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Race and ethnicity-type things


Anger-induced aneurysms in my life

Please note: this is a translation repost of an entry from my Swedish blog. If the feel of the text seems somewhat off, it’s because I didn’t originally write it in English. Oh, and it’s from back in August, when the ad was just released.)

I wrote about racism against the roma a few weeks ago. About deportations, about molotov cocktails used against three-year-olds, about prejudice accepted by society. Today there’s more material in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, but I don’t have the energy to read it, don’t have the strength to cry while at work.

But I hadn’t thought of ONE thing the roma are good enough for in Western society: exotification, preferably with hypersexual characteristics. “Gyspy” comes to mean passionate, alien, wild, beautiful… basically your standard Wednesday afternoon orientalism. Sweeping skirts, dark hair and firelight are used as signifiers of Otherness and Availability (which in itself a part of the same phenomenon that narrates African-American women in a sexualized manner, an extension of their previous position as sexual pray within the legalizing context of slavery.) You get it. You’d think we’ve got further than that in 2010, but culture fucks you right back in your place. The makeup brand Illamasqua released their fall collection The Art of Darkness in September, and one of the looks is called “Queen of the Gypsies.”

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WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. This is what the official image looks like, if you don’t have the energy or inclination, I can inform you that is  a somewhat dark-skinned woman with long black hair and silver highlights. She is wearing a red bikiniesque top and a semitransparent red and blue skirt. She’s also wearing golden earrings, many golden necklaces and at least one anklet. Her upper arm is sporting either a tattoo or a tight bracelet. The only light in the picture seems to come from a candelabra behind her. The look is marketed with the following text: “No one can resist the Queen of the Gypsyies. This alluring temptress, famed for her seductive veiled dancing, knows how to use her art to get what she wants…”

I can’t, a the moment of writing, think of any way I could be more disgusted by this. Exotification is gross enough on its own, any woman of color could tell you that, but imagine  the above text being about a nationality, say, Japanese women. It wouldn’t be any better, but there had been a number of organizations, Japanese and non-Japanese, who has put their foot down, but some pressure on Illamasqua, made sure this was talked about. Right now, there’s just silence. The particular exposed situation of the roma population makes this campaign a little bit more cowardly, a little stupider, a little bit more disgusting.

(on a sidenote, the werewolf-styled ad also trivializes rape. Nice one, Illamasqua. I’m on a lifetime boycot, btw.)

Annamatopoetry

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