• Tue, Mar 12 2013

The Daily WTF: I Can’t Tell If Michelle Williams Is Doing Redface Or Black-And-Whiteface

Michelle Williams in Redface on cover of AnOther MagazineUh oh guys. I love me some Michelle Williams, but I have a feeling she’s about to be smack-dab in the middle of a storm of controversy stemming from her cover shoot for AnOther Magazine. By no means should I ever be in charge of deciding whether something is offensive or not, but there are some definite wisps of racism lingering about the above photo. In it, Michelle sports long, dark braids, feathers and beaded accessories, a flannel shirt, and darkening on her cheeks and around her eyes. I’m no expert, but that’s not the platinum bob that I remember, even if she is growing it out.

So listen, Jezebel has a huge problem with this, and I totally get where they’re coming from, saying she’s in ‘redface’, which should have the same societal stigma as blackface. (And it kind of already does! Remember when No Doubt did a stereotypical Native American-themed video for their single ‘Looking Hot’? They got so much backlash that they took the video down and issued a statement.) Anyway I understand the indignation if it turns out that Michelle is, in fact, doing redface…but can we also acknowledge that it’s a little nutty of us to jump on that bandwagon when the only source material available to us is the black-and-white cover? Somehow in my head it’s slightly more acceptable if she doesn’t have her face physically painted to make her resemble another race, so let’s wait until we get the final confirmation on that before we go on the attack with a 700 word article, yeah Jezebel? Granted, I can’t imagine what Michelle would’ve been doing in this photo if not dressing up as a Native American, but it does bring up some interesting points in my mind. When you take on the garb of another culture, is that offensive in and of itself? Or does it have to be in combo with painting your face the color of their skin as well? Would it be offensive if Michelle wore this same outfit with her own hair? Or with no feathers? What’s the part that sends it over the edge? I’m just thinking that Americans can get away with wearing kilts or kimono or sari or lederhosen without too much (if any) uproar. Is that because those cultures weren’t as oppressed or abused by white people throughout history? Or because some of them are Caucasian as well? I need answers!

I’m not even trying to be snarky, these are real questions. I can acknowledge that what Michelle Williams did for that cover shoot strikes me as offensive, but I’m interested in putting my finger on exactly why.

(Image: Jezebel via AnOther Magazine)

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  • http://ICFashionChic.tumblr.com/ ICFashionChic

    There has been a lot of cross cultural dressing in magazines as of late. I recently posted about the Caucasian model called an “African Queen” in Numero. http://icfashionchic.tumblr.com/post/44632015107/african-queen-article-in-numero-magazine.

    I feel pretending to be a part of another culture when you are not, is offensive because you don’t completely understand what it is to be in the culture. This is in reference to complete traditional garb, characteristics of the culture and skin color! And yes, I think it’s worse when it is done in reference to a previously/currently oppressed culture because even if you are not making fun of the culture, the blind ignorance of the true and daily history of these people is hurtful.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      That all makes sense, but I understand it less and less the more I think about it.

    • http://ICFashionChic.tumblr.com/ ICFashionChic

      What is making it harder to understand? Let me know so I might be able to explain it better, as I know that when I’m passionate, my meaning can get lost in my words.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      No, not what you said! I understand what you said! What I don’t understand the more I think about it is why wearing the traditional garb of a culture is offensive

  • Kait

    I totally understand your confusion, and i’ve decided everybody just wants something to be pissy about.

  • J F

    I’ve seen article afte article on this but not one explanation about the point of these pictures; what were they trying to convey by dressing her up to look like an anorexic American Indian and why would she go along with it????????????