It was supposed to be a clever and creative magazine cover promoting a feature on the #metoo movement in Australia.
But the Australian literary magazine Meanjin has attracted controversy for all the wrong reasons, coming under fire for scrawling over the Indigenous title of the publication to make way for a #metoo hashtag promoting a feature article by feminist writer Clementine Ford.
Journalist Amy McQuire, a Darumbal woman from central Queensland, pointed out how 'weird' it was for the publication to cross out the title of the publication - the word in the Turrbal language for the land where Brisbane is located.
Meanjin editor Jonathan Green swiftly responded to the criticism, apologising for the 'blindness' of the choice of cover design.
“As Amy McQuire and others have pointed out, there is a problem with the cover of Meanjin’s winter edition,” Mr Green said in a statement on the Meanjin website.
“This blindness to the subtext of obliterating the word Meanjin with the hashtag #MeToo was mine. I wanted to give the most arresting treatment I could … I was wrong to do it.”
Mr Green acknowledged the error was compounded by the origins of the #MeToo movement, created a decade ago by American woman of colour Tarana Burke, saying, “...in an Australian context, where violence against Indigenous women should be a source of national soul searching, anger and concern, the casual obliteration of a proud Indigenous word with the hashtag of a movement dominated latterly by white women was a gesture of unthinking clumsiness," he said.
“I should, therefore, have known better. We work with words: the power of this erasure should not have been lost on us.”
The controversy comes as the internet opens up critique of mainstream media, with a greater interrogation around questions of diversity and power in the journalism, art and entertainment industries, as well as within progressive feminist movements.
Karen Wyld, an Aboriginal writer of Martu descent, said the whiteout was symbolic of 'white feminism on black country'.
Australian author Anna Spargo-Ryan, who is also featured in the magazine, issued a joint apology with writer Clementine Ford saying they were ashamed at failing to spot a problem with the cover when it first went to press, and promised to donate their fees from the articles to services for Indigenous women.
"We also acknowledge the bitter irony of such an erasure occurring in an issue that explores a movement already widely criticised for prioritising white women and our stories," they said in joint statement posted on Twitter.
"This was a massive fail on our part and it's simply unacceptable that we needed to rely on the work of Aboriginal women to realise this."