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Posts Tagged ‘racism’

Everyone seems to be talking about Crystal Renn these days. The New York Times claims she’s “The Triumph of the Size 12s.” Jezebel says she’s not. And commenters think that having Crystal Renn in 8 page photoshoots is encouraging obesity. So here’s my take.

Photographers and Designers told Crystal Renn she was too fat, now they tell her she’s too skinny. I don’t understand why we feel the need to regulate Crystal Renn’s weight. If they’re looking for a different look, why not find a different person? People are constantly surprised that Crystal Renn doesn’t look fat, but why are we so surprised? According to the measurements I’ve found on the internet it would appear Renn’s BMI puts her in the “normal range” not “overweight” and no not “obese” and no not “morbidly obese,” and we already know BMI is kinda bullshit. So what’s with this freak-out-she’s-encouraging-obesity bullshit?

This to me speaks a lot to the way we think about fat. We tend to think in extremely polarized terms. A person is either fat and thus lazy, ugly, gross, insert-negative-adjective-here, or they are not fat, and thus not those things. This to me is pretty apparent in how clothes are organized. I’m an in-betweenie of sorts on the fat spectrum of clothing sizes. I can range anywhere from a 12 to a 16, depending on the make and cut and what part of my body we are fitting. What’s interesting of course is that the 12s are sold in “normal stores” and the 16s are sold in “plus size stores.”  The clothes that are sold in a size 12 are still flattering, they’re “in,” but the second you get into the 16s you go to ponchos and moo-moos and weird drape-y things in horrible giant prints. I don’t really understand why designers seem to give up the second you get above a 14. Folks just need an inch here or there, and excuse me for being so blunt by why the hell is 14 the size in between “normal clothes” and “plus size clothes” when that is the size the average American woman wears? 14 should be the size we design all clothes around and should be the samples runway models wear–not supposed “plus size models.”

Another thing I’m sort of disturbed by is this whole sexualization and fetishization over the white skin of some “plus sized” models like in Renn’s 8 page spread in Glamour, “You’d Look Even Better Naked” or in the recent “plus size issue” of V magazine. I don’t claim to know why plus size models always have to have white skin and lose their clothes for their photoshoots, but it’s making me wonder. Jezebel tries to put a finger on it in their “So, Why Are Plus-Size Models So Often Naked, Anyway?

…This is as good a time as any to address the fact that a large number of plus-size shoots feature nudity. Of course, so do many fashion shoots with straight-size models: but because as a culture we associate larger women’s bodies with different meanings than smaller women’s bodies, photographing a plus-size model naked can have very different connotations. Eroticizing a plus-size model is a pretty easy, and in some ways predictable, choice. Do the images rely on the old trope of the voluptuous woman as sexually salacious? Is it just that the stylist couldn’t (or couldn’t be bothered) to pull clothes in the right sizes?

Personally, I’m guessing there are probably many reasons for this focus on naked white plus size models. One is that I don’t think there are enough awesome clothes made and sold for women of a certain size for which the models can model which I’ve already addressed. And secondly, I think when we add the fact that these women are larger than most models, I think photographers don’t know what to do. We’ve already polarized folks into fat and not fat, good and not good. So inorder to demonstrate that “hey she’s not all those bad things we associate with fat”, they rely more heavily on her female-ness, and her white-ness. Instead of showing actual diverse images of beauty, we just amp up old ideas of about Snow White being the fairest lady of them all who spends her life waiting for strange men in the woods.

If you’re looking for actual diversity in fashion, check out the fatshionista community which describes itself as ” a diverse fat-positive, anti-racist, disabled-friendly, multi-gendered, queer-flavored, politically-engaged community, open to everyone” They’re pretty rad and frankly more useful than any fashion mag I’ve ever seen since it’s real clothes worn by real folks.

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I think I’ve found another influential form of bigotry in my history. Were y’all raised with To Kill A Mockingbird in your lives? I read that book when I was younger and saw the movie. It was one of the first books that challenged me to have morals. In case y’all aren’t familiar with it the basic premise of the story is that a disabled black man, Tom Robinson, is accused of rape by a lower class white woman, Mayella Ewell. The main character is Scout, the daughter of the white, middle class lawyer, Atticus finch, who defends the black man in court. Through the story we learn that the woman accusing is lying, pressured by her essentially evil father, Bob Ewell. The moral of the story is that Atticus is the best man ever for defending the poor black people that no one will defend from the awful poor white man.

In the same way that PETA uses sexism to promote vegetarianism, To Kill A Mockingbird uses victim-blaming and classism (and racism?) to combat racism. I have NEVER witnessed in my life a woman falsely accusing a man of sexual assault… it’s hard enough to prove it as it is, it’s not like our legal system works in victims’ favor in the first place… AND YET  my dad and so many people I know immediately jump to accusing a woman for her own rape. This movie, I am sure, planted that seed in many people’s minds.

