The Fashion Industry Is Hurting
01.31.18

If you’re white (I am white), don’t use the N-word. I wish I’d published that line alone last week in response to the controversy wherein Miroslava Duma, co-founder of Buro 24/7, shared a note from couture designer Ulyana Sergeenko to Instagram Stories that read: “To my n*ggas in Paris.” Because really, when someone uses the N-word — yes, even casually — in 2018 especially, what else is there to say?

Something. There is a responsibility to say something.

When exchanged between white people, the N-word is, as Dr. Maya Angelou said, poison. It is not ours to speak, not ours to write, not ours with which to joke. The word is a heavy fossil packed with layers of violent history, exclusion and oppression. It is not a pebble to be picked up and tossed casually. As for Miroslava Duma’s transphobic, homophobic remarks that resurfaced from 2012 last week, those words are poisonous, too.

If you’ve not been following, there was swift and immediate backlash. Miroslava Duma and Ulyana Sergeenko’s initial non-apologies further fueled the fire. Dumas’ response was curt; Sergenko’s has since been taken down and replaced with another. Duma responded again, this time in a full statement to Business of Fashion. Elle.com’s Nikki Ogunnaike wrote why this controversy is “not just a niche fashion story.” For Glamour.com, Candace McDuffie wrote how this “casual racism highlights fashion’s need for diversity.” Yesterday, the headline of Connie Wang’s Refinery29 piece asked, “Is wokeness in fashion just another illusion?”

We can chant the old rhyme about sticks and stones not breaking bones, but words with deep meanings hurt. These words hurt. I am a part of this industry, and the industry is hurting. This gaffe in particular rocked me, and I wish I spoke up sooner. I realized, after sitting on it for so long, talking about it to myself for so long, and then especially after reading a piece by Anja Tyson for All the Pretty Birds on “how to be an ally,” that by not doing anything, I was part of the problem.

I want to be the kind of person who speaks up about issues that matter to me, about issues that have greater reverberations beyond their isolated incidents. I want to be the kind of person who lends a hand toward change. I want to help in ways that are productive rather than performative, even if the way to do that isn’t always clear. It’s a confusing time, but I do know silence is never the answer.

We have messed up before at Man Repeller. You have demanded we do better. We agree. As Head of Creative at Man Repeller, as a writer, as someone invested in a community I love, I need Man Repeller to genuinely feel as welcoming of a place as we intend it to be. Part of that means, as a site borne of the first-person narrative, valuing and sharing work from people of varied of backgrounds with unique voices — people of color in particular — and seeing that reflected in the new contributors we bring on to the site, the stories we tell and the people we hire on staff. (Ed note: we have five open positions!) The other part of that means speaking up for what we believe in.

Yes, it can be hard when we can’t seem to find the right words, or when we feel hypocritical for past mistakes, but when words escape and fears arise, maybe a return to honesty — a return to our reason for wanting to speak — can help us find our voices. We have to hold ourselves accountable for how our actions impact one another. The same is true for our words — what we say, and what we don’t. While the internet can reinforce our familiar, insular bubbles, it also makes it easier than ever to pierce them. My hope is that, as a result, we become better. Better organizations, better groups, better people.

Edited by Kate Barnett

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images.

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  • cynthia

    I follow ManRepeller a lot because I like the fashion. I think there is too much SJW stuff on this site but I just don’t click those articles.

    I’m a middle aged black woman and I’m getting tired of all this racism stuff every day everywhere. It’s like our society has turned into a mass blob of various victim identity groups who spend all their time being upset, aggrieved and offended. While I don’t think folks should go around saying the “N” word all the time, there is no need for everyone to be so up in arms over some note one friend wrote to another.

    I would like to just live my life without constantly walking around on eggshells trying to make sure NO ONE Is ever offended or hurt. Isn’t life difficult enough without that?

    • torioes

      It’s really not that hard to not say offensive things.

      • Daniel Szilagyi

        People are offended by just about anything though and that’s part of the problem, as soon as your opinion doesn’t reflect what other people want to agree with they’ll either dislike it or outright hate it and find it offensive because they are taking something that is a personal thought or reflection and replying with an emotion and not logic.

        • torioes

          I really don’t think this happens that often in real life. I have productive conversations with people I disagree with all the time. Having a differing opinion is not the same as saying something racist/sexist/homophobic etc.

          • Daniel Szilagyi

            Of course, no one is going to be direct to your face about it, they’ll be upset or angry but they won’t tell you that in person.
            People are upset if you don’t call them the right thing or even if you assume their from a country that is now called something else, again not directly to you but i’ve seen plenty of examples from body language alone that told me that.

            Hell i remember hearing about how one woman remarked to another that she looked a little sweaty while waiting in line for coffee and that lady nearly had a meltdown about being “sweat shamed”

            Of course none of this is the same as being blatantly racist though

          • cynthia

            Trans people get infuriated if you can’t tell what identify they have decided to go with that day. It’s not always obvious to me that a person who has identified as unicorn is that when they have no horn in the forehead and are walking on two legs.

            As for people being blatantly racist, so what. Just don’t talk to those folks. Racism is prohibited in employment and housing and other areas of necessity. So there is no need to force people to act like they like each other.

            Also, black people are pretty racist.

          • Daniel Szilagyi

            The reality is that everyone is racist, some more than others but at the end of the day people don’t always like people and race just happens to be an easy way for them to push forward that notion that they don’t like them, but even if everyone had the same skin tone the problems wouldn’t go away

            I agree with you, don’t like the person? walk away or leave them be.

          • Sooji

            Although anti-discrimination laws may be in place, they’re not always enforced; also, they often require a lawsuit to be enforced. I think it makes a lot more sense to try to work towards racism not happening in the first place, rather than try to correct for it ex-post.

