, 2009


Dear Huffington Post:

That's not blackface.
posted by rokusan at 2:05 PM on October 14, 2009


What was that movie from the 80s where the white guy like, put on some experimental bronzer or something so that he could get into college?

I'm talking about a soul man, soul man.
posted by gman at 2:07 PM on October 14, 2009


Astro Zombie - not all Africans or Arabs are ..ehem ..dark.

Or are you saying that if a lighter-skinned model is painted to look darker, then that is a problem. A problem for who? You? Or humanity..?
posted by pwedza at 2:07 PM on October 14, 2009


I think dark skin is beautiful. I would love to be able to put on dark make-up without offending anyone, just like other people dye their hair blond or red. I would make my skin a rich brown colour, like a walnut wood.

But I understand the history of black-face, so I will never do this. I'll just dream that some day the history and racism behind it will be far enough in the past that people could paint themselves any colour and it would only be about the beauty of that colour.
posted by jb at 2:10 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Most racist thing on this entire thread. Including the pics of the model.

In what way. I'm not saying that's how Arabs or Africans actually look; I'm saying if she was painted that way because that's how the photographer wanted to represent someone from Africa or an Arab country.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:11 PM on October 14, 2009


He's a fashion photographer, not a documentary photographer - he's not even trying to represent anything real, ever.
posted by GuyZero at 2:12 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Heh, the third model is so painfully thin that her skin-tight pantyhose are ballooning around the ankles.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:14 PM on October 14, 2009


He's a fashion photographer, not a documentary photographer - he's not even trying to represent anything real, ever.

Are you sure? Do we have any indication of what the photographer's motivations are? Because knowing that would help in this discussion, and I am not sure dismissing any discussion outright because a fashion photographer couldn't possibly be representing anything in the real world is futhering the discussion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:14 PM on October 14, 2009


In the way that you are saying all Africans are blacker than how black she has been painted and suggesting the way she is dressed is indeed "African". Africa is a huge country, after all.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 2:15 PM on October 14, 2009


I didn't say that. Please don't put words in my mouth and then accuse me of racism for it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:15 PM on October 14, 2009


And Africa is a continent.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:16 PM on October 14, 2009


No, we have no idea what the photographer's motivations are. So why is having a discussion based on one set of assumptions any more valid than saying that he meant nothing based on a different set of assumptions?
posted by GuyZero at 2:19 PM on October 14, 2009


At least, I have no idea what the photographer "meant" besides producing a visual image. Maybe you or someone else knows what he meant.
posted by GuyZero at 2:19 PM on October 14, 2009


I have made no assumptions. I've prefaced all of my comments with "if." I just wonder if any of the various discussions online have managed to suss out what was intended here. I haven't had a chance to do much digging.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:20 PM on October 14, 2009


It's bizarre that we are talking about Africa here. Blackface is not about Africans, it's about black Westerners (and it's also about white Westerners).

The criticisms of the "fashion industry" and the whole chocolate chip thing is really all about the Western fashion industry, not all the fashion industries. I don't see any white people in West African fashion shows. What a bunch of racists Africans are! Vlisco should be sued!

Africans do whiteface all the time, and dehumanize white people a lot.

Why people feel they are (/should) coming to the defense of Africans is mind boggling - except in the (racist) context that they see Africans as weak and unable to stand up for themselves (or too isolated/stupid/poor to know what is "worth" standing up for).

This is about Westerners. Let's concentrate the argument.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 2:25 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think that Astro Zombie is saying that if somebody is painted to look like somebody of another hue, then that is racist.

I would say that it could be, but not that it is a general rule. Overbroad.
posted by pwedza at 2:25 PM on October 14, 2009


> In the way that you are saying all Africans are blacker than how black she has been painted and suggesting the way she is dressed is indeed "African". Africa is a huge country, after all.

Wow, talk about a bad faith reading. No wonder these racism threads devolve so quickly.
posted by cj_ at 2:27 PM on October 14, 2009


Why people feel they are (/should) coming to the defense of Africans is mind boggling - except in the (racist) context that they see Africans as weak and unable to stand up for themselves (or too isolated/stupid/poor to know what is "worth" standing up for).

That's a hell of an assumption. I would posit it's about as valid as your accusation of me being racist, and might suggest that coming into this thread with your guns a-blazing, impugning the motivations of people who think that painting somebody up to look like a member of another race, if that's what's happened here, raises questions, is behavior that might be dialed back a bit if you're here to engage in good faith discussion, rather than simply body slam people because you happen to disagree with them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:28 PM on October 14, 2009


I think that Astro Zombie is saying that if somebody is painted to look like somebody of another hue, then that is racist.

That is absolutely not what I am saying. I'm not saying anything at all, except that I think it rasies questions, and may have been a poor decision. I'm also saying I can't come to any conclusions until I know more about this photo shoot, as the photos themselves don't provide a clear context for what was intended.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:29 PM on October 14, 2009


The fashion industry has a long and basically unabashed history of cultural appropriation.
posted by Ouisch at 2:32 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


And Africa is a continent.

Thanks for the clarification, calling Africa a country could never have been an intended as a hilarious reference to a super common racist assumption which I said immediately after I accused you of saying something racist. Har har har.

Astro Zombie, if that's not what you meant, can you clarify this comment:

It's very hard to guage what these photos mean, although the African-looking clothing is pretty damning. If she was painted darker to make her resemble an African, then, yes, this is blackface, and, yes, it's offensive, and are we really going to have to detail why one more time?

Because I read it as you saying all Africans are darker than she appeared. Check out the Vlisco site I referenced before - the REAL LIVE AFRICAN models on it are lighter than the paint up.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 2:33 PM on October 14, 2009


I have clarified above, and do not appreciate you applying the most uncharitable reading possible to my original comment, rather than asking for clarification if you didn't understand.

Also, perhaps you think your ironic comment about Africa being a country was obvious from context; it was not.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:36 PM on October 14, 2009


A problem for who?

My reading of Blay's article suggests that it's a problem for dark-skinned models of many different backgrounds who find it difficult to get work in the fashion industry. At minimum, it seems unfair that, if the effect of darker skin is important to the photographer's vision for the work, to have paying work go to a light-skinned model who's painted dark. So that bugs me about this series.

It also seems to me that painting a white model's skin upholds "white" features as the beauty ideal while simultaneously playing on the "exotic" connotations of brown skin, which definitely sets my teeth on edge. So, while this doesn't evoke the buffoonery that makes blackface in the minstrel tradition distasteful, it doesn't sit right with me, either.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:37 PM on October 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the clarification, calling Africa a country could never have been an intended as a hilarious reference to a super common racist assumption which I said immediately after I accused you of saying something racist. Har har har.


Yeah, this probably isn't the best way to get your point across.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:37 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I came here to make a joke about "dirth", but I was too late.

No dirth of spelling jokes here, amirite?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:38 PM on October 14, 2009


pick_the_flowers: You are coming off as jerky and fighty. If that's not how you want people to think of you, you might want to dial it back.
posted by languagehat at 2:39 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


It also seems to me that painting a white model's skin upholds "white" features as the beauty ideal while simultaneously playing on the "exotic" connotations of brown skin, which definitely sets my teeth on edge.

Unless he was trying to deconstruct that.
posted by GuyZero at 2:41 PM on October 14, 2009


I'm not saying anything at all, except that I think it rasies questions, and may have been a poor decision. I'm also saying I can't come to any conclusions until I know more about this photo shoot, as the photos themselves don't provide a clear context for what was intended.

Hence, the purpose of art. To provoke thought. To push the viewer to reach conclusions. Artists usually don't write a disclaimer to ensure that their audience understand the intent of their work. That is usually left to the crowds and critics.

As to whether it was a poor decision, that is endlessly debatable.
posted by pwedza at 2:41 PM on October 14, 2009


If he was, it's a very interesting photo shoot, but some context would have helped.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:42 PM on October 14, 2009


Astro Zombie, I re-read what you wrote and I still don't really get your point, but I'm sorry for calling your comment racist if that's not what you meant. And your right, I should have read it in better faith - infinite jest, point taken.

I just don't think that talking about Africa in relation to this article/thread is relevant - and I'm trying (albeit offensively and unsuccessfully...) to point out that making assumptions about what is African or what Africans are like or even linking North American/Western concepts like blackface to Africa is taking the whole thing out of context.

