Here at The Closet Feminist we’re always keen to hear about magazines and modeling agencies doing things a little differently to challenge the status quo/white supremacy that reigns supreme in the fashion world. Sometimes, however, we see people/projects who say they’re trying to do something different, but if you take a critical look at what is actually being presented you’ll see that there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about what is being shown.
Two recent cases come to mind.
The first is Betabrand‘s campaign to use female PhD students as models, the second is the so-called Anti-Modeling Agency. Both have the common factor of claiming to use models based on their ‘brains’ and/or personality as opposed to their looks. A novel idea to be sure, but its execution was disappointing.
Above: Betabrand’s Spring 2014 campaign featuring female PhD students–so smart and inspiring. Also so white.
Refinery29 pointed out in their cautionary critique that “real” doesn’t always mean diverse, and while using female PhD candidates as models a neat idea, they were still all conventionally pretty, not to mention 75% of the ‘models’ used are white.
Above: A screen shot of the Anti-Modeling homepage. As you can see, conventionally-attractive white models are really having a hard time finding work–oh wait, no they’re not!
Jezebel similarly noted that all the Anti-Modeling Agency is really doing is using attractive, thin, white people with rainbow-hued hair in their hilarious headline which read, “‘Anti’ Modeling Agency Dares to Rep Beautiful People with Funny Hair“. The summary of the article leaves with a simple but sharp reminder that many seem to have missed, noting of the agency “Please, don’t frame it like it’s some kind of massive paradigm-shift.”
Above: Abby is one of the so-called ‘anti-models‘ that is changing the face of fashion. It has nothing to do with the fact that she is thin, white, and very pretty…
Bottom line: next time you see a campaign, agency, or project in the fashion world that boasts of a diverse crop of models or surprising in-your-face twist on fashion norms, ask yourself a few questions about what you are actually looking at. Here are a few questions to get you started:
1. Does the campaign/project feature people of colour?
2. Does the campaign/project feature models who might be considered ‘plus’ models?
3. Does the mandate/mission/vision of the campaign/project speak to diversity, anti-racism, discrimination, anti-oppression in any way?
4. Does the campaign/project feature models who are of age? Or are they just featuring a creepy selection of 13 year olds?
5. Who is behind the campaign/project? Leadership of a given campaign/project often gives you clues as to whose vision, values, and experiences are informing the campaign/project.