Wednesday, November 10, 2010

thoughts: the feminist fashion blogosphere

art by julia pott

lately i've been thinking long and hard about how and why i blog. this is mainly due to some major changes in my life that came about this fall. due to the fact that i've been working full-time for the past month now, beginning renovations in my apartment (inspiration tumblr here), on top of all the normal things life throws at you, i've found my "free" time in short shrift these days. i've had to give up volunteering at the thrift store around the corner after a year of doing so, and really have to focus on how to manage that "free" time. as of this fall, i've decided to let my etsy store close up quietly, letting the listings expire without any kerfuffle or big sale or anything. i've been changing little habits here and there in an attempt to cut back on bad time wasting habits, and have been constantly trying to remind myself what situations are not worth my time. there are simply not enough hours in the day.

"Rheinmetall / Victoria 8" by Rodney Graham. 2003, (Detail) 35-mm Film

but one thing i simply can't put aside, however, is my writing. i've decided, over the past few weeks, that i absolutely must find a way to radical restructure the way i spend my time so that i can write. having a partner who is a part-time poet helps; suggestions of putting aside x amount of time a week to sit down with a cup of tea and setting (realistic) deadlines for myself have been much appreciated. coming from someone who has published a few books, i'm hoping these changes work for me too. i know my biggest problem is that i simply try to juggle too many things all at once: my friendships, my photography, my love of vegan recipes, affection for vintage clothing, passion for my politics, and then coming in last and sadly often least, my writing (about those aforementioned things).

i love writing. i have a huge passion for trying to express my (often overly complicated and elaborate) ideas in an accessible, online space, which is why this blog is here. but the thing is, i don't do enough of it and don't have the time to do my ideas justice. right now, i have 39 files in my "drafts" folder for this blog. THIRTY-NINE. i tend to feel so overwhelmed about where i should even begin, trying to write for a bit, feel anxious and get no joy out of it, and then i end up not writing anything at all. no good. however, last week at work, i sat at an absent co-workers desk (whose work i greatly admire) and saw this quote taped to her computer monitor:
Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things people do.
those soothing words of reason come from William Zinsser (who, ironically, i have never read). this is something very few people remind me of and that i need to remind myself of more often. writing is work. it is valuable, but it is also difficult. lots of people in my "real" life view my blogging (whether it be the more personal stuff, the absurd stuff, or the very public stuff that you are reading here) as optional and relatively unimportant, and definitely not as what one would qualify as work. and as an anarchist, this is something i struggle with: the search for redemption in the very classic 9 to 5 grind (which, might i add, when you are a journalist feels more like a 24/7 grind) is an endless one simply because it does not exist. it all depends on how and why you work, in my opinion. in the past, i've been let go/pushed out of jobs because i am an independent worker/thinker, which in the employment world means "issues with authority figures" and "insubordinance."

ni dieu, ni maître (self-portrait) november 2010

here at my blog, and in a lot of my favourite kinds of work, i am the one who calls all the punches which has its advantages (i get all the credit!) and disadvantages (very few people but me see it as actual/valuable work!). writing (and by extension, blogging) is work, and i'm going to try to treat it as such. find satisfaction in it as work, feel satisfaction when i accomplish goals i set for myself... even if they are as small as "post a picture the same month/year you took it."

clearly i've talked about these issues with friends who read blogs and read mine. here is a wise piece of advice from iris:
Re: blogging and real work - it totally is (real work). I think you should do only as much of it as you can handle. I really was feeling like I had to keep track of thousands of things at once, my whole life was being processed through this blog filter, like, I need to write about this! This person would love it if I linked to that! It was tiring and you're right, there is no credit in it. I like the tiger beatdown model of "oh shit it's asking for money time again, pay us or we won't post".
this leads me to another point: lately i've been thinking that the simple act of valuing and viewing critical fashion blogging as "work" in and of itself is a feminist act. a close friend of mine asked me why i call my blog a "feminist fashion blog" because i very rarely talk about feminism/feminist issues. i beg to differ. i could ramble on ad nauseum about why i find this space a feminist one, why if you take any of my articles i could give you reasons why i think they are feminist... but i think most of my readers get the point without me having to spell it out. but again, the blogosphere itself is ripe for criticism. the fact that, yes, "anyone can create/have a blog," does not negate that fact that some blogs are deemed more important, reputable, serious, and worthwhile than others... and that these things are constructed through a gendered, race, class, etc. lens.

