Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Feminism/Uncensored: Hands Off, Crazy: A Lyrical Interpretation of the Legislative War on Women

This is by no means a political blog, but I have a lot of political opinions. Anyone who know me, knows this, and every now and then something comes up that I feel like I can't let pass me by unnoticed.The recent trend in American politics has been to attack reproductive rights with a vengeance. All the cool kids are doing it. (Read: HORRIBLE FUCKING ASSHOLES) But, as any rational thinking person can tell you, that's not okay. 

The idea that legislators think it's 1. Okay to restrict a woman's reproductive rights because JESUS or 2. ANY OF THEIR FUCKING BUSINESS WHAT I DO WITH MY VAGINA/UTERUS/FALLOPIAN TUBES is ludicrous. And more women need to stand up and say so now, with their voices, and in November with their votes.

And the thing is, I don't even get a vote. I'm not an American. But there's a high likelihood that I'll end up there eventually, and I don't want to live in a place that holds the rhetoric of what amounts to a thousand -year-old fable as more important that the rights of actual living breathing women. 

My favourite cousin (the awesome one who authored this post with me) shared this video with me today and I just had to share it with all you lovely guys and dolls. Because everything in the video is true. Reproductive autonomy and family planning is such an important part of being independent and gaining control of your life. This is not 1950 lovers! It's not okay that Todd Akin and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan (but really though, fucking Paul Ryan! He is the actual WORST) want a say in what goes on in your uterus. THEY DON'T EVEN HAVE UTERUSES. (Uterii?) How would they know what's best for one? It's like parenting. You don't really know anything about it until you have a kid/uterus.

You don't like abortions? Don't get one. You don't want me to have an abortion? It's not your fucking business, so tough shit. But also, stop restricting access to birth control so that I don't get pregnant in the first place you FUCKING MORONS. (Or you know, get me one of those magical rape-shielding uteruses) In any case, I've exceed my daily swear word quotient for the day so I will leave you now with this awesome quote and this pithy video:

"Abortion should be safe, rare and legal." -Bill Clinton

*Also, can we talk about the awesome dancing dude? AMAZING...

EDIT: While The Newsroom is largely a misogynist shitshow, this clip from what I think is the last episode is absolutely spot on. Watch it, learn something, and get angry. Really fucking angry...

EDIT2: Also read this awesome essay over at The Nation that really details why Todd Akin the fucking worst, and why allowing him to redefine rape is possibly the worst thing we could do for our society.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Cover Wars: Miley Cyrus by Tesh for Marie Claire September 2012

Miley Cyrus by Tesh for Marie Claire

Teen bride Miley Cyrus is on the cover of Marie Claire's September issue, and I'm actually really excited about it. You might not like her music or her movies, but Miley photographs beautifully, and I love seeing her in editorials. These were obviously taken before she debuted her new haircut, (which I love by the way!) but she still looks amazing. I can't wait to get this issue, and see the full editorial.

This cover works for me. Miley looks great (despite her eternal baby pout), from her hair to her makeup to her styling. I'm not really sure why she's relevant right now (movies, album?) but I don't mind having her around so to speak. And can we talk about that manicure? Loving it.

What do you think about Miley as a covergirl? Will you be buying MC's September issue?

Cover Wars: Lady Gaga by Mert and Marcus for Vogue Magazine September 2012

Lady Gaga by Mert and Marcus for Vogue Magazine September 2012

Now, I love Lady Gaga, and I love Mert & Marcus, but nothing about this cover works for me. From the weird banner in the masthead to that hair (eew...), I just can't. I do love this dress, and Gaga is WERQing it, but as a whole, I hate this cover. The full editorial is actually gorgeous however (duh, M&M), but if I saw this on the newsstand I wouldn't buy it. I mean, I would, because well, September/VOGUE, but in a regular month, not so much. I think it's just poor photo selection.

What do you think? Do you like this Gaga cover? Will you be buying this year's September issue?

