Fashion without hatred

There was a time, when I was a teenager and in my early twenties, when I used to think about fashion the way The Guardian‘s Tanya Gold details in a recent article: that it was a foolish realm of fantasy for people who would never give me the time of day.

The oddest thing rescued me from fashion. It was that I got fat. Never mind why; that is a story for another page. But I got so fat that even fashion wouldn’t pretend it could fix me. You can get so fat they don’t actually want you in their clothes. It is bad marketing; if very fat people wear their clothes, thinner people won’t buy them. There was no point rattling through the rails any more, seeking a satin redemption – nothing would fit my unfashionable bulk. I was consigned to M&S smock-land, across the River Styx. And it is lovely here; no heels, no stupid dresses-of-the-moment, certainly no thongs. Fashion has died for me, with an angry little hiss. Ah, peace.

I can look at the clothes on the catwalk now and laugh at their imbecility. They are not for me.

I can’t speak for Gold, but when I felt like this I wasn’t really angry at the gods of fashion, though I felt that “angry little hiss.” I was angry at myself for being insufficiently thin, insufficiently feminine. I was angry at my body for growing too much hair and too much flesh, at my feet for hurting in pointy shoes, at my hands for not being deft enough for perfectly applied eye makeup. This is not to say that I didn’t recognize the harmful practices the beauty industries — including the ones Gold describes, which so many of us have experienced — but my anger was still not borne out of a sense of being harmed psychologically, but of being rejected physically. Why bother, well, bothering when I was clearly never going to succeed? The idea of failing and succeeding at looking a certain, very specific way completely permeated my attitudes about fashion.

My dislike of fashion basically ended when I started taking baby steps toward accepting my body. The more I liked what I looked like, the more interested I got in adorning myself; getting dressed was no longer about correcting my supposed deficiencies but playing with my self-presentation. FJ and I spent some fantastic time in college hitting malls, thrift stores, army surplus stores, anywhere we could get our hands on clothes that spoke to us and fit our bodies, “too fat for fashion” though they may be. Eventually I moved to the Pacific Northwest, where feeling like a freak was as point of pride for many people, and the fashions reflected that. I dyed my hair bright red not out of rebellious angst (as I had done in high school), but because I loved having a dash of red near my face. I got glasses that stood out on my face instead of blending in. In other words, I built my own style, and even became known among my friends as having a strong fashion sense — words that my younger self would have furiously disbelieved. Fashion started to seem less like an enemy conspiracy and more like an artistic world that, like other art forms, has elite circles, everyday practitioners, and a lot of people in between.

In fact, despite the notorious anti-fat norms of most of the fashion world, it was an interest in fashion that led me to live body acceptance in my everyday life rather than just giving it lip service. I joined the Fatshionista community on LJ, got voraciously addicted to outfit posts, made several incredibly stylish and intelligent friends, and realized that the politics of fashion weren’t only something that happened to me without my consent when I put on clothes.

All of this is basically a long-ass way of introducing a wonderful response to Gold by a fashion blogger I think is just phenomenal, Tavi of Style Rookie. You may have heard of Tavi; she’s been getting a lot of press lately because she is a popular and charming style blogger who is also 13 freaking years old. 13! What were you doing when you were 13? Granted, I am 100% positive that if blogs had existed when I was 13, I would have had one — but I can guarantee you it would not be fashion-positive, much less fashion-forward. (It would have featured a lot of terrible poetry, is what it would have done). Here’s part of Tavi’s response to Gold’s lament:

Ms. Gold speaks about how she discovered fashion at 13 and then dressed in a way she knew she was supposed to dress. “How I enchanted. How I belonged. I thought I looked just like the effortlessly beautiful girls at school. Except I didn’t. And, very soon, I realised that I didn’t. All that weekend job money and childish angst and still I looked like me. That was the first seduction – and the first betrayal.” I don’t believe Ms. Gold “discovered” fashion; she discovered middle school and teenagerdom. She said that before that, she dressed as Andy Pandy and was happier.

I find the idea of dressing as Andy Pandy pretty awesome. It’s creative and it’s fun, and that sounds fashionable to me. What Tanya Gold and many others, including myself, hate is the everyone-has-to-look-the-same-and-also-sexy philosophy, which is NOT fashion.

This is by no means written with the intentions of a personal attack on Ms. Gold, but rather, a kind of response to this idea that I see coming up often. I think that the problem with fashion isn’t fashion, but how others decide to see it. The same “fashion” magazines that offer advice about pleasing men might decide that fashion isn’t for overweight people, but it’s Tanya Gold’s fault for believing it, and if she really wanted to have fun with clothes she could. Same goes for the idea that clothes HAVE to make you look sexy. Not if you don’t want to! Isn’t that amazing!

Don’t you wish this girl were your niece or your friend’s daughter? She’s seen through the sexyface plastic facade of fashion advertising — the part that uses the desire to conform to sell you things — to the part where people get to have fun with their own looks, and all before starting high school. Instead of desperately apprenticing herself to grownup sex appeal, as girls are pressured to do younger and younger, she creates an outfit (to pick just one recent example) as an homage to Edward Gorey.

T is for Tavi, whose hair is now blue as a Na'vi

My friend Coco perfectly summarized Tavi’s great appeal for feminist fashion-lovers: “What I love most about Tavi – and I’ll be heartbroken when it changes, as it will most certainly change – is the fact that she is still very much a child who is enjoying her childhood. She dresses like a 13 year old girl with fantastic and interesting style, as opposed to a miniature version of an adult woman. She rejects the notion that fashion is for making us sexier and rejects that being sexy is the objective in womanhood at all. In today’s culture where we make thongs for 8 year olds, and “boyfriend jeans” for toddlers, this is positively radical.”

I agree. While I have great sympathy for Tanya Gold’s rejection of the mandates of fashion, I think Tavi is a great face for personal creativity and self-respect in style. Fashion is not just about what gets pictured in “women’s magazines,” which are by definition handbooks in compulsory femininity. Style blogs are, I think, a great antidote to the orders “to buy a dress, and a bag and then perhaps some stupid, unnatural shoes and feel a kind of brief, bright burst of self-acceptance, which always evaporated as soon as I was home,” as Gold puts it. You don’t have to buy those things. You don’t have to be sexy. You don’t have to be pretty. You don’t have to look like everyone else — in fact, you don’t have to look like anyone else but your own damn self. You can wear a character from My Neighbor Totoro as a brooch and look like a million bucks. You get to decide what fashion means to you.

223 thoughts on “Fashion without hatred

  1. You can wear a character from My Neighbor Totoro as a brooch and look like a million bucks.

    You’ve been looking in my jewelry drawer, haven’t you? I have the cutest Totoro pins! … I think I’ve always been lucky, in that I found the joy of style (Not really fashion – not regimented enough, too eclectic always) as a teenager. Dressing in funky clothes was a big refutation to body shame – how could I hate my size when I was wearing such a cute vintage plaid dress?
    I grew up in the heyday of Salvation Army/Goodwill finds – all used clothes were far below the fashion radar in our town, so the good stuff wasn’t snapped up by vintage shops and hipsters. I still go to the local thrift stores, but they’re not quite as magical now – I miss that feeling of finding something amazing and perfect and cheap, taking it home and making it mine. (I still have some of the vintage dresses I wore to school as a teenager – one of them is worth an astonishing amount of money now)

  2. I have a really, really hard time believing that Tavi is really 13. My best friend says, like you, that if there had been blogs when we were 13 we’d have been the same way, but I don’t think I’ll ever be as cool as Tavi, and I’m twice her age. The best I can hope for is a kid like her.

  3. How can you tell when something looks good on you? How can you tell when colors flatter you? How do you know when something is too dressy, or not dressy enough? Where the hell is all this stuff written down, so I can bookmark it for the next time I’m forced to get new clothes? What if I get it wrong? Am I allowed to wear clothes that don’t make me want to weep and scream with rage? Why are all the nice clothes in the men’s section?

  4. First off, Kimberly O? Your hair is made of win.

    I love this post. I hate that fashion gets such a bad rap in the feminist community – I can get it with “mainstream” fashion, that gives me a bad case of the headdeskies too, but I don’t think thinking about personal style is necessarily an evil shallow thing. And I like wearing heels. : / I don’t think everyone should feel pressured to care so much about their appearance or wear heels, and I hate the beauty standard. It seems like part of the reason that fashion is so derided as shallow & vapid is because it’s something that generally caters to women…I wish that was discussed more often.

    AWESOME post, SweetMachine. Thank you!

  5. @Rasha
    I take people shopping with me to deal with a lot of that. My three undergrad roommates and I had a great time shopping together. We could commiserate when nothing fit, compliment each other when stuff looked good, and keep each other from buying things that didn’t work. I know that helped me figure out what was flattering not only on the body I had then, but on other bodies too, which has increased my internet shopping success rate. We had an informal agreement that everyone had to like a garment before buying, although we did that as a money saving measure more than anything else. Shopping together also led to our glorious tradition of trying on hideous prom dresses, taking pictures, and laughing hysterically. Now I’m more likely to go shopping with my sister or my husband, which isn’t as fun but still way better than going by myself.

    As far as colors go, I think it’s more a state of mind than anything else. I’m a very pale redhead, and I’ve been told I’m most flattered by warmish neutrals and muted cool colors, pastels, and absolutely no pink, red, or orange. I personally hate pastel colors, and love vibrant ones, so I wear a ton of purple, turquoise, lime, red, pink, and orange, and I get compliments on how amazing the colors look on me all the time. My sister, who has similar coloring, gets the same compliments by wearing the muted colors she prefers. She feels terribly awkward in red, and I feel bored and angsty in light blue.

    Which is a long way of saying, the most flattering colors will in general be the ones you like, because you like them.

    As for too dressy/not dressy enough, if you ever figure it out, let me know. I’m a chronic overdresser. My first casual Friday at my former job, I wore a cotton knit dress with leggings and heels, instead of my usual button down shirt with nice pants or a pencil skirt and heels. Turns out casual Friday meant jeans and tshirts.

    I love the concept of fashion as self-expression, instead of group conformity. I would have been way happier as a teen with that mindset. Looking back, actually, the girl I looked to as fashion genius probably just figured that out before the rest of us did.

  6. Thank you, Sweet Machine, for posting Tavi’s response to Tanya Gold. She might be 13, but she is a damn insightful and happy 13, and has uncovered the great secret of fashion that too many of us twice her age or older have not learned: that fashion is what you make it, and it can be incredibly fun.

    When I was her age, my mom was very impressionable as to the constant “looking right” messages in the media. She used to obsess over how my hair/body/wardrobe did not conform to my peers or to the teenage ideal (which she applied to herself as well, of course!), and safe to say, I was pretty durned neurotic as a result (see: full-face waxing experiment). If ONLY Tavi had been around to set us straight!

    As I got older, I developed two wardrobes: 1) to wear in front of mom, and 2) clothes that are fun. Now that I don’t see my mom (or any other judgmental people!), I am proud to say that all of my clothes are fun, and are worn specifically for their fun-quotient.

    @ Rasha – Your worries are everybody’s worries, but I think you, and me, and everybody who ever freaked out about every worry on your list, would be best to follow Tavi’s advice: If we really wanted to have fun with fashion, we could. Because we don’t owe our appearance to anyone but ourselves. And if you’re liking what you see in the men’s department, what’s stopping you? Menswear can be seriously fun!

    (Super-sad anecdote, don’t read unless you want to be super-sad): When my father died in November, I, as his only child, inherited all of his clothes, from his Gene Rayburn 3-piece suits from the 70s, to his Regis Philbin tone-on-tone shirts and ties, to his torn-up motorcycle gloves. Babuji and I were roughly the same size (my arms are actually a smidge longer), and I wear his clothes regularly now, as part of my bereavement. I never knew how much a trench coat could heal.

  7. I just went to the 2010 Bloggies page to check if she was nominated either for the fashion or teen categories so I could vote before voting closes on Sunday. Sadly she’s not. If she’s still writing such awesome stuff in 11 months time, I’ll be sure to nominate her!

  8. @Rasha Some ideas for you …

    1. A trusted friend who you think has good fashion sense can be a second pair of eyes when you are shopping or putting together combinations.

    2. Do you know when you see clothing that looks good on other people, either in real life or in a magazine? It’s about learning to recognise the same things in yourself, which can be hard because you might not see yourself as clearly as you see others. Maybe you can try analysing outfits that work on other people and see if there are concepts you can borrow. For example, you might think “I think the reason this looks good is because the blue in the brooch matches her eyes” or “I like the way this combines two totally different things like a frilly skirt and a check shirt and yet somehow works” and then experimenting with something similar for yourself. (But be careful here, you don’t want to start comparing body types or anything like that). Since fashion magazines are often full of discouraging images and commentary, you can also take inspiration from art and nature and film and apply them to fashion. It’s about trial and error and learning to trust your instincts.

    3.Yes, you can look at books and magazines but tread cautiously. I read a Trinny and Susannah book called What You Wear Can Change Your Life on this topic. I mention it here because I remember the book said they would never, ever suggest a woman should lose weight and that clothes should fit the woman, not the other way around. However, they do talk about not liking certain parts of their bodies, so I don’t think it would be wholly Shapeling-approved. To be honest, I find the fashions in it quite bland but it’s not really about fashion, it’s really more about finding clothes to suit you, and it had some nice things about colour and dressing for different situations.

    4.Magazines are full of endless articles about making the most of your body type, but I don’t like them much and their definition of curvy is probably not the same as a Shapeling’s definition of curvy. Also, the read of the magazine might cost too many Sanity Watchers points.

  9. I can see both Gold and Tavi’s points. I think it fundamentally comes down to how you define fashion. Are we talking about mainstream fashion, or are we talking about personal fashion sense? I think this matters because, rightly or wrongly, the word “fashion” commonly evokes the spectres of Vogue, Chanel, Gaultier, Prada, etc., very thin models, and the celebrities and society women who can afford such things. That kind of fashion excludes a lot of people from it’s ranks – it’s purposefully designed to do that, and this is the sting I think Gold felt, and now feels free from. Tavi, although she uses the term “fashion,” seems to be referring to – as Kimberely O put it – personal style. That can certainly be more individualistic, less dependant on how much you conform to society’s strict beauty standards, and can be much cheaper to cultivate. Gold can certainly redefine what “fashion” means to her, as Tavi’s urges her to do, and as SM did. That said, Tavi’s message is a little muddled, I guess, by virtue of the fact that she is becoming more widely known precisely because of her association with very mainstream fashion world that does in fact look down at Gold. If I were Gold, I don’t know how I’d feel about this young girl telling me that my feelings of alienation from the world of fashion were my own fault because I didn’t tune out fashion magazines and all the other media that tells women how to dress, and create my own personal sense of fashion; especially since the girl in question spends a lot of time singing the praises of the very fashions that Gold is supposed to be tuning out. I dunno. Maybe I’m just old and cranky.

  10. I do see your point, Juniper, but I think it says a lot about Tavi that she explicitly set a comment ultimatum of no trashing Tanya Gold for her body or age or anything that you’d think she might do, as a haute couture connoisseur (connoisseuse?) and as a 13-year-old girl. As far as her use of the word “fault,” I mean, she’s 13. I didn’t necessarily read it in as victim-blame-y of a tone as it might come off, just that perhaps, as eloquent and brilliant as Tavi is, she’s still using a certain kind of teenage hyperbole. I wouldn’t let that one strong word devalue the real meat of what she’s saying much more clearly, though, that appreciation of fashion and creation of your own style doesn’t have to come at the expense of your self-worth.

  11. I agree totally with Sweetmachine that accepting your own shape and body and working with it rather than against is the key to your own fashion. If you think about fashion as a mysterious world inhabited by models and perfect people, then you are doomed to the angst bin, because even that isnt reality. Fashion is inhabited by designers, artists and creatives who generally don’t look perfect in anyway, they simply look “creative” and self expressive. Fashion if you view it in such constricted terms as being just about Beauty,really is the Emperor’s new clothes and therefore ever fleeting. If you see it for what it is at it’s very heart, it is simply a way to express your own self and project onto the world the image you wish to be shown. How you percieve yourself will leak out by your choices. If you are ashamed and awkward in your own skin, you will project that out by your choices, just as when you start to feel stronger, confident and more powerful, your choices will illustrate that.
    Fashion like any art form is neutral. How you interpret it is what gives it a power.
    I love Tavi’s philosophy and I think if that self-awareness is so powerful and clear at 13 then she won’t lose it with age. She seems to have got to the heart of her own self without the searching we often do.
    Actually choosing clothes and your outward appearance “like a child” holds perhaps the best key. I don’t mean that we should choose to look childish, but children choose instinctively, without agenda and according to what makes them feel good and will bring fun and further happiness. They arent saddled by the need for approval of sexuality and so on, it is simply about wearing what you feel like on the day. When I was a child I had a very strong sense of how I wanted to look, and felt happy when I was left in charge of it, and then things became clouded as I learned to search for approval. I have since realised that approval essentially isnt external, so now I’m back to simply choosing for me and how I wish to be seen and understood, and I’m a lot happier.

