Tuesday, 8 February 2011

RACIST OR RACY?


SINEM IN THE FAB HOUSE!



I feel like I am squatting on Nicola and Lara's blog, but I just had to put pen to paper cursor to white box. Looking through one of my favourite fashion blogs Fashion Gone Rogue for some inspiration tonight, I came across this February/March Russh cover with Delfine Bafort styled by Stevie Dance and photographed by Will Davidson. At first, the thumbnail struck me as merely interesting, but it wasn't till I clicked on it to enlarge the image that it hit me as a little more outrageous than I initially thought... I started to bother me... 

Have a look. What do you see? 

White female model in a white dress - looking slightly vampish, slightly disengages from the men in the picture. 

Black male models - with facial expressions and body language all connoting one single drive: Lust. 

The cover line: One for All.

Really?

Not only did this distasteful cover and what I feel is the over-sexualisation of black (male) models disturb me, it also reminded me of another editorial in another Caucasian magazine not too long ago: "Start me Up" editorial  with Alessandra Ambrosio, Rob Evans and TaeJahn Taylor photographed by Matthias Vriens-McGrath for January/February issue of Numero Tokyo. 




Hmmmm... Let's see:

White female model treading the line between vampish and aloof? Check.

Black male models dressed in what resembles fetish loincloths? Check.

An all too obvious symbol of subservience in the form of a leash around the black model's neck? Check.

Over-sexualisation of 'the other'? Check. 

Some may think I am overreacting - being what my country's people would phrase as "more royalist than the royals" - but such editorials do really make me wonder if we have as humanity moved on at all from idiotic stereotypes about race and sexuality - or are we just imposing them in all the more distasteful ways in the name of art? 

Why is it that all too often when you spot a black male face in the white-washed fashion mags, it appears in an oversexualised form? Why is it that an editorial with a white female model and a black female model cannot be of a portrayal of equals? Or is the fear of - or perhaps fascination - with a lily-white yet vampish Desdemona and her 'demonic' lover, 'the other' Othello still so strong in the communal subconscious? 

What are your thought? Racist or racy?




11 comments:

  1. Very well said, Sinem. Racist for sure. Latent Orientalism at its best or rather worst.

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  2. I'll play devil's advocate.

    I think the magazine is using sex to sell, but it is both ways.
    In all the images, while the men are objectified/fetishized, they are not passive (even the one with the leash can be viewed apropos of a Doberman with a leash). The female in the second image is extremely fetishised, apropos of Sacher-Masoch's Wanda, I would argue that the net dress and fur emphasize this.
    In the final two images, there is a mix of vulnerability and seduction both females are 'open', we can argue that there is a negotiation here.
    I think that in the final analysis, there is a combination of homo-eroticism and provocation(the boys embrace half-nude in nothing but soft black boots and underwear)....

    certainly racy, nothing racist here

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  3. @beatific - Thank you indeed, Beatific. 'Latent Orientalism' definitely, 'Latent Africanism' perhaps?

    Sinem

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  4. @Latromante, I hear you. I also understand you point about the vulnerability the editorial images touch upon - even the cover, by the way; with 'One for all' and its not to discrete connotations of gang bang at worst, or orgy at best.

    Yet is it acceptable to play on race in order to achieve racy in this day and age? Does 'interracial' have to be used in images laden/latent with sexual overtones of prey and predator?

    Sinem

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  5. I think what is at issue here is the aesthetics of the virile 'hard body', and in this case it happens to be black.

    I dont think its prey and predator as such, I think its a performance, its a staging which appeals to various sexualities. I'm sure you will agree that these images exclude the 'white' male. Is it enough then to say that there is an overriding feminist agenda which wages war against the white male by superimposing him with a subversive other? I doubt that - He would then complain about being marginalised in the sexual arena.
    And yes, sex sells. While some may find this distasteful, we are all commodified in different ways by the mechanisms of capital. As such, the staging of sex is not so different from the staging of the suit.
    In a sense, my war against racism is to divert the gaze, in so doing, the racial agenda if it indeed exists within this arena is weakened.

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  6. I am sorry, but as a white woman in a relationship with a black man, what i see here is beyond asthetics. No one can tell me there is no allusion - velied or not - to a not so distant past where black males were seen to be the 'monstrous other', a 'sexual deviant' fit to be chained - whether it be in Shakespeare's London or Frederick Douglas' Deep South...

    The exclusion of the white male is not to the advantage of the black male either; more to its detriment. Black man's pretend lust here is all the conspicuous by the absence of the white man.

    You've got me wrong; it is not the sex I find distasteful in this image - Don't forget I do nude photography - but the portrayal of archaic misconceptions of race and interracial relationships - especially ones between a white woman and a black man.

    Sinem

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  7. Sin, I think its a deliberate provocation. That picture really reminds me of Venus in Furs - pure contractual performance, instigated by the male.

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  8. iatromante - Maybe you should consider writing an article? There you are, just an idea ;)

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  9. it took me a bit to begin to brush off bigotry in its various forms, and this got me thinking loads abut the objectification of people. at some point woman was the object, then with the colonial enterprise the savage male became the object, now we've entered a more neutral place where the object/fetish has taken over (Baudrillard), so it becomes a question of commodities (what 'other' or collage of 'others' sells best?). and thats where the provocation begins, because it is outright confrontation, which reads different, depending on who holds the gaze

    thanks for the offer, thats really an honour

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  10. straight racist in my opinion.

    all it does is perpetuate myths of the oversexed black male, only this time instead of this being the unruly buck that is going to rape the white woman, this agressive animal has been tamed by the white woman, available for her own kinky and exotic fantasies. boo. get outta here.

    maybe the authors didn't set out to perpetuate racist myths but their minds are quite clearly colonized. they didn't just happen to put black males models in there...they put them there for a reason, they wanted a tension, a drama and that is what their minds conjured up.

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  11. Jendella, Thank you for your comment. You sound as offended as I feel. When is this ever going to end, you reckon? Sinem

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