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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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197 Responses

  1. Pinko Punko
    Pinko Punko March 15, 2008 at 10:45 pm |

    I guess I don’t see it. I could come up with a lot of stuff, but I don’t see any of it in the image.

    “Secrets of the World’s Best Bodies…+The World’s Top Models and Star Athletes” This seems to be a reasonable photo for such a cover story.

  2. Pinko Punko
    Pinko Punko March 15, 2008 at 10:48 pm |

    Is it the expression on his face- the fact that he might be interpreted as a “cave man” carrying off the woman or something? I can see someone seeing that, but I don’t see that in the image. I actually see the image as quite platonic and not that sexual.

    I think that is a standard “athlete emotion” face (see any picture of a soccer player score a goal, or a cricket bowler taking a wicket- there is nothing else to take a picture of in cricket).

  3. veronica
    veronica March 15, 2008 at 11:31 pm |

    I read about the cover a few days ago & was afraid it would ike this. Jill got it right…add to that the image of just a black man running off with a white woman.

  4. Hugo
    Hugo March 16, 2008 at 12:55 am |

    Jill got it. I thought King Kong instantly.

  5. Farhat
    Farhat March 16, 2008 at 1:17 am |

    Jill got it. I thought King Kong instantly.

    Except, you know, she seems to be enjoying it. There are white women who like black men. Radical, I know.

  6. Cecily
    Cecily March 16, 2008 at 1:54 am |

    Weird — I didn’t even recognize LeBron at first with that expression.

    Quite apart from the racial issues, this cover is a perfect picture of the contrasting gender expectations on “best bodies”. As a girlwonder enthusiast (comic book geek-feminist), this looks like the real-world embodiment of the idealized male and female body shapes we see in superhero comics all the time.

  7. zuzu
    zuzu March 16, 2008 at 1:54 am | *

    You cannot possibly be this willfully dense. I just don’t believe that a person can be this dumb.

    Forget it, Jake. It’s Farhat.

  8. Hugo
    Hugo March 16, 2008 at 1:57 am |

    And what’s up with the “top models and star athletes”, juxtaposing female beauty and male power? Do we have the reverse? I haven’t picked up the issue, but are we going to have some star female athletes with some beautiful men? Can we have, say Tyson Ballou with Cappie Pondexter? Alex Lundquist and Paula Radcliffe?

    Yeah, didn’t think so.

  9. eli bishop
    eli bishop March 16, 2008 at 2:22 am |

    personally, i laughed when i read, “dressing for every shape from 0-16.” really? every shape? that’s certainly not my shape! :)

  10. Flamethorn
    Flamethorn March 16, 2008 at 3:37 am |

    It just looks playful to me. He’s going “RAWR” but not in a threatening way if that makes sense, and she doesn’t look threatened to me. Except her hair is going to eat her.

  11. JenLovesPonies
    JenLovesPonies March 16, 2008 at 4:04 am |

    Its a weird picture, and I see that, but I don’t know about the King Kong thing. In most big ape/white woman pictures, it seems like there is a threat, and usually he has her in his grip (admittedly, I don’t see that many KK pictures, but from what I have seen). Here, she looks almost photoshopped in (how the hell is her hair doing that? Was she jumping next to him?). He barely has his arm around her, much less a tight grip.

    I don’t think its my call to make, so if everyone else sees it, I will conceed, but he seems more interested in the basketball than her.

  12. sophonisba
    sophonisba March 16, 2008 at 4:07 am |

    I see a scary animalistic black man,

    Ooooooo
    kay.

    1. He doesn’t look scary or animalistic to me. I hate jocks on principle, and even so, animalistic? Uh. No?

    2. I understand that you are not saying you find him scary-looking personally-right? but that the Vogue people are constructing the photo shoot to make white American women (their target audience) scared of him. Scared like, Oh no! A black man is about to violate a flower of white womanhood! How frightening.

    3. And you think Vogue set up this iconography to…sell lots of newsstand copies to these same women.

    4. How’s that work again?

    It is true that magazines will cheerfully publish appallingly racist text and photos as long as it will mean more sales. And it is true that women are supposed to buy magazines like this out of insecurity. That’s insecurity about their looks, their sex lives, and their inner selves. But how is subconscious insecurity about black athletes being scary going to make them want to buy a fashion mag? This does not add up.

    There is some incredibly nasty and vile stuff that floats to the surface of otherwise decent people’s minds when they see interracial couples (King Kong, Beauty and the Beast, on and on.) I won’t lie, I can see how you got there, but if that were the first thing that popped into my head, I would think, wow, the constant background-noise racism in our society has really got to me, not just to Vogue. (And because I didn’t have any trouble guessing what your objection to the cover would be, I do think that.)

  13. Roxie
    Roxie March 16, 2008 at 4:47 am |

    Even though he does look jovial and non-threatening to me, I got the King Kong reference immediately.

    “dressing for every shape from 0-16.”
    That’s the best they can do? Oi, with the poodles already!

  14. Falstaff
    Falstaff March 16, 2008 at 4:49 am |

    I don’t see it either. Of course, I’m more than willing to admit that doesn’t mean it’s not there; being the full-whack white-Christian-male-American-etc, I’m not as sensitive as I would otherwise be to the little subtleties.

    That said, I agree with Flamethorn. He doesn’t look bestial or threatening to me; she doesn’t look appalled or held captive. It looks… fun. Though that may say more about my own tendency to romanticize than anything else.

  15. ol cranky
    ol cranky March 16, 2008 at 9:28 am |

    sorry, this dense off-white chick doesn’t see it (and had to look at the king king references to get what the fuss was about – though I still don’t get it). What I noticed was a craptastic photo unworthy of a magazine cover in which both models look pretty lame. I think this is yet another case where we are looking for some sort of racial bias or other slight where it was not intended thereby creating offense.

    As I’ve said before, when we find it after looking for it, we’re really just empowering those whose goal is to offend since they don’t have to do a thing for us to get all bunched up (but they get to enjoy watching us when it happens).

  16. evil fizz
    evil fizz March 16, 2008 at 9:52 am |

    And what’s up with the “top models and star athletes”, juxtaposing female beauty and male power? Do we have the reverse?

    Holding my breath is going to end badly here, isn’t it?

  17. LeggoMyMeggo
    LeggoMyMeggo March 16, 2008 at 11:17 am |

    If Gisele wasn’t sort of limply positioned so that she looks like she’s being held…
    If LeBron wasn’t hunched over and roaring, with his left hand curled into a paw…

    Yeah. How does this *not* look like King Kong??

    And as far as the argument that this wouldn’t appeal to white women… we collectively project the primal, raw sexual power parts of ourselves onto black men. And it’s pretty darn exotic, erotic, and thrilling to encounter that fantasy on the pages of your favorite women’s magazine. Especially if you don’t have to acknowledge the racist overtones.

  18. LeggoMyMeggo
    LeggoMyMeggo March 16, 2008 at 11:17 am |

    If Gisele wasn’t sort of limply positioned so that she looks like she’s being held…
    If LeBron wasn’t hunched over and roaring, with his left hand curled into a paw…

    Yeah. How does this *not* look like King Kong??

    And as far as the argument that this wouldn’t appeal to white women… we collectively project the primal, raw sexual power parts of ourselves onto black men. And it’s pretty darn exotic, erotic, and thrilling to encounter that fantasy on the pages of your favorite women’s magazine. Especially if you don’t have to acknowledge the racist overtones.

  19. Farhat
    Farhat March 16, 2008 at 11:19 am |

    Forget it, Jake. It’s Farhat.

    Wow. I have a reputation here now. Just anyday now I should be able to post without going through the moderation queue. Right? :)

  20. evil fizz
    evil fizz March 16, 2008 at 12:07 pm |

    2. I understand that you are not saying you find him scary-looking personally-right? but that the Vogue people are constructing the photo shoot to make white American women (their target audience) scared of him. Scared like, Oh no! A black man is about to violate a flower of white womanhood! How frightening.

    I don’t find it scary looking personally, but it feels like it’s playing with this sexually aggressive black man vibe. Not insofar as him being threatening, but in a kind of animal energy that’s meant to be erotic and full of racist undertones.

  21. PixelFish
    PixelFish March 16, 2008 at 12:10 pm |

    I didn’t see the King Kong thing, sorry. Maybe because I usually see King Kong hanging from the building and the woman screaming and a lot smaller. I thought they were playing more to sexist stereotypes of manly grunting men and delicate women more than racial ones. (And I do have to wonder why these are considered the best body types. I like my guys a little more ectomorphic personally and I’m tired of seeing the tall model types trumpeted so much for women.)

    What I think I see (as a graphic designer–and I wish I could get a closer look at this cover) is two awkward stances that look sort of cut and paste together. They may even have done the shoot together, but tried to composite the best Giselle shot and the best LeBron shot. Something about their stances just looks off.

  22. Pinko Punko
    Pinko Punko March 16, 2008 at 12:35 pm |

    I know what you are saying. I just think that there are several other themes- as I mentioned previously, athletes are shot with extreme emotion on their faces all the time. From tennis to football. The reason I think his stance is off (as mentioned above) is that he is so much taller than she is. I feel like the King King imagery was not intended in this photo, but admit that an obvious case could be made.

  23. Sniper
    Sniper March 16, 2008 at 12:37 pm |

    I thought they were both laughing, but yeah, I can see how this cover dog whistles.

    Notice also the “fit anysize from 0 to 16!” feature. Wow! Any size from unbelievable tiny to one size above the American average! How fucking revolutionary.

    I need no incentive to hate Vogue.

  24. glennrwordman
    glennrwordman March 16, 2008 at 12:37 pm |

    Well, if they were both posed in regular clothes, standing normally, without LeBron’s face contorted and with an arm around each other, folks might think they were an actual couple, and that would really freak some people out.

    I don’t know if the photographer intentionally set out to communicate a “King Kong” effect; the composition seems so random and scattershot–one of those “in what world would this moment actually occur” poses. He’s bouncing a ball, she’s contorted, he’s yelling or shouting, he’s in gym clothes, she’s in an evening dress…whatever organized thought went into this, it’s a mess, at the very least.

  25. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe March 16, 2008 at 12:50 pm |

    Meh. It just looks cute to me.

  26. sophonisba
    sophonisba March 16, 2008 at 1:06 pm |

    with his left hand curled into a paw…

    Oh wow. You’ve officially crossed over the line between interpreting racism and putting in a whole bunch of your own. Paw? Really? Aggressive athletic posture and angry expression, that’s a reasonable description of what we see or are meant to see. This shit is not.

    You have succeeded in convincing me that this image speaks to people on a really fucked-up racist level though, even though I had doubts in the beginning. I concede the point, Jill.

  27. jfpbookworm
    jfpbookworm March 16, 2008 at 1:09 pm |

    I didn’t see the King Kong thing, sorry. Maybe because I usually see King Kong hanging from the building and the woman screaming and a lot smaller.

    I think this is the image were talking about.

    No way that’s totally coincidence.

  28. sophonisba
    sophonisba March 16, 2008 at 1:13 pm |

    I thought they were playing more to sexist stereotypes of manly grunting men and delicate women more than racial ones.

    They are, but that’s a racial stereotype as well, considering that people often think of black men as the manliest and white women as the most delicate. If they’d featured a white athlete and a black model, the athlete might well have been posed in a less ‘manly’ fashion.

    (Which is a far cry from looking at that picture and seeing a roaring gorilla with hand-paws. God knows white people ought to get better at noticing racism, but I could do with a little less of the id-on-parade here.)

  29. Shelby
    Shelby March 16, 2008 at 1:34 pm |

    Admittedly, I didn’t see the King Kong reference until it was pointed out.

    However, I immediately saw the embodiment of the “ideal” man and woman.

    Her: thin, made-up (heels, dress, hair, etc), passive, smiling
    Him: large, forceful, athletic, aggressive

  30. Shelby
    Shelby March 16, 2008 at 1:39 pm |

    You have to hand it to ‘em (Vogue), they managed to cram in all the racist and sexist white-women and black-men stereotypes in one photo.

  31. DAS
    DAS March 16, 2008 at 2:05 pm |

    Do we have the reverse? I haven’t picked up the issue, but are we going to have some star female athletes with some beautiful men? Can we have, say Tyson Ballou with Cappie Pondexter? Alex Lundquist and Paula Radcliffe? – Hugo

    Would star female athletes with nerdy men work? If so, I’m perfectly willing to volunteer for such a photo shoot. ;)

  32. kassidy
    kassidy March 16, 2008 at 2:26 pm |

    yes hugo! thats what i thought too! let’s show some women power here and some male beauty. switch up the stereotypes a bit.
    I’m not entirely sure too how i feel about this picture. when i first saw it i was like… i don’t see the problem. then i saw the one underneath and i got it. i can see how you would see that but isn’t it kind of racist to just jump to that conclusion? i just saw another athlete ‘pump-up’ face and another women hanging to the side of a man. i thought the woman was more offensive than lebron

  33. kassidy
    kassidy March 16, 2008 at 2:29 pm |

    and the props too. he suited up in bball clothes and has a basketball bouncing. if he was wearing something different and the basketball wasn’t there that maybe it would be different.

  34. Lala
    Lala March 16, 2008 at 2:45 pm |

    I know that everyone is saying this is classic white woman/black man imagery, but Gisele Bundchen is Brazilian. She was born in Brazil. I thought that would make her a woman of color. Is it because she looks and could “pass for” white? Or do we consider Brazilians as white?

  35. LeggoMyMeggo
    LeggoMyMeggo March 16, 2008 at 2:51 pm |

    You’ve officially crossed over the line between interpreting racism and putting in a whole bunch of your own.

