Even though the CFDA sent out “diversity tips” for designers to follow this NYFW, and in spite of fierce Internet backlash, Kanye West still went through with his “multiracial women only” casting this week. And despite the obvious offensiveness, droves of women lined up at Chelsea’s Jack Studios, hoping to meet Kanye and model in his Yeezy Season 4 fashion show.
One woman, who goes by the name Babyscumbag online, showed up topless, to protest the event. Across her chest she scrawled, “They want black features not black girls,” and held up a sign that read, “Multiracial only=Lightskin only. You ain’t slick, Ye.” Also included on the sign was a quote from a 2006 Essence magazine interview in which West refers to mixed black women as “mutts.”
After photos of the protestor spread online, Babyscumbag took to social media to pen a poignant essay about her decision to challenge the casting.
“This is an indictment of not just Yeezy but the entire fashion and beauty industry in which there is a racialized hierarchy of beauty which is a ubiquitous symptom of the legacy of colonialism,” she writes. “Regardless of whether Yeezy does choose to include darkskinned women in the end, the coded language of the casting call was clear and a part of a broader problem of colorism in the fashion industry.”
She continues: “Beyond Yeezy’s casting, there are hundreds of castings for this upcoming NYFW going on where thousands of models are all hoping for a chance to walk down a runway and for Black girls, the chances of being one of these girls is alarmingly slim and those chances go down depending on the deepness of the color of your skin,” adding, “This casting call for ‘Multiracial ONLY,’ […] asserts that BLACK can only be beautiful when MIXED with another RACE.”
Kanye West casting only ‘multiracial’ is a form colourism and is basically another way saying ‘only light skinned women please’
— Sonia (@Sonia_Phalatse) September 5, 2016
I love Kanye West but even I have to admit that man is socially inept. “Multiracial Women Only” is a very subtle way of saying “Lightskins”
— ⚡️brad pitt ⚡️ (@zephaniiiah) September 4, 2016
— Marque Chanson (@Kriegshund) February 9, 2015
She continues by comparing the fetishization of men and women of mixed race to Hitler’s fascination with eugenics, outlining the racist and unfair beauty standards that continue to permeate mass media, fashion, and society at large, preaching “white as beautiful and dark as evil and ugly.”
“It is clear that language is racialized and we can’t say it’s just words, or write off the erasure and very targeted assault on Black women inside and outside of the fashion industry,” she argues. “[…] It’s just facts that Black women are constantly told they are too dark, lips too big, hair too ghetto for all professions only to see these same features or styles on non-Black women, receive praise,” she laments. “Obviously the problem isn’t the style but the color of the women wearing it.”
Babyscumbag closes her essay, explaining why she felt it was important to call out Kanye. In doing so, she hoped to start a dialogue about the way language is used to oppress women of color, and to highlight the way designers are perpetuating outdated, and racist, standards of beauty. Also, “because summer is ending and there aren’t going to be many more nice days like yesterday.”
Read the full essay, below.