Hello Fabulously Feminist readers. My name is Akiko and I’m new here. I’ve been thinking for a while about what to write about and how to introduce myself to you, I even debated whether to write at all. I’m a feminist, of course but what does that even mean? Are there still people, still women who are against feminism? What year is it? Do we still have to talk about these things? The obvious albeit regrettable answer is YES. And the reason I’m here is the same reason that ironically kept me out of conversations about feminism when I was younger. I’ve decided to write because I don’t know anybody like me who does this. I’m a black woman, dealing with chronic illness, raised by a single mother in not exactly middle class situation. Beyond that I’m an artist, a writer? And a recklessly curious person trying to make sense of this thing called life. *cue the doves*
As far as content, here I’ll be discussing issues that I encounter in my day to day either out in the world, in the pages of books and magazines, or in the never ending rabbit hole of the internet. This time I wanted to start with something semi light hearted and ridiculous but I promise I have a point so stay with me.
Earlier this month Vogue published an online article about “us” (the fashion world? American pop culture? People exclusively living under rocks?) officially being in the age of the “Big Booty.” No, No! Don’t click away I swear I have a point!
The article itself has already been torn apart by so many people including a rather hilarious spree of tweets under the tag #voguearticles that show exactly how out of touch and laughable the content was. I will spare you all the repetition but basically what it said was, “big butts are now officially sexy, trend brought to you by JLo, Rose McGowan, Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus (?),footnotes for Beyonce, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna, embrace your body type if you are otherwise still good looking and suitable for fashion.” While this article is cringe worthy it is a PERFECT specimen to dissect with the shining blade of critical thinking.
Let’s look at the source; Vogue is a magazine with a huge readership online and in print whose bread and butter is ADVERTISING. So what are they trying to sell us? Rather ungracefully, its JLo, her new single and video. I’m not one to come between somebody and their paycheck, by all means get those coins, my problem is not the what here but the how. Yes, Jennifer Lopez has a big booty, yes she has a song about it with another lady with a big booty and I’m sure they have spent a lot of money on publicity but to imply that she has pioneered round rumps when Black and Latino cultures have embraced it since basically the beginning of time is fucking insane. More than insane it’s racist!
What we have here is a textbook example of misogynoir; The intersection of racism and sexism that often creates a dichotomy between white women and black women with other women of color falling somewhere in the middle. I would argue that the trend here is NOT big butts but the overwhelming acceptance of black features and trends when they appear on white or white passing bodies. (What do I mean by white passing? Why are Jennifer’s movie parents NEVER POC?) You would think that a magazine commenting on contemporary culture and supposedly carrying the diversity torch would have the foresight to brainstorm a bit before putting out something this ridiculous. People are talking about it, but only really to mock the parties responsible. Was this really the best way to promote the video? By pretending women haven’t existed outside of the size zero lilly white mold since forever? I think not.
This narrow point of view is so telling about the attitude of the magazine and the writer but what I really want you to consider here is audience. What demographic could possibly be under-exposed to and only recently embracing the prevalence of ass? White women. Who has this article focused on? White women. Who wrote this article? A white woman. Why did I and so many other people find this article utterly ridiculous? We do not live in a world of only white women! We do actually exist in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society that is more connected now than ever before and yet the essence of this article like many concerning women in general remains oh so pasty. This is exactly why we need to be critical of the culture we consume, it’s easy to call things problematic in the abstract but almost impossible to make a change without digging to the underlying cause.
Regardless of our active participation in excluding people from stories about “us”, by letting them be erased we are sending the message that their experiences, their humanity and their bodies don’t matter unless they are one of “us”. Single narratives are dangerous whether or not you’re an “us” or a “them”. I’m still vomiting up all the bullshit I was fed before I realized it wasn’t for me. “Them, party of one”; I was mad for a long time. But now I want to be more than mad, I want to be effective. This is why I’m writing here. I’m hoping that by adding my two cents I can help establish another opportunity for women, especially women of color to explore, learn and think critically about the world around them. I don’t have all the answers, I haven’t read all the theory but I am ready to boldly go and more importantly to tell you all about it.
Originally published by FabouslyFeminist.com
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