The article “The Color of Sex: Postwar Photogenic Histories of Race and Gender in National Geographic Magazines” issues from Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins’s pen and features a powerful volume “The Gender/Sexuality Reader”. This volume, as a whole, can be distinguished in the ocean of books devoted to the ideas of race, gender, and sexuality by the sheer stringency and conclusiveness of each piece of writing that it encompasses. What struck me most about the article was the disclosure of how the images of people of color are formed by the popular culture.
specifically for you
for only $16.05 $11/page
The article uncrowns the ever so popular National Geographic in the eyes of readers that have gotten so convinced by this magazine’s apparent multiculturalism that the article can at first come as a shock. Come to think of it, the white-skinned frenzy of magazines and journals this popular only ever comes into focus when you look through the photos and notice the almost entirely white crew and models, both female and male. Such is the case with the Vanity Fair and the Bazaar that are considered “women’s magazines” – which is, in itself, a crude assumption. They are also regarded by the collective subconscious as multiculturalist just because they are not openly called “white”. All one has to do is to google the cover pages of the mentioned journals – and see for oneself.
The authors also open the readers’ eyes at just how the images of people of color are formed in the collective subconscious. The authors point out the staged artificiality of the pictures illustrating the people of color just as white people expected them to be. The photos conveyed the spirit of collectiveness as opposed to the whites’ individuality, hard work, and simplicity. The down-to-earth photos of men were accompanied by a lesser amount of female heroines a significant percentage of which were topless. I suppose it is a 100% successful marketing strategy unfolded: ever since Sarah Baartman, black females were regarded as animalized and hypersexual entities. The perception is further rooted, being practically fed on what it already knew – with regard to the zeitgeist and contemporary values. The recognition and precognition of women of color as either mothers or sexual objects does not give mush room for imagination, which is why there are less black women than black men – and less black men than white men – in National Geographic pictures.
Such images tend to be further intertwined with class – given the rural and frankly poor surroundings in which the people of color were depicted. Women’s work, for one, was illustrated as requiring even less mental processing as that of men. Considering the depiction of white people – both male and sometimes female – in the surroundings that suggest the idea of “smartness”, the message becomes clear.
There are books in the field of race, gender, and sexuality studies that either mistreat or underestimate the ideas they are devoted to. There are books that are known to give lip service to these notions and the assumption that they are somehow intertwined. The trouble with such texts is that they sound either bland or hysterical, and in most cases – unconvincing. This article, as well as some other brilliant pieces of writing gathered in the volume, sounds perfectly convincing, with Kafkaesque reserve and sobriety of the language that does not distract from the actual message.