  12. i’ve noticed that for me, most of my changes in thought-patterns occurs in stages. it used to bother me to find myself so diametrically opposed to beliefs i thought were set in stone. but i’m learning to be okay with where i am now, and i understand that where i am tomorrow may be a completely different place. such is life. such is learning and growth.

    all of that to say that right now i’m in a not-interested-in-fashion place. i don’t hate it. i just… don’t think about it. ^_^ my clothing is very plain, but when i look in a mirror i feel beautiful. this is something new for me, and something that i didn’t *really* have in all the years that i wore makeup and fretted about looking good.

    once in a blue moon i may think about getting new clothes. and i think about the mindset i fall into when i’m in that changing room. (it’s not a good one.) so i know i’m not ready to take that step yet. in time, maybe i will. or maybe i will wear these clothes until they fall apart. or maybe i will learn to make my own clothes. who knows. ^_^ but what’s important to me is that i’m happy with where i am *now.* i feel good about myself, fashion-backward or no.

    and i know that text can be tricky to communicate in, so i’d like to add that i’m writing this comment in perfect peace. i have no issues with other people enjoying fashion and discussing it. i think i just wanted to share my (current) viewpoint. ^_^

  13. Oh, Tavi is amazing! I would have loved to have known someone like her when I was 13 (and probably would have bobbed along the edges too shy to approach, but).

    I love Tavi’s philosophy and I think if that self-awareness is so powerful and clear at 13 then she won’t lose it with age.

    Paintmonkey, I very much agree. The people I’ve known who have that strong self-awareness evolved as they grew, sure, but they didn’t try to fit something they weren’t or shy away from that essential self-ness. One is still in her late teens yet and I hope she doesn’t lose that sense, but if it’s weathered adolescence in a conservative rural town I think she’s gonna be okay.

    When I was a child I had a very strong sense of how I wanted to look, and felt happy when I was left in charge of it, and then things became clouded as I learned to search for approval. I have since realised that approval essentially isnt external, so now I’m back to simply choosing for me and how I wish to be seen and understood, and I’m a lot happier.

    Yes, this, so much.

  14. That girl is fantastic! I’m still not sure what my style is, and I’m in my late 30s.

    Colors, at least, I think I’ve figured out – when I wear a color, look in the mirror and say “Well hello, there!” and feel good about wearing it for the day, it’s a good color for me. If I look in the mirror and go “meh”, then it’s not, and I try to keep track of which ones do which (meaning I pay attention to it and mentally file the color in one of the two categories). I’ve gotten kind of brutal about it – it took a few years, but now if I’m trying on clothes at the store and it’s a meh color, I won’t buy it even if it’s the only shirt I’ve found that fit me all day. It’s really cut down on the color variety in my wardrobe, but on the good side, most everything coordinates with each other. :)

  15. I think Tavi is a really insightful blogger; very precocious, certainly, but like many thirteen year olds, I suspect – just one that happens to have a platform to reach out to people.

    I’m 23, and I’m still developing my style. I’ve always been interested in ‘looking good’, but before I came to size acceptance, that was very much informed by the idea of ‘flattering’. Consequently, I often looked quite matronly, as the recommended styles for fatties are often mature cuts – which is fine, if that’s what one is after, but I was, and am, a young woman, and I want be able to access and interpret trends.

    I am consistently complimented on my outfits, generally by people I know, but by strangers too, and I think it has to do with a general fearlessness and absolute confidence in what I wear. It’s really courtesy of fatshionista and multiple plus-size style bloggers, and having more friends into size acceptance that’s helped me learn more and care more about fashion.

    Ultimately though, I see fashion as daring, performative, and about breaking down barriers; there is something so very frightening, in a sense, of fat bodies being normalised in trendy and interesting clothes, and I like to think I am a part of that.

    Bit of a word vomit there, but for the tl;dr – fashion! perfomative! fun! learning! :D

  16. To me, fashion or style means I can dress the way I choose: leave the house with my hair still wet from the shower, no make up, wearing scrubs and crocs, or t-shirt and jeans, and walk around my town without getting a second glance, just the way I happen to like it. I’ve never been pulled over and ticketed by the fashion police. It’s amusing to hear there are people who’s lives are so empty they feel compelled to foam at the mouth when they cannot predict and control the way other people choose to dress. Maybe those same people hate the fact that feeling beautiful is all in the mind.

    Hooray for Tavi!

  17. “Do you know when you see clothing that looks good on other people, either in real life or in a magazine?”

    No, I have no idea. People say “oh, that looks so good on her!” or “I can’t believe she thinks she can wear that!” and I? I can’t tell the difference. How do you tell when something “works” and when it doesn’t?

    “And if you’re liking what you see in the men’s department, what’s stopping you?”

    It’s illegal. Also, I’m afraid I’ll get the shit beat out of me.

  18. It’s illegal. Also, I’m afraid I’ll get the shit beat out of me.

    I think this is going to be a very puzzling statement for a lot of us here; in the US and Canada and most of if not all of Europe (afaik, apply salt as necessary), women wearing men’s clothes isn’t illegal (and tbh, most people wouldn’t look twice).

    Rasha, I take it you live in a very different place than aformentioned countries?

  19. Oh, Tanya Gold and her “my way is the only way” brand of feminism, and “all sex workers and their punters are oppressed and evil”. And, ok, most people will fall into the trap of universalising their experience from time to time, but she does it constantly.

    I stopped reading her a while ago, and I wish the Grauniad would ditch her and Julie Bindel. I might start reading feminist pieces there are again if they did (by the regular columnists, not notable contributors like Kate and Marianne!)

    High fashion does nothing for me at all, but appreciating it as an artform in its own right, and its influence on street fashions are nothing to be dissed. Some of the practices and manifestations of high fashion can certainly be critiqued. But being creatively influenced by it, as Tavi evidently is, is a positive thing.

  20. @Renatus: I can’t articulate it, but something about your response is skeeving me out. I live in the US, I have no idea where Rasha lives and wasn’t expecting that sort of response, but it’s not a “puzzling” statement to me at all… what she said is very straightforward and clear. I’m sure it’s not your intent, but your response feels parochial and paternalistic to me… like a whole big circumlocution to not-quite-avoid saying “Oh ho, you live in one of those other places, do you?”

  21. Alexandra Erin (and Rasha, too), I’m sorry, I worded that really really badly. I meant that I’m puzzled because the countries I’m familiar with don’t have that kind of restriction written into law (again, as far as I know). I should’ve not went and spoken for others, and just googled to fill my lack of knowledge and not been nosy.

    In any case, I’m sorry that it isn’t an option for Rasha if she wants it to be, and sorry I didn’t think more before I posted.

  22. From where I sit there’s really no difference between Tavi or Giselle. So we’re merely swapping one standard of whiteness for some other. I don’t get the excitement. But then when it comes to stuff like this I rarely get it.

    Self aware? Seriously. Seriously. Wow. Okay, I totally get why American Idol is popular now.

  23. Snarky, what do you mean by swapping one standard of whiteness for another re: Tavi and Tanya? I’m kind of puzzled by your response.

  24. Ah, yes, men’s clothing. If you’re a woman, to really pull off men’s fashion (and discover a mind-bending reality), you should get some theatrical facial hair, bind those breasts, and go all the way. For our semester group project in a communication class, three women (including me) spent a full day in public (downtown and at the mall) in drag, passing as guys of a certain type (a type that draws as little attention as possible in these parts: 1 army surplus dood, 1 ranch hand in town with a weekend pass, and 1 allmarekin baseball fanatic). You gotta do the privileged (I-own-the-earth) walk, the chin recognition dood-to-dood thrust, the taking-up-the-whole-bench at the mall slouch, the subtle smirk/sneer/mistercool alls-right-with-my-universe-but-yours-looks-fucked-up grin…

    I can’t promise our specialized techniques would pass unnoticed in a different city, and you should be ready to feel fucking scared, at first, until you settle back into your privilege. You can’t approach this adventure lightly if you’re serious about your motives, we took 2 months to prepare.

    Our closest call came in a camera store when a salesman kept pressing me to check out the new Nikon, and I lingered deferentially, without interupting him, while he gave his pitch. My silence must have been a red flag, and for a second too long we made eye contact. Army surplus dood rescued me with a grunt and a shove, then we rolled out of the store like we had more important shit to do elsewhere in the mall.

    I doubt you can fully appreciate fashion as a social construct, in all its patriarchal glory, until you push it–all the way–to the other side.

  25. “Shopping together also led to our glorious tradition of trying on hideous prom dresses, taking pictures, and laughing hysterically.”

    Just wanted to comment that this was one of my favorite things to do with friends from home! Such fun. Also great to go with friends with different body shapes so you can say “hey, this dress is clearly a foot too long for me but the number of rhinestones is blinding – YOU go try it on!”

    Some level of obliviousness to what is “fashionable” to a wider audience helps with having your own style, in my opinion, unless you really don’t care about other people’s opinions or unless your style has some overlap with what is fashionable in addition to your own creativity. i would say the latter is the case for a lot of the fantastic posters on fatshionista, for example, and the former is only the case for people with very strong senses of their own taste and worth. That’s great if you can do it, but some of us feel the need to blend in more out of insecurity!

  26. I don’t usually like Tanya Gold’s writing, but this is one of the few pieces I’ve read by her that had me thinking “yes, yes, yes” all the way through.

    I think Juniper is right to make the distinction between fashion and personal style, which is why I think Tavi disagrees with Gold. Yes, some designers are artists whose medium happens to be clothing and I agree that their deserves to be respected and appreciated in its own right.

    However, of the two of them I’d back Gold on this. The commercial application of fashion is designed to make women feel bad about themselves. The towering edifice of designers, models, marketing, magazines, “must-haves” (I was intrigued to discover in M&S earlier today that there is now a “must-have” knicker shape for this season – it’s “Brazilian”, in case you were wondering) and all the rest of it is a huge force which relies on telling women that they have to look a certain way, whether it’s in the shape of their jeans (should I no longer wear my bootcut jeans now that skinny is back in?) or the size of their body or the supposed ugliness of their face without make-up. As far as I can see, Tanya Gold is not saying “I hate clothes”, she is saying, “I hate the fashion industry”. I would expand that statement further to say “I hate the way women are expected to make themselves uncomfortable and unable to walk in the service of fashion; I hate that the fashion industry purposefully inculcates insecurity in women so that they will have so little self-esteem that they will buy more things in order just to experience a short-lived glow of acceptance; I hate that all this teaches women that they are nothing unless they look a certain way”.

    It sounds to me as thought Gold is at the moment enjoying the silence after shutting out the negative voices of the fashion industry. Perhaps she’ll decide to cultivate her own style, like the wonderful women on Fatshionista. Perhaps she’ll decide that anti-style is her own style and work her smocks and flat shoes.

    Tavi is only 13. She’s clearly a funny and fabulous blogger, but she’s not ground down by the years and years of listening to the voices that tell you the only way to be a woman is to love shoes and shopping. When I was 13 I was pretty funny and fabulous myself. I was bouncy and irrepressible and cocky as only a kid can be. It was only over the next few years that I started to measure myself up against the fantasy images of womanhood – the impossibly thin models (Cindy, Naomi, Elle – women who would probably be considered too fat these days); the “everygirl” voice of the magazines telling me that I loved to shop and cared what the boys thought of me because that’s what women do and I wasn’t a “real” woman if I didn’t – and it was only then that I started to feel wanting. I didn’t know how to be a woman. I was looking for role models. The fashion industry gave me only one way to be a woman – and a pretty toxic way it was too, denigrating the amazing real women around me for being too old, too fat, too frumpy, not perfect enough in favour of a mirage. Now I’m older I know this was a lie, but the damaging effects of that belief are there every day, every time I look in the mirror and hate what I see (less often, thanks to SP, but still far, far too often).

    The must-have Brazilian knickers will not make me a supermodel. They’re just knickers. They’re no better or worse than the white boy-shorts I ended up buying, as long as they’re comfortable and do their job. I know this now. But I didn’t back then. And I understand Tanya Gold’s anger.

  27. RNidgade,

    So. How DID it feel to put on transface for a day? You get a real big kick out of mocking the identities of trans male spectrum folks, treating it like a big old costume party?

    Fuck, that’s vile.

  28. You know, I’m glad when people find pleasure in stuff. And it’s awesome that so many people seem to find pleasure in fashion. I just . . . have never ever found shopping or dressing to come close to that experience.

    I *hate* hunting through all the thrift store racks from L-4x, because everything is creatively sized. I *hate* trying to put together outfits that will satisfy my minimum needs for comfort, allow me to walk, be washable, and last all day. I *hate* discovering that I need that black minimizer with this shirt, because otherwise I’ll burst the buttons. I *hate* finding something I like and fits, and discovering that it’s well out of my budget, because plus sized clothes are more expensive, even in thrift stores. And I *hate* spending an entire day trying on clothes, only to end up back where I started. That’s not even touching the process of putting clothes together into an outfit.

    For me, style blogs are essentially still about the experiences I can’t reach – they just require a time commitment that seems completely unreachable, even for just finding the pieces, much less the space requirement for clothes and the modifications that must often be made (no doubt in your free time in your spacious, sunny sewing room.)

    I’m always floored by posts like this because I’ve never found anything redeemable about fashion for me, either in the high-end labels or the more proletariat version. They both feel like those cookbooks that advise you seriously to try braising your lamb shanks the next time you make them with a decoction of vodka-steeped mint, and served them over a salad of wilted spinach and lemon grass flavored croutons. It’s probably very tasty, but it makes huge assumptions about my life, budget, and skills that just seem extreme.

    So, for the record: it’s also okay to be frumpy. It’s okay to wear something because it is comfortable. It’s okay to wear something because it’s warm. It’s okay to buy from the overstock section of a catalog. It’s okay to wear the same thing every day until the holes get too large to ignore (in which case, it becomes sleepwear). It’s okay to wear something that does not express your creativity, joie de vivre, quirkiness, or individuality.

  29. I think I understand Snarky’s remark re Tavi and Gisele. Tavi is white – am I the only one who noticed she’s very slim? – and young. Not exactly traits that are ignored and disenfranchised by the fashion industry. I think it’s nice that her attitude is ” just have fun with the clothes, don’t buy the whole sexy, look-a-certain-way thing”, but in many other respects, she’s the sort of person the fashion industry caters to: white, moneyed, and thin.

  30. I just want to make it clear that I’m not trying to say we should all be like Tavi, or we should all love fashion, or that we should ignore what Gold says. What I wanted to get at is that there can be joy and fun, if it’s your inclination, in this realm of self-presentation and creativity even though the powers that be tell you it’s not for you. If you don’t find joy and fun there, that’s okay, too!

  31. I expect too that simply reminding people not be afraid of fashion is valid to state. The point is we get distracted by young skinny white models and we think thats fashion. It isnt. They are simply the canvasses that fashion is projected onto for selling purposes.
    When I think about the women whos style I admire, they are never young and skinny or fashion models. The women I think are stylish, in some ways I couldnt give two shits about their clothes. Its entirely about their attitude, self awareness and what you can read in their eyes. For example I have never seen a photo of Frida Kahlo that didnt look completely stylish and chic…but I couldnt tell you what she was wearing, its just her and her presence and attention to aware self presentation.
    All the women I like and feel are stylish are from the “always outnumbered, never outgunned” school of philosophy. Free thinkers, spirited and never followers.

  32. I was angry at myself for being insufficiently thin, insufficiently feminine. I was angry at my body for growing too much hair and too much flesh, at my feet for hurting in pointy shoes, at my hands for not being deft enough for perfectly applied eye makeup. This is not to say that I didn’t recognize the harmful practices the beauty industries — including the ones Gold describes, which so many of us have experienced — but my anger was still not borne out of a sense of being harmed psychologically, but of being rejected physically.

    This!!!! This is what I still struggle with every day. May 2010 have me relieved of just a fraction of this.

  33. I fully support people’s right to Not Get It, but in my opinion one of the most notable things about Tavi is that she doesn’t really “look good” in her clothes in the way we usually understand it. The fashion she’s performing is a completely different thing, as she points out, from the fashion Gold is denouncing (in a piece that, I might add, I really love and think is terrifically written and a very biting critique of certain elements of the fashion world that are still not what personal fashion HAS to be). Per our usual standards of feminine dress and beauty, it often looks ridiculous — she is swallowed and overshadowed by her clothes, her combinations of colors and patterns are peculiar and puzzling, she looks like (and is) a child, she’s androgynous but not in the way that capital-f Fashion finds sexy. There’s really no part of it that’s about assimilation to or even recognition of standards of beauty — it’s about participating in fashion as an art and a game.

