Earlier this week on this site, writer Ruth Hopkins criticized AnOther magazine's photoshoot with Michelle Williams as being insensitive and racist. Now, AnOther has issued a statement defending the image.
Entertainment Weekly's PopWatch has the missive, which reads:
While we recognize the seriousness of this debate, the image in question in no way intends to mimic, trivialise or stereotype any particular ethnic group or culture, as recent reports suggest.
The image (which is not, in fact, the cover of the magazine) is one of a suite of images taken from inside the magazine, presenting Ms. Williams in a series of eight different imaginary characters.
All the characters in the story were inspired by multiple fashion and cultural references, characters and eras, as well as by our admiration of Ms. Williams as one of the most respected and talented actresses of her generation.
While we dispute the suggestion that the image has a racist subtext in the strongest possible terms, we're mortified to think that anyone would interpret it in this way.
As EW's Lindsey Bahr points out, the edgy British fashion magazine has a circulation of under 200,000. Pushing the envelope gets attention. The editors do not feel their image is racist because they don't realize that cultural appropriation is racist — probably because it's par for the course, in fashion. Bahr writes: "Fashion seems to relish controversy and subversiveness in the name of art, and dressing up models in headdresses, beads, feathers, and other Native American-inspired garb certainly qualifies." And when it comes to Native American cultural appropriation, it happens over and over and over. From Victoria's Secret to Paul Frank to Urban Outfitters. (And let's not forget about Johnny Depp playing Tonto.) It's widespread; it's seen as "cool" to put a white girl in a feather headddress or an afro wig, or an "African Queen" ensemble — but it is not right. It's wrong.
As the Native American Journalists Association puts it:
In regard to the Michelle Williams photo shoot, anytime a non-native person dresses up as a Native American this leads to problems like:
1. That Native people don't care about people playing dress up
2. It perpetuates the stereotype that all Native people look like this
3. That Native people do not exist or even comparisons to mythical creatures perpetuates this myth.
Earlier: Why Is Michelle Williams in Redface?