Vanity Fair

Update: In a recent clip from ITV's upcoming documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, Meghan Markle expresses the mental and emotional toll of new motherhood in the public eye. "Any woman, especially when they're pregnant, you're really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging. And then when you have a newborn, you know. And especially as a woman, it's a lot," she said. "So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed. It's um…yeah. I guess, also thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I'm okay, but it's a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes."

Soon, #WeLoveYouMeghan began trending on Twitter, an outpouring of respect and admiration for the former actress.

"Colorism, society's preference for lighter skin, is alive and well," wrote Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o in an Instagram post.

She shared a picture of her 5-year-old self and promoted the release of her upcoming children's book, Sulwe, which is about a little girl who "has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything."

Cultural bias towards lighter skin is embedded in society after centuries of racism and colonial propaganda. Its political ramifications lurk in the disproportionate rates of police brutality in black communities as well as the multibillion dollar cosmetic industry flooded with skin-lightening ingredients, chemical peels, and creams promising to enhance skin's "brightness." But no matter how many studies and surveys highlight the ubiquity of colorism, the "rigid cultural perception that correlates lighter skin tone with beauty and personal success" still exists. That cracked lens has become so commonplace that it's sometimes difficult to recognize, let alone object to.

But in a week of public stances against colorism and its endproduct of racism, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are calling bulls*it. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are suing the British tabloid The Mail on Sunday for its "ruthless campaign" against Meghan Markle, the first American and first biracial member of the British royal family. As an actress, Markle was candid about how her racial identity had impacted how people treated her all her life on the basis of her "ethnically ambiguous" skin color. "I wasn't black enough for the black roles and I wasn't white enough for the white ones," she wrote, "leaving me somewhere in the middle as the ethnic chameleon who couldn't book a job."

Now, in a marked departure from the royal family's stoic dismissal of tabloid press, Prince Harry published an emotive personal letter (which, reportedly, was not handled or approved by senior aides of Buckingham Palace). In his frank 570-word letter, he makes it clear why silence is too close to complacency in the face of hate-fueled bullying against Markle: "There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face – as so many of you can relate to – I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been."

He describes the "intrusive" and "unlawful" press coverage that has purposefully targeted Markle to deride and defame her with "lie after lie." In particular, he cites The Mail on Sunday's publication of a personal, handwritten letter Markle wrote to her estranged father. British copyright law states plainly that private correspondence cannot be published without the author's explicit consent, making the tabloid's actions clearly illegal. However, Prince Harry goes on to state, "In addition to their unlawful publication of this private document, they purposely misled you by strategically omitting select paragraphs, specific sentences, and even singular words to mask the lies they had perpetuated for over a year." He concludes, "There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behavior, because it destroys people and destroys lives. Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people. We all know this isn't acceptable, at any level. We won't and can't believe in a world where there is no accountability for this."

But when does bad press turn into bullying? And what can be done about it?

As repeated scandals between celebrities and the press show, frenzied and overzealous press still break down high profile women as if it were a sport. "For these select media this is a game," Prince Harry writes, "and one that we have been unwilling to play from the start. I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in."

To conclude, he invokes the powerful memory of his mother, Princess Diana, whose volatile relationship with the press ended with her fatal car accident while being chased by the paparazzi: "Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one. Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself. I've seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."

The media's (brief) period of shame over dehumanizing the mother of two left an indelible mark on our modern cultural consciousness, but we continue to struggle to identify the line between gossip and bullying. In The Mail on Sunday's repertoire of unprofessional, mean-spirited, and illegal reporting tactics, they've used racially charged and sexist language describing the Los Angeles native as "almost straight out of Compton" and "from the cotton fields to royalty."

"This is not bias. This is racism," says Sunil Bhatia, a professor of human development at Connecticut College. She's referring to the internalized racism that affects social hierarchies and how we as a society envisions people in power: Lighter skin is correlated with success, and thus lighter-skinned people are raised to power. In speaking about Meghan Markle in particular, Vogue's editor Edward Enninful says, "Was the criticism racist? Some of it, yeah." Enninful worked with Markle when she guest-edited the magazine's "Forces For Change" edition, which received a shockwave of backlash that called Markle "uppity" and even "anti-white" for focusing on diversity. Enninful says, "Actually it was more than racism. I thought it was personal – attacking someone you don't know, attacking her."