    Maybe for me part of the delight was in hearing “13-year-old fashion blogger,” expecting Taylor Momsen, and clicking over to her site to see someone who looked like Ping from Project Runway had been dressing up Macaulay Culkin. (Sorry for the dated reference but Snarky’s is the one who’s great at picking actors people look like.) That is, it might be partly because of the contrast to my expectations that I find her complete indifference to sexiness and the typical trappings of femininity incredibly refreshing.

  34. So, for the record: it’s also okay to be frumpy. It’s okay to wear something because it is comfortable. It’s okay to wear something because it’s warm. It’s okay to buy from the overstock section of a catalog. It’s okay to wear the same thing every day until the holes get too large to ignore (in which case, it becomes sleepwear). It’s okay to wear something that does not express your creativity, joie de vivre, quirkiness, or individuality.

    Anita – yes, I can relate to that. Although for me, that’s the flipside of the idea of having your own style.

    I remember playing with clothes as a kid of about Tavi’s age – buying those pants just because I loved the color, stealing my dad’s shirt from his closet, painting designs on an old camera case and using it as a purse. Fun, pure and simple. And then the pressure started – not so much from fashion itself (I was barely aware of it then, and IIRC, the UK teen mag Just Seventeen, the only one I bought with any regularity, was actually pretty creative at getting you to do things like paint patterns on plain pantyhose and other DIY projects), not even really from my peers because we had compulsory school uniform and not a lot of us were big clothes-horses anyway, but from my mother. While oblivious to fashion, she had a very fixed, very high-maintenance idea of what a ‘young lady’ should look like, and it was Very Serious Business. Not only did I find out that all my clothing choices were utterly and totally and forever wrong, but I lost all sense of fun in looks when it was made clear to me that it was supposed to be a 24/7 pastime. So by my 20s, I’d lost all sense of what I actually liked to wear.

    Recovery really began for me when I realized that whaddya know, it was OK not to be pin-neat and wear full makeup and matching shoes every minute of the day. It was OK not to wear colors you hated, clothes that looked good but pinched in odd places, styles designed to ‘hide your figure faults’. Given that relaxation of the rules, I was finally free to think about when I did want to express myself through looks, and on those occasions, how I wanted to do it. A lot of the time, I wear the same old stuff that I’m comfortable in. (It helps immensely having a job with no dress code; I don’t think I’d work for any place that did have one.) But when I want to play, I can and do play.

    I also hate clothes shopping (and shoe shopping in particular, which is why I live in sneakers). I stick to thrift stores as much as possible, because there tends to be that much less of the whole ‘fashion’ pressure in those places – plus, they make life easier when fashion has decreed that every high street store shall be selling clothes in colors X and Y and they’re colors I personally hate. Sometimes I avoid buying clothes at all (except underwear) for months on end. But occasionally I’ll want to put together a look, and it’s the fact that it’s a choice – to use your analogy, Anita, that I don’t feel obliged to cook like a gourmet every single day of my life – that makes me ever want to do that anyway.

  35. Great post!!! That tavi is something.

    I was fortunate enough to grow up
    in a time and place where preteens did nit dress sexy. I missed that by a free years thank god. Even our teen fashions were not that sexy.

    And later on, this might be silly but I learned that i did want to be somewhat gorky and sexy and wear a lot of what everybody else was wearing but thought I couldn’t “pull it off”. Till I just did! And actually found I looked thinner wearing more fitted things rather than big loose ones. And later learned from the british what not to wear show certain shapes that were more flattering to me. Tho I know to some people he idea of trying to look thinner or accenuating the more culturally accepted aspects of ur
    body shape is objectionable and I get that, but to me it was wonderful and made me realize that I, too, could choose o participate in mainstream fashion. And of course I could choose not to… Or could put my own
    twists on it…or my own limitations (like not wearing high heels all
    day as ts so uncomfortable)

    anyway that’s just my experience of it. Fashion played a big part in my self acceptance. But I’m glad the sexy tween thing wasn’t around for me because THAT wouldve been hard and I was not as cool as tavi at that age.

  36. I identify with the quote from Gold–I was ridiculously relieved when I made the jump into definite plus-size from inbetweenie-land where I’d been living for most of my life since oh, age 16 or so. I no longer could roam the aisles of straight-size stores, looking for something that might fit, looking for tops with generous cuts that would contain my breasts without straining, because there was no longer even a prayer of that happening. It was oddly liberating even though my choices drastically narrowed.

    I think that I was relieved because I could no longer even pretend to fit into society’s ideal norm. Yes, I wear plus-sizes, I’m a fat fat fatty. No more “Stuff never fits me because of my boobs” or “I just wear a larger size because I’m so tall” excuses apply, no more wondering if this designer/brand’s idea of a Large means a 10 or a 14 or being crushed to discover that some item I loved wasn’t made in a large enough size to accommodate me. It was a relief to be free–but before it happened, I wasn’t even aware that it was causing me any stress or angst.

  37. Snarkysmachine. I’m pausing to reflect the self-awareness I mentioned. Another person’s own self-awareness can’t really be judged, so actually how can I know anyone’s else state of self awareness…equally, how can you? Tavi may or may not be a self aware person, I don’t actually care. I mentioned her because she seems to know her own mind and opinions without being too approval seeking, for a young person, which can only be a good start in life.
    That of course doesnt mean she isnt doing her exploration in a potentially vacuous absorbed pool of nonsense. What I was really trying to stress was the creative aspect of “fashion” rather than dwelling on “what is fashionable” and people’s compulsion to fit it.
    Making the American idol comment suggests you might think that everyone else’s self awareness is a far shallower pool than your own, which you can’t assess really. Mentioning American Idol sounds like you trying to box people into a mass-market junk food mentality, where people are either meeting your own approval, or they are bees flapping round a hive of low grade consciousness. If I’ve mis-read you I’m sorry, it just seemed that way.

  38. I’m not totally on top of what Snarky’s is getting at either — though I suspect that once she unpacks it it’ll be significantly more subtle and incisive than how paintmonkey’s hearing it, no offense to you paintmonkey, it can be hard to interpret comments that brief — but if it has to do with the fact that there probably are no self-aware 13-year-olds, this link might be relevant/interesting.

  39. You are coming from a point of assuming my subtlety…..

    See, now, I have no idea what this means either! MORE WORDS, PEOPLE! TWITTER IS RUINING EVERYTHING

  40. Well, that was a great article. And now I feel like I finally understand why so many fashion designers dress one way, while their fashions look another. Tavi dresses like a designer.

  41. The same “fashion” magazines that offer advice about pleasing men might decide that fashion isn’t for overweight people, but it’s Tanya Gold’s fault for believing it, and if she really wanted to have fun with clothes she could.

    I know Tavi is only 13 and, despite her obvious brilliance, has been living in the patriarchy for fewer years than Gold, so she lacks context to truly understand where Gold’s coming from. But I don’t think Tavi’s age erases the victim-blaming I hear in this statement. If a man (or a teenage boy) were to say the same thing I quoted, I don’t think Shapelings would give him a pass for ignorance. I certainly love Tavi’s willingness to reject fashion dogma at an age when I was still desperately trying to fit in (and I love that her Edward Gorey tribute makes me think of Tom Waits), but that statement of “fault” still irks me. She has a great head start, I think, but she still has a lot to learn (not saying I don’t have a lot to learn myself).

  42. Its cool Fillyjonk. I’ve switched my mental settings back to silly joke default position. I wonder if Lemurs are self aware?

  43. Thank you, thank you than you SM!!!!! I plan to show this to my 8 year old. There is so much junk for girls that sexualizes them at such a young age. I also admire Tavi as an artist. I think she will ultimately go further with her art than her fashion as her fashion seems to be a subset of art.

    At first I was thrilled with this post, then I started to read the comments and began to wonder. My concern, and I admit to being cynical, is that Tavi is really a product of her parents and someone other than Tavi is writing her posts. I do hope that is not true and I still plan to share this with my daughter. Am I too much of an internet cynic?

  44. SecondhandMoon, I agree that the “fault” statement is problematic; I’m giving Tavi a pass, personally, because she *is* 13, but that doesn’t mean you have to. But what I think she taps into (in a poorly phrased way) that I tried to get at in my post (but maybe didn’t succeed) is that Gold’s article to me reads like it’s coming from a place of real self-loathing. It was entertainingly written, but you scratch the surface and it’s sounds to me like “I hate myself and need something to blame” — and look, there’s a lot of blame to go around! I’m not, by any means, trying to underplay the power of institutionally enforced self-loathing for women; in fact, that’s probably one of the main things I write about on SP. But I think Gold is missing a chance to critique the cult of white, thin, sexy femininity — which (IMO) is exactly what’s so refreshing about Tavi’s style blog. Yes, she is white, and yes she is small, but she is dressing like an Edward Gorey character rather than Blake Lively, and I for one find that delightful.

  45. Re: my question to Snarky above, I meant to type Giselle not Tanya, got Tanya on the brain, clearly!

    Tanya used to live near me and I met her in our local branch of M&S Simply Food (a grocery store). Her self-expression, her body posture and indeed what she said and how she said it (we talked about the quite vociferous and vicious reaction to her columns on CiF and the Daily Hate, as I’d enjoyed the one I’d read that day and told her) were, as it came across to me, a study in self-loathing.

    I was in the grips of moderate/severe depression at the time and, despite that and the vile internal broadcast that I pretty much listened to 24/7 telling me how crap and disgusting I was, I *still* was brought up short thinking, wow, that woman hates herself. It made me quite quite sad that such a bright, attractive woman seemed to feel so bad about herself. And quite quite sad that that’s so common in women. We are wonderful the way we are and the fashion industry (not fashion/style per se), tells us the exact opposite.

  46. I’m not, by any means, trying to underplay the power of institutionally enforced self-loathing for women

    I know, SM; I didn’t mean to call you out for the post in general. I just thought it was worth chiming in with Juniper that I found that part of Tavi’s post problematic. I don’t think we’re in disagreement!

  47. Also, one of the critiques of Tavi I read in an article about her a few weeks ago was basically a fashion industry person saying “Are we really all supposed to start taking our fashion cues from a 13-year-old?” and it gave me eyeroll sprain. That’s the difference, to me, between what I hate about women’s magazines and what I love about certain style blogs: enforced conformity. Personally, I read style blogs and street fashion blogs precisely to see things I’d NEVER see in a mainstream publication.

  48. RNigade – considering that 1) a poster upthread noted that this was illegal where zie was from and 2) the very fucking real dangers that trans people face every day, your post regarding your project is … well, I’m having a hard time coming up with anything adequate to say how full of problems I’m finding it.

    “… in drag, passing as guys of a certain type…”
    – Can you see how this is offensive?

    ” I can’t promise our specialized techniques would pass unnoticed in a different city, and you should be ready to feel fucking scared, at first, until you settle back into your privilege. You can’t approach this adventure lightly if you’re serious about your motives, we took 2 months to prepare.”
    – Fucking hell?!?! I hated reading this, and I have cis privilege. I can’t even imagine how this bit of mansplanation reads to trans people. Oh, wait, yes:
    Just Some Trans Guy “fuck, that’s vile”.

    “Our closest call came in a camera store …”
    – WTF!!! Seriously?!!? (TW) Someone upthread expressed that it was illegal and zie could be beaten, and again, trans people risk their lives and safety every day, (not to mention shit like being disappeared from someone’s consideration as they post about their project for school), and you’re saying what happened btwn you and camera salesperson was a “close call”?

    OFFS!!!!

    (Mods, I’m sorry if this is a derail, but, just, OMFG! did this upset me! Also sorry for all the interjections and punctuations. I’m trying hard not to get cap-locky.)

  49. “That’s the difference, to me, between what I hate about women’s magazines and what I love about certain style blogs: enforced conformity.”
    Couldnt agree more.

  50. You don’t have to be sexy. You don’t have to be pretty.

    Thank you. I really needed that today. I tend to dress for “as many colors as possible”, and in this weather “warm”, and sometimes get depressed by the media’s insistence that I either be conventionally sexy or Edgy! and Rebellious!

  51. Have I mentioned how happy it makes me when you all do fashion posts? Er, less when you show fashion (though that’s always fun) then when you theorize it–it is so profoundly interesting. And the heart of the post, for me as for others, was “Fashion started to seem less like an enemy conspiracy and more like an artistic world that, like other art forms, has elite circles, everyday practitioners, and a lot of people in between.” That’s my fashion. That’s happy fashion. Thank you for speaking out about and for and around happy fashion.

  52. @Some Trans Guy, IrishUp – thanks. Hope I am not adding to derailing but this is about style in some regards. I read that post with a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. My closest friend is a woman who is most physically and stylishly comfortable wearing mens or mens style clothes. She does not do this as a costume. It is actually a simple and practical way of dressing that is also who she really is. She likes mens style jeans, plaid work shirts and mens sweaters and little news boy caps. She is small so it is pretty obvious to most people she is not a man. Nor is she trying to be.

    The point is that even dressing this way can be dangerous because she is not conforming to our standards of how a woman should dress. She is comfortable with herself but that doesn’t mean everyone is comfortable or will not harm her. She is also gay which puts her at risk for violence as well. I guess I am trying to say fashion and style can be serious business and I greatly admire my friend for being true to herself even though she is at risk because of it. It comes mainly in the form of looks or snide remarks but it is still hurtful.

    Again, I hope I haven’t derailed but I think this shows that what we wear can be political even if it is only for comfort. My friend doesn’t dress the way she does for political reasons, to make a statement or to be provocative but it becomes political due to the narrow patriarchal definition of femininity. Sometimes just being oneself is political.

    I do not want to make this “all about me” but on a personal note, I sometimes just worry about her safety. Sorry but I found the post by RNigade distressing.

  53. JennyRose – I feel your worry.

    “Sometimes just being oneself is political. ”
    – Full of love for this!

  54. @Fillyjonk: Don’t knock Twitter.

    Oh I love Twitter. But there are also times when terseness is not ideal.

  55. Its funny how shopping today is different than it was back in the day. Plus size clothing is still lacking but boy has it come a long way. I remember spending a majority of my adolescence wearing dowdy, black/brown clothes that weren’t trendy and certainly not the styles young folks wore because there just weren’t many options. Because of that, I’ve always dreaded shopping as I knew I wouldn’t find anything. I mean for a while I wouldn’t even try. I’d go the mall with a list of things I needed and would leave with a bracelet/some food court item.

    Now, with a lot of effort (browsing stores & online) at least you can find some variety and the plus sizes have increased. But I still have the mindset that I’m not going to find anything and I’m amazed when I do. I think if you develop a “hatred for fashion/nothing with fit me” mindset at a young age, you’ll always feel that way even if your figure changes or lose weight or trendy plus size options increase.

  56. @Fillyjonk: Don’t knock Twitter. Hath not the Bard writ “Brevity is, etc.”?

    AlexandraErin, I have such a blogcrush on you right now.

  57. @Rasha I too am curious if you can tell us more the laws against women wearing men’s clothing in your home country. Not because I want to paint it as the “the other” but I am genuinely interested as that is new for me and I like to know what goes on around the world.

    I have seen women wearing trousers in most countries I’ve visited, on all inhabited continents. (In Islamic countries, they were often wearing burkas or hijabs or other modesty garments as well, but I’m sure I saw trousers).

    I have googled this and the only country I’ve come up with so far is Sudan. I’m sure there are others.

  58. SM, I wasn’t trying to be disingenuous – I am super happy fashion and thrifting worked for you in a good way. And I’m thrilled it seems to be working for a lot of people out there.

    I wonder if the difference I’m seeing in Tavi’s blog (which is AWESOME) is that her choices are self-directed. She doesn’t wear the Gorey-inspired outfit because she wants other people to “read” her as something, or to “be” something, but because she saw the fabric and thought about Gorey. I think that’s a subtle but distinct difference from some high fashion and some style blogs, where the emphasis is on projecting something. Hmmm. Yeah, I can see how that might be fun.

  59. IrishUp,

    Thanks for the back-up. I always wonder, in situations, whether I’m the only one perceiving things a certain way or not.

    JennyRose,

    I’m sorry your friend has to deal with that. No one should have to.

    ” … what we wear can be political even if it is only for comfort.”

    This is true. I also wonder if it doesn’t tie into what Snarky’s Machine said above, in a round-about way–that even though Tavi and Gold are presenting different opinions, they still are coming from a lot of similar positions (white, probably cis, maybe straight, etc.). So, even from the get-go, this conversation is limited to only certain folks, because the questions regarding fashion and clothing are different for different demographics.