Sorry, it's also getting late over here in the country of Africa.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 2:44 PM on October 14, 2009


Artists usually don't write a disclaimer to ensure that their audience understand the intent of their work. That is usually left to the crowds and critics.

Sure they do, especially when it's a piece of art that's easily misunderstood. Irt's called an artist's statement. And, on hot button topics, it's not at all uncommon to have a place for feedback and discussion. Joseph Bueys used to sit in galleries where his work was being displayed so people could talk to him about it. It's not required, but it's not uncommonly, and can be extraordinarily useful when the artist is engaged in something that can be easily misunderstood.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:44 PM on October 14, 2009


Blackface refers to a specific style of makeup used in minstrel shows which were racist. This model was photographed in dark brown makeup and exotic clothing in one of many silly "theme" photo spreads that appear in fashion magazines every month. She is not strumming a banjo. She is not portraying black people as amusingly simple-minded. This is not blackface and no insult or racial disparagement is being communicated here from what I can detect. If this is racist then that means that it's always automatically racist whenever a light-skinned person wears dark makeup, and that seems silly too.
posted by longsleeves at 2:47 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


to point out that making assumptions about what is African or what Africans are like or even linking North American/Western concepts like blackface to Africa is taking the whole thing out of context.

Blackface is not unique to the United States; a French version. As the French have a history of anti-black racism and African colonialism, discussions of blackface are useful, although I agree they need to be recontextualized.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:47 PM on October 14, 2009


It also seems to me that painting a white model's skin upholds "white" features as the beauty ideal while simultaneously playing on the "exotic" connotations of brown skin, which definitely sets my teeth on edge.

BTW, to do this non-ironically or without an intent to deconstruct would require a massive amount of stupidity and/or a complete lack of any awareness of anything about how the modeling industry works. Which isn't impossible given that I have a fairly low opinion of people in the fashion industry from watching too many Ali G Show episodes with Bruno crashing various fashion events. But assuming that this photographer got to where he is by not being an idiot and by paying attention to aesthetics it's hard for me to think he was going straight-up on this one. Unless he's also a massive, blatant racist which I'm also reluctant to assume, knowing less than nothing about the man.

But anything's possible.
posted by GuyZero at 2:50 PM on October 14, 2009


Unless he was trying to deconstruct that.

There's that. But if that's what he was going for, the images alone missed with me. An artist's statement would've been helpful if that was his intention. Maybe that's what was in the teeeeeeeeeeeny tiny text I couldn't read from the images on his website, but that looked to be about the right size for the designer info published with fashion spreads. If anyone's got a copy of French Vogue handy and can elaborate on that text, that info would be nice info to have.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:51 PM on October 14, 2009


calling Africa a country could never have been an intended as a hilarious reference to a super common racist assumption

I thought it was a reference to Whose Line.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:57 PM on October 14, 2009


Astro Zombie, ya, I agree it does go back to colonialism in a sense, but I also think that today black American or black French or black Canadian or black Brit or black Spanish, black Italian, etc...identities are not connected to African identities. That's what I meant by saying North American/Western.

Personally, I see those two regions culturally linked (I'm talking about Western Europe and North America) because of the dominant whiteness in terms of power. Others may argue that black identities are more monolithic....but all of this may be straying very far from the original conversation spurred by the article.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 2:57 PM on October 14, 2009


muddgirl : Also note that the "white face" used later in the spread to justify the earlier images is a completely different effect.

Which is kind of a shame, I could see a really neat photo-shoot coming out of taking a number of people with striking features typically characterized to a specific race, and changing their color and hair to strike a discordant and maybe awesome note.

It could so very easily go horribly wrong though.

Maybe blue and green would be a better way to do it.
posted by quin at 2:58 PM on October 14, 2009


pick_the_flowers, I think the confusion may be that when Astro Zombie referred to her being "painted darker," he just meant darker relative to her actual skin tone, and not that she wasn't painted dark enough to look African, which seems to be how you interpreted it. I might be wrong.
posted by shammack at 2:58 PM on October 14, 2009


But assuming that this photographer got to where he is by not being an idiot and by paying attention to aesthetics it's hard for me to think he was going straight-up on this one.

I worked for a former television actor of some fame who couldn't be around somebody black without reflxively making racist comments. I don't know whether he thought he was being edgy or had some sort of tourettes, although he would always say "But, of course I'm not racist;e verybody knows that." He would do this during a live stage show that I helped manage.

He was the star if a hit television show for almost a decade. I make no assumptions about people's relationship to race based on how successful they have been.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:59 PM on October 14, 2009


Which is kind of a shame, I could see a really neat photo-shoot coming out of taking a number of people with striking features typically characterized to a specific race, and changing their color and hair to strike a discordant and maybe awesome note.

Without any citations, I'm going out on a limb and saying that someone already thought of this and did already.
posted by GuyZero at 2:59 PM on October 14, 2009


he just meant darker relative to her actual skin tone, and not that she wasn't painted dark enough to look African, which seems to be how you interpreted it. I might be wrong

Yes, and, if this is what happened, that the darker painting was to create a look that the photographer identified as African or Arab. I don't think this is how Africans or Arabs look. It's very hard for me to make my point and feel secure that I am being clear.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:01 PM on October 14, 2009


He did give a statement that the spread would focus on Stone's capacity to change.

Her 'assumed voluptuousness, sensual lines, humorous temperament - the break she makes from anorexic models. A true woman in flesh and in character whose pleasure - and sense - of m├ętamorphose isn't the only quality'

[second frame on Klein's website]
posted by pwedza at 3:01 PM on October 14, 2009


the break she makes from anorexic models

If you want to highlight any disconnects Klein might have from reality it's in applying this statement to Lara Stone. I suppose she's not literally anorexic but she's hardly voluptuous.
posted by GuyZero at 3:06 PM on October 14, 2009


If she was painted darker to make her resemble an African,

pick_the_flowers: the "if" there is referring to "to make her resemble an African", not to "she was painted darker". Astro Zombie was speculating about the intentions of the current piece, not what a hypothetical other piece would signify.
posted by kmz at 3:06 PM on October 14, 2009


if this is what happened, that the darker painting was to create a look that the photographer identified as African or Arab

OooooooooK. Now I get it.

And if this was the photographer's intention, racist?
posted by pick_the_flowers at 3:13 PM on October 14, 2009


Maybe this is not blackface, but rather simulacra?

My personal feeling is that it is more racist as simulacra than as blackface.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 3:17 PM on October 14, 2009


Good lord the stupid is strong in this thread.

/throws rope to AZ in a valiant attempt to rescue him from the conversation
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:25 PM on October 14, 2009


I'm a kind of bemused by those who are trying to quantify black face as requiring x, y and z components . . . and if this is missing any of these components than it is not black face. The problem with blackface is not the makeup, or the acting. The problem is the exotification and the belittling of the other combined with a power dynamic that disadvantages the group being portrayed.

This is being done in an industry where black faces are very rare and generally are consigned to exotified spaces. So, while it may not be minstrelsy per se, it is definitely blackface.

I am often struck by the responses of those in the majority who when confronted by questionable things, immediately attempt to justify and rationalize things. The become embroiled in a miasma of apologetics that, to me, is mystifying in its ability to completely miss the point.
posted by anansi at 3:48 PM on October 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


And if this was the photographer's intention, racist?

Not necessarily. But that doesn't mean that people won't be offended by it, and have cause. Representing somebody white as somebody not white is a really tricky thing to do, especially when you're reasons for doing so aren't clear. The likelihood of being misunderstood, or not understood, is so high, that being unconcerned about that, or not even realizing the potential for misunderstanding, strikes me as an expression of privilege.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:48 PM on October 14, 2009


I am often struck by the responses of those in the majority who when confronted by questionable things, immediately attempt to justify and rationalize things. The become embroiled in a miasma of apologetics that, to me, is mystifying in its ability to completely miss the point.
Other side of that is, looking at the set of photos on Klein's site, seems to be proceeding from a certain set of assumptions to say that the black make-up is somehow the point and the white and other masquerade merely cover for that racist presentation.
I mean, fucked if I know what he's up to, but on its face doesn't seem to demand particular special pleading to envisage other, non-racist, references to the history of maquillage and body-painting etc.
posted by Abiezer at 4:41 PM on October 14, 2009


I am often struck by the responses of those in the majority who when confronted by questionable things, immediately attempt to justify and rationalize things. The become embroiled in a miasma of apologetics that, to me, is mystifying in its ability to completely miss the point.