It's true that the press' attacks against Markle haven't been merely racist—they've been classist and sexist, too. From listing the crime statistics of her mother's neighborhood and recounting her mother's financial history to using Markle's departures from royal protocol as evidence that she has a "difficult" and diva-like personality. When Prince Harry and Markle's first post-engagement interview was streamed on Periscope, comments ranged from "Jungle fever," "gold digger," and "biracial commoner" to "whitest black girl" and "unsuitable." In 2016, the royal family even broke their usual silence and issued a public statement on the Markle-hatred, observing that "a line [had been] crossed. [Prince Harry's] girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public - the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments."

Would Meghan Markle receive such treatment if she weren't half-black? If she were from the U.K.? If she weren't an outspoken feminist? If she weren't a former actress, or divorced? Fickle comparisons and contrived reportings of "feuds" between Kate Middleton and Markle suggest that's the case. Predatory press coverage has shown clear bias towards Middleton, who "was born in the UK and has a certain respect for the country," while Markle has been generally referred to as a "disrespectful" outsider who doesn't know her place.

Overall, criticism of Markle, both in the press and on social media, has been a stark indicator that racism, like all forms of colorism, "is alive and well," as Nyong'o wrote in her Instagram post. Nyong'o also noted that colorism is far from just a western problem, writing, "Throughout the world, even in Kenya, even today, there is a popular sentiment that lighter is brighter." She wrote her children's book because she never saw images of girls who looked like her as a child: "As a little girl reading, I had all of these windows into the lives of people who looked nothing like me, chances to look into their worlds, but I didn't have any mirrors. While windows help us develop empathy and an understanding of the wider world, mirrors help us develop our sense of self, and our understanding of our own world. They ground us in our body and our experiences."

In 2016, years before she met Prince Harry and became Duchess of Sussex, Markle wrote a similar sentiment in an Elle essay about her racial identity. "Just as black and white, when mixed, make grey, in many ways that's what it did to my self-identity: it created a murky area of who I was, a haze around how people connected with me," she wrote. "I was grey. And who wants to be this indifferent colour, devoid of depth and stuck in the middle? I certainly didn't. So you make a choice: continue living your life feeling muddled in this abyss of self-misunderstanding, or you find your identity independent of it."

CULTURE

Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.

Villains always have the best outfits.

From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.

Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com

But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.

Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.

Oh, right.

Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.

Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com

Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.

As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.

History of Nazi Chic

For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.

The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.

Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it

Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.

The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com

Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.

Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.

Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com

Nazi Chic in Asia

Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.

A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.

In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.

OF COURSE. i.imgur.com

That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.

In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.

Implications

So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?

The answer is not so black and white.

On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.

But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.

Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.

POLITICS

The UK Might Be Getting a New Prime Minister

The British prime minister may be ousted from the position.

Fortune

Prime Minister Theresa May faces a vote of no confidence after 48 MPs from her own party sent letters questioning her ability to lead.

The vote will take place this evening, and in order for May to remain as PM, she needs 159 votes in her favor. If she wins, her leadership cannot be challenged for a full year. However, many MPs are arguing that if she doesn't win by a wide enough margin, she must accept that her Brexit plan will never make it through Parliament, and she should either step down or radically change policies.

In response to the announcement of the vote, May vowed to fight it "with everything [she has] got," and warned that a new prime minister would be taking on an incredibly difficult job, and would be faced with "delaying or even stopping Brexit." She went on to say, "A leadership election would not change the fundamentals of the negotiation or the parliamentary arithmetic. Weeks spent tearing ourselves apart will only create more division just as we should be standing together to serve our country. None of that would be in the national interest."

The opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said in response to May's statement, "The time for dithering and delay is over. The Prime Minister has negotiated her deal. She has told us it is the best and only deal available.There can be no more excuses, no more running away. Put it before Parliament and let's have the vote."

Many Tory MPs have publicly voiced their support for May, and a majority have said they plan to vote for her to remain as the PM. According to the BBC, 174 Tory MPs have publicly said they will vote for her, with 34 publicly against.

But what would happen if May were to lose the vote? According to the BBC, May would be expected to serve as a caretaker prime minister until the party selects a new leader. If the party does not definitively decide on one replacement, Conservative MPs would hold a series of votes to narrow the candidate pool down to two people, who would then face a party vote.

In response to this news, the EU is reportedly preparing for a no-deal Brexit, citing the Conservative Party's leadership challenge and uncertainty over when or if Parliament will vote on May's Brexit plan.


Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.


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