Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Can We Really Celebrate Serena Williams Making the Cover of Vogue?

I am a huge fan of the no nonsense Williams sisters, so I must admit to a brief squee when I saw this image.

The Williams sisters are champions several times over.  They have had to deal with people calling them fat, men, as well as racism from both the fans of tennis and referees. To be sure all of the basis are covered they have also been subjected to a dose of sexism.  Just about anything they do is criticized, and I have no doubt it is because they have the nerve to be Black and successful. 

My squee over this image was short lived, because I know that it will be one of the few times this year that Vogue will bother to pay any attention to a WOC.  Moments like this are always a bitter reminder that WOC are still considered secondary to White women, and we most certainly are not understood as mainstream.


I would like to be able to dismiss Vogue entirely because the articles quite frankly are ridiculous, but the fact that so many women continue to read this magazine means we cannot afford to dismiss what they choose to normalize and publish. As accomplished as Serena is, to Vogue she is nothing more than a token.  This cover will be one that they will point to as a sign that they are truly inclusive, when we all know that nothing could be further from the truth.

I still remember being a little girl and looking at the magazine covers desperate to see a face that looked like mine.  Sure, there are Ebony, Jet, and Messence, but those are specifically geared towards women of colour.  Looking at the divide is enough to understand that we are still considered the eternal "other." I know that there are still little Black girls growing up, looking at the same magazine racks and asking, where am I, just as I did.  These girls will one day grow up to be women, and you would think that from a purely profit based position that these mainstream magazines would want to target them. 

I keep hearing the lie that capitalism will one day right the problems of racism, but history has shown that this to be false.  Capitalism did not bring an end to jim crow, which stopped Blacks sitting down in restaurants etc., and it certainly won't bring equality to these so-called women's magazines. The only way for this to change, is if by some miracle White supremacy ends. 

So, yes, I will squee a little when I see a Black woman I like and respect being featured, but I'm a realist and I realize that this does not amount to inclusion.