Posts Tagged 'Feminism'

Women in Agriculture


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Reflections: London Fashion Week

So, I came out of the closet in a recent post about my brief annual fling with runway fashion. For a couple of weeks a year, I browse the photos from international fashion weeks– half aesthetic pleasure, half anthropological study.

Browsing London’s fashion week, I’m very aware that I’m stepping (briefly) into a whole world that I know nothing about. Thousands of websites, blogs, and magazines exist solely in the world of fashion, and play no conscious part in my own life for most of the year. But clearly, this is something that many people take seriously. Very seriously. Every day.*

Fashion writers acknowledge the economic recession– the effect that that the “outside world” is having on the “fashion world” –but they also express a sadness that it has to be affected. I wonder if I’ve stumbled onto a grown-up version of an escapist fantasy world– a topic that I’ve written about before.

Thing to Notice #1: How strange is it that we as a society grown comfortable referring to distinct “worlds” within our own national borders, as though one part of our complex culture could exist separate from another part? The ‘art world’, the ‘world of fashion’, or of roleplaying fantasy games– it doesn’t matter what it is; the idea of ‘worlds’ existing outside of other parts of culture reflects our tendency to segregate in far more devastating and political ways. It would be difficult, for example, for us to admit that there is a “white world” in the United States, though that is far more true than having an “art world” (which is dependent on a highly fluid, and still debated, definition of “art” **)

Thing to Notice #2: London’s runway models are real human beings. I was totally impressed by the variety of body types in multiple shows. There’s also greater racial diversity among the models, which I thought was quite interesting. I wish I knew more about the social dynamics of London, and why it would end up reflecting in their fashion week. I do know that British feminists tend to include race as a primary factor in their dialogue about gender and sexism, far more than American feminists.

In any case, here’s what I’m digging from London’s fashion week (we’ll see if I can follow up for Milan’s fashion week).

* Creepy.

** The more important thing is that we still debate the definition of art in very vocal and visible ways, whereas debates over the definition of “white” are practically nonexistent, and remain confined to upper academia.

Intellectual Approaches to New York Fashion Week

abby boots

Full disclosure: I didn’t really wear clothes until I started attending school. It was, you might say, a “short but liberated childhood.” And while I did experience the painful middle-school tensions to “wear cool clothes,” that phase is more about the social significance of the clothes than the clothes themselves.

In any case, “fashion” never really did it for me. I did, however, become fascinated with the concept of self presentation– the way that we all play a grown-up version of dress-up every single day, playing different characters for different situations. Even if we dress for comfort, we’re sending a message about our character and priorities (“I value comfort over other qualities”). Lately I’ve been embracing the “studious/androgynous” character [ripped jeans, ribbed tanks, sexy-librarian glasses].

So, right now it’s New York’s Fashion Week. Last year was the first time I really browsed through the runway photos (they were on the NYTimes home page)– at first feeling somewhat disgusted at myself, and then, funnily enough, feeling strangely inspired. It made me think about form, about art, about identity. And yeah, it made me think about what a big fuckin’ waste of money the fashion industry is. But still, the aesthetic inspiration does it for me.

It’s also, for the record, a fascinating social study. The way that the fashion industry is overly-associated with gay men, while many gay female runway models live in a strange “out/not-out” tension. Or the way that “[Designer X]‘s bold colors imply that this season, she is all about empowered women.” As though being empowered were a seasonal trend? I’ve also gotten into several heated debates about the unambiguously racist structures of many fashion photoshoots– the “supermodel in a 3rd world country” is an ever-popular theme.

In any case, here’s what I’m into from Spring 2010 (click to view full):

Delicious Food and Strong Women

I’ve been meaning to give some publicity about a super post, “Feminism through Cooking,” over at RMJ’s blog.

Kenyon’s psychology department contains several of the national leading experts on eating disorders, especially media images and eating disorders. Although these are serious issues that require confrontation, I found that I was disappointed with the effect that the department seemed to have on the women students around me. It seemed like every girl I met had bad self esteem, a history with eating disorders, and–here is what really struck me– they seemed to take it as an essential part of their identity. Furthermore, these girls complained about their relationships with men, and yet continued to act in unhealthy ways that deprived them of their own autonomy.

Women for Women Int'l: a group of graduates who have formed a farm collective in Kyonza, rwanda

Women for Women Int'l: a group of graduates who have formed a farm collective in Kyonza, rwanda - ggInTheField on Flickr

What seemed to be lacking was a pro-active approach, something that would change their own relationship to food (and perhaps to men) in a positive way. Instead of critiquing the same commercials and magazine ads over and over, they could have read Francis Moore Lappe‘s studies of women’s communities in Central America who are remodeling their food system in order to better ensure that their children all get regular meals, or communities of women in India who are fighting for (and winning) food and water rights.

They could have studied also the effects on young urban/suburban women who work or intern on farms. In a scene from The Real Dirt on Farmer John, a young woman intern talks about her self-consciousness regarding her voluptuous body– until working on a farm, where adjectives like “full” “plump” and “juicy” are words that signify health, not ugliness. In fact, the strongest and most peaceful women that I meet are not the ones that I meet in WGS classes; they’re the ones that I meet on farms.

For further reading:

When my generation of women walked away from the kitchen we were escorted down that path by a profiteering industry that knew a tired, vulnerable marketing target when they saw it.“Hey, ladies,” it said to us, “go ahead, get liberated. We’ll take care of dinner.”

Four Things I’m Digging Lately


The Freecycling Network: a way for freecyclers to organize from city to city. Rad.


Men who take their wives’ last name: “I never suspected that as a man I had been given an extra portion of power in the global allotment.”


Literary tattoos. But if  I see one more Kurt Vonnegut quote, I’m removing this from my bookmarks.


This fucking amazing house, which has no carbon footprint and looks like a modern monastery:


Art adventures, literary hangovers, rural politics and other songs worth sharing.

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