    But I don’t wanna put words into her mouth, of course, and I could be really off-base. Like others, I’d like to hear anything further you might like to say on the topic, Snarky’s Machine, but I understand if you’d rather not.

    (Which isn’t to say I’m not grooving on Tavi’s blog, ’cause actually, I rather am. I’m a sucker for fashion blogging, and she does seem like a really neat person, flaws and all.)

    cggirl,

    “Tho maybe Gorky will catch on?”

    I’m totally down with using “gorky.” :) What’s your definition for it? Me, I kinda was thinking something in between “geeky” and “dorky.”

  60. So, JustSomeTransGuy, experimenting with your gender presentation is not allowed — unless you’re definitely sure of your gender it’s “transface”? That seems…wrong, somehow.

  61. Sorry, that came off as more antagonistic than I intended. My question is: when (or for whom) is it insensitively trans-face-y to change your gender presentation, as opposed to an OK way to be?
    I have a horse in this race; although I’m not trans, I’m not cis either — possibly could describe myself as trying to opt out of gender entirely — and I dress that way. I’d like to figure out how to do this without being an asshole.

  62. @octopod:

    That assessment is more than a little a bit off the mark. In a thread with multiple people commenting about the lure of “men’s clothing”, Trans Guy found fault with one commenter who 1) made it fairly clear she did not identify as trans and was doing it for a lark class and 2) wasn’t so much mixing things up a little as putting on what could be described as a burlesque of manhood.

  63. @ SpacedCowGirl – Thank you. I think I’m in Stage Four on the Kubler-Ross scale, so I’m on my way.

    @ Anita –

    “So, for the record: it’s also okay to be frumpy. It’s okay to wear something because it is comfortable. It’s okay to wear something because it’s warm. It’s okay to buy from the overstock section of a catalog. It’s okay to wear the same thing every day until the holes get too large to ignore (in which case, it becomes sleepwear). It’s okay to wear something that does not express your creativity, joie de vivre, quirkiness, or individuality.”

    I agree with you one hundred percent. We don’t owe it to the world to dress in any way other than how we wish or how we must, and we don’t owe it to the world to look like anything in particular at all. We can take what we need out of fashion, even if it’s different than what other people we know do.

    @ Emerald – Your mom and my mom sound like they shared a philosophy: people should dress to conform to a narrow standard of flawless perfection, or else be punished. I’m glad you’re feeling better about dressing – honestly, every word you wrote could have come from my own fingers.

    @ JennyRose – Word. You sound like a good and understanding friend, and I hope that you and your friend stay safe and can mutually support one another.

  64. octopod,

    Nope. Not saying that.

    But RNigade’s comment stated that she and the others students went on their excursion “[f]or our semester group project in a communication class.” And then described the experience in really negative language: “You gotta do the privileged (I-own-the-earth) walk, the chin recognition dood-to-dood thrust, the taking-up-the-whole-bench at the mall slouch, the subtle smirk/sneer/mistercool alls-right-with-my-universe-but-yours-looks-fucked-up grin… ”

    That is not respectful. That is not experimenting with gender presentation. That is a cis person gender-slumming for the lulz.

  65. WestEndGirl
    – there were like ten words in my response. Were they really that challenging for you. If so I could have my white boyfriend say them. Usually that does the trick.
    I don’t get the Tavi thing. She is not anymore accessible or inspiring TO ME than Giselle.

  66. That is not respectful. That is not experimenting with gender presentation. That is a cis person gender-slumming for the lulz.

    Thank you.

    Sorry, that came off as more antagonistic than I intended. My question is: when (or for whom) is it insensitively trans-face-y to change your gender presentation, as opposed to an OK way to be?
    I have a horse in this race; although I’m not trans, I’m not cis either — possibly could describe myself as trying to opt out of gender entirely — and I dress that way. I’d like to figure out how to do this without being an asshole.

    Why not try just shutting up and not being defensive or try to argue with marginalized folks about their experiences.

    oh my god, ::shakes head::

  67. OK, makes sense. Possibly I was being overly generous (because I am too often glad to see anyone questioning the gender binary at all, ever, in even an ill-considered manner), but I can see what you mean now. Thanks. :) <-not a sarcastic smiley

  68. Juniper, I absolutely agree with your post. You articulated exactly what I was thinking. There is a difference between what Tanya Gold and what Tavi was referring to. To me Tavi just merged/confused the two, which is why she thought Gold was at “fault” somehow, missing what to me was the point of Gold’s article.

    Tavi is obviously an artistic young girl with a definate sense of her own style, which is wonderful and smile-making (loved the Edward Gorey look)! But Gold’s article more closely mirrors my own experiences. I never really “read” Fashion Mags because those clothes were not for or about me and I was not welcome in that world. The magazines I used to read were Sassy and MS. Too bad Gothic Beauty wasn’t around then as that definatly would have been right up there with Sassy, although I’m not a makeup person and never have been, and I’m not big on having “outfits” per say. But I marvel at the creativity and ingenuity when I flip through Gothic Beauty. (Although it does remind of the ClubKids in the good old LimeLight days.)

  69. I also question weather there is really some openness in fashion blogs. I haven’t seen it. I see them privilege certain kinds of fashion choices (usually of the white hipster variety) with a bit of a twist, but there’s same dissing of “mom jeans” and other things that aren’t just wrong to wear. Again, there isn’t a sense that fashion is for everyone. It still about fashion being for everyone who subscribes to the aesthetic the blog promotes.

    Like, I couldn’t walk out my house looking like Tavi. Please. I wouldn’t be able to use my OWN credit cards, would get hassled like a criminal and probably some other bullshit. I don’t leave myself in “thifted” anything or with “kooky” style. It’s not going to be read the same way, because I’m not white.

    So no, it doesn’t do anything for me.

    .

  70. [Why are all the nice clothes in the men’s section?]

    Good question. I suspect it’s because it’s still a patriarchal society. As such, I made the decision many years ago to wear nothing but men’s clothes. I’m in the US, so I’m thankful as hell I can do that.
    As for Tavi, she’s a self-aware, very smart kid. I think she’ll be fine-I suspect a bit of Molly Ringwald in her-she’s not going to let the High School Industrial Complex get to her.

  71. @octopod

    This term might be helpful to you.

    If you want to experiment with your own gender presentation as part of finding/building your own identity, that’s quite a bit different from what RNigade was talking about and recognizing that not everything that’s trans!gressive! with regards to the gender binary is positive would be a good thing to do.

    I mean, at my high school, the homecoming skit always included a couple of the football players putting on skirts and doing their best impression of the flouncy, sashaying effeminate gay guys that were indistinguishable in their minds from transsexuals (meaning trans women, because there of course weren’t any types.) Was that fucking with the binary, or was it using the binary to fuck people on the margins of it?

    The best advice, I think, on not being an asshole about something is:

    1. Try not to be an asshole.
    2. If you fail, own up, apologize, learn, and move on.
    3. Try not to be an asshole again.

    I’m not saying “Just be yourself and you never have to worry about if you’re hurting or offending someone.” But there is a difference between playing with gender expression because it’s an expression of who you are and doing so because it’s such a laff.

  72. Ugh, I missed the word “stereotype” in the description of “flouncy, effeminate”, etc. I hope nobody thinks I was talking about real people and not a bad sketch comedy construct.

  73. octopod,

    “OK, makes sense. Possibly I was being overly generous (because I am too often glad to see anyone questioning the gender binary at all, ever, in even an ill-considered manner), but I can see what you mean now. Thanks. :) <-not a sarcastic smiley"

    You're welcome. :) I appreciate the opportunity to clarify what I meant, 'cause dang, I didn't at all mean my comment to be a slam on genderqueer, non-binary-identified, and/or gender-nonconforming folks. Playing with gender and gender presentation is awesome; playing with gender in a way that disrespects others' gender and gender presentation isn't.

  74. I love Erin McKean’s post about how You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. Her blog is uniformly excellent and I do love reading it. Also, she is a lexicographer! So awesome.

  75. there were like ten words in my response. Were they really that challenging for you.

    Well I was confused too. :) Not by the exchanging white standards part; by the self aware => American Idol part.

    Like, I couldn’t walk out my house looking like Tavi. Please.

    This is totally true and important. You need to be starting from a baseline level of privilege to be able to pick and choose fashion dictates in a joyful and non-restrictive way. That doesn’t mean that’s not a valuable goal, in a sort of theoretical idealistic sense. But the more privileges you have, the fewer strictures other people will place on what is an “acceptable” way for you to look, and the fewer or less harmful the assumptions they’ll make about you if you don’t. And honestly, I hadn’t really thought about that, because I don’t normally have to. (I couldn’t leave the house looking like Tavi either, simply because I’m too old — but the consequences would be a whole lot less severe for me.)

    I’m not convinced that it’s without value to swap out white standards, if you’re swapping one that revels in the cult of femininity for one that ignores it. The more inclusive the standard the better, even if it still doesn’t qualify as “inclusive” so much as “slightly less draconian.” But on the other hand, any time I start applauding baby steps, someone usually explains to me very convincingly why that’s stupid and backwards. At the very least, as a white person it’s pretty fucking easy for me to say.

    Thanks, AE and JSTG for taking on the transface issue.

  76. I came to like clothing when I realized that it is just costuming: creating a stage self with whom to interact with the world. The fashion industry wants my stage self always to be Sexy Laydee, or some variant of that, but I was desperately uncomfortable with that for a long time. I feared that someone would come up to me and point and say, “You’re not sexy! What are you doing in RED LIPSTICK?” And so I avoided those clothes–the pretty, the stylish, the form-fitting. I was just too uncomfortable with my body and with the whole sex-and-love thing to go there.

    Oddly, it was learning to costume myself as Federal Agent (um, yeah, for work) that gave me a handle on costuming for everything else. The Federal Agent look isn’t really that hard, assuming you have a suit with trousers, and it’s not ever supposed to look sexy, unless you are in a movie. So I could mess with Quirky Federal Agent, and Stylin’ Federal Agent, and Forties-Inspired Federal Agent, and a handful of other costumes, and see what got the best result in a certain place. It was fun. And it started to mix into my off-work wardrobe, which was aggressively non-Federal Agent but also something I’d hated–my clothes were purchased on the basis that it’s illegal to walk around nekkid.

    Eventually, clothes-as-costume moved into my regular wardrobe, too, and I began to venture into dresses and tights and bold glasses and other more eyecatching items, and even into some of the sexy stuff I’d always feared. I also realized that my outfits were already costuming–camouflage, actually. When I left the Federal Agent gig, I immediately got a cooler haircut and Gwen Stefani lipstick. They make me happy, now, not self-conscious.

    I read this and thought that Tanya Gold is actually not so different from me. Rejecting the single focus of conventional fashion (Sexy Laydee costume) was my ticket to liking style and clothing.

  77. ::facepalm:: Oh, Internets. How you destroy conversation. I really was not trying to argue anyone out of their experience, and if it came off that way, well, I’m not sure what to do about it, but I apologise.

    Thanks, JSTG.

    And Alexandra Erin, that’s always good advice — it was the “did I fail?” that I was trying to get at.

  78. Re: American Idol.

    Story time!

    When I was in college, my floor always watched Total Request Live. My problem with the program… apart from the fact that I thought the music was crap in general… was that it differed from MTV’s playlist in no regards except that most of the videos were cut off by Carson Daly’s chatter. The videos were chosen by MTV viewers from among the library of videos that were featured most heavily in MTV’s current rotation.

    The voting page on the website had a space where you could fill in your own, but since MTV was the major (only) source of music videos at that point for most people it was pretty much a joke. This was over ten years ago, broadband wasn’t all that ubiquitous and YouTube didn’t exist BUT WE WERE HAPPY BACK THEN BECAUSE WE HAD MORAL FIBER AND WE KNEW THE VALUE OF… *ahem*

    Anyway, at one point there was an internet campaign to get (I don’t remember if it was an old school NKOTB video or old school Vanilla Ice… if it had been done in the noughties instead of the late nineties it would have been Rick Astley) as the number one video on a certain day just to sort of show the whole thing up. The write-in votes were all but ignored (they acknowledged that they had happened) and the video that would otherwise have been number one was shown in its place.

    How I feel about American Idol… how I’ve always felt about it from the get-go… is essentially how I felt about Total Request Live. Corporate backers of homogeneous hegemony pre-select X number of choices that fit their needs and then YOU DECIDE. THE POWER IS YOURS, AMERICAN PUBLIC! WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH THE HEADY RESPONSIBILITY OF DEMOCRATIC CHOICE?

    This is not to say that the contestants on American Idol don’t have talent or that they cannot do many impressive things with their respiratory systems that I couldn’t dream of doing. But each and every one of them who makes it past the “America’s Funniest Home Videos With More Schadenfreude” stage of the event already fits within a neat little box, meeting standards that have nothing to do with their level of talent. Each and every one of them might have what is described by bloggers and reporters as “a sense of style all their own” or whatever, but each of those unique styles is falling within a standard variation of Ideal Product… vocally, visually, personality-wise, etc.

    I don’t know if that’s anything like what S.Machine was driving at, but it’s what American Idol makes me think of, with regards to style, fashion, and all that.

    (Please excuse the tl;dr – my arms hurt and I’m supposed to be resting, so of course a massive word-herd is the result.)

  79. fillyjonk wrote:

    But on the other hand, any time I start applauding baby steps, someone usually explains to me very convincingly why that’s stupid and backwards. At the very least, as a white person it’s pretty fucking easy for me to say.

    I didn’t hear anyone using the words “stupid” or “backwards.” But it does seem to me that it’s easier to applaud the “baby steps” when you feel included, not so much when you’re not being included.

  80. I didn’t hear anyone using the words “stupid” or “backwards.”

    Well, you haven’t actually been around for every discussion of my adult life. :) Though I imagine the people who have demonstrated same in the past didn’t use those particular words, at least not always. I am summing up, not quoting.

    But it does seem to me that it’s easier to applaud the “baby steps” when you feel included, not so much when you’re not being included.

    Right, that’s why I went on to say “it’s easy for me to say.”

  81. I ‘thrift’. I dress kookily, upon occasion. (By my own estimate – other people might think that my standard mode of dress is inherently ‘kooky’) My ability to do so could very well be a product of white privilege, but the necessity of doing so – I ‘thrift’ because I don’t have money for new clothes. I dress kookily because I lack the wardrobe to dress in the current fashion.

    And okay, I am jealous of women who can afford to buy all-new clothes without even wincing at the cost – but I hope that my choice of clothing conveys the message of choices made for fashion fun and not the message of ‘too poor for new jeans’.

  82. “Corporate backers of homogeneous hegemony pre-select X number of choices that fit their needs and then YOU DECIDE. THE POWER IS YOURS, AMERICAN PUBLIC!”

    This pretty much sums up my perspective on any of the political elections I have paid close attention to in my adult life, too, which is only going to intensify now that Corporations are People.

    Er…fashion? Is that what we were talking about. Sorry. Got distracted. (:

  83. I thought you were still responding to Snarky.

    I was responding to her points, but I didn’t mean she’d said that! I just meant that I was open to being corrected on the one point on which I seem to disagree with her, i.e. whether having a more open but still white beauty standard is preferable to having a less open white beauty standard, vs. both being unacceptable because they’re retrogressive.

  84. On rereading I can definitely see why “every time I say x people explain y” reads like a complaint and not an acknowledgment that I may be being consistently wrong. :)

  85. hmm. What is this tl;dr that I keep seeing today? (too long? derail?) I’m clueless here about some of these acronyms.

    Re not being able to wear weird clothes when you’re not white:
    I dunno. I wore weird clothes all the way up till my mid-20s, and nothing bad happened to me. I even walked around with my face covered behind a veil for three months. I’ve worn clothes that looked like choir robes – made for a funny moment of realization when I attended a middle school exhibition of choirs. I do think it depends on the clothing. I would never do the unwashed thing that some young white people I know (and like) do. I also would not do the torn/ripped clothing thing. Basically, I would not dress down in anything “lower” than sweats, and that’s only at the gym. But I used to wear some funky shit – not to be cool or fashionable but because when you wear the clothes you’re mother sewed for you up until you’re 12 years old, and bought your first pair of jeans at the age of 16, you might be kind of clueless. So I’d do stuff like wear a denim duster-like jumper over non matching denim jeans. In Washington DC in July. I wore my share of little house on the prairie shit. I think this stuff basically made me invisible to people . They’d see me, quickly determine me to be a non-threat, and move right along. I never got special treatment, but I rarely got bad treatment. Just ignored like any awkward, wallflower egghead four eyed soft spoken bucktoothed homely girl.