In To Kill A Mockingbird I see the danger of bringing up “moral issues”. I saw myself loving this story for its narrative about a person who defends the underdog and attributing much of my early formed morals to it… and now I see how the Ewells, the bad guys, just happen to be working class, how Atticus fits the paternalistic white man saving the poor [racial minority] folk archetype told again and again (see Avatar, Pocahontas, Fern Gully…), how the accusation of rape happens to portrayed as something only an evil, conniving person could muster… And yet it’s still one of those movies put on a pedestal as one of “the greatest”.

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The racial politics of Avatar

If Jake’s attraction is primarily sexual, it has to be interpreted through the historical White fetishization of women of color. From the slave masters’ midnight visits to the contemporary exoticization of Asian and Black female sexuality, women of color have served as the leading figures of White sexual fantasies.  In this context, when Jake Sees Neytiri (undeniably, a woman of color), how do we know that he isn’t just seeing a hypersexual body that he can use for his own pleasure?

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Sixteen Candles

A few nights ago I sat down with my whole family to watch a movie: Sixteen Candles directed by John Hughes (who also gave us Home Alone and the Breakfast Club)

I don’t know what it was about this PG rated “sweet and funny” (Roger Ebert) teen classic; maybe it was the fact that when it came time for “the geek” to rape the beautiful, passed out prom queen, nobody gave it a second thought.  That when the “jock but actually a really nice guy” character says “I can get a piece of ass anytime I want. Shit, I’ve got Caroline in the bedroom right now, passed out cold. I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to,” it’s taken as a sign of his great maturity and sweetness that he doesn’t in fact violate her “ten different ways”  …rather than a sign that he isn’t a rapist and a criminal. That aforementioned Carolina clearly deserves to be raped, after all, she’s a beautiful cheerleader, and it’s about time the tables turned!

I won’t even go into the racism; suffice to say there is a foreign exchange student from China named Long Duck Dong.

If this is a PG rated classic, the kind of movie we show to twelve year olds, the kind of movie a whole family watches together on thanksgiving, the kind of sweet nostalgic movie taken as the antithesis of the violent, misogynistic, torture porn and regular porn and all the other garbage my mom finds so offensive…and it’s blatantly endorsing sexual abuse.

Well, I guess I already knew we lived in a rape culture…

Thoughts?

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Kristoff wrote a column this Thursday that addressed a very serious issue. It’s a NYT column about how rape kits often don’t get tested. I was glad he pointed out things, and this issue that is rarely addressed.

That said it weirded me out when he ended the piece with:

It’s what we might expect in Afghanistan, not in the United States.

WTF is that? Not that I don’t expect these sorts of xenophobic, warhawking, Orientalist comments. Because I do– I just expect them to be more subtle. And no one seems to call Kristoff out on this racist bullshit. So Kristoff, I’m calling you out:

That quip was unneccessary. It was racist. It was Orientalist. It is totally part of a larger project to re-demonize Afghanistan. And it shouldn’t have been at the end of your column. The beginning of your column. Or the middle of your column. Thanks for being an ass.

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So recently I went to this learn how to network post graduation thing. I won’t say exactly who it was I talked to because I don’t want to jeopardize my career in case someone wants to find this and use it against me. It was a group of older women. The older women at my table (and all the other tables that I could see) were both white. The students at my table, including me, were all South and East Asian.

The younger lady at our table talked about how women have historically been bad at networking. I was like whaa? She clarified by saying that women are better at networking as mothers, not as employees. I was like oh. It kind of made sense. American women didn’t even used to be employees, as in America, it used to be culturally unacceptable until very recently for women to have jobs. So it makes sense that American women, as a group, could potentially be lacking in the kind of assertiveness that is required for successful professional networking. An interesting theory, at least.

The older lady, more authoritative, agreed with her peer. She said something to the effect of, “Yes, that’s true. Especially when you come from a certain country, where if you’re a woman, you don’t just go up to a person and say hello, you don’t just do that.” She went on to look at the student to her left, who had a Vietnamese accent, and nodded understandably at her.

At the end of the meeting, I decided that I really liked both these women who were helping us learn how to network. Overall, they seemed like good people to get to know. But at the time of the above little chat about the inability of women from “certain countries” to network, I felt offended.

Is that reasonable? Does it make sense for me to be annoyed at this white woman for pointing out what she sees to be the truth? And isn’t it kind of the truth, in objective terms? That women from South and East Asian countries aren’t given the latitude to be bold in professional settings? Was this lady being racist, in talking about the passivity of Asian women? Part of me is saying “Yes” and the other is saying “No.”

Furthermore, am I being racist to readily accept that women from South and East Asian countries are forced to assume less-than-assertive roles in their societies’ workplace? I lived in India for 13 years and what I saw completely validates her statement. Should I hold my horses before I extend this observation to large, heterogeneous parts of the rest of the world? Are “Asian” women, whatever that means, actually not passive? Is it anti-feminist to think of them as passive? How is “passive” being constructed in this case?

What is really complicating the picture here? I am so confused. Readers, and I know there are millions of you, feel free to chime in with insights.

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three cheers for eve ensler?

lucie this may be of particular interest to you

i know that we are trying to be more congenial on this blog but if people want to have long debates about this please email me. and if you dont know what my email address is, i guess ask someone who might? (sarah) i dont wanna post it here.

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