think about it for a minute: almost all of the most popular blogs (whether or not we discredit gossip blogs) are written and run by men. most of them write about typically gendered "manly" content, such as business and technology. it would be hard to argue against the fact that when men blog, more people tend to take note and more people take them seriously. pair the fact that most fashion bloggers are women, on top of the fact that fashion is hardly seen as a worthwhile or serious enough topic to merit actual critical thought... and here we have what i think is a perfect formula for dismissing fashion blogs as unimportant and frivolous.

art by j. bee

but i am getting off-topic and wandering into unresearched territory. i am writing about the very politics of writing in this space because even though i might be posting less and less, i don't have any plans of retiring this platform. but! i do feel like my readers aren't getting the attention they deserve. i don't have the time to respond to all of the comments and emails i receive, and do justice to the thoughtful, beautiful, and complicated questions so many of my readers ask me. this does not mean they are not valuable or important; rather it means that the world often spins too fast and the bank account too empty to allow me the time to show you that i care.

i just wanted to very quickly acknowledge the most common inquiry i receive: how do feminists who are interested in fashion marry their politics with their critical minds? i don't have a simple answer to that, other than the fact that it is possible to be a feminist and love fashion (i would just encourage you to love it critically).

as long as women will be judged, by their peers, by their families, and even by a court of law, by how they dress, fashion will be a feminist issue. as long as women are told they are what they wear, what brands they wear, how much money they spend on their clothing, will be a feminist issue. as long as fashion advertisers objectify women in order to sell their clothing and products, fashion will be a feminist issue. and basically every time someone asks me "is x a feminist fashion issue?" the answer tends to be yes.

so in the end, i suppose this post is just a really long-winded thank you to all of those who read what i write, who link to my articles, who leave comments, who send me thoughtful emails and curious questions. it's really wonderful to know there is an audience out there who not only wants to read what i write, but engage with it.

2011 will bring big changes to à l'allure garçonnière, and i hope you will be along for the ride, with all its ups and downs. thanks for being along for the ride.

in the meantime, seeing as i have surprisingly never done this before, here are some of my favourite blogs which present themselves as feminist take on fashion.

if you have any other suggestions, or feel like your blog fits the bill, feel free to leave them in the comments!

F bombs at Threadbared
Is a Feminist & Queer Interest in Fashion Possible? at Good Morning Midnight
Why I feel guilty when I don't blog at Threadbared
Post Feminist Fashion Guilt (i take issue with the term "post" feminist...)
Retail: It's Complicated (the rise of "fast fashion") at Feministe
Feminist Frequency YouTube channel


Anonymous said...

I hesitate to mention that I am a new follower, as I don't want to burden you further, but I will be here in 2011 to see what unfolds here. I appreciate the links to several other blogs with a feminist emphasis, most of which are new to me. It sounds to me that you are having that peculiarly 21st century version of writer's block: too many ideas.

Dorothy Cheng Jewelry said...

I recently just started a blog and really started understanding just how much work it is. And I don't even write about politics or theory! But thinking about what to post and how to make it interesting and taking/finding the necessary pictures is a lot of work.

Creative and intellectual labor (teaching, researching, writing, etc) is always a 24-hour job, I think, and almost all of that time is unpaid. I think the hardest part about being passionate about these kinds of spiritually valuable but financially unvalued pursuits is having people see it as an optional part of your life. I just started my jewelry design business and I love it, but at this point making very little money from it. Somehow, I feel apologetic and a little embarrassed when explaining to people that I'm not working at the moment to focus on making jewelry. But then I realize that I AM working every day, more fully engaged with my mind and body than any other job that I've had in the past.

