Thursday, September 20, 2012

White Woman's Burden

TO PARAPHRASE Michael Corleone, just when I thought I was out (and done writing about Kate Middleton's breasts), they pull me back in. In a shameless bid to exploit the royal boobs story for eyeballs, Slate's "Explainer" columnist Brian Palmer asks, "When Did Bare Breasts Become Taboo?" You see, says Palmer, those topless photos of Middleton would have been socially acceptable in some eras. You know, about 3 millennia ago. So glad he cleared that up.

Anyway, it's the above photo that spun my head around (think Linda Blair in The Exorcist). And no, it's not a photoshopped fake. Shot by Mark Large of Getty Images, the National Geographic-like photo shows Prince William and his prim ladylove in Marau, Guadalcanal Province, Solomon Islands, earlier this week. But given the couple's relaxed, "just another day in the colonies" expression, it could have been 1899. But what really perturbs me is Slate's readiness to publish a photo of big-breasted, brown-skinned, indigenous women without batting an eye. I can't imagine the magazine posting a topless photo of any big-breasted "Western" woman, let alone the Duchess of Cambridge. Yet it's perfectly OK to display topless "native" women in their "natural habitat." I naively thought we were past this sort of unthinking, and frankly racist, double-standard. Guess not.

As for the "White Man's Burden" angle (captured in the above photo), writer Naeesa Aziz wrote: The royal trip "reeked of stereotypes and cast the royals as the gleaming white hopes whose visit gives the wretched 'natives' hope to carry on through the drudgery of their daily lives. It was as if they made the visit to take a survey asking, 'How’s life been since we stopped owning you?' ” Yes, that's probably overstating things a bit. The locals volunteered to put on a traditional welcome, including going topless. Still, Aziz isn't too far off the mark.

1 comment:

  1. The article only shows that in the traditional world of native (Black or Brown) people women have always had rights to freedom and equality. The Western world has always been anti-woman (from Greco-Roman era to today).