    Now I dress more mainstream, and I think in “neutral” clothes my blackness is more apparent to people somehow. Whereas when I wore the weird stuff, I think people saw the weird clothes or the religious clothes first, then noticed I was black. Sometimes they even questioned that I was African American – and I’d get lots of “where are you from? Where are your parents from” questions. Even “You speak English really well.” I guess my styling was so weird people assumed I was from another country! No one asks me that now.

  86. Who else besides Snarky was making this point?

    Man, I must have done a really shitty job with my last couple comments… my point was that IN THE PAST, when I have spoken up for baby steps, people have had convincing arguments as to why that was wrong. I should have used the past tense instead of the… whatever tense it is you use to make something sound like it’s ongoing, because I was talking about a thing that has happened at several times in the past and could happen again in the future.

    So the answer is going to be things like “this guy Seth” and won’t mean much to you. :)

  87. I do think it depends on the clothing.

    And probably also on the environs (geography, context, etc). As a DCer I could see this city having much lower consequences for weird fashion choices, on anyone’s part, than a lot of other environments would.

  88. @hsofia – too long; didn’t read.

    (I hate it, actually – but only when people use it as a response to someone else’s post, not when they use it in a self referential way)

  89. For Christmas my mother got me and my sister-in-law identical, old-fashioned, cotton nightgowns. My brother went on a little rant under his breath, “I don’t know whether it’s more upsetting that tonight my wife and my sister will be dressed identically at bedtime, or that they BOTH will look like they just are about to run down a hillside—oops—don’t fall, Carrie! Down you go! Pa will play the fiddle to make you feel better!” Who even knew Little House was part of my SWAT brother’s fashion vocabulary?!

  90. I’m not so enthused by Tavi. It’s cute, but as I think FJ said, *no* 13 year old in the history of the planet is that self aware.

    I think fashion has the potential to be a creative expression of the individual wearing it, but “fashion” is really patriarchy central. And I question whether someone like Tavi’s “reactionary” fashion isn’t always and already defined by that patriarchal and white system.

    The fashion world hasn’t always been “obsessed with thin.” Thin isn’t the point. Control of the size, color, and shape of women’s bodies is the point. And I’m just not so sure that an Edward Gorey homage gets us that far away from that. She’s still fitting all the fashion boxes of the moment, for one thing, and all the societal boxes as well–down to being appropriatly “innocent” and childlike as opposed to sexualized. For another, look at her inspiration pictures–all pretty mainstream high fashion looking to me.

    I have to say, though, if I were her parent, there is no way in hell I’d let her put pictures of herself all over the interwebs. Doesn’t she have school?? Yes, I know I am fuddy duddy and old fashioned ;-)

  91. @hsofia
    tl;dr = Too Long; Didn’t Read

    In some internet boards I read (which are a lot less polite than this one — World of Warcraft sites, for example), if someone makes a really long post concerning something they are fairly passionate about, someone is sure to reply “tl;dr” as a way of putting them down.

    Sometimes someone will make a long post and then a sort of brief executive summary at the end, with the label “tl;dr version.” I have also seen it used as a bit of self-deprecating humor to acknowledge that their posts are longer than usual! I think this last is how it is being used today. :)

  92. OK fillyjonk, I think we’ve cleared up that you were using Snarky’s comments as a starting-off point but were not actually responding to what she said.

    Still, I’d like to be clear. Is your position, at least as regards standards of beauty, that it’s OK to continue to exclude people of color as well as trans and other marginalized people?

  93. I would never do the unwashed thing that some young white people I know (and like) do. I also would not do the torn/ripped clothing thing. Basically, I would not dress down in anything “lower” than sweats, and that’s only at the gym.

    Thus why I framed my comment as my experience. I definitely get read differently depending on how I am dressed who’s around “vouch” for my value. It can’t really do the disheveled thing and i’m finding so much resistance to my unprocessed hair that completely vanishes if I wear it straight.

  94. Is your position, at least as regards standards of beauty, that it’s OK to continue to exclude people of color as well as trans and other marginalized people?

    I’m sorry, what?

  95. Still, I’d like to be clear. Is your position, at least as regards standards of beauty, that it’s OK to continue to exclude people of color as well as trans and other marginalized people?

    redlami, what? That is the position of no one on this blog, as we have made clear many, many times. FJ was recapitulating a conversation that has happened on many a feminist blog, including this one, to wit: what is the effect of fashion becoming more inclusive in tiny, tiny increments (e.g., the excitement over plus size models like Crystal Renn)? We can have different opinions or predictions about what is going to happen with various trends in fashion, and how big a change they actually make for individuals and culture-wide, but it’s completely disingenuous to say that FJ’s comments endorse the exclusion of marginalized people from the fashion world.

  96. Wow, I feel like I read the post completely different than everyone else. I didn’t see it as “Tavi is a great thing to have happen to fashion, she’s a role model, we should try and think more like her.” I read it as, “In a world (totally read this with a movie announcer in your head) where girls are dieting younger and younger, in a world where toddlers are sexualized, in a world where everyone wants to grow up faster and faster means dressing sexy really young there is a 13 year old who is confident and happy. Yay! There is hope, this is a win, small and tiny and not going to last but it’s a win.”

    I think maybe I’ll reread it again, it might just be not caring about fashion and just seeing it for a confidence thing and remembering how hard it was to be as confident as Tavi is 6 years ago. I for one am frankly happy that there is a solid example of a confident teen, it’s a win. And it’s not a win for everyone, but in our culture there aren’t really wins that cover all the groups that really need a win.

    Also, HER NAME IS AWESOME AND I WISH IT WAS MINE!

  97. @ hsofia, fillyjonk – Yes, dressing differently is more acceptable in some places than others, and yes, sometimes people will mistake you for foreign.

    I live in upper Manhattan. So long as you’re wearing SOMETHING, you’re pretty much OK. It is a very safe place to experiment with the bizarre. We’ve seen it all before, you’re not as out-there/creative as you think, and please clean up your dog poop.

    Having lived in Harlem for ten years (and loathe as I am to go below 96th street, let alone on a real trip somewhere), a trip to Virginia showed me just how lucky I am to live where I do. “Pardon me,” I said at the gas station, “I think I’ve made a wrong turn. I need to find the William and Mary campus. Which way do I go?”

    “Where are you from, honey? Do know how to read English? I got maps in different languages.”

    The lady at the gas station said this to me in a very friendly way, but s-l-o-w-l-y. I didn’t bother to correct her – just wasn’t in the mood.

  98. @Alibelle

    See, I have serious qualms with the “young girls are sexualized more now then ever!” meme.

    I’m just not sure that, if you take more than the last 40 years, young girls haven’t ALWAYS been sexualized. The whole “real innocent American childhood” thing is a modern construction. And it can be very harmful, as 13 year old are often discovering their own sexuality (and often know if they are trans or gay), and our denial of that sexuality is harmful.

    I’m not saying I support dieting 8 year olds, or the media hyper sexualizing a very young “look.” Just that one, it isn’t a new thing, and two, by cordoning off female sexuality into “18 and over,” we can do some serious damage to LGBT kids.

  99. Did I misunderstand what was meant by the “baby steps” comment?

    I think you must have. SM recapitulated it above in different and almost certainly better words, if that helps.

    ETA: Oh, I see you responded to that. Yeah, various people from that camp would be the “other people who are making that argument” you asked about. As I said, I’m not totally convinced, but I’ve found the arguments cogent in the past and I’m open to the idea — especially since I know that, as I said, it’s real easy for me to say that small improvements are worthwhile when I benefit from them.

  100. @ Ailibelle – You are not alone. I read the post the same way that you did. I enjoy Tavi’s pictures and ideas because I enjoy seeing a young person being happy and creative. I did not think Tavi is supposed to be a fashion ideal, and I don’t think she has ever said anything to imply that she wants to be anyone’s fashion ideal. She’s just a happy and creative young person, and that’s a joy to see.

  101. Alibelle, your movie announcer voice is a lot like the internal monologue that prompted me to write this post. I think I’m going to start rerunning my internal monologues in Movie Guy Voice, actually.

  102. “Where are you from, honey? Do know how to read English? I got maps in different languages.”

    Awww Williamsburg. They do that everyone! It’s got a large military retired community, which means there are lots of different kinds of people and of course it’s a tourist trap. My parents get that some times and they’ve lived there for nearly 8 years!

  103. I enjoy Tavi’s pictures and ideas because I enjoy seeing a young person being happy and creative. I did not think Tavi is supposed to be a fashion ideal, and I don’t think she has ever said anything to imply that she wants to be anyone’s fashion ideal. She’s just a happy and creative young person, and that’s a joy to see.

    The media is starting to frame her as a “fashion idol” and if you read the blog you’ll see so does the fashion industry itself, which is why some in it are being dismissive of her and calling into question her age and authenticity.

    I guess it also feels weird we’re having these discussions about a 13 year old! While I think it is awesome she’s expressing voice and finding a welcoming venue for it, it does seem to smack of Peaches Geldolf, which probably explains why it sent my hackles up.

  104. By the way, while I’ve nothing against Tavi, I have to commiserate with Snarkysmachine on her being another young white girl/woman saying what we all know. This is the third time this week I’ve been pointed to the blog of young white girls/budding feminists BY white women feminists. I’d sure like to see some mini-MEs running around out there. I’m sure they are out there, but these kinds of things always have me wondering who gets the mic and who gets listened to.

  105. I’m sure they are out there, but these kinds of things always have me wondering who gets the mic and who gets listened to.

    Yes, I have no doubt that the reason I’d even heard of Tavi as a wunderkind before being sent the links to Gold’s article and her response is that she’s an elfin white girl. I mean, there are a lot of style bloggers out there (most of whom aren’t 13, granted) who get lots of adoring readers but *don’t* end up at runway shows next to fashion journalists or what have you; even though she dresses in a way that bucks a lot of fashion mandates, I’m sure that not all the grownups who’ve swooped her up as a star see her in that light.

  106. I am about to rush in where angels fear to tread. Please smack down as necessary.

    I didn’t read RNigade’s experiment and think, “Yikes!” I thought, “It would be interesting to interact with the world as a man interacts with it.” This, of course, reflects that I have the luxury not to think about the dangers of cross-gender physical presentation–straight cis woman privilege. My fail.

    In general, is there anything wrong with co-opting privilege in the context of a social experiment, as for a class? For example, sending out resumés as Chris instead of Christine, or adopting an online moniker that’s gender-neutral or masculine?

    The fail I see in the experiment described is being unaware that, instead of co-opting a privileged role (man in society), the group in fact co-opted the identity of a very non-privileged group (those whose gender presentation is perceived as inappropriate.) But the idea behind it–how does it feel to have the other side’s privilege–seems okay. Is this a fair summary, or am I still wearing straight/cis blinders?

  107. I’m sure they are out there, but these kinds of things always have me wondering who gets the mic and who gets listened to.

    YES. I find Tavi totally delightful, and it’s not like I hold it against her for being white and thin… but we can’t pretend that the attention and recognition that she’s getting would have come if she weren’t. It’s not where her appeal comes from, but it’s why I’ve heard of her. And it’s self-feeding — there’s a bunch of young white feminists (or style bloggers or whatever) running around with high-traffic blogs, which other young white women see and think “hey, this is a thing I can do,” and then they start blogs, etc., etc., circle of life. If you don’t see any mini-mes or same-size-mes doing anything of the sort, you’re probably less likely to do it… all leading up to the point where someone says “how come I’m not seeing any style blogs by young NON-WHITE women?” and someone else responds “well, because there just aren’t any.” Yeah, well, there aren’t any because there aren’t any (or at least because they don’t get any media play).

    That said, for my money the best fat fashion blog is run by a young black woman, and she has gotten some of her media due. But I’m sure it helps, as far as visibility is concerned, that she’s also fat and therefore not seen as “competing” with typical white style bloggers.

  108. @ snarkysmachine – Oh, I know. I enjoyed Williamsburg very much, and met a lot of older ex-military people who’ve done amazing things and are overall amazing while I was there. I knew that the lady with whom I was speaking meant no harm at all, and I wasn’t about to go all, “Noo Yawk City” on anybody. And yes, there were plenty of people around who could have used those maps in different languages.

    As for Tavi, I have poked around her blog a few times over the last year or so, but I’ve never been a dedicated reader. I DO now notice a proliferation of links, etc., that were not there the last time I looked. But, since she is 13 (yes, it is weird to be talking about a 13-year-old), I prefer to give her the benefit of the doubt. If grownups want to bite on her or ride on her or critique her, I don’t really know how she can be expected to absorb all of that in the most effective way. Currently, most of my own students (NOT FAMOUS) are 16 and 17. They seem pretty young to me, but they are also intelligent, creative people that I enjoy talking to. If one of my own students suddenly became “fashion’s muse,” I’d be more worried about my student than the effects of my student’s thin, young body on the overall populous.

  109. I worry that I sound awfully mean saying this but I am not sure what’s so special about Tavi except that she is, yes, a very articulate child with passionate interests, but I know and knew a LOT of very articulate children with passionate interests. The difference being that the children I knew

    a) weren’t, mostly, sprite-type, blonde, blue-eyed conventionally beautiful lissome wispy people who look like models in training

    b) didn’t live such privileged lives that they could travel worldwide to engage their interests at world-famous events related to those interests.

    Maybe there are nuances I don’t see here because I’ve never been part of the haute couture fandom world, but it looks a lot to me like she’s simply a young wannabe mainstream model both eagerly studying mainstream high fashion (if that is not a contradiction in terms) and poised to become part of it when she gets older, should she want to; a future that’s possible for her *because* she looks like a young model and has a privileged background.

    So, I have a hard time attributing more to her difference of opinion from Gold than the simple fact that as someone with privilege, she sees the whole experience differently than someone who doesn’t share that privilege. I mean, are we surprised when a strong, coordinated child who can afford to attend the Olympic Games enjoys sports in general more than the poor kid with two left feet?

  110. @Just Some Trans Guy, I got the impression that @RNigade’s group got a kick out of the cross-dressing and performance that went with it (the walk, the smirk etc) but that their purpose wasn’t to make fun of anyone. I thought the purpose was to actually pass as male to see how they got treated differently for the purposes of a university research project. I can see how the wording of @RNigade’s comment upset you but I’m less clear on the activity itself. I can see how a cis-gendered woman dressing up and attempting to pass as a man can be offensive or disrespectful, but is it always offensive and disrespectful? Or is there a way to do it that is ok? Or does it depend on motivations? I don’t have an opinion myself but I’m interested to know your perspective since this is much closer to home for you.

    @fillyjonk @redlami The “baby steps” comment was clear to me as bouncing off @snarkysmachine’s comment but talking about generic conversations that had happened throughout your life and not just on this thread. Especially after your clarification.

    @aliciamaud74 “oops—don’t fall, Carrie! Down you go! Pa will play the fiddle to make you feel better!” Who even knew Little House was part of my SWAT brother’s fashion vocabulary?!” Hilarious! I love it!

    @alibelle I read the post exactly the same way as you. I don’t want to emulate Tavi or think like her, I’m just glad to see a confident 13-year-old rocking fashion in a creative and (I thought) not exclusionary way. Though I also take @snarkysmachine’s point that maybe it’s white-privileged way and “kooky” dressing isn’t open for everyone.

  111. Crap, in the time it took me to compose that comment like 4 people posted with variants of the same sentiment so now it’s redundant. Isn’t that always the way?

  112. “See, I have serious qualms with the “young girls are sexualized more now then ever!” meme. ”

    Oh, I do too. When I said “In a world…” I wasn’t meaning to say these things have never happened before or anything, just that in this world they are happening. And I agree with the sex becoming an 18 and up thing being bad. It doesn’t just hurt LGBT teens it hurts all teens (I see the point that it hurts them more than others though). However, in our society we have this sick fucked up mix of *Adults Only* and highly sexualized children (not just teens, fucking children). It ends up as Adults seeing children as sexual objects and as objects for their use. “That 14 year old wouldn’t dress like that if she didn’t want it.” You know, so on and on so.

    Having young teens be highly sexualized isn’t helping. You’ve got the clothes, the body, and the changing desire, but adults won’t be honest with you or acknowledge that you are *sexual.* I remember that, fuck I’m still dealing with that as a hugely fucking awkward 19 year old virgin.

    On another note, and at the risk of sounding like an asshat, how do you pronounce cis-gendered? I’ve heard it said once, oddly enough in a sociology class right before I started reading this blog, but I can’t remember how it was said because I didn’t know what it meant and it kind of slid right out the other ear. Now I find myself in need of the word and never able to say it. SIGH-gendered or CIZ-gendered? Or something else I haven’t considered?

