feminisms

At Least 20 People Approved This Spread

07.26.08 | permalink | Comment?

It’s been brought to my attention like eight times today that I didn’t explain what, exactly, about the NYLON picture was wrong. I can only assume this means you didn’t click to enlarge the picture, because it’s almost so uncomfortable, it doesn’t even warrant explaination. Either that, or her ‘bridge partner’ blends in so perfectly with the wallpaper she becomes invisible to the untrained eye. Please direct your attention downwind of Ms. Ditto, and onto the woman with the losing hand:

Here is a giant scan just for you.

Fashion photography is all about telling the viewer a tale. I want you to imagine what is happening in that photograph. Make a movie in your mind of the minutes leading up to that very moment captured. What story did you write?

The only one I could come up with was the one where some very clever people in some cheeky neon clothes felt that they were just so above race and class politics, they were entitled to create visual conflict by using an actual human prop to juxtapose against their subject of interest. Seeing as we’re set in a hotel room, and judging by what looks to be a uniform and the terminal expression of boredom/vague hostility that settles into one’s face when being underpaid for menial labor, I can really only guess that this is a photo of Beth Ditto, wearing culturally appropriative makeup and hair, playing a lazy game of cards with the housekeeper. She’s so down to earth.

There is not a single narrative that I can come up with that doesn’t completely devalue and objectify the position of that woman in the background. Not one. It is an incredible moment of thoughtless, casual dehumanization. Ditto, a traveler just passing through, is kind enough to give the help a rest from her mundane and ugly existence; unlike this “native” woman, who implicitly exists as a dreary fixture of this setting, Ditto is in technicolor. She’s like a little gift. Look, she’s winking at the camera—what can you do? It’s the white man’s burden.

I find the offhandedness of the image heighten how disturbing it is to me, as if it’s suggesting that this is the natural order. As comically obscene as something such as, say a Free People catalog is, at least they bother to appropriate their culture in the spread, at least it’s of some kind of twisted interest. Instead, here we are only offered the perpetual bleak sterility of working class life when you weren’t blessed with the natural sparkle of a complexion that stepped straight from the decks of the Mayflower.

And no, I’m not “reading too much into it.” I dare you to find virtue here. Maybe it’s in the quote where she calls Brittany Spears “fucking ugly”?

Again, more detailed analysis over at Threadbared, and you can see the whole nonsensical spread at Too Fat for Fashion.

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