the magazine of the columbia daily spectator
May 1 2013
Mmm, baby: The very best in food porn
April 27 2013
Alternatives to Butler
April 19 2013
Red Bull and relaxation
April 17 2013
Back to the kitchen: A short journey through sexist pop culture
April 12 2013
Bikinis and big booties, y’all
April 8 2013
Azealia Banks Did What?
April 5 2013
More stories from Columbia’s military veterans
April 3 2013
Sing, O Muse, of some sappy story
April 1 2013
Missed the Cliterary Open Mic? Check out the highlights here
March 29 2013
Sex & Low Beach
So, I was doing my daily Style.com stalking of the foreign fashion weeks on Sunday night (it’s a lifestyle choice), and after catching up on Marni and Armani, I got around to the Dolce & Gabbana slides. Their show was characteristically indulgent—a whopping 86 looks unabashedly inspired by mid-century Italian kitsch. Still, I was actually kind of feeling it, until something very ugly showed up about a third of the way through: the first of 10 looks that featured a busy print with a prominent, blackface-y, black face staring out from between some fruits and flowers. Apparently the image came from a set of vintage Sicilian plates and vases, in keeping with the collection’s stated theme. But, like, those were some racist plates and vases, and they kind of still are.
Seriously, Domenico and Stefano: did you think that every wacky, intensely Othering image of a black person suddenly became inoffensive the moment Obama was elected president—the same day we all magically became post-racial? Or was that last week, when Joan Smalls was ranked #1 on Models.com? You can’t just reproduce that kind of historical hate and get away with calling it kitschy or vintage in your show notes.
Please, can racism not be one of those cultural “looks” that people are allowed to revive temporarily, like bellbottoms or mod stripes? Like not even in a self-aware way? Like, “OMG, this season we’re seeing a micro-trend of late-’40s- early-’50s-retro-Jim-Crow chic. Capital-M Major. To die. Next level.” Pllllleeeaaseee no.
Every time we ironically appropriate racism, we imply that it’s far enough away from reality to be no longer painful—which is the kind of wishful thinking that drives a lot of people to do it (e.g., “Racism is a distant cultural relic as long as I treat it like one, right?” or, better yet, “I’m not racist as long as I act like it, I hope”). If you haven’t heard yet, that’s actually not true! Some people even say racism is still around today, lurking in the shadows; if you turn off the lights in your bathroom and say its name into the mirror three times, it will come and get you.
What’s even scarier is that no one—not the New York Times, not Vogue, not Style.com— even mentioned the recurring image at the Dolce show in their reviews. Worse yet, it was the only black face on the runway; not a single black model was cast. That’s usually not even newsworthy, but it only made the mishandled display of privilege more glaring.
Would women of color even want to wear this callous reminder of prejudices past (and still very present)? Regardless, they’d be the only ones with the right to do so. Maybe they’d pair it with the “Slave Earrings” that Vogue Italia was pushing around this time last year—or are those not in style anymore?
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