Hey people, I’m still settling into my new base in Montréal – the land of pâté, poutine, and other things I’ll never understand. Popping in between the cat emergencies and Facebook pleas for free furniture to share my latest essay for Bitch Magazine for their series on Fragility.
The use of women’s bodies—and specifically, the promise of sex—to sell any and everything under the sun has long been the subject of beef between feminists and the advertising world, but what happens when the product being sold is a place? The marketing of women’s bodies, namely, those of color, as destinations to be consumed, lands to be penetrated, or as accessories to the (masculine) tourist experience has remained a largely uncontested norm in travel ads, from vintage depictions of the Hawaiian feminine to the mainstream pimping of Brazilian women’s bodies from brands like Adidas and Kia Motors during the 2014 World Cup.
In this long-ass (I believe the proper term is ‘longform’) piece, I attempt to answer the questions:
- What does tourism’s dehumanization of women of color tell us about the fragility of the western traveler?
- What role does patriarchy play in selling place? And,
- What does—or doesn’t—constitute a feminist travel narrative?
There are a ton of sources mentioned within the essay for folks to follow-up on, from academic shout-outs to literary ones. (I go into a lil’ more depth on these sources in this Twitter thread.) But this line from Trinh T. Minh-ha’s Woman, Native, Other gets to the root of it all:
It is as if everywhere we go, we become someone’s private zoo.
Read the essay in full here.