I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’m less politically correct than I used to be. It certainly would be difficult to watch nightly reruns of offensive-to-everyone Family Guy were I hypersensitive. Still, when dealing with the fashion world, I sometimes feel like I need to reiterate the warning that Will Ferrell, playing a beleaguered Alex Trebek on Saturday Night Live’s Celebrity Jeopardy skits, issued to the contestants: “Before we begin the Double Jeopardy round, I would like to ask our contestants once again, please refrain from using ethnic slurs.”
Back in 2008, I cringed over the headline “Playing the Lace Card” on a story about the use of lace on the runway. The headline riffed off the phrase “playing the race card,” which means making a false or exaggerated claim of racism. The design house that was being reviewed, incidentally, used its first black runway model in years at that show.
Speaking of skin color, later that same year, I noted that “beige” clothes and accessories were now widely called “nude.” Sex sells, and “nude” is undeniably more erotic than “beige,” but it seemed strange to me that decades after Crayola renamed its “Flesh” crayon in acknowledgment that people come in a variety of shades, the fashion world has gone in the opposite direction.
This February, Christian Dior suspended designer John Galliano after he was accused of making anti-Semitic comments to a couple in a bar. Galliano attempted to refute the incident until a video from an earlier occasion surfaced in which he drunkenly slurred, “I love Hitler,” causing Dior to fire him outright.
As Galliano’s implosion dominated the industry news, a strange aside from one of my favorite fashion writers flew under the radar. Find out what it was by reading me on The Huffington Post. Don’t forget to leave a comment there!
Susan Tiner says
Thank you for the careful research and analysis of that Huff post piece. I left a comment there as well. It is a sort of public service you render in heightening awareness of offensive language.
Mmhmm i still think galliano is framed!!
Thank you for that well analyzed article. I don’t understand why people can’t be more aware. Surely any intelligent person who thought about what they were writing would see the implications.
I was shocked!
Hi my dear-a really insightful article, you did a very thoughtful and professional piece so I hope lessons are learnt from it.
GRIT & GLAMOUR says
Your article on Huff Post was fab, Wendy. I’ve never been on the receiving end of a ethnic slur but I became hyper aware after I spent some time in Australia. It is totally acceptable there to call Greeks, Italians, the Spanish—and virtually any white, non-anglo—ethnicity “wog.” After a while it really got to me…it is so derogatory…I’m not a “wog”! Even my husband, who grew up there, used it until I asked him to stop (and he moved to the U.S.). Funny that. He doesn’t use the term here, because people don’t. It’s a shame that some fashion writers still feel the need to classify by race and ethnicity, even in the 21st century.
Penny Dreadful Vintage says
Hi Vahni, just thought I’d explain that the word wog has slightly different connotations when it is used in Australia than in other countries. In the 80s and 90s it began to be used by second generation Greek and Italian communities as a self-reference, particualy in the Greek/Aussie tv show Wogs Out of Work and Acropolis Now, and also the film Wog Boy. It isn’t a word I use, but I think the way the word is perceived is very different in the UK/US compared to Australia.
Thanks, Penny. Always good to hear the history.
Mary Panjari says
We Aussie wogs have re appropriated the word!
I think I’ll stop by NM this afternoon to see if they have a nude tie. 🙂
word sensitivity (or insensitivity) is constantly evolving and it is wise to err on the side of caution and refrain from saying things that might be misinterpreted.
years ago co-workers and i were debating the term “broad”. i insisted the word was typically derogatory towards females, and all the males in the room insisted it wasn’t. ANNOYING.
Funny, lots of wimmins love “broad.” Some of the obits for Elizabeth Taylor said she was the last of the great broads. Depends how it’s used and who uses it!
Great article, Wendy! I don’t get the Times, so I missed the original article and didn’t know that had happened.
I commented over there, so won’t repeat myself, but thanks for linking! great stuff!
Emma at Daily Clothes Fix says
What a very insightful piece of research. If only Suzy had applied the same level of sensitivity and journalistic skills.
Glad I am not the only person annoyed by “nude”. What a ridiculous word to describe a colour. Surely nude is whatever colour appears the same colour as one’s skin.
Thanks for this, and for the HuffPost! Keep educating us!
miss cavendish says
Hi Wendy–Apparently HuffPo does not recognize my credentials. I am disappointed that Suzy Menkes would use “squaw” to represent what appears to be, in her eyes, an overly familiar way of wearing a tiara.
I sort of remember that “race card” article, but I forget whose it was (Style.com??). LOL at Will Ferrell… hilarity. Your piece in the Post is great and I bet it’s opening a lot of eyes. Good job.
BTW… ironic, my anti-spam card is “SHUTUP!!!”
The Style Crone says
Read your Huff Post piece. Your analysis was impressive, as usual. Working in the areas of diversity and culturally competent care in health care, the standard was not the ‘golden rule,’ but the ‘platinum rule’ – Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.
I feel ignorant for admitting this in a public space (especially since I am considered less than one eighth Native American) . . . but I had no idea how terrible that word was (not that I throw it around). But I have a sneaky feeling, neither did Ms. Menkes. But that still doesn’t excuse it, she should have done better research! Great post Wendy.
PS- I accidentally deleted your comment on the Swan shoes! Grrrrr. So annoyed with myself.
Mary Panjari says
Great article Wendy! It’s quite bizarre that Suzy M would use that word in that context. A blatant dig at Diana methinks.
Fascinating and educational article, Wendy! The “nude” things reminds me of when I was young and watching Oprah and she was talking about racism. Someone in the audience brought up the fact that band-aids are made to blend in to Caucasian skin. My 8 year old mind was blown!! I work in the nurse’s office of a public school and it is something that STILL bothers me every day (especially since only about 30% of the students in my school are Caucasian.)
I’ve never really thought “nude” was offensive, but I get it now, and it definitely is, it’s a very exclusionary term. You bring up a great point, there are so many words in our lexicon that many of us use without even realizing how those words can be perceived or who they are affecting. While I realized that “flesh-colored” for a crayon was offensive, why didn’t I realize the same for a pair of shoes? Your article is great, and definitely makes me think twice about the language I use in life and on my blog.