Misc. Music: Van Vogue by Azealia Banks

Azealia Banks is so fab that my eyes are bleeding. I love her so much. Van Vogue is Bank's latest video. The song is on her EP 1991, which is amazing, and you should buy it. 

Azealia Banks is going places. What I love about her is not just her ridiculous style, but also her personality and her swag. She knows she's got the goods, and she's not afraid to be proud of that fact. 

Banks is just 21, and yet she's dominating the industry. She's coming up at the time when the path is pretty clear for a female emcee to take over. I can't wait until she's everywhere. I think that we need more women in hip-hop who are true to themselves, and unafraid to make their marks on pop culture. Banks is ridiculous on every level and I love her. I'll likely be mentioning her a ton in the coming months! Check out her EP 1991, and her mixtape Fantasea. Also, look out for her debut album coming early netxt year, and check her our on this month's cover of  Spin Magazine.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Sound Off: This Is Not How Apologies Work IFB [UPDATED]

Three years ago I joined an online community that I hoped would help me to refine my ideas about fashion and hone my ability to discuss its various intricacies in an online medium. Today, I am officially severing ties with IFB and moving on. Because after what has transpired over the last few days, I can no longer remain a part of that community and also remain in good conscience.

You may have heard by now about IFB's poorly-received "article" on Bloggers and Body Image and the incredibly ill-advised follow up, An Open Letter to the IFB Community. The first, written by staff writer Taylor Davies insinuated, likely unintentionally that the "top-tier" of fashion blogging remains white-washed and homogeneous in terms of size and age because more diverse niche bloggers were not disciplined enough to post regularly and produce compelling content. When the commentariat effectively revolted, the post was edited to remove the offending statements, and the site's founder Jennine Jacob immediately went on the defensive in the comment section, attacking readers and even going so far as to delete dissenting comments that offended her. A few days later (I'm not sure how many because IFB does not date its posts) the Open Letter surfaced. Penned by Jennine, the diatribe amounted to "Don't be mean to me. You are a bully. It's my blog, and I'll do what I want." Again revolt.

There are a number of things that bothered me about this incident. Firstly, WTF IFB? How did that article ever get through to publication? The implications contained in Taylor's article, (the original version of which you can find here) were racist, classist and size-ist. And what makes it worse, is that their defense of their position makes it clear that they really couldn't see that. The defensive tone that Jennine took in the comments of the original article and in the open letter show that she learned nothing from the situation. The fact that she opted to edit the article rather than post a retraction is rather telling; why remove the content if you claim to stand by it? And how dare you berate your readers for calling you out on your tone-deafness and refusal to acknowledge racial and economic privilege? How can you claim to be cultivating a community if you refuse to engage your community? A dissenting opinion does not equate bullying. You want to know what bullying looks like? Go look up Anita Sarkesian. The fact that you even made that comparison leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Perhaps Jennine needs to take a closer look at IFB's content. If the majority of your readers are saying that something is offensive, and saying so articulately, chances are, it's offensive. The correct thing to do at that point is to apologize and learn from the experience, not double down on your bad decision and further alienate your readers. It doesn't matter what your intent was. The fact is that you offended your readers. Intentional or otherwise, you offended your readers. The only acceptable thing to do is apologize. That Open Letter? THAT IS NOT HOW APOLOGIES WORK IFB.

This was such a missed opportunity to start a discussion that needed to be had. Fashion blogging used to be diverse. Now, it is essentially second-hand PR for the established industry. Now it reflects the standards that women were trying to rebuff when they started their blogs in the first place. The bloggers who succeed are thin, white and blonde, and often have the disposable capital to spend on designer clothing. There is hardly a face of colour, or a woman over size 2 in sight. Why is that? What can we do to combat it?