  113. I am pro dressing like Edward Gorey illustrations, I have to say.

    Also, when I was 13, I would not have been able to come up with this:

    “So Ivat, who was also very cool, and humble, ordered a book from Amazon dot com. It was called Juergen Teller for Marc Jacobs 1998-2009. And she wanted it because Juergen is of her top 3 favorite photographers ever-him, Nick Knight, and Tim Walker. Maybe Juergen is even in the Top 2, but I, the neutral ominous storyteller, won’t say who then gets the boot.”

    “Neutral ominous storyteller.” Hah. I hope this person ends up in my freshman seminar some day. If she doesn’t end up at the Rhode Island School of Design (or whatever it’s called), where it’s unlikely I will ever teach.

    I would not, however, like to be her parent, because I would fret a lot that the World Of Fashion would drop her like a famous person’s name at a DC fundraiser when it got tired of her and then what would I do?

    And FJ says “I find Tavi totally delightful, and it’s not like I hold it against her for being white and thin… but we can’t pretend that the attention and recognition that she’s getting would have come if she weren’t.”

    And, yeah. Now I can’t decide if I wish Tavi was writing a fantastic blog in relative obscurity until she’s 20 or so and then I wouldn’t fret if I was her mom. Or if I wish the machinations of internet popularity would result in there being a 14-year-old Mai-from-Fashionist and a whole host of other teen-style bloggers from various points of view and types of experience.

  114. So, a woman can’t dress as a man for a communications class project? Or, hell, for the hell of it? Who’s gonna stop me from putting on a suit and cutting my hair, I’d like to know? Why can’t a straight cis woman dress and act any damn way she pleases? If I feel like walking around acting like a privileged dude for a day just to see what it’s like not to be condescended to every minute of every fucking day, who is ANYBODY to tell me I can’t do that? And how, precisely – seriously, I need to know – how does this HURT any trans person anywhere?

    You know, everybody loves a drag queen, but the minute a woman tries on male privilege for a day, she gets called transphobic. It’s absurd. I am convinced that drag queens are no better than minstrels in blackface, but everybody luuuurves a dude making a mockery of the practices of femininity that are forced – sometimes by law – on women around the planet.

  115. The fail I see in the experiment described is being unaware that, instead of co-opting a privileged role (man in society), the group in fact co-opted the identity of a very non-privileged group (those whose gender presentation is perceived as inappropriate.) But the idea behind it–how does it feel to have the other side’s privilege–seems okay. Is this a fair summary, or am I still wearing straight/cis blinders?

    I dunno. I think it’s one thing to, say, set up two online ads with different pictures, and see what happens. It’s another to, as you say, co-opt a non-privileged group’s identity. It also has to do with the tone of what’s happening – I’d be pretty damn pissed if some straight girls from the local university came to my favorite lesbian bar to gush about how transgressive and liberating it is not to have to be around men.

    Because there’s kind of a whole history there, you know? A lot of shit that gay women and men went through to get to the point where a gay bar was a semi-safe space to be in some cities. I think it’s much harder for less privileged folks to do the same thing, and the chances of something going wrong if caught are much higher.

    Also, underprivileged folks don’t – and can’t – see the opposite activity as a lark. If I need to pass as straight, it’s not usually because being straight is SO! MUCH! FUN! and breaking rules is awesome, but because I’m at some risk if I’m outed. It gives privileged people false knowledge of what it’s “really” like to be X. You know, like all those white kids that experience “racism” teaching in Japan. Or who learn what it’s like being a wheelchair user by trying one out for half a school day.

    I’m not sure that the experience can be reversed in the same way – often less privileged people are pretty familiar with the ways that the more privileged are allowed to operate. It’s always going to carry a load of other stuff along with it, and that has to be unpacked.

  116. Anita–
    I guess I thought that the problem was in not realizing that, for a lot of people, it’s no social experiment. It’s life, and it causes discrimination and hostility and sometimes danger when social perceptions of appropriate gender presentation aren’t followed. Not knowing this, because you don’t ever have to think about it, is pretty privileged.

    I’m so 101 on this. Well, 102, maybe. I did a bunch of reading, but I still run aground pretty often. Sorry if I sound like I’m asking to be spoon-fed here.

  117. “You know, everybody loves a drag queen, but the minute a woman tries on male privilege for a day, she gets called transphobic. It’s absurd. I am convinced that drag queens are no better than minstrels in blackface, but everybody luuuurves a dude making a mockery of the practices of femininity that are forced – sometimes by law – on women around the planet.”

    What? No, seriously, what??? Did we morph into a radicalfem second wave gender essentialist space while I wasn’t looking?

  118. @Starling & TheOtherCaitlin & Jezebella: did you disagree with my points about HOW RNigade was writing about the experience? Because quite apart from the why’s of the project, and the what they did, what RNigade wrote was done in a way that completely dismisses the experiences of people for whom it is not pretend. It actually disappears them, as it contains a “how to”, as if there aren’t thousands of people risking their safety every day, and NOT for a class project.

    And Jezebella -NO ONE called RNigade transphobic, but thanks for playing all the same. If you’re fond of them, I advise you to take your straw arguments away before they get blown apart.

    Regarding “nobody’s free until everybody’s free”; I think this is the goal. And as an ideal, I wonder if it will every really be possible? Regardless, if we are to achieve a society where beauty and fashion standards are truly inclusive, how do we get there?

    Is it slow gradual change? Is it in giant, catastrophic leaps and bounds? Or is it a blend, the punctuated-equilibrium model? And whom does the change affect , and to what degree? Because lauding small changes might be really some kind of Fashion Reaganomics; the changes disproportionately affect those closer to the ideal, and if you’re really far from the ideal, it’s not making any difference to you at all – what’s “trickling down” still looks and smells like piss.

    To me, if we can ever get to putting on clothes =/= dressing for the white/cis/het/male gaze, well that might actually be a change that could “lift all boats”, to use another economics metaphor. I can get behind steps big and small that are on THAT path.

  119. @Jezebella: I am going to try to think of a good way to say what I want to say, and in the meantime, other people will say it very eloquently. For now, I will go with: Agh! No! No no no! This thing that you are saying…it is…no! Agh! So…much…privilege with no attempt to acknowledge, understand, etc…oh god.

  120. @ Jezebella: re “Who’s gonna stop me from putting on a suit and cutting my hair, I’d like to know?”

    If you’re in the UK, or the US, the answer is nobody.

    In fact, the answer is: “NOBODY – AND THAT’S KIND OF THE POINT”.

    Does it make you feel brave? Big? Clever? To have such privilege, and wave it about? Do you really think you’re any better than those condescending men you want to get away from? Because from where I’m standing, I can’t see a whole lot of difference.

  121. IrishUp–
    No, I thought that the disappearing was the crux of the issue. The way RNigade wrote, I gathered she was snarking on the “I own the world” sort of guys, whom I consider perfectly good targets for satire. I thought the issue was the failure to realize that there are transgender and genderqueer people being beat up for daring to adopt the physical markers of masculinity. (And I failed there too, on first reading.) I don’t disagree with your description of the project as problematic; I was just wondering if there were problems with the idea (co-opting male privilege as an experiment) as well as the follow-through.

  122. Snarky – thanks fir what you wrote about not being able to leave the house looking disheveled because of how you get treated versus a white
    person dressing that way. Great point.

    As to whether fashion blogs being inclusive – it seems to me any opnion valuing k e thing over another can be deemed not inclusive enough. If I like blue over red and write a blog about it, am I prejudiced against people who love red, or belong to a sports team or company with a red uniform? So I don’t really see a problem with that… Just like in general I feel like people are allowed their opinions on what most fun to do, what music is the best, what people in their life they think are smartest or nicest or coolest however they define that, etc. People valuing one thing over another, one quality over another, or one type of style over another – to me that’s just people having an opinion, that doesn’t mean they aren’t open.

  123. Who’s gonna stop me from putting on a suit and cutting my hair, I’d like to know? Why can’t a straight cis woman dress and act any damn way she pleases? If I feel like walking around acting like a privileged dude for a day just to see what it’s like not to be condescended to every minute of every fucking day, who is ANYBODY to tell me I can’t do that? And how, precisely – seriously, I need to know – how does this HURT any trans person anywhere?

    Because at the end of the day you can return to yourself in a way that those with the oppression you’re misappropriated simply cannot. I’m curious if fatsuits and blackface are okay with you?

    Appropriating the “markers” of marginalized folks is not the way to “understand” their plight. Unpacking your own privilege, defensiveness and fine tuning awareness is a much more useful tool.

    I can faux broke it all damn day, but that doesn’t give me a lick of understanding of working class and poor issues, even as a POC. Class is different and being raised with middle class values means that often times the way I frame class completely comes from my own privilege and largely erases the experiences of others.

    Which is why I am very quick to speak up when people conflate class/race concerns with me. I don’t think it’s cool to get that pass when it is NOT my experience.

    Now, I ain’t saying for a minute it trumps race, so don’t latch on to that. I am saying race informs my class status in a complex way, but doesn’t erase the way in which that privilege plays out in my life.

  124. I’ve kinda derailed the thread. I’m sorry about that.

    For the record: I’ve no objection to anybody wearing anything they want (with the exception of t-shirts with hate slogans, or stuff of that nature). And, even if I did, I don’t have any power to stop anybody, anyway.

    My objection is to the appropriation of identities that are not one’s own and the mocking of other people’s identities and gender expression. Perhaps I should not have taken the exception I did to RNigade’s comment. Surely she and her classmates had cis men in mind, not trans men. But the steps they took to masculinize themselves–adding facial hair, binding their chests–are things that many trans men do, also. We do these things to survive.

    Also, the description of how she and her classmates acted was described in purely negative terms–equating “being a man” with “acting like an asshole.” Many men can and do act in assholish ways, and goodness knows there are loads of problems with traditional masculinity. I’d never dream of suggesting otherwise. But equating the whole of manhood or even just masculinity with being an asshole is problematic.

  125. Wow, Jezebella, other people have already started to school you, but let me join in: your comment is all kinds of fucked up in all kinds of ways, especially this paragraph:

    You know, everybody loves a drag queen, but the minute a woman tries on male privilege for a day, she gets called transphobic. It’s absurd. I am convinced that drag queens are no better than minstrels in blackface, but everybody luuuurves a dude making a mockery of the practices of femininity that are forced – sometimes by law – on women around the planet.

    Let me annotate this.

    You know, everybody loves a drag queen

    Not true.

    but the minute a woman tries on male privilege for a day, she gets called transphobic

    Not true.

    I am convinced that drag queens are no better than minstrels in blackface,

    Your being convinced that doesn’t make it true, historically aware, or harmless.

    verybody luuuurves a dude making a mockery of the practices of femininity that are forced – sometimes by law – on women around the planet.

    Not true.

    You do realize that trans people are murdered at a staggering rate, right? Especially trans people of color?

    This is a ban warning. Get yourself some Trans 101 education or you are out.

  126. @Anita said: “It’s another to, as you say, co-opt a non-privileged group’s identity.”

    I thought the intention was to co-opt a privileged group’s identity, but I can see the argument that the experiment inadvertently co-opted a non-privileged group’s identity too (that of trans-gender folks). I’m still thinking about that – and I am still curious if @Just Some Trans Guy thinks there is some way for it to be done that’s ok.

    @Jezebella said: “You know, everybody loves a drag queen, but the minute a woman tries on male privilege for a day, she gets called transphobic. It’s absurd. I am convinced that drag queens are no better than minstrels in blackface, but everybody luuuurves a dude making a mockery of the practices of femininity that are forced – sometimes by law – on women around the planet.”

    I’m sort of with you and sort of not. I agree that a woman dressing as a man is basically the same thing as a drag queen in reverse. I don’t agree that a woman dressing as a man is okay but a man dressing as a woman is not. I think both are basically fine and if I have any reservations, they are more or less the same in both examples.

    The whole co-opting identity argument is especially interesting because of course, not all drag queens transgender – some/most of them are men, who identify as men, but like dressing up in women’s clothing for fun.

    @IrishUp “Did you disagree with my points about HOW RNigade was writing about the experience?”

    No, I didn’t disagree. See my previous comment to @Just Some Trans Guy, where I said: “I can see how the wording of @RNigade’s comment upset you but I’m less clear on the activity itself.”

    But it did seem that the negative comments about the privileged walk, the smirk etc were directed at privileged men rather than trans folk.

  127. Starling – thanks, I see your last point now, re-reading it. I just don’t know how one frames a “see how the other half lives” experiment without running huge risks of constructing something that reeks of fetishization, or “slumming” to use JTSG word, or just plain old mockery. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I just can’t think of how from where I sit.

    One thing for damn sure, if it was me constructing such an experiment, I’d want to make sure I had input from people who did IRL what I was doing, right at the planning stage. In RNigade’s case, it was a class assignment, so maybe there wasn’t really a choice. But then again, couldn’t one bring up concerns to the instructor about how this project would feel to anyone (in the class or otherwise) who is genderqueer/trans/ comes from a culture or country where such things aren’t allowed? IDK, I guess my point is that it’s a problem when we treat how other human beings live their lives every day, as an oddity to be studied. Even if it’s “let’s see how it feels to be a man” for a woman, b/c, let’s face it, at day of pretending still doesn’t REALLY tell you shit. Just like a day of putting on a fat suit and shopping doesn’t, or wearing that fake-baby belly.

  128. Surely she and her classmates had cis men in mind, not trans men. But the steps they took to masculinize themselves–adding facial hair, binding their chests–are things that many trans men do, also. We do these things to survive.

    This gets to the heart of the matter and is absolutely not a derail. I mean, to bring it back around to the original post and the idea of a kid being a fashion blogger, that’s what I was trying (but didn’t elaborate on nearly enough) to get at with the quote from my friend Coco: “and I’ll be heartbroken when it changes, as it will most certainly change.” Tavi, bless her heart, hasn’t had to adapt the survival strategies of a grown woman in a world that sees her body as public property (but, as a 13-year-old who’s becoming internet-famous, she probably will soon). What for one person is a matter of personal self-expression might be a matter of very real social consequence, or even safety, for another.

  129. Since my last comment, I saw that @Just Some Trans Guy has responded. That makes a lot of sense – thanks for unpacking it for me.

  130. This blog is in fire right now! Can you all please stop writing so many interesting posts and comments, so I can get some work done?! ;-)

  131. Just like a day of putting on a fat suit and shopping doesn’t, or wearing that fake-baby belly.

    This is very bad of me to admit, but I have a faux belly (from when I did a stage reading of “For Colored Girls…”) that i used to wear to Home Depot because I just wanted to wander around and I didn’t want to be cruised by men.

    Oddly enough it had the opposite effect. Apparently demonstrating I “do it” and therefore was approachable or something. Though I should note I didn’t once think I was getting an approximation of the pregnancy experience.

  132. I guess that’s my way of saying that if you frame it as a “this is what it was like for me doing _____.” rather than “this is what it’s like for folks who experience ______.” it’s probably a lot less problematic, though I’m not sure if it makes it any more comforting for others.

  133. @Starling
    Female writers have taken on male pseudonyms in order to co-opt male privilege and get published, and get their work read. I don’t think that sort of thing co-opts the experiences of trans people.

    It isn’t a normally a one day experiment, though.

  134. JSTG, thanks. Sorry to drag you back to this.

    You’re right about the slur on masculinity, and I hadn’t thought of that. To me, it sounded as if RNigade was deliberately dressing not just as a cis man, but as a certain type of rather pushy and aggressive man. If the idea is to see how much kind of obnoxious behavior you can get away with if you have the additional shot of male privilege, that might be tempting–pushing the limits, you know? (Like the OKCupid experiment with listing a cute blonde 24 year old, with no personal info except that she smokes and drinks constantly. How much does cute, blonde and 24 make up for the negatives?)

    I appreciate your willingness to break it down for me.

    IrishUp–yeah, the more I think about trying on the other in reality as opposed to in theory, the more problems I see. I imagine it’s still useful in context of research–sending out the identical resumés with different names, to see how it affects callback, for example.

  135. @Snarky LOL! Yes, that was exactly what I found when I WAS pregnant – it shifts who you get attention from, and how it comes, but it doesn’t actually get rid of unwanted attention.

  136. Puffalo–They still do. Joanne Rowling doesn’t have a middle name. But her publisher made her use the initials J.K. to get male readership for her books. It’s staggeringly common.

  137. Thanks, Snarky’s Machine and Sweet Machine. (Snark’s and Sweet Machines?) Also thanks to IrishUp for your comments, too.

    Lastly, Alibelle, I’m sorry I forgot to respond earlier, but re: cisgendered, it’s pronounced “sis” as in the word “sister.”

  138. @JSTG, Thank you! I was leaning towards that, but I had to be sure before I could say it out loud. I love this blog and the commenters, reading this these past months has brought me from ignorant of my privilege, to a point where I can acknowledge it and unpack it (well sometimes anyway).

    Eh, I’m a little giddy with new ideas to work through after these last few comments, sorry if I come off as a creeper.