    Bullshit, sophonisba. People who put covers together spend HOURS on the tiniest details… you think it’s coincidence that his hand is in that contorted shape?? That it’s not, in fact, supposed to look eerily similar to King Kong’s paw on the corresponding picture??

  36. Sniper
    Sniper March 16, 2008 at 2:51 pm |

    She was born in Brazil. I thought that would make her a woman of color.

    I’m pretty sure that being blonde and pink-skinned qualifies as white. If Gisele isn’t white, nobody is, except maybe Ed Begley Jr.

  37. Lazer
    Lazer March 16, 2008 at 3:09 pm |

    Gisele’s of German descent (I think). Lots of people in Brazil are white, of either German, French, East European, etc. descent. And there is a clear correlation between European descent and high socioeconomic status and power. Not just in Brazil, but in most of South America.
    What first struck me about the image was the “ideal male” vs the “ideal female” images…strong, dominant and powerful vs. thin, wispy, smiling and submissive. I agree with many people here, that they should perhaps put a female athlete and a male model together. Oh wait, I forgot, modelling’s for girls and sports are for boys! *rolls eyes*
    But I can definitely see the racial stereotype in there as well.

  38. Faith
    Faith March 16, 2008 at 3:47 pm |

    I thought they were playing more to sexist stereotypes of manly grunting men and delicate women more than racial ones.

    What Pixelfish said. I can see what Jill is trying to say, but I’m frankly more concerned about the sexist stereotypes in this image rather than any perceived racist stereotype. I really don’t get any overt racism from the image….I do get a feeling of overt sexism.

  39. katlyn
    katlyn March 16, 2008 at 3:54 pm |

    My first reaction to the picture was that there was something really awkward about her body. And then I realized it was because they photoshopped her neck to be waaaayyy too long. Everything about her body looks fake.

  40. Holly
    Holly March 16, 2008 at 6:31 pm |

    I thought they were playing more to sexist stereotypes of manly grunting men and delicate women more than racial ones.

    There’s a very clear reason why they would choose a black man and a white woman to play to that stereotype. Racism and sexism aren’t exactly independent of each, especially not in a picture like this. It may be subtle in some ways, but the subtext is definitely there for the examination.

    It is true that magazines will cheerfully publish appallingly racist text and photos as long as it will mean more sales. And it is true that women are supposed to buy magazines like this out of insecurity. That’s insecurity about their looks, their sex lives, and their inner selves. But how is subconscious insecurity about black athletes being scary going to make them want to buy a fashion mag? This does not add up.

    Seems pretty clear to me — animalistic manly predator grabs white woman? That will sell lots of magazines. To white women. And it’s still racist.

  41. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus March 16, 2008 at 6:54 pm |

    I’ll have to admit that I didn’t see the subtext here, though with a closer look at the poses, I can see the allusion to a King Kong/Fay Wray thing. The picture just didn’t look sexual to me; LeBron’s expression is, to me, kinda campy, and Gisele looks like she’s laughing along with the whole thing. I saw it more as playful and if anything, I noticed the reference to “ideal bodies” much more quickly than anything racial.

    I’m not saying the racial subtext isn’t there or that it’s not reasonable to see it. I just didn’t. Maybe that says something about how much more I need to learn, which I’d fully admit.

  42. bekabot
    bekabot March 16, 2008 at 7:18 pm |

    I’ve got to admit that this is the kind of thing with which I’ve never had a serious problem. Why? Because to me this looks like a mild visual joke crossed with an equally mild fantasy. Besides, I can see why they paired Gisele with LeBron…in order to make a picture of this description work they had to find a guy who’s taller than Gisele, which can have been no easy task.

    Honestly, don’t you think there’s a point at which Tarzan/Jane, King Kong/Fay Wray references can become intentionally silly, and therefore, parodic? (Before you respond that that’s just stupid, remember that Vogue is scarcely an organ for the propagation of high intellect.)

  43. Marissa
    Marissa March 16, 2008 at 7:20 pm |

    I totally didn’t get the King Kong subtext but I DEFINITELY got the aggressive black male controls dainty white woman stereotype, a la Birth of a Nation style, where it’s all about white racist fears of black men raping white women.

  44. exholt
    exholt March 16, 2008 at 7:27 pm |

    I know that everyone is saying this is classic white woman/black man imagery, but Gisele Bundchen is Brazilian. She was born in Brazil. I thought that would make her a woman of color. Is it because she looks and could “pass for” white? Or do we consider Brazilians as white?

    From what I’ve heard from a former Brazilian senator and an active Brazilian human rights activist at presentations given at NYU and Columbia years ago….the socio-economic gap between White Brazilians and Indigenous and Black Brazilians is arguably greater than it is in the states.

    For instance, I remembered them quoting statistics that one is far more likely to end up in prison, dire poverty, and face blatant discrimination from public and private sectors on a daily basis in areas such as access to education and employment if one is Black or indigenous than if one is White.

  45. zuzu
    zuzu March 16, 2008 at 7:27 pm | *

    One of these days, I have to actually watch Birth of a Nation. I hear so much about it.

  46. Marissa
    Marissa March 16, 2008 at 7:30 pm |

    “One of these days, I have to actually watch Birth of a Nation. I hear so much about it.”

    Only if you’re up for somewhere around 3 straight hours of being deeply offended on every possible conceivable level….

  47. zuzu
    zuzu March 16, 2008 at 7:42 pm | *

    Plus, “Brazilian” isn’t really an ethnic identity any more than “American” or “Canadian” is; Gisele’s last name is Bundchen, which, IINM, is German.

  48. Psychobunny
    Psychobunny March 16, 2008 at 7:44 pm |

    Come ON, people. End of the day, if the racist/King Kong vibe isn’t meant to be there? The artistic director needs to be fired for not figuring out that it could be read that way, and avoiding it.

  49. zuzu
    zuzu March 16, 2008 at 7:45 pm | *

    Only if you’re up for somewhere around 3 straight hours of being deeply offended on every possible conceivable level….

    Well, there’s that, but it’s one of those things that’s referenced so often that I figure I should look at it myself. And it has the added benefit of not being terribly portable, so that I wouldn’t be caught watching it on the subway. I admit a similar curiosity about Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but again, don’t want to be caught checking them out, buying them or reading them in public.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Birth of a Nation listed on TCM.

  50. Rebecca
    Rebecca March 16, 2008 at 7:54 pm |

    Am I the only one who simply looked at it and thought it had been poorly posed/photoshopped? It looks silly and rather lame. He’s in sports clothes and she’s in a dress and unless they are being held up by wires, they couldn’t stand like that for more than about 30 seconds without falling on their butts. Makes it really obvious that it’s a fake (as in photoshopped) and no thought actually went into any possible chemistry between the models or what might happen spontaneously on the shoot to make a great picture. More I think about it, the lamer it gets. Oh, well, at least it will give me something to snicker over while I’m standing in the check-out line.

  51. Marissa
    Marissa March 16, 2008 at 7:54 pm |

    “Well, there’s that, but it’s one of those things that’s referenced so often that I figure I should look at it myself. And it has the added benefit of not being terribly portable, so that I wouldn’t be caught watching it on the subway. I admit a similar curiosity about Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but again, don’t want to be caught checking them out, buying them or reading them in public.”

    Well but it does have the benefit of being so incredibly racist and sexist that many people will recognize you are probably watching it to study a history of racism and sexism in American culture. I watched it for a Women’s Studies course….

  52. Lala
    Lala March 16, 2008 at 7:57 pm |

    Okay, thanks to all of you for clearing that up about her still being white. I didn’t know that there were white Brazilians. But to Zuzu (and this is a serious question), why is Brazilian not an ethnic identity while German is?

  53. kassidy
    kassidy March 16, 2008 at 8:09 pm |

    I totally didn’t get the King Kong subtext but I DEFINITELY got the aggressive black male controls dainty white woman stereotype, a la Birth of a Nation style, where it’s all about white racist fears of black men raping white women.

    yah marissa same here! to be totally honest i really do not understand the point of the cover. like what is it representing and how do the two people on the cover connect? it’s like a white, thin, blonde girl (wow thats a change)in a dress then a tall, black, athletic man in basketball clothes… like whats the relation?

  54. zuzu
    zuzu March 16, 2008 at 8:12 pm | *

    Lala, Brazil is a melting-pot country, just like the US or Canada. It’s an accident of history that the dominant language is Portugese, but the ethnic profile is very mixed. The only real “Brazilians” are the Indians; everyone else either came there or was brought there.

  55. forrest
    forrest March 16, 2008 at 8:14 pm |

    I’m amazed nobody has included this link yet: http://jezebel.com/gossip/maghag/french-vogue-now-with-more-bearded-drag-queens-324155.php

    It’s still got some weird overtones of its own, but I think mostly in a much more positive direction. I cannot imagine something like this ever flying in Anna Wintour’s Vogue, though.

    For the record, I too just see the cover as more goofy than threatening or racist. But I freely concede that as a white dude I might just not be attuned to the dogwhistle.

  56. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus March 16, 2008 at 8:18 pm |

    One of these days, I have to actually watch Birth of a Nation. I hear so much about it.

    As you know, and as Marissa reiterated, Birth of a Nation is deeply racist, but the film is of enough historical significance that you might find it interesting. From a technical standpoint, Birth of a Nation was very innovative for its day.

  57. Lala
    Lala March 16, 2008 at 8:31 pm |

    Okay, thanks Zuzu, that makes sense!

  58. Sniper
    Sniper March 16, 2008 at 8:33 pm |

    But to Zuzu (and this is a serious question), why is Brazilian not an ethnic identity while German is?

    German is an ethnic identity? Really? But aren’t Germans a mixture of different peoples? Aren’t all white people a mixture of different peoples? And people of other races as well?

    Now I am confused.

    Since I don’t follow sports I googled LeBron James. He’s actually quite cute and not at all scary-looking, unless sheer size makes a person scary. Our standards of beauty are so fucked up on so many levels I couldn’t even begin to make a list. Interestingly, at least three of those levels are represented by this magazine cover.

  59. Jasi
    Jasi March 16, 2008 at 8:44 pm |

    I guess I sort of see what you mean with the athlete, but the model is smiling and it doesn’t appear (to me) sexual in nature. In fact, neither she nor he look in the least bit interested in each other. This could have been shot in two separate instances. It appears to me as if Gisele is trying to fit within the frame of his awkward stance while maintaining a model’s pose.

    That’s not to say this photo is completely innocuous. Any advertising in major fashion mags is bound to be riddled with sexist, negative, anti-women undertones. I’m convinced they’re designed to make us hate ourselves so we purchase more crap to compensate for our imaginary physical shortcomings. Whatever.

  60. double D
    double D March 16, 2008 at 9:12 pm |

    Jill I did not get it all. When I saw that someone suggested that there was some kind of comparison between LeBron James and an ape I thought I had been accidently routed to an Aryian Nation or KKK website. What LeBron James does on a basketball court is as graceful and artistic as anything ever done by any prima ballerina. His moves and actions are calculated and executed in nano seconds. His strength is but a small part of what makes him an extraordinary athlete. To compare that to the clumsiness and recklessness of an ape is demeaning and racist. It also perpetuates the notion that fear of large black men is justified. I hope I don’t need to assure you that you should feel in greater fear of being alone in a room with a Silverback African Gorilla than you should being alone in a room with LeBron James or any black man LeBron’s size or otherwise. I thought the suggestion of a comparison was insulting, insensitive and racist. You aren’t a racist are you?

  61. exholt
    exholt March 16, 2008 at 9:13 pm |

    I admit a similar curiosity about Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but again, don’t want to be caught checking them out, buying them or reading them in public.

    I had the same feeling when I had to borrow some Japanese right-wing revisionist publications when I was doing a research paper on perceptions of the Nanjing Massacre. While the titles such as “What Really Happened in Nanking ” by Tanaka Masaaki and may seem innocent enough….further probing of the book and the revisionist authors’ histories makes plain their real aim….to glorify the exploits of the Japanese Colonial Empire while attempting to obscure and obliterate the memories of its victims.

    That feeling was amplified when the library assistant in question gave me a look of shock upon seeing what I was checking out. After explaining my research topic, she explained that she was shocked the university even bothered to accept such blatantly polemic works devoid of any valid scholarship and academic merit.

  62. preying mantis
    preying mantis March 16, 2008 at 9:26 pm |

    “I admit a similar curiosity about Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but again, don’t want to be caught checking them out, buying them or reading them in public.”

    Book covers ftw.

    I don’t really see the King Kong similarity, but the cover made me think pretty much instantly of every other “black mens r after teh white womens” bit of pulp art out there. It’s particularly evocative of a period illustration for The Clansman (the book Birth of a Nation was based on) I ran across in a book once.

  63. harlemjd
    harlemjd March 16, 2008 at 9:49 pm |

    double D – all of us who see the comparison think that it’s insulting, insensitive and racist (not to mention stupid). We know it’s not apt, but we think Vogue is making it anyway. not us, Vogue. not explicitly, but by framing the two figures in a way that reminds one of a very famous movie – King Kong.

    Even though Gisele is smiling, I saw the similarity right away. Not cool, Vogue.

  64. Sniper
    Sniper March 16, 2008 at 9:53 pm |

    I thought the suggestion of a comparison was insulting, insensitive and racist. You aren’t a racist are you?

    Odd. My trolldar is going off.

  65. Cecily
    Cecily March 16, 2008 at 10:01 pm |

    katlyn says in 43:

    My first reaction to the picture was that there was something really awkward about her body. And then I realized it was because they photoshopped her neck to be waaaayyy too long. Everything about her body looks fake.

    That’s pretty much what Gisele looks like. I must admit I buy Victoria’s Secret bras, and I’ve noticed before that if there’s ever a picture of GB in the catalog where she isn’t twisted to and fro to trick the eye, she has very unusual proportions. Veeeeery long, with very few curves.

