African American Women as “Wild” and “Exotic”
By Gwen Sharp
We’ve posted in the past about the ways in which ads often depicted non-White women as wild and exotic (and thus exciting), even conflating them with animals through poses or animal-print clothing. Unstraightened African American hair is also used as an exotic marker, presented as less civilized. Recently readers sent in two separate examples of these tropes.
Michelle H. noticed that Lane Bryant advertised “exotic inspirations” as part of a “tribal trend” “inspired by nature” that allows you to use your “natural instincts”. The model used to personify this exoticism is an African American woman with unstraightened hair:
Similarly, Sonia A., Jen J., and an anonymous reader noticed that data analysis firm ATLAS.ti used an image of an African American woman with several pencils stuck in her natural curls along with text encouraging you to “tame your data” but also “go wild”:
The company removed the banner from its Facebook page after complaints, but it’s still on the company website in an image and accompanying brochure on the product info page and several other places on the site.