Friday, February 19, 2010

Are We Past Racism? Vanity Fair's All-White New Hollywood Cover: Take The Survey!

Okay so here's the scoop:

Vanity Fair's annual New Faces in Hollywood issue came out, and everyone on the cover is a white girl:

Now there's been a lot of noise, back and forth, over whether or not this was racist.

On the one side, there's the argument being made that:

there were really no women of color that were better bets on becoming the next big thing in Hollywood from the perspective of the editors of Vanity Fair, and that it wasn't racist

and on the other side,

Vanity Fair didn't seem to make much of an effort to include anyone of color (and no, the 3 brunettes and 2 redheads do NOT count as "diversity.") The cover is racist, in that it erases women of color from the discussion.

There was even this spoof of the cover, which I thought was awesome:

So now I wanna know: What do YOU think?

Take this super-quick survey, and share your view here in comments!



Ralph Gallagher said...

I think people are going way over the top with racism lately. Advertising companies now have to go out of their way to put someone of color in their ads or else someone is going to freak out and call them racist. When I see an ad with all white women like that, racism isn't the first thing that came to mind. Maybe those women are better actors. Just because there aren't any women of color, doesn't mean they were excluded on purpose.

Hayden Thorne said...

Unfortunately, Hollywood is dominated by skinny white actors, and the issue overall is complicated. I personally rolled my eyes over the cover. "Oh, great. Skinny white chicks whom I don't know on the cover, wahoo! Goes to show that Hollywood ain't as all-embracing as we'd like it to be."

Frankly, anything "mainstream" caters only to a limited audience, i.e., those who'll most likely go for white faces on the cover. Sad thing is a good number of women of color learn to prefer those safe white faces and add to the impression that only white actors and models sell magazines and books.

Niche magazines are created to satisfy women of color who rarely, if ever, see themselves represented in mainstream magazines. And yet - there go the critics, calling mags like Ebony racist for catering to black women.

Biblio Reader said...

I think the idea that "no, it's not racist, it's just that no people of colour are as good actresses as these white girls" is incredibly racist. Unless you believe that white people are better actors than people of colour, it seems like the only explanation for not having any diversity in these sort of things is institutionalized racism. I'm not saying that Vanity Fair set out to be racist, but that doesn't make it okay.

Karol S said...

Lee - just a footnote. Females over the age of, oh...16 - 17, generally appreciate being referred to as "women" rather than "girls." That said, I was at a FABULOUS panel of WGA nominated screenwriters last night and it was all men (not boys), only one of whom was African American. Sigh. I guess it's pointless to mention that people with disabilities were nowhere to be seen as usual.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Hi Karol - You're right, I guess I was using "white girl" as an expression, thinking it was distinct from a girl who is white. But I stand corrected: They're all white women.
And yeah, it's a good point: even in the diverse spoof version, there's no one with a disability.

Thanks to everyone for your comments!

Cass said...

What about Zoe Saldana from Star Trek and Avatar? What about Gabourey Sibde from Precious?

This post is frustrating, particularly on a blog that is helping readers find books dealing with diversity.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Cass, I'm sorry you find this post frustrating. Perhaps my attempt to not come down too hard on this issue, thinking that would leave room for everyone to share their thoughts with me, was misleading in that I wasn't clear about my own vast disappointment in what Vanity Fair did.

Zoe Saldana would certainly have made my personal list... and many others besides. (I'm looking forward to seeing Precious)

I truly feel that we all need to be allies to encourage diversity, and it's something I try hard to live.

I'm sorry if I disappointed you in coming off too "neutral" on an issue I feel really strongly about.

Thanks for your honest feedback,

Anonymous said...

I agree with Cass. There most certainly =are= actresses hot new of color in Hollywood. VANITY FAIR ignored them, perhaps deliberately, perhaps accidentally. However, since any magazine cover is examined by dozens and dozens of people before publication, I find it hard to believe that NOT ONE of these people said, "Hey! Why are they all white?" So I'm leaning toward deliberate, racist exclusion.