  66. Oh
    Oh March 16, 2008 at 11:39 pm |

    I must admit I buy Victoria’s Secret bras, and I’ve noticed before that if there’s ever a picture of GB in the catalog

    Yeah, you’re not going to get an idea of what people really look like from their heavily manipulated photos in the Victoria’s Secret catalogue.

    Not that I know what she really looks like, either. I can tell, though, with the Vogue picture, someone spent a lot of time awkwardly manipulating the photos to end up with an image reminiscent of a lot of racist imagery.

  67. double D
    double D March 16, 2008 at 11:45 pm |

    I don’t read Vogue, but when I saw the cover before scrolling down to the King Kong picture it did not cross my mind that there was a comparison. My first thought that crossed my mind was why was LeBron James on the cover of Vogue and would any reader of Vogue know who he was, what sport he played and where he played it. And as I write this I am recalling that LeBron James’ nickname in the NBA is King James, but of course I have always equated that reference to the 17th century British Monarch not to the oversized Gorilla of the 1930′s. The way I saw it the posters here were making the connection between LeBron James and King Kong.

    My basis for that conclusion was this comment by Jill at an earlier post:

    I see a scary animalistic black man, a primal scream, and a beautiful white woman. Google image “King Kong” for a comparison.

  68. Manju
    Manju March 17, 2008 at 12:08 am |

    Didn’t see it myself. In fact, I was completely dumbfounded until I saw the King Kong pic. I suppose its possible that there’s some sort of subtle subconscious racism going on in the heads of the people who put together that cover, but its also possible that those who see a black athlete screaming and immediately think “King Kong” are the ones harbouring the subconcious racism.

  69. Donna
    Donna March 17, 2008 at 12:11 am |

    Jill, you are right about the blatant racism in the photo. Even before I clicked to read below the cut I thought, “Oh shit. They turned King James into King Kong.” It isn’t that POC are oversensitive to racism and seeing things that aren’t there, it’s that white people aren’t on the receiving end so they are insensitive to it. If something kept happening to you or your loved ones over and over again you’re going to come to a different conclusion about what’s going on and whether something is oppressive or not. That’s why to the majority of white people this might be subtle, but to POC and especially black people this will be quite blatant, because black men have been portrayed time and again as aggressive animalistic beasts out to carry off and molest the delicate pretty white women. After seeing this I checked a few POC blogs and websites and every single one, either the original post talks about the King Kong theme, or very quickly in comments someone sees it and usually many see it. Some also brought up Mandingo which is the same theme of the uncontrollable black man manhandling the innocent fragile white woman.

    Just think how ridiculous this photo would be if it was a white sports star positioned in the same way, if it were Tom Brady roaring and hunched over like a beast grabbing at Giselle. It’s not ridiculous to do it to a black man though, because we all know those black men are like that…or do we? Let me repeat, we all know that black men are like that. That is how institutionalized this racist imagery is, because alot of people didn’t question that idea and didn’t see the racism because it is understood that black men are roaring uncivilized brutes.

    Vogue is a high fashion magazine. It would have been nice if they had remembered that and dressed LeBron in a nice suit with Giselle in her nice dress. Sure it’s the “shape issue”, so why don’t they have both of them in athletic gear then? This whole composition is a mess. Either go with fashion, or go with athletics, but for heavens sake don’t go with stereotypes.

    Their other two covers featuring men didn’t turn the (white) men into fools:
    Vogue Goes With That Whole King Kong Motif For Their Lebron James-Gisele Bündchen Cover

    Which reminds me, they also recently had Jennifer Hudson on the cover, she also had her mouth wide open and her tongue hanging out. Why do they feel the need to turn black people into caricatures?

  70. double D
    double D March 17, 2008 at 12:17 am |

    Having followed his career closely I would hardly call LeBron James “a scary animialistic black man”. I don’t know Vogue’s motive or the message they sought to imply, but I suppose if I saw the same picture on the cover of Sports Illustrated the thought I would have had was that the publication sought to communicate the notion of power, grace and beauty with each figure having displayed each of these things in their own way and that grace and beauty can be seen in large, physically strong appearing men (black or white) and power can be seen in svelte, delicate looking women. In other words, looks can be deceiving and what we perceive may be more of a reflection of our own biases and prejudices than they are of the publication that produced the picture. I know LeBron has a foundation that gives away hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of school supplies to underprivleged inner city kids all across Ohio every year.

    And what about that opinion makes me a troll?

  71. double D
    double D March 17, 2008 at 12:20 am |

    Not only that LeBron happens to be my 12 yo son’s favorite player. He’s got six LeBron jerseys. He wears a different one virtually every day, but on the seventh, like God, he gives it a rest.

  72. octogalore
    octogalore March 17, 2008 at 12:29 am |

    Along the lines of what Psychobunny said, I think the jury’s out about intent, but the potential for a racist/sexist interpretation should have flipped enough switches at Vogue to nix this cover.

    As others have pointed out, the cover article is about “best bodies” and arguably, mainstream America likes female models and male sports stars and the cover shows the most famous one of each. The body language is friendly with each doing a pose that’s typical of what they do — basketball and modeling. So there is no way to know for sure if there’s more going on here.

    The most we can authoritatively say, I think, is that they should have known better.

  73. Donna
    Donna March 17, 2008 at 12:40 am |

    double D, if LeBron James isn’t a scary animalistic black man, why did Vogue have to portray him that way? And why isn’t it racist that they did that instead of portraying him how he really is? And do you really honestly believe the readers of Vogue are all big Cavs fans or at least basketball fans? They probably aren’t, and so their first impression of James is going to be “scary animalistic black man”.

  74. elle
    elle March 17, 2008 at 1:42 am |

    What Donna said.

    My understanding is that Jill’s not calling LeBron himself a “scary animalistic black man,” but speaking about what the cover photo portrays.

    I suppose in an alternate U.S., void of all social and historical context, I, too could say of a picture with a roaring, hunched-over black man and a limp white woman, “I don’t see it” or “It’s not sexual” or “It’s just a strange photo” or “Sexism-trumps-the-racism-I-don’t-see.”

  75. Mitchforth
    Mitchforth March 17, 2008 at 2:18 am |

    LeBron James is one of the most famous sports stars alive, and his image and endorsement are worth tens of millions of dollars a year. He’s got a carefully-maintained public persona as a squeaky clean, family-friendly, playful person, and his substantial personal interest as well as the interest of his top-tier agents and PR team, as well as the interest of several large multinational corporations with whom he has long term endorsement deals are all centered around maintaining that image.

    If he appears violent or volatile or sexually menacing, it’s damaging to the LeBron brand. Nobodywants their kid to carry a sexually menacing lunchbox or wear sexually menacing sneakers or chew sexually menacing bubble gum. LeBron James is not a kid who could be unwittingly duped into representing some racist stereotype. He’s a multinational, billion-dollar business. I am sure that various PR pros, working on LeBron’s behalf, vetted that magazine cover and considered the star’s participation in that feature, and they evidently found it unobjectionable.

    I think maybe you’re bringing your contexts and imposing them on these innocuous images, or you’re looking for confirmation of the things you expect to see.

  76. Donna
    Donna March 17, 2008 at 2:47 am |

    Mitchforth, The composition of the photo is so weird that I would guess it is photoshopped and that the two of them were photographed separately. Her legs look like she is running or jumping, and the wind in her hair, she is in motion. He isn’t, but somehow he has managed to “catch” her anyway, with that weird looking hand on her waist.

    It wouldn’t be unusual to see a sports figure (either black or white) on the cover of SI shouting or grimacing or acting like the incredible hulk, because aggression and even violence are expected in a sports setting. I wouldn’t be surprised that James didn’t mind being photographed in an aggressive stance alone for that reason. What is ridiculous is for a sports figure to be acting like the incredible hulk with a pretty girl standing next to him. Why would he be looking scary then?

    Who knows, maybe you’re right. There are other photos of sports figures and models in the issue, I’ll flip through and see if the white guys are also portrayed as scary and animalistic, and gladly apologize if they are. But…why am I thinking I won’t be apologizing any time too soon.

  77. Mitchforth
    Mitchforth March 17, 2008 at 3:33 am |

    Interesting. You’re the first person on this thread to use the term “sexually menacing.” I certainly didn’t say it in the post, nor reference the concept.

    No. My term. I thougt it encompassed the objection to the photo, and I didn’t like the word “animalistic.” The sexual aspect certainly implied in the King Kong comparison, and discussed in various comments.

    I think that term certainly encapsulates what people are suggesting the photo implies, and I think that it’s unlikely that the business enterprise that manages the LeBron James brand would allow the star to be represented in such a way.

  78. Mikey
    Mikey March 17, 2008 at 4:30 am |

    Lebron James is only the third man on the cover of Vogue in its 116-year publishing history. Saw that on the CNN crawl.

  79. Kit
    Kit March 17, 2008 at 4:33 am |

    It might just be my… age, but it looks like the guy is gonna give that girl some anal. I mean I’d be kinda worried if some guy is behind me with the expression of constipation and have his arm around me. And it looks like she is tripping over her own feet just trying to get on her knees. I mean Really, I can’t believe they would publish something like this. You have to take in the fact that there are teens looking at this and giggling somewhere. Nasty mind that they have….

  80. Kai
    Kai March 17, 2008 at 4:42 am |

    Mitchforth, you’re trying to shift the conversation from a broad historical view of racial visual typecasting to the trivial arcana of professional sports entertainment branding, which I think is a pretty lame move. I’ve been a LeBron fan since he got scouted in high school and I’ve also closely followed the cultivation of his image, but that’s utterly irrelevant to this discussion. Contending that a black male athlete’s branding must preclude racist imagery is kinda like contending that a female model’s branding must preclude sexist imagery. You’re missing the point, from the simple art-direction angle to the corporate forces at play. Discussions of racist imagery are about consistent historically-identifiable patterns and archetypes which strike the brain stem on a pre-intellectual cognitive level, whether or not propagators or viewers are conscious of it. Frankly you are deeply out of your league on this matter. Racism operates in ways that you have apparently not at all wrapped your head around, probably because you’ve never had to. Yet you now feel entitled to go around lecturing people of color about the realities of racism and how it functions. Which says a lot.

  81. Kai
    Kai March 17, 2008 at 4:51 am |

    Oh, also, I recommend Forty Million Dollar Slaves to those who are interested in an anti-racist analysis of race and pro sports.

  82. C.
    C. March 17, 2008 at 7:08 am |

    You know what really bothers me about this picture now that I look about it? It’s “Ideal Bodies”, right? And people have gone over how passive and submissive Gisele is while LeBron is dynamic and aggressive.

    But I can see why LeBron has the ‘ideal body’. He’s a basketball player, right? Basketball is a game all about running back and forth on the court and having lots of muscle so your body can endure all that running and throwing and dunking. I’m assuming that he’s quite good at this sport, otherwise he wouldn’t be on the cover of Vogue, so he does have an ‘best body’ in that it has allowed him to excel at an exclusive and well paying career.

    I am not saying that this is an ideal body type for all men, obviously. But I can see why a major fashion high brow magazine would praise it as an ‘best body’ as a snappy coverline.

    Now Gisele, does Gisele really have a perfect body? I have no doubt that Gisele has a personal trainer and is capable of doing cardio and toning her body, but isn’t the goal of modelling to display clothing on the runways best? Even promotional advertisements want their ‘face’ to be as thin as possible. But hasn’t there been scientific studies saying that having thigh and belly fat can be beneficial to women’s fertility and health? And is Gisele really strong and fit, or is she toned and made into the perfect clothes rack? Is her body really ‘best’ for the average reader of Vogue?

    If I am wrong, please correct me, but I just think it’s a stupid doublestandard.

  83. double D
    double D March 17, 2008 at 8:35 am |

    Mitchforth brings up an excellent point. The cover was undoubtedly vetted by individuals representing LeBron James, whose reputation is squeaky clean and nonmenacing. He is a favorite of kids all across this country. A reputation, he, the corporate entities he represents, the Cavaliers and the NBA seek to maintain. Greater PR minds than those posting here reviewed the cover and did not see King Kong, they saw King James. I do not see King Kong and did not make that connection. Self examination is hard to do, but nonetheless necessary before we start connecting large black men to King Kong.

  84. DocM
    DocM March 17, 2008 at 9:06 am |

    Racism doesn’t hurt the brand. In fact, racism helps build the brand. Watch Hoop Dreams. Everyone in the basketball business worth anything will admit this.

    Photographers live, eat, and breathe these famous images. They knew it was a King Kong shoot. To deny this is to either be willfully ignorant or a liar. The best you can say about this image is that they were playing with it. I think the smiles indicate they are playing with it.

    Of course, I smell a concern troll here. Go back to your bridge.

  85. JB
    JB March 17, 2008 at 9:22 am |

    Interesting. You’re the first person on this thread to use the term “sexually menacing.” I certainly didn’t say it in the post, nor reference the concept.

    I thought the whole problem with a visual rhyme that equates a black man and a white woman with King Kong and Fay Wray is that it casts the black man as sexually menacing. Or, as commenters have said:

    the image of just a black man running off with a white woman.

    If Gisele wasn’t sort of limply positioned so that she looks like she’s being held…
    If LeBron wasn’t hunched over and roaring, with his left hand curled into a paw…
    Yeah. How does this *not* look like King Kong??
    And as far as the argument that this wouldn’t appeal to white women… we collectively project the primal, raw sexual power parts of ourselves onto black men. And it’s pretty darn exotic, erotic, and thrilling to encounter that fantasy on the pages of your favorite women’s magazine.

    I don’t find it scary looking personally, but it feels like it’s playing with this sexually aggressive black man vibe.

    Seems pretty clear to me — animalistic manly predator grabs white woman?