          • belle

            You assumed everyone’s opinions based on body language? People have only raised this issue when you’re acting like a fool on the internet? Nobody has ever directly said that they are offended by something to your face, but you’re here saying how how everyone is offended by anything all the time?

            People WILL talk with you directly about their experiences. They really will. It is very helpful to get insight from others, especially those who think differently, because it gives you perspective. But in order to do that, you do have to be willing to listen to them.

      • cynthia

        EVERYTHING is offensive now. It’s hard to keep up.

        It’s really not that hard to ignore people who say things you don’t like as well.

        • torioes

          If we’re going to ignore everything people say then we’re never going to make any positive strides a society.

          • cynthia

            So what will you do instead? Lynch or imprison those who say what you don’t like in the name of “positive” strides in society? Who gets to say what speech is approved? Who gets to say what’s a positive stride in society?

          • torioes

            There is a clear definition for hate speech. People don’t get imprisoned/lynched in most countries simply for saying things others personally “don’t like”. These women are still living their lives and are just fine. All they had to do was apologize on the internet.

          • cynthia

            Hate speech is something that should have never been codified in a country that lists freedom of speech as number one in the Bill of Rights.

            If you don’t like what a person says, stop talking to them. It worked for everybody before the Internet and political correctness, which you seem to be advocating.

          • torioes

            I’m advocating for people having a real conversation with someone who said something ignorant instead of just ignoring it.

        • belle

          It’s really not that hard to not be a racist asshole

        • belle

          Racism in America is a much bigger problem than “people who say things you don’t like”

          A fashion blogger saying some stupid shit on the internet is small potatoes compared to racial discrimination in the workplace or systemic inequality, but they stem from the same issues.

    • EP

      The social justice warrior shit irks me and bores me. It eliminates nuanced thinking. Ideas and things are either good or bad, black or white, and that is not life. I have no respect for think pieces that just reiterate the same generic thought over and over, while the authors pat themselves on the back for speaking out. If you’re going to speak out, say something new, unique, or thought-provoking.

    • Daniel Szilagyi

      Thank you, for having a good rationale thought and explaining your thoughts

      I find this is very much a North American cultural thing as well, constantly either worrying about offending or being offended.
      I find people spend more time trying to find things to be angry over or upset about than just enjoying and living their lives being good people themselves.

      • Permanent Bishface

        Ah you are one of THOSE. The type of person that feels oh so above it all, for which racism (or any other ism) is something to look away from and ignore. How nice for you. I’m assuming you are cis and white, because that’s an easy thing for many cis white folks to say and do. Bravo 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 you’re oh so cool because nothing bothers you.

        • Daniel Szilagyi

          What the hell are you talking about? I wasn’t talking about racism at all in my bit above, i was talking about people being offended easily to which you just proved my point, you also didn’t bother to look at any of the context either and just made your own assumptions.
          I also never stated to look away from racism, i said that ALL people are racist ( some openly and loudly and some not so much ) and that’s just part of human nature that not everyone is going to like everyone and all the hand holding in the world isn’t going to change that.

          • Permanent Bishface

            I read your other comments and stand behind what I said. You might want to reread yours to see how you came across.

    • Ezenwanyi

      Ok sooooo no one take Cynthia’s words on here and think that most black people think like this. She is definitely in the minority.

      I don’t understand how people try to compare “walking around on eggshells” to someone feeling threatened, offended, objectified, less than, etc. by their words. Like what comment do you have that is SO GROUNDBREAKING, SO IMPORTANT, just SO…EVERYTHING that you must share it at the expense of others? As someone has already said, it’s actually pretty easy not to say offensive shit. (Side note: When did racism become “nuanced thinking”?)

      The kind of thinking that allows someone to use words like that, post an exchange like that, and use bullshit rationales like “Kanye West is one of my favorite artists” is what breeds the kind of mentality that will prevent these people from hiring people of color. “I don’t have to actually interact with black people, but they sure are great for some entertainment and cool phrases like ‘n***as in Paris!” Bye. So while Cynthia may think it’s as easy as ignoring people who are offensive, the reality is these people are employers, they are our healthcare professionals, they are our pastors, they are part of our world whether we like it or not. Yeah social-justice warrioring can be extra sometimes. But a lot of the time the protesting and the overreactions are the only ways to get people to pay the fuck attention.

      People are sensitive. Maybe it’s because we’re now all able to see with our own eyes that bigorty and racism is still very much alive. Liiiiiike…your pharmacist was at a white supremacist rally. So if someone says some slick shit or does something questionable, hell yeah I’m looking at you sideways because I know that racism is real. People are finding their voices in a way that’s different than previous generations. Does that mean everyone needs to shut up because it makes some people uncomfortable??

      “Take your ass to the back, Rosa. You’re making these white folks uncomfortable.”

  • Adrianna

    I’ll just add as an aside from the larger point that as an Eastern European immigrant in the U.S., I learned to be cognizant of the importance of inclusion, diversity and language in my American communities, not my Polish one. I am not surprised to see these Russian designers’ behavior at all.

    I realized as a college student that my Polish relatives (and some friends who went back to Poland) insisted that they weren’t racist while saying racist things because they never learned American history. They barely knew anything about the history of trans-Atlantic and American slavery, let alone the implications and significance of using the n-word.

    • Senka

      I am from even further East and South, and I have to say that lack of (at least racial and ethnic) diversity we live in makes us think and do racist things without even knowing. We see a person of color once in a while, and our usual reaction is curiosity, rather than anything else. That’s why this is important. Talking, writing, reading and above and before all, listening people of color talk and say what constitutes as racism and never do it.

      • Adrianna

        homogeneity: I know what you mean there. My mother thought there were only three religions in the world when she immigrated to USA in her 30s… (Catholicism, Judaism, and Orthodox)

        • Senka

          Exactly. More mobility and travelling helps, but we’re still pretty homogenous at least visually.