What annoys me most about this incident is that this has been brewing for months. MONTHS.I think in all, Bella Q of Citizen Rosebud captured my general feelings on the issue most concisely. IFB has become a place where only the young, thin, and traditionally beautiful will be acknowledged, and the "follow me" trolls dominate. It is now a website full of quickly churned out fluff pieces that are poorly researched and badly written. It is no longer the resource it purports to be, and I find it interesting that it has taken this incident for other bloggers to voice, essentially the same opinion.

Many of the comments I made on the original article yesterday were deleted, but I had enough foresight to save this one. It briefly covers most of what irks me about these articles, the backlash and the response:

“Other people have said it already, but I’m annoyed enough by this, yet another of IFB’s poorly researched and offensively written articles to say this myself.
If IFB is so concerned that there are no non-white/skinny/model-esque bloggers in the “top tier” (is that even a thing? I mean really…) then why don’t you FEATURE MORE OF THEM? Your blogger spotlights all feature the same type of woman. Your ads and promo images for IFB Con, and for articles are all slim, young, white women. You are actively contributing to the problem that you claim to be so concerned about.
And to insinuate that minority/niche bloggers are not featured because their blogs are not up to par? Really? That’s what you’re going to go with?
It is convenient that you’ve neglected to acknowledge the social and political factors that contribute to things like this. Model-esque bloggers get more sponsorships because they reinforce the already established hierarchy within fashion. It’s not rocket-science. Bloggers who don’t fit that image will ALWAYS be at a disadvantage. That’s how privilege works ladies.
You’ve also only touched on one aspect of the situation. “Real women” are not just women who wear a size 14. We come in all shapes and sizes, all race and ethnicities, all different cultures and beliefs, but you know, let’s not be mean to the popular, successful and yes, skinny bloggers because they’re more disciplined than us. That would mean we’re just jealous.
IFB loves to posit itself as an all-inclusive venue where bloggers can come for a sense of community, but over the last year especially, you have actively been alienating the base that built you. You have the power to FIX THIS PROBLEM. Instead, you ride the coattails of those who are already established. Nothing is going to change unless you change it. We have been doing our part by creating our blogs and sharing out experiences. If even places like IFB shut us out, where do we go? There is a reason I don’t read any of those blogs anymore. They reflect nothing of myself or my life or my experience. But there are blogs that do. Why not feature those blogs? Why not direct the community at large to bloggers who are doing great things and deserve to be recognized instead of reinforcing the same old tropes?
All in all, this was a poor excuse for an article. You want to be taken seriously as journalists? Then you need to do the work that journalists do. You need research, facts, references. You can’t just pull shit out of midair.”

There is honestly not very much more that I want to say on the issue. I credit my miniature tantrum back in May and subsequent change in direction to IFB's increased tone of elitism and exclusion. I literally decided that I hated fashion blogging because IFB made me feel as though the content I was producing was simply not in line with the ideal of fashion blogging (read: personal style blogging), and therefore would never be creditable. In my head, I was following instructions, and still falling flat on my face. And honestly, I've been MUCH more satisfied with my blog's content since I made that shift.

I'm angry, and it's taking a lot of restraint to keep the profanities from slipping out, but in the end, I am glad that I found IFB. In the early days it was an excellent resource, and I found and followed some amazing, thoughtful and nuanced bloggers, many of whom I still follow today. Now however, it has become a shilling machine that idolizes the same five bloggers and exalts them every chance it gets. This does not sit well with me.

Had you heard about IFB-gate? How did you respond to the article and letter? What are your thoughts, and do you think Jennine handled the situation well? How would you have handled the situation differently? What do you think IFB should do moving forward? Sound Off in the comments below!

 For some other great takes on the issue, check out these posts. Be sure to read the comments and contribute to the ongoing discussion:

IFB: When Good Sites Go Bad by A Sunny Day in LA
Requesting Your Assistance by Wardrobe Oxygen
Removing Myself from IFB by Dreafashionista

UPDATE (17.8.12 | 3:13PM): Taylor has since posted an apology to IFB's readers over the fallout from her post. While I have never been Taylor's biggest fan, I think that her apology was genuine and articulate, and I truly appreciate that. To me, her letter shows that she has in fact been listening objectively to the conversations being had about her post, and has been taking the time to examine her role in the situation, assess how she can improve, and strive to do so. After the heavy criticism she has faced, that takes humility and maturity, and I respect that. 

