Posts Tagged 'Feminism'



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

1.

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

2.

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.”

3.

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

4.

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

web_eve_bottles

A Good Reason to Blog

“I am blogging as an attempt to resist complacency as I embrace happiness.”

deeplyproblematic.blogspot.com

Postscript to a Monologue

I attended Kenyon College’s production of The Vagina Monologues on Friday, and had an excellent time. When I came home, I wrote the following:

I can’t praise Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, enough. She has written one of the most culturally necessary performances in our society today. She renewed a sense of activism for a generation that is, on the whole, apathetic to the point of atrophy. And, she has a great haircut.

On the whole, I think Eve got it right. Feminism is still very relevant in the United States, not because women are treated as inferior citizens (though it would be unwise to believe that those issues have been resolved), but because we’ve largely abandoned the dialogue regarding the ways that gender plays out on a daily basis. In other words: It’s not that the United States hates vaginas; it’s that the we don’t want to talk about them. A friend of mine left the performance halfway through because he was bored– he had “expected it to be more outrageous.” It is precisely because female sexuality is so suppressed and controlled that the idea of merely talking about it seems “outrageous” to us. Referencing one’s cock, on the other hand, is fairly acceptable in the media and in most casual conversation.

So, in general, I’m pleased to support the cause by attending The Vagina Monologues. I get to spend two hours watching women in little black dresses confess, declare, rant, and have multiple orgasms on stage. I get to watch women talk about things that don’t get talked about. Hell, that’s worth two dollars.

I’ve seen The Vagina Monologues three times now, twice at Kenyon and once at Hollins University. And yet every time, I can’t help feeling that something is off when the latter half of the performance begins to turn primarily to issues of global violence against women. Performers throw out random facts and statistics about “female genital mutilation” (FGM)* and systematic rape in various parts of the world– areas that we often label “third world,” “undeveloped” or “developing” (as though these nations are awkwardly trying on their training bra for the first time).  It is precisely the practices and events that the Vagina Monologues denounces that we “first world” activists often use as evidence for the inferiority of those nations. Ensler’s script calls for action, yes, but it feels awfully like a white woman’s burden to me.

________________________________________

* I prefer the term Female Genital Cutting (FGC) because labeling this practice “mutilation” assigns a judgment without acknowledging any cultural autonomy. I do believe that FGC is an issue that needs to be addressed, and I do believe that it is representative of systemized practices worldwide designed to control the female body (both in sub-Saharan Africa and the United States). If the script had only used the term “cutting” instead of “mutilation,” or if it had made note of the complexities involved in judging another cultural practice, I would have felt more comfortable.

Continue reading ‘Postscript to a Monologue’


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