      • cynthia

        Everything is racist now. If you say Mexican. That’s racist. If you say American, that’s racist. ENOUGH ALREADY! As a black woman, I am tired of all this race stuff. I want to just live and not have to be constantly worried about my race and how I’m so “victimized” and how everyone needs to be careful around me and not make sure to “offend”: me.

        • Permanent Bishface

          As a black woman, I find you trying to speak for all other black people, to give others a pass to be racist a$$holes, to be really annoying and please stop. You’re coming across as really ignorant.

        • laura

          I’m Mexican and not offended by being called that – it’s what I am (proudly).

        • belle

          You can say someone is Mexican. You can’t say that all Mexicans are drug dealers and rapists. There’s a difference and it’s not hard to understand. Sounds like you are just as ignorant as our current President.

      • I’m glad to find this perspective here (even though it is not an excuse to use the N-word). However, people MAY do these things unintentionally. In Finland we don’t see Native Americans and kids may well dress up in such costumes on different occasions (costume party, Halloween etc.) Also, I have friends who are of African origin (adopted), and I can admit here that between us (US, not in general) we have sometimes used N-word, not in an insulting way but as an insider-thing. Nobody’s hurt and we have a good time together. They, too, are offended if someone they don’t know uses that word.

        • Adrianna

          I followed the most recent Euro Cup, and my American boyfriend was disturbed that some of the Polish fans were dressed as Native Americans. I pointed out that they probably just don’t know what happened to Native Americans in USA.

          I think this discussion of what we expect Europeans and white people to know is different in 2018. Yes, a 15 year old is not going to learn American history in school. But is it really that hard for adults to Google?

          I think Amelia was arguing about the importance of diversity and visibility in fashion, which seems to be lost on some people in the comment thread…

          • Haha actually in Finland we DO learn American history in junior high but somehow it has (still) not been reflected in behaviour in a similar way – maybe because we truly are a rather homogenic nation. But these things change with time and the offensiveness is discussed here too, but in terms that are more common here.

            It is fascinating to follow these discussions but ahhhh so difficult to participate as in the online world it is too easy to be misinterpreted. 🙂

          • belle

            Well, there’s the fact that there are still plenty of Americans who do not realize why “gypsy” is offensive, or even that it is a racial slur at all. Not many people learn about the Romani in school, even though there is a Roma population here in the US. But like you said, once someone alerts you to that fact you can do a Google and figure out that you probably shouldn’t say it anymore. These stupid fashion women fucked up twice – first one wrote a pretty obvious racial slur and then the other was dumb enough to post it publicly online for all to see.

          • Adrianna

            Re gypsy: Yes, I didn’t know this until I took an advanced Eastern European literature/film course taught by a Romanian immigrant my junior year of college.

          • Senka

            It’s really, really bad here in balkans. We, the Balkan peoples may not love each other very much, but one thing all have incommon is their nasty treatment of Romani people.

          • Senka

            Well the racism we do have very strong and present here in Eastern Europe is the one towards people of Romani descent. While other people of color are perceived as foreign, but cultured, interesting and even special ( if there’s one african or asian kid in class, most other kids would actually try to be friends with them, because they have cool foreign friend) local, Balkan Romani people are treated horribly. Most of them live in the condition where, even though education is obligatory and available, they can’t or even don’t want to participate. Yes, some of them are beggars, but even those who decide to work hard are ostracized, treated as unclean, criminal etc. It’s terrifying, actually.

    • Daniel Szilagyi

      why would Europeans care about America’s history? the country is barely 200 years old, there is buildings in Europe easily over a thousand. Do you think people in the US know about European history ( let alone any of the geography ) and how one country would invade and force there customs and culture on others? how many endless wars and fighting between all those countries over space, religion and other things? slavery? the caste systems and goodness what else

      • Adrianna

        Your comments are always so angry

        • Daniel Szilagyi

          I’m stating facts, if you think that’s angry that’s your opinion

          • Adrianna

            Again, so aggressive. Lighten up a little!

          • cynthia

            I’m angry. An angry black woman because I get tired of all the white people running around calling each other racist. I’m also tired of all the black people calling everybody racist too. The truth of the matter is that I don’t know ANY black people in America who are suffering from racial oppression from whites.

          • Nia

            You keep pointing out that you’re a black woman, but you acknowledge that your opinion isn’t shared by all (or most) black people. Consider that there are experiences outside of your own. Perhaps you do not feel personally affected by racism, but there are millions of black people in this country who do. It is not up for you to decide what we can and can’t speak out against.

          • Stephanie

            you 100% have got to be a troll.

          • Permanent Bishface

            Ohhhh please shhhhh. My lord. Insert the strongest side eye/eye roll gif here.

          • belle

            Lol what

          • belle

            As a white person who DOES know people of many ethnicities who are affected by racial oppression, I’m able to understand that my experience doesn’t encompass the experience of all others on the planet. Sometimes it’s okay to sit down, shut up and stop trying to tell someone else’s story.

      • Stephanie

        Racism is a product of whiteness, not American history. It exists all over the world. This article is addressing the racism of two Eastern European women, who have certainly learned about racism from their own experiences with white privilege.

        • Valeria

          Um, no. Seems like people are trying to make us see the world and its diversity through American’s eyes. For example Latin America has white, black, native and whatever mix, and we all coexist. The notion of racism and oppression sounds foreign and forced.

          • Stephanie

            But racism exists the world over. It is not just an American issue. Colonialism and white privilege/power has footholds in many nations. It has erased the histories of indigenous people and colorism is an effect of racism felt amongst people of many ethnicities.

          • meme

            Come on. I agree about the imposition of an American perspective, but in Latin America we have very deep racial issues. They are not the same, because our history is different (and I dare say they vary greatly from country to country), but they do exist.

          • Permanent Bishface

            That’s patently untrue. I’m an Afro Latina of Caribbean descent that grew up in Latin America and I can 1000% tell you that there’s colorism and racism in those countries too. Do some reading on the topic.

