How Offensive Is Beyoncé's Vogue Cover? Let Us Count The Ways


As previously mentioned, the April cover of Vogue features Beyoncé Knowles. Blogger Lisa from Sociological Images asserts that the cover “manages to be both sexist and racist.” I agree.

Since the April issue is the “Shape Issue,” Lisa posits that it contributes to the stereotype of black women as being “curvy.” She writes:

The magazine sets up, essentially, an impossibility: “Have curves, but by curves we mean something very specific: boobs and an ass. You know, like Black women’ve got. See Beyonce? She’s Black. So she’s got curves. No matter that she’s extremely thin. You should be extremely thin, too (‘WORK IT!’); eh em, we mean, ‘conquer your demons,’ we love you ‘from size zero to size 20.’ Just kidding! We totally don’t. Design ‘your perfect body’ with cosmetic surgery! Then you’ll really love yourself… and we will find you acceptable… it’s win win!!!!”

And truly, when you read the cover lines, each one is more enraging than the next:

Fashion for Every Figure: Size 0 to Size 20 — but only just this issue, then they’ll go back to focusing on size zero.

Real Women Have Curves: Beyoncé at Her Best — If real women have curves, what are the women who usually model for Vogue? Fake?

NIP/TUCK: Designing a Perfect Body — Meaning there’s something wrong with yours if you don’t have plastic surgery?

WORK IT! Longer Legs, Leaner Lines, Sexier Silhouette — Can legs be made longer without bone surgery?

THE RIGHT SWIMSUIT FOR YOUR BODY TYPE — Instead of emphasizing fit, it’s all about “right” and the implied “wrong,” and your “type,” meaning your body must fit into a predetermined box.

WEIGHT OBSESSION: One Woman Conquers Her Diet Demons — Sounds healthy.

But still: There is a black woman on the cover of Vogue, only one of a handful of black people to have what many consider to be a major honor in the fashion industry. In a recent interview with CNN, Beverly Johnson, the first black woman on the cover of Vogue (in 1974) talked about her life and career. She claimed her modeling agency told her she’d never make the cover, so she changed agencies. And once she landed the cover? She became anorexic and bulimic.

As for Beyoncé, the feature story in Vogue mentions her weight gain for Cadillac Records and describes her as “comfortably curvy,” though writer Jonathan Van Meter also reminds us that she is working very hard to be a Vogue-worthy size. He writes that, on the day of their interview, Beyoncé “got up at the crack of dawn” and “ate a tiny portion of Honey Nut Cheerios, ran six miles, and then worked out with her trainer, who had her in every imaginable kind of squat to get her ready to fit into her no doubt skintight Thierry Mugler-designed tour costumes.” Next? A dance rehearsal, after which she barely had time to “scarf down several bites of a salad with jalapeños and avocado (‘so that it tastes like something that’s bad for you’)” and then dance rehearsal again. Van Meter also makes sure to point out that gaining weight to play Etta James in Cadillac Records was “fun.” Beyoncé says: “I ate a lot of butter-pecan ice cream. But it’s easy for me to gain weight. I’m not a naturally stick-thin girl. I’m not heavy, but I’m not skinny, either.” It’s almost as though she has to apologize; and Vogue has to stress that while eating may be fun and enjoyable, one should never let it distract from being totally dedicated to making sure you (literally) fit into the mold its editors prescribe.

Vogue Puts A Woman Of Color On The Cover And Manages To Be Both Sexist And Racist [Sociological Images]
African American Firsts [CNN]
Fierce Creature []

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