Anyway! Sorry to go off topic. I like your blog a lot and am eager to see what you've got planned in the new year!

Anonymous said...

I do the same thing with the drafts. I get started on one, or I have the perfect photo and feel inspired but then midway through I get stuck and have to come back to it. Writing is hard, but if the process and the product are rewarding enough then it's worth the frustration. Thank you for this post and for the links -- I hadn't seen many of them before.

Eline said...

Though you're posting less frequently, your blog still stand out because most of your posts are something to think about and chew on for a while. So not to worry about having less time, but I hope you can find the time to post because I can't wait what you have in store!

I try to think about feminist issues, or voice my frustration and or opinion about being a woman (who thinks about issues, I suppose) on my blog and though I feel the need to do it and feel good about doing it, it's very frustrating and unrewarding to me because it gets largely ignored. I saw in my stats a while back that I was linked to on a very male-centric forum and although surprisingly some of them could appreciate I'd at least try to say something even though it's often very much egocentric because I only write from my own point of view, most of they guys dismissed any and all sentiments I expressed and started with the whole 'feminists are ugly ahaha' bullshit and the like. Although I hardly ever want to be taken seriously personally, I think my sentiments about walking the streets daily, looking at magazines, looking at the (art) world and feeling like I don't belong etc. etc. are worth thinking about because I know I am not the only one feeling this as a young girl in today's society. But it all feels so useless because I know it'll be ignored and forgotten about anyway.

Also, my rss feeder only notified me of this post today, strange!

Anonymous said...

That illustration about trouble-dressing is aces.

So is this post - hard to comment on, because all I have to say is "yeah, I get that".

Thanks for putting it all in words?

Anonymous said...

I so needed this kind of post in my life right now. I too need to restructure the way I spend my time so that I can devote more time to writing. I have a bunch of drafts that I start and then never finish because I don't feel I am doing the topic justice or have the time / energy to devote to it, but the reality of it is, most of the time, I'm not making the time as I should be.

I am also one who struggles with my feminist ideals and my love of fashion. Sometimes I feel like a sellout, but thank you for reminding me that one can be a feminist and still love fashion in a critical and meaningful way.

Andi B. Goode said...

I definitely feel like I could have written the first part of this post (only not so well ;]) - I need to manage my 'free' time better, too. I'm definitely sticking around in 2011 to continue your blogging journey with you - you are one of my favourite bloggers.=]
-Andi x

catherine_sr. said...

Julia, I think you'd like Gertie's Blog for Better Sewing. Every so often (between these amazing sewing projects) she posts about feminism and vintage fashion or sewing and her writing is very thoughtful (as are her commenters):

Tove said...

I tooootally get your difficulty ordering your life so you can do the things you love and do the things you feel are important, like writing. I got laid off from my museum job over a year ago (after 5 years!) and, at my partner's strong encouragement, decided to focus on fashion culture writing. Even though I'd been writing my blog ( for months before the layoff, being out of that 9 to 5 day really threw me, and it was absolutely hard work setting up a regimented schedule to read and research and write-- even though I was always thrilled once I'd started.

As for fashion and feminism: it's ok to be a woman and enjoy fashion; that doesn't make you a sellout or a bad feminist. You could even make fashion *work* for your goals and ideals by experimenting with visual tropes of masculinity and femininity, politics, etc., right in your wardrobe and on your body. I myself like to pair hyper "feminine" things like visible slips with hyper "masculine" items like pin-striped pants, but you could of course always be more subtle!

Anonymous said...

I started reading your blog a while back but haven't checked for ages, then read this. Great post and I'm glad there's women (and men) out there writing with critical thoughts about fashion without disparaging it entirely, but assessing it instead. I've just finished my first MA essay on critical studies in fashion and hopefully will be posting it on my blog...although there might be too much jargon so needs a re-edit!

Thanks for the great writing

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