Sports Illustrated called racist for these pictures!

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We’ve all seen the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Kate Upton, wearing next to nothing, freezing her butt off in Antarctica. But Antarctica wasn’t the only far-away place Sports Illustrated went. The magazine made their to all seven continents, photographing their models in bikinis.

Instead of using these foreign countries as only backdrops, some of the models were photographed standing next to natives of their homes. Some people are claiming the pictures are racist, and reinforce bad stereotypes.

Jezebel’s Dodai Stewart takes specific offense to two pictures, one from China, and another from Namibia.

In a shot taken in a picture taken on a river in Guilin, Guangxi, model Anne V., who is white and blonde, sits on a raft piloted by an elderly Chinese man:

This photo cements stereotypes, perpetuates an imbalance in the power dynamic, is reminiscent of centuries of colonialism (and indentured servitude) and serves as a good example of both creating a centrality of whiteness and using “exotic” people as fashion props.Besides which, the picture represents a specific decision to portray China as “non-Western” and “backward.” As Shanghaiist notes, in Sports Illustrated’s view “China is poverty and ‘ethnic’ clothing, not the world’s second largest economy where the majority of people live in cities rather than the countryside.”

The second controversial shot, featuring Emily DiDonato in an African desert, also include a tribal-looking, half-naked man carrying a spear:

These shots tap into the West’s past obsession/fetishization with so-called savages, jungle comics and the like. Again: In a visit to seven continents, this image is what Sports Illustrated is using to represent the continent of Africa.

I don’t take any offense to them, but I guess I’m not the one they’re worried about offending. I’m having a hard time understanding why these pictures are so bad. These people actually exist. I don’t think it’s stereotyping a whole country with these pictures.

What do you think – do these photos seem racist to you?



Posted by:
Friday, February 15th, 2013 at 3:15pm
Filed under Sports Illustrated | 7 Comments


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February 17th, 2013 at 12:20 am

…that is just sad! How is that in anyway shape or form racist? Worry about world hunger for gods sake. Pathetic!

February 17th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

yeah, these are pretty bad. I mean the intellectual speak used by Dodai Stewart probably doesn’t do a good job of communicating why. Ultimately the issue with these pictures is that the people were used as exotic scenery. The model in the picture was paid VERY VERY well, the “exotic” in the picture was probably barely paid at all. Using people as props in and of itself is, well, it’s a little messed up. The other issue is that it trivializes another group of peoples culture and turns it from a complex way of life with a long standing history, traditions, and pride into nothing more then interesting window dressing.

February 17th, 2013 at 3:44 pm

We as a nation are going overboard as to what is “racist” I am Asian, lived in Japan and China and found nothing racist about these pics. Dodai Stewart should get over herself unless of course she needs the publicity for that rag “Jezebel”that prints stories like “What is the best age for an abortion”.

February 18th, 2013 at 1:31 pm

So, if they shoot in real locations using locals it’s wrong and if they staged it people would have complained too. If the people were happy to go along with it what is the problem? Maybe they were happy to do it? Are we insinuating they can’t understand what is going on? Maybe it’s exploitation but it’s not racism, whatever that word means. Hating another person is just hate, period.

February 19th, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Racist? How about extremely sexist! Putting women in bikinis in a mens sports magazine hence women are nothing but sport to men? Terrible idea and shame on the women who pose for this issue.

February 20th, 2013 at 12:09 am

Oh Kim. Don’t you know that this is considered female empowerment these days? How many smart women posing half nude justify it that way? I can think of a dozen actresses. I’d prefer to teach young girls skills based on their unique talents and encourage their self worth with something higher than the fleeting vanity of being pretty in pictures. That’s not what makes a girl beautiful.

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