    I DEFINITELY got the aggressive black male controls dainty white woman stereotype, a la Birth of a Nation style, where it’s all about white racist fears of black men raping white women.

    to POC and especially black people this will be quite blatant, because black men have been portrayed time and again as aggressive animalistic beasts out to carry off and molest the delicate pretty white women…. Some also brought up Mandingo which is the same theme of the uncontrollable black man manhandling the innocent fragile white woman.

    If the picture actually does evoke stereotypes that equate black men with sexually aggressive cave men who prey on, carry off and rape white women, I think it’s fair to say that the picture portrays James as “sexually menacing.”

  86. Olivia
    Olivia March 17, 2008 at 9:51 am |

    I didn’t see anything wrong with that pic. Just looks like a jock with a model. I see a lot of athletes, especially in basketball and football, express themselves like that. To me it seems is just showing the “face” he usually has on when playing the game.

  87. Katarina
    Katarina March 17, 2008 at 10:02 am |

    Jill, I think you are being far too charitable to Vogue in post number 80. I saw this image before you(?) included the original movie photo for comparison and it’s very obvious to anyone who spends a lot of time looking at pictures in a critical way — designers, photographers, art directors, art students, pop-culture fans etc — that they are paying homage/ imitating /referring to / referencing the King Kong image. The people who produced this cover knew exactly what they were doing.
    To all those who can’t see the reference but say that the picture looks odd or artificial: it’s no accident. It’s not pretending to be a spontaneous photograph of two people being themselves, it’s a reconstruction of an old movie poster. You know, like that modern-day starlet posing as Marilyn Monroe a few weeks ago.

  88. Roy
    Roy March 17, 2008 at 10:15 am |

    Mitchforth brings up an excellent point. The cover was undoubtedly vetted by individuals representing LeBron James, whose reputation is squeaky clean and nonmenacing. He is a favorite of kids all across this country.

    What does his being a kid favorite have to do with the cover of Vogue?

    And just because it’s probable that his PR people didn’t have a problem with the cover doesn’t mean that it doesn’t replicate- intentionally or not- some pretty nasty racist stereotypes that have existed for a very long time.

    A reputation, he, the corporate entities he represents, the Cavaliers and the NBA seek to maintain. Greater PR minds than those posting here reviewed the cover and did not see King Kong, they saw King James.

    Because goodness knows that PR people never ignore or miss racism, sexism, or homophobia in the media. Excepting, of course, that they do. All the time. The connection doesn’t have to be intentional to be troubling.

    I do not see King Kong and did not make that connection. Self examination is hard to do, but nonetheless necessary before we start connecting large black men to King Kong.

    I see. Yes, let’s pretend that there’s not an already disturbing history of comparisons and that this is the first time anyone has ever noticed the racism of King Kong. That’s a winning strategy.

  89. puggins
    puggins March 17, 2008 at 11:57 am |

    Not only is Jill right in that this is a king Kong reference, it’s obvious that it was meant that way.

    King James…. King Kong…. Come on, this sort of 6th grade metaphor is prime territory for crap ad executives. They just don’t stop to think about why they make a black guy out to be an ape instead of… say… putting a crown on his head and having him pose like somebody who is making more money than 99.9999997% of the world.

  90. Mhorag
    Mhorag March 17, 2008 at 1:59 pm |

    Come ON, people. End of the day, if the racist/King Kong vibe isn’t meant to be there? The artistic director needs to be fired for not figuring out that it could be read that way, and avoiding it.

    Psychobunny may have a point. Does anybody remember the Charmin commercial touting the “quilting,” and all the ladies around the “quilting” frame were using KNITTING NEEDLES? That ad got yanked right away and reissued, but you *know* a least one head rolled on that one.

    Or how about the commercial put out by the coal industry showing supermodels dressed as miners in the coal mine? It lasted about 3 days, because (TA-DA!) the background music was “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford, an ANTI-coal company song if ever there was one. Again, somebody *had* to have gotten fired over that one, because that was just plain lazy research.

    So that kind of sloppiness does get by editors once in a while.

    This Vogue cover could have something similar going on, but unlike TV commercials, it can’t be yanked rapidly. The best course of action would be to write Vogue, explain the problem with the cover, ask that it be avoided in the future, and then see if similar covers show up in the future. If so, it’s a conscious decision on the part of the cover designers. If not, chalk it up to stupidity and let it go.

    Although I didn’t get a King Kong reference (and the 1933 version of King Kong is one of my favorite 1930′s movies), I did get much more of a sexist vibe. C’mon, it’s such a cliche! Aggressive male athlete, passive female model – if it were any more lame, they would have just photographed GI Joe and Barbie!

    I think I’ll save my racism outrage for things like Vitter’s amendment to deny Native American women access to abortion services, because there’s no mistaking that for anything other than what it is – blatant racism.

  91. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne March 17, 2008 at 2:41 pm |

    And as I write this I am recalling that LeBron James’ nickname in the NBA is King James, but of course I have always equated that reference to the 17th century British Monarch not to the oversized Gorilla of the 1930’s.

    Wait, this is a joke, right? You think that most basketball fans — or even most Americans — hear LeBron James referred to as “King James” and think, “Well, of course it refers to the British king who sponsored the most famous translation of the Bible”? Were you raised in a cave with no access to popular culture?

  92. winna
    winna March 17, 2008 at 3:26 pm |

    I must have been raised in a cave, too, because that was what I always thought.

  93. puggins
    puggins March 17, 2008 at 3:27 pm |

    Wait, this is a joke, right? You think that most basketball fans — or even most Americans — hear LeBron James referred to as “King James” and think, “Well, of course it refers to the British king who sponsored the most famous translation of the Bible”? Were you raised in a cave with no access to popular culture?

    Youchies, chalk me up as said cave dweller. It didn’t even occur to me that “King” James referred to anything but the bible version. I mean, sure, most people don’t know much about the man himself, but I figured they just took it as a vague reference to the bible- you know, his play is divine and all that garbage- and I’m dead serious.

    Like I said a couple posts up, equating James to Kong was something I never even dreamed of before Vogue splashed it across their cover, and I consider it an infantile, thoughtless metaphor that most people wouldn’t make in the first place.

  94. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax March 17, 2008 at 3:30 pm |

    Just looks like a jock with a model.

    In a really weird and unnatural pose (the combination, I mean – his pose alone, without her photoshopped so awkwardly by his side, might be a normal “jock face” pose, but together they’re really weird).

  95. Mike
    Mike March 17, 2008 at 3:39 pm |

    Re: 96

    See also: Crybabies and Confirmation Bias

  96. Mitchforth
    Mitchforth March 17, 2008 at 3:47 pm |

    I thought he was King James because he rules.

    I think it’s probably just a nickname from when he was in high school that stuck. I’ve certainly always assumed the nickname arose because his last name is James. I’ve never heard any suggestion that the name has anything to do with King Kong, though you might be outraged to learn that Shaquille O’Neal and Duane Wade were nicknamed Shrek and Donkey by their teammates on the Miami Heat.

    I don’t think LeBron looks like a gorilla. I don’t think his representatives thought he looked like a gorilla when they approved the cover. I don’t think the photographer who took the picture or the editor who signed off on it thought he looked like a gorilla. I think if you see that, that’s something you bring to the table, either because of your prejudices, or because of your expectations about how blacks are portrayed in the media.

  97. Mitchforth
    Mitchforth March 17, 2008 at 3:50 pm |

    Dwyane Wade, not Duane.

  98. Tinderblast
    Tinderblast March 17, 2008 at 4:55 pm |

    This is really, really freaking blatant to me. I’m kind of astounded anyone could think otherwise.

    (And as another girl-wonder aficiando, I see Cecily’s point re: male beauty vs. female beauty but think it’s almost diverting focus a bit. Okay, yes, we all know there are going to be no male models with female athletes on Vogue’s cover anytime soon … but they just made a black guy into King Kong! Egad!)

  99. Chantal
    Chantal March 17, 2008 at 5:28 pm |

    Kinda funny – she’s just trying to make Tommy white-bread Brady jealous, what’s the big deal?

  100. MJN
    MJN March 17, 2008 at 5:33 pm |

    I can easily see Vogue using any other high performing, large male athlete of any race with a woman of any race, given that her body meetings misogynist consumption demands. Manly men, such as athletes, of all races have the misogynist stereotype of being “like animals” in sex and in competition. I think that in order to see the king kong reference in the Vogue cover, you have to focus on him being a black man and her being a white woman.

    Racist overtones of black athletes being the strongest and fair women with straight hair the most beautiful are definately present in Vogue’s depiction of ideal bodies and shapes.

    But to see that picture, and think of Lebron James as a monkey – his hand, curved around her waist as a paw – I find repulsive. I don’t know what else to say, other than I NEVER would have looked at that picture and thought “ape”

  101. evil fizz
    evil fizz March 17, 2008 at 6:25 pm |

    But to see that picture, and think of Lebron James as a monkey – his hand, curved around her waist as a paw – I find repulsive. I don’t know what else to say, other than I NEVER would have looked at that picture and thought “ape”

    With all due respect, I think you’re missing the point. It’s not that James *is* a monkey, it’s that the picture is a resonant frequency for all kinds of nastiness regarding racism and the historical tendency to portray black men as ape like.

  102. MJN
    MJN March 17, 2008 at 6:41 pm |

    I’m not missing the point – I see it quite clearly. What I’m saying is that in order to look at that picture and see the resonant racism and depiction of black men as animals, you have to focus solely on the qualities of the photo’s subject as black man and white woman, and ignore contributing factors like man/woman (regardless of race), athlete/model, etc. In order to see King Kong in that picture – he’s embracing her, and she’s mid-skipping; he’s not carrying her in a dead faint – you have to be dead focused on race, to the exclusion of all else.
    From LeggoMyMeggo’s much earlier point

    If Gisele wasn’t sort of limply positioned so that she looks like she’s being held…
    If LeBron wasn’t hunched over and roaring, with his left hand curled into a paw…

    She’s not limp to me, she’s mid motion; photo-shopped into the picture. James is bent over to dribble, not “hunched over” and roaring in the athletic pushing-through-pain kind of way. His hand is curved; it’s not cupped or fisted into a paw.
    In order to see King Kong in this photo, you have to either be focused solely on the interracial fear of it, or looking for it.

  103. Vanessa
    Vanessa March 17, 2008 at 7:30 pm |

    Psychobunny may have a point. Does anybody remember the Charmin commercial touting the “quilting,” and all the ladies around the “quilting” frame were using KNITTING NEEDLES? That ad got yanked right away and reissued, but you *know* a least one head rolled on that one.

    I also remember Coors Artic Ice beer…spelled “artic.” Unfortunately, the word is actually arCtic.

    So no, I don’t think Anna Wintour deliberately made a King Kong-esque visual reference because she hates black men. I do think someone at Vogue is more than a little naive when it comes to racial stereotypes.

    And I’m pretty sure that he’s called King James because he rules, like a king does. I think the immediate jump to King Kong, because, you know, he’s a black guy and of *course* that’s what they must mean by saying King James, is a little bit…annoying.

  104. Sniper
    Sniper March 17, 2008 at 7:35 pm |

    “Well, of course it refers to the British king who sponsored the most famous translation of the Bible”?

    Oh, dear. That’s exactly what I thought. I assumed that maybe he likes to quote the bible or something. But I really, really don’t follow sports.

  105. Kai
    Kai March 17, 2008 at 7:47 pm |

    MJN, what you’re really saying is that this image should be viewed from an ahistorical, decontextualized mental state of a white person. You may have the luxury of doing that, and of denying the amply-documented voluminously-analyzed historical patterns of racialized imagery. People of color are generally much more acutely aware of racialized symbolism and cultural cues, because these things directly impact communities of color, often in highly destructive ways. The imagery on this magazine cover has a long dark history, whether or not you know about it. An anti-racist perspective not only takes that history into consideration, but centers the perspectives of those who have historically been on the wrong end of the deal rather than those who have either benefitted from or been unaffected by it. I recommend that you read the book I linked at #92 (or even just look at the image the authors chose for their cover) in order to try to better appreciate how typecasting works. It doesn’t work as you describe it; it’s much more subtle than that.

  106. Mitchforth
    Mitchforth March 17, 2008 at 7:49 pm |

    Kinda funny – she’s just trying to make Tommy white-bread Brady jealous, what’s the big deal?

    Ha! I bet Brady was supposed to be on that cover until he lost the Superbowl, and they had to crop out the false prophet and swap in a genuine minster of the True Faith.

    Too bad they didn’t get Eli Manning. How awesome would that have been?

  107. littlem
    littlem March 17, 2008 at 8:15 pm |

    …you have to be dead focused on race, to the exclusion of all else.

    With all due respect? BS.

    The obvious analogy on a feminist site is to state that a woman who notices “unconscious” sexism is “dead focused on sexism to the exclusion of all else.” Please.

    Not that you have nothing else to do, but perhaps some research on semiotics and symbolism might be in order.

    Wasn’t it one of the writers on this site who said that progressives can be worse than conservative fundamentalists when it comes to addressing problems with which those progressives don’t personally have to struggle?

    God, the denial.


    It isn’t that POC are oversensitive to racism and seeing things that aren’t there, it’s that white people aren’t on the receiving end so they are insensitive to it.

    I would really appreciate it if someone could put up about a million posters with this slogan on it until the message finally sinks in. That kind of repetition seems to work well for conservative Republicans. Ask Roger Ailes and Karl Rove.

    Great! Thanks.

  108. littlem
    littlem March 17, 2008 at 8:26 pm |
    If he appears violent or volatile or sexually menacing, it’s damaging to the LeBron brand. Nobodywants their kid to carry a sexually menacing lunchbox or wear sexually menacing sneakers or chew sexually menacing bubble gum

    Interesting. You’re the first person on this thread to use the term “sexually menacing.” I certainly didn’t say it in the post, nor reference the concept.

