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Artistic freedom: it must be nice!

Is it hypocritical of black women to complain about being objectified in rap music videos and then turn around and complain about not being objectified enough on the runways of Europe?

A few weeks ago, there was an especially angry op-ed in the Washington Post about the discrimination that takes place in the world of high-fashion modeling. Recently, there was a series of fashion shows, in Milan, Paris, and New York, to show off designers’ new lines of clothes for Spring 2008 – and there were hardly any black models featured.

From what I understand, there usually aren’t very many black models anyway, other than your token Naomi Campbell here and there, but this year, black models (er, brown models, to use the bs diversity term) are especially out of vogue. In years past, designers have gone with Benetton-style multi-cultural themes, but this year they were looking for girls who were especially thin and especially pale, so that their looks didn’t distract too much from the clothes themselves.

And the thing is, designers can pretty much get away with this. Where as with any other job, where if you showed up and an employer was all like, “I’m sorry, sir. We don’t employ black people here. They have a problem showing up on time,” you could probably hit them with what Pacman Jones would call a good lil’ lawsuit, fashion designers get to account for aesthetics. If they don’t want to go with any black chicks this year (or any year, for that matter), that’s their prerogative. You wouldn’t have much in the way of legal recourse, though I’m sure TPAR would try anyway.

This one black chick, who ran a modeling agency in the 1980s which helped launch the careers of Naomi Campbell and Tyson Beckford, recently held a conference where black models got together to throw a bitchfit. It was the subject of another angry story, this time in the New York Times, called “Ignoring Diversity, Runways Fade to White.”

Here’s an especially hot quote from that story, courtesy of that one fruit from America’s Next Top Model – which I’ve never seen before, I swear:

“Years ago, runways were almost dominated by black girls,” said J. Alexander, a judge on “America’s Next Top Model,” referring to the gorgeous mosaic runway shows staged by Hubert de Givenchy or Yves Saint Laurent in the 1970s. “Now some people are not interested in the vision of the black girl unless they’re doing a jungle theme and they can put her in a grass skirt and diamonds and hand her a spear.”


Renowned racist Free speech advocate that I am, of course I can’t help but be amused that these designers have been able to create the art that they want, often at the expense of a black woman’s ego. And it’s not like there’s a whole lot these angry bitches can do. I mean, what could they do? Stop buying designer clothes? Pfft! I suppose they could only buy clothes from lines that appear to be owned by black (-ish) people, like Kimora Lee Simmons’ Baby Phat line; but at the end of the day, that money is just gonna end up in the same TI’s pocket.

If there’s one thing that’s truly unfortunate here, it’s that hip-hop artists haven’t been able to enjoy similar freedoms. I mean, in theory, hip-hop video directors can cast whoever they want in their videos and have then dancing around in their underwear and what have you. But then they have to suffer the wrath of the Oprah Winfreys and the Essence magazines of the world. Just the other day, there was a story in, again, the New York Times about mobs of angry, religious black women (Tyler Perry fans, I’m sure) holding weekly protests outside the homes of TIs from BET and Viacom. Meanwhile, I’ve yet to hear of any similar protests outside Ralph Lauren’s house.

Which begs the question: how come these angry beeyotches are coming down way harder on the creators of rap videos, who at least portray black women as objects of desire, than they are on fashion designers, who aren’t even required by law to pretend that they black women are as good-looking as white women. It’s almost as if they just don’t like the idea of a black man getting paid… Nah, that can’t be the case!

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