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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fashion, Feminism and Ferguson - Is Everything Old New Again?

On a recent visit to Urban Outfitters, I felt like I was on a walk down memory lane, the 90's Grunge Edition. There, in red plaid flannel shirts, Doc Martens boots, Nirvana t-shirts, and oversized, tattered sweaters were my college-aged self, only repackaged for children born in the 90's. I literally had clothing in my closet older than these children! It's a bit jarring, but I guess that everything old IS new again.

Nostalgia isn't always bad, but it's not always good. For instance, this past week, sexism was back on display and in our living rooms with the Ode d'booty on display at MTV's Video Music Awards (VMAs) where Nicki Minaj and a troop of strip club trained back up dancers dry-humped the stage whilst showing off their...assets? Not to be outdone, even Beyonce, with her young daughter in the front row, sang surrounded by a dozen female dancers lying on their backs, with their legs thrust into the air and spread eagle followed by synchronized pelvic thrusting, like some sort of XXX version of a Busby Berkeley musical. And while Beyonce is often referred to as an empowering female, to be admired for her body of work as well as her physical body, no matter how many times her stage set spells out "Feminist" in 20 foot neon letters, her placement as a feminist icon is difficult to digest when she never seems to be wearing pants! In fact, there were lots of pants-less strong women honored at the VMAs, with Taylor Swift, all seven feet of her, walked the red carpet in something that looked like a romper you'd put on your one-year-old. Jessie J. also got the "no pants" memo, leaving Ariana Grande with her high ponytail and knee-high sequined gogo boots looking like Margaret Thatcher compared to the other ladies. What happened, MTV? You wanted another Miley/Robin Thicke moment so desperately that you decided to turn the stage into a strip club? But, let's be real, music videos are about the shock value. The number of YouTube views and they hype, which means skin (female, primarily). Video directors, in league with music labels, want buzz so that means giving the people what they want, or telling them what they want. And it's obvious that they don't want feminism.

Not to be outdone, the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards also did their part to take feminism back to the Dark Ages, or at least back to the time of Mad Men, when the president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences had Emmy Award-winning actress, Sofia Vergara, basically shut her mouth and stand up on a rotating platform, looking pretty whilst he tended to the manly task of explaining stuff using big words that pretty, dumb ladies can't possibly understand!

Still feeling nostalgic for days gone by, well then let's take a trip to Ferguson, Missouri where an over-policed, majority-black, community is still reeling from the violent shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a while police officer. Those protesting the killing of Michael Brown took their cause to the streets of Ferguson where they were met by police in military gear complete with assault rifles, hurling teargas at American taxpayers who were exercising their First Amendment right to assemble. It all felt so 1960s that I could hear Martha and the Vandellas singing "Dancing in the Streets"! When the local police are more occupying force with an inability to distinguish between the good people who love their community and the looters who seek to destroy that community, then something's got to change before another black family loses another black son.  

But can things ever truly change? Can the community of Ferguson and the police learn to trust each other? Can women learn to rely on our talents and not our tookus to get noticed? I wish I knew the answers to these questions, but for now, I only know that I have a pair of steel-toed Doc Marten boots to dust off and I'm wondering if they'll go with my Calvin Klein jacket - I'm all for nostalgia but there's no need to go overboard!

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