            Any Brown skinned Latinx will tell you that you’re being disingenuous if you say that. Amara La Negra is a singer that’s speaking out on this very issue right now, as are many other brown skinned Latinx folks.

      • belle

        Well first of all, people have been living in North America for thousands of years. I’m pretty sure that every American school teaches European history in some capacity, especially seeing as the British empire is the prequel to modern American history and a large portion of the American population has roots in Europe. Schools teach European languages. Not to mention the focus within the English speaking world on ancient cultures concentrated in Europe and the surrounding area (Roman, Greek, etc). In addition, New York has historically been THE major destination for European immigrants coming to North America. Modern America was built on immigration, and in that sense it’s an important case study in terms of diversity and racism. I would argue that Europeans should certainly care about America’s history seeing as the US exports media and culture on a grand scale and is a global superpower with a huge influence on world economies and foreign currency – remember when global markets tanked after the last election? Not to mention that the US is unique in terms of the political and electoral system – I can’t think of a European country that has a presidential system – and that so many states the size of European countries (and many states much larger!) can coexist relatively peacefully within a federalist system. This is done in a few European countries but certainly not at such an extreme scale.

        Of course a few courses in Euro or American history cannot possibly cover thousands of years of complicated and fascinating history, and people usually end up focusing academically on one country or culture. But it would be ignorant to say that Europeans do not care about American history, or vice versa. You also don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of the Byzantine Empire to be able to Google if something is racial slur or not before you post it on Instagram ¯_(ツ)_/¯

      • Natasha

        I’d like to add something to it.

        1. I am not black and I am not an American but I know which names/words are good or bad to use. Only, in my country and in my language to say “a person of color” (literally translated) sounds bad, even racist. So, I’d be reluctant to use it and look for something more appropriate. I’d maybe say – non-whites, which might again be offensive for someone, but in my language it has no racist tone at all. It is just a word.

        2. I live in a foreign to me country, and although I fluently speak the local language, it is still not my mother language. E.g. in my mother language I never swear, but in foreign languages it happens more often than I care to admit. It is because I don’t ‘feel’ it in my bones, it is not as sharp for me, I feel (even if a tiniest bit) distanced from it. Also, when I’d say some offensive-to-someone word or call someone names, it has different weight. I don’t necessarily target all the layers and levels of offence that the word can reach.

        3. All I am saying – these celebrities live an even more isolated, upper-class life, they come from different cultures and my language problems can probably apply to them as well. And maybe, just maybe, do the “n*ggas in Paris” (since being French) do have this “language distance” too, and find no offence whatsoever in all of it. I am sure they have another insulting word of the same background that they would find racist, and she would never use it, but you – out of not knowing, but trying to be cool – would.

        It is hard to read between the lines, and sometimes very hard to identify the emotion (especially when not knowing the person and reading her text, errr… a sentence). We can’t read minds, but we can try to understand where the person is coming from. I don’t think she meant to offend (she obviously cares about people she addressed), and for me, for all the reasons I named, that is enough.

      • Melissa

        Maybe it’s a bit off topic but I’d like to point out that even though people in the US may not learn or not care about the rest of the world’s history it doesn’t mean that the rest of the world does the same thing

    • belle

      YES. I wish people would just ADMIT that they didn’t know what the fuck they were doing. This is true within America too. Obviously these two women are just shitty humans, but in general I think everyone should examine their behavior.

      I grew up in a very mixed city in the south and from birth have had to confront racial and socioeconomic issues, both in the form of systemic racism (and corrupt government) and prejudice in daily life. I’ve been really stunned by the attitudes of people I’ve met from very homogenous states or countries who would insist that they are extremely liberal and openminded but still harbor really backwards attitudes when they are actually confronted with racial diversity. It is easy to say you are tolerant when you are living in a place where nearly everyone looks and talks like you, but actions speak louder than words! It’s okay to admit that you were ignorant and didn’t know what you were doing, but I wish people would stop making excuses instead of asking themselves why they thought it was okay in the first place, and addressing that through education and mindful behavior.

  • Dani M.

    Thanks for writing about this, Amelia. It was well written and I’m glad Man Repeller is speaking up about this.

  • I guess I’m not overly surprised that these women would say awful things. A lot of my impressions of the fashion industry are of vain, consumerist, snobs that are “laugh at you,” kind of people. Disappointing, but not surprising for sure. Thanks for speaking out about it though. <3

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  • cynthia

    I’m constantly entertained but also annoyed at how much white people go out of their way to prove they are not racist. I’m a middle aged black woman and the fact of the matter is that no matter WHAT you think about me, whether you are racist or not, there is nothing you can do to me to hurt me.. It’s hilarious how everyone thinks they need to constantly display how “good” they are.

    I will be glad when all this virtue signaling goes out of style.

  • Tchotchke

    What I see already coming from the industry’s “hurting” is that we as consumers of fashion are looking less for superficial beauty and more for the ethos from which fashion comes. In brief, that old cliché: true style comes from within.

    I think we’re seeing this in the meteoric rise of diverse women such as Yara Shahidi, Zendaya, and Hari Nef (just to name a few) as a style icons. Yes, they have the vast apparatus of stylists and designers at their disposal, but their looks are more than looks, they reinforce who these women are as people. I hope they can get more eyeballs to look at all the pretty and hopefully then receive their social messages.

    There is certainly still a willingness to take things at true surface value on Instagram and Pinterest, for example, but there are signs that influencers are increasingly being held just as accountable as people who came up through “traditional” channels.

