In their second “Break the Internet” issue, Paper Magazine tapped spokesmodel Amber Rose for an editorial spread that offers homage to feminist icons, like Gloria Steinem and Rosie the Riveter. In the photos, Rose is recreating famed poses that are often revisited in March, during Women’s History Month.
Yet, in this spread, Black Feminists are excluded. Rose poses as Dorothy Pitman-Hughes, but that’s a byproduct of Pitman-Hughes being in a photo with Steinem. There’s no Angela Davis or Sojourner Truth or bell hooks or Alice Walker or Harriet Tubman or Ida B. Wells.
For Rose’s feminist commitments as well as what feminism represents, this is an act of unacceptable erasure.
Rose emerged as a vocal feminist after she split from her ex-husband, Wiz Khalifa, and was bombarded with sexist comments on Instagram.
“I would look on [Wiz’s] Instagram and he would have pictures of all these women all over him… and then I would post a picture of me and my son. And people would be like, ‘Does your son know that his mother’s a whore?’” Rose said in her interview with Paper Magazine.
“People are like, ‘Wiz is out fucking mad bad bitches and you’re at home crying over him because he’s the best thing that fucking ever happened to you and now you’re just a fat, bald-headed single mother and no one will ever love you.’ So yeah, I guess months of seeing shit like that, I was just like, ‘I can’t live like this. There’s something wrong.’”
After experiencing intense slut shaming, Rose decided to organize a slut walk, write How to be a Bad Bitch, and promote the reclaiming of pleasure as a feminist commitment.
Rose’s feminism forefronts bold sexual expression, but she is also concerned with how racism is reproduced in feminist movements.
“That would be the main thing for me… really just try to take the racism out of feminism for our generation,” Rose said.
Rose’s goal is a commendable one. Feminism must consider how race, gender, sexuality, class, and ability impact women. Someone should’ve passed that memo on to Paper Magazine.
When white women are considered the sole feminist icons worthy of recognition, it tells Black Feminists that their contributions and commitments aren’t as important.
Professor Anthea Butler sums this up well at RH Reality Check when she writes, “Women of color have never had the luxury of simply focusing on women’s issues. Considerations of race, racism, and economic and social injustices have always intertwined with issues of patriarchy and sexism. Women of color who also hold feminist beliefs are also acutely aware of how their communities, broadly defined, are affected by outside forces.”
By excluding Black Feminists from simple magazine spreads, Paper is upholding white feminism at the expense of the marginalized. And that is unacceptable.