Counterfeit African Queen: What the Hell is Wrong with Fashion?

I nearly decided not to comment on what was clearly a stunt by Numéro magazine, but silence maintains hegemony.

I've seen this photo of a 16-year-old model floating around my social media accounts for days, but I couldn't bring myself to respond. I've expended lots of energy pointing out the maliciously racist practices of fashion designers and publications in the past, and quite frankly, I'm fatigued. This is one of those battles that feels unwinnable.

The fashion industry continues to show no regard for women who are not rail thin and white. We're disposable. We're oddities. We're kitsch. We're artifacts to be trotted out when one wants to be provocative or "political," but we're not actually welcomed in these spaces. We're leered at, prodded, and picked apart.

This editorial photo of a white woman painted brown and sprawled out next to the phrase "African Queen" is par for the course. If people of color are not fully human, then our cultures and likenesses can be reduced to trend. Our physical bodies can be removed even when we are mentioned explicitly because our beings are unimportant. They can't be as easily sold. 

The other photos from the shoot tell the same story. Africa is a costume: "edgy" and one-dimensional.

Brown girls who love fashion must constantly be on edge. There are so few arenas wherein we can feel comfortable knowing that we are valued fully. Seek them out. Build them up.

What do you think of the photos?


Vogue To Black Women: You're Only Good For Your Curves
Why We Shouldn't Pretend Dolce & Gabbana's Earrings Aren't Racist
From Mammy to Sapphire: The Reincarnation of Historical Stereotypes

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or Tweet her.

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