  139. JSTG – you are welcome! I just hope I was getting it right, and not inadvertently adding on. Please feel free to let me know (if you feel like it, of course) if I’ve missed.

  140. @IrishUp:

    Regarding “nobody’s free until everybody’s free”; I think this is the goal. And as an ideal, I wonder if it will every really be possible? Regardless, if we are to achieve a society where beauty and fashion standards are truly inclusive, how do we get there?

    I’ll say that if we have any hope of getting there at all, it’s because there are people who refuse to be satisfied by anything less than full equality. If I had my druthers, that’s the camp I’d rather be in.

    And yes, I think we get there with big changes, not little incremental changes. But those big changes might be due to many years of constant, relentless pressure. As an example, voting rights for women and non-whites didn’t come from letting people gradually get closer and closer to the voting booths before finally letting them pull the lever.

    Because lauding small changes might be really some kind of Fashion Reaganomics; the changes disproportionately affect those closer to the ideal, and if you’re really far from the ideal, it’s not making any difference to you at all – what’s “trickling down” still looks and smells like piss.

    Well-put :)

  141. voting rights for women and non-whites didn’t come from letting people gradually get closer and closer to the voting booths before finally letting them pull the lever.

    This strikes me as a specious analogy. It’d be more analogous to say “full voting rights for all Americans didn’t come from letting non-whites vote while women still couldn’t,” which of course is false. (And of course it was even more incremental than that.)

  142. This conversation was very interesting to read through, and right now I’m not feeling well enough to contribute, but I could not go by without commenting on this (which though it is a frivolous item, should not go unnoted):

    If I had my druthers, that’s the camp I’d rather be in.

    @redlami: More people should use the word druthers :)

    I hope that everyone has a pleasant weekend (or is having one already, depending upon your location).

  143. I hear you, redlami, I think your point about not being *satisfied* with the small increments is right on.

    But, for instance, do we dismiss the real acheivement of gay marriage rights in MA b/c everyone in the US/World/Multiverse doesnt have them? And don’t you think the fact that MA has marriages is directly related to the fact that civil unions were recognized by so many employers in MA? And THAT only happened because gay couples fought for the same benefits that common-law het presenting couples got? And THAT only happended because social mores around divorce and cohabitation changed? And …..

  144. I think of beauty and fashion as, by their very natures, exclusive. There’s no such thing as fashionable if there is not an unfashionable other. Likewise, personal beauty is usually in contrast to others not so beautiful.

    So I’m not so much seeing society extending the beauty standard to all as I am expecting it to become irrelevant. Like being a Cabot in Boston–a big, big deal in 1810, and an interesting historical note these days. It hasn’t disappeared; families still like talking about the Boston Brahmin or FFV ancestors, but it’s not the exclusionary force it was two generations ago. Those who, by birth, have not the slightest hope of being part of an Old Family are not hampered in their political or career progress by it. (Although I suspect that the Cabots et al have a leg up by virtue of family money and connections, the effect of the family name itself is much muted.)

    It would be nice if the same were true for beauty and style in women. I don’t know how that’s done. I suspect it does involve opening up the beauty standards until the value of exclusivity is essentially gone, and simultaneously beating down the horrible tendency of this society to trivialize women by harping on looks instead of substantive characteristics. (The presidential election is a great example, as always–who cares what Senator Clinton or Governor Palin wore? ::gnashing teeth::) I dream for a day when a cabinet appointee can dress like Janet Reno and no one says anything about the clothes. Kind of like it is for Eric Holder.

  145. @Starling: (The presidential election is a great example, as always–who cares what Senator Clinton or Governor Palin wore? ::gnashing teeth::)

    Well Governor Palin certainly did. I actually did think the $150,000 wardrobe allowance was a legitimate issue.

  146. I don’t think anybody has any doubts about RNigade’s intentions.

    And there is misogyny to be found among gay men, sure, and there are problematic aspects to be found in drag queens but I think it’s worth noting that the genesis of gay stage drag is not some random members of the privileged class of men deciding to piss on the oppressed class of women just for the hell of it. I don’t actually know the in-depth history of the drag show, but I’m willing to bet that there are some other few small factors at work there when an oppressed group that have often been stereotyped as caricatured stereotypes of femininity creates an art form that involves performing as a caricature of a woman.

  147. This strikes me as a specious analogy. It’d be more analogous to say “full voting rights for all Americans didn’t come from letting non-whites vote while women still couldn’t,” which of course is false. (And of course it was even more incremental than that.)

    It seems like you’re cherry picking here. Also, it’s a bit amusing – though probably not to Redlami – to see someone linking a site like this to him, since this kind of data generation is what he does for a living.

    Oh well. I’m staying out of it, but I had to say that.

  148. @ Starling – I can’t agree more with your proposal, and I think you’re right, as I was so surprised when you mentioned Eric Holder’s wardrobe, that I went straight to GoogleImages. And then I realized just how incredibly well you’ve made your point.

    Women are constantly trivialized based on appearance, and I don’t think that this situation has improved one iota during my own lifetime. What? Hillary Clinton nearly becomes President and is our Secretary of State? PANTSUIT. What? Monique performs one of the most powerful scenes in any film I’d ever seen in my life? LEG HAIR. Ugh, I could give a thousand more examples. It’s so demoralizing.

  149. The Other Caitlin–Yes, the spendy wardrobe was definitely an issue, and excessive costs for appearance’s sake is a political issue for male and female politicians. But Palin’s glasses? The MILF stuff? For God’s sake, how I hated that. There were plenty of substantive things to talk about.

  150. @snarkysmachine “It seems like you’re cherry picking here.”

    I don’t think so. Achieving universal suffrage was an incremental process in many democracies. Certainly in Britain, property ownership was a big barrier for a long time. It probably depends on the country.

    But I agree that giving women the vote and giving blacks the vote were pretty big leaps forward.

    In Australia women got the vote in 1903, two years after we became an independent nation. (New Zealand was earlier but around the same time as the then colony/now state South Australia in the early 1890s). Australia was the first country to allow women to run for office. But Aboriginal Australians did not get the vote until 1962. Although this was late I’m proud that this was one of the few referenda that Australians voted overwhelmingly in favour of.

  151. It seems like you’re cherry picking here.

    I guess I don’t see why — I didn’t pick the voting rights example, but I still think that if you’re going to use it as an analogy you have to look at how it actually happened. “Small steps” doesn’t mean literally tiny steps moving towards a goal, so no, we didn’t achieve equal voting rights via actual small steps towards a voting booth. But we did come to it by incremental progress that frequently left large swaths of people behind.

    I think there are valid arguments to be made in favor of preferring saltatory improvements to incremental ones, and probably valid historical analogies. But I take issue with the specific claim that voting equality didn’t come about by moving slowly towards the booth. It’s only accurate to say that we didn’t achieve voting rights through “small steps” if you’re being unreasonably literal.

  152. I know I’m late to the game, but I read that anecdote about pretending to be men for a communications class assignment to be about getting a taste of cis male privilege. I didn’t think about it in terms of transgendered men … hmm.

    In general I don’t like when white guys do the “let me pretend to be [fill in the blank marginalized person] for a day/week/year” and-then-write-a-book-about-it. Actually, I hate that shit. Maybe that Black Like Me guy started it, but he put it to some good use, and didn’t write a book about how it’s actually not that bad to be a black man in the South. There was a white woman who wrote a book about her experiences pretending to be a man … I thought it was worthwhile. It’s one thing to pretend you’re poor for a year like this one annoying white dood did, and then write about how he overcame “poverty” through sheer will and determination. It’s another to pretend you’re poor for a while (like Barbara Ehrenreich did) so that you can better understand the system and its inequities. So … wouldn’t whether it was right or not to do the experiment have to do with the purpose of the experiment?

  153. Abandoning metaphor for a moment, what does it mean in the real world to adhere to the “nobody’s free until everybody’s free” idea vis-à-vis fashion and beauty? Solidarity, pressure, rah rah rah, but how?

    We still live in this world, and women are still marginalized and judged on beauty standards in completely inappropriate contexts. So there are real-life consequences to bucking beauty and fashion standards–as Snarkys said, she can’t wear whatever the hell she wants. As a white woman, I have more freedom, but I can’t reject social standards, either. Nekkid is still not an option. And there’s plenty of evidence on this thread that breaking the rules about gendered dressing is not an option without real physical consequences.

    So what do we do? Boycott beauty mags? Preach for body acceptance and standards of equality and freedom? Okay. But these are small steps. The big steps you’re advocating, I just don’t see. There’s no monolithic corporation or government enforcing these standards. So who do we lobby? Where’s the sit-in? How do we do it? Where’s the pressure applied? What’s the big plan?

    Because, until we have one, I’m okay with celebrating the fact that a thirteen-year-old has managed to enjoy fashion without becoming Sexy Laydee Doll, or that the rigid beauty standards have relaxed enough to let Crystal Renn through. It’s not the revolution I want to see, but anything that gives a little more space for women to be themselves instead of a pattern card of social expectations is movement in the right direction. If the two options are trickle-down or no change, then show me another possibility before condemning incrementalism as not enough.

  154. FJ– I wanted to make you a nice metaphor about pushing a car down a hilly road, where going up a hill is a slog, but when the car gets to the top it coasts over and down and up partway of the next hill; and sometimes the car slips backwards or it turns out that what we thought was the top was just a flat spot and there’s more hill; but then I thought there should be some pitfalls and those pipes with toothy plants in them (and koopas) and people saying “Hill? What hill? Are you sure you’re not just imagining it? You’re too sensitive to altitudes.” and it sort of went off the rails/turned into Super Mario Brothers. Er.

    Metaphor is hard! Let’s have a pizza party! [/Teen Talk Barbie]

  155. Oh my god, if we could really hash out a social justice/Super Mario metaphor it would be AMAZING. And almost certainly more accurate than the Zeno’s paradox metaphor where nothing important is getting done because all or many of the advances are small.

    Let’s see, if Achilles is Mario and the tortoise is Luigi… no wait, the tortoise has to be a Koopa… okay, if Mario and the Koopa are advancing towards a voting booth, they have to cover half the distance, and then half the distance again…

  156. (From upthread) CGgirl and JSTG, re ‘gorky': I thought you were making reference to the now-sadly-no-longer-a-band band Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and got all excited!

    On Tavi’s blog: I’m actually just pretty worried about her. I get the cinema voiceover story thing too, but I can’t help thinking she’s at risk of being swallowed up by the stuff she’s tried to resist… Not least because the Perpetrators of The Bad Stuff (wandering into dodgy B-horror movie territory now) have realised she’s there, and have focused their attention on her. Between the people slagging her off (‘what we’re meant to take cues from 13 yo kids now’ that someone mentioned upthread) and the people putting her on a pedestal (‘she’s such an amazing MUSE’ type stuff) , the people wanting to be ‘seen to know her’ or seen to be friends with her, AND on top of that the whole heap of poo that comes with going through teenagerhood …. = ERK! Scary! I really, really hope she has the resilience to get through it, because whatever the cool thing is that represents a ‘small step’, surely it will only remain full of hope if it can be built upon before the PoTBS either bulldoze it or assimilate it into their poo pile? /pessimism

  157. @Jezebella: How does your being a radfem explain coming into a conversation where a lot of privilege is being splashed around and wielding yours like a firehose? How do you imagine this label explains everybody’s reaction to this act?

  158. Jezebella, I’m not sure that I’m well-read enough on what radical feminism is usually understood to be and mean — once upon a time I’d naively just assumed it meant ‘does more activism (often of more extreme kinds) than not/less-radical feminists’. I most likely need to do a lot more reading but it sounds to me like you’re perceiving people who take exception to the very problematic and offensive nature of your transphobic comments as being automatically ‘radfem-phobic’ — is that right? There is a woman in my department who self-identifies as a radical feminism and has a thing about ‘womyn-born-womyn’, which to me just comes off as horribly bigotted, but I hadn’t thought/realised it might come as part and parcel of a thread/sector/flavour/notsurewhatword of feminism… is that what you’re saying? Or are there fellow radfems who would challenge you on your transphobia?!

  159. Somebody asked, I answered the question. That’s how.

    This is what I get from this thread: because trans* life is dangerous, no woman who is not trans should ever, ever, ever dress as a man. Is that correct?

    I find it depressing that a woman dressed as a man is in danger from mainstream society, but is also judged harshly by a supposedly feminist community who gets all testy if a woman says she tried a little experiment in gender-bending. Are women no longer allowed to do that by either side – neither the patriarchy NOR feminists? I’m well aware of the patriarchy’s harsh punishments of gender transgression, but I find it appalling that a bunch of women are tearing up another woman for enacting an aggressive stereotypical male persona as part of a social experiment.

    I still want to know how is it that this community justifies drag queens’ mockery of an extreme stereotype of femininity but dogpiles a woman who does the same thing? Feels like a double-standard to me.

    Finally, as a New Orleanian, it has been my observation that people who have never participated in Carnival are way too fucking uptight about the concept of taking on another identity for a day or two.

  160. This is what I get from this thread: because trans* life is dangerous, no woman who is not trans should ever, ever, ever dress as a man. Is that correct?

    God, no. You are being willfully obtuse and giving me the stabby pain.

    I still want to know how is it that this community justifies drag queens’ mockery of an extreme stereotype of femininity but dogpiles a woman who does the same thing? Feels like a double-standard to me.

    I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. You are the only one who’s brought up drag queens, and obviously not everyone in this community agrees on everything about gender presentation. You, however, are the one going “Look at me, I’m so privileged, I get to do whatever I want even though other people don’t.” You got your ban warning; now you’re getting your ban. Congratulations!

  161. This is what I get from this thread: because trans* life is dangerous, no woman who is not trans should ever, ever, ever dress as a man. Is that correct?

    This skewed reading would be… well, skewed… already even if not for the fact that someone else already asked much the same thing and had the inaccuracy pointed out to them. If I were interested in having a big long pointless argument on the internet tonight I’d ask you to point out where someone said that and then counter by quoting what people have actually said, but what the hell, you’ve got eyes and you’ve got the same words on your screen that I do.

    If I were interested in such an argument, I’d also ask where you see the community as a whole “justifying drag queens’ mockery”. Among the responses you got were… well, again, you’ve got eyes, you can read the same words I’m reading.

    (Though if somebody asked you if you were a radfem, I missed it and am still missing it. It seemed to me like a random reaction to people’s vehemently disagreeing with your position. “Oh of course everyone disagrees. The internet hates radfems.” I’ve had my share of dust-ups with radical feminists, but “HO HO! I SHALL DO AS I PLEASE AND THE MARGINALIZED PEOPLE’S PC POLICE CAN’T STOP ME!” isn’t a position I instantly identify as a radical feminist one, y’know?)

  162. Alexandra Erin: I believe she is responding to a post above, that responded by asking if the blog(or the post) had turned into a radfem gender essentialist space. While it can be hard to read tone on the Internet, it seems pretty clear that the person asking the question does not like the presence of what he/she(I forget who it was) called radfem gender essentialism, so Jezebella’s comment about radfem-phobia seems called for to me. I also believe that when she mentioned RNegade being called transphobic, it is because she was being called transphobic, without the actual use of the word, because of all the complaints about wielding privilege against a trans man, making fun of them, etcetera.

  163. Probably a moot point by this time, but I think this is the question Jezebella was responding to, which was posted upthread in response to a quoted statement of hers:

    “What? No, seriously, what??? Did we morph into a radicalfem second wave gender essentialist space while I wasn’t looking?”

    I do not see where the drag queen thing came from.

  164. I guess I don’t see why —

    Because he asked you a specific question, which you didn’t answer. “Who else is speaking about this besides, Snarky?” and since you chose not to answer that one and instead you found something else to answer and keep going on and on and on with it.

    That sounds like cherry picking to me.

    @fillyjonk: Who else besides Snarky was making this point?

  165. fillyjonk said…

    [QUOTE]
    “Who else besides Snarky was making this point?”

    Man, I must have done a really shitty job with my last couple comments… my point was that IN THE PAST, when I have spoken up for baby steps, people have had convincing arguments as to why that was wrong. I should have used the past tense instead of the… whatever tense it is you use to make something sound like it’s ongoing, because I was talking about a thing that has happened at several times in the past and could happen again in the future.

    So the answer is going to be things like “this guy Seth” and won’t mean much to you. :)
    [/QUOTE]

  166. @Jezebella said: “I find it appalling that a bunch of women are tearing up another woman for enacting an aggressive stereotypical male persona as part of a social experiment.”

    I don’t think that’s what happened. I saw multiple opinions and interpretations of both @RNigade’s cross-dressing experiment AND her description of it. The reality of the comments on this topic is much more nuanced than you describe.