Interesting, because I often see the opposite - the concern trolls who immediately see racism as having the greatest explanatory power in a given situation, and then getting slain by the very weapon they wield resulting in a miasma of apologetics...

That's a hell of an assumption. I would posit it's about as valid as your accusation of me being racist, and might suggest that coming into this thread with your guns a-blazing, impugning the motivations of people who think that painting somebody up to look like a member of another race, if that's what's happened here, raises questions, is behavior that might be dialed back a bit if you're here to engage in good faith discussion, rather than simply body slam people because you happen to disagree with them.

Exercise for the class: is it poetic justice that the revolution devours its own children?

Or you know, we could all dial back, and assume good faith until proven otherwise. Because there really is no option. You cannot qualify every single statement or non-statement to attempt to critic-proof it. And it is senseless to even try:

Unless he was trying to deconstruct that.

There's that. But if that's what he was going for, the images alone missed with me. An artist's statement would've been helpful if that was his intention.


...because that will never be enough, and never to some standard or another, and there will always be someone who will demand additional explications and justifications and clarifications and caveats and enumerations, and distinctions, and federal study level detail.

So we will have a photo, or painting or sentence that cannot stand on its own, lest the artist be accused of whatever it is we wish to glean in their art. One photo and 25 volumes of explanations below it. You know the story of how it was necessary to liability-proof ladders? How it was necessary to put multiple stickers explaining all the ways you could not use the ladder, could not eat it, could not use it for surgical procedures and how there were more and more stickers? Well, that's nothing. That won't be enough. We need to plaster so many stickers that the ladder is actually no longer a ladder, but a solid block of paper with the ladder somewhere inside. You can no longer climb it, it has lost its purpose, but perhaps you won't be sued. Only a cat can scramble up it. One that has not been declawed, of course.

Good faith on all sides is a necessary element in any dialogue. When it has been shown to be misplaced, that's the time to break out the pitchforks. Has there been racism in the case of these photos? You tell me, because I don't know. I'm happy to listen, and I assume good faith on your part.
posted by VikingSword at 4:58 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is inherently a bad faith discussion to presume the motivations of the person you are talking to, and to argue against their motivations, VikingSword.

...because that will never be enough, and never to some standard or another, and there will always be someone who will demand additional explications and justifications and clarifications and caveats and enumerations, and distinctions, and federal study level detail.

It would be enough for me, but you seem to be arguing against a hypothetical person who will see racism anywhere and won't accept any explanation. When that person appears in this thread, I will alert them to your argument.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:06 PM on October 14, 2009


It is inherently a bad faith discussion to presume the motivations of the person you are talking to, and to argue against their motivations, VikingSword.

Agreed. It's useful to point out when that happens.

...because that will never be enough, and never to some standard or another, and there will always be someone who will demand additional explications and justifications and clarifications and caveats and enumerations, and distinctions, and federal study level detail.

It would be enough for me, but you seem to be arguing against a hypothetical person who will see racism anywhere and won't accept any explanation. When that person appears in this thread, I will alert them to your argument.


Very droll. So easily misunderstood, huh? How nicely recursive! And I was addressing a sentiment expressed in such statements, not a particular person. Because it is not a person who bogs down dialogue in such controversial threads, but the attitude in the statements I addressed.
posted by VikingSword at 5:15 PM on October 14, 2009


I'm not following. Whose attitude? Based on what? Can you be specific? Because, at this moment, it sounds as though you are extrapolating an extremist viewpoint that, since it hasn't been addressed here, doesn't strike me as relevant. Perhaps there is somebody else out there who has responded to this, and said "I am just going to need more and more explanation and will never be happy"; I haven't seen them, and would appreciate a link.

Otherwise, you're just speculating on a hypothesis, as the man says.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:20 PM on October 14, 2009


"expressed" rather than "addressed."
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:20 PM on October 14, 2009


I'm not following. Whose attitude? Based on what? Can you be specific? Because, at this moment, it sounds as though you are extrapolating an extremist viewpoint that, since it hasn't been addressed here, doesn't strike me as relevant. Perhaps there is somebody else out there who has responded to this, and said "I am just going to need more and more explanation and will never be happy"; I haven't seen them, and would appreciate a link.

A very odd way to miss the point - after all, the problem starts right then and there, at the first instance of thinking it is reasonable to demand that the photographer issue a special statement about his photograph. I did cite that demand, didn't I? How could you miss it, since you too quoted it? Or do you think it reasonable to ask a painter, or sculptor, or photographer to have artist statements affixed to every piece of work, so as to pre-empt accusations? Incidentally, you will observe, that the demand only came after it was pointed out that an alternative non-racists explanation was possible, because the first thing was the immediate assumption of guilt.

And really, you're being a bit disingenuous. Many posters here speak not just of this particular case, but of the whole phenomenon of race discussions, as in the statement I quoted:

I am often struck by the responses of those in the majority who when confronted by questionable things, immediately attempt to justify and rationalize things. The become embroiled in a miasma of apologetics that, to me, is mystifying in its ability to completely miss the point.

It was in fact the first statement I quoted. So why do you insist that all discussion must be in reference to a particular poster, or else I'm "speculating on a hypothesis"? I'm addressing a statement that already assumes this to be in a larger context than this particular case, these particular posters, and this particular thread. Like I said, AstroZombie - assume good faith - and when making arguments, please argue in good faith too. This is not a contest, this is an attempt to set some standards which will hopefully allow such discussions to be productive rather than devolve into accusations.
posted by VikingSword at 5:32 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm just asking for explanations, as I really am not following you.

A very odd way to miss the point - after all, the problem starts right then and there, at the first instance of thinking it is reasonable to demand that the photographer issue a special statement about his photograph.

Who in this thread demanded such a statement? I missed that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:44 PM on October 14, 2009


Astro Zombie, I did cite the demand:

Unless he was trying to deconstruct that. - This was by poster A.

In response, poster B. wrote this:

There's that. But if that's what he was going for, the images alone missed with me. An artist's statement would've been helpful if that was his intention.

If you search the thread, I'm sure you'll find these.

The reason I did not then name the poster, and I'm not doing so now, is precisely because it was not my intention to single out a poster, but to address the phenomenon. And I have done that in all my quotes in this thread - I am not attributing, because I have no interest in showcasing a particular poster(s), but the phenomenon. And don't you think that's what really should be the way to proceed? Why would you demand that I cite a specific person? Don't you think it is the phenomenon that needs addressing if we want to have more productive discussions on metafilter when the issue of race comes up? And do you really think that unless I specify a person(s) in this particular thread, I'm "speculating on a hypothesis"? How is this merely speculative hypothesis, if we see it so very often when such discussions erupt in the blue? You've seen it, riiiiight? It's even something of a cliche - "metafilter doesn't do race, guns, fat, etc. well". All I'm doing is pleading for a bit of good faith assumption on all sides of the issue... after such global concerns were already addressed by other posters whom I quoted.
posted by VikingSword at 5:58 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


You and I reading those differently; I see no demand, and I know where I have said something similar, I have said that one would be useful. And you cannot make claim to a phenomenon without demonstrating that people are participating in it. If I read you correctly, the phenomenon you think is happening is that people are assuming intent and refusing to be satisfied with any explanation at all.

Yes, if you're going to make that claim, I am going to ask you to demonstrate that it is, in fact, happening. Otherwise, it's a straw man argument. And you can't just say "Oh, it's a general trend" or "Oh, it's where this talk leads to"; that's the speculation. I ask that address what people actually say.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:32 PM on October 14, 2009


There's that. But if that's what he was going for, the images alone missed with me. An artist's statement would've been helpful if that was his intention.

I didn't think I was demanding anything when I said that. I thought what I was saying was an artist's statement would have helped clarify the photographer's intent in creating the images, because I was unable to ascertain the intent, and the images in and of themselves don't sit well with me. Maybe an I'm insufficiently sophisticated viewer, but on the face of the images, I don't see a deconstruction of blackface, or Orientalism, or standards of beauty that center "whiteness." I see some problematic images coming out of an industry that's riddled with issues focused on physical appearance. I have not taken a position on whether racism is at play, I have said that more information would be helpful to have.

