Thursday, July 7, 2011

An explanation about Clown Shoes "debate"

A valuable insight to the intention of label art.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Racism in Brewing? Not in this case

Recently some commotion has grown over the labels from Clown Shoes brewing. The label that started it was for Brown Angel beer, a brown style from the Massachusettes micro brewery. The label reflects the name:

Some see this as stereotypical of "black women" and because of this the owner of said brewery is implied to be racist. As such, some people will not support this brewery and, taking one step or two further, vocalizing this opinion to others.

There are many things going on here that frustrate me:

- The label, to me, isn't racist or stereo-typical, but the brewery could have foreseen such claims and provisions or alterations could have been made. Although, while perceptions made by others shouldn't dictate their plans, they can be prepared for explanation of how/why they chose said label
- The perception of stereotype. It has been claimed that this label depicts an ass-shaking mama, with the stereotype being seen as black women have big butts. Looking at the label it is difficult to see a 'big butt' as the term "big" must be relative, yet there is nothing in the label to give reference. It is almost impossible to see this "mama" as shaking her tush. As such, this claim is made up in the minds of those who look for negativity in others in order to promote or validate their idealistic visioning.
- It is also difficult to conclude the intention of the image, other than representing a brown angel. The image is graphed in a profile view of the whole body of a female angel. Not focused on is the butt, nor is the butt 'engaged' with a thong bikini
- Claiming racism just because an image of a minority is presented in a "questionable" manner (and I use questionable very loosely) is a form of racism itself. IF the image were of a non-minority, then would there be contention? In this case, the answer is a clear 'no'. Therefore, the "opinionated" sees said minority in a certain light--to be treated differently based on race perceived.
- Everyone has opinions and are free to express them. The question then surrounds motivation for expression. The expressing of the opinion sends a message attached to the actual opinion. What do I mean? Well, one person may maintain the opinion that this label is sexist. Nothing wrong with having that opinion (even if it's not factual). Posting this opinion on a public website is quite another matter. Why do it? Who would care what this person's opinion is? The answer is that the "opinionated" wishes to sway others to believe the same and/or validate this opinion, perhaps to fulfill some righteous crusade against all that is oppressive. Swing and a miss.
- Targeting only subjective offense. Not much, if any, hubbub was stirred up for other labels depicting many contentious issues; religion (demons, angels, saints), dictators (see: Avery), sex, aggression, etc etc). The "opinionated" was offended. For the most part, being offended is a choice. Empowering others to harm you is not healthy. To defend against this, offensive tactics are then used: here, the "attacker's" authority is questioned and dismissed, and unflattering image is painted for others to see.

The bottom line for me is this: the objector(s) have every right to hold opinion. And based on that opinion they can abstain from purchasing said product. But, just b/c they have an opinion does NOT mean their perception is correct. Those who post opinion must be open to criticism and amendment. Stating opinions as facts, with no motivation or will to learn more about the situation, is a step toward libeling. In this case, the sexism, racism and stereotyping displayed is by the "opinionated", and not the brewery.

Understanding and Dismantling Racism: The Twenty-First Century Challenge to White America (Facets)