We’re in 2017, yet major magazines still come under fire for either a lack of diversity on their covers or a lack of cultural sensitivity in the themes for their photo shoots.
The most recent example is Vogue, one of the most highly respected fashion magazines on newsstands today, which featured model Karlie Kloss dressed as a geisha for its March issue. Geisha, in the Japanese tradition, are hostesses who entertained men with music and conversation.
Social media users slammed the photo shoot, implying that if Vogue wanted to feature a Japanese theme, they could have employed a Japanese model.
— 🌺#Kira🌺 (@KiraOConnor) February 14, 2017
Karlie released a statement apologizing for the shoot, although Vogue parent company Condé Nast did not comment on the controversy.
— Karlie Kloss (@karliekloss) February 15, 2017
Vogue has come under fire before; French Vogue shot a Dutch model in blackface a few years ago, and the annual Met Gala in New York City had a Chinese theme for 2015 that raised a few eyebrows.
At this point in society, when diversity and cultural sensitivity aren’t unusual conversations, magazines need to do so much better than they have been.
It’s an amazing thing to want to show respect for a different culture by featuring it in a magazine, but the best way to approach it is to do some extensive research — and hire a model who represents that culture, for goodness sake!
I can’t pretend to know what the editorial team at Vogue wanted to achieve with the Japanese spread, but they should be well aware by now that if it is not approached delicately, people will take offense (as they should).
Every culture should be treated with respect, and having the team explore a particular culture before attempting to showcase it — especially when cultures sometimes differ on what is respectful and what is not — is a step in the right direction.
Considering these features are usually planned weeks or months in advance, I don’t think asking the people behind-the-scenes to do their due diligence beforehand is a ridiculous request.
Diversity in general is still a huge problem in fashion as well, but that discussion needs its own article. We’re still in a place where featuring a minority on a magazine cover is a historic achievement, and while progress should be celebrated, featuring a variety of people on covers should be the norm by now.
Along with that, PROPER representation of that racial and cultural variety should be the norm by now.
Bradleigh is a co-founder and content curator for The Sirens Rise with a BA in Media Studies. Her favorite things to do are listen to music, get lost in a book, write for hours, and eat way more chocolate than one human being ever should.