Hong Kong, biopsy, whatever – There isn’t any really valid excuse for my lag on responding to recent minority in the media issues, because these thoughts are constantly running through my head and it was simply my fault that I didn’t take the time to write about them. Since I already established that I have no excuses, let’s just cut to the chase.
Really amazing “dialogue” was captured by Jezebel in response to Vanity Fair being called out for, for…for being, well, inexcusably “fair.”
After we and Yahoo’s Shine site (among others) criticized the lack of diversity in Vanity Fair‘s “Young Hollywood” issue, Internet commenters helpfully stepped up to remind us that Vanity Fair is for white people, and we’d better just accept it.
That Vanity Fair celebrated an all-White cover of Hollywood starlets is no surprise. I’m never surprised by these things. My neck just gets sore from shaking my head so much. Jezebel intern Anna rounded up a very telling group of comments that make me feel…invisible, whiny, bad, hated, oppressed…They make me feel shitty and dismissed. Read on, as I and my kind are reminded by readers of Shine that our feelings are unwarranted:
At a loss for examples of supposed discrimination against whites, commenters took aim at magazines geared to people of color. Says a commenter who goes by “tired of the nonsense…….,”
I’ve often thought Ebony magazine lacked a certain diversity. Latina magazine is not doing so hot there either…..
Commenter Douglas concurs:
Fair fair, Does NAACP publications show white folks or anyone other than their ethnicity? Do Latino mags show other than their own either?
Of course, here commenters are referencing publications created for specific racial groups, often in response to the total underrepresentation of said groups in places like Vanity Fair. But according to several wise thinkers, the latter really isn’t a problem. Says stumper13,
wait a minute! who says there has to be a black, hispanic, asian or ne other race? they own the mag?
ever seen ebony put a white n their mag?
grow up people!
See, black people have “their mag” and white people have theirs (coincidentally, the one that gets to claim to be “mainstream”). Separate but equal! And if we hadn’t gotten the message clearly enough, a “tipster” emailed it to us:
You need to get over yourself,maybe we don`t want to see fat ugly black women on the cover,maybe white people want to see pretty young white girls on OUR covers.Don`t force it !
So loaded with hate. Perhaps it was necessary that I not immediately address those words. Get into the issue of color, and how the shit hits the fan. Emotions fly whenever you introduce the topic of identity to people who’ve never really looked into their own. Sometimes I wanna retort, “Look, it’s not my problem you don’t have any cultural pride,” but to do so would be reactionary. At the heart of it, their tones often imply that they feel threatened.
Never mind that today’s up-and-coming actresses’ fame is fundamentally based on a singular image of beauty and talent. Never mind that their ability to fit predefined molds with unattainable standards is subliminally informed by institutional and socialized racism, jingoism, hegemony, xenophobia, and bigotry. (I’m not just throwing those words out; they mean different things.) These are the same arguments I have against the next on my boycott list, Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s not that there are no women of color pursuing acting, singing, dancing, or writing. It’s not that there are no women of color kicking ass in acting, singing, dancing, or writing. It’s that the covert movers and pushers of Hollywood and New York publishing are stuck in their old ways, swayed by corporate politics, and obsessed with their own individual ulterior motives. The dominantly Aryan Hollywood hierarchy remains true because it ultimately cannot imagine itself in any other way. It is blind and ignorant to any other possibility.
I tried to look at those Shine readers’ comments from an objective point of view, and even the most amateur Speech and Debate Club member should be able to pick apart that those comments’ arguments are founded on ill-chosen examples. Umm, I’m pretty sure Ebony and Latina (Notice no one names any Asian American magazines!) don’t feature White people because White people don’t identify as Black or Latina. Minority magazines were founded to reverse the situation of lack of representation, for minorities to control their own minorities’ images and take on misrepresentation head-on.
These minority culture rags are interdisciplinary, just like culture is. Our own cultures define us in every aspect of our lives, so one should expect publications based on cultural identity to be interdisciplinary. Thus Minority Mag Monthly (hypothetical) ought to be able to celebrate minority actors, minority authors, minority films, and minority music, all in one place.
Fashion and lifestyle magazines are topic-specific, not based on a people. They are based on what designs are interesting, what furniture you should buy, and who you should idolize. Though I don’t subscribe to them, I check in on their spreads every once in a while, because hey – I would like to know what designs are interesting, what furniture I should buy, and who I should idolize.
The “who” part is where I usually quickly toss the magazine away, though. The “who” is very often a person whose image I cannot relate to. It irks me how “worldly” these fashion/lifestyle mags purport themselves to be, like the more global you are, the more you belong to an upper echelon of consumers. And yet, when it comes to the models they choose and the celebrities they features, they are so often the White and the whitewashed. So myopic. Minority magazines are diverse in their article topics. Fashion magazines should be diverse in the people they cover.
Also frustrating is when minority advocates (who don’t have to be minorities themselves!) make efforts to put minorities in the limelight, but then, they can’t. Project Runway alum Daniel Vosovic wanted an all-Asian cast for his New York Fashion Week show, but he had a hard time getting fifteen Asian girls. Well, Daniel, welcome to the hurdle of minorities breaking into an industry hard-set in its narrow-minded ways. As evidenced by Vosovic’s struggle, it isn’t that people aren’t trying. It’s that there is an invisible barrier in place. Someone is saying “No.” People are being denied.
Throughout all of Fashion Week itself, only 16% of the models were of color. You really just gotta wonder why 84% of the same population keeps popping up for an industry that constantly devotes itself to the exotic and what has never been seen.
Of course, it’s erroneous to believe that just because you’re a starlet and you’ve “made it” that you actually have any talent to speak of, but it does say a lot about the minds manning the publicity machines and who values who.
Like my White male friend BenMo says,
I like white chicks as much as the next guy. But come… can a brother get some Neapolitan in his starlets.
It isn’t a “liberal” opinion that diversity should be reflected in our most publicized industries. It shouldn’t be such an outlandish or radical thing as the world takes it to be.