Permutations of Difference

This flyer is of a “women’s retreat” hosted by the Mission & Ministry Center and the WRC titled “Nourish Your Soul.” To me, the most interesting part about the flyer is the silhouette of the woman who seems clearly of color based on the shape of her hair and lips. While this is my reading of the image and can be completely irrelevant or wrong, if I’m right, it could convey a particular message to the viewer. It can be easily deduced that the image is of a woman of color based on the rationale described in Richard Dyer’s article “White.”

“The colourless multi-colouredness of whiteness secures white power by making it hard, especially for white people and their media, to ‘see’ whiteness. This, of course, also makes it hard to analyse. It is the way that black people are marked as black (are not just ‘people’) in representation that has made it relatively easy to analyse their representation, whereas white people – not there as a category and everywhere everything as fact – are difficult, if not impossible, to analyse qua white.” (735)

If the features of the woman in the image were more ambiguous, we might assume her identity as white. But because of the specificity of her features, we can guess she is of color. Dyer argues this keeps whites in power because of their anonymity, ambiguity, and acceptance in society whereas anyone else is considered comparatively “other.”

I point this out because of the Mission & Ministry Center’s reputation among students as favoring people who are white – and yet we see this image on their poster. It’s an ironic play on the culture at SMC and almost futhers Dryer’s point about the other.
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Posted: November 14, 2014
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