Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Oh, just read it

Like Betty White and that pesky STI you contracted in your early 20s, I'm back. Let's do away with the mea culpas regarding my long absence and the litany of fictional excuses, shall we? Suffice to say, I got busy and lazy, but mostly bazy. What matters is that I've whipped up enough irrational ire and rapidly dwindling motivation to put fingers to keyboard in an attempt to resuscitate The Chic Storm's dubious reputation for being anyone's (other than my mom's, maybe) go-to destination for cranky perspectives on inane topics. I'm very niche, dontcha know.

Initially I was going to write a post on that French ELLE piece about how black folks are finally chic now because the Obamas are clean-cut and employed and don't wear baggy jeans or Lady Enyce jackets. Aside from writer Nathalie Dolivo's offensive suggestion that African Americans couldn't possibly aspire to elegance before the Obamas' arrival because they had no standard to look up to, she also invents staggering malapropisms like "black-geoisie" and the less imaginative "black style." As a style aficionada, I take offense to Dolivo's comments because the fashion world is nothing if not colour blind. In fashion, prejudice doesn't stem from colour or creed — not since Beverly Johnson broke down barriers in 1974 as US Vogue's first African American cover model and then (ironically?) appeared on French ELLE the following year, anyway — but from genetics and socioeconomic status. Make no mistake, friends, the fashion world will judge you for eating a doughnut or buying a knockoff, but it doesn't give a shit about the colour of your skin.

What's worse, though, is that Dolivo discredits all the style icons who came before Michelle Obama, like Josephine Baker, Grace Jones, Dorothy Dandridge, Iman, Naomi Sims, Diana Ross to name a few. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Obama style, but the First Lady did no more for the collective fashion consciousness of the African American community than Princess Beatrice did for fascinators. Simply put, it's already been done.

But this post isn't about Dolivo's skewed ideas on "ethnic" fashion — I sure fooled you into thinking it was though, didn't I? Ha! The French ELLE piece comes on the heels of a shocking review of Rihanna's style that ran in Dutch fashion magazine Jackie. Incendiary comments on the singer's aesthetic include a reference to her "ghetto ass" and a summation of her overall nose-thumbing attitude as being that of a "ni**abitch." Now, I don't know what constitutes acceptable street slang in Amsterdam (I don't speak freaky deaky Dutch, man), but in North America we don't drop N-bombs, ironically or any other way. It doesn't matter how benign you think that word is in the context of fashion or music copy, it's not cool. Nor is calling a woman "bitch". [Not to get all tangent-y on you, but "bitch" or "beeyotch" are not acceptable words to describe any woman, I don't care if she's an international pop sensation or your BFF. Stop doing it.]

On a not entirely unrelated note, earlier this month Andrew Adler, the publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, ran an editorial about the US and Israel's opposing views on dealing with Iran and suggested that the Mossad assassinate President Obama as a way to alleviate the problem. Um, yeah. He recently announced he would be stepping down from the paper.

Finally, dear reader, I'm coming to the conclusion of this rant. It's not necessarily about racism in European fashion circles or reactionary political ideas, but rather the state of journalism today. How can three seemingly upstanding publications (ok, I know nothing about the Atlanta Jewish Times, but apparently it's been around since the 1920s, so it must have some cred) run such obviously dicey content to only turn around and issue emphatic yet bemused apologies? I've been working in the field of journalism since the turn of this century and I remember a time when spelling Rihanna's name incorrectly would've been received with wrath from a curmudgeonly editor, never mind dropping the N-bomb in copy. The print world is already losing readers to online outposts and blogs (don't look at me — I haven't posted in months!) let's not get all shock-jock-y about it and just say crazy shit to get attention. Go back to the roots of print journalism and write intelligently, thoughtfully and yes, provocatively. But not offensively. Because we all suffer for it in the end.


  1. Marili! So happy you're back - don't ever get bazy for long periods of time again, k? Your readers can't handle it.

    This was a great piece. I've read my fair share of absurd articles from French publications ("French women have the lowest BMI in Europe! Congrats!"), but never outwardly racist ones. I bet French Elle thought it was paying a compliment to black people.

    Look forward to your next rambling session.
    Sandra, xo

  2. Thanks Sandra! Good to know my readers haven't completely given up on me :) xx