Outrage Over Vogue Cultural Appropriation Is Appropriate
February 17, 2017
Gallatin sophomore Karlie Kloss came under fire recently for wearing yellowface in Vogue’s March issue. After the ensuing backlash on Twitter, Kloss posted an apology on her personal Twitter account. “These images appropriate a culture that is not my own,” the tweet said,”and I am truly sorry for participating in a shoot that was not culturally sensitive.”
While Kloss’s apology is certainly considerate and shows that she understands her mistake, a formal apology statement is also required from Vogue management. While Kloss should have used her position to influence the shoot, full responsibility for the incident falls on the magazine’s editorial staff as a whole.
In 2012, Kloss was involved in a similar incident when she was asked to wear a Native American headdress on the runway of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. After receiving extensive criticism, Kloss tweeted an apology with her support for Victoria’s Secret’s decision to remove the outfit from the show broadcast. While the responsibility for this current yellowface mistake falls on Vogue, Kloss is clearly aware of the implications of cultural appropriation within the fashion world. In light of her success as a model and power within the industry, Kloss should decline offensive photoshoot proposals or influence the direction of the magazine.
Vogue is an influential fashion magazine, and it is well aware of its status. It should use this influence to show sensitivity when depicting other people’s cultures. The March issue was meant to celebrate diversity and inclusion, showing that Vogue is also conscious about the issues that people are talking about. The issue’s theme is also implied that the publication was aware that, if not careful, referencing another culture can easily lead to cultural appropriation. The blistering irony of appropriating Japanese culture in an issue celebrating diversity was apparently lost on Vogue’s editors.
While criticism of Kloss is based on valid reasoning, she should not be facing more criticism than the company that orchestrated the shoot. Vogue put her in this shoot. By doing so, the magazine disregarded the implications of their actions and the precedent it would set. Cultural appropriation, especially in a large and mainstream setting, is unacceptable and Vogue’s lack of response on this matter speaks volumes about their overall corporate values.
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