Whose Fault Is It That The Ethnic Women In Magazines Are Whitewashed?

In a piece originally on Guanabee and now on Racialicious, writer Alex Alvarez breaks down the racial stereotypes in women's magazines. "Latinas are portrayed as being sultry and seductive," writes Ms. Alvarez. "[They are] encouraged to have more overtly sexual bodies, with an emphasis on curves, dark eyes and bright, plump, shiny, slick, wet lips shown in loving close-ups, usually while the face to which they're attached is growling or purring or doing something else that's totally fierce." As for black women, Halle Berry is the ideal, even though, as Alvarez notes, "she happens to have a white mother." Black women with darker skin often end up "treated more like sculptural objects than flesh and blood women." Asian women? Always petite and "doll-like." Never mind the fact that "some Asian girls are chubby. Really! Some are muscular, some are tall, some are dark, some are doughy, and some are boney and awkward."

Meanwhile, even white women are whitewashed in women's magazines, Alvarez claims:

The gold standard of white beauty is a woman who is thought of as being the least "ethnic" and most "neutral" as possible. Fair skin, fair hair and thin, often lacking in curves that would be considered vulgar or distasteful (or exotic?) the stereotype of corn-fed Midwestern girls or sun-kissed, muscular athletic girls are eschewed for fair, tall, boney girls — often with what is described as a "boyish" figure, one without the tell-tale markers of womanhood — hips, ass. Personality. The ideal: Gwyneth Paltrow.

Alvarez makes some great points, but one connection not made here is the fact that women's magazines are now in the business of featuring actresses, and not models. When models ruled the covers, any blame for lack of diversity could be laid solely upon the editors. (And from Iman to Alek Wek to Naomi Campbell to Omahyra, there was a time when the modeling world was more diverse.) But an actress has a different career trajectory: Agents, managers, PR firms and performance vehicles — TV and film roles — all play a part in their success. Do the magazine editors push talentless but pretty stars on us? Absolutely. But when was the last time a dark-skinned woman starred in a Hollywood film? Neither the fashion industry nor the entertainment industry are perfect, but at least the fashion biz has an Alek Wek. The darkest-skinned woman you're likely to see on a women's magazine cover these days is Oprah, and it's because she owns her own damn publication.

Model Minority: How Women's Magazines Whitewash Different Ethnicities [Racialicious, via Guanabee]