May 08, 2008

Comparing Native sex mags

Another Native magazine is exploiting women for allegedly lofty reasons. This time it's annual literary issue of Spirit, "Canada’s leading Aboriginal magazine."

Thanks to Latoya Peterson of Racialicious for alerting me to this and the Shameless blog for writing about it:

It’s Exposed and In Control, so read Spirit!Spirit is Canada’s leading Aboriginal magazine, featuring cutting edge material from the Native community across the country.

This current publication is their very first SEX issue and I am so darn excited and happy that it exists. The beautiful young woman you see on the cover is none other than Métis burlesque extraordinaire Veronika Swartz, photographed by the Über talented Ojibwe photographer Nadya Kwandibens.

Within these pages you will read some of the most progressive and provocative literary masterpieces as they pertain to sex and sexuality. The sweet essence of breaking down social taboos will linger in your mind as you are drawn into the demystifying truths of how beautiful and sacred sex really is in the Indigenous world. What remains is pride and ownership over our own bodies (a concept we actually started!).

It moves me to tears to know that we are taking back what has been exploited so harshly from us and letting it out now on our own terms. And it’s a pretty powerful thing.
Comment:  I believe Spirit is a legitimate and serious Aboriginal magazine. I may have seen an issue, but I don't remember.

I don't have anything against half-naked Native women. Far from it. But I do have something against magazines exploiting half-naked Native women. Even if the purpose is allegedly noble and the women are allegedly willing.

But compare this to Redskin magazine's approach to selling sex using Natives (or selling Natives using sex). At least Spirit's people are, er, upfront about the magazine's contents. They aren't trying to, er, titillate us with a coyly controversial title. They aren't pretending to be fighting a highminded battle against stereotypes while engaging in stereotypes themselves.

No, Spirit's approach is arguably better. Without reading the magazine, it seems to be a case of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). That's always the best approach if you ask me.

Still, does "sex issue" have to equate to "semi-naked woman on the cover"? A third way would be better than either magazine's approach. If you need to illustrate the concept of sex, do it the way movie posters or album covers or romance novels do it. Suggest sex with subtle looks and poses, but don't spell it out. Be provocative, not blatant.

Overall, there are too many women on magazine covers and not enough in parliaments, boardrooms, and laboratories. And neither Redskin nor the Spirit sex issue does anything to address the issue. What will a Native girl say when she sees these mags? "Mommy, I want to be an astronaut?" Or, "Mommy, I want to be pretty like the cover girls?"

I trust you'll never see a semi-naked Native woman on the front of a Blue Corn Comics product. (Unless it's absolutely essential to the story, that is.) I don't need to make a living from exploiting women. Life is too short to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

For more on the "redskin" and Redskin magazine, see Red·skin n.  Dated, Offensive, Taboo. For more on semi-naked Native women, see Indian Women as Sex Objects.

Below:  "Buy me and get your sexual literary gratification."


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
There is no way writerfella ever would set foot in print in such a magazine as SPIRIT. "This issue, we'll exploit women," is a conscious decision but only a 'test the waters' exploration. True 'literary' publications do not make those kinds of decisions. RED SKIN Magazine, on the contrary, is upfront because the magazine purposefully is presented like the old Ace Double paperbacks: one side features female depictions; invert the magazine, and the other side features male depictions. THAT is why each issue has TWO covers! What will SPIRIT Magazine do next time? Exploit children? Therein lies true danger, in that you cannot truly know what to expect, issue to issue...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

The magazine is called Redskin, not Red Skin, ignoramus. As you'd know if you read Educating Russ About Redskin. Or if you read the Redskin logos in front of your face.

Rob said...

As for the double covers, "Team RSM" explained the reason for them:

"Due to popular demand and an overload of material, we are BIGGER AND BETTER! We will be releasing: Posters, Calendars, New Merch, promotional material and our new Combo Seasonal series! The Combo Seasonal Series will be highlighting our unique double cover theme and blending our FALL/WINTER and SPRING/SUMMER issues."

One, it sounds like a temporary measure. They're combining four issues into two for the coming year. They may well revert to quarterly magazines with single covers after these two special issues.

If you could read better, you might've picked up on this. The phrase "unique double cover theme" suggests it's not permanent choice reflecting their philosophy. Rather, it's a temporary gimmick for two issues.

Two, they said nothing about using dual covers to provide equal exposure for men and women. This is your stupid fantasy explanation, nothing more. It has no basis in fact.

Reading between the lines, I'm guessing they found it too expensive to publish four separate issues. By publishing only two, they get economies of scale and save money.

Even if circumstances aren't forcing them to combine issues, they're doing it for the money. They've made it clear that their goal is to sell more merchandise.

To summarize, the dual covers are an economic choice, not a moral or philosophical one. Duh.

Unknown said...

I'm glad to have instigated a small debate. The cover photo was my own idea. So how, I wonder, could I be exploited? Maybe you should read the article and educate yourselves on women in burlesque before writing your opinion. Thank you for your time.

Rob said...

Veronika, I think I covered your point when I wrote, "I do have something against magazines exploiting half-naked Native women. Even if the purpose is allegedly noble and the women are allegedly willing."

To reiterate, I said Spirit is "exploiting women," not exploiting the particular woman on the cover. It doesn't matter which woman is on the cover or whether she suggested the cover. Spirit is exploiting the idea of using half-naked women to sell products.

It also doesn't matter how literary or lofty the contents of the magazine are. I was reacting to the cover, not the contents. The contents are irrelevant to my analysis.

But if you want me to address the interior, okay. Is the "women in burlesque" article an example of the literature in the "Annual Literature Issue"? No? Then it's funny Spirit chose to illustrate the concept of literature with a half-naked woman.

Another word for "funny" is exploitative. I wonder how many people bought the issue looking for literature and how many bought it looking for half-naked women. Any ideas?

I suggest you read my roundup on Indian Women as Sex Objects. Then you can tell us how your participation in burlesque is different from 500 years of Indian women serving as sex objects--sometimes by their own choice. I'd love to hear how much deeper your thoughts are on the subject than mine.

P.S. Send me a copy of the issue if you want me to read it. I'll let you know what I think of it.