  • srozy

    These women rub shoulders with the elite of the elite. Yet with all the access they have to the world — which success in the fashion industry can really grant you — they chose to stay ignorant. Industry ‘leaders’ with little to no perspective, worldview or ability to step outside their little bubble. :/

    • Kseniia Korotaieva

      I think one thing that everyone is missing is the EXTENT of ignorance of these ‘fashion circus’ girls as Suzy Menkes famously called them. True problem is that ‘with all access they have to the world’ they never cared to learn English LANGUAGE forget US history or basic worldview

      • srozy

        It’s not language but the nuances of the CULTURE and environment they inhabit and participate in — fashion is a global industry, professionals in that industry should rise to the occasion or hang up their hats…

        • Kseniia Korotaieva

          Yes, indeed, by language I mean the semantic and cultural meaning of words.
          They heard it from some rapper’s song and though it was cool. And when they were pointed out it was inappropriate, they weren’t smart enough to take their favorite PR Karla Otto’s advice and apologize

      • Coconut

        Why do you think they have to learn the english language?

        • Kseniia Korotaieva

          Check out any Ulyana’s interview: intermediate level English + no sense of context = she didn’t even understand what happened, she was sad because she ‘spoiled her show’. If I were her PR agent, I would forbid her to speak publicly, just walk around and take pictures.
          On a side note, I have to admit after checking multiple Russian sources, she has terrible personality: quite explicitly racist, lookist, sexist etc. and super toxic even to her closest friends. She called a famous Russian food blogger who had acne issues ‘ugly pimpled frog’, and another time she said a famous boutique owner keen on sports was ‘bulky, ugly and manlike’. She is Donald Trump inside a beautiful woman

    • Thamsa

      I don’t believe they chose to stay ignorant. They knew what they were doing was wrong, I think they didn’t realise they’d receive any sort of backlash for what was written and posted. You can still rub shoulders with POC and still be horribly prejudice. I feel that,for many people in fashion and entertainment industries, associating with–in particular– famous POC is just profitable. It’s q profile booster.

      I really want to be better and do better. Sometimes I falter, but I’m trying. I never followed those ladies on social media, but I’d have unfollowed as soon as that nonsense rolled out. I stopped supporting HM years ago and their most recent folly reiterated why I think they’re trash. But how many posted their disgust about their coolest monkey in the jungle ad, but will go back to shopping their come summer time ? Same goes for those of us who expressed our disgust with these women, but will go back to ignoring casual and systemic racism ??

      So, yes, I agree, the fashion industry is hurting and has been, but what will we do to change that ?

  • Kerri Urbanski

    Thanks for writing about this!

  • Candice Chantalou

    I’m happy to read this from Man Repeller, especially from someone as high up as Amelia. As much as I have enjoyed the community MR has created, it’s void of certain realities. I had to stop following for a while simply because I don’t come from from a WASP background and articles can come across as unrelatable/unattainable. But I think this piece represents a step in the right direction. ‘Fashion’ doesn’t have to be elitist, racist, or classist and I think we in the comment section know this; I think MR writers (on a fundamental level) do too. The industry on the other hand, debatable. But happy to see people in higher-places being held accountable and happy that you’re talking about it!

    • Cristina

      100% agree, I too took a break from reading because I didn’t feel my average, non-NYC middle class wasn’t represented. But I also read MR from an almost anthropological standpoint, it’s like a whole other fantasy world! ::sigh:: such a catch 22. I find myself really enjoying the pieces that aren’t about fashion, because they have such thought-provoking conversations in the comment community, we are from so many walks of life and i love that!

      • Candice Chantalou

        Completely agree!! Love how you called it an “anthropological standpoint.” It’s super true, but adds to the fact that we can feel like outsiders looking in. Which of course, is going to happen in life, but is also why inclusivity can be so vital!

        • Magdalen Trela

          All of this 100%! I often feel like I can only handle reading certain articles because some of the more beautiful, fashion-focused ones are so out of my reach and world that it leaves me feeling left out and sorry about myself (like I’m not cool enough or don’t make enough money). And yet! I feel like I’m a part of this awesome community because so much of the other content – about nuances in life and relationship musings (looking at you Haley and Harling!:).

      • AY

        I definitely think MR could do better to hire more diverse writers. I love all of the writers and their perspectives but what we’re getting is a small subset of all of the variety that is out there.

      • Claudie

        “anthropological standpoint” LOL exactly! Definitely would be fun to have more international and even US diverse viewpoints represented. The personal articles are always wonderful (while the fashion ones often unattainable- but great) but to have them be bounced off of those other perspectives and then we get the final result representing that understanding of ALL their readers- that would be cool 🙂

  • Caroline Christianson

    I’m struck by this passive article title, as if the fashion industry hasn’t made its own bed

    • Abigail Thacher

      It is totally bizarre especially paired with such a thoughtful piece. The article title quite obviously victimizes the fashion industry… what about “The fashion industry is hurting (people of color and non-gender conforming individuals)”

    • ana

      agree

      • Sofia Osman

        poc here: I love the duality of the title. personally I read it like the latter. maybe give amelia some credit (I truly feel she deserves! well done!)

        • Guest with a view

          Agree totally. It’s well written, thought provoking and realistic. One comment above has struck me as totally unfair and untrue. MR is not WASP (derogatory term in itself).

  • Thank you, Amelia for this article!

    I’m rather shocked by the dismissive comments that attempt to diminish the power of the n-word or negate the importance of even acknowledging racial difference (e.g. people who call themselves “colorblind”). People are not just making up racism or its real-life implications (longer prison sentences, ability to receive loans, etc.).

    What I find most interesting about conversations about race is how quickly people attempt to justify their behavior (e.g. I have a black friend, so I can’t be racist) rather than trying to recognize or understand the validity of the criticism being hailed.

