Daily Archives: May 14, 2010

LINKAGE: T-Shirts, “The Colour of Beauty,” Fatuosity, American Able, Tavi vs. Terry

These first few links are for Hoang, who responded to a query on our Facebook and requested that we consider the function of the t-shirt in politics. Hoang is specifically thinking about the thousands of “red shirt” anti-government protesters in Thailand. As Michelle points out in the comments, the political situation is far more complicated than Western press reports can convey, and I know virtually nothing about the histories leading up to the present conflict. The most I can say about it is there are certainly precedents for political movements to adopt a textile or a garment as a signifier of solidarity (e.g., Gandhi’s khadi cap for anticolonial Indian independence), and as Minh-Ha mentioned, t-shirts are often chosen as carriers for political messages because they are understood as a “democratic” garment (in the small-d sense): cheap to make, cheap to purchase.

This is not necessarily relevant to the rapidly escalating situation in Thailand, but it is one example of the t-shirt as a medium for a political message: You Might Find Yourself here discusses British designer Katherine Hamnett, who in 1983 wore her “58% Don’t Want Pershing” t-shirt to meet then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, of whom Hamnett was no fan.

But she decided to seize the photo-op [upon being named designer of the year by the British Fashion Council] to make a political statement. The United States had recently deployed controversial Pershing II guided missile being in West Germany, and Hamnett wore a slogan T-shirt declaring “58 per cent Don’t Want Pershing”, specifically ensuring that the lettering on the shirt would stand out in photographs. She wore it under her stylish jacket, and removed the jacket just before meeting the prime minister. She made headlines the next day.

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Also in t-shirts, Kathleen Hanna is hosting a contest to design a Julie Ruin t-shirt, the only project she’s been involved with that hasn’t had one. The deadline is June 1st! Check out the entries so far here, here, here, and here.

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From Racialicious, Latoya Peterson posts on The Colour of Beauty (dir. Elizabeth St. Phillips, 2010), a short documentary film that follows up-and-coming black model, 24-year-old Renée Thompson, as she tries to get cast for New York’s Fashion Week, with a partial transcript. The film is part of a series from Work For All: Films Against Racism in the Workplace, a project in collaboration with the National Film Board of Canada and Schema Magazine. (You can watch the video at Racialicious or Work For All. I can’t for the life of me get it to embed here!) Reflecting upon an agent’s explanation that “white” features read as “elegant,” Latoya prompts, “And the idea of white faces as ‘elegant’ implies that those who do not carry those features cannot have an elegant face. I’d love to see a list of fashion codewords. Readers, what do you think?” Really, it’s a great exercise in the codes of race discourses about beauty and ugliness.

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Fatuous, self-described as “fat, girl, academic, writer, Australian, chronic procrastinator, fashion slave,” is in the midst of writing a dissertation on fat embodiment and sexual subjectivity. Love it! Check out Fatuosity, in which she shares her reading lists and smart observations about the myth of a “natural” body, fat and sexuality, “fat diva citizenship” (borrowing from incredible scholar Lauren Berlant), and a fat aesthetics:

A recognition that fat bodies are different to thin bodies (and different to other fat bodies, and that thin bodies are different to other thin bodies, and that the line between fat and thin is pretty impossible to locate definitively) and that finding ways to make a fat body look as much like a thin body as possible is not necessarily the ultimate aim of the game.  That there might be a way of fashioning fat bodies, of valuing the visuals that doesn’t have to be about ‘curves’ and cleavage (although it can be), that isn’t about adapting and adopting a certain set of standards, that isn’t about ‘what’s inside’ being the only thing that counts.

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In online magazines, we’re excited that the beautiful Style Sample released its newest issue, featuring Shini Park from Park and Cube as its cover girl and an article about fashion photographer Shae Acopian Detar authored by Fashion Intel’s Natalie. And the always smart Worn Fashion Journal posted this interview conducted by Julia Caron (of à l’Allure Garçonnière) with the creators of American Able, the American Apparel parody by photographer Holly Norris and model Jes Sachse. I particularly like these answers:

What do you hope people will take away from the American Able series?

Holly: I’m really interested in where it will be seen. It is showing on digital screens that are typically ad space, and has the potential to make people do a double take and question what they are seeing and how it differs from a regular ad. I think the realization that it’s a spoof makes people question and critique why – why do they only ever see able-bodied people in fashion advertising? People with visible disabilities are rendered invisible by mass media, and I think the reactions to American Able really highlight that. Even when there are claims of ‘diversity’ it is usually really lacking, to say the least. One rarely sees people with disabilities in advertising, unless it’s in a group photo and then it often seems more tokenizing than anything else.

Jes: It’s Holly’s project, but personally? I hope people see these ads in the TTC, laugh, and put on something skin tight when they go home and stare at their bodies. It’s like an invitation to a healthy dose of vanity. Why does fashion necessarily have to give people complexes? I’d love to be a model. I love designers and fashion, it’s art on bodies. I guess I love modeling because I feel like I embody a piece of that stare in my own work. That “I see you lookin’ at me” stare. I know I don’t look like a stereotypical model, and I like my body, but I get stared at a lot, in a different way. So when I pose, I have the opportunity to engage with my voyeurs. Or act indifferent about their gaze. Or make them question the politics in their stare. Or seduce them. Or pierce them. It’s really fun.

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Lastly, though I’m sure by now “everyone” has seen it, I need to give some blog love to Tavi Gevinson, a.k.a. Style Rookie, for her fearless foray in feminisms and her recent post calling out photographer and industry darling Terry Richardson for his sexual assaults on models, and as well those who support him. With all the blunt and sawed-off sarcasm of a whip-smart teenaged girl, she skewers at least ten of their excuses in one fell blow:

And, let’s clarify: you don’t love women just because you have sex with them and like taking pictures of their ladyparts. I’m not saying that’s all Richardson does, but “love” entails “respect” and also “the basic human decency to not use pictures of someone’s lady parts for your photography show without her permission” and also “the basic human decency to not pressure a girl into giving you a hand job because OH MY GOD I WILL LITERALLY NOT BE ABLE TO PRESS THE FLASH BUTTON ON MY CAMERA UNLESS YOU TAKE NOTICE OF THE FACT THAT I HAVE NO PANTS ON. ALSO I’M A PROFESSIONAL.”

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