...because that will never be enough, and never to some standard or another, and there will always be someone who will demand additional explications and justifications and clarifications and caveats and enumerations, and distinctions, and federal study level detail.

I'm going to assume in good faith that you weren't supposing that I'm the person who would never be satisfied, VikingSword, but this phrasing felt an awful lot like you were projecting intentions on to me. But even leaving feelings aside, my reaction is "So what?" So people demand something of an artist. She or he isn't obliged to respond in any fashion.

Now, one could make a case that allegations of racism are sufficiently damaging that an artist is compelled to defend him or herself against them in order to maintain a career. But an artist who's going to play with tropes associated with colonialism, Orientalism, and cultural appropriation would have to be exceedingly naive to believe that no controversy would result. If naivety is the case, this is kind of a harsh way to learn, but unfortunately some lessons are harsh ones.
posted by EvaDestruction at 6:55 PM on October 14, 2009


It's a trope used in sci-fi sometimes, but the fact remains that it won't be too long before technology will enable people to modify the pigmentation of their skin. I wonder what will happen when skin color becomes quite literally a matter of fashion. Will some colors be taboo for the reasons stated in this discussion so far?
I wonder if laws will be passed to limit the purchase and usage of certain pigment levels.
posted by nightchrome at 7:07 PM on October 14, 2009


You and I reading those differently;

Yes.

I see no demand, and I know where I have said something similar, I have said that one would be useful.

A poster says that an artist's work "doesn't sit right with me" in a racially charged context. Someone points out that there is this other explanation, perhaps far more persuasive to some, that actually there may be a non-racial explanation. To this the poster responds: "There's that. But if that's what he was going for, the images alone missed with me. An artist's statement would've been helpful if that was his intention." What this says, is that the reaction is going to be "doesn't sit right with me" unless the artist follows up with a statement explaining his intention. This is a demand in effect, because it says that unless you explain your intention, I'm going to suppose X (negative). If this is an unfair characterization in your opinion, then we see things differently.

And you cannot make claim to a phenomenon without demonstrating that people are participating in it. If I read you correctly, the phenomenon you think is happening is that people are assuming intent and refusing to be satisfied with any explanation at all.

Yes, if you're going to make that claim, I am going to ask you to demonstrate that it is, in fact, happening. Otherwise, it's a straw man argument. And you can't just say "Oh, it's a general trend" or "Oh, it's where this talk leads to"; that's the speculation. I ask that address what people actually say.


I already addressed that. I gave an example of how that global phenomenon, "general trend", "talk that leads to" has already been brought up by posters in this thread before I even posted here. I cited that as my first quote. It is a fact. Isn't it therefore legitimate that I can address that very quote? Also in a global context since that's what that post discussed?

If you doubt that such things happen on metafilter (when discussing things like race, guns etc.), you have many threads with many examples. I'm rather surprised that you'd doubt that this happens, since it's even a cliche about metafilter and race/guns/fat etc.. If nonetheless you still want an example, how about a very recent one - a thread titled "The Race Is On". Plenty of examples there, where all kinds of qualifications were never enough. Burned by that experience, I addressed that concern in direct response to the "global concern" post. Seems to me quite legitimate. Further, my not attributing quotes was a further signal that I really was not interested in discussing specific posters, but the general trend in such discussions (again, in direct response to a "general trend" post).
posted by VikingSword at 7:25 PM on October 14, 2009


I'm going to assume in good faith that you weren't supposing that I'm the person who would never be satisfied, VikingSword, but this phrasing felt an awful lot like you were projecting intentions on to me. But even leaving feelings aside, my reaction is "So what?" So people demand something of an artist. She or he isn't obliged to respond in any fashion.

Absolutely. I never wrote, thought or implied, that you specifically would never be satisfied. I actually was trying to avoid talking about any specific person. Which is why I did not attribute that quote. I was really and truly interested in the phenomenon itself, and I then extended it further by saying that "some" would never be satisfied (not you), because as soon as you reach satisfaction for one, there's a next one for whom it is not sufficient. I've seen this play out on metafilter wrt. race discussions often. Not you personally. Again, I really do not intend to "call out" any specific person, because that gets people defensive, and after all, we want to solve a general problem and not a specific person issue. Problem being: "how can we make sure that we allow for good faith reading, instead of the immediate reaction being negative or attacking".

As to the artist (or anybody really). Surely we can agree that it's better "innocent until proven guilty" than the other way around? Peace, and no harm meant or intended.
posted by VikingSword at 7:34 PM on October 14, 2009


So you're talking about some vague people, out there somewhere, who you insist represents and intolerant trend.

Pardon me if I don't find that useful, and still consider to be a straw man. I don't care to discuss this much anymore, as arguing against some nebulous atmospheric trends that you perceive doesn't wash as fact in my book.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:38 PM on October 14, 2009


So you're talking about some vague people, out there somewhere, who you insist represents and intolerant trend.

No. I'm talking about people who post to metafilter on these topics. Referencing general trends in such discussions. Here is the exact quote, now given by me for the third time:

"I am often struck by the responses of those in the majority who when confronted by questionable things, immediately attempt to justify and rationalize things. The become embroiled in a miasma of apologetics that, to me, is mystifying in its ability to completely miss the point."

This appeared in this thread before I first posted. It was my first quote, the quote which opened my first post. I therefore responded regarding the very same people whom that quote referenced. Is it not legitimate, indeed necessary practice to refer to the very same issue? That justifies my post 100% right there. It. Was. A. Direct. Response.

Pardon me if I don't find that useful, and still consider to be a straw man. I don't care to discuss this much anymore, as arguing against some nebulous atmospheric trends that you perceive doesn't wash as fact in my book.

The "nebulous" trends I perceive are the very same ones that were referenced in the post I replied to. So it was not my invention. And as I repeated this point numerous times, without you addressing it, I agree that further discussion seems unlikely to be fruitful. I'm dropping it.
posted by VikingSword at 7:49 PM on October 14, 2009


Well, since you are going to repeatedly quote me as if my statement was egregious, I guess I'd better step back in here.

I stand behind what I said 100%. And your actions are explicitly what I am referring to.
Interesting, because I often see the opposite - the concern trolls who immediately see racism as having the greatest explanatory power in a given situation, and then getting slain by the very weapon they wield resulting in a miasma of apologetics...

I am going to make a few assumptions about you because I do not know you. I am assuming that you are white and I am assuming that you are male. Positing from this, I am assuming that your exposure to racism/bigotry directed toward you and those that look like you is minimal. Additionally, I am assuming that you do not notice in your daily life explicit racism towards others. If I am wrong about this, please correct me.

You make an error of logic in your assessment of other's perceptions. Basically it is, "I do not see or experience racism frequently, ergo it is not as much of a concern anymore." However, you as a part of the majority would not be affected by racism to a large degree. This same issue pops up here all the time with the "its class, not race" people.

Me being bothered by a white model in blackface being photographed by a white photographer in a magazine that caters to a mostly white audience within an industry that is mostly white does not make me a concern troll. It makes me someone who is painfully aware of the legacy of 400 years of systematized racism that is prevalent within the western world. Its makes me someone who does witness racism on an almost daily basis. Everything has context, and not all context is what the creator intends. The historical context of whites darkening themselves to appear as the dark "other" is fraught with problems. No matter what your intentions are this is something that must be grappled with and as a consequence makes any portrayal of this type problematic. As pervasive as racist attitudes in the western world are, I find it disingenuous to claim ignorance of the context into which blackface falls.
posted by anansi at 8:35 PM on October 14, 2009


Still, I am fundamentally horrified with Klein's portrayal of orange-haired white girls in neon-yellow pumps. You would think that they are all slutty or something..
posted by pwedza at 8:40 PM on October 14, 2009


Well, since you are going to repeatedly quote me as if my statement was egregious, I guess I'd better step back in here.

That is what you took away from my quoting your statement? Because, you know, that is not how I saw it. I saw it exactly the way I wrote about it. I thought your statement was "interesting". The reason it was interesting, is not because it was "egregious" - nowhere do I claim that. I thought it was interesting, because your experience evoked a corresponding experience for me, of seeing in addition a rather different phenomenon (and how exactly different, I explained). That does not state that your experience is not legitimate - both can coexist. "I love how white X birds are" - "interesting, because I in turn love how black they are". Further, I don't believe I called the author of the quote (you) a "concern troll" - rather, I called other people that, as the subsequent text made pretty clear. Can you see what I actually wrote, in addition to your personal interpretation?