Color Online said...

Lee, the sad thing is I wasn't even surprised, and this time I didn't get upset. If I got upset every time this happened I really would be that Angry Black Woman.

In all seriousness, after a while you get used to being invisible or you do create the Essence. But what the other reader failed to acknowledge is that the POC mags grew out of exclusion. Is Vanity Fair intended for white readers only?

I think we forget that racism is institutional and systematic. All of us are affected regardless if we're conscious of it or if we consciously act on it. You get a cover like this one because we've all been conditioned to see white as the standard.

If you want to eradicate racism, you first have to acknowledge that it is real and it's not something a select few choose to act on.

And I think white readers need to stop taking every accusation of racism personally. It's not about you; it's about a collective history and mindset in this country.

Thanks for discussing it.

kittens not kids said...

Now that you point it out - there's something very off about this pale, pale gaggle of "actresses." And I'm not at all sure that Abbie Cornish or Kristin Stewart is actually a good actor; these are It Girls, not talented women.

I wish there was another kind of word to indicate the kind of institutionalized, almost-unconscious racism that this cover represents. A word that reflects the scarcity of black female stars in the Hollywood world, in part because of long-entrenched racism, in part because of race-related lack of opportunities of black or non-white women (and men). I think - for better or worse - that "racist" and "racism" have taken on the connotation of intentional, conscious, individualized race-hatred and discrimination, usually involving really blatant acts of violence or discrimination - VISIBLE racism (like the KKK lynchings, or "whites only" signs). The more subtle, insidious, institutionalized racism needs to be recognized and acknowledged, and I think a more precise term for it would be useful in defusing that defensive anger that flares up.

Katia said...

Good for you, Lee, for showing that cover. I'm white. But my children are biracial, and whenever I see a cover like that; I cringe, because I wonder : where will my daughters find themselves in this picture ? I recently blogged about the new study showing that if black boys have gained some confidence, black girls continue to think that white is better. A cover like that just hammers that concept down into their brains a little more. Magazines have a responsibility in that matter. They NEED and MUST work actively on changing the pattern that has people erroneously perpetuating the notion that white is better and more beautiful, because that is not only unfair, it's also bullshit ! And simply shrugging and coming up with excuses is not going to cut it. I'll stop here, but I could go on, and on, and on...

xxx xxx said...

I don't think this cover is racist and hadn't even noticed the colour issue until reading this blog. I think it's a shame that in today's society people are still seeing colour before the person. I don't look at Halle Berry and think "Wow what a fantastic black actress." I just think "Wow, what a fantastic actress." While people are still using the racist word I am afraid that society will never more on.

T.S. said...

Lee, thanks for opening up your comments for this discussion. It's definitely something that needs to be talked about.

I probably wouldn't have had a problem with the "we couldn't find any actresses of color who are rising to fame THIS year" if they hadn't completely overlooked the wonderfully talented Gabourey Sidibe, who has not only been nominated for an Oscar but who shines in every single interview she gives and seems to win over everyone she meets.

Add to that the inclusion of Evan Rachel Wood and Kristen Stewart, two white actresses who have both been around for a while now, and it just seems like an irresponsible oversight caused by institutionalized racism and editors who couldn't see past the end of their own noses.

@Donna - Unfortunately, in this day and age, anyone saying they are "color blind" and don't see people's skin color are really doing a disservice to racial issues. How can you acknowledge that there is still discrimination against people of color in this country, and work toward complete equality, if you won't admit or acknowledge that there are people of color at all?

The fact of the matter is, white people grow up with a certain amount of unspoken privelege that most of us don't even acknowledge. It's not something that is OK, but it exists. This cover is proof of that and so is the fact that some people looked at the cover, saw all white faces and didn't even realize there was an issue. And if we don't acknowledge that and continue to work toward racial equality (as well as gender equality, GLBT equality and everything else) then we're just choosing to ride the waves of that white privelege while remaining willfully ignorant.