Should we? Definitely. Can we? Apparently not.
Most people are familiar with the popular version of Sojourner Truth’s famous, “Ain’t I a woman” speech but they have no idea that this popular version is not Sojourner’s speech and is vastly different from her original 1851 speech.
This popular but inaccurate version was written and published in 1863, (12 years after Sojourner gave the “Ain’t I a woman” speech), by a white abolitionist named Frances Dana Barker Gage. Curiously, Gage not only changed all of Sojourner’s words but chose to represent Sojourner speaking in a stereotypical ‘southern black slave accent’, rather than in her distinct upper New York State low-Dutch accent. Frances Gage’s actions were well intended and served the suffrage and women’s rights movement at the time; however, by today’s standards of ethical journalism, her actions were a gross misrepresentation of Sojourner Truth’s words and identity. By changing Truth’s words and her dialect to that of a stereotypical southern slave, Frances Gage effectively erased Sojourner’s Dutch heritage and her authentic voice. As well as unintentionally adding to the oversimplification of the American slave culture and furthering the eradication of our nations Northern slave history. Frances Gage admitted that her amended version had “given but a faint sketch” of Sojourner’s original speech but she felt justified and believed her version stronger and more palatable to the American public then Sojourner’s original version.
The most authentic version of Sojourner Truth’s, “Ain’t I a woman,” speech was first published in 1851 by Truth’s good friend Rev. Marius Robinson in the Anti-Slavery Bugle and was titled, “On Woman’s Rights”. This website is dedicated to re-introducing the original transcription of the speech and Sojourner’s authentic voice.
Honestly? I got a verklempt when these returns came in. So, so many things take so, so long.
The way these companies see it, our self-perception is unrelated to the external forces that determine the circumstances of our existence, which is why they think telling us to do better is enough to absolve them of responsibility. When brands offer solutions like using bigger models or those with more varied skin tones, or vowing that cellulite or stretch marks will survive their ads’ retouching process, they’re just barely eliding the fact that they think the problem is all in your head. Show you some different pictures and everything will get better, right?
…An alarming percentage of the public conversation about which bodies our culture values or rejects pivots around models, actresses, and other professionally beautiful people reassuring what they seem to believe is a dubious public that they are, in fact, super hot.
…Brands have done such a good job at setting tight boundaries on our expectations and their own responsibilities that even when we chide fashion designers for not being size-inclusive on the runway, we gloss over the reason they’re not: The vast majority of fashion brands make no size-inclusive clothing and don’t see people with different bodies as worthy of being their customers.
Everlane recently launched a new underwear line featuring a plus-size model in its ad campaign, despite making no actual plus-size underwear for sale. A special outfit made for a size 14 runway model or a photo of the very largest woman who can wear a product made in a conventional size range doesn’t address structural bias in any meaningful way, but it does paper over the problem in the only way required by our current cultural values.