    That said, I do understand the frustration of social justice warrior content. In a media landscape wherein click bait flourishes and divisiveness feels like the new normal, there’s a fear of retribution for speaking honestly or in conflict with the arbiters of the new moral standards. I wish there were greater opportunity for truth and the grey area.

    http://www.otisunfiltered.com

  • Stephanie

    I appreciate this coming from Man Repeller. White women have a responsibility to look at their own privilege and how they have benefited from racism, as it is inherent in every industry. It can only be dismantled if we actively engage with and discuss it, and this is a great step. Has the MR staff ever considered attending anti-racist or equity trainings? They are offered by many different organizations across the country – the People’s Institute of Survival and Beyond ( pisab.org ) has a great one. It is disheartening when I still read tone-deaf articles like all the Lena Dunham pieces on here prior to Girls ending, but nothing about the way she has failed WOC again and again, especially the way she handled the sexual assault on her own set. But I see steps in the right direction. I love the varied and distinctive voices of WOC that MR and other sites like Refinery and Glossier have begun to feature, I hope those voices continue to grow, and MR keeps evolving as a company.

    • Kelsey Moody

      Thank you for sharing the PISAB site, the “our principles” page (as I am a nerd for any form of an index, glossary, or appendix) breaks down in digestible terms a lot of what needs to be addressed in this comment section and beyond. Good works, such as this org you shared, allows us to open up the dialog and recognize the power structure of racism across all industries, boarders, and how its deeply embedded, from presidencies to this very comment section. Hiding from it does not help and places like the PISAB need more visibility. As a frequent MR commenter and reader, I hope I can show empathy in any small way, listen, continue to seek, support and champion the “varied and distinctive voices of WOC”.

  • additionalmayonnaise

    Man Repeller (along with a lot of other fashion people/companies) still follows Ulyana Sergeenko and Miroslava Duma on Instagram. Is that a conscious decision? To me, it seems like unfollowing is one (small) way of voicing disapproval and I can’t think of why Man Repeller, or anyone else with a voice in the fashion industry, would continue to follow them. I’d so appreciate if Amelia or anyone else from MR could shed light on this!

    • Amelia Diamond

      Hi – I can’t speak for others, but that we still followed her as of this post was not a conscious decision on our end. Just unfollowed her from MR to stand in line with my words above.

      • additionalmayonnaise

        thank you for responding! I was shocked to see that so many of the people/brands I admire are still following these two women.

  • elan

    I’m so bummed on miraduma. I just started following her on instagram along with Livia Firth a few months ago. I really liked Miraduma’s perspective on Fashion and the industry in general. She actually had given me hope and renewed my interest in fashion.

    As someone with zero tolerance for shitty-ness, I unfollowed miraduma immediately upon seeing her apology post. Shame. Shame on her and anyone else who takes their privilege for granted. No amount of apology can make it better.

  • Permanent Bishface

    Please do. And hopefully you put your money where your mouth is (or in this case where your fingers are) and hire more POC to write and work for you in general. And by POC I mean more than one Asian or Black person. I highly enjoy this site but a lot of the content can be extremely… as one person below put it: WASPy.

    • Frenchmochi

      You think we should hire people based on their skin colour? That’s kind of racist.

      • Permanent Bishface

        Did you sign up just to make that ridiculous comment? 🙄Hiring talented people of color is a must for any well rounded publication or business in general. If not, they run the risk of making outdated, bigoted business decisions/statements and miss out on a lot of good ideas.

    • Claudie

      Agreed but also a more international team! I know Jasmin is british 🙂 and you had the “ask a french girl” but would love to see more diverse perspectives from around the world on topics. I love Man Repeller, but that is there one pitfall for sure. Looking forward to a hopefully more internationally diverse team that can work with the existing team and make the content even more welcoming and relatable to those of us outside of the USA.

      • Permanent Bishface

        That would be lovely! As an Afro Caribbean Latinx woman, it would be nice to see some more representation in general. Latino, Asian (and not just Korean or Chinese), Black, NA, etc.

    • Jade

      I wouldn’t call it WASPy per se, but it’s more attuned to a the concerns of a certain socioeconomic group (mostly upper middle class to upper class) of white people living in New York and cities similar to New York (affluent, educated, nominally liberal).

      The term “WASP” denotes a background that is both Anglo/Northern European and Protestant.Not all white people are considered WASPs; it’s a small segment of the white population.

      I think class is more of an issue on this particular website, but I’m not sure how this could realistically be avoided, since the fashion industry is based on (at least some people) having sufficient privilege and discretionary money that they are able to spend money on fashion.

      • Permanent Bishface

        Thanks for the breakdown. I do agree it’s more about class, but that term does denote a certain type of person. I was trying not to take it there, but yes Man Repeller has a certain rich white woman vibe to it lol. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there are rich people of all ethnicities that are into fashion, and the non-rich as well. It would be lovely to see more diversity on here in general.

  • Cristina

    Looking forward to witnessing these changes and claims!
    I read MR because it’s almost like a fantasy world. It’s nothing like where I live, or the people I live with (as in like, my city not roommates). But that shiny, unattainable aspect also makes me take breaks every now and then because I just can’t relate. I wish there was a way to marry the many worlds, and make high fashion relatable to everyone (class, color, shape, size all of it)!

    • I feel this a bit, but for different reasons. I love MR for the writing, but before they started consciously trying to improve it I had to take periodic breaks from the site because all the women in the imagery were very very slim, and it was messing with my head. They are improving now though.

      • Cristina

        100% agree with that as well. I’ve commented that before actually and was met with “we do” and I’m like… I can count on one hand the articles I’ve read with a a “plus size” writer. But, all we can do is work toward size acceptance in all industries!

        • Yeah I noticed some improvement on that front and then the imagery style switched to be more still-life and collage based with fewer real life models so it was no longer as much of an issue for me. But back a few years ago it was genuinely something I had to ration or I started to feel reeeeeaal bad about myself. I imagine the feeling is similar but worse if you are a POC reading 99% of fashion media, ‘progressive’ or otherwise.

  • Carolina

    The mistake was exacerbated by the refusal to apologize.. therin lies her stance and her character. I hope she gets it some day.

