For some years I’ve been consciously shunning big fashion brands, whether luxury or high street, and actively seeking out small independent labels. There are many reasons for this, not least the ability to find stuff that no one else will be wearing. But reading again last week about Burberry and their disgusting practice of burning millions of pounds worth of old stock (which they say they have now stopped), brings to the fore the horrific amount of waste in the fashion industry, which is both environmentally harmful as well as ethically abhorrent. Maintaining the value in their brand and preventing their brand from entering the discount market is the rationale behind this Bonfire of the Luxuries. For the fast fashion retailers, the blazing mountains of fabric are simply the end result of over-production and a criminally wasteful supply chain model. Continue reading “Slow Fashion Fightback”
I am an occasional recipient of a big, juicy cock. Veiny, purple, erect usually, and disembodied from the owner. I have never requested these, and they all belong to men I have never met. I have quite a collection. If you’re a woman with a public social media profile, you probably do too. Continue reading “Dick pics – the scourge of our time”
Who gets to wear my cheongsam?
When you’re 17 years old and choosing your prom dress, the last thing you might think is that a picture of you in a modest high necked, full length dress could go viral and ignite a frenzied, febrile war of words on cultural theft, racism and the colonialism. You probably just think that the silky Chinese cheongsam will make you stand out from those predictable gowns that all the other white girls will be wearing. But may this be a lesson to you, young lady, to do your cultural studies research and may you never, ever again, dare to wear an item of clothing that does not belong to you. And by ‘you’, I mean ‘your race’, ‘your culture’, ‘your heritage’. For a précis of the insanity I’m referring to, read about poor Keziah Daum in this news article.
When doing research for this article I came to realise that the topic of cultural appropriation is wide and deep; a topic that has been interrogated ad nauseum by academics and cultural historians in the fields of art, music, food, fashion, ideas, and just about everything else. I cannot offer no more than some circular musings from my own narrow experience, but I do feel the need to speak up and say: A WHITE WOMAN WEARING A CHINESE DRESS IS NOT OFFENSIVE TO CHINESE PEOPLE.
Of course, there are nuances and qualifications. These days, our discourse does not allow for such things. Extreme outrage is the only currency on social media. The flames are fanned by clickbaiters and Twitter is the accelerant. Such is our society where the wise, funny, imaginative, educational and clever perspectives are tainted by wilful stupidity and angry, shouty people. But hopefully there are still some people who want to engage in thoughtful dialogue and a rounded debate.
I am of Singaporean Chinese heritage. My home country, Singapore, was a jewel in the crown of the British Empire during the time of my great-grandparents and grandparents. I’ve been to many a fancy-dress party where we dressed up as Native Americans. I’ve worn saris to work parties. I’ve worn kimonos in photo shoots. I’ve painted my face as a Dia de los Muertos sugar skull. Until last year, I had never worn a cheongsam or qipao, the supposedly traditional dress of a Chinese woman. This is partly because I am drawn to contradictions, and for a Chinese woman to wear a cheongsam, to me, seems lazy and unimaginative. I feel it also promotes the stereotype of the demure and exotic Asian woman (see my earlier post on The Asian Woman Fetish). You could say that I’m a ‘bad Chinese’, a banana – yellow on the outside…. I’m the one who has to ask other people when Chinese New year is. Don’t ask me the origin of Chinese customs. I can count to 10 in Mandarin but not much more. I can’t eat spicy food, can’t cook any “oriental cuisine” except a stir-fry and my favourite food as a child was a sandwich. This is not just deficient. It’s almost a visceral and deliberate rejection of my roots. When I came to England as a teenager, I embraced Western and European culture. Literature, movies, philosophy. fashion, music. I know many Indian and Asian friends who have done the same. Isn’t it funny how my race gives me a free pass to wear a traditional Chinese garment even though I’m the biggest banana in the fruit bowl? Continue reading “It’s just a dress, you can appropriate it”
Have you seen the “sexy mum” at the school gate? You know the one who wears the clingy low-cut top and a red lip at 8.30 am? Or the one with the languidly dishevelled rock ‘n roll hair and bootylicious jeans, who looks like she’s having an affair with an indie guitarist? There is one at my kids’ school who works a golden glittery block heel most mornings. Another one who always has sunglasses in a colour to match her many cute bodycon outfits. How do we feel about these women?
When I take pictures that show how much I care about image and clothing and post them on Instagram, I am in no doubt that I invite people to think me vain and shallow. I don’t feel any need to justify what I do, and in fact, if more people (especially men) took some time to present a good version of themselves as opposed to not caring what they look like, then I’m all for vanity. In fact, I would posit that creating an image, a persona, an avatar, an alter ego (such as one does on social media) is an act of existentialism. The clothing we wear is significant in how we choose to exist and move through the world.
For my online friends who have been deleting their Vero accounts because of its CEO’s dodgy past, I admire your idealism but it’s a bit like saying donuts are bad – because, carbs and sugar – whilst you continue to eat bread, cereal, pasta, cakes and cookies every day. If you want to only deal with companies that have a clean record on ethics and morality, if you want to sleep easy at night knowing that you have not helped to support discriminatory, non-inclusive, exploitative, morally offensive practices, then I suggest you should review the truth behind these good things that you probably quite like:
- Subscription-based streaming of TV and movies to your living room.
- The ability to order a hot meal delivered in the next hour from your mobile device.
- The ability to order a cab in the next 5 minutes from your phone.
- Subscription-based streaming of virtually all music ever produced.
- Cheap books or any other consumer product, delivered to you by tomorrow.
- The ability to share your words, pictures, news articles and cat videos with your friends, family and colleagues all around the world.
I want to say something about the trope of the Asian woman. By “Asian” here I mean East Asian, i.e. ethnically Chinese, Japanese, Korean. The Asian fetish has always been a thing (more accurately, the Asian Woman fetish). I can’t blame anyone for being attracted to what they are attracted to. I’m not going to shame you for your foot fetish, so I shouldn’t do it for your race-fetish. Should I? Continue reading “The Asian Woman Fetish”