Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Bits and Bobs on Feminist Theory #3: Beyoncé

A lot of the backlash over Beyoncé's identification as a feminist seems to stem from the infamous "titty corset" she worn on one night of her famously named "Mrs. Carter World Tour." The rallying cry seems to be that a woman cannot be a feminist when she so willingly sexualizes herself.

But is it not one of the basic tenets of modern feminism that a woman should be free to express and explore her sexuality on her own terms without fear of reproach?

Considering that Beyoncé meticulously manages her career and brand herself, with an iron fist that borders on delusional, I think it's safe to say that she is the one making the decisions when it comes to how overtly sexual her image is.

If for nothing else, this qualifies Beyoncé as a feminist in my book.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

In Defense of Uniforms (And Repetitive Dressing)

In the short time I spent as a fashion tourist in the US, I noticed that "uniform" is a dirty word.

While school uniforms were a pretty normal part of my childhood growing up, (both in primary and secondary school), in the US, uniforms seem to be a cultural signifier of private schools and the upper crust; a shorthand descriptor of strict Catholic schools stripping teens of their individuality with dowdy pleated skirts and plaid ties.

The idea is so pervasive that hundreds of teen movies employ the trope. How do you know the new private school student is a social rebel? They refuse to conform. They reject the uniform, and refuse to wear it as requested. It's so common, it's cliché.

But when it comes to fashion, choices and practicality, I think there's a serious case to be made in defense of uniforms.

Adult uniforms aren't quite the same as prep school pleats, but uniforms have practical advantages. Who doesn't love not having to worry about what to wear everyday? Fashion is always changing, and it can be hard to keep up with the latest styles over time, through seasons, and on a budget. Creating a "personal uniform" can be an easy way to always have an idea of what to wear, without actually wearing the same thing each time.

That's where wardrobe building comes into play; accumulating timeless pieces that you can mix and match to create great looks that make you feel great, help you add variety, and not have to go shopping every week. Things like blazers and straight leg pants, are always in style, always looks good, and are generally appropriate in most formal situations. Creating a personal uniform is like creating your own personal fashion shorthand that you can easily access in different situations.

Depending on what you do everyday, a personal uniform may or may not be practical, but it's an easy way to stay fashionable and comfortable, and reduce the number of times you find you "have nothing to wear".

Friday, 24 May 2013

In Which It's My Own Fault I Haven't Realized My Dreams

So here's the thing: Growing up is really hard.

You leave high school around 17-18, then (if you're lucky) you go to college, where you get to feign independence for a few years, and then you're unceremoniously spit out into the real world where you actually have to be independent, and in all that time, no one ever manages to teach you how to be a real adult.

And yet somehow, you're still supposed to figure it out. Because at 21, you are an adult, even though you don't yet feel like it, with all the rights and responsibilities that that allows, and you're expected to act like it. And you know what? One year out of graduation, I can confirm that it is not in fact as simple as it seems.

But the thing is, it doesn't matter.

I've been back home for almost a year now, nowhere near where I had hoped to be at this stage in my life. I'm not in NY, I don't work at a magazine, I'm not interning for a photographer. I'm not doing what I said I'd be doing. I feel like I'm in a rut, but if I'm honest with myself, it's a rut I created myself.

Am I happy about that? Not even a little bit. But in the last month or so, I've been doing a lot of thinking about my life, and where it's going, and how I can take more responsibility for defining my own destiny.

And here's the thing: I'm not where I want to be, because I'm not putting in the work to get there.

I have all these aspirations, and these grand things that I want to accomplish, but what am I actually doing to get closer to those goals? Because as entertaining as Netflix is, I don't think it's going to get me to New York. It's not going to get my pictures on the covers of fashion magazines. It's just not. the life I want isn't just going to fall into my lap.

So it's about time I get off my ass.

It doesn't mean that I'm not realistic about my choices. Sheer force of will isn't going to make my dreams materialize in front of me. I am not any part Hal Jordan. There will be difficulties, and challenges, and hardships, and roadblocks, but successful people find ways around those things. There are steps I can take, and plans I can make. I can make the things I love a priority, and get myself back on a track that leads to the places I want to be in life. I may not have been born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I have had the benefit of a place to live, a family to help me, and a college education. That's way more than millions of people EVER get. Really now, I have no excuse.

And so, I made a plan.

It's a 3-5 year plan of incremental steps I can take to slowly creep closer to where I want to be. It won't be easy, and I'm pretty sure some of the things I've set out as goals for myself are just plain impractical, but it's a framework. It's a direction. It's a plan.

Because I want to see my photographs on the covers of major fashion magazines. I want to be a person who helps define a visual language of beauty. I want to create stunning, captivating images that I can share with the world.

That's what I want. That's my goal. And no one is just going to give that to me.

So it's time I buckle down, get back to what's important to me, and start doing things to prove I deserve it.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Bits & Bobs on Feminist Theory #2: Reproductive Rights

Reproductive rights aren't debatable. They're an indelible part of bodily autonomy. They are not up for discussion, in the same way that your right to freedom isn't debatable.

As my 20 year old brother says: "What makes anyone think they have the right to tell a woman what she can or can't do with her own body?"

Simple, really.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bits and Bobs on Feminist Theory #1: Cosmetics vs. Feminism

There is nothing inherently wrong with makeup or cosmetics, and therefore there is nothing about liking those things that disqualifies a woman as a feminist.

The problem is that makeup has been historically used to police a woman's femininity, and by extension her acceptability in society.

The issue isn't that a woman wears makeup, it's that if she wears too much she's a "trashy whore" but if she wears too little or none at all, she's "butch" or unladylike.

Cosmetics are just things. Powders and glosses and lotions. They have no baring on a person's intellectual ideology.

Liking makeup doesn't make you any less a feminist than liking lingerie does.

Being a feminist doesn't have to mean rejecting outright things that happen to be coded as "feminine". It's like saying that women can't drink beer because beer is for men, or that men can't/don't pay attention to hygeine because grooming is for women. It's nonsense. Especially as most of these "gender assignments" (on innanimate objects and intangible concepts, btw) are arbitrary to begin with.

So go forth and wear makeup. It's super fun. Just be mindful that it's something you do because you want to, and because it makes you feel good about yourself, and not because you feel obligated to meet an arbitrary standard of female acceptability.