    Aaaand folks do appear to be glossing right over this. Not only this, but the fact that the actual phrase pretty much came out of nowhere since it hadn’t been mentioned prior to this post.

    But none of the images could unconsciously affect anyone here.

    Nah.

  109. MJN
    MJN March 17, 2008 at 8:51 pm |

    You can’t just assume I’m ignorant of historical racism and the way in which it manifests itself in today’s culture and items of cultural interpretation. You also can’t assume I’m coming at it from an isolated, privileged white perspective. I’m not saying the cover couldn’t represent Kong, or that those pervasive themes don’t run through society and fears and images of interracial relationships (especially from white men about black men and white women). I’m saying that I don’t think the cover intends or does represent those themes. I’m not failing to grasp subtlty; I’m using details of the picture to refute the premise that this particular picture is in that genre – subconscious or otherwise. That generals of the image could depict the kong stereotype; I don’t think it does.

  110. evil fizz
    evil fizz March 17, 2008 at 9:34 pm |

    I’m saying that I don’t think the cover intends or does represent those themes.

    How can the cover intend anything? Leaving that aside, I don’t think that Vogue has a mission to perpetuate racist symbolism. However, I can’t agree with you that it doesn’t represent those themes. It’s resonant for me and some of the other commenters because (I would venture) we’re acutely aware of the fact that people of color have been repeatedly and consistently viciously demonized and debased by comparisons to animals, particularly apes.

    If you don’t see it, you don’t see it, but I don’t know you’re going to get much consensus on that point.

  111. double D
    double D March 17, 2008 at 11:11 pm |

    I see. Yes, let’s pretend that there’s not an already disturbing history of comparisons and that this is the first time anyone has ever noticed the racism of King Kong. That’s a winning strategy.

    When do we stop making these comparisons? When can LeBron James and a supermodel appear together on the cover of a fashion magazine and not illicit howls of disgust claimng racial intolerence? When do we put that sorry history behind us. I will say it again. I did not see King Kong when I saw LeBron James on the cover of Vogue. Some people here did. Why I don’t know, but while I can recall a time (pre-1970′s) and a place (most of them south of the Mason-Dixon Line) when that connection may have been made, I did not make it. I showed this cover to my 12 yo and asked him if it reminded him of any famous movie characters (he saw the King Kong that came out a few years ago) and he came up blank. I gave him hints– think of monsters– again blank. My 12 yo does not see an ape when he sees LeBron James– he says “the greatest basketball player ever” and I say to him you didn’t see MJ play.

    Until we can display an extraordinary athlete like LeBron James on the cover of Vogue magazine with a white supermodel and not read into it some kind of racially offensive stereotype, racial discord and tension will permeate our society. Therefore, racial disharmony is being perpetuated by those claiming to be beacons of racial tolerence and understanding while seeing racial hatred where there is none.

  112. Michael Hussey
    Michael Hussey March 17, 2008 at 11:12 pm |

    Lebron James is 6’8. Gisele is a tall woman, but James would still have to be crouch down to fit in the frame/cover. We deservingly give Ann Althouse shit every time she claims to see cleavage in a photo. The Hillary flap is a perfect Althouse example. I saw that Hillary photo and was wondering where is the cleavage that people were talking about. It was a non-controversy.

    We can find several real instances of real sexism and racism like Birth of A Nation. Vogue is in the business of selling magazines. Their audience isn’t the Little Green Footballs crowd. I saw the cover and didn’t think twice about a black man and woman posing together. My concern is people see such photos and project their own racial biases.

    I don’t know what the photographer’s intention was, but I don’t want to label him a photo. I don’t want to go scalp-hunting over one photo. If he intentionally was aiming for the King Kong imagery then he deserves grief.

    P.S. No, Jill. I am not comparing you to the evil Althouse. I like you. I’m just saying we view the photo differently.

  113. Katie Loncke
    Katie Loncke March 18, 2008 at 12:21 am |

    For what it’s worth, here’s what I see happening in this thread:

    Some folks want to debate whether or not the cover alludes to King Kong.

    Some folks view this as symptomatic of a larger pattern of racist imagery in mainstream media.

    Personally, I think the latter discussion is much more worthwhile. Obviously most corporate media appeals to sensationalist racism and sexism in order to sell its products. The question is, what can we do to oppose that? (And while I see the point that racism in the Vitter Amendment, etc. is also important, that doesn’t mean we should just ignore problems relating to media/consumerism/capitalism.)

    So thanks for posting this, Jill. Great inspiration to support local, anti-racist media and promote federal arts funding so we can focus more on creating our own beauty and less on consuming this Vogue bullshit.

  114. Donna
    Donna March 18, 2008 at 12:43 am |

    *sigh* Running out of patience… I’m sure some people here won’t see a problem with this advertising campaign either. Faceless Females No doubt nothing is meant by that and I and other POC are just being oversensitive.

    How many times and how many ways does it have to be said, White dude, you aren’t the target so of course you aren’t going to be offended or find anything offensive, unless someone is burning a cross in someones yard or shouting “n*gger!” And for some of the white women, remember your dismissive attitude the next time something sexist is happening and the men around you are making excuses. When they are saying, “you’re oversensitive. There’s nothing meant by it. I don’t care if it happened to you a million times before, it’s still not sexist you silly cow.” You remember it and shut up and suck it up, just like you want the POC and anti-racists here to do now.

  115. L-K
    L-K March 18, 2008 at 1:20 am |

    When can LeBron James and a supermodel appear together on the cover of a fashion magazine and not illicit howls of disgust claimng racial intolerence?

    When he is placed on the cover, like the rest of the people who have been placed on Vogue’s covers: actually posing.

  116. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax March 18, 2008 at 1:34 am |

    When can LeBron James and a supermodel appear together on the cover of a fashion magazine and not illicit howls of disgust claimng racial intolerence?

    When they’re posed differently? It’s a weird and unnatural pose. It’s not a weird and unnatural pose that made me, personally, immediately think of King Kong – but it’s weird and unnatural enough that when I’m shown the King Kong poster for comparison, it doesn’t strike me as outlandish to see it that way.

    I get the “no I don’t see the cover that way” response, and even more the “I don’t think that Vogue was deliberately doing that” response, but I don’t get the “your own racist attitudes are showing if you think King James is being posed as King Kong” responses.

    Why I don’t know, but while I can recall a time (pre-1970’s) and a place (most of them south of the Mason-Dixon Line) when that connection may have been made,

    But, but … even if you think that this particular cover isn’t doing any sort of racial innuendo at all – are you seriously saying that all such racial innuendo existed only pre-1970s and south of the Mason-Dixon line? The “call me” attack ad on Harold Ford, say, had no racial innuendo at all? Black men don’t still average a higher and earlier death rate in movies than white men? Popular culture of all kinds of now hunky dory and all racial disharmony is created by people seeing racial hatred where there is none?

  117. Kai
    Kai March 18, 2008 at 1:46 am |

    MJN, I’m wondering if you’re even capable of directly addressing a person of color about racism eyeball to eyeball. One tell-tale pattern of passive-aggressive liberal racism is the refusal of white people to face anti-racist people of color one on one, in a direct honest genuine manner; and your prose is showing heavy symptoms. You vaguely non-substantially defend your expertise in the realm of anti-racist cultural analysis, claiming without citation or additional backup info to have some kind of Undeclared Knowledge which trumps all other properly-informed views; yet nothing you have written thus far suggests any such expertise. Which is admittedly kind of funny, like the Bushies asserting that What They Say Is True. But anyway, let me pose one final question, just to give you a chance at it, because I think we’re all getting pretty clear by now on where you’re coming from: Do you believe that you are better positioned than persons of color who have spent years or decades studying the subject and indeed directly and personally experiencing its consequences, to determine the subtle racism embedded in cultural content? This is a simple Yes or No. Thanks.

  118. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie March 18, 2008 at 7:50 am |

    What Donna said. And keeps saying. Over and over and over.

    Also, how many times do you need to be told, white commenters:You don’t get to decide for POC what is racist and what isn’t.

    If some commenters here really can’t see through their privilege and recognize the blatant and probably deliberate racial and racist overtones in this picture, they are being willfully ignorant.

  119. double D
    double D March 18, 2008 at 7:50 am |

    Obviously most corporate media appeals to sensationalist racism and sexism in order to sell its products.

    I reject this premise.

    While I might agree that corporte media appeals to sensationalism to sell its products, I reject the notion that it does so with sensational racism or sexism. In this instance in order to find a racist innuendo you have to equate LeBron James with an ape. I have way too much respect and admiration for the man to do that and did not do that when I saw the Vogue cover, nor did my son who, at least in our household, has never heard a racial epithet.

    In order to secure racial harmony we have to stop looking for and seeing racially divisive motives in every picture or every word.

    You remember it and shut up and suck it up, just like you want the POC and anti-racists here to do now.

    Actually I think the POC and “anti-racists” as you call them are the ones seeking to silience others. My comments are routinely held “awaiting moderation” and are occasionally not permitted to be posted though they contain nothing more than a counterpoint to assertions of racism.

  120. double D
    double D March 18, 2008 at 10:41 am |

    Also, how many times do you need to be told, white commenters:You don’t get to decide for POC what is racist and what isn’t.

    tinfoil hattie– do you know what my race is? And if I am black do I get to decide what is racist?

  121. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax March 18, 2008 at 10:59 am |

    While I might agree that corporte media appeals to sensationalism to sell its products, I reject the notion that it does so with sensational racism or sexism.

    ??? You think the corporate media is free of racism and sexism? Or only uses non-sensational racism and sexism? Or what? You’re starting to sound to me as if you think racism and sexism themselves vanished several decades ago, or only continue in a few outliers, certainly not ones who get any significant media exposure. Tweety, for example, probably doesn’t exist. And no famous, otherwise well regarded people ever make widely publicized jokes about lynching.

    In this instance in order to find a racist innuendo you have to equate LeBron James with an ape.

    No, only to believe that other people are capable of equating LeBron James with an ape.

  122. Juan
    Juan March 18, 2008 at 11:15 am |

    You’re right double D, those people are racist for pointing out racism. And choosing to be affected by racism. *shakes fist at those evil PoC and anti-racist for being so racist*

    *tries to stop laughing*

    Though the image does allude to King Kong even before I saw that movie pic under the cut. I feel even if you don’t get the movie reference the image still part of a larger pattern of western imagery in the mainstream media and the white western world in generally.

    On a bad day I just can’t understand why people want to try and blind themselves to it. But when it never does surprise me when they do such a thing.

  123. Lauredhel
    Lauredhel March 18, 2008 at 11:27 am |

    Is anyone else only continuing to drop back into this thread to play White Liberal Bingo? Jill, your forbearance is amazing.

  124. nezua
    nezua March 18, 2008 at 11:45 am |

    funny. the conversation is actually over. all the facts, links, insight is there if, i say IF, you want to hear it.

    and…you dont get to use ignorance as a tool of might. that is, admitting you have no contact with the large body of work that paves the way to understanding why this image relies upon past uses of racist imagery and the collective “image pool” we all unconsciously reference (a concept taught me in NYUs film school, pretty handy) does not give you a one-up position on those who do. it just means you are an ignorant loudtalker. :)

  125. MJN
    MJN March 18, 2008 at 11:51 am |

    Kai, your personal attacks on me do nothing to further your argument, and I never anywhere made a claim or statement about the photograph that I didn’t back up with logic. Though the books you referenced are important; I would say that to the discussion of the cover, Celia Daileader’s Racism, Misogyny, and the Othello Myth has greater significance and pertinence.

    What you’re doing is attempting to shut down my opinion completely, because I don’t agree with you. I never once stated “so there” or “it’s true because I say it’s true.” I made arguments substantiated by a viewing of the picture, and your attacking my opinion out of my supposed ignorance is insulting and based on no knowledge or certainty at all on your part of my experiences, background, racial makeup, knowledge, or education.

    Addressing you eyeball to eyeball in an argument? I was continuing the discussion on the photograph, and you were bypassing that to attack me. I have no problem arguing over the racial connotations in the photograph, which is what I would like to stick to. I’m not saying I have the final word and everything you say is wrong – few people here are – I’m saying I have something to contribute to the discussion.

  126. Boadicea
    Boadicea March 18, 2008 at 1:04 pm |

    One tell-tale pattern of passive-aggressive liberal racism is the refusal of white people to face anti-racist people of color one on one, in a direct honest genuine manner; and your prose is showing heavy symptoms.

    And based on your prose, Kai, such a one-on-one, in a “direct honest genuine manner” is impossible, because the person on the other side is already 100% wrong, and apparently based solely on their skin color.

    I’ve been in these kinds of conversations before. I made a “direct honest genuine” attempt to discuss racism (subtle and otherwise), and was basically told that I was wrong, insensitive, ignorant, and otherwise completely to blame for the situation. Because I’m white. Even though I personally find racism in all its forms repugnant, even though I have done everything I can to eliminate racist language, metaphors, and analogies from my vocabulary, even though I vote in support of measures/candidates that at least try to eliminate racist standards and processes, even though I try my best to avoid associating voluntarily with racists or their groups, I am WHITE and therefore I am to BLAME for everything. And I’m too stupid, insensitive, and complacent to even see it. So I’m told.

    It’s kinda hard to not take that personally.