HOWEVER, I am still less than pleased with Jennine Jacob. More than Taylor, she owes the community an apology for her disregard of their opinions and refusal to be open to constructive criticism, all while shelling tickets for IFBCon that cost between $125 and $600. Truthfully, I blame her for this dust-up more than I blame Taylor, because as the editor of what she considers to be a legitimate publication, she has a greater responsibility to make sure things like this don't happen in the first place. I appreciate Taylor's apology and in my book she is forgiven, but if Jennine still thinks that it is okay to selectively shut out her readership, then there is no reason to believe that the elitist climate that has developed will be changing any time soon, and I will still be leaving.

UPDATE (17.8.12 | 3:21PM): IFB has cross-posted this response by Nicolette Mason to the controversy. Nicolette's name came up frequently in the discussions rebutting the idea that quality blogs by minority bloggers do not exist. It is very well written and really touches on what bothers me about Jennine's open letter. She uses the Audre Lorde quote "It is not the responsibility of the oppressed to educate the oppressor about their mistakes" to concisely identify why the original insinuations were so hurtful. I urge you to go read it.

UPDATE (17.8.12 | 3:50 PM): Bella Q of The Citizen Rosebud has posted a call to action on her blog. With the IFB controversy winding down, we bloggers have to assess what we're left with, and how we can start changing the landscape to reflect more of the real-life diversity in fashion blogging. Bella proposes that we spend the next two weeks seeking out and promoting bloggers that we think are of "top-tier" quality in an effort to acknowledge our own role in this mass internet revolt. Tweet, comment, and post about the fashion bloggers you think best represent you, and let's get back to the diversity we started out with.

UPDATE (19.8.12 | 8:25PM): Jennine Jacob has posted an apology for the controversy surrounding IFB. I personally find it a little vague and underwhelming, but I am still upset, and obviously biased.However, you should read it and decide for yourself. I do commend her for apologizing though, and an incomplete apology is  better than none at all. I can only hope that Jennine has truly learned from this situation, and will in fact strive to do better in the future.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Fashion Finds: Half Drag

Ms. Fame by Leland Bobbe
all photographs via Vouge.IT | © Leland Bobbe

Anyone who has ever paid a lick of attention to this blog knows that I am unabashedly obsessed with anything Drag. I found RuPaul's Drag Race back in January and it was like I'd found actual salvation. (A bit much I know, but still...) But I've been fascinated with drag for ages. The first time I tried (and failed) to explore drag was a year ago with my Study in Pearls, and then I delved into the drag world again last semester for my two final projects Mizery Loves Company and Kris Knievil: Daredevil of Drag (who incidentally are rival queens at the same club in Boston)

So imagine how amazed I was to find this fantastic photo-series by Lelan Bobbe entitled "Half Drag". On his website, Bobbe says:
"My intention with Half-Drag is to capture both the male and the alter-ego female side of these subjects in one image."
It's an amazing ongoing project, and I have to say, I wish I thought of it first! These photos are a very obvious and real indication of how talented these Queens are. I remember being in awe of the transformation that takes place on a Drag Queen's face as she gets ready, and this really demonstrates how drastically they are able to change their appearances with some makeup and brushes. These Queens are artists and I dare anyone to tell me differently.

Hopefully this will help to normalize the conversation around drag queens and drag culture. It seems like such a simple thing, but there are a lot of misconceptions about what these queens do and what their intentions are. (Hint, it's just to make a living doing what they love...) I love drag culture, and I hope that this will help more people recognize that drag queens are people first, who just happen to have mad skills with a makeup brush! Check out a of my favourite shots from the series after the jump, and check out the rest of Bobbe's work and the remainder of the series over at his official website.

