Thursday, February 9, 2017

Is Fashion part of the revolution? -Cassie K

First, when I say "revolution" I am referring to a movement that overthrows the old system that is in place globally (and particularly in America.) The system currently is based on an Imperialist, White Supremacist, Capitalist, Patriarchy that aims to manipulate those that are most affected by the constructs of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Revolution aims to overthrow this system for a vision of freedom, justice, equality, bliss and happiness. There are many parts of a revolution that may not be necessary while they are greatly effective in presenting messages. I have seen Emma Goldman extensively quoted over her famous line "If I can't dance to it, it's not my revolution" or "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution." And I have seen others contend that humor must be part of the revolution. I'm not sure if someone said this first, but I know for sure many have said this, including bell hooks. But I have yet to see fashion as a part of a revolution--although I am sure many activists that do fashion work feel that fashion displays a statement--hence "fashion statement."

Being a fashionable person does in fact turn heads and catches eyes. Could you imagine a parade, show, or any entertainment without fashion? I find that in protest, those who really shine are those that get recognition. And in the wake of political chaos at the height of capitalism, fashion has become part of the many ways we as a society express messages. For instance I have seen T-shirts recently that read "the future is female", "this is what a feminist looks like", and some new clothes and accessories are using phrases from 45's campaign to work against his own hateful message and turning these clothes into ways of raising money, like Samantha Bee's show who made shirts reading "Bad dude" and "Nasty woman" which aims to raise money for refugees. The Human Rights Campaign made hats that replicated the look of 45's campaign slogan and turned it into "Make American Gay Again" which puts their proceeds into research and other projects. (Mind you the 'Make America Great Again' is just as silly of a notion because America was never and has never been great, nor has it ever been gay.)

When I consider the way men are harassed for wearing dresses, makeup, or anything frilly is a sign of how fashion can be controversial. One of the biggest ways fashion has become revolutionary is how men and women dress to express fluidity of gender roles and norms. One of the biggest conversations on the way women dress has been discussed in relation to provoking rape. Many Conservative-Republican-Christians believed that the way a woman dresses influences her chances of getting raped--and that she was asking for it. And I must ask to that: What were men wearing that they got raped? I suppose men are forgotten from that perspective, and are not seen as the victims. I hope now that we have had a public, and global, conversation about this, that has made them think otherwise. I hope they ask themselves instead: Why are men raping? rather than Why are women dressed this way in the first place?
Once, a professor asked the class how to prevent or stop sexual harassment, and many people gave ideas, but I wanted to be silly, so I said: "Get a T-shirt that says 'Don't fuck with me'." Considering almost the entire class laughed, I must suggest that the T-shirt idea wasn't a 'bad' one. 

Beyond the political messages, fashion can be your hair, ink tattoos, piercings, makeup, or any accessories that act as a tool to express identity and lifestyle. Growing up, I was fashionably bizarre. Every outfit I wore was  mixed-matched clothing, and there are hundreds of pictures to prove it. Trust me, I had wild taste, and looking back on those photos I understand why I had interesting taste throughout my adolescents. Now that I look back on my style, I was dressing in such a way that conveyed a personal expression about myself. You could describe my style by a timeline from 2002 wearing shirts that had absurd writings, and slicked back hair like Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter. When I got into high school, I started buying my own clothes from Goodwill--dressing Grunge at 15, Emo at 16, 1960s-mod at 17, and rather plain at 18. When I was in college I dressed particularly layered with all kinds of hoodies with overcoats and high tops. Because I was a secretary on campus, I tried to dress appropriate on those days.

And as I said, I have always conveyed a personal expression (feeling or mood) with my wardrobe, so how I dress now reflects a level of maturity and clothing items that are functional. I describe these styles I have had because when I constantly changed my appearance, people were  questioning my clothing choices. "So, you're a skater now?" someone would say. Or when I wore flannels for several days I was asked "Are you a lesbian now?" Every style I presented reflected a sense of rebellion. When I dyed my hair, when I grew it out or cut it off-- this symbolized for me my point of transformation at every stage in my life. In a way, these were things I did to reject the normal style of living, dressing, and presenting myself.

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