Victoria's Secret has apologized for sending model Karlie Kloss down the runway in a faux American Indian chief headdress. It's not the first time Victoria's Secret has used a racist stereotype to promote its lingerie. The chain just can't seem to stop conflating race and sex.
Here's the recent history.
1. Earlier this month, at Victoria's Secret's fashion show in New York, Kloss sashayed down the catwalk in this Native American cliche. Oddly, it included leopard-print bikini bottoms, even though leopards live in Africa. It's not the first time VS has associated minorities with exotic animal prints, as we'll see ...
2. In September, VS pulled its "Sexy little geisha" teddy set from its web site, because consumers noticed its Asian stereotyping (on another white model):
3. In November 2010, VS cast a set of black models in a "Wild Thing" skit, in which the models were covered in "tribal" body paint, leopard print and other "jungle" garb:
4. Victoria's Secret is an equal opportunity offender. It has similarly cliched ideas about white people, too. Here's was its "country girl" section from the same 2010 show, featuring white-only models in gingham-fetish outfits:
It's probably not the case that the staff at VS are out-and-out racists. It's more likely that they're conflating sexiness with "taboo" and role-playing -- but they're not giving enough thought to how those roles might be perceived by people who work outside 7th Avenue in Manhattan.
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