Jada Pinkett-Smith posted a commentary on her Facebook page recently that dealt with equality in the media. She posed a question to African American women about image and media equality when it comes to all women. Although she targeted one specific form of media, the question that she raises could include other media outlets aside from magazines. As controversial or put off by the question as some may get, it is actually a question that should be considered, if we are talking about real equality amongst everyone. Below is the question that was posed.
“There is a question I want to ask today. I’m asking this question in the spirit of thinking outside of the box in order to open doors to new possibilities. These possibilities may be realistic or unrealistic. I also want to make it clear that there is no finger pointing here. I pose this question with the hope that it opens a discussion about how we can build a community for women based upon us all taking a deeper interest in one another. An interest where skin color, culture, and social class does not create barriers in sharing the commonality of being… women. With love and respect to all parties involved, my question is this…if we ask our white sisters, who tend to be the guardians of the covers of mainstream magazines, to consider women of color to grace these covers, should we not offer the same consideration to white women to grace our covers? Should women extend their power to other women simply because they are women? To my women of color, I am clear we must have something of our own, but is it possible to share in the spirit in which we ask our white sisters to share with us? I don’t know the answer and would love to hear your thoughts.”
Many of Pinkett-Smith’s followers responded with some valid explanations as to why African American magazines should or should not consider diversifying. One follower said,“Just because Cosmo puts a black woman on the cover doesn’t mean the content is for us! Nowhere in Cosmo can I find information about my hair care, skin care,healthcare or issues that plague black women! I hear you Mrs. Pinkett-Smith but I definitely don’t feel you!”
But isn’t fair, fair? On one hand it is easy to see where, Pinkett -Smith is coming from. African American women have always been fighting to be heard, even during the Second Wave of the Women’s Movement in the United States. During that time we were fighting not only to have our issues heard ,but we were fighting for equality within equality at that time. We were Sojourners who were staking our claim and saying , “hey we are women too.”
Now, in the 21 century, we see more African American women breaking the color lines and gracing the covers of Cosmo , Vogue, and other mainstream Caucasian magazines. But we have only scratched the surface. While it is true that Essence is a magazine who’s focus was geared toward the issues of black women, the original owners ended up selling the Magazine in 2005 to Time Inc. , which means that Caucasians own the magazine. What was once “for us and by us” has changed hands and has become watered down and irrelevant.
Essence Magazine has become a magazine that glosses over topics that specifically deal with black women, and the deep ceded issues that we face in an American society that never really accepted our image and our unique cultural differences in the first place. Now, Essence, a magazine that for more than 34 years had been a major staple for young African American girls growing up, is nothing more than a fashion magazine that does nothing to help African American women better themselves. So to put a white woman on the cover really would not be a devastating blow, as the magazine does not belong to African Americans anyway.
Asa Lovechild is an accomplished actress and singer out of New York City and a supporter of One Billion Rising