February 5, 2010

Vanity Fair cover is vain, but fair

By Vanity Fair cover is vain, but fair

Author: Joshua Thompson

Yahoo.com posted an article recently that took a shot at Vanity Fair for publishing its magazine with a cover that only shows white actresses.  With the annual "New Hollywood" issue, Vanity Fair attempts to predict which actresses are up-and-coming stars.  In this particular edition, the magazine chose nine actresses which the Yahoo article agrees "have good reason to grace the Vanity Fair cover, and to be a part of what they have dubbed 'the fresh faces of 2010.'"  Yet, the article takes umbrage that all of the actresses chosen are white.

Clearly, there are a number of actresses (and actors) in Hollywood that could have been chosen for this cover, including many of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and races. So why not include some of those on the cover?

I don't know why Vanity Fair chose these actresses for the cover, but they certainly chose very qualified actresses.  They probably didn't even consider the race of the cover girls, and that, the article argues, is the problem. "[T]hey should have been looking for a diverse group of women as well."  Here we have a decision by a magazine that, no one disputes, was a completely race-neutral decision.  Yet, that decision is chastised precisely because it did not consider race.  Instead of decisions based on the content of character or quality of work, the article argues, decisions should be made to achieve more "diversity." (And lest we forget, "diversity" here means nothing more than different skin colors.

Seeking "diversity" as the end goal is contrary to seeking "equality."  With the former, decisions need to be based with an eye towards the person's skin color.  With the latter, skin color is an irrelevant factor in the decisionmaking process.  Advocating "diversity" for its own sake is a misplaced goal.  It is a mirage that allows decisionmakers to pass the buck on qualitative differences that may need to be addressed, and promote their ultimate decision as "good" because it produced the "proper" racial outcome (i.e. a "diverse" result).

When "diversity" becomes the ultimate goal, equality is lost.  Cities will scrap objective criteria for their police and fire departments to promote "diversity," universities will make admissions decisions based on the applicants skin color, and teachers will be hired according to their race.  Instead of criticizing Vanity Fair for failing to make its decision based on the actresses skin color, we should be criticizing those magazines that do.

What to read next