BEIJING — Sports Illustrated magazine’s Swimsuit issue has drawn criticism from feminists and other women, and some men, for unnecessarily sexualizing women and exhibiting bad taste. Or good taste, depending on your point of view.Here ya go, courtesy of SI.com. Plenty more here! Including one of my recent Rule 5 victims, Cintia Dicker.
But in the new, 2013 issue, the use of non-westerners as “ethnic props” for the often white women in teeny-weeny bikinis is rousing new ire and raising the question: has the magazine gone too far? Are the images racist, as well as sexually exploitative? Take a closer look at the images, here on Yahoo’s Shine site.
Two of these photos were taken in China. One is of the blonde model Anne V. on a river raft apparently nearly Guilin in the southwest, with an aged, grey-bearded Chinese man who looks like he’s partially toothless and is wearing baggy gray clothes and black gum boots. He’s pulling on an oar. (The image on our site shows a different model.)
This “chick on the raft” image is one of the “saddest/funniest” in the magazine, commented someone named Dora Breckinridge on Jezebel, a feminist blog that says it aims to be fun while handling women’s issues with intelligence and sensitivity.
In Jezebel, Dodai Stewart wrote: “A white person relaxing, a person of color working. Tale as old as time.”
Ms. Stewart continued: “This photo cements stereotypes, perpetuates an imbalance in the power dynamic, is reminiscent of centuries of colonialism (and indentured servitude) and serves as a good example of both creating a centrality of whiteness and using “exotic” people as fashion props.”
The other image picked out by Ms. Breckinridge is “the one with all the little girls in China,” apparently taken in southwestern Guangxi province. There, a model stands among a dozen young girls wearing elaborate ethnic dress. They’re far shorter than the model is. She isn’t looking at the children. The contrast between her near-nudity and their heavy-looking costumes is almost comical. As the Shanghaiist, a popular China-based blog, puts it: “In the 2013 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, Chinese people are exotic props.”
In Jezebel, Ms. Stewart wrote of the image:
“The model, Jessica Gomes, is Australian, but her father is from Portugal and her mother is from Singapore. Since she’s part Asian, it could be argued that this shot is not about what Gwen Sharp at Sociological Images calls the centrality of whiteness. Yet the model, in Western clothes (however skimpy that suit may be), is placed in the center as a contrast to the children in non-Western clothes. It renders them “exotic,” a spectacle. In addition, the model is not interacting with the kids. Classic case of othering. Also: People are not props.”
As the Shanghaiist notes: “For Sports Illustrated, China is poverty and ‘ethnic’ clothing, not the world’s second-largest economy where the majority of people live in cities rather than the countryside.”
“Brave, Sports Illustrated, for de-humanizing your fellow global citizens in the name boobs and bikins” (sic.) “I hope everybody got paid properly for their human prop services,” wrote Angry Asian Man in his blog.
(Here’s some self-description of the blogger with the slightly alarming name: “I’m not as angry as you think,” he writes on his site. “I’m not here sitting in front of the computer, hating “whitey” and plotting revolution. This is just a subject that has always interested me — pointing out racism.”)
Of course, there have been sighs of despair at the politically-correct nature of the debate, as there always are.
Here’s one, from someone called Pete, one of thousands on Yahoo’s Shine site: “They are not “minorities” when they are in their own country. What a bunch of pc dopes we have here in the US.”
Said John S: “Wow, some people need to lighten up. I see pictures of pretty girls in bathing suits. I give it about 1 second and no deeper thought. I spend no time analyzing the back ground scenery, people or not.”Amen!
Jamba went for a funny one, noting: “There are other people in the photos? I guess my eyes were fixated elsewhere.”
Oh, and this post was inspired by Althouse.
Wombat Socho has this linked in the weekly Rule 5 rundown "Rule 5 Sunday: Golden Ball & Chain", at The Other McCain. Also linked at The Classical Liberal "Can't You Hear Me Knocking? (Sticky Fingers)".