  • Andre

    Why don’t you guys also mention Duma’s lash out against Bryanboy?

    • belle

      They mentioned Duma’s homophobic 2012 comments regarding Bryanboy.

  • Katie James

    the article was worth reading. It was nice.
    https://www.leacarve.com/

  • Nives

    I loved this piece, Amelia. It’s so important that Man Repeller finally decided to speak up about this. So many other blogs and important media in the industry are still quiet about this because Miroslava Duma is so influential all over the world. It makes me so angry!

    I wrote a piece for Elle Croatia (http://bit.ly/2ns6avl) wondering if Duma and Sergeenko will ever face consequences and with so many influential people within the industry still being quiet I’m afraid the answer is no.

  • Ottavia

    In my opinion the words on the flowers showed stupidity, not racism. The two women should have known better but then the words were taken completely out of context. The trans-phobic comments made by Duma, on the other hand, are a different story entirely. These were not taken out of context but meant to convey exactly what they did. However, we need to consider that the Western liberal values in which most of the people doing the shaming grew up are not present in the vast majority of the world but mostly only in developed countries (developed both economically and from an institutional/rule of law point of view). And even in developed countries, they are evolving over the years. I am not sure the current climate of brutal shaming distinguishes between ignorance/stupidity and crime. Plus while every generation had its own shortsightedness and evolving values, our generation is under unprecedented scrutiny due to the internet. Never before had words traveled to fast so indelibly. We need better perspective to deal with this unforgiving environment.

    • Rebecca

      I think the point is, there is no right context for non POC to be using the N word, not between friends, not singing along to a song, not ever. it is not for white people.

  • Ece

    Dear Amelia, I want to share my thoughts from a foreign person perspective; using the N word publicly is sure to be a shameful mistake, but I’d like to bring to your attention that these people are not Americans and did not grow up or lived in a cultural background where black and white skin difference is perceived as a race difference. The offensiveness of this word is mainly a matter in the USA and foreigns can only get to the understanding of the deep sensitivity by living here, not by visiting twice a year for fashion shows. I am not defending usage of the N word, but I am defending mistakes should be taken more softly when it is coming from a person who only associates black people with basketball players or rappers, because the education in their schools are lacking African-American history. Because there is not an African-American population in their country. Even though they were globally well known people, they are Russians. They learned the N word from MTV, not from history books. All the best.

    • Rebecca

      So maybe they shouldn’t be using a word they don’t understand the meaning of. Or they could use google and figure it out for themselves. These women are rich and have access. They can learn and they can do better. But they don’t want to. They’ve been called out in the past and have done nothing to be better.

      • Ece

        Everybody can make a mistake that is considered a mistake in a different country than the one they grew up. You can go to Russia and say something very offensive without knowing. Being well travelled does really make a difference of course, but living and learning a countries values and manners, it really takes time. I am a foreign in America, i offended people without having a clue and felt profoundly ashamed. Not because i am rude, it’s because what I said is not rude in my country. (That wasnt race related but still comes from the same cultural difference) Expecting the rest of the world to know by heart what would be offensive in America is like ignoring other cultures existance. We (I am Turkish btw) literally think the N word means “cool rappers” because that word came to our vocabulary from some rap songs we listened on the radio. The first thing I tell my friends who are visiting NY from Istanbul is “Dont ever use the N word, it’s not what you think it is!” This knowledge comes to you once you live in a multi racial country. We dont have different races, so we didnt grow up knowing what racism is. (Same for Russia) These people are not racist, they’re just clueless.

        • Rebecca

          i understand this approach to the conversation if we were discussing “normal” people. but we are not. we are discussing women who have the access to get the information they need to understand the terms and the pain they are causing. i understand the feelings of empathy those who are not culturally american or have not lived here long may feel towards this situation. and if i had a friend from another country use the N word, i would feel better about applying a lens of compassion towards cultural differences, while also explaining why its not ok to use the term. but please, this is not that. these women have a history of this behavior and yet dress black women and profit off of them. so what i’m saying is, there is no excuse in their positions of power in the year 2018 to continue to be this uneducated regarding racial and cultural issues in a country where they do business and profit. on top of that, their ‘apologies’ didn’t show any interest in actually learning from what happened. im convinced they will continue to use the word privately, all they learned is don’t post it to instagram. the difference between people like yourself and these two women, is that you said something wrong, and you felt ashamed, and im assuming from what youve written, that you did not do it again and you also chose to educate those who also did not know. they did not feel ashamed that they caused pain. they felt ashamed they got called out. big difference.

    • Jenelle

      I don’t think that defense flies in this case. These women may not be American but they most definitely are very well-traveled, well-educated, and associate with and consider some people of color in the industry to be acquaintances and friends based on the reactions of some of those very same people. Not only that, racism within fashion is a much-talked about topic that is starting to (very slowly) result in change within the industry. I think it’s naive to think that these women had absolutely no clue the sensitivity surrounding that word.

    • Ezenwanyi

      “should be taken more softly when it is coming from a person who only associates black people with basketball players or rappers”…or chairs for white women to sit on -_-

      We know what she’s about.

      http://static1.refinery29.com/bin/entry/53c/x,80/1156755/miroslava-duma-chair.jpg

      • Rebecca

        THANK YOU exactly my point.

    • belle

      If they learned it from Kanye West they clearly have the internet and are involved in Western culture. You don’t need to live in America to understand that it’s offensive. They also pulled the “I like black people” line instead of just apologizing for their fuckup.

    • Permanent Bishface

      That’s not true, though. I have a Polish friend that grew up in Poland that explained to me just how racist many people are in Eastern Europe, and they bring that world view here to the U.S. as well. She let me know that she grew up steeped in that viewpoint and only realized it was wrong when she moved to NYC as a teen and got to know people of color. She told me that she hears Eastern European people saying racist things in their native tongue all the time.

