Continuing “Do Fashion Sites Have Any Moral Obligations?”

Recently, I commented on a model used by Alberta Ferretti on the site tomandlorenzo.com. She was ghostly white. My comment was twofold: to note how white she is, and how that “whiteness” is what designers seem to desire, and that the lack of stockings highlighted how white her legs were. My exact quote was, “Could the model be any more pasty?”

Another reader said I was racist, and “body snarking,” a term made up by the owners of fashion sites who ban you if you mention that someone looks deathly thin. She said, “Imagine if you said that she was too dark!” Then the owners, Tom and Lorenzo, jumped in and claimed that I was body snarking, and that it wasn’t tolerated, and that my comment wasn’t about racism at all. Really? I explained to them that it was about racism, but they continued to tell me what I meant. Then they sent me some rude responses to my emails, telling me I was full of “horseshit,” and that I should “go away. You’re not wanted here.” They said they don’t address these issues because their readers would leave. That’s sad, to think your readers are so shallow that they aren’t interested in social issues in fashion. I would never underestimate my audience in that way, if I actually had an audience. 🙂 These are serious issues and, as far as I can see, very few people are addressing them.

Yes, I can think. I think I should leave that site.

Claiming someone’s legs are too dark is an entirely different context than saying someone is pasty white. One comment is racist, the other is pointing out that models can’t be white enough for designers. One comment is implying that the whiter the better, the other comment is saying that dark models aren’t desirable. How this comparison got made and then defended by the site owners shows a lack of understanding of what was implied and later explained, and a real denial of racism in fashion. It’s like saying affirmative action is racist, denying the conditions that led to its necessity. Most designers don’t use women or men of color, and if they do, they are light-skinned. Their models are often deathly thin. Some have died. I know that Internet arguments are silly. I’ll never meet these people in my life. But these are important issues, and I’m dismayed by the lack of critical thinking and that these sites, including one of my favorites, gofugyourself.com, shut down any questions about body issues or racism in fashion. I don’t think it’s because their readers are dull and uninterested. I think it’s because they don’t want to lose their close-up seats at all of the fashion shows. Tom and Lorenzo are not unintelligent, so I’m led with the conclusion that they purposefully misunderstood my comment in order to shut down any conversation about racism in shows.

I’ve read tomandlorenzo.com for a long time. It used to be funny and interesting. Lately, I’ve been disenchanted for a number of reasons, one of which I is that I find the premise of their new book, “Everyone Wants To Be Me Or Do Me,” and some of their blog posts of the same name, to be incredibly sexist. The book is about their careers as fashion bloggers and the premise that women want to “be” the people they feature on their site or men want to “do” them because of how they dress. From the first mention of this, I felt squirmy inside. I like clothes, but I certainly don’t want to”be” Reese Witherspoon or Halle Berry, and to suggest this is really demeaning to women. Alternatively, to suggest that women dress so that men will want to “do” them, while true for some women, is really quite offensive. It’s not cool to make those assumptions, and if you are doing it for fun, then you should have a big disclaimer. This post about Heidi Klum is a great example.

No, I don’t want to be Heidi

Here are their words:

Damn, we so want to be her right now. She should consider looking bitchy more often. It’s ever so much chicer than that big grin and obvious need to be loved. Own your bitchface, Heidi. It’s fabulous.

Much ado about nothing? Tom and Lorenzo certainly thought so. Shutting me down and shutting me up. But I’m a writer. I’m hard to shut up. Perhaps I didn’t express myself well at first, but when I explained, their insistence on misinterpreting told me something else. People don’t want to take on the fashion industry. They have too much power and influence. And in doing do, you might lose your front row seat to the best shows in town.