Here is an article describing exactly what we discussed in class about using digital bodies. The comparison pictures are very interesting!
Gawker recently posted an article on “how to tell the difference between a hipster and a gay.” The article was written apparently in response to one reader’s inquiry regarding the latter question, claiming “”hipsterdom has permanently destroyed my gaydar” [revealing very clearly that the reader’s gaydar was not very strong in the first place]. Gawker initially posed the question to a large audience, and then created the article by compiling the ‘best’ answers. Here is what they said:
1. “Usually I go by the old standard: if he makes out with boys, he’s gay. Sadly, the hipsters have ruined THAT theorum as well.” –Colonel Mustard
2. “Gays generally stick to the clears when drinking such as vodka and gin. Straights prefer bourbon and whiskey. Single malt scotch though is the for both groups.” –Regimentkhaki
3. “I’d go with the muscle tone thing. The pretty young gay-boys may want to look like waifs on the outside, but there’s 30 hours a week at David Barton underneath those skinny jeans.” –Lionel Mandrake
4. “Facial hair: mountain-man beard=straight, Olivier Theyskens face-pubes=gay. –beefer
5. “Hairstyle Asymmetricality: over 25%=gay.” –beefer
6. “Eyebrows: Jello Biafra dramatic=straight, Liza Minnelli arches=gay.” –beefer
7. “If they ride fixed gear than it is more than 90% likely that they are straight.” –Frannyincognito
Notice that most of what was said involved arbitrary distinctions of aesthetics and fashion, although I do give credit to answers 1 and 2 for discussing cultural/habitual distinctions, rather than style. Clearly people’s fashions choices indicate their moral lifestyles; their aesthetic choices are used as “social hieroglyphics” for others. Two other aspects of this article stick out to me: firstly, and most saliently, is the complete dominance of men. Why, when speaking about either hipsters or gays, weren’t women included in either group? It boggles the mind. The exclusion of women from both groups demonstrates the sexism that pervades LGBTQ discussions so often. Even the word ‘gay’ is synonymous with both homosexual men and homosexual men and women together, but ‘lesbian’ is never, ever used to refer to men or groups other than women.
The second aspect of this article that mismatched along similar lines to the first, is why ostensible ‘hipsters’ and gays are mutually exclusive categories. The entire article bases its premise off trying to find divisions between two groups that are very often one and the same. (Note to the reader: There is no real definition of a ‘hipster,’ but since the article is based on the term I’m going to use it. Here I am using ‘hipster’ to refer to the crowd that otherwise has no positively identifying name – the ‘Modern Hippie,’ if you will. For the purpose of this discussion I am not using ‘hipster’ in its derogatory sense, since no one likes to actually call themselves a hipster. I’m confident you all know the group I’m talking about, even though it’s very hard to articulate in words that go beyond fashion choice.) Why can’t a hipster be gay? Or vice versa? That no one called attention to this logical fallacy, or at least none that Gawker posted about, highlights the very real fact that the LGBTQ community are still wholly considered “The Other,” and therefore not at all integrated into social groups. Gays’ most salient identity is, obviously, their sexuality, and many people seem to think that the idea of someone LGBTQ-identified would ever include themselves in any other group, or look like “Us” (the non-Other), is preposterous. Furthermore, since the lines are supposedly now being blurred, Gawker felt it necessary to provide a place for people to redefine those lines, and put those gays back in their Other group. This article says a lot about where our culture is in the fight against sexism, fashion policing, and identity acceptance.
Apologies for the late post! I posted this way earlier today but didn’t realize until now that I posted to the new blog wordpress made for me that I didn’t know I had, instead of this one. Couldn’t figure out how to post to this one until just now, even though I’ve done it before… Very odd. 😛 Anyway, back to things that matter.
In our group discussion last Wednesday, we spoke about how the skin color of a model of clothing, be that a traditional model for the fashion industry or simply a person wearing a specific type of dress, can entirely change the perception of the wearer. Douglas sometimes chose native models for his Indian Fashion Show, and oftentimes chose slender women of European ancestry that mirrored the bodies showing clothing at Parisian fashion shows. Whatever his choice entailed, the effect of the fashion show changed dramatically. Similarly, Beyonce’s and Rihanna’s outfits served to make both their African and Caribbean ancestries salient, juxtaposed with their American identities, in addition to their identities as women/sexual objects/beings. (For reference, their videos are at the bottom of this post.) Some would argue that it takes only personal perseverance, determination, and talent to become famous in the music industry; others, like Bene Viera at Clutch Magazine, argue that Black women have less choice in what they wear if they desire fame. She compares their success to Kreayshawn’s and other white female rappers, who didn’t sexualize themselves in their videos and still received wide recognition for them:
It’s ironic how the White girl mimicking Black culture has been viewed as quirky, cute, and interesting in the past. But sisters who fashionably rock bamboo earrings, gold nameplate necklaces, and blonde streaked weaves, will inevitably be considered “ghetto” by society. It’s equally problematic that every female emcee post Queen Latifah and MC Lyte who has had massive mainstream success all had to sell sex.