      Besides, there’s black people of African descent there too, you know. There’s racism and colorism the world over, and it’s silly to think that ONLY the U.S. has a history of that. Slaves were exported to many countries all over the world as well, and experienced much the same thing as they did here.

  • I am so glad to find this article here, was shocked with Duma!
    http://www.thestyletune.com

  • pamb

    One of the groups I belong to on FB is a parenting group for teens and college students. There was a post about the Alabama student from NJ who posted not one but two videos using the N word and was kicked out of school. Several moms INSISTED that it was slang, especially when the ‘r’ wasn’t used, that it is used in music, that they had done ‘research’ and it was OK.

    headdesk.

    Plenty of us commented that she was wrong, it’s not our word to use, we don’t get to tell black people what words they can use, etc. (the group is over 30,000 people, I’m sure mostly white). They kept telling us we were wrong, what’s the big deal, etc. Some people will never get it because they don’t want to get it. It gives them a thrill to say a forbidden word and have a ‘defense’ they think will cover them.

  • nomadelle

    How you can not see that this woman is a terrible person within 10 minutes of meeting her is my problem. She comes from a hugely privileged position in society and is completely ignorant to anything other than her own social norm. NO WONDER she doesn’t know what she’s done wrong or that she shouldn’t use the N word.

    As much as you and I love fashion it is FULL of people like this and they get a free pass because they are deemed to ‘powerful’ for anyone to call out their ignorance. From my friends in music, tv, film, this rate of free pass has been diminishing for a long time. But clearly the fashion industry doesnt care enough to point it out/not work with her until it’s completely unable to be ignored!

    I really do hope that POC, people from a less privileged background and all together down-to-earth, WOKE people get more of a voice in fashion. But it’s not happening fast enough.

    • belle

      True – the Karl Lagerfeld worship has always irked me for that reason. He just seems like a piece of shit.

  • bclaudy

    I am scared to write this, but I believe Ulyana Sergeenko’s first apology was sincere. And I understand why it’s hard for many to believe. For me English is a foreign language so, please, bear with me. The two women involved are obviously not stupid. So how could they not know what this would entail? I
    speak five languages, three of which I grew up speaking; I work with languages and mediate between cultures. I never swear in a language that is not my main one because, I have learned, it is extremely hard to know the exact weight one single word carries in different cultures and different contexts within a culture. The Internet makes it seem like we are all so “global”: in the fashion and entertainment industries, especially, people look the same, wear the same clothes and speak the same language. If you want a big audience, you have to speak English, no matter where you are. American culture is still very
    dominant and people around the world feel like they know it because it’s everywhere. They really don’t. They know what’s on the surface, what is served to them mainly through media. Just like many Americans don’t know that much about other cultures. Words hurt, it is true. But when they are exchanged between people speaking different languages and coming from different backgrounds they can be “just words”. Although it has rightly been stigmatized, the word that was used in this case is still very much used in music, movies and social media. To an American it carries a huge weight. A
    non-American, non-English speaker may intellectually know the word is off limits, and unless they live in a cave, know why, but the vast use that is made of it in pop culture has somewhat diluted its meaning. Where I live I hear kids (african, european, hispanic, middle eastern, asian) calling each other that casually. I know this is hard to grasp but it is true that it doesn’t really matter that the only ones using the word (or who are maybe allowed to use it) are African-Americans, because to many of us an English-speaking singer is a singer, an English-speaking actor is an actor. Not a black singer or a black actor. So this is not a nuance that helps us make a decision. I am not saying the rest of the world isn’t racist, I am saying this very particular brand of it is American. And a lot of people outside the States don’t fully understand its layers. They use the words because “everyone” (in this artificial global reality) uses them. But they don’t really understand their meaning. Which is exactly why they shouldn’t use them. This hardly ever happens in “reverse” because English-speakers can speak their own language in most parts of the world, and their culture is still the “cultura franca”. I believe Sergeenko when she writes she just wanted to be cool. Both women acted naively and lacked sensibility and depth. A big mistake was made, but I don’t believe it was motivated by racism, but by ignorance and an inappropriate nonchalance, which sadly both thrive on social media. I am not sure another Internet-style summary trial is the answer here. I agree more cultural diversity across industries surely would help. And less over-sharing on social media please.

  • Nik

    I totally agree that it should not be taken lightly and shouldn’t be used at all. However, I read a piece that had an interesting take on things, especially when people outside of the US uses it. The author of the article is also black: https://bonneny.com/after-using-n-word-then-what

  • Kika

    Beautifully written. Love from the Bay ❤️

  • you’re very brave to have written this. the fashion industry has a really bad problem of racism. i mean you can see it on the runway. keep writing things like this and hire people of color at man repeller to give you perspective.
    malinda
    http://www.malindaknowles.net

  • Thanks for sharing this. When I came across the news, I was really taken back. I saw others excusing it as a song lyric…but to me, there’s no excuse for it. It’s important to address these issues and not sweep them under the rug. Yes indeed, the fashion industry is hurting in many ways. Very respectable for you to admit it!

    xoxo – Kelly
    http://www.dreaminlace.com

  • Néo Bourgeois — Christum

    What is she on? Binary woman who likes fruit by the foot. NYC is the old country, it’s like the Jewish version of the Great Gatsby in a cultural sense, except the Jews unfortunately are perpetually homeless since sojourning out of Ancient Egypt. It is entertaining to read a Shabbats Goy pop off about fashion, which is just a way for Jewish people to make money quickly and move to another destination. I call it the Sojourning Industry, this is why fashion shows are in different cities, it started in the ghettos in the roman era and spread worldwide.

  • missdailyo

    They both apologized. What do we do now? Are they shunned from the fashion industry? If they owned up to what they said and wrote a sincere apology, should they be accepted into the fashion industry again?

  • Gigi

    Can we just take fashion back, one radical & powerful & diverse woman at a time? We’re its rightful owners.