I am going to make a few assumptions about you because I do not know you. I am assuming that you are white and I am assuming that you are male. Positing from this, I am assuming that your exposure to racism/bigotry directed toward you and those that look like you is minimal. Additionally, I am assuming that you do not notice in your daily life explicit racism towards others. If I am wrong about this, please correct me.

Yes on some counts (white male), no on the last (yes, I can recognize racism when it happens in my direct view, though I can't guarantee that I do so every time accurately and don't miss any instances). I have also had interactions with Black Muslims who explicitly told me that they adhered to Elijah's doctrines about blue-eyed white devils (on the UCLA campus, back in the 80's) - though in fairness, I never held it against them or argued with them, on the contrary, I was delighted by such interactions. As you have perhaps seen in the first part of this response, you may not be right about things you assume (such as how you read my statement).

You make an error of logic in your assessment of other's perceptions. Basically it is, "I do not see or experience racism frequently, ergo it is not as much of a concern anymore." However, you as a part of the majority would not be affected by racism to a large degree. This same issue pops up here all the time with the "its class, not race" people.

You assume I make that error. I don't believe it, because I don't claim that racism is not much of a concern anymore. Rather, I try to be careful to claim it where it actually occurs, rather than reflexively find it in more places than perhaps justified and I do not assume that my perceptions are normative - basically I ask "and we know it accounts for what's happening in this specific instance - how?" I'm not even saying "no", rather saying "since I can't see it as clearly as you apparently do, please provide proof", and when the "evidence" either is not forthcoming, or is woefully insufficient, I tend to say "time to not claim 'racism', time to suspend judgment and give the benefit of doubt". My not agreeing with the "evidence" (if it is provided in the first place) does not mean my position is the one that is necessarily incorrect - that's what arguments are for.

Me being bothered by a white model in blackface being photographed by a white photographer in a magazine that caters to a mostly white audience within an industry that is mostly white does not make me a concern troll.

Correct. But it doesn't make your perceptions automatically justified, about this particular instance.

It makes me someone who is painfully aware of the legacy of 400 years of systematized racism that is prevalent within the western world. Its makes me someone who does witness racism on an almost daily basis.

See above.


Everything has context, and not all context is what the creator intends.

Or what a given viewer sees. A person with a chip on their shoulder might be jumping at shadows (not saying you do, just as a matter of argument.).

The historical context of whites darkening themselves to appear as the dark "other" is fraught with problems.

Yes.

No matter what your intentions are this is something that must be grappled with and as a consequence makes any portrayal of this type problematic.

And who is the arbiter of how successfully an artist has grappled with it? Are there not people who wrongly jump at shadows, or is any concern, no matter how outlandish, justified because of the history and context?

As pervasive as racist attitudes in the western world are, I find it disingenuous to claim ignorance of the context into which blackface falls.

And who would in good faith deny what blackface is or entails? That still does not mean the context has been perceived correctly in a specific instance.

Bottom line: charges, especially serious charges need to be backed up by more than "cause I say so". We accept that truism in many areas, why not when it comes to the charge of racism? It is a serious charge, one that can (and has) ruined peoples lives and/or careers - sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly. If it's there, by all means, call it out. It still however behooves us to be very careful with such serious charges, not just for the immediate reasons of fairness, but for the deeper reasons of not wanting to devalue the currency. If people see repeated instances of blatantly unfair charges, the charge will lose its sting - and that would be a negative in the laudable goal of a discrimination-free society.
posted by VikingSword at 9:23 PM on October 14, 2009


You can't see it, but you're shadowboxing phantoms.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:26 PM on October 14, 2009


There is no such thing as RACISM!

Metafilter for the WIN!
posted by chunking express at 9:30 PM on October 14, 2009


I swear that I did not pay chunking express to make my case --

"If it's there, by all means, call it out. It still however behooves us to be very careful with such serious charges, not just for the immediate reasons of fairness, but for the deeper reasons of not wanting to devalue the currency. If people see repeated instances of blatantly unfair charges, the charge will lose its sting - and that would be a negative in the laudable goal of a discrimination-free society."

-- when chunking express writes this:

"There is no such thing as RACISM!

Metafilter for the WIN!"


...I swear he's not my sock puppet.
posted by VikingSword at 9:36 PM on October 14, 2009


A poster says that an artist's work "doesn't sit right with me" in a racially charged context. Someone points out that there is this other explanation, perhaps far more persuasive to some, that actually there may be a non-racial explanation. To this the poster responds: "There's that. But if that's what he was going for, the images alone missed with me. An artist's statement would've been helpful if that was his intention." What this says, is that the reaction is going to be "doesn't sit right with me" unless the artist follows up with a statement explaining his intention. This is a demand in effect, because it says that unless you explain your intention, I'm going to suppose X (negative).

While I am aware that styles of discussion differ, VikingSword, personally, I would just as soon have my words attributed to me, especially since I've tried to make it clear (though perhaps I have not been successful) that I am expressing my opinion, and my opinion only. My opinion is that I don't see deconstruction of racialized notions of beauty happening in those images as images, therefore, they don't sit right with me. I don't think that people who interpret it differently are wrong, nor do I think it is necessarily wrong of the artist to leave the work open to the broadest possible spectrum of interpretation.

I do think that if we're to understand what the artist intends, rather than what we individually interpret as the artist's intention, an artist's statement is the only way we're going to get that information. I am interested in understanding the artist's intention behind creating these images, therefore, I would find an artist's statement helpful. It is possible that the artist's statement would actually cause me to think more negatively of the images, since I am not assuming anything about the artist's intentions, but expressing my personal reaction to the images themselves.

I also think that it's inaccurate to equate "deconstruction" of racialized notions of beauty with "a non-racial explanation". I hope that an artist who would attempt such deconstruction would be acutely aware of the cultural history anansi outlines above, because otherwise, any attempts at deconstructing racialized idea about beauty intelligently would be very impoverished, if not outright futile.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:32 PM on October 14, 2009


I also think that it's inaccurate to equate "deconstruction" of racialized notions of beauty with "a non-racial explanation". I hope that an artist who would attempt such deconstruction would be acutely aware of the cultural history anansi outlines above, because otherwise, any attempts at deconstructing racialized idea about beauty intelligently would be very impoverished, if not outright futile.

I see what you mean, however I didn't interpret that statement to be an exclusive or only alternative. A poster suggested that perhaps "deconstruction" was involved - that's just one possibility suggested by one poster. The bigger issue is that there may be many other interpretations, of the work (and the artist's intent). The artist is under no obligation to have to explain himself. There are instances, where the intent is pretty clear (say propaganda art), or the work explicitly acknowledges its racism (as the minstrel blackface shows did). But there are also instances where reasonable people may have very different reactions and the case is not at all obvious. This is what struck me about these photos. I saw a multitude of ways of interpreting the work. Now, again, I absolutely do not claim to know the artist's intent. And I do not claim that there may not be an element of racial insensitivity or worse. I really don't know. However, I have seen no evidence cited which shows conclusively that to be the case, and in absence of that, I think that a good faith interpretation of the work is indicated.

If someone thinks the work is racist, they should have the burden of proving it - that seems basic fairness, no?
posted by VikingSword at 10:54 PM on October 14, 2009


Just to elaborate on "there are instances, where the intent is pretty clear" - I thought the Australian Jackson Five blackface skit was clearly racist (even if some didn't think so, or thought it was a class issue) - even if the artists didn't intend it to be racist. It's not like I think it doesn't happen - it happens a lot, and I bet many times when I don't even notice. However, I'm troubled when there is rush to claim it in instances where it is far from clear, or as in a recent thread where the immediate accusation was that Asian women display racist behavior based on dating patterns and where I thought the evidence was far too cloudy to make such a charge.
posted by VikingSword at 11:06 PM on October 14, 2009


I will paraphrase Morgan Freeman and say please stop talking about this stupid crap because it is all goddamned meaningless.
posted by ElmerFishpaw at 2:48 AM on October 15, 2009


Her 'assumed voluptuousness, sensual lines, humorous temperament - the break she makes from anorexic models. A true woman in flesh and in character whose pleasure - and sense - of m├ętamorphose isn't the only quality'

This kind of pretentious rubbish about what a 'true' woman supposedly is is much more offensive than any supposed racism. Besides, whether in 'black face' or not, she looks the same in every picture.
posted by Summer at 3:28 AM on October 15, 2009


"I think dark skin is beautiful. I would love to be able to put on dark make-up without offending anyone, just like other people dye their hair blond or red. I would make my skin a rich brown colour, like a walnut wood.

