Saturday, September 30, 2017

Fashion Choices of The “Stealth Racist”

You might have thought after the politicization of football and children’s library books there would be nothing left to politicize but you would be wrong. Robin Givhans has managed to make the case that even clothing is political – not to mention racist.

Before we get into the specifics, allow me to establish Ms. Givhan’s credentials. A Detroit native, she graduated from Princeton, holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Michigan and has been a fashion writer – for the Detroit Free Press, San Francisco Chronicle, Vogue, The Daily Beast, and currently the Washington Post - for nearly 30 years.

michelle first year givhanAuthor of Michelle: Her First Year As First Lady

In 2006 she received a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, the first ever awarded to a fashion writer: “the Pulitzer Committee explained its rationale by noting Givhan's "witty, closely observed essays that transform fashion criticism into cultural criticism.”

Despite once having the audacity to criticize Michelle Obama for wearing shorts to the Grand Canyon ("Avoiding the appearance of queenly behavior is politically wise. But it does American culture no favors if a first lady tries so hard to be average that she winds up looking common," ) she otherwise checked every politically correct box out there.

Still, her column from last month seems to go beyond the norms of standard cultural political correctness: Neo-Nazis are using fashion in an attempt to normalize, and the fashion industry needs to speak up. It’s about the White Supremacists who marched in Charlottesville and what they wore. Her main objection is that the Neo-Nazis didn’t don the cloaks and hoods of the Klu Klux Klan and instead wore “ordinary” clothes. And she’s also upset that the fashion world has not vociferously condemned this cultural appropriation. Excerpts from her emotional column:

Fashion has been weaponized. And the fashion industry has been all but silent…

In the multitude of images from Charlottesville, the race-baiting protesters are decked out in white polo shirts and khakis. Others are wearing neat jeans, button-down shirts, cargo shorts. They are wearing jeans and striped pullovers that look like they could have come from the sale rack at a local Gap

trump shirtTrigger! Trigger! Trigger!

But the relevance of fashion in the conversation about racial hatred goes well beyond any particular brand. For an observer cognizant of the internal symbols and visual language of white nationalists, there was a lot to read: neo-Nazi, Proud Boy, skinhead, alt-right. But for the uninitiated, the style of dress was unremarkable. This wasn't a crowd filled with white robes and hoods…

Why wouldn’t fashion speak up? Especially now that fashion has become a stealth weapon for white nationalists. Neo-Nazis have bought into fashion’s ability to camouflage, distract, embolden, reassure, flatter and, quite simply, lie…

I’m not sure how Robin feels about the NFL but she clearly thinks the fashion industry needs to speak up against this existential racist, sexist, homophobic threat:

Not every industry needs to make a public statement with every turn of the news cycle…

Still, the fashion industry is anchored by large public companies that carry just as much cultural clout as any athlete or actor. Many fashion brands have built their businesses on the mythic melting pot of the American Dream. Fashion owes an especially large debt to those communities targeted by white supremacists: Designers regularly draw artistic inspiration from communities of color. Some of fashion's earliest and most influential merchants and editors have been Jewish. And the industry has benefited greatly from the creativity and ingenuity of those who identify as LBGT.

2 gay fashionThanks LGBTQ!

White nationalists are moving through communities cloaked in the most mundane, banal kind of fashion. Clothes that do not inspire a double-take. Clothes that are acceptable and appropriate. Clothes that make them look like they belong. And the fashion industry has yet to tell them that they do not.

missoni-pink-pussy-hats-milan-fashion-week-1000-600x600Hey, I’ve got it! How about if we make the Alt-Right all wear pink pussy hats when they assemble?

Just what America needs, another industry telling us to check our privilege, stop with the cultural appropriation and just shut up.

dogbert demons of stupidity

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