    “I still want to know how is it that this community justifies drag queens’ mockery of an extreme stereotype of femininity but dogpiles a woman who does the same thing? Feels like a double-standard to me.”

    I touched on this previously but your position also feels like a double-standard to me. You’re saying the woman dressing up as a man is okay but not the other way around. That’s a double-standard too, right? While I understand you might justify the double-standard because of the gender privilege balance, it still seems a bit pot/kettle to complain about the same double-standard in reverse.

    But actually the two things are NOT the same. Trying to pass as the opposite gender in public for a social experiment (which I have not personally ever condemned as a heinous crime) is really not the same as dressing up as the opposite gender for a performance, where the audience knows the true gender of the performer. The latter is not just about drag queens either; in British pantomine it’s usually a woman who plays characters like Jack (of Beanstalk fame) or Peter Pan; and I saw a production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale where all the characters were played by women in a modern-day twist on the fact that they were all played by men in Shakespeare’s day. It seems to me that a theatre is a safe space for this sort of gender exploration – although as with any art it can be done well and not well. (And I’m not holding up pantomimes as some kind of shining example).

  167. I’m pretty sure Redlami was speaking about this particular thread.

    Right, but then I tried to clarify that I wasn’t talking about what anyone said in this particular thread. I was trying to say that while I am inclined to celebrate small advances, I have had people argue convincingly with me about it before in other contexts. I’m not sold, but I’ve encountered many thought-provoking points in favor of incrementalism being less progressive. I realize that I apparently expressed myself really badly, but I did then try a couple of times to explain, and then SM explained, and then redlami said he got it but disagreed. I considered that all as basically separate from me taking issue with his analogy… but it’s possible I’ve been having a different conversation from everyone else all this time.

  168. “So when you find one that does and learn how to use html feel free to post it.”

    WOW. Mocking someone for an html mistake? Really? I don’t know html, because I’ve never had anyone teach me or gotten the chance to learn, are you going to mock me too?

    That and how you kind of seem to be attacking Fillyjonk is kind of making me feel really squicked out.

  169. @snarkysmachine said: “Because he asked you a specific question, which you didn’t answer. “Who else is speaking about this besides, Snarky?” and since you chose not to answer that one…

    Er, I thought Fillyjonk did answer this. She answered it by saying that the other people who had been talking about it (it being “baby steps”) were not actually on this thread. She clarified that she was talking about conversations about the issue of whether or not to celebrate small victories she’d had with people in the past. She said that several times and it made sense to me and others and eventually Redlami too. Why are we still talking about it? I guess I’m not seeing a) the confusion / conspiracy and b) the great significance of the thing we’re arguing about.

    @Alibelle said: “That and how you kind of seem to be attacking Fillyjonk is kind of making me feel really squicked out.”

    Yes, me too. This was such a fun and interesting thread but it feels like it’s turning sour for, as far as I can see, absolutely no reason. Is there something going on behind the scenes that the rest of us aren’t aware of?

  170. The Other Caitlin, it’s a little more depressing than that. Indigenous Australians didn’t get the vote – and from what I’ve read, were still counted as “fauna” on the census – until 1967. http://www.abc.net.au/messageclub/duknow/stories/s888141.htm. Like the WAP*, legislative steps went “backwards”(as in, less progressive and inclusive measures were introduced) when we hit Federation.

    /Shameless history nerd. I’m not always like this! Promise!

    *White Australia Policy. The reason why all the Centenary-related hubub about Edmund Barton didn’t fly, I suspect.

  171. For crying out loud. Saying that the metaphor wasn’t working and it’d be nice to have specific (not metaphorical) discussion of changing the beauty/fashion standard seems topical, not cherry-picking.

    Redlami makes the argument that we should be in the business of big changes, not little changes. Increments suck! Always include everyone! Which is all well and good, but how? Voting analogies aren’t helping me here. Redlami also equates celebrating an incremental change that helps some but not all of us to being just fine with the idea that, “as regards standards of beauty . . . it’s OK to continue to exclude people of color as well as trans and other marginalized people.” That’s both illogical and pretty fucking offensive, especially coming from someone who has the privilege not to actually be affected by a sexualized female beauty standard.

    I am trying really hard not to use the word ‘mansplain’ here. Oops.

    This is particularly galling when the only wise advice us ladies have gotten is to exert pressure and show solidarity. On what? To whom? If someone’s got the magic answer for Big Changes, tell us already! And if not, the people around here doing the most for Big Changes are the ones writing for a certain well-known feminist body acceptance blog. Not the ones complaining that this post is too narrowly applicable to be acceptable to truly non-racist, non-ableist, non-transphobic readers.

    Frankly, calling Redlami on the weak metaphor instead of the extremely problematic content of his argument shows a certain amount of self-control. I’m crankier than FJ. I’d like to see either some substantive suggestions, or an acknowledgment that telling the ladies that they’re doing it wrong is a little damned condescending.

    /rant

  172. Guys, I appreciate the impulse, and I’m feeling a little confused myself (okay, a lot confused, which is why I’m awake at 2:30; I have a hard time coping with anger from people I like). But Snarky’s Machine is a blogger here and a generally excellent person so let’s give her a little benefit of the doubt. I may have touched more of a nerve than I realized, or there may be something in the whole tenor of the conversation that’s rubbing Snarky’s the wrong way, or it could just be that old thing where internet comments are tone-deaf. (I mean, I went back to my original comment that redlami objected to, and it now reads perfectly clearly to me as somone complaining and hyperbolizing about being corrected by better progressives — that is, unless you give me the benefit of the doubt since I am one of the bloggers here and a generally excellent person, ahem).

    I thought it was apropos that I just read this post from Miss Conduct. Salient point: “If the rudeness isn’t directed at you, but at someone else, don’t scold the offender — comfort the offended.” If people are perceiving rudeness I do appreciate them affirming that they don’t think I was offensive or out of line. But I don’t think there’s any call to jump on Snarky’s; she is one of our own.

  173. [Hearkening back to some stuff waaaaay up the thread...]

    As a kid, I grew up with a lot of hand-me-downs from one of my cousins (who was – and still is, strangely – a year older than I). She was blonde, with curly hair and blue eyes. I had straight brown hair, and grey eyes. She looked great in yellow and pastels, and creamy shades, but if she wore white, she looked washed out. I can wear strong emerald green, bright shrieking magenta, clear whites and strong blacks, but yellow and creamy shades make me look ill. Pastels make me look unwell too. So there was one set of lessons I learned fairly fast.

    The second set of lessons came from the joys of shopping with my mother. Mum and I have precisely two things in common. We’re both female, and we’re both the same height. After that, things are completely different. Mum loves dark tones (purples, muddy browns and greens, khakis, etc) and is officially “petite” – small frame, small boobs, slim hips, very dainty etc. I stopped being petite shortly after I passed age twelve, and went straight to “peasant” – large boobs, solid bone structure, large, child-bearing hips, hitch me to the plough when the mule dies sort of thing. Mum would pick out clothes *she* liked for me, in colours she was fond of, and then got annoyed with me when they didn’t fit, or made me look as though I was fatter than I already was, or when I just didn’t wear them.

    It wasn’t until I got my first job that I started realising I actually have a pretty good sense of style. I just happen to have a different body type to my mother and my cousin, as well as being what’s called a winter when it comes to colouring (where my cousin is a spring, and Mum is an autumn). When I’m allowed to buy clothes which I like, and which suit me (and fit me, which means shopping in the plus-size section, rather than combing vainly through the regular racks) I’m actually pretty well-dressed. I’m also confident that I look good, and comfortable enough that I don’t care what other people think.

    Really, I think the number one rule of style (as opposed to fashion) is “if you like it, then you’re fine; if other people make negative comments, they are being rude”.

  174. WOW. Mocking someone for an html mistake? Really? I don’t know html, because I’ve never had anyone teach me or gotten the chance to learn, are you going to mock me too?

    Well, it’s pretty standard “derailing for dummies tactic” to dismissively quote something as though a person can’t read. And is often used against marginalized folks as silencing tactic, so yes, if you’re going to basically suggest “You’re too ignorant to read…” I’m going to not be kind in my response. Though it would be helpful not to always conflate “directness” with “rudeness”. And, please, you aren’t going to hurt my feelings calling me “rude”. It’s almost a cliche for a person of color to get called rude by white people on the internet.

    Also, Nobody did point out the way in which race factors into the fashion conversation until I brought it up. Which is pretty much how most conversations about othering seem to happen around here.

    Instead of being defensive and immediately jumping to conclusions, maybe a little checking out what’s being said would be more productive.

    And, for the record. No, I don’t think Fillyjonk did answer his original question. And that’s fine. She is perfectly within her rights to address the comments she wishes. In addition, it’s not that big of a deal.

    However, I am getting a little tired of always being the bad guy because I don’t make racism and problematic othering comfortable. (this is addressed to the dog pilers and not Fillyjonk, who I have no issue or beef)

    People can disagree and mods can disagree too. However, there seems an undercurrent of resentment from posters who don’t like being called out by a marginalized person (JSTG experienced this too) and we’re constantly being told we need to explain ourselves to you, which is entirely fucked up.

    Speaking of which..

    And basically, y’all need to give the manplainin’ label a rest, because you’ve basically watered down to mean, “shit i don’t want to hear from people i don’t wish to hear it from.” which is NOT the definition of mansplaining at all.

  175. This is particularly galling when the only wise advice us ladies have gotten is to exert pressure and show solidarity. On what? To whom? If someone’s got the magic answer for Big Changes, tell us already! And if not, the people around here doing the most for Big Changes are the ones writing for a certain well-known feminist body acceptance blog. Not the ones complaining that this post is too narrowly applicable to be acceptable to truly non-racist, non-ableist, non-transphobic readers.

    Starling, as a mod, I’m going to respectfully ask you to step back. For one thing, that’s not an accurate or fair assessment of what Redlami said. For another thing, it’s not contributing anything productive to the conversation, nor facilitating meaningful engagement. You don’t know anything about Redlami, and frankly you’re being ableist as FUCK in regards to him. And, no. I don’t have to elaborate and NEITHER DOES HE.

    I’m being nice here, and I advice you to graciously accept this rare gift. Because the next time, I won’t be so nice.

    In the meantime:

    Fifth rule: Polite disagreement doesn’t piss me off. Bullying does. And bullies are inevitably the only ones who don’t get that distinction, so I don’t think I need to say any more about that.

  176. Dear Fat Liberal Feminist Jesus, if you can please find it in your heart to not have any of your followers reply to snarkysmachine’s comment with helpful advice on how not to be seen as the bad guy, I will tithe you so hard, you have no fucking idea.

    In nomine patre, et filii, et donutis babis.

    Seriously, can we please not be That Feminist Blog? At least a little?

  177. My first thoughts were that while Tavi surely is to be commended for dressing creatively and contrary to oversexed tween trends, that it’s not all that surprising that a slender waiflife white blond girl can wear whatever she wants and have it count as fashion-forward. I mean, I’ve seen Dakota Fanning rock similar looks in some of her movies. With a pricier label the Olsen twins would steal her look.

    You get the idea. What struck me is that were Tavi a plump little girl, she wouldn’t fit the norms of fashion, and I doubt her funky thrift store aesthetic would be recognized as a love of fashion (I’d be willing to bet that it would be seen as a bitter rejection of it, instead.)

  178. I think Tavi is very cute and precocious, but I am not comfortable with her response to Tanya Gold. I understand that it was well-meant, but she reminds me of myself at that age, telling the adults in my life how they should feel about things, despite the fact that they had experienced life-shaping events when they were older than the age I was at the time. As I got older, I had similarly life-shaping events that changed my worldview and then I realized exactly how naive and presumptuous I had been as a young teen. I’m not saying that I hope or expect Tavi to lose her sense of self as she ages, but…I don’t quite know how to word this. The comment that it is Tanya’s fault for buying into the fashion industry’s restrictions is, perhaps, a little galling from someone who is, as previously mentioned, young, blonde, white, thin, and quite privileged, not to mention that she is probably more sheltered than she realizes. She hasn’t yet been tossed into the world of adults and left to fend for herself. This is not Tavi’s fault- we don’t often get to choose our privileges. However, we cannot assume that everyone has the same privileges, nor can we assume that our privileges make it okay to judge the experiences of others. If she can learn that at 13, I will be extremely impressed. I’m still struggling with that at 31.

  179. Snarkys, I’m sorry. I feel like we’re talking past each other here. It seems as if, when there’s a fashion post, someone always jumps in and says, “Stop talking about this, because it doesn’t fix things for Group X.” (Last time, it was Patsy Nevins, and Kate answered her.) It bothers me because it seems pretty clear to me: yeah, one conversation is not all conversations, and this blog is an ongoing conversation which does not exclude any particular group*. And, of course, because no one claimed that Crystal Renn or Tavi is the great liberator of women.

    I want to have the conversation about the ways in which this particular event is of no value to some women because it relies on privilege that they don’t have. I want to have a conversation about ways in which we can change the fashion/beauty standards of a deeply sexist and racist and ageist and homophobic and transphobic society. I think analysis of these incremental changes is one way to have these conversations.

    But that wasn’t the conversation I saw; what I saw seemed to doubt either the basic decency or the competence of those who praise incremental changes in general. And it seemed like a reprise of an earlier conversation, intended to shut people up instead of contribute. That’s my context. I apologize for places it veered into rudeness rather than robust disagreement.

    (BTW, I’d be grateful if people would call me out on the ableist language or arguments in my comments. Snarkys, you’ve said already you have no desire to, so this is a general request–anyone is welcome to step up and reeducate me. I hate putting the foot in the mouth because of unexamined privilege.)

    *If it does, then that’s legit criticism.

  180. Okay, y’all, we’ve had a massive derail with many participants for many reasons and I’m going to request that we get back on topic (which is, broadly: fashion) or let this thread die. Don’t worry, we’re not having a ModWar behind the scenes or anything. Let’s just get back on topic.

  181. I felt oppressed by mainstream fashion as a kid but developed a style in high school that outraged my peers (one jock threatened to shoot me) and some of the teachers-a great deal of fun and rebellion. Fell out of that until recently when I began reinventing myself as a spoken word performer and sometimes host. It’s another way of being seen/heard and when I’m true to myself in word and appearance there are fewer misunderstandings between me and others about my identity.
    I’m really enjoying the fashion blogs so much more than the rag mags-lots of inventiveness and a wider range of sizes. The only thing I don’t see enough of is older stylish folks like myself-maybe this is something I need to create.

  182. Starling –

    So you don’t know how to “step back and be quiet”. Good to know. There was really no need for any of your response, particularly since all i wanted to hear was you apology to Redlami for being such a ableist bigot with all your privilege chow chow, which I’m sure seemed amusing while you were performing it but has put you squarely on my shit list.

    Snarkys, I’m sorry. I feel like we’re talking past each other here. It seems as if, when there’s a fashion post, someone always jumps in and says, “Stop talking about this, because it doesn’t fix things for Group X.” (Last time, it was Patsy Nevins, and Kate answered her.) It bothers me because it seems pretty clear to me: yeah, one conversation is not all conversations, and this blog is an ongoing conversation which does not exclude any particular group*. And, of course, because no one claimed that Crystal Renn or Tavi is the great liberator of women.

    Seriously. You’re conflating my contribution with Patsy Nevins. Wow, shutting up is like this really hard thing for you. It must be hard not always be engaged in privilege chow chow.

    (BTW, I’d be grateful if people would call me out on the ableist language or arguments in my comments. Snarkys, you’ve said already you have no desire to, so this is a general request–anyone is welcome to step up and reeducate me. I hate putting the foot in the mouth because of unexamined privilege.)

    Wow, did you miss the part where marginalized people don’t have to explain themselves when YOU screw up.

    I don’t need you to explain, since you’re unable to just apologize without being passive aggressive. And since you’re rather hard headed, LET ME SAY AGAIN, AS A MOD, YOU NEED TO STEP THE FUCK BACK AND STOP SUCKING ALL THE OXYGEN out of the conversation. And if you think Kate should shut me up, then come out and say it and stop being so annoyingly passive aggressive.

  183. IDK. I’ve always liked fashion. Loved it. I guess my definition of fashion is different than the mainstream, exclusionary definition. Whenever I got the chance, I’d go to the Simply Fashion (btw, if anyone has that store, its fabulous and goes up to size 36…) or the Rainbow or Deb or Old Navy and mix and match and style and get clothes that looked just FABULOUS. Even now I still do it.

    Fashion to me is getting clothing that makes you look and feel good. Fashion to me is having people of all sizes getting those couple of outfits that just POP and make people go “DANG!! SHE LOOKS GOOD!!!!” Fashion to me is being comfortable to do what the exclusionary fashionistas tell you not to do: Show off areas that “aren’t supposed to be shown” such as arms, legs, etc.

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