    Might I suggest that if you do indeed desire a “direct honest genuine” one-on-one discussion of racism, you speak in terms of “I”? Example: “I was followed by the store clerk while shopping, yet not once did they offer to help me. But the white shopper was approached at once with an offer of help, then allowed to shop in peace.” This is a definite example of racist (subtle, too) behavior, that I can recognize because it’s probably happened to me – only I’m the white shopper, who probably didn’t even notice how the POC shopper was treated. This kind of example 1) points out the racist behavior, without 2) placing blame on either participant in the conversation, while 3) allowing the white person the opportunity to pay closer attention the next time they’re in a similar situation and recognize the behavior as it’s happening. Then the white person has two options: 1) ignore the behavior (and thus support racism), or 2) speak to the store clerk about what’s happening. If option 2 is chosen, there’s an opportunity to change at least that clerk’s behavior, possibly the store’s standards, and the opportunity to choose whether or not to support a store with those kinds of procedures with one’s money based on the response received.

    But then, I’m a dreamer, aren’t I?

  127. Lady S
    Lady S March 18, 2008 at 1:08 pm |

    How about I show you the stereotype this cover represents?

    Go here

    Which is why the term ‘sexually menacing” appeared.

  128. LeggoMyMeggo
    LeggoMyMeggo March 18, 2008 at 1:18 pm |

    Might I suggest that if you do indeed desire a “direct honest genuine” one-on-one discussion of racism, you speak in terms of “I”?

    I have to say, Boadicea, that this smacks a little of, “Well, you better give me a specific example, that happened to *you*, or I am not going to believe it.” It’s another way of dismissing the experiences of POC, and it’s been showing up in these comments in the form of, “Well, LeBron is an athlete, and that’s all that I see, so unless you *prove* to me that the King Kong reference was deliberate and intentional, I am going to ignore everything you’re saying about the nature of institutionalized racism.”

  129. Manju
    Manju March 18, 2008 at 1:30 pm |

    this reminds me of an op-ed piece in the nytimes accusing batman II of anti-semitism. the author made a compelling case: the penguin was jewish she claimed: ate herrings, had a hook nose, wants to murder the first born child of all the gentiles, and–as a baby–was found in basket floating down the river. In contrast, bruce wayne was the quintessential wasp. It made perfect sense.

    But the authors of Batman where dumbfounded, shocked, and denied any intent to play on antisemitc imagery. they seemed believable and virtually everyone who saw the movie did not see what the nytimes saw, until perhaps it was pointed out.

    i recall a similar situation where a scholar claimed that the great gatsby was passing for white, and that was his big secret. there was some compelling evidence, but at the end of the day most scholars agreed this was not f.scott fitzggeralds intent.

    it possible to study anti-semitsm, racism, or white privilege and then see all sorts of thing others don’t. but if society doesn’t see it is it having an effect? if the majority of people just see lebron and gisselle in the pic, are racial fears really being stroked. if a tree falls in the forrest…

  130. Kai
    Kai March 18, 2008 at 1:41 pm |

    MJN, thanks for your response. I’m not trying to shut you down, I’m trying to wake up you. Your ongoing remarks have in no way refuted or even really addressed the arguments I’ve made, the books I’ve linked, the long history of racialized cultural constructs in this country which have led to a great deal of suffering and death, racist socialization and cognitive indoctrination, etc, all of which situate the image atop this thread. That’s not my opinion: it’s an iron-clad reality which you are continuing to deny, which leads a reasonable observer to the harsh conclusions in my prior comment. But I’m glad to hear you’re receptive to viewpoints other than your own. Think it over next time before telling people of color they don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to racism.

    Boadicea, racism is not merely anecdotal, it is an observable and measurable reality. Racism is not about interpersonal behavior, it is about an overarching system of institutional power. Sorry, you don’t get to instruct me on how to respond to racism in a way that best suits your preferred parlor manners; I prefer to take a baseball bat to the parlor mirror. I offered three links to books in this thread, presented numerous patient explanations, and you think my argument is “based solely on skin color”. I really don’t need to say any more about where you’re coming from. Yes, you are a dreamer — of nightmares.

    Bingo! ;-)

  131. Roy
    Roy March 18, 2008 at 1:46 pm |

    I see. Yes, let’s pretend that there’s not an already disturbing history of comparisons and that this is the first time anyone has ever noticed the racism of King Kong. That’s a winning strategy.

    When do we stop making these comparisons? When can LeBron James and a supermodel appear together on the cover of a fashion magazine and not illicit howls of disgust claimng racial intolerence? When do we put that sorry history behind us.

    1. When we stop sweeping the ugly history of racism under the rug and pretending it didn’t happen. Closing your eyes, plugging your ears and saying “I didn’t see it that way, so you’re wrong!” isn’t really a good strategy for dealing with systemic racism. Just FYI.
    2. When the cover treats the subjects with respect, instead of as stereotypes.
    3. When the cover doesn’t very fairly closely resemble King Kong.

    I showed this cover to my 12 yo and asked him if it reminded him of any famous movie characters (he saw the King Kong that came out a few years ago) and he came up blank.

    Which proves… what? I could show my young niece a picture of a KKK raly and she’s not going to have a clue what it is, and would probably think that it was a bunch of people playing ghost or Halloween or something. She’s a child, and she hasn’t been exposed to some of the really ugly parts of our society yet. That your son isn’t aware of the racist history of King Kong doesn’t somehow invalidate or counter any of the points other people have been making.

    Until we can display an extraordinary athlete like LeBron James on the cover of Vogue magazine with a white supermodel and not read into it some kind of racially offensive stereotype, racial discord and tension will permeate our society. Therefore, racial disharmony is being perpetuated by those claiming to be beacons of racial tolerence and understanding while seeing racial hatred where there is none.

    Oh… for Pete’s… It’s not that it’s a black athlete posed with a white model. It’s how they were posed. People pointing out “you know, that reinforces some pretty old racist stereotypes” aren’t the ones creating racial discord and tension- it’s the blatant “No-uh-uh” going on. The “I don’t see it so it doesn’t exist and doesn’t happen” thing is creating a hell of a lot more tension than noticing stereotypes at play.

  132. MJN
    MJN March 18, 2008 at 1:52 pm |

    Boadicea I get what you’re saying, but asserting that it’s the duty of the oppressed to verbalize and prove their oppression to white people is an element of white privelege. Kai was asserting that – because she assumes I’m white – my internalized racism prevents me from connecting hundreds of years of oppression from whites and the way it manifests itself in this cover and also – because she assumes I’m white – that my white privelege prevents me from seeing it and should eliminate me from discussing it.
    I object to that because she clearly was focusing on my presumed racial makeup, because I didn’t see the king kong stereotype in that picture – even though I saw other forms of racism. And because she was attacking me, rather than my argument, and saying that I was an unsubstantiated, simplistic, Bush-like white enforcer of continuing racial white privilege – because she assumes I’m white.

  133. Kristin
    Kristin March 18, 2008 at 2:13 pm |

    Seconding everything Jill, Kai, Donna, and others have said.

    I am shocked and angered by the willful ignorance of some of the people on this thread. Of course some of you white people don’t see it because this type of imagery has not been used to demoralize and debase you in this country since its inception.

    I’m pretty sure someone already said this, but since it doesn’t seem to have gotten through: Are you (MJN, Double D, etc.) seriously unable to see parallels between your own responses and anti-feminist arguments from people who “don’t understand what women are so upset about.” I mean, seriously???

    One very powerful way of oppressing oppressed groups (women, non-white, poor, queer-identified, etc.) is to tell us that we’re “seeing things that aren’t there.” Often, when we notice sexism, racism, or homophobia and when we dare to speak out against it, we’re told that we’re imagining things. People of color are dismissed for “playing the race card.” I believe this is what you (MJN, Double D, and others) are doing–and I don’t think your intentions or feelings matter one bit. Whether or not you intend to be racists, you are spewing garbage with palpable racist undertones. You claim that those who challenge you are silencing you–in a way, I guess we are. You have no right to act as the Sexism/Racism police or to tell us what we are and are not allowed to find offensive. You are trying to silence us, and we’re not allowing you to do that.

    I expect this kind of ignorance from people on the right, but those of you on the left have no excuse. This is shameful. And this is why I feel a lot more comfortable in transnational feminist circles than with wealthy white feminists clamoring to maintain their own privilege.

    This is a debate that’s been going on between white, bourgeouis (liberal) feminists and transnational feminists for over twenty years. Obviously, there is still a lot to learn. To start, you might check out Jane Flax’s challenges to Susan Okin and anything by Chandra Talpade Mohanty, bell hooks, or Maria Lugones.

  134. Kai
    Kai March 18, 2008 at 2:20 pm |

    Correction: I think I linked two books in this thread, not three. Though I’ll link a third if necessary. ;-)

    MJN, thanks for your explanation to Boadicea. Here’s the thing: I haven’t picked on you because I think you’re white, but because of what you’ve said. A person of color could have said it and I would respond very similarly (on a good day, and believe me I’m being unusually nice to you in this thread, my readers know this and are probably amazed at this discussion), because racist socialization affects each and every one of us in racist society. All anti-racist POC know other POC who have internalized racist socialization. Turning whiteness into victimization is missing the point. Racist socialization via visual propaganda is the point. Racist cognitive indoctrination is designed to prevent you (and me) from seeing the forces in the collective psyche which this image draws from. I never said “King Kong”, which is a modern trope drawn from older ones. Eldrige Cleaver (whom I don’t always agree with, but anyway), in his classic essay The Primeval Mitosis, described the archetypes in racist sexist Class Society as Omnipotent Administrator (white man), Hypermasculine Menial (black man), The Ultrafeminine (white woman), and Domestic Functionary (black woman). The cover image continues the long history of juxtaposing the Hypermasculine Menial and The Ultrafeminine (i.e. the Mandingo phenomenon). That’s been my contention from the start.

  135. Donna
    Donna March 18, 2008 at 3:17 pm |

    And I’m too stupid, insensitive, and complacent to even see it. So I’m told.

    Uh-huh, you got that right. But you are wrong about the blame part. You’re not paying attention to why you are this way. You are not meant to understand the offense. You are supposed to be a sponge sucking up these images and ideas without questioning them. That’s why I mentioned that nearly everyone would have thought the cover was ridiculous if it had been Tom Brady or another white athlete posed like this, but many if not most white people didn’t think twice since it’s LeBron James. As sponges there are so many times and many ways they have sucked up the idea that black men are big dangerous animals that this image isn’t unexpected or doesn’t strike them as ridiculous or wrong in any way. If black men are big dangerous animals then what is wrong with posing them as big dangerous animals? Now some are rightly saying that power, aggression, dangerousness, etc are part of being an athlete, yup true, but it’s the context of being positioned beside a frail white woman that is wrong and would catch people’s eye if it was a white athlete, but makes no difference if it is a black man, athlete or not, because he is a big dangerous animal on and off the court.

    Read the link Lady S left at 134 for alot of historical background.

  136. Cover Guy - LeBron James « FilmGordon

    [...] Feministe also chimed saying: “I see a scary animalistic black man, a primal scream, and a beautiful white woman. Google image King Kong for a comparison.” [...]

  137. MJN
    MJN March 18, 2008 at 6:20 pm |

    Kai, I absolutely agree with you. I said in my first post:
    Racist overtones of black athletes being the strongest and fair women with straight hair the most beautiful are definately present in Vogue’s depiction of ideal bodies and shapes.
    Your assertion that,
    Your [my] ongoing remarks have in no way refuted or even really addressed the arguments I’ve made, the books I’ve linked, the long history of racialized cultural constructs in this country which have led to a great deal of suffering and death, racist socialization and cognitive indoctrination, etc, all of which situate the image atop this thread.
    fails to take into account that I was in no way trying to refute you or the books you linked to. I agreed that the photograph had strong racist overtones, and projected gender and racial stereotypes. I was responding to the blog, which equated it to the king kong photo, in a way I feel is inaccurate.

  138. MJN
    MJN March 18, 2008 at 6:21 pm |

    Sorry, forgot to block quote – but i think they can be picked out

  139. littlem
    littlem March 18, 2008 at 9:02 pm |

    it possible to study anti-semitsm, racism, or white privilege and then see all sorts of thing others don’t. but if society doesn’t see it is it having an effect?

    Wow.

    Awesome. (/sarcasm)

    Manju, do you see what you did? You just “othered” everyone who DOES see something different than “society” sees, by claiming that, by virtue of the fact that “society” doesn’t see what “they” see, the people that DO see something are not part of society.

    Way to not only label several entire sets of people not only as “not part of society”, but “uncivilized” in addition.

    Nice.

    I’m hoping you also “see” that you answered your own question.

    And if not, I have a follow-up question for you.

    Whom, according to you, consitutes “society”?

    *smh*

  140. littlem
    littlem March 18, 2008 at 9:09 pm |

    And for fun, from someone who doesn’t seem to have an animal in the fight, if you will, but appears to “get it” nonetheless:

    http://guanabee.com/2008/03/not-that-theres-anything-wrong-1.php

  141. Maggie Jochild
    Maggie Jochild March 19, 2008 at 12:04 am |

    I got sent a link to the original image in an e-mail from a friend and took a look without cueing, to see what I saw. I was instantly uneasy when I saw the image, for a number of reasons: The contrast between her smiling expression and appeasatory stance and his enraged visage. The blocky, tensed muscles on him — you don’t have to imitate roid rage to show the athleticism of anyone, even males. The fact that she was tucked inside his arm and leg like an acquisition. When I read the text and saw it was LeBron James, one of the few sports figures I actually know, I barely recognized him — he’s the idol of a little boy I know, and every other shot I can remember seeing of him focuses on his grace and, frankly, his smarts. This made him look brutish. And blacker than usual — not just the black clothes, and the contrast to all of her shiny light colors, but also something about the lighting.

    I did NOT make the internal King Kong connection, but I did think “beauty and the beast”. When I then looked down the page, there was a sick click inside me. I don’t know if I’d ever have come up with King Kong. IStill, I knew it was manipulative and dishonest. Partly because it was Vogue (that’s how they make their money), partly because of my feminist training about gender, and mostly because black folks/women’s images are always dicked with in our mass culture.

