TW for Cultural Appropriation & Racism in Fat Spaces
The other day I was on tumblr and came across PORK’s newest photos from a Wild West editorial. I must say I was quite disheartened and was not alone in this feeling, since, as I looked at the commentary it was apparent that many other people of color were upset as well.
These are some of the images, but if you click here it takes you to the rest of them.
[Image: Five white people standing in front of a loading garage. Two are above them, standing on the edge of the garage, three are beneath on the ground. They are all striking poses. They are dressed in styled clothes. The two standing at the top are appropriating Native items. The woman on the right is appropriating a fake leather headdress and face paint. The man to her right wears another fake headdress, face paint, and a fringed leather shirt that is open, showing his bare chest.]
[Image: A light skinned, non-Native woman with appropriated red face paint on her cheeks, a leather faux-headdress on her head, dressed in leather fringe vest, and low cut jeans with two fake Old West style guns stuck into her belt. She is taking a swig from a bottle of Jack Daniels (a type of whiskey).]
Oh yes, they included someone dressed up as a Native American drinking some Whiskey. Never mind how very problematic and hurtful this is considering the high alcoholism rate among Native American populations.
[Image: A light skinned, non-Native man wearing an appropriated, faux-headdress, shirtless, with a leather strap across his body with brass rings on it. He is holding up a fake Old West style gun, pointed towards the sky.]
I wrote a couple of things on tumblr about these photos, but the more I thought about them, the more heated I got. I thought about writing a letter to PORK, but then I came across their “about me” section and their twitter.
[Image: A screencap of the Pork Magazine twitter feed, with four different tweets that read:
Sometimes the moron trap works so well that it’s kind of depressing.
I’m so racist, when I get a new pack of crayons, I take out all the colors except for white & peach.
Wow these people use “hipster” like they’re calling Black people “nigger”. Pretty intense.]
From their twitter :
And from their homepage:
[Image: A screencap of a written blog post titled “CAMP & KITSCH IN PORK.” Beneath: “Posted on July 18, 2001 by Sean Aaberg.”
The text beneath reads: “PORK is fueled by Camp & Kitsch. Both of these aesthetics require a certain degree of sophistication & a certain degree of “Not taking things so seriously.” PORK does not believe in cultural ownership or the concept of “genuine”. Things are either done well or not done well. When we are pestered by special interest groups advocating their world view & that our magazine some how conforms to their world view, I immediately wonder, “What have you done for me lately?”
Camp is an aesthetic sensibility that regards something as appealing because of its bad taste and ironic value. The concept is closely related to kitsch, and things with camp appeal may be described as being “cheesy”. When the usage appeared, in 1909, it denoted: ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical, and effeminate behavior, and, by the middle of 1970’s, the definition comprised: banality, artifice, mediocrity and ostentation so extreme as to have perversely sophisticated appeal. American writer Susan Sontag’s essay Notes on “Camp” (1964) emphasised its key elements as: artifice, frivolity, naive middle-class pretentiousness, and ‘shocking’ excess. Camp as an aesthetic has been popular from the 1960’s to the present.
Kitsch is a form of art that is considered an inferior, tasteless copy of an extant style of art or a worthless imitation of art of recognized value. The concept is associated with the deliberate use of elements that may be thought of as cultural icons while making cheap mass-produced objects that are unoriginal. Kitsch also refers to the types of art that are aesthetically deficient (whether or not being sentimental, glamorous, theatrical, or creative) and that make creative gestures which merely imitate the superficial appearances of art through repeated conventions and formulae. Excessive sentimentality often is associated with the term.”]
After reading all of that, I felt like even if I were to send out a letter, i would be ignored, told I was being “too sensitive” or that I “just don’t get it.” But I think I do get it and even if a person of color — a Native American person at that — was involved in this photo shoot(I am not assuming anyone’s race or ethnicity in the photo shoot), it still doesn’t make it any less culturally appropriative. These pictures look mocking, not appreciative or “ironic.” And to be quite honest, most of the time I’ve seen “ironic” humor it’s offensive. These costumes strip away any meaning and devalue Native American customs and traditions and dress.
I can only speak for myself, but I feel as though when white dominated fat spaces do/write/say culturally appropriative things and do not apologize or try to make right their wrong, it alienates fat people of color. In doing so, the fat acceptance movement suffers. This is why fat colored people need to be showcased more and involved more and included in white fat acceptance spaces. Not make our own off to the side, but integrated into white fat spaces. Safe spaces are important, but integration is just as important.
Where are all of the white fat activists at in calling this type of behavior out? Solidarity is needed within the fat movement.
What I would like to say to PORK is that you ask what have I done for you lately? How about I’ve been an ally, a supporter, a fan. Please don’t tell us to get over it or justify this kind of behavior. Say you’re sorry, admit you were wrong, and take down the pictures. That’s how we can remain allies. Once again, I only speak for myself, but I’m betting other people of color would like this as well.
Any for anyone who would like to further read upon cultural appropriation, check out these links:
- Samantha, angstiosis@tumblr
ETA: image descriptions—thanks madamethursday!
real, real, real disappointing.
the statement that PORK magazine does not believe in “cultural ownership” or the concept of “genuine” as a response to those criticizing this photoshoot is pretty weak. once again, these sorts of arguments serve to completely dismiss the question of (white) privilege. even if you disagree that white people wearing headdresses for fashion photoshoots is not “cultural appropriation,” i think it’s been highlighted clearly enough why these images, specifically (or rather, especially) the image of the light-skinned (presumably) non-native woman swigging back jack daniels has been read by many as perpetuating negative stereotypes of native women.
i’m going to put it out there: it’s all well and dandy to say “hey, we thought this would be read as kitschy and campy, sorry if we inadvertently/unintentionally served to reinforce a bunch of shitty stereotypes about native people.” but that’s not what was said. what was said was, “anyone who thinks this photoshoot is racist, offensive, or just plain poor taste is a moron who doesn’t get it. you don’t deserve an apology.” because really, it can be that simple. taking a minute to think about what people are saying, what concerns they are raising, and genuinely apologizing.
but i forgot, you don’t believe in the concept of “genuine.”