"But I understand the history of black-face, so I will never do this. I'll just dream that some day the history and racism behind it will be far enough in the past that people could paint themselves any colour and it would only be about the beauty of that colour."


This is a recurring plot point in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Skin dye is common enough to be available at any chemists. One of the main characters spends much of the book disguised with dark skin. It never occurred to me, despite having read the book dozens of times, that someone would find that racist.
posted by Mitheral at 4:48 AM on October 15, 2009


> Yes on some counts (white male), no on the last (yes, I can recognize racism when it happens in my direct view, though I can't guarantee that I do so every time accurately and don't miss any instances). I have also had interactions with Black Muslims who explicitly told me that they adhered to Elijah's doctrines about blue-eyed white devils (on the UCLA campus, back in the 80's) - though in fairness, I never held it against them or argued with them, on the contrary, I was delighted by such interactions.

Ah, you're one of those people who responds to discussions of white racism with "but black people are racist too!" Also one of those people who thinks "Just because I'm white and male doesn't mean I need to listen and learn, I'm smart and I know everything I need to know already." Got it.

*sets phasers on "Ignore"*
posted by languagehat at 6:45 AM on October 15, 2009


To be fair, languagehat, things that nobody has actually said can, in fact, be indicative of a broader social trend that only one guy sees and is going to argue vociferously against, based in misquotes; charges of racism are just so huge, even when they aren't actually made, that they should immediately be responded to by vast amounts of wharrgarbl.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:01 AM on October 15, 2009


Mod note: take the dumbass talk out of here please, thanks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:31 AM on October 15, 2009


If someone thinks the work is racist, they should have the burden of proving it.

How does one prove an interpretation? Explain, yes, okay. But prove what is effectively a stronger class of opinion? I don't see how that's possible. Furthermore, I have said that this particular work didn't "sit right with me," and why that's the case. I have indicated my reasons for thinking the images are problematic. I have done so in the interests of offering one perspective in a conversation about these images. I haven't called the artist, the images, or anyone who interprets them differently, racist. I have, at most, indicated that those images provoke negative reactions from me, and why. I am not demanding that anyone else agree with me.

I think that a good faith interpretation of the work is indicated.

My read on the "good faith" argument is that it's meant to keep personal attacks and tempers down. It's a functional tactic meant to defuse defensiveness in conversations about difficult and painful social problems as they relate to individuals, and hopefully keep people open to learning about privilege and subtle forms of oppression. A work of art, however, does not have feelings that need to be considered. And as far as the artist's feelings are concerned, someone with the best of intentions can produce work that plays into racist tropes. I think a good faith reading of the artist's intentions in producing a work is a valuable approach, but I do not think that it precludes criticism of problematic works. If a work is problematic and nobody criticizes it, nobody learns anything useful from it.

I also think I've said everything I feel the need to say in this discussion, with the possible exception of:
MetaFilter: vast amounts of wharrgarbl.
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:07 AM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, you're one of those people who responds to discussions of white racism with "but black people are racist too!" Also one of those people who thinks "Just because I'm white and male doesn't mean I need to listen and learn, I'm smart and I know everything I need to know already." Got it.

I see. This in your considered opinion is a fair reading of what I wrote. Now that I have seen the worth of your opinion, this:

sets phasers on "Ignore"

does not seem like a tragic loss to the discussion.
posted by VikingSword at 8:22 AM on October 15, 2009


It's amazing how you use "fair reading." And by "amazing," I mean "wrong." Please stop trying to wield it as a weapon to shut down any interpretation you don't agree with.

And a loss of languagehat to a discussion is a tragic loss.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:30 AM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


EvaDestruction, thank you for your explanation.

I also think I've said everything I feel the need to say in this discussion[...]

That makes two of us.

I do feel that these discussions do clear up some misunderstandings, so I regard that as progress.
posted by VikingSword at 8:34 AM on October 15, 2009


It's amazing how you use "fair reading." And by "amazing," I mean "wrong." Please stop trying to wield it as a weapon to shut down any interpretation you don't agree with.

What I've written can be examined by anyone, and anyone can render their own opinion of what is a fair interpretation. I'm comfortable with that.

And a loss of languagehat to a discussion is a tragic loss.

And what languagehat has written here also stands as a record. Anyone can form a judgment of whether such contributions are of value.

That's true of any post here - including yours.

Having taken stock of your contribution, I don't feel there's any need for me to respond further - you can have the last word.
posted by VikingSword at 8:53 AM on October 15, 2009


VikingSword, I think the reason that you're coming off poorly here is that you are, probably unintentionally, refusing to have the kind of conversation everyone else wants to. You say, for example, We accept that truism in many areas, why not when it comes to the charge of racism? It is a serious charge, one that can (and has) ruined peoples lives and/or careers - sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly-- and without making any claims as to your moral decency or capacity for introspection, I'd like to point out that this sentiment is one that I've only ever heard from people on the power side of a power imbalance: guys in discussions of sexism, whites in discussions of racism, etc. I think it's a (perhaps understandably) defensive reaction, but here's the thing: When we talk about negative -isms, like racism, sexism, and so forth, it is not very useful to interpret these discussions as applying labels like 'racist' and 'sexist' to people. We're talking, for the most part, about systemic injustices, subconscious prejudices, and actions that can be very harmful without any intent to harm.

So when people say well-reasoned, intelligent things like anansi's Everything has context, and not all context is what the creator intends. The historical context of whites darkening themselves to appear as the dark "other" is fraught with problems. No matter what your intentions are this is something that must be grappled with and as a consequence makes any portrayal of this type problematic. As pervasive as racist attitudes in the western world are, I find it disingenuous to claim ignorance of the context into which blackface falls and your response is, essentially, 'Be careful when you call someone a racist,' you are misunderstanding the conversation. Someone's carelessness can contribute to the problem of racism, even if that person is not 'a racist'-- and boiling down every conversation about systemic injustices into worrying about whether any particular individuals are in and of themselves bad people is besides the point.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:58 AM on October 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


you can have the last word.

No, you can.

Wait.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:21 AM on October 15, 2009


shakespeherian, I'm trying to leave the thread, and you're pulling me back in by means of a reasoned post - that's not fair.

VikingSword, I think the reason that you're coming off poorly here is that you are, probably unintentionally, refusing to have the kind of conversation everyone else wants to.

"Everyone else"? I didn't realize my position was so unique, me against everyone in the thread. Of course, from my point of view, the only thing I'm refusing is a rush to judgment, even if there's a large ("everyone"!) group of people who "want to" have a discussion in which the conclusion is already assumed.

You say, for example, We accept that truism in many areas, why not when it comes to the charge of racism? It is a serious charge, one that can (and has) ruined peoples lives and/or careers - sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly-- and without making any claims as to your moral decency or capacity for introspection, I'd like to point out that this sentiment is one that I've only ever heard from people on the power side of a power imbalance[...]

You have "only ever heard from people on the power side of a power imbalance" point out instances of unfair accusations of racism? Can't anybody, no matter their position, perceive an unfair charge? Or is it the case that unfair charges of racism don't exist in this world, and therefore nobody can legitimately point them out? Neither position strikes me as plausible - am I misinterpreting you? Perhaps you see this as another instance of:

Someone's carelessness can contribute to the problem of racism, even if that person is not 'a racist'-- and boiling down every conversation about systemic injustices into worrying about whether any particular individuals are in and of themselves bad people is besides the point.

Which I can understand perfectly well, except these are two distinct issues. One, when charges are made against specific people. That I addressed above. I also understand that there is the separate issue of discussing "systemic injustices" apart from a specific individual - and this too, I am perfectly aware of - indeed, I addressed this repeatedly in this thread (I can cite, should you wish). I addressed systemic injustices as well - not by denying that they exist, but asking for evidence that they exist in a specific instance. Can someone be mistaken as to the presence of systemic injustice in any given context?

