By Snejana Farberov Sports Illustrated sparked a racial controversy this week over its latest swimsuit edition featuring bikini-clad models posing with African and Chinese natives dressed in traditional garb.The overall theme of this year’s issue, which is currently on sale, was the seven continents, with the models doing photo-shoots in countries like Spain, Chile and [...]

Sunday Times 2

Sports Illustrated under fire for ‘racist’ photoshoot

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By Snejana Farberov

Sports Illustrated sparked a racial controversy this week over its latest swimsuit edition featuring bikini-clad models posing with African and Chinese natives dressed in traditional garb.The overall theme of this year’s issue, which is currently on sale, was the seven continents, with the models doing photo-shoots in countries like Spain, Chile and Australia.

Bumpy ride: In its latest swimsuit issue, now on sale, Sports Illustrated featured a white, blonde model sitting on a raft in China operated by a man wearing a typical cone hat

However, the magazine landed in hot water over its decision to have the scantily-clad women photographed next to some local inhabitants in the places they visited as if they were ‘exotic props,’ according to some critics.

One of the images that has sparked the most outrage shows model Anne V, who is Caucasian and blonde, sitting on a traditional raft on a river in Guilin, Guangxi, being piloted by an elderly Chinese man sporting a typical cone hat.

Writer Dodai Stewart scolded the magazine in the prominent feminist blog Jezebel, accusing Sports Illustrated of perpetuating age-old stereotypes harking back to colonial times and using natives as fashion accessories while emphasizing the ‘centrality’ of the white models.

‘China has tons of skyscrapers and modern cities that make New York look rickety, but this image recreates an age-old narrative in which anything non-Western is quaint, backward and impoverished,’ Stewart wrote in reference to the China photoshoot.

Dr David Leonard, associate professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University, told Yahoo! Shine that much like picturesque locales, people of colour are seen as exotic and uncivilised ‘as a point of comparison for the civilised white beauties.’

Leonard went on to say that beyond their use as human props, the natives in the images are imagined as servants there to please Westerners on their exotic adventure.

Daily Mail, London




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