Excuse me while I recalibrate my Outrage Meter. It’s been malfunctioning from overuse.
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.
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.
The second image that has been deemed offensive depicts Emily DiDonato frolicking in a two-piece swimsuit in Namibia with a man wearing a loincloth and other tribal-looking accessories, and carrying a spear.
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.
In her takedown of the Namibia images, the Jezebel writer noted that despite Africa’s status as the cradle of civilization and the continent’s impressive diversity, Sports Illustrated chose ‘to tap into the West’s past obsession/fetishization with so called savages.’