“Normal” Sizes, Fashion School, And The Disconnect Between Designers And The Clothes-Wearing Public →
The western fashion industry as a whole has enormous blind spots when it comes to body diversity: the images it puts forth are overwhelmingly of women who are tall, very thin, white, and able-bodied. Models who don’t fit these criteria are often tokenized — like the one black model in an otherwise entirely white runway show. This isn’t right: the fashion industry should mirror the general population, and the general population is not overwhelmingly tall, very thin, white, and able-bodied. Pushing a single, idealized vision of beauty, to the exclusion or tokenisation of any other vision, is ultimately harmful to women’s self perception and the perception of women in society. One of the defences of this dominant image is that fashion is about aspiration and fantasy, but if you (as a person who wears clothes) can’t see yourself in the fantasy, or see yourself deliberately excluded from it, why would you buy into it? Why should you buy into it?
Here’s how I see it, as a person who has survived two suicide attempts, sexual abuse, abuse, two near death experiences, depression, poverty, homophobia, bullying, being transgendered, and an eating disorder:
I value my life as a process over time. To me, life is meaningful in that I can interact with the world, discover new things, learn new ideas, and contribute to the continuum of human existence. I believe that life is meaningful in that I can love others and be loved in return. I see life as meaningful in that my existence has and will continue to influence and change the lives of other people.
Most of all, I see meaningful life and existence as more than eating and breathing. I believe in the QUALITY of life, not in life as just existing. If we cannot learn and love and decide, then there is absolutely nothing which separates us from animals.
This is why I believe that if you are pro-life, then you devalue all of human life as a whole. This is why I believe that if you are pro-life, you devalue women especially. I am a person who has been at the edge of life and death, who has experienced both ends of the spectrum, and I can tell you that life is much more than simply being.
To those of you who say that women can just give up their children—first of all, do you only see women as wombs or something? Secondly, there are millions of children out there who are already not being taken care of. I’ve heard this bullshit argument before, and the fact is that no one is even taking care of the children we already have. Those children are here, right now, and they need someone. Maybe if you stopped wasting time and money protesting abortion, you could actually take care of a few of them. Also, that the majority of these children are poor or minority tells me that there is an inherent racism and classism present. That many children in foster homes end up sexually abused or abused also implies that we are simply not capable of handling any more people. That 37 million people in the United States, one of the world’s most developed countries, go hungry each year proves to me that our systems are already beyond capacity. Because of this, I believe that the pro-life position is also morally reprehensible.
I’ve been asked before: if your mother had decided not to have you, would that bother you? Hell no. First of all, how could I even think or feel if I wasn’t here? And secondly, if I could go back and time and spare my mother from having to suffer through poverty, raising two kids on her own, and tons of other bullshit, then of course I would.
Again, I care about the QUALITY of life, not whether or not life is simply there. If we care about life happening, completely without discernment, then we have to ask ourselves what makes us human— is it our “special” DNA, some evolutionary advantage, or something else? What makes an animal different from a human? The answer is really not much at all. So if you open up those criteria to include literally a few cells which just happen to share our DNA but which cannot truly think, love, and feel, then you are demeaning the existence of every living human who can do those things.
I will call myself pro-life when every existing in the person in the world can be properly taken care of, without discrimination, and when every future person in the world can be, too.
I will call myself pro-life when every last vestige of classism, racism, war, homophobia, sexism, and ableism is eliminated and children are seen as just children.
I will call myself pro-life when we can all lift each other up as fully educated, completely capable human beings.
I will call myself pro-life when those who are born and living right now, in this moment, are properly nurtured and safe.
Until then, I believe that any position besides CHOICE demeans life as we know it.
“I support safe spaces. Because America is already a safe space for white, middle class, heterosexual, cisgender males, and I don’t fit under all of those categories. Because we may have a Black president, but we are not post-racism. Because you may have a Gay Best Friend, but we are not post-homophobia. Because everyone may be created equal, but that doesn’t mean everyone is treated equally. Because privilege exists. Ignoring the fact makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution. Love, the Committee on Thinking Like a Respectful Human Being.”
Um…it just came to my attention that this got tumblr popular…I’m the originator of this flyer. I made it because the Republican group at my university put a flyer under everyone’s door decrying the safe spaces we have for gay and black students on campus. So in case you’re wondering why it specifically targets those two groups…now you know.
Thanks for the support!
We have posted in the past about how airlines use images of female flight attendants in ads to appeal to customers with promises of caretaking, eye candy, flirtation, and emotion work. Katrin sent in another example. This Cathay Pacific ad, which appeared in the U.K., presents Karina Yau, a flight attendant, to customers as the perfect caretaking woman — one who just wants to listen to you, not talk:
Notice also the passive stance — arms pulled into the body, her face turned away and eyes averted, hand fiddling with her coat sleeve. The text reads:
Karina went from fashion model to flight attendant — and still doesn’t think that life has had any real ups and downs. You can meet her and other members of the Cathay Pacific team at www.cathaypacific.co.uk. And while you’re there, check out our great fares to over 110 destinations worldwide. If you see Karina on your next flight, you might recommend a favourite book — she loves to read.
A post on the Cathay Pacific blog about Yau describes her as “modest.” At Cathay’s website you can “meet the team who go the extra mile to make you feel special.” It includes photos and bios of some employees, and I found Yau’s. The text they chose to highlight reinforces the emotion work she engages in for customers — “of course” she “smiled and apologised immediately.”
The ad and the features present customers with the promise of more than just a flight attendant who will do her job well. This flight attendant is the ideal of femininity: she’s beautiful (a former model), she’s submissive (apologizes immediately!), and she’s interested in you — your thoughts, your taste in books — whoever you are.
I wonder to what degree this draws on a specifically racialized femininity — the stereotypical depiction of Asian women as particularly submissive and docile. But since this ad ran in the U.K., I don’t know if that stereotype is as relevant. Readers, what say you?
I’m not from the U.K., but I doubt that the docile Asian woman stereotype isn’t present there as well as the U.S. Western Nations: Equal Opportunity Racism.