Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Part of the Problem: Olive shirt dress and tan flats

I was getting together my usual outfit post tonight when I read something that stopped me in my tracks. 

Jenny of She Loves Dresses posted these questions on Instagram


Questions for white women who claim feminism, especially bloggers and shop owners: 
1) What specifically are you doing to denounce white supremacy through your social media platform? 
2) How are you publicly showing solidarity to women of color?
3) Do you speak frequently about the ways that white supremacy benefits you in the fashion industry as well as call accountability and action from your white sisters who also benefit from the same privilege? 
4) If not, why?


And I realized that any answers I could think of to these questions were inadequate, so I decided to use this space to consider them. 

I grew up in a mostly white community; went to a mostly white college; and now live in a very white town. To say that I've benefited from white supremacy and white privilege is almost certainly an understatement. The color of my skin has never made me feel like an outsider. When I look at magazines, watch TV or movies, I see faces that look like mine; skin the shade of mine; bodies, more or less, the shape of mine. Subcultures, too, have been open to me, from punk to vintage and beyond. Even being vocal about my love of hip-hop never caused me to feel uncomfortable, because the white people around me didn't have any problem with that, either. 


Over the past few years, I've been thinking a lot about race. The deaths of Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray and too many others have prompted me to question my own assumptions about race, and look for answers to what I believe is a deep-rooted and serious problem our nation and our culture face. But thoughts and action are two different things. Is all my thinking really doing anyone any good right now? I suspect it isn't. 


I do "claim feminism," but I also acknowledge that I have chosen thus far to define that in a pretty narrow way, thinking mostly about the ways that it impacts me, a white cis-gendered woman. And I accept that there are battles to be fought — battles being fought — that I have avoided. 

What does all this have to do with fashion, with my vintage shop, with any of the other things this blog is ostensibly about? For one thing, fashion is in large part about ideals of beauty, which very often run counter to the goals of feminism and inclusion. It is no secret that the fashion and beauty industries prize fair skin, straight hair and skinny bodies. I want to be counted among those that push against this narrow vision, in some fashion. 


I realize this kind of self-reflection may seem at odds with my usual musings about this or that dress, pair of shoes, etc. It's not that I don't still think (a great deal) about what I'm wearing, why I'm wearing it and how it makes me look and feel. I just ... have other things on my mind as well. I really admire what Jenny is doing on her blog and Instagram, and I'm interested in exploring some broader discussions about identity, appearance, beauty and style here as well. (That being said: Can we take a minute to note that I actually Did My Hair? Because that basically never happens.) And I invite each of you to consider Jenny's questions as well, and let me know what you think of them. 

4 comments :

  1. Wow. Thank you for posting Jenny's questions and your reactions to them. I am also a white, cis woman who "claims feminism" and lives in a mostly white town (in a mostly white state). As I have gotten older, I have found myself drawn to learning about privilege and how it benefits (and doesn't benefit) me. I wish I could say that learning came from a place of complete altruism, but it didn't. I only started getting passionate about privilege and oppression when I came out and got a taste of what not being the accepted majority could be like. I struggle a lot with how to actively oppose (not just in words) white supremacy and the othering of people of color. Like you do, I spend a lot of time thinking and learning about privilege, but don't always actively fight against it and that is something I need to change.

    I find it interesting that I would read this post today, because I was just thinking about (as in less-than-half-an-hour-ago) how many different faces feminism can have. I was thinking specifically about the fashion community. I follow a lot of fashion blogs written by women who are religious, modest, straight, other thing I don't always (or never) associate with feminism, etc. I comment on a lot of these blogs because I appreciate their content and voices and I never shy away from mentioning my girlfriend. I sometimes worry about her because I don't know how that information will be received. But despite my closed-mindedness about people who fall into the aforementioned categories (some of which I fall into too!), these women have been nothing but kind to me. I have learned through blogs like yours (and some of the other ladies in the Shaped By Style group) that feminism comes in all shapes and sizes.

    Thank you for what you do here.

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Justina! I have been encouraged, too, by how open-minded the world of fashion blogging is in many ways, but I also sometimes wonder, like, are there other atheist fashion bloggers out there? :) (There probably are and I have fantasies about starting a group ...) But sometimes the best thing we can do is just interact with people who have different beliefs and lifestyles and bridge the gaps through personal interactions. Helps with the whole "othering" thing, I think.

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  2. Also, your hair looks awesome and that third photo is a stunner!

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