    You’re right, there’s no way this is accidental.

    You know, this shit just ain’t gonna fly very much longer. The conversation has picked up again where it left off in 1980. I’m seeing all kinds of shifts on feminist blogs, where verboten topics are being addressed in a new way. Multi-issue identity politics of the kind that will make Cheney’s defibrillator go off. Wahoo.

  142. Mitchforth
    Mitchforth March 19, 2008 at 3:25 am |

    I hear what you’re saying, but I’d present an alternate hypothetical: Vogue sees an opportunity to put high-profile power-couple Tom Brady and Giselle on the cover of their magazine. A feature like this probably has several weeks of lead-time, so at the time of its conception, Tom Brady is on top of the sports world.

    Subsequently, Brady is humbled by the underdog NY Giants in the Superbowl and a lot of people who have no particular feelings about the Giants find they enjoy seeing Brady lose. Brady no longer represents sports godhood. His run at perfection fell short. He is fallable, and nobody really wants to buy a magazine featuring a guy who just famously lost the Superbowl. The only two other athletes who represent what Brady seemed to embody when the feature was probably conceived are LeBron James and Tiger Woods. So they got LeBron on the cover to salvage the feature.

    I think something like this is extremely likely to be the story behind this cover. It’s too coincidental that they placed LeBron and a model who is famously involved with a different athlete on the cover. It seems to make sense that the initial concept was Giselle with Brady on the cover, and the concept was changed because James is better-respected, better-liked, and a better selling-point than Tom Brady right now.

    I think that your interpretation of the photo requires you to make assumptions about the people who created the photo and the editors who signed off on it. Your argument is that the context you see is inherent to the content; the counterargument is that the context is imposed on the content by the viewer. I don’t think a person’s race or experience implicitly qualifies or disqualifies them from having an opinion on that subject. I think a determined person could read something offensive into almost any media depiction. Even by evoking King Kong as a cultural touchstone, you’re discounting 80 years of cultural progress. How many people under 35 do you think have actually seen the 1933 “King Kong”? I think culture has progressed enough that watermelons, woodpiles and minstrel shows can be viewed as cultural irrelevancies instead of recurring themes.

    I also don’t think that Kong is ordinarily interpreted as being analogous to black men, certainly there may be some symbolism there, particularly in the images of him in chains, and possibly there are racist implications in the abduction of the woman, but most people just think of him as a movie monster like Frankenstein or the wolf-man. He may be a common subject of Afro American studies term papers, but I think it’s a very big stretch to think that white people could look at a photo of a black man and see King Kong.

    I mean, if he were huge and hanging off the side of the Empire State Building, maybe people would make that connection. But it would have to be that blatant because the image you’re comparing the photo to really isn’t that culturally relevant and it isn’t really closely reproduced in the photo.

    Also, this isn’t just a photo of a black man, as I pointed out. This is a photo of one of the most famous men alive. If he was viewed by whites as an anonymous black gorilla, then I seriously doubt he’d be one of only three men ever to appear on the cover of Vogue. Your credibility to speak authoritatively on culture is diminished by the fact that your analysis completely discounts the significance of celebrity. You can’t reduce a man to a stereotype when his personality is ubiquitous. LeBron James is not a “Hypermasculine menial.” He is a fucking superstar.

  143. Boadicea
    Boadicea March 19, 2008 at 11:58 am |

    Boadicea I get what you’re saying, but asserting that it’s the duty of the oppressed to verbalize and prove their oppression to white people is an element of white privelege.

    Actually, MJN, this is exactly the response I expected.

    Could it possibly be that I need “examples” not to “prove oppression” but to know what to look for? If I’m “not seeing” the racism inherent in the system, how I am supposed to learn to see it if I don’t know what it is I’m looking at?

  144. Angel H.
    Angel H. March 19, 2008 at 12:31 pm |

    Could it possibly be that I need “examples” not to “prove oppression” but to know what to look for? If I’m “not seeing” the racism inherent in the system, how I am supposed to learn to see it if I don’t know what it is I’m looking at?

    How about reading a damn book?

    It is not the job of People of Color to hold anyone’s hand and teach them Racism 101.

  145. utamu
    utamu March 19, 2008 at 3:36 pm |

    I’m a black chick and yes I can see how some might see racial connotations in the image.. however I just don’t think it’s all that important. The photo simply isn’t all that good – if there was some real dramatic or sexual tension between Lebron and Giselle there would be more to think about; but the mood of the photo is uninteresting and contrived at worst or playful at best. I guess I just don’t care that much – and I would imagine that most readers of vogue do indeed see professional athletes as huge brutish men that they can’t directly identify with.

  146. Kristin
    Kristin March 19, 2008 at 9:26 pm |

    How about reading a damn book?

    It is not the job of People of Color to hold anyone’s hand and teach them Racism 101.

    THANK YOU, Angel H. It shocks me how often I find it necessary to say this.

    Sometimes the self-entitlement exhibited by some of these “Color Blind” people who just “can’t see the racism, so could you please stop everything you’re doing and educate us????”… Sometimes it’s really too much to bear.

  147. Jeff
    Jeff March 19, 2008 at 10:48 pm |

    Just read in the Akron Beacon Journal some of the comments made by one of your writers. Why do writers such as yourself continually attempt to make something out of nothing other than to just stir up trouble. Why can’t this photo be nothing more than a well known model and just maybe the most gifted athlete in the world today. They are truly a great pairing for a fashion magazine doing an issue featuring shape and the world’s best bodies. Wake up, it’s just a magazine cover, not a statement of race.

  148. double D
    double D March 19, 2008 at 10:54 pm |

    Uh, Roy in response to yours at 138 see utamu’s at 152. It just aint’t that big a deal. The only people that are making a big deal out of the photo are the guilt ridden liberals like yourself.

  149. fishboots
    fishboots March 20, 2008 at 9:00 am |

    I didn’t catch the King Kong reference, but the instant I saw the cover, it struck me as strange that Lebron didn’t get to dress up for the picture, but Gisele did. Why is that?

    No one would recognize LeBron if he wasn’t holding a basketball? Seriously?

    It is a bizzarre pose, and one that is more represenative of a Sports Illustrated cover than a high brow fashion mag. I would think that Vogue would have had him in Armani.

    Then I saw the King Kong poster, and I realized that somewhere a photo editor thinks their clever.
    If I was one of Lebron’s people, I would be pissed.

    Deliberately Racist? Probably not. Racist? Oh, yeah.

    We have a long way to go.

  150. leg
    leg March 20, 2008 at 10:19 am |

    I’m sorry, but I think everyone is missing the point of the cover. When I first saw the cover, I just saw Lebron as an ATHLETE and nothing else. Just because he is screaming, it doesn’t make him animal-like. The shot was meant to protray what he defines, AN ATHLETE, just like Gisele defines A MODEL. From female tennis players to male shotput throwers, I would like to meet an athlete who has never screamed or grunted. Everyone needs to calm down.

  151. Beauty and the . . . » the palimpsest

    [...] at Sports on My Mind has already covered this a lot better than I will. Others have chimed in. Tom Withers, in an Associated Press report picked up by Huffingtonpost, breathlessly [...]

  152. eek
    eek March 20, 2008 at 12:28 pm |

    Isn’t it just as racist to insist that a black man be dressed up and posed like a white dude in order to be on a magazine cover? Jesus, he’s on the cover of Vogue — that’s pretty sweet.

    I get really tired of WiLibs complaining that black people aren’t given respect/visibility/legitimacy, but when a black person IS featured and happens to be dressed or groomed in a uniquely black or African way, they cry racist stereotypes.

    I’d much rather see a bballer photographed with a bball and emoting and tatted up with his natural hair, attitude and dress than to see his personality and ethnicity photoshopped out, which does happen — especially with dark skin tones, wide noses, women’s curves, etc.

    Honestly, I think if you look at a black man making a facial expression and all you see is King Kong, you’re messed up. If you see a black man and a white woman together and all you see is kidnap and rape, you’re messed up.

  153. Manju
    Manju March 20, 2008 at 12:31 pm |

    I don’t necessarily disagree with those who find the cover offensive, but I’m struck by the insularity of their argument. It’s like we’re dealing with self-contained ideology here, one that has all sorts of rules protecting it from criticism. So if a white person doesn’t see the offense, thats easy; they suffer from white privilege. A POC? They’ve internalized white privilege.? My favorite is even if someone asks a question they’re part of the problem b/c its not the role of POC to educate. Who gets to make up these rules?

    History’s repeating. This reminds me of what happened to Marxism. Those who disagreed with them where bourgeoisie, controlled by their own class interests they couldn’t see. if they where working class it was b/c of “false consciousness,” where they act not in their own self-interest, like internalized racism. Only the vanguard intellectuals, the Marxists, could look to the economic infrastructure and see the world as it is.

    Now I see the new Vanguard here, but its just ideology at its worst.

  154. La Chola » Blog Archive » people of color, animals

    [...] in the very fabric of our current society. It is a constant fascination this society has–massive black gorillas (aka black men) sexually attracted to blond white women. The invading Mexican Cockroach. The dog/cat eating Asians must be [...]

  155. utamu
    utamu March 20, 2008 at 1:55 pm |

    To #155 – let me clarify my statement a little..

    While I am still fairly indifferent to the Vogue cover, after thinking a little I realized I probably shouldn’t be; however, there’s just too much that assails my consciousness concerning race and gender in this society for me to care much about this small thing. Being an angry black woman pretty much sucks as far as quality of life is concerned, and in order for me to maintain some level of positivity and sanity in my daily life I have to choose very carefully what societal and media messages and images I allow to take up space in brain. I cope best by having low expectations of others’ ability to consider anything or anyone outside of their own experiences and perspectives in a balanced way. That works for right now because I’m rarely surprised by insensitivity or negativity regarding race but one day I will need to find a proper balance with this…

    Also please don’t take my statement as indicative of what all black people may feel about this, we all have different opinions just like anyone else. I do know some black folks who are insulted by the cover as well.

  156. MJN
    MJN March 20, 2008 at 5:09 pm |

    The reasoning behind the pairing via Jezebel. The “big men” Jared Rome (white) and LeBron James are both carrying the women, while the smaller, “more feminine” men are half-naked or … well, see for yourself.

  157. Angel H.
    Angel H. March 21, 2008 at 12:55 am |

    Isn’t it just as racist to insist that a black man be dressed up and posed like a white dude in order to be on a magazine cover?

    Why is dressing in a suit dressing “like a white dude”? Black men wear suits, too, and it’s not because they’re trying to “act white”.

    While I am still fairly indifferent to the Vogue cover, after thinking a little I realized I probably shouldn’t be; however, there’s just too much that assails my consciousness concerning race and gender in this society for me to care much about this small thing.

    Being able to sit wherever we want to on the bus is, on its own, a small thing. Being able to use the same bathrooms and water fountains as white people is a small thing. But those problems were indicative of a greater evil that still needs to be demolished. This pose in a magazine may not seem like a big deal, but it’s playing off of negative stereotypes that have been around for years; stereotypes that conitnue to perpuate myths about people of color, and are used as foundations for continued racism. When we see this type of shit being played out, we’ve got to call people on it, and tell them “That’s racist!”

  158. Kai
    Kai March 22, 2008 at 4:11 am |

    Prometheus 6 connects the Vogue cover image and its racist subtext to the fear of black male rage which has dominated the past week of Democratic primary politics.

  159. Booboos
    Booboos March 24, 2008 at 9:21 pm |

    Ok, now this is getting ridiculous. EVERY OTHER PICTURE TAKEN DURING THIS SHOOT HAD THE MALE ATHLETE WEARING HIS UNIFORM WHILE CLUTCHING A WOMAN WEARING A BALLGOWN. This photo was the exact same photo as the rest of the photos in this Vogue issue, but the black man with a different facial expression is called a gorilla? That is the most racist, backwards, disgusting theory I’ve ever heard in my life and poor LeBron, his personal self-esteem is going to suffer if he hears the words being used here and on ESPN.com. If someone compared me to a killer gorilla based on the way my mouth was positioned in a picture I would be devasted. Leave the poor man alone, he was simply modeling for a photo, and does not need to be insulted in this way. You people make me sick.

  160. juju
    juju March 26, 2008 at 11:04 am |

    You mean some progressive, uber-liberal white folks “don’t get it” when it comes to how white supremacy functions!?! I am utterly shocked! And they then go on to state that some of ya’ll must be seeing stuff, just lookin’ for something to angry about.

    Some of ya’ll should be ashamed of yourselves, fooling with this trifling, when there are real issues out there… like the ones that directly affect me. Or maybe even a small selection of issues that I have personally deemed worthy, because well, when I think about dealing with them it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like a warm blanket and a cup of coco in front of a wood burning fire on a winter’s day.

  161. CO-ED Magazine » Lebron and Gisele’s Vogue Cover: Racist, or the Victim of a Really Slow News Day?

    [...] black man on the cover of Vogue (alongside supermodel Gisele Bundchen, no less), the blogosphere is aflame with criticism, stating the cover perpetuates racial stereotypes. And you know what, ladies and gentlemen? [...]

  162. KJ
    KJ March 26, 2008 at 3:22 pm |

    The picture continues to stigmatize black men as overly sexual, aggressive, and animalistic, as they’ve been portrayed throughout history through various images and stereotypes.

    Google the Jim Crow Museum, and you’ll see similar, obviously racist images that will make you really question the thought processes of whomever decided to use this as the cover photo.

  163. Sami
    Sami March 26, 2008 at 6:39 pm |

    I can not believe this…does EVERYTHING have to come down to race??? Why does everything have to be analyzed? Nothing can be taken for what it is anymore, a picture, a movie, nothing!
    America always is looking for “What it really means”. Seriously people, get a grip. It’s a freakin’ mag. cover, not a poster that is going over your mantle.