BONUS: If you're so inclined, also check out Bobbe's series of Neo-Burlesque portraits, which he said are what originally inspired Half-Drag. They're just as amazing, and really show a wide range of colour and personality. AMAZING! GAH!!!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Real Men Swear & Other Things I Love

It has happened! I have found my new favourite thing! Combining all the things I love most in this world: fashion, men and swearing (naturally), Real Men Swear is a brilliant gem in a sea of tumblr mediocrity.

If you'd ever thought that profanity elevated fashion, you were right! These amazing f-bomb laced delights are the perfect combination of condescension, hipster culture, and you-just-don't-get-fashion. I especially love the above Sartorialist GIF. If rumors are to be believed, it might actually ring true! Oh the delight! Oh the schadenfreude! 

The reason "bad words" delight me so, is because profanity has a certain ring and inherent character that cannot be replicated with even the most lofty vocabulary. Nothing packs as much punch as the word "fuck". Except maybe the word "cunt". But that is a story for another day entirely. As of now, the blog only runs 7 pages, so naturally I read the entire thing in one sitting, and you should too. I can't wait to see what other spectacular delights the blog will produce. I see great things in RMS's future!

Misc. Music: Pound the Alarm by Nicki Minaj

Photo via VH1

It's here! Nicki Minaj's video for her fourth single Pound the Alarm has finally been released. Filmed entirely in her (read: my) native land of Trinidad and Tobago, the video celebrates Trinidad's annual Carnival (read: NOT Brazil).

My favourite part of watching this video was recognizing every scene. I know where every inch of this video was filmed and that makes me happy and proud. There are so many things that Nicki got right in representing Trinidad with this video and I'd like to highlight them.

Firstly, our national instrument, the steelpan. Regardless of what the world at large thinks, the steelpan was invented in Trinidad and Tobago, and has nothing to do with stereotype of the Rastafarian playing pan on the beaches of Jamaica whatsoever. Next we have a coconut vendor selling his wares on the Queen's Park Savannah with Queen's Royal College framed beautifully in the background. Then, a beautiful montage of different aspects of life in Trinidad, from our nation bird, the Scarlet Ibis, to football in the Savannah and yes, our beautiful beaches.

Now onto the mas! The first half of the video sets up Nicki's romp through Port-of-Spain flanked by stunning costumed local ladies chipping through the streets to the Grand Stand. Naturally, Trinidad is so small that I recognize more than a few of the faces! I also loved that there were so many different races represented throughout the video. It always amuses me that people (usually Americans unfortunately) cannot wrap their heads around the idea of a multiracial society. Well, here you have it: beautiful Trinidadian women of all descents playing mas together with nary a care in the world.

And then there are our Soca stars! We have Machel Montano making a cameo, as well as Bunji Garlin and his Soca Queen Faye-Ann Lyons. There's also our traditional mas or "ole mas". We have your Jab-Jabs, Blue Devils (or Jab Molassie), Dame Lorrianes, Fancy Indians and Moko Jumbies. A dying breed, but part of our culture none the less.

But my favourite part? This awesome shot of Nicki flanked by her Trini cousins, who she invited to participate in the video with her. Any true Trini knows that you "had betta" come see your family when you get home, no matter how soon you'll be leaving again.

This is Trinidad. It isn't all of Trinidad, and it certainly isn't the full picture, but it's the Trinidad that I love. It's the Trinidad that I pined for while I was at school, and it's the Trinidad that the world should see and appreciate. There will be detractors. Trinidad has more than its own share of pessimists and misanthropes, but in light of our recent embarrassments, I'm glad that there is something to counteract the stereotype of ignorant island dwellers. Trinidad is vibrant, and full of life and culture and innovation. This is the Trinidad that we should see, promote and be proud of. This video is an amazing look at an amazing culture. I've never been so proud to see so much red white and black.

I know I'm proud to be Trini 2 de bone.

EDIT: Don't forget to check out this behind the scenes look at the making of Pound the Alarm.