In this case, as in the ones above, the meaning of the “bamboo earrings, gold nameplate necklaces, and blond streaked waves” changes according to the skin color of the wearer. Women’s Wear Daily quotes Kreayshawn bemoaning her hardships as a white girl: ““When I was younger, growing up in the ‘hood, being the only white girl, like, there’s time when you’re like s—t, it sucks being white, you know?” Colorlinesanalyzes the immense privilege she flouts when making statements like this, without acknowledging or even realizing her privilege at all. Jamilah King, from Colorlines,further analyzes her persona with a list of “5 Reasons Why People Love to Hate Kreayshawn.” Does Jamilah’s list match up with our course readings and our discussion about Beyonce and Rhianna? How does his list carry over to another V-Nasty’s public persona (another white, female rapper)? For some context of her views on racism and whiteness in today’s pop culture, see her reaction to public commentary on her and Kreayshawn’s use of the n-word and claims that they are “acting Black:” (and I’m sorry, I don’t know how to upload a video to the blog! I can only copy the links.)
For reference, here are Beyonce’s and Rihanna’s videos, along with Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci”:
Fashion has become associated with flightiness and materialism, both inherently tied to collective perceptions of the definition of being a woman. Yet this was not always so, as evidenced by an earlier post about pre-50’s notions about pink equating masculinity. Clearly, colors, and fashion in general, are subject to intense socialization to become so strongly gendered. How was it, then, that such gendered notions came to be?
The answer to this question lies with the larger dynamic established during the Industrial Revolution of work done in the home versus that accomplished in the public sphere. Textiles have very often resided under the woman’s domain while taking place within the home, but once textile creation left the private sphere, with reference to the industrialization of textiles, it became men’s work (Gulvin, 1973: 59; Morgan, 2001: 19; Marks, 1951: 7; Kellogg, 2005: 69; Schevill et. al, 1991: 23-24). In Ireland during the famine, for example, crocheting became one of the main sources of a family’s income. Even men took on the craft during that time, feeling too weak to do manual labor, although they immediately dropped it once alternate options appeared (Boyle, 1971). Men did not seek to claim that space, as they did when textiles became factory work, because crocheting cannot be industrialized and thus the work always remained in the home – a woman’s sphere. Evidence that androcentric lenses determined who should work textiles in which area, and not that textiles were inherently gendered, lies with the use of female labor in textile factories during this period. In Northeast Lancashire, England, women and children comprised half the cotton handloom weaver labor force, due to high unemployment rates among men. Furthermore, the passage of the Ten Hours Bill in 1847 England as part of the larger Factory Acts resulted from a direct tension between male and female/child laborers, mainly that women provided competition by completing the same work for lower pay. The Ten Hours Bill sought to limit the hours women and children could work, giving women more ‘opportunity’ to stay home (Morgan, 2001: 19). In 18th century Scotland, cloths dyed by male factory workers took away from the autonomy of home weavers and spinners, mainly women (Gulvin, 1973: 59). The latter examples clearly evidence the utilization of textiles for power gain, rather than mere practical purposes. Men accomplished this power dialectic by viewing textiles differently in the home (female labor) and in the public sphere (as male labor). Furthermore, they benefitted from both unpaid female labor and receiving pay, always higher than any paid woman in factory work. All this was of course justified by biological essentialist explanations that “due to the strength required to operate the new machines” men should do so, etc. (Morgan, 2001: 21; Bem, 1993: 133-175). Never, however, were women incapable of carrying out the textile work, whether at home or in the factory, evidenced by their widespread employment for the same work as men accomplished. When textile work was forced to remain in the domestic sphere, as in the case of crocheting in Ireland, it proved liberatory for women by providing them with steady income, and a very high income at that, which allowed them freedom to make their own decisions, such as immigrating to the United States (Boyle, 1971). Clearly, categorizing textile work as feminine or masculine changed with the location of the work, revealing both that textile production in itself is not a gendered activity and that gendering the work has very real consequences, such as a pay decrease for women, in societal perception of textiles, consequences which have created a gendered legacy for modern textile work.
Today, the fashion design industry still reflects this. Though many women are interested in design, very often men are the ones who ascend to be famous, haute couture designers. Louis Vitton, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger – the list can go on and on. Yet how many female designers come as easily to mind? The ‘Glass Escalator’ effect that is so often prevalent in predominantly-female fields only further serves to reinforce the sexism and devaluation of feminine work in our society. It’s almost forbidden for men to be interested in fashion or create textiles – until they become designers, in which case it’s very much respected.
What does the Glass Escalator effect mean for the future of fashion and for the up-and-coming fashion designers we discussed in class? What are other ways the fashion industry is gendered?
In class, we discussed Nancy Upton’s spoof photos she submitted to the American Apparel “The Next Big Thing” campaign for “plus” sized models. The results came out yesterday, and apparently she won by a long shot. See her response from The Daily Beast in Newsweek.
Post submitted by: Elena Solomon