  164. Lori
    Lori March 26, 2008 at 11:30 pm |

    You’ve got to be kidding right? this is such a joke I had to go here just to verify for myself how actually ridiculous this is….. they are gorgeous, famous, super model peopel, who the hell cares what color they are ……… I am still, even after finding myself writing this, AMAZED of how stupid we (people) can be to judge like we do……. WTF people, really!!!!!!!!!

  165. nignog75
    nignog75 March 27, 2008 at 7:13 pm |

    You’re a racist piece of garbage. When I looked at the cover of the magazine i just saw a man and a woman. I guess when you’re days involve calling other niggers it starts to come out everywhere.

  166. Otaviano
    Otaviano March 27, 2008 at 7:26 pm |

    Lala says:

    March 16th, 2008 at 2:45 pm – Edit

    I know that everyone is saying this is classic white woman/black man imagery, but Gisele Bundchen is Brazilian. She was born in Brazil. I thought that would make her a woman of color. Is it because she looks and could “pass for” white? Or do we consider Brazilians as white?

    I’m from Brazil and we do have a racial mixture, and a racial tolerance, but that doesn’t exclude the existence of racism. The economic gap between blacks and whites is enourmous. And Gisele here is in fact considered white, in part because she comes from South, where european presence is great, in part because white people from A and B social classes here want to be considered white. They get mad when they travell abroad and are considered “latinos”. And in fact everyday in the press we are confronted with images less subtiles than this one in vogue. Black and indigenous are frequently pictured as uglies, poors, drunkies, thugs, when they are pictured, most of times they aren’t. In television is the same thing. But this cover is weird. On one side it really resembles the king kong picture. It is a “beast and beauty” message. But on the other side it is a beautiful picture of two beautiful people. King kong image is scary, but, on the contrary, this one in vogue is aesthetically charming. If we didn’t have king kong image to compare, probably we wouldn’t see nothing too wrong with this picture, maybe our subconscious would be screaming about “how come… this black man with this white girl”. Maybe racism is in our eyes first, in our culturally oriented eyes.
    That’s all. Sorry for the english.

  167. Otaviano
    Otaviano March 27, 2008 at 7:32 pm |

    Lala says:

    March 16th, 2008 at 2:45 pm – Edit

    I know that everyone is saying this is classic white woman/black man imagery, but Gisele Bundchen is Brazilian. She was born in Brazil. I thought that would make her a woman of color. Is it because she looks and could “pass for” white? Or do we consider Brazilians as white?

    I’m from Brazil and we do have a racial mixture, and a racial tolerance, but that doesn’t exclude the existence of racism. The economic gap between blacks and whites is enourmous. And Gisele here is in fact considered white, in part because she comes from South, where european presence is great, in part because white people from A and B social classes here want to be considered white. They get mad when they travell abroad and are considered “latinos”. And in fact everyday in the press we are confronted with images less subtiles than this one in vogue. Black and indigenous are frequently pictured as uglies, poors, drunkies, thugs, when they are pictured, most of times they aren’t. In television is the same thing. But this cover is weird. On one side it really resembles the king kong picture. It is a “beast and beauty” message. But on the other side it is a beautiful picture of two beautiful people. King kong image is scary, but, on the contrary, this one in vogue is aesthetically charming. If we didn’t have king kong image to compare, probably we wouldn’t see nothing too wrong with this picture, maybe our subconscious would be screaming about “how come… this black man with this white girl”. Maybe racism is in our eyes first, in our culturally oriented eyes.
    That’s all. Sorry for the english.

  168. 311Chica
    311Chica March 28, 2008 at 10:01 am |

    Where most of you are missing the “boat” is that this is not a beautiful “white” woman. She is Brazilian! Not white! Looks are deceiving. We are suckers for skin and hair in this country. If she looked a little more “ethnic” would the image be OK? So is Gisele just not dark enough for this photo to make America happy?

    I also find it very offensive that anyone would compare the photo of LeBron to a gorilla. This in itself is RACIST! He himself simply said he was making an expression while dribbling the basket ball that he would make on the court. If there was no ball in the picture then you may have had an argument.

    This is simply a representation of two people at the top of their games. So if LeBron looks like a gorilla to you in this picture, maybe you should question if you have racist tendencies still deep down inside, not Vogue.

  169. Keen Listner
    Keen Listner March 28, 2008 at 4:22 pm |

    We’ll all be the color GRAY someday…

    Too blind to see what color someone is
    Too deaf to hear a racist comment
    And too senile to remeber it

    America is a young country…and like a young person we’re still learning

  170. Chadd Lenartowicz
    Chadd Lenartowicz March 28, 2008 at 11:11 pm |

    It’s uptight, self-loathing, white woman who bring up non-stories like this… gimme a break. Get a life.

  171. DeShawn Paul
    DeShawn Paul March 29, 2008 at 2:59 pm |

    I’m amazed, the blog poster is incredibly racist. And you, most of you should be ashamed. There is nothing wrong with the cover, get over it. It is healthy and vibrant. If you have some weird racial hangups about black men leave it at the door.

    Don’t call me a goddamn monkey because I like basketball and white women.

  172. Rob
    Rob March 30, 2008 at 8:44 am |

    Strange — you all see it as a black man threatening a white woman.

    I saw it as a white woman manipulating a black man for her personal gain and his disadvantage. Look at the body language. She’s in control. She’s “running” him. He’s not aggressive toward her — his gaze is beyond her.

    Typical white oppression keeping blacks down.

    And you all saw it as the black man being the threat. Women can be threatening, too. Whites can be the danger, not just the blacks.

    Someone’s racist and sexist, that much I’m sure of.

  173. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax March 30, 2008 at 12:57 pm |

    Don’t call me a goddamn monkey because I like basketball and white women.

    Got it. Apparently if I don’t see the cover as racist, one set of people of color will consider me totally dense to the impact of racism on our culture and determined to believe my understanding of racism trumps theirs. But if I do see the cover as racist, a different set of people of color will consider that I’m a racist tool who thinks black men are monkeys.

    Honestly, I don’t have any firm conviction about the cover itself – it’s juxtaposting super-masculine with super-feminine, OK, maybe not an accident that super-masculine is a black man and super-feminine a white woman, probably not really an intentional allusion to King Kong, but who knows? I have no reason to believe advertising people are incapable of such an allusion, or might not see it as a fun visual joke of some sort.

    It’s the discussion about the cover that’s driving me nuts, more than the cover itself. Isn’t racist, because if you look at the image, it doesn’t really play the way its critics say it does? Fine by me. Isn’t racist, because we left all that stuff behind pre-1970s? Not so OK.

    Look at the body language. She’s in control.

    All I get from the body language is that they’re arm in arm and look as if they barely notice each other; it shouts “Photoshopped” at me, and not much else about who’s in control.

  174. Feministe » No, you’re the racist one! I myself am colorblind.

    [...] This post has a comment section that’s making me want to tear my hair out. So not everyone sees the Vogue cover as racist. That’s fine, and there are certainly a handful of decent arguments in that thread as to why the cover isn’t what I’m seeing. [...]

  175. plooger
    plooger March 30, 2008 at 10:22 pm |

    In case anyone is still visiting this page, reading down this far in the comments, and is open-minded enough to do a simple comparison of two images — putting aside any analysis of motivation, intentions and messaging — check-out the following image, now slipping around the Intertubes, that I put together several days ago after my nephew tipped me to the existence of a certain WWI military recruitment propaganda poster (that he’d coincidentally just learned of a few weeks prior in his AP History class, during a discussion on propaganda)…

    http://home.comcast.net/~krkaufman/du/lebron_as_brute2.jpg

    Some similarities follow. Feel free to add any that you might see.

    Visual
    - Outfit colors match counterparts
    - LeBron’s stance, legs apart and hunched over
    - LeBron’s facial expression, a jaw agape teeth-baring roar
    - LeBron’s “weapon” (a basketball) in his right hand
    - LeBron’s white-tipped tennis shoes match the lightened toes on the brute
    - Damsel in/on LeBron’s right arm
    - Giselle’s stance, with her feet inside LeBron’s, but her body angling outward
    - Giselle’s dress neckline, revealing as much of her upper torso as possible while remaining G-rated and cover photo ready.
    - Giselle’s hair style; note the wavy curls

    Non-visual
    - LeBron is known as ‘King James’, and the above poster was part of the inspiration for the 1933 ‘King Kong’ movie
    - The WWI propaganda poster was anti-German, and Giselle Bündchen is of German heritage (though from Brazil)
    - The paperback release of the latest revision of the Ewens’ book on “typecasting” was March 15th, nearly in parallel with the Vogue cover release. The book’s cover art uses the same WWI propaganda poster.
    -

    The original poster can be confirmed, here:
    http://www.digitaldesk.org/projects/secondary/propaganda/destroy_brute.html

    The Ewens’ book on stereotypes & society can be found here:
    http://stereotypeandsociety.typepad.com/stereotypeandsociety/2008/03/just-out-in-pap.html

  176. The Moment Animal Prints | Vogue Uproar « - T Magazine - New York Times Blog

    [...] Gisele — a pose that bloggers have likened to representations of King Kong. (A commenter on Feministe wrote, “I see a scary animalistic black man, a primal scream, and a beautiful white [...]

  177. Sami
    Sami March 31, 2008 at 7:46 pm |

    Frankly, if I was Lebron James, I would be mad as hell someone compared me to King Kong!!!!

  178. Roy
    Roy April 1, 2008 at 1:09 am |

    It’s a freakin’ mag. cover, not a poster that is going over your mantle.

    The poster on my wall is seen by me and my friends. A few dozen people at most. A vogue cover is seen by millions. It seems to me that dismissing something as being unimportant because it’s just “a freakin’ mag. cover” sort of misses the rather significant role that pop-culture plays on our attitudes and beliefs.

  179. Holly
    Holly April 4, 2008 at 6:29 pm |

    Personally, I think its less of the fact that he is a black man and more of the fact that he is a basketball player. He needs to seem tough, charged up and ready to play his game, so you could argue that both he and Giselle are playing their respective parts, fashion model and sports player, on this cover. Another argument I hear is that there is a much more “civilized” picture on the inside of the magazine, but their goal is to sell their magazine, and what do you think attracts a passerby, two people sitting on a chair or a model posing in a fun, lighthearted way and a basketball star…being a basket ball star. Like I said before, they are only representing their jobs. Now, if Giselle had a sort of scared expression on her face, then you would have a point, but I don’t think the stereotype is with black men as much as basketball players.

  180. michael
    michael April 11, 2008 at 4:16 am |

    I think what the majority of you aren’t comprehending is the subtle but lasting effects of this type of imagery. Images similar to this have existed in American culture since the beginning of our history. The effects of it ripple through out the black “world” every day. The police officer that pulls you over, the employer that interviews you, or the bank that reviews your loan application, all have been exposed to life time of images that paint black men in the most negative light.

    It is the constant barrage of these type of negative images that make it difficult for you to see what black people see and feel when they look at this cover from a magazine that has only had 4 black people, including LeBron, on it’s cover in it’s 140 year history!

  181. Feministe » This is a Feminist Issue Too

    [...] is at the heart of this, and littlem makes some important connections here in comments: when black people are portrayed as scary enemies of the white world, cops become more likely to shoot unarmed people — [...]

  182. Feministe » I Guess It’s a Jungle in Here Too, Huh?

    [...] Comments Feministe » This is a Feminist Issue Too on I know Vogue isn’t exactly racially conscious, but…littlem on I Guess It’s a Jungle in Here Too, Huh?littlem on On Those Pictures and On [...]

  183. Your Experience Is Not Universal « Ideologically Impure

    [...] the very first comment on this post at Feministe, in relation to a … questionable Vogue cover, saying straight up: “I [...]

  184. The Colonialization of Kong
    The Colonialization of Kong April 27, 2008 at 8:19 pm |

    [...] light of feminist outrage over the supposedly RACIST! way some Vogue photographer posed LeBron James and Giselle Bundchen [...]

  185. Whine on you crazy feministe! « docweaselblog

    [...] get past their “the white man is eeeeeeeevil!” mentality, so we’re forced to read crap like this: Welcome new readers! I’ve been quoted as saying that I see Lebron James as an animalistic black [...]

  186. Little Richard
    Little Richard April 28, 2008 at 2:22 pm |

    Clearly the cover is meant to play to white men’s insecurity over penis size. I mean, why didn’t they just put up a cartoon balloon saying, “Tom Brady, I got your woman here — see the big smile on her face? I’ll send her back when I’m done.” Outrageous on so many levels.

  187. The Volokh Conspiracy
    The Volokh Conspiracy April 28, 2008 at 2:29 pm |

    The Vogue Cover Controversy:…

    This cover:

  188. Remembering Pamela Bone, and my own experience as a religious, right of center feminist wannabe « docweaselblog

    [...] and I noted with interest the post the other day regarding the example of vapidity and fatuity the Feministe blog exhibited in their righteous indignation over a Vogue magazine cover. Having solved all the other [...]

  189. docweasel
    docweasel April 30, 2008 at 8:03 am |

    If you were basketball fans, instead of women, you’d know that far from being a put up job by racist Vogue editors, LeBron probably made the face himself, naturally. Its one of his signature “grimaces” after he scores or makes a big play:
    http://docweasel.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/lebron01b.png?w=220
    that was on the first page of google images, I’ll wager there are 50 more where that came from. I’ve seen him do it dozens of times, and they don’t telecast Cavs games down here very often, I’m a transplanted Ohioan in Florida. He’s becoming such a big star, they might start, though, thankfully.

    But still, if you want to make something out of nothing, or assign motives where they don’t exist, I’m sure this won’t stop you.

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