And it can hardly be claimed that the fpp was discussing "racism or systemic injustice" as it exists in the fashion industry generally (and I don't think anybody would claim that it is not widespread there). We were discussing a specific set of photos. And I didn't see either personal racial insensitivity on the part of the artist, or evidence that these photos are a part of the systemic injustice that (I agree) pervades the industry. Now, perhaps I was mistaken, not perceptive enough, missing the clear signs - all along I allowed that it was possible. I still do. What I therefore asked, is that since I can't see it, could someone please provide such clear evidence, based not on unsubstantiated claims, or highly uncharitable interpretations, but on a basic good faith viewing of the photos and context. This has not been forthcoming, and while I am very open to examining any such evidence, it does not imply abdication of reason - one still has to make one's case.
posted by VikingSword at 10:00 AM on October 15, 2009


Again, I would point you to anansi's well-reasoned comment, which includes: Everything has context, and not all context is what the creator intends. The historical context of whites darkening themselves to appear as the dark "other" is fraught with problems. No matter what your intentions are this is something that must be grappled with and as a consequence makes any portrayal of this type problematic. As pervasive as racist attitudes in the western world are, I find it disingenuous to claim ignorance of the context into which blackface falls.

What I have seen happen in this thread is this: A whole bunch o' people said 'I find this to be problematic, specifically as it relates to racism, either overt or unintentional.' Then you came along and said 'Please provide evidence based on good-faith viewing of the photos and context.' Then a bunch of people explained why they found the photos to be problematic, and then you said 'Please provide evidence based on good-faith viewing of the photos and context.'

What, exactly, are you looking for? What does 'evidence' look like when we are discussing how images are perceived in the larger context of Western society and its racial disparities? Does one need to cite case law?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:28 AM on October 15, 2009


THIS IS AN HONEST QUESTION.

Why couldn't the photographer have used a black model in this shoot if he wanted to take pictures of, well, a black woman?

(I know this sounds loaded. I mean this sincerely. Also: I have a fever and it may or may not have eaten my ability to think.)

I guess I'm just more baffled by what on earth is gained here by taking pictures of a white woman painted black - which makes this all ABOUT race - than if he had done the very same shoot with a black woman, which then would have made it about the photos and the clothes. While I'm in no position to say whether or not it's "racist," I will say that I think that it's playing the race card unnecessarily.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:29 AM on October 15, 2009


I didn't realize my position was so unique, me against everyone in the thread.

With all due respect, this is part of the problem.
posted by jessamyn at 11:03 AM on October 15, 2009


THIS IS AN HONEST QUESTION.

Why couldn't the photographer have used a black model in this shoot if he wanted to take pictures of, well, a black woman?

(I know this sounds loaded. I mean this sincerely. Also: I have a fever and it may or may not have eaten my ability to think.)

I guess I'm just more baffled by what on earth is gained here by taking pictures of a white woman painted black - which makes this all ABOUT race - than if he had done the very same shoot with a black woman, which then would have made it about the photos and the clothes. While I'm in no position to say whether or not it's "racist," I will say that I think that it's playing the race card unnecessarily.


Obviously, everyone will have their reaction to any work of art. In some cases, there will be broad agreement that a given work is racist (minstrel blackface shows). Sometimes there will be a disconnect between what the artist perhaps intended, and what a large part of the audience perceives (the Australian Jackson Five skit, which to my eyes too seems racist). And sometimes, people of good will simply don't see the work in the same way. This, I believe is what is happening here.

Now, my reaction - not any more valid than anyone else's - was that the artist intended to subject a viewer to a shift in perception. When I saw this model in that makeup, I saw her differently in a way that was distinct from the way I'd have seen her had she had, for example, green makeup. In the latter case I'd merely feel: that's X, but in green makeup. In the black makeup, a whole additional identity seems to spring up - and since you realize that it is the very same model, you also realize how much additional information we impute in that case. This would not work, if he had simply shot a white model, and then a black model.

Here is an example. Sometimes when I see a photo of a woman, I try to imagine how she would look as a man - which features need to change in which ways, to still have it be recognizably the same person, but of a different gender. Now, you could do that with makeup (or photoshop!), but it would miss the point to say, "well, why didn't you just grab a man and photograph him?".

As it happens, the artist also made a statement. It seems a pretty clumsy one (and was roundly denounced), but in whatever clumsy way, it seemed to confirm what I thought I saw: it was an attempt to shift perception. Perhaps I'm reading things into his statement, but regardless, this is how I took the work.

Now, blackface seems to me a different thing altogether, in this particular context.

That's my opinion. I'm sure other's have totally different takes on this.
posted by VikingSword at 11:11 AM on October 15, 2009


Why couldn't the photographer have used a black model in this shoot if he wanted to take pictures of, well, a black woman?

French Vogue probably gets a lot more press over this outrage than if he had just hired Naomi Campbell from the get go. I think they must have been aware that a White model done up to look Black wouldn't go over well. The photographer is American. Also, this is an editorial fashion shoot, so it's going to be more than just a bunch of pictures of clothing. The photographer is trying to tell some sort of story. It's not just advertising.

I think the bigger racism charge you can level against the magazine is the fact there apparently aren't any non-White models in the rest of the magazine either.
posted by chunking express at 11:23 AM on October 15, 2009


re: shakespherian and vikingsword. As I read through your discussion, I found myself nodding in agreement with each of your posts, even as you disagreed with each other!

My impression is that VikingSword doesn't consider the historical context of blackface to be something that "must be grappled with". (Correct me if I'm wrong.) So, he's asking for other evidence, since that evidence isn't relevant to him. And, I guess, there is no other evidence.

My personal opinion: The problem with blackface is that it is a mockery of a racial group. Who would protest a light-skinned actor darkening his face to play Othello, or a dark-skinned actor lightening her skin to play Desdemona? So, by itself, the makeup isn't enough. But, as stated by Astro Zombie, the African-looking clothing is pretty damning. If they wanted to make this a genuine portrayal, then they could have shot her in a dashiki or kanga... it would have been interesting if she was. (pwedza)

However, I think the photographer is just doing something fun, and it's not blackface, but simulacra, and it's hitting a nerve with some people: being unconcerned about..., or not even realizing the potential for misunderstanding, strikes me as an expression of privilege.

It's a funny way to end a charge. I agree that it's an expression of privilege, but a minor one. I don't think being unconcerned with these implications is such a big deal. Eventually, we have to free ourselves from the past so that we can have fun in the present. Who remembers that great Robert Fisk quotation: "....One of the problems, I think, is that we live through the old......."

Also, one thing I didn't like to see was this:
refusing to have the kind of conversation everyone else wants to
I think it's possible to make the same point without invoking the mob. There are enough pile-ons on metafilter as it is.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:33 AM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


What, exactly, are you looking for? What does 'evidence' look like when we are discussing how images are perceived in the larger context of Western society and its racial disparities? Does one need to cite case law?

See my answer to grapefruitmoon. I have an interpretation, which I give grounds for. If someone thinks that it is wrong, and I don't see the "systemic injustice" involved, I'd like to know what exactly makes my interpretation wrong - not claims that systemic injustice exists (we all agree), or that blackface is wrong (we all agree), or:

"Everything has context, and not all context is what the creator intends.

Yes.

The historical context of whites darkening themselves to appear as the dark "other" is fraught with problems.

Yes. But we are talking about this case. Are there problems with these photos? Which visual elements are objectionable here?

No matter what your intentions are this is something that must be grappled with[...]

Yes. But from that it does not follow that:

[...] and as a consequence makes any portrayal of this type problematic.

Any use of black make up is automatically problematic? This seems absurd. If not that, then what? Specifically. And still: how has this artist been unsuccessfully grappling with these issues? Since not everyone sees the alleged failures, it cannot be a universal or obvious truth. And if so, can we have a list of specific visual elements which show this failure. Because just using black makeup on a white model is not going to pass the smell test as "evidence" that something nefarious is going on.

As pervasive as racist attitudes in the western world are, I find it disingenuous to claim ignorance of the context into which blackface falls."

There are pervasive racist attitudes in the western world. What reasonable person would claim ignorance of it, or the evil history of blackface? But is this work an instance of the pervasive racist attitudes involving blackface?

I have seen the accusations, I have not seen specific visual elements that prove these photos are part of pervasive racist attitudes involving blackface.
posted by VikingSword at 11:38 AM on October 15, 2009


Whenever I see stuff like this, I can't help but think it could've been avoided if some dude had told the artist "I see what you're trying to do, but there's a very good chance people are going to be pissed off when they see this."

I could totally be that dude.
posted by electroboy at 12:32 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


VikingSword: Any use of black make up is automatically problematic?

Yes.

It is entirely possible to use this reality in an attempt to deconstruct the problem, but that does not render it problem-free. And the context of the industry, the magazine, and even the rest of the photo shoot do not lead me to believe that this is supposed to be a satirical critique of cultural perception and racial attitudes.

The 'specific visual elements that prove these photos are part of pervasive racist attitudes involving blackface' are: the white woman and the blackface. It doesn't help, as Astro Zombie points out, that she is wearing African-looking clothing in several of the photos.

Look at the rest of the photos: they are fashion photos of a model with an orange wig, or dried white paint, or a football. This is not a context in which an artist is asking us to consider what preconceptions we bring to our interaction with images of beauty. This argument might hold water if there were photos of the model looking like a man, or dressed as an Eskimo, or wearing bib overalls and sitting on a tractor. Instead the context leads me to believe that the blackface photos are there for the same reason the rest of the photos are there: they look exotic and mysterious and risque. But if black skin is presented as mysterious and intriguing in the same way as cracking white facepaint and a chain around one's throat, I don't think it's anything but Orientalism.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:44 PM on October 15, 2009


Thank you shakespeherian, that was genuinely helpful.

Any use of black make up is automatically problematic?

Yes.


This I think says it all. It's a gap in perception that's unbridgeable. If indeed that's the view some people have, then I have no common ground with that person on this particular point. I can only say, that just as much as it perhaps seems obvious to them, to me, it seems absurd.

FWIW, my reasoning is that such absolutist position is untenable and there must be some circumstances where black make up on a white person is not problematic (for example a model uses camouflage as a soldier would, and a portrait shows a white camouflaged soldier). And the moment you make an exception for this context, all of a sudden the absolutist statement "any use of black makeup on a white mode is problematic" falls apart - because if there is this exception, then there is a million others, and the door is wide open. I try to see it as nuanced in that black makeup (+ lips, eyes etc.)=blackface (Australian skit), but black make up is not automatically problematic - it does become problematic when you start making up eyes, lips and other signifiers of blackface.

However, I do acknowledge that if someone holds an absolutist position, that in a set of photos regardless of anything else, the 'specific visual elements that prove these photos are part of pervasive racist attitudes involving blackface' are: white woman and black makeup (where all black makeup regardless of other features such as lips, eyes etc. all equals blackface) - then indeed by that definition these photos are problematic. I happen to think this definition absurd, but everyone will have their own opinion. I just can't see all black makeup on a white person as blackface.

The progress here, from my personal point of view - and thank you for that - is that now I understand the grounds for this opinion.

This argument might hold water if there were photos of the model looking like a man, or dressed as an Eskimo, or wearing bib overalls and sitting on a tractor. Instead the context leads me to believe that the blackface photos are there for the same reason the rest of the photos are there: they look exotic and mysterious and risque. But if black skin is presented as mysterious and intriguing in the same way as cracking white facepaint and a chain around one's throat, I don't think it's anything but Orientalism.

I guess my perceptions are just different, because to me these photos do function as a way of seeing someone in a variety of contexts, and not as a way to exoticise someone based on race. People see things differently. That said, I don't see these as especially good or particularly striking purely on artistic grounds - even if I don't see the nefarious political context (and full disclosure: many moons ago, I did work as a fashion photographer, though pretty briefly and claim no special insight into the field).

Again, thank you, it's been interesting.

Btw. I was recently in Berlin and visited the Helmut Newton museum. Ouch! I shudder to think what could be said about the work there! Yes, I now have a whoooole new perspective.
posted by VikingSword at 1:22 PM on October 15, 2009


I don't think it's anything but Orientalism.

Well I'll probably be pilloried for this, but...

I think that there's a difference of degree in the racism that is Orientalism and the racism that has "No Coloreds Allowed" signs hanging in diners. The racism that pervades French Vogue on a daily basis is far worse that whatever orientalist influences the photographer has going on here (assuming one agrees that's what it is - probably some people will disagree that it's orientalism).
posted by GuyZero at 1:31 PM on October 15, 2009


probably some people will disagree that it's orientalism
I'm genuinely having trouble seeing this allegedly 'African' (an oddly broad-brush notion in itself) costume.
The only possible item I can see is the head-dress in one of the shots republished on the Huffington Post. Given the tunic the model's wearing in that and the way it fastens my first though was Russia or Eastern Europe and some sort of Orthodox cleric's head-gear. Now that people raise the possibility, I can see how it might be intended to resemble something from one of the North African nations or maybe the Ethiopian Coptic church. But aside from that the rest seems more in the tradition of European masquerade and commedia dell'arte - the feathers, the clown-like image with the model in cracking white pancake etc.
posted by Abiezer at 1:51 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the bigger racism charge you can level against the magazine is the fact there apparently aren't any non-White models in the rest of the magazine either.

Oh, I definitely agree with that. Definitely.

If the photographer intended to draw attention to this in a backhanded way - "Oh, I HAD to use a white model because there AREN'T any black models!"that would have been interesting, but somehow I doubt that's what he was going for. But really, even considering that this is an editorial shoot, I'm puzzled by this choice. I appreciate reading other people's interpretations, and I guess I can kind of get the "looking at the model differently" bit - but in general, I think there are better ways that the same statement could have been made (i.e., painting the model green or some other non-human-race-that-already-exists color), which brings me back to the fact that the photographer is in this way intentionally playing the race card.

And I'm still wondering why. Which isn't something that MetaFilter can explain, and yeah, an artist statement would shed some light onto it, but obviously he wants us to draw our own conclusions.

With the information I have, I'm going to say it's a lazy attempt to try and portray a "post-racial" kind of world in which anyone can embody any race. That's my generous reading of it, and I'm emphasizing the key word LAZY here. Which goes with what electroboy is saying:

Whenever I see stuff like this, I can't help but think it could've been avoided if some dude had told the artist "I see what you're trying to do, but there's a very good chance people are going to be pissed off when they see this."

I could totally be that dude.


Yeah, you totally should have been there.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:13 PM on October 15, 2009


there's a very good chance people are going to be pissed off when they see this.

Because artists are totally afraid of pissing people off, that's for sure.
posted by GuyZero at 2:24 PM on October 15, 2009


Because artists are totally afraid of pissing people off, that's for sure.

The ones that want to be hired for big ad campaigns are.
posted by electroboy at 3:04 PM on October 15, 2009


Because artists are totally afraid of pissing people off, that's for sure.

True, he could have realized it was going to piss people off and done it anyway. But usually artists who want to make people mad on purpose aren't putting their work in Vogue, where the focus is on selling more copies of Vogue.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:16 PM on October 15, 2009


Pursuant to what was mentioned earlier, there are plenty of people who dislike Vogue's very existence. Vogue can play to their audience and upset their non-audience at the same time. I find People one of the most loathsome publications, ever, but I think what I hate about it is what makes everyone else buy it.
posted by GuyZero at 3:30 PM on October 15, 2009


I'm pretty sure lots of people buying French Vogue don't give a fuck about this issue. And, perhaps this month, plenty of people who don't buy French Vogue will have paid it more attention than they normally do.

People haven't been boycotting the magazine for being crazy white for the past X number of years. I doubt they are going to start over one editorial they don't like.
posted by chunking express at 4:58 AM on October 16, 2009


I can't help but thinking if they had gone for actual black makeup, as in, not one of the colors of African skin, but rather the color of patent leather, this would have been less controversial.
posted by electroboy at 7:35 AM on October 16, 2009


This sort of thing has also come up recently in some new work from Pieter Hugo. (There is a fine-art schlong, so this is probably NSFW.)
posted by chunking express at 8:56 AM on October 16, 2009


Not Blackface, but instead exotic images of Africans.
posted